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What does Ducted AC mean in an RV?

What does Ducted AC mean in an RV?

When you’re looking at RVs and all of the potential add-ons that are available nowadays, some of the terminology can seem pretty confusing. For example, when it comes to air conditioning options…

What does ‘Ducted AC’ mean in an RV?

There are two different kinds of AC that you can have installed in an RV: ducted AC and non-ducted AC. Non-ducted AC is a single unit that blows air directly out of the bottom of the air conditioner itself, whereas ducted AC is distributed throughout a duct system in your RV, releasing cool air from multiple different vents.

Read ahead in this article to find out the true differences between the types of AC systems that you can have installed in your RV so that you can decide which option is best for you!

Ducted AC vs Non-Ducted AC for RVs

Ducted AC and non-ducted AC are the two main options that you generally get to choose between for an RV, but what are the actual differences between them?

RVs with Ducted AC

Ducted AC uses a network of ducts throughout your RV to distribute the cool air. This means that the air is dispersed via several different vents, or ducts, in the ceiling. A ducted AC system allows cool air to travel to the more vital parts of the vehicle, like directly to your sleeping space.

You can also close certain vents to control where the air is moving and send more cool air to the areas of the RV that need it the most. Overall, these AC systems create better airflow, and they reduce humidity much more than a non-ducted unit.

There are some downsides to ducted AC systems, though. They are much more expensive and complicated to install as they require a complicated network of pipes to be placed throughout your vehicle. They also tend to gather more dust, and you can only have a single unit in place.

Ultimately, you will also need to have a certain amount of space within the walls of your RV to even consider a ducted system, and it is almost impossible for many vintage models or conversions to have one installed.

Ducted AC Pros and Cons


  • Cool air in more areas of the RV.
  • Can be adjusted to send air where you need it.
  • Gives better airflow.
  • Parts are hidden and less obstructive.
  • Better for lowering humidity levels.


  • Complicated to install.
  • More expensive than a ductless unit.
  • Requires a lot of space within the RV walls.
  • Collects more dust.
  • Makes internal changes to the RV difficult.
  • Uses more power.

RVs with Non-Ducted AC

Non-ducted AC is more straightforward. It is essentially a single box unit that is installed directly into the ceiling, which blows cool air out of the bottom. One of the major upsides to a ductless system is that it doesn’t need any complicated vent network to support it. If you have space in the ceiling, then you can fit one of these in with very few problems.

These are usually the simplest, if not the only, option for older RVs and motorhomes that have thinner walls. They are cheaper to buy and install, and you have the option of adding more than one if you want some extra cooling. They are also generally more efficient than a ducted system, so they won’t drain as much power, and they tend to collect less dust.

On the other hand, a non-ducted AC unit is simply not going to create the same kind of airflow that you get from ducted AC. You have very little control over where the cool air goes, and they tend to create problems with humidity as well. The unit will also reduce your headroom a little, as it extends down from the ceiling.

Non-Ducted AC Pros and Cons


  • Cheaper to buy and install.
  • Possible to fit into almost any RV.
  • Can install multiple units.
  • More power efficient than ducted units.
  • Don’t collect too much dust.


  • Airflow is not as good.
  • Little control over where cool air is directed.
  • The unit itself is slightly obstructive, reducing headroom.
  • Creates more humidity, which can cause mold.

Should I Choose Ducted AC For My RV?

Ducted AC is generally a better and more comfortable way of cooling down your motorhome, but it can be pricey and it is not always possible to go for one of these systems. You might find that you actually don’t have the choice of installing a ducted system, even if you wanted to. If you are buying a new RV or converting a camper yourself, then you might look into getting a ducted system, if it will fit.

If you are looking to replace the AC system that you already have, though, then you will almost always have to replace it with the same type you already have. A ducted system is hard to install in an RV that is not designed to accommodate one and hard to remove from one that is.

How Can I Keep My RV Cool?

If you’re not happy with the temperature inside your RV, and it’s not possible to improve or change the AC that you have, then don’t worry! There are many other ways to cool things down when it’s getting a bit too warm.

  • Position the RV – The direction that your RV is facing, and where you are parked, will have a huge impact on airflow. Try to have your windows out of direct sunlight, particularly in the middle of the day, and look for spots near water or a cool breeze.
  • Cover the windows – Increasing the shade on your windows and reducing the amount of sunlight that comes straight through will also help. An awning is a great way to cover your windows in the heat.
  • Increase ventilation – Close the windows on the sunny side of your RV and open the windows on the cooler side. You want to try and get cool air coming in, and hot air moving out.
  • Reduce appliance heat – Many of the appliances inside your RV will run very hot, so you should try to reduce the impact of this. Avoid using the oven during the day, and try to direct your fridge vents outside.
  • Buy a fan – It might not do as much as a full AC unit, but a fan can really help to keep the air moving in a pinch.


Closing Thoughts

So, what does ducted AC mean in an RV? A ducted AC system utilizes a network of pipes to transport cool air to various vents and ducts throughout the RV. A non-ducted AC unit, on the other hand, simply blows cool air straight out of the bottom of the box.

There are many benefits to using a ducted AC system, but they are expensive and challenging to install. Whatever kind of AC you end up with, you can always make other adjustments to keep things cool on those really hot days.


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