12v DC and AC Air Conditioner Comparison Chart

12v DC and AC Air Conditioner Comparison Chart

There are so many caravan, camper, RV and motorhome Air Conditioning brands on the market today, if you find yourself asking common questions like:

  • What is the best Caravan Air Conditioner?
  • What is the most economical Caravan Air Conditioner?
  • What is the best performance Caravan Air Conditioner?
  • What size Caravan Air Conditioner will suit my existing cutout or hatch recess?  

This article aims to assist you with planning your solar system. We will keep adding to the list; so please let us know if there is an Air Con Unit you want to see added. 

What are the 12v AirConditioners: 

12V "battery powered" air conditioners for off-the-grid usage are starting to hit the market. Manufacturers like Nomadic Cooling Co. claim those 12V A/C units can be 70% more efficient than traditional 120V A/C rooftop units and are, therefore, suited for vanlife. In the following guide, we will compare 120V VS 12V air conditioning and define an electrical system that can support it and provide an acceptable autonomy. Keep cool and carry on!

How are they different?

120V or 12V, the cooling cycle of a heat pump (air conditioner or refrigerator) remains the same. The main difference on a 12V air conditioner is that it uses a highly-efficient compressor designed to work on 12V DC current. On a 120V air conditioner, the current coming from the battery bank must be converted from 12V DC to 120V AC and there is always an energy loss of about 10-15% associated with that conversion.

What is a 12v Air-conditioner efficiency like?

Nomadic Cooling Co. claims their 12V “battery powered” air conditioners are 70% more efficient than traditional 120V air conditioners. Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to verify this claim as it would require testing both 12V and 120V units on our van in real-world situations. So lets use the chart below to make the comparisons: 

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