Last Updated: July 4, 2022

Best Van Life Air Conditioner: Rooftop, Portable & More

Need an air conditioner in your campervan? You’ve come to the right place because that’s exactly what we’re talking about in this detailed review!

Our Top Picks

Van life includes a lot of sacrifices, one of the bigger ones being your comfort. Sleeping in a van in August heat is the stuff of nightmares, especially if you didn’t go all out with the insulation. But there’s a simple solution – just get an air conditioner, and the quality of your van life will significantly improve!

Whether you’re looking for vents, rooftop or portable units, we’ve got you covered. Read on to see what the best van life air conditioners are!

 

Top Product Overview

Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ A/C Unit
Best Rooftop AC
  • Sturdy and durable
  • A powerful AC
SEE ON AMAZON →
BLACK+DECKER 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control, White
  • Remote control included
  • Fan speed is adjustable
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Maxxair 00-05100K MaxxFan Ventillation Fan with White Lid and Manual Opening Keypad Control
  • Easy to install
  • Fan features ten speed settings
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SereneLife SLACHT108 Portable Air Conditioner Compact Home AC Cooling Unit with Built-in Dehumidifier & Fan Modes, Quiet Operation, Includes Window Mount Kit, 10,000 BTU + HEAT, White
  • Doubles as a heater
  • Automatically shuts off to maintain the temperature
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IcyBreeze v2 Pro Portable Air Conditioner & Cooler with Rechargeable Battery (Iceberg Blue)
  • Portable AC unit doubles as a cooler
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
SEE ON ICY BREEZE →SEE ON AMAZON →
Dometic Brisk Air II 15,000 BTU Rv Ac Complete ND System W/Heat
  • Two-in-one cooling and heating system
  • Ceiling assembly included
SEE ON DOMETIC →SEE ON AMAZON →
Dometic 640315C Penguin II 410 Amp Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner(Polar White)
  • Aerodynamic low profile
  • Available in low and high capacity options
SEE ON DOMETIC →SEE ON AMAZON →
  • Closes automatically if it’s raining
  • Adjustable thermostat
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Top Products


Best Rooftop AC

Coleman Mach 15+

Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ A/C Unit

Coleman’s Mach 15+ is one of the most powerful rooftop air conditioners for campervans. It is extremely powerful, easy to install, and even easier to use. With a cooling capacity of 15,000 BTUs, Mach 15+ can cool down any campervan in a matter of minutes.

This air conditioner is only for vans with electrical hookups, because it will work only on AC. The voltage rating is 115V, and it consumes a fair bit of power. It’s quite expensive, especially because you also need to buy an internal ceiling assembly. But if you want the best and most durable air conditioner, you won’t regret getting the Mach 15+.

It’s best paired with the Coleman ceiling assembly, just make sure that you’re getting the right model for your campervan. The units here are for a ducted system, but there are non-ducted versions that might be better for you.

This particular ceiling assembly has knobs for temperature control that are easy to reach. Also, keep in mind that the Coleman Mach AC unit turns off automatically once it reaches the desired temperature, which is great for conserving power. It’s a very powerful unit, so it only needs to operate for a few minutes at a time.

One other thing to note is that this air conditioner is available in black as well, in case you’re looking to match it to your van.

Pros

  • Sturdy and durable
  • A powerful AC
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Uses a lot of power if you keep it running constantly

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 42“ x 28“ x 16“
  • Cool/Heat Capacity: 15,000
  • Electrical Rating: 115V
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Best Portable AC

Black + Decker BPACT10WT Portable Air Conditioner

BLACK+DECKER 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control, White

The Black+Decker air conditioner is a great option if you’re looking for a portable unit. With 10,000 BTUs, it can keep you cool throughout the summer. The fan speeds are adjustable, and you can lower the temperature down to 65°F. There’s also an auto-fan setting, which adjusts the fan speed according to the temperature in the room.

This portable AC unit is enough to cool spaces up to 150 sq. ft, so it should be enough for the average campervan. Also, there’s an LED display at the top that allows for easy control, a remote control is included in the purchase, and it’s possible to set a timer so the aircon shuts off automatically.

Just like other portable air conditioners, this one comes with an exhaust hose that lets the hot air out. You will need to set it up next to a window, so consider how that can affect the layout of your van. Additionally, keep in mind that wheeled air conditioners are not the most stable option, and they might move around the van while you’re driving. That’s why it is best to secure it in place, either with zip ties or bungee cords.

This aircon unit does not have a heating option, so it’s not a good idea if you need something more versatile. Black+Decker does offer the same model with heating capability, but it is bigger, heavier, and more expensive.

Pros

  • Remote control included
  • Fan speed is adjustable
  • Powerful but quiet

Cons

  • No heating capability
  • Big and bulky
  • Must be set up next to a window

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 16.5” x 11.5” x 26”
  • Cool/Heat Capacity: 10,000 BTUs
  • Electrical Rating: 115V
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Best Ventilation Fan

Maxxair 00-05100K MaxxFan Ventilation Fan

Maxxair 00-05100K MaxxFan Ventillation Fan with White Lid and Manual Opening Keypad Control

The Maxxair ventilation fan is great for van lifers who want a vent system for their camper, but don’t want to spend a small fortune on one. It’s one of a few solutions for less than $250, and it is powerful enough to get you through some very hot summer days.

The fan has ten speeds, and you can adjust it with the ceiling controls. Also, the part of the fan that’s on the roof has a built-in rain shield, so you don’t have to give up on your AC even if it starts raining. Additionally, the Maxxair fan even has an interior insect screen, which prevents any bugs from getting inside your campervan.

The outer part of the fan is quite big, but the part that does inside the van fits standard 14” x 14” cut-outs. So, if you’re buying this to replace any previous air conditioners or vents, this might just fit perfectly.

This is designed for a standard 12V DC battery, and it doesn’t draw too much electricity from it. You can even get an option that comes with remote control – it’s pricier, but also much more convenient for frequent use.  Overall, if you’re looking for an easy and affordable solution, the Maxxair Vent is certainly one of my top picks.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Fan features ten speed settings
  • Built-in rain shield

Cons

  • Not designed to maintain the temperature in a van
  • Quite big

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 25.5” x 19.5” x 11.9”
  • Weight: 16.96lbs
  • Electrical Rating: 12V DC
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SereneLife Portable Air Conditioner

SereneLife SLACHT108 Portable Air Conditioner Compact Home AC Cooling Unit with Built-in Dehumidifier & Fan Modes, Quiet Operation, Includes Window Mount Kit, 10,000 BTU + HEAT, White

The SereneLife air conditioner is a powerful option for campervans with electrical hookups. It uses 120V AC to work, and it outputs 10,000 BTUs when cooling the room. When used for heating, this air conditioner produces around 9,000 BTUs.

Additionally, this unit can also work as a dehumidifier, so it’s very versatile. It’s wheeled, so you can easily move it around your campervan and even take it outside if you have a long enough extension cord. The only issue with the wheels is that it’s not the most stable unit, and it might move around while you’re driving.

This air conditioner is operated with remote control, so it is very easy to use. Also, the AC is capable of turning off automatically once it reaches the desired temperature. But keep in mind that you’ll need some sort of exhaust vent if you want to keep this on for prolonged periods of time, due to the condensation.

One of those vents that you can mount to the window of your camper will work just fine, and it’s much better than dealing with humidity and mold in the van.

On top of that, you should also know that this particular air conditioner comes in multiple power options. The cheaper units have 8,000 BTUs and no heating option, but they cost about $100 less. It’s also available in more powerful versions, but I honestly don’t think you need that many BTUs just to regulate the temperature inside a campervan.

Pros

  • Doubles as a heater
  • Automatically shuts off to maintain the temperature
  • Also works as a dehumidifier

Cons

  • The wheeled base is not exactly stable
  • Only works on AC

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 17.4“ x 13.4“ x 32.1“
  • Cool/Heat Capacity: 10,000 BTUs
  • Electrical Rating: 120V
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IcyBreeze V2 Portable Air Conditioner & Cooler

IcyBreeze v2 Pro Portable Air Conditioner & Cooler with Rechargeable Battery (Iceberg Blue)

Looking for an air con unit that works when it’s not plugged into an outlet? Consider getting the IcyBreeze portable cooler and AC. This air conditioner runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and you can get up to four hours of use from a single charge. That’s on the low setting: if you set it to high, you won’t get more than 90 minutes of use.

This portable AC can blow air that is up to 35°F colder than the air outside, so it should work well even on some really hot days. Plus, it doubles as a cooler, so you’re killing two birds with one stone. The IcyBreeze blows chilly air in your face, and at the same time, it’s keeping your refreshments icy cold.

The cooler capacity is 38 quarts total, for both cans and ice. It has an ergonomic handle that makes it easy to pick up, so it’s convenient even if you have to bring it on hikes. On top of that, the wide drain makes it super easy to empty the cooler after use, without making a mess.

The main advantage of this AC is that you can actually get some use out of it, even if you’re not using it to control the air temperature. It’s a great cooler, and it won’t take up too much space in your van. This will fit under cabinets, or under your bed, if your build allows for storage space there.

Read our full review here

Pros

  • Portable AC unit doubles as a cooler
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Ergonomic handle

Cons

  • Not a replacement for a traditional AC unit
  • Pricey

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 23.5” x 16.25” x 18.5”
  • Internal Capacity: 38 quarts
SEE ON ICY BREEZE
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Dometic Brisk Air II Air Conditioner

Dometic Brisk Air II 15,000 BTU Rv Ac Complete ND System W/Heat

The Dometic Rooftop Air Conditioner is a great alternative to the Coleman one. It’s capable of producing 15,000 BTUs, which is more than enough to keep your entire van cool even during summer.

This AC is designed for a non-ducted system, but Dometic does offer other options for ducted systems. Most of their rooftop ACs are available in both black and white colors, so you can get something that will blend in with the rest of your van.

The reason I included this rooftop AC from Dometic is that it has a heat pump. This is a heating and cooling system, and it’s the only thing you need to regulate the temperature in your van year-round. In case you want an AC unit without a heat pump, you can get an option for Dometic for about $400-500 less.

However, keep in mind that the cheaper rooftop ACs don’t usually include the ceiling assembly. This one does, and Dometic even offers free shipping and handling for everyone who purchases the Brisk Air II AC kit. It’s the best deal you will find if you want a full heating/cooling system, without having to order all the necessary parts from multiple sellers.

Pros

  • Two-in-one cooling and heating system
  • Ceiling assembly included
  • Free shipping and handling

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Only for non-ducted systems

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 28 “ x 27“ x 13“
  • Cool/Heat Capacity: 15,000 BTUs
  • Electrical Rating: 115V
SEE ON DOMETIC
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Dometic 640315C Penguin Air Conditioner

Dometic 640315C Penguin II 410 Amp Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner(Polar White)

The Penguin Air Conditioner from Dometic is a very popular option among van lifers who spend most of their time in warm places. The main reason for that is the low profile of the unit – it’s more aerodynamic than the other bulky options from Dometic and even Coleman, which ultimately results in more speed and better fuel economy.

The Dometic Penguin air conditioner is extremely powerful with an output of 13,500 BTUs. That’s the low-capacity option; there’s an even more powerful Penguin you could get, and it’s great for very spacious campervans.

The AC is suitable for non-ducted systems, while the high capacity option works with both – depending on what you have in your campervan, you’ll just have to get the appropriate internal setup.

That’s one issue of the Penguin – it’s just one of many components required for a full AC installation, and it’s pricier than most others. If you’re on a tighter budget, this is probably not the best unit for you.

One thing to note is that you get several options when it comes to internal control units. The most affordable option tends to be the airbox with manual controls. You could also opt for one with an LED thermostat, but that’s normally double the price of the mechanical one.

Pros

  • Aerodynamic low profile
  • Available in low and high capacity options
  • Also works as a heater

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Just one of several parts required for an AC system
  • Low-capacity AC is for non-ducted systems only

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 29 “ x 40“ x 9.5“
  • Cool/Heat Capacity: 13,500 BTUs
  • Electrical Rating: 115V
SEE ON DOMETIC
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Fan-Tastic Vent With Thermostat Model 7350

The Fan-Tastic Vent is a good option if you can’t afford the pricey rooftop AC units. It’s not a proper AC unit, but it’s a good alternative to the expensive options. It can be installed either on a roof or the sidewall of the van, but in most cases, it will require you to cut a hole in the campervan.

The vent AC has some great features – it closes automatically when it starts raining, and it comes with a thermostat that lets you adjust fan speed and temperature. There’s also a built-in manual knob that lets you close the vent in case of an emergency.

In terms of functionality and convenience, this works just as well as any campervan air conditioner. In fact, it’s even better than some bulky rooftop ACs because it is lighter, cheaper, and easier to install.

However, this is only suitable for mild temperatures; if you’re dealing with extreme heat, it’s unlikely the Fan-Tastic vent will do much for you.

Additionally, this is the best version of the Fan-Tastic air vent. There are several cheaper options, but they’re not as feature-packed as this one. The 7350 model lets you decide whether it should pull air from the outside or just circulate the air inside, which could be a life-saver if something smells rotten outside.

Also, this model comes with a 12V DC hookup, so you can use it in your campervan even if you don’t have solar panels!

Pros

  • Closes automatically if it’s raining
  • Adjustable thermostat
  • Reversible airflow

Cons

  • Not suitable for extremely hot areas
  • Pricey for a vent

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 14” x 13” x 12”
  • Weight: 5lbs
  • Electrical Rating: 12V DC
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What To Look For

Don’t Forget About The Insulation!

Insulating your van properly is crucial. If you’re debating whether you should cheap out on the insulation and get a pricier air conditioning unit, I would advise against that. It’s better to spend more on insulation, and then you can get away with a cheaper air con that consumes less electricity.

Keep in mind that your van can never be as insulated as your home, and the temperature inside will always depend on the temperature outside. But, you will get used to it eventually, and if the insulation inside is great, it won’t be worse than chilly mornings or hot evenings – problems that can easily be solved with a good heater/aircon.

Portable Or Fixed Air Conditioner?

The first thing you should decide is whether you want a fixed AC unit or a portable one. Fixed air cons are installed on windows or roofs, and they are generally more powerful than portable units. Fixed air conditioners that get installed on roofs are usually the best options because they don’t take up space in the van.

Additionally, rooftop air conditioners require you to buy and install at least two separate parts. The installation is usually easy, but it does require cutting a hole in a perfectly good van – something you should be used to by now if you’re doing the conversion on your own.

Another thing to keep in mind about roof ACs is that they’re drawing air from the outside, and that will ultimately impact their durability. Salty air in seaside areas will wear the compressor faster, while polluted air from the big cities will make the inside of your campervan smell horribly.

Window air-cons will take up some space inside, and they will block the views. But they usually work well, and they tend to be quite powerful.

Portable air conditioners can be bulky, which is a deal-breaker for a lot of people. They inevitably take up precious space inside your campervan, but they tend to be more versatile. Feel like pitching a tent near the RV – you can take the portable AC unit and put it in the tent! Most portable air conditioners also double as heaters, and they are generally more versatile options.

I also included one AC unit that doubles as a cooler, and this is my favorite option for off-the-grid campers. The IcyBreeze AC runs on a rechargeable battery, so it’s great for use outdoors.

Pricing

Air conditioners are never a cheap investment, but some are more affordable than others. In general, window and portable AC units tend to be the cheapest options. Roof air conditioners are expensive – you’re not just buying the roof unit, but you also have to buy the ceiling assembly and cut a hole in the van to install it.

In addition to that, the features and performance of an AC impact its price. Units that only have cooling capabilities are significantly cheaper than those that double as heaters, so keep that in mind.

If you’re spending most of your time on the road riding around hot places, it’s not a terrible idea to save some money by getting a cooling-only AC. But if you want versatility, you’ll have to spring for an option that’s also capable of heating.

The prices of AC units also depend on the BTUs – British thermal units. The higher this number, the more powerful the AC is. Air conditioners that have over ten thousand BTUs can cool an entire campervan in less than five minutes, but they’re rarely under $300-400.

Best Van Life Air Conditioners: Our Top Picks

Not sure which air conditioner is the best option for your van? Go with one of our top picks depending on the type of AC you want!

If you’re looking for a classic rooftop air conditioner, the Coleman Mach 15+ is easily the best option out there. It’s an expensive unit, but it’s top of the line and it will last you for years.

With 15,000 BTUs, this will keep you cool even during the hottest summer days, and with automatic operation, it will shut off whenever the room is at the desired temperature. It’s powerful, quiet, energy-efficient, and easy to install, so it’s certainly one of the best van life air conditioners available!

Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ A/C Unit
275 Reviews
Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ A/C Unit
  • Cool/Heat Capacity: 15,000
  • Delivered BTU Heating Output: 5,600

In case you would prefer a portable air conditioner in your campervan, go with the Black+Decker one. It is powerful, silent, and features an LED display for easy control. The AC unit even comes with remote control, so you can adjust the temperature and fan speed without even getting up from the bed.

BLACK+DECKER 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control, White
34,408 Reviews
BLACK+DECKER 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control, White
  • QUIET & POWERFUL - Our 6,000 BTU DOE (10,000 BTU ASHRAE) compact air conditioner (16.5 x 11.5 x 26 in,) will keep you cool and comfortable all summer. An adjustable fan speed cools the air to 65°F at the coolest setting. Sleep mode makes it extra quiet while you rest
  • PERFECT FOR SMALL ROOMS - This floor-standing portable AC unit provides steady, fast, effective cooling for rooms up to 150 sq. ft. It’s the ideal small air conditioner for dorms, apartments, cabins, campers, offices, bedrooms, or living rooms

Those of you that are looking for simpler options should go with the Maxxair ventilation fan. It is the best option in terms of energy consumption, so get the fan if you’re worried about using too much electricity in your campervan.

This ventilation fan has built-in rain protection, a removable insect screen, and a powerful fan with adjustable speed. It is easy to install and use, and it’s one of the most affordable options for campervan air conditioning!

Head over to Amazon to see the prices and more details about all the air conditioners featured in this review. And if you want ideas on other van life essentials, be sure to check out our related posts!

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