A man uses a remote to turn on his mini split air conditioner mounted high up on the wall of his home.

How to DIY Your Own Mini Split AC

DIYing your mini-split AC is rapidly becoming the holy grail of RV air-conditioning. These units use much less electricity than rooftop units, you can install them yourself, and they are usually far quieter than typical rooftop RV units.

Today, we’ll discuss mini-splits and the pros and cons of using them in an RV. Let’s discover if this could be a good option for you!

A man uses a remote to turn on his mini split air conditioner mounted high up on the wall of his home.

What Is a Mini Split AC? 

People have used mini-split systems for over a decade in other parts of the world but have only seen their U.S. popularity soar in recent times. A mini-split system is a heating and cooling system that allows you to control temperatures in individual rooms or spaces. They have two primary parts: an outdoor condenser/compressor and an indoor head unit.

The indoor head unit is where the cool or hot air comes out, and the outdoor portion is like the outdoor part of your home AC. The outdoor part sends the hot air from the inside to the outside.

Two parts of a mini split air conditioner: the indoor head unit and the outdoor box.
Mini-split AC units have two primary parts: an outdoor condenser/compressor and an indoor head unit.

The indoor head unit will blow cold or hot air, depending on what you select via a remote. You can set the desired temperature, mode, and fan speed. 

Does a Mini Split Use a Lot of Electricity? 

No. In fact, many RVers run their mini-splits on solar power! Generally, a mini-split will use 50% or less of the electricity a standard rooftop RV air conditioner requires. 

Mini-splits are also excellent heaters, often capable of keeping your RV warm in the coldest weather.

The energy you use will depend on the BTU rating of the mini-split system you purchase. For example, a 12,000 BTU unit is perfect for cooling/heating large RVs and only pulls 5-10 amps!

A standard 12,000 BTU rooftop RV air-conditioner will pull 12-15 amps while cooling. 

Learn about even more upgrades, modifications, and tips to help you stay cool in your RV when off-grid.

What Are the Benefits of a Mini Split AC? 

The benefits of a mini-split AC are energy efficiency, ease of DIY installation, quiet operation, and heating abilities.

Mini-split ACs are often capable of operating when boondocking because of their low power draw. A small to midsize solar setup and some sun for charging will keep you cool for the long haul.

You can have a mini-split system up and running via a DIY install in less than half a day. The only thing you might need help with is pressurizing the coolant lines.

A woman sleeps on a couch in a living room with an AC mounted on the wall behind her.
Mini-split AC systems are often much quieter than a rooftop RV air conditioner.

Certain models are so quiet that you won’t even know they’re running. They’ll keep the air chilly without the noise of the even quietest rooftop RV air-conditioners.

Lastly, mini-split systems can keep you warm even in temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit! That’s why mini-split ACs are some of the most versatile designs. 

What Are the Cons of a Mini Split System? 

The only cons of RV mini-split AC systems are their sometimes high cost, the fact that you might need to work with an HVAC professional after your DIY install, and the extra precautions you’ll take to keep them safe on the road. 

  • Mini-splits used to cost much more than rooftop RV air-conditioners. Prices have come down significantly over the years, so now you can usually purchase a system for about the same price or less than a comparable rooftop RV air-conditioner.

    However, some higher-end mini-splits can still cost more than standard rooftop RV ACs, especially when you add them to big rigs that might require more than one internal head unit.
  • Mini-splits are relatively easy to DIY, except most units require you to pressurize the HVAC lines between the external and internal units. You can do everything yourself except for connecting the two components.

    Once you’re at that step, you’ll need to have an HVAC pro finish the job. The good news is this is a common and very affordable task that shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.
  • Mini-splits are new arrivals to RVing life. Many RVers install them successfully, but there are a few precautions you want to take.

    For example, ensure you firmly secure the outdoor unit to your camper. It would be best to put something in place to ensure the external fan doesn’t spin as you drive. The road wind can turn the fan in the wrong direction, causing damage to the unit. Many RVers put a cover over the external mini-split AC unit when they travel.

How to DIY Your Own Mini Split AC 

Mini-Split AC Installation How-To

This video will walk you through a step-by-step process to DIY your own mini split AC. Here are the basic steps they cover in the video:

  1. Unpack your mini-split system and locate all the parts.
  2. Install the interior head unit using the mounting bracket and screws, and use a level to ensure it’s perfectly even. The best place to install this unit is toward the ceiling or mid-way up. You should not install it at floor level.
  3. Install the external unit in a stable outdoor space on your RV, and use a level to confirm you fasten it in a level position.
  4. Run power to the outdoor unit, following the guidelines in the owner’s manual. When in doubt, hire an electrician or qualified HVAC individual to wire the unit into your RV.
  5. Run the included coolant lines between the interior and outdoor units and leave them disconnected.
  6. Hire a qualified HVAC professional to pressurize your coolant lines and test the system. 
Hand hold up a mini split AC unit and prepare to mount it using a metal wall bracket.

How Long Do Mini Splits Last?

Mini-splits last 10-30 years, making them some of the most reliable appliances on the market. If you clean the filters every few years and keep the outdoor unit free from road damage, your mini-split will keep you rolling in your RV for the long haul.

Is a Mini Split Air Conditioner Worth It?

Mini split air conditioners are some of the most reliable, durable, and affordable upgrades you can make to your RV. In the next 5-10 years, they’ll probably become the standard. They are much quieter, more energy-efficient, and often more affordable than rooftop RV air conditioners.

On top of all that, they’re relatively easy to DIY install, making them a practical choice for many RVers on the road today. 

Will you DIY your mini split air conditioner?

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