The big chill!
With the weather hotting up, you need to think about how to get temperatures down. Here’s our guide to keeping cool.
Sometimes, it simply isn’t enough just to open all windows and rooflights and rely on natural air movement to keep temperatures comfortable in your leisure vehicle. Weather conditions, like 2018’s summer here in the UK, can get too hot to be bearable. Ditto if you like to head south through the continent in peak holiday times.
Air conditioning would seem to be the answer. There are options to suit all budgets, of course. Here’s our round-up of what’s cool in the world of chill!
Caravan Guard’s air conditioning advice
- Remember cold air falls. It’s a useful consideration when you’re deciding where you want any outlets when installing an air conditioning unit.
- The right air conditioner can also be very handy for allergy sufferers. That’s because it will not only cool the air but also cleans and dehumidifies it.
- Going for a lower specification (i.e. less powerful) unit can be a false economy. Buy the best you can afford in this respect.
- Roof-mounted units are generally easier to fit than those designed to go in a floor locker, or similar, inside your ‘van. However, do check your roof can withstand the weight and that you have enough payload. It’s worth contacting both your dealer and manufacturer to ascertain whether the roof is designed to support such a unit.
- Check on any maintenance. Filters might need replacing quite regularly.
- Dometic has produced a handy guide to choosing the right air conditioning for your leisure vehicle.
Top tips from Truma
Specialist supplier Truma also offers some effective ways of keeping as cool as possible when using an air conditioning unit in extreme heat:
- Before starting the system, check that the campsite has adequate mains electric supply (minimum 4 amps).
- Position your vehicle in the shade if possible.
- Closing blinds reduces heat radiation.
- Clean your roof at regular intervals – dirty roofs are hotter roofs.
- Ventilate the vehicle properly before starting the appliance in order to remove accumulated warm air from the vehicle.
- To obtain a healthy indoor climate, the difference between inside and outside temperatures should not be too large.
- During operation, the circulated air is cleaned and dehumidified. Dehumidifying moist air creates a pleasant indoor climate even if the temperature differences are not great.
- When cooling, close all doors and windows so that no condensation forms on the air distributor.
Motorhome owners? Why not just use the cab air conditioning system?
Good question. However, base vehicle air conditioning systems are designed to do a different job to those designed for the habitation area. Cab systems are designed to work quickly and for shorter bursts, in a small area, with a high cooling output – hence the draw they have on the engine’s power.
Habitation air conditioners are designed for use over long periods, with a cooling output that’s typically lower but more efficient.
Here we take a look at seven different air conditioning units for your motorhome or caravan:
Star Player #1
A truly portable, floor-standing air conditioning unit that operates from mains electricity. Suitable for use in your ‘van or awning, space permitting, Outwell says it will lower the ambient temperature by up to five degrees C. Dimensions are 26cm wide x 31cm deep x 57.5cm high and it weighs some 5kg.
It works by you adding water to a small reservoir tank, sufficient for up to 7.5 hours continuous run time.
You don’t need to use water if you want to use it as a fan only.
Key features Three power settings, three fan modes, auto horizontal and mechanical vertical swing, remote control and digital push-button display, 3m cable, supplied with castor wheels
Expect to pay £109.99
Star Player #2
Dometic FreshWell 3000 Underbench Air-Conditioning unit
Consider this if you think your vehicle’s bodywork isn’t up to the substantial weight of a roof-mounted air conditioning unit. Or if you prefer to keep your centre of gravity as low as possible. Or if other fittings such as solar panels, TV aerials etc prohibit a unit on the roof. This can be fitted under a fixed bed or bench seats.
Designed for vehicles up to 8m in length, the three outlets can be focused together or piped to allow a flow of cool air through your vehicle.
It weighs in at 21kg and its dimensions are 628mm deep x 400mm wide x 286mm high.
Like any air con’ unit, it’s particularly quiet in operation. There’s also a 12V DC adaptor kit option to allow use of the FreshWell whilst driving. It can also be used for heating.
Key features Cooling capacity 2700Watts/9200 BTU/h, up to three air outlets, remote control, soft-start operation, dimmable LED lights
Expect to pay £1,529
Star Player #3
Cool My Camper air conditioning unit
A unit you hang outside your vehicle to provide cool air inside, using brackets that can adjust to suit most motorhome or caravan windows, attaching to a fan inside the vehicle. It still allows you to close and lock the window and can be left outside even if it is raining.
Its relatively low power consumption means it could be used with an inverter. Weight is 20.5kg. The manufacturer says it’s suitable for spaces up to 16 cubic metres. They say a typical five or six metre caravan would have around 11 cubic metres of space.
The fan unit is 395mm wide by 360mm tall and 180mm deep. The compressor which hangs outside the ‘van window is 435mm wide by 410mm tall by 200mm 200mm deep.
Key features 450Watt/1.88amps power consumption, 2,559 BTU/h cooling capacity, two fan speeds, four cooling levels, LCD display, two-year warranty
Expect to pay £590
Star Player #4
Dometic FreshJet 1700
The smallest in a series of FreshJet roof-mounted air conditioners from Dometic and – like the next model up, the more powerful 2200 – it fits into the cut-out for a standard 400mm x 400mm rooflight. It has LED lighting to help overcome the loss of light from taking up the rooflight space.
The 1700 is designed for vehicles up to 6m in length and has a 620Watt power consumption operating from mains electricity. Can also be used for heating.
Dimensions are 562mm wide x 787mm deep x 225mm high and it weighs 28kg.
Key features Easy to fit, two-direction adjustable flow, remote control, soft-start, optional DC kit for use when driving, dimmable LED lights
Expect to pay £1,750
Star Player #5
Truma Saphir Comfort RC
For fitting in a seat base or similar, this air conditioner weighs some 23.5kg and can also be used to heat (up to 1700Watts). The temperature control allows for one-degree increments.
Truma says this model is ideal for vehicles between 5.5m and 6.5m long (there are other Saphir models).
It has four operating modes – cooling, heating, automatic and air circulation – as well as a sleep setting where the fan is slow enough to be virtually undetectable for sound.
It comes as standard with a timer function, and can also be used in connection with the CP Plus iNet control panel if you already have a Truma heating/hot water system (although do check on this before installation).
Dimensions are 858mm long x 440mm wide x 290mm high.
Key features 2,400Watt/4.2amp cooling performance, three fan speeds, fluff and particle filters, timer
Expect to pay £1,485
Star Player #6
Truma Aventa Compact
As the name suggests, this is the most compact version of the roof-mounted Aventa air conditioner from Truma. Designed to fit into the gap left by a pre-fitted rooflight (400mm x 400mm), its maximum dimensions are 785mm long x 560mm wide x 311mm deep and it weighs some 27.5kg.
Like the Saphir above, it can be used in conjunction with Truma’s iNet control, where appropriate.
Truma also extended the Aventa line-up with the more powerful (2,200Watts) Aventa Compact Plus at the start of 2019. There’s more about the Truma Aventa Compact in our accessory video from the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2019.
Key features 1,700Watts/2.8amp power consumption, working range 16degC to 40degC, remote control
Expect to pay £1,400
Star Player #7
If you want to improve the ventilation in your motorhome or caravan but air conditioning isn’t an option, a MaxxFan will keep the air moving to create a constant cooling, refreshing breeze.
As well as bringing air into the vehicle, when the fan is reversed, stale air is sucked out. The fan and vent are controlled via remote control, with the lid rising up at the touch of a button, and the fan fits into a standard roof light space.
Key features 10-speed fan, remote control, insect screen.
Expect to pay £327.98
Insurance considerations for adding air conditioning to your caravan or motorhome
If adding an air conditioning unit of any significant value to your caravan, it’s well worth notifying your caravan insurance provider and increasing your equipment sums insured to make sure it’s covered in the event of a claim.
For motorhomes, a permanently fixed system such as the roof-mounted or under bench options mentioned would need to be added to your vehicle’s insured value. A removable unit such as the Outwell Caletta or the Cool My Camper system would be classed as non-fixed motorhome equipment – note Caravan Guard’s motorhome insurance policy automatically includes up to £5000 for such non fixed equipment and personal possessions.
Over to you…
Got any advice on keeping cool when on your travels that you’d like to pass on to fellow motorhomers or caravanners? Please feel free to add a comment below.