The air conditioner is a critical piece of equipment for many RV owners. The unit is not used year-round however and basic maintenance during active and idle times will ensure it functions optimally for a very long time. Familiarizing yourself with the basic pieces and functions also makes it easy to complete basic repairs. In some cases however, professional servicing is the best course of action.
How the Unit Functions
Many RV AC units are mounted to the roof but some are set vertically on the rear. Regardless, they function by using a fan to pull air into the unit where a condenser cools the air and pumps it back into the RV. The fan and condenser are both critical elements of the unit and both must function properly for the system to deliver a steady stream of cool air. In order to keep things running smoothly, cleaning and servicing the unit on occasion is prudent. Also, maintaining a seal and tracking wear and tear to the cover and exterior shroud will also ensure the unit runs smoothly. Set a monthly maintenance schedule, especially when living in hot areas that demand a high performance air conditioning unit throughout the summer months.
Begin with a visual inspection and really take the time to look closely out the shroud. The shroud is the exterior cover and the most exposed element to the AC unit. It receives wear and tear from the sun, elements and from wind while driving down the highway. It also covers and protects the interior elements, preventing direct contact with the outside world. Inspect the plastic for UV damage, cracking and breaking. Minor damage is easily repaired with glue or epoxy but severe cracking and loose pieces may require a complete replacement. A damaged shroud can break loose and fly away while driving down the road. Most shrouds are held to the unti with four to six screws and they are easy to remove and replace. If the shroud looks good, remove the piece for a wipe down and to access the interior section.
Replace the Filter
The air filter is easy to overlook but replacing the filter every 3-6 months is worth doing when the unit is used frequently. Yearly replacement is often recommended but 6-months is ideal. It ensures the filter is capable of trapping dust and particles while returning clean air back into the RV. Not all filters are created equal either. Don’t skimp on this piece and pay the extra couple of bucks for a high quality filter. RV living places you in contact with pollens, dust and everything associated with the great outdoors. Your air filter works as a means of controlling and removing these particulates from the indoor space of your home. If you suffer from allergies, maintaining a clean filter is especially important. If done properly, you can actually wash the existing filter but replacement is a better option. If you do clean the filter, only use an air gun to blow out the dust. Contact with water will not hurt the filter itself but that water can interfere with the unit and cause damage down the road. For the best results, simply replace the existing filter.
Clean the Unit
Cleaning an air conditioner is surprisingly simple and anyone can do a basic cleaning once the shroud is removed. The air filter does not catch everything and you will likely see a buildup of grime on the condenser coils and metal interior surfaces. If you clean the unit regularly, wiping the coils and interior with a clean cloth is often sufficient. Excessive buildup however calls for an old toothbrush to accompany the wipedown. A shop vacuum can also help to pull dust from difficult spaces within the unit. Clean methodically and do not use any cleaning products unless you have a condenser specific cleaning agent. Otherwise, simply brush away dust and grime and wipe it down or vacuum up the loose debris.
Keep it Covered
Do your air conditioner a favor and use a cover when the unit is not in use. The cover will protect the plastic against UV damage while preventing water and debris from working into the unit. The air conditioner manufacturer likely sells a cover with the exact dimensions but finding standard aftermarket covers is also a breeze. Remember to remove the cover when using the air conditioner however because it must breathe and circulate air to function properly. Otherwise, keep it covered and protected when not in use.