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RV AC Ducted Vs Non-Ducted: What Makes Them Different?

Fact checked by Ronal Dowens

rv ac ducted vs non ducted

Your recreational vehicle determines how comfortable your traveling times are. And in that, the type of AC you choose for your RV plays a crucial role. This is because the AC will make sure how properly your RV’s temperature is maintained, whether it needs maintenance, and how much power it will consume.

If you want to know in detail about RV AC ducted Vs Non-ducted, you are at the right guide. We will be discussing the difference in their mechanisms and their suitability.

What is an RV AC?


An RV AC is amongst the essential machines that ensures the comfort of your ride. Like traditional home air conditioners, camper ACs work to reduce heat, and its purpose is to make sure your kids do not suffer from excessive heat during summer seasons.

The best RV AC should have air vents on the roof. This will enable the machine to keep your vehicle’s interior space cool efficiently. Hence, your ride maintains the desired temperatures during long drives as well. Your AC unit should have a compressor, evaporator, fans, condenser, thermostat, controls, and refrigerant systems.

Regarding how the AC works, it draws in hot air, then expels the heat outside of your RV. After that, it utilizes the vents to push cool air into your vehicle. This happens because as the cool liquid is sent to the evaporator, it absorbs heat from your vehicle’s warm air.

The liquid soaks up heat from the air as it passes through fans. As the liquid absorbs heat in the evaporator, the fluid transforms into vapor before it returns to the compressor.

There are 2 main types of camper air conditioners – ducted and non-ducted. Although the two differ in a few ways, they are similar in terms of cooling. When you select a unit, you must consider the right type, which is discussed below.

Non-Ducted RV AC 

Not all RVs feature a duct system in their ceilings, and this is why installing a non-ducted AC would be appropriate. Such RVs can be a small trailer, a Class B van, or a truck camper. Additionally, any RV with one room is likely to be ductless.

If you are renovating an old or vintage trailer that does not have an air conditioner, you must go for a non-ducted AC. Such an AC is also suitable for doing a van conversion due to its simple installation.

However, the unit has a box, which extends down from RV’s ceiling a few inches. So, the headroom is reduced, which could be a problem for taller people. The box plays a crucial role because it is where the cool air comes from.

Another factor to consider is that a ductless air conditioner creates increased humidity inside the vehicle, which forms the right environment for mold. So, if you choose a ductless AC, be sure to air out and clean the kitchen and bathroom regularly to keep the humidity under control.

Ducted RV AC

A ducted AC system has a network of ducts all over the ceiling for distributing cool air in the RV. Such a unit has multiple vents or ducts in the ceiling. These ducts are connected together with the sheet metal ducting, like a house, or, with the flexible, foil furnace duct pipe.

This kind of system means there will not be any box. Moreover, the ducts in your vehicle’s ceiling will distribute cool air through the vehicle evenly, instead of blowing it from one location.

You can also close and open the vents in the RV’s ceiling to direct the air where you want it. For instance, you can close the vents of the living room and direct all the air to the bedroom.

RV AC Ducted vs Non-Ducted


You might still be wondering how RV AC ducted Vs. non-ducted differentiate. Well, the basic difference is the way the two systems operate – one model uses the air ducts for directing cool airflow (ducted AC) while the other one blows air from its bottom and let cool air go wherever it wants to (non-ducted AC).

In the case of ducted AC, you can exercise better control over which parts of your vehicle receive cool air than others. The vents are also laid out systematically to make sure your entire vehicle receives even airflow. However, long air ducts may imply weaker airflow. In the case of a non-ducted air conditioner, the cool air is blown into your vehicle from a central rooftop location.

You do not lose BTUs (British Thermal Unit) or CFM (cubic feet per minute) when you have the ducted system. These elements are parts of the AC design and do not have anything to do with the duct. A 13,500 BTU AC generally puts out 300-350 CFMs. This won’t change because cool air is blown from the duct system. Also, the ducted system is a little bit more efficient because it covers all areas and does leave any hot spots.

A non-ducted AC does not ensure an even air distribution throughout your vehicle, and your RV will have cool and hot spots. But replacing a non-ducted system is easier, as you will only have to remove the existing non-duct AC and fix a new AC in its place. You must, however, be careful about connecting the wiring correctly.

If you aren’t concerned about the airflow as much as you are about the replacement and repair costs, you may opt for a non-ducted AC for your leisure vehicle. Lastly, you must know that between RV AC ducted Vs. non-ducted, the fan speeds and ability to produce cool air by the two systems are almost equal.

When Should You Go For a Ducted AC Unit?

  • Your RV already has ducts – There would be no point in installing a ductless AC if your vehicle already has ducts. Moreover, replacing the unit is way easier than changing it completely.
  • High humidity levels – A duct system is more effective in controlling the humidity inside a recreational vehicle. If you travel during monsoon season or in humid areas, a ducted AC would be more suitable.
  • Better aesthetics – A ducted AC blends well with the vehicle, and there is no box extending from its roof. So, it remains hidden behind the vehicle’s ceiling or wall.
  • Better airflow – The ducted system produces better airflow because you can direct its vents wherever desired. You can also modify them to improve the airflow.
  • Affordable repairs – Your maintenance cost is going to be lower because a ducted AC has fewer parts that break and demand repair.

When Should You Choose a Non-Ducted AC Unit?

  • Less dust – A ductless AC catches less dust as compared to a dusted one. If you suffer from dust allergy, having a non-ducted unit in your RV can avoid triggering it.
  • Smaller spaces – If there is very little room to hide vents of AC in the ceiling or walls, then you require a ductless AC.
  • Modify RV’s interior – If you love to make changes to your ride’s interior, working with a ductless system would be easier. You will not have to worry about blocking your ducted AC vents while modifying interiors if you install a non-ducted unit.
  • An additional AC – If your ride is huge or gets very hot easily, you will be requiring an additional AC, and installing a ductless system is a lot easier.


Depending on your taste, budget, requirement, and the size and type of your vehicle, your choice between RV AC ducted Vs non-ducted will vary. In the most important factors of air conditioning, both systems match up equally. However, before choosing the type, you should remember the following differences –

  • Ductless AC will decrease headroom in your vehicle while ducted ones hide well behind the walls and ceiling of an RV.
  • You can exercise complete control over the cool air direction in the case of a ducted AC.
  • Modifying interiors and replacing the machine is easier in ductless AC.
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