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Can I Run My Air Conditioner On Solar?

We get asked this question a lot. If you have a generator, sure you can run your air conditioner. But if you're like us and prefer not to have the constant hum in the background, then the answer is...

Yes.

Maybe.

It depends.

Most caravan van air conditioners use 1400-1700w. Starting from a hot van, it will draw 115A - 155A from your batteries and will run pretty much flat out for the first hour before the temp is low enough and it then starts to cycle on and off. After this, it will drop to around 50-70A per hour. But this all depends on the outside temperature.  

To run for 6 hours you can expect to use as much as 450ah. Which means you need between 1500 and 1700w of solar to keep up with this in good solar conditions charging LiFePO4 batteries, or more again for AGM (being that lithium batteries are more efficient when charging compared to lead acid batteries). You would also need substantial battery storage. 

Keep in mind this is only for running the aircon, so you need more solar and batteries again for the rest of your loads. Fridge, kettle, microwave, toaster, coffee machine, laptops, TV, lights, pumps, fans etc. 

As you can see, for most this is simply not feasible for long durations. 

However, if you only want to run for say 2 hours a day, just to cool things down before going to sleep, then expect to use 150-200ah and 650-860w of solar to recharge it next day. 

If you're like us and can't get to sleep when it is hot, running the aircon on a timer as you fall asleep can ensure you still wake up with the ability to make coffee. 

We here at Offroad Living were obviously in a fairly unique situation when we were travelling. We had the very large flat roof space on the truck with 900w of solar and 480w on the van. 

AllSpark 120W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 120W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 120W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 120W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 120W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape - Offroad Living

AllSpark 120W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape

$459.00
AllSpark 150W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 150W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape - Offroad Living
AllSpark 150W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape - Offroad Living
AllSpark 150W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 150W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape - Offroad Living
AllSpark 150W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape - Offroad Living

AllSpark 150W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape

$519.00
AllSpark 180W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 180W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 180W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape
AllSpark 180W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape

AllSpark 180W Flexible Solar Panel with Corflute backing & 3M VHB tape

$599.00
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living
AllSpark 120W Solar Blanket - Offroad Living

AllSpark 135W Solar Blanket

$519.00

You'll also need an inverter to convert the 12V power to 240V. 

Our AllSpark 2000w inverter (or AllSpark 2500W Pro Series) will run any caravan air conditioner on the market as long as your batteries can power it and solar can keep up. Not all 2000W inverters can guarantee this, so best to check with the manufacturer before hand. 

On top of the batteries, the solar and the inverters, then there is the DCDC chargers. These keep your batteries topped up whilst driving. 

You will need one for the van and one for your vehicle at least. We opted for the RedArc Manager 30, paralleled with a RedArc 1250D, running through the RedArc Redvision TVMS for our truck (450W running through each). 

In the van we ran an Enerdrive ENCDC40+ for charging whilst driving. A Victron Smartsolar controlled the 480W of solar on the roof.

While it may seem cost prohibitive for most, running an air conditioner off grid can be achievable, it just depends on how long you want to run for, how hot it is inside and outside and how much roof space you have. 

If you were like us, travelling full time (especially with kids) park fees to make it through hot days (or even cold, for heating) can add up quickly. Take where we were in South Australia in 2019, we had 5 days above 40C, there was a mass exodus to nearby caravan parks, as people sought out power to plug into. 

As always, every situation and set up is unique. If you need a hand working out your set up drop us a line, we can work out a solution to suit your needs. 

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