Tired of camping in the heat? If you are, you’re not alone. Record high temperatures have been set across the country this summer. If you’ve been unable to beat the heat using a combination of shade and 12 volt fans, then a good, low amperage air conditioner might be in order. Whether you intend on running your air conditioner with either a small generator or a powerful inverter-lithium battery setup, there are several low amp air conditioners than can keep your camper cool. Fortunately, Truck Camper Adventure has owned several air conditioners and evaluated many models over the years—some good, some bad.
In this article, we’ll save you the time and trouble choosing the best, low amp model for your off-grid needs. Some of these run on 120 volt alternating current (AC), while others work on 12 volt direct current (DC). As for the British Thermal Unit (BTU) rating, we recommend a minimum of 5,000 BTUs for a pop-up camper or van, an 8,000 BTU unit for a standard hard-side truck camper, while a multiple slide-out camper should get a minimum of 11,000 BTUs. Remember, you saw this well-researched list here on Truck Camper Adventure first, well before Internet copycats publish their plagiarized “best of” lists. So without further adieu, and in no particular order, here is our survey of the best low amperage air conditioners for truck campers and vans.
1. Coleman Mach 8 9200 Plus Cub (AC)
The Coleman Mach 8 9200 Cub is a popular option for those in need of a basic, rooftop air conditioner. The Cub is only 8.25 inches tall and offers one of the lowest profiles in the industry. The 9,200 BTU air conditioner weighs 87 pounds and delivers excellent cooling at 9.6 amps (106 amps DC) on low speed using a 2,000 watt generator or inverter (11.7 amps on high). With two motors, the Mach 8 Cub delivers the same BTUs of cooling on both high and low speed operation. In spite of the company’s claims, however, the Coleman Mach 8 is anything but quiet. It’s impossible to hold a conversation on the phone with the air conditioner running, the true mark of a “quiet” A/C. The unit’s bidirectional air distributor is also a bit stiff and difficult to operate with no real ability to point the distributor downward like the Truma Aventa and RecPro 9.5k. Still, at 9.6 amps, the Coleman Mach 8 9200 is one of the better and cheaper options for those who are on the lookout for a basic air conditioner using a 2,000 watt generator or inverter. Sells for about $1,000, a bargain compared to other higher-priced options. Beware, however, you might have trouble finding one of these this year due to COVID-related supply shortages.
2. AutoClima Fresco 9000 Maxx (DC)
A non-traditional approach to RV air conditioning, the 12 volt AutoClima Fresco 9000 Maxx is a popular option in trucker fleets across the United States. Unlike traditional rooftop air conditioners, which consist of a single unit, the Fresco 9000 Maxx comes in three pieces: a compressor (26 pounds), a condenser (15 pounds), and an evaporator (11 pounds) for a total weight of only 52 pounds. Better yet, the Fresco 9000 Maxx consumes between 25 and 55 amps DC, a surprisingly low amount even for a “parking cooler.” While the approach of the Fresco 9000 Maxx is unconventional, the advantage of going this piecemeal route is significant in that it frees up roof top real estate for more important things like solar panels plus it keeps the weight in the camper down low, which is great for off-roading. Going with a DC model has another big advantage in that it does not need a bulky, inefficient inverter to operate. In 18-wheelers, power is typically provided by four AGM batteries charged via an alternator, but a lithium battery setup with a minimum of 300 to 400 amp hours is recommended for truck campers and vans. Word on this amazing little unit is apparently getting out. The new Loki Basecamp is using the Autoclima Fresco 9000 Maxx in its truck campers with more RV manufacturers sure to follow suit due to the incredibly low amp draw. Made in Italy, the list price is $1,300.
3. Nomadic Cooling 3000 (DC)
The Nomadic Cooling 3000 is a purpose-built, battery operated air conditioner made specifically for RVs and vans. Nomadic Cooling claims that this rooftop air conditioner has been extensively tested in temperatures over 100F and we believe them (the company is based in Glendale, Arizona). Power consumption is excellent 35 to 55 amps at 85F in the Eco mode and 65 amps at 85 degrees in the “Powerful Mode.” Consumption for the Nomadic Cooling 3000, however, skyrockets to 120 amps in temperatures above 100F. The 11,830 BTU unit weighs only 61 pounds with a relatively low noise volume of 60 db. The Nomadic Cooling 3000 includes multiple built-in protection functions including a pressure alarm, power high/low voltage, motor over-current, and motor temperature protection. The company recommends using lithium batteries, and we absolutely agree. The Nomadic Cooling 3000 mounts over a standard 14×14-inch roof opening, and like all DC air conditioners, does not need a bulky, inefficient inverter to operate. Lists for an eye-popping $4,290. A great little air conditioner, if you can get past the exorbitant price.
4. Amana 8000 Wall Mount (AC)
Interested in a side wall/window mounted air conditioner? Then the Amana 8000 might be the unit for you. The Amana 8000 measures 18.6 x 17 x 13.3 inches and weighs only 51 pounds. The unit is remote controlled and consumes only 5.8 amps AC (64 amps DC). The unit operates at 56 db in the low mode, which is relatively quiet, and features three cooling and fan speeds. Like the other AC-powered air conditioners in this article, you will need to power this unit with a lithium battery bank of at least 300 amp hours along with a 2,000 watt inverter at a minimum though a 3,000 watt inverter would be better. Several pop-up truck camper companies offer a 5,000 BTU wall mounted air conditioner, though some, like our friends at KingStar, offer this excellent 8,000 BTU model by Amana instead. Aside from the low weight, the big benefit of going with the Amana 8000 is the price, it sells for only $270, a bargain compared to typical RV rooftop models. The other benefit, of course, is that it frees up space on your roof top for more important things like solar panels and keeps the weight off of your roof, an important consideration, especially, for those who own pop-ups.
5. Truma Aventa Eco 13.5k (AC)
A brand-new entry in the North American market, the Truma Aventa Eco 13.5 promises to be a serious contender in the competitive RV air conditioner market. Unlike most rooftop air conditioners that offer only two speeds, this German import offers three efficient, low amp speeds: low 9.4 amps AC (104 amps DC); medium 9.6 amps AC (106 amps DC); and high 10.5 amps AC (116 amps DC). And unlike most RV air conditioners, the Truma Aventa Eco is ultra-quiet (yes, you can actually hold a conversation on the phone with one of these air conditioners running). The Aventa Eco’s components are encased in a thick, noise absorbing EPP foamcore, while the compressor is mounted on shock absorbers to avoid vibration. The Aventa comes with an easy-to-operate remote with a thermostat control to digitally set the temperature in the camper. The A/C is loaded with features and includes a dehumidification mode, which removes humidity from the air, and an easy-to-operate air distributor that allows the air flow to be aimed downward and to the sides. Due to the large surge generated at start-up, you will need a 3,000 watt generator or a 3,000 watt inverter to operate the unit—unless, of course, you’re using a Microair 364 soft starter to handle the surge. Still, the new Truma Aventa Eco 13.5 promises to be a hit in the RV market due to its low noise, low amp draw, and low profile. Weighs 95 pounds and lists for $2,049.
6. Dometic CoolAir RTX 2000 (DC)
The Dometic CoolAir RTX 2000 is another DC model with a long history of success as a “parking cooler” in the trucking industry. Rated at 6,824 BTU, the CoolAir RTX 2000 uses a variable speed inverter-to-cylinder compressor, which provides both high efficiency and quiet operation. Featuring four modes of operation—Boost, Auto, Eco, and Manual—this rooftop unit is controlled using either the control panel or via remote control. We like the features found in this unit. In the Boost mode, the unit cools the camper for no more than 20 minutes at maximum power and then switches to the Auto mode automatically. The Dometic CoolAir RTX 2000 also features a battery monitor that switches the unit off automatically as soon as the battery voltage falls below a preset level to prevent over discharging. While it’s true that this 6,824-BTU unit has trouble keeping up with 120F temperatures, it does just fine in temperatures 100F and below. Easy to install using a standard 14×14-inch roof vent opening. Weighs only 72 pounds and consumes only 19.5 amps DC in the Eco mode and 29 amps DC maximum. Like other DC models surveyed here, we recommend having at least a 300 amp hour lithium battery system to run this amazing, little unit. Available in both 12 volt and 24 volt models. Lists for $2,729.
7. Fresair S6 Evaporative Cooler (DC)
When it comes to low amperage use, the Fresair S6 Evaporative Cooler might be the best option for truck campers and vans. The Fresair runs on less than 10 amps DC at full power, the best rating of all the units surveyed in this article. Like all evaporative units, the Fresair S6 uses a combination of fresh water and electricity to produce cool air. Unfortunately, you can’t use this this patented, evaporative cooler in humid climates—like all swamp coolers in general—but it does excel in dry climates like those found in the desert southwest where the typical delta averages between 20 and 25 degrees. The Fresair S6 weighs only 25 pounds and also offers the lowest profile of all rooftop air conditioners at only 3.7 inches tall. Mounts in a standard 14×14-inch vent opening. Comes with an 18L (4.7 gallon) water reservoir. Unfortunately, the low amp draw comes at a price. Installation of the Fresair is a bit more complicated, requiring additional mounting holes in the roof in addition to water lines which must be run to the 4.7-gallon reservoir. Not only that, but the Fresair S6 requires maintenance with replacement of the injection and return water pumps and the pine filter once a year. Still, if we were building a brand new camper for off-grid use this is probably the unit we would go with due to the incredibly low amp draw. No BTU rating is listed in official literature though when compared to other models and performance we estimate it to be around 8,000 BTU. Lists for an acceptable $1,495.
8. RecPro 9.5k (AC)
The last air conditioner surveyed in this article. This particular rooftop unit is a serious contender due to it’s low noise and small size. The RecPro 9.5k weighs only 68 pounds, measures roughly 23 x 40 inches, and is only 8-3/8-inches high. The two-speed unit consumes 12.6 amps AC (139 amps DC) low and 14.6 amps AC (161 amps DC) high, while generating very little noise in the process (only 54.7 db). The RecPro 9.5k offers several functions, including cooling, dehumidifying, fan, auto, clock and timer, sleep, and lock. These functions can be accessed from the remote control mainly, however, the inner plenum unit has a touch screen display for using the unit as well (something we wish the Truma Aventa had). The LED displays are easy to read and understand. The filters are accessed through this plenum unit, making maintenance simple and easy. All in all, this AC unit can cool campers of up to 400 square feet. Mounts in a standard 14×14-inch RV vent and is available in both black and white. A fine little unit due to many of its features though we wish the amp draw was a little lower than the other AC models surveyed here. The RecPro 9.5k lists for $999.95 plus $75 for shipping.