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Author Topic: Whats the CHEAPEST and most Energy Efficient way to have AC in my van?  (Read 1635 times)


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I've looked into ductless AC units and Solar panels but the electric terms are confusing me. I know that Air conditioners pull a ton of energy but if I only ran it like 10 hours a day, there's got to be a way.

Even if it's not AC, I gotta know how to stay cool in this Texas summer!


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Greetings & Welcome!

Staying cool is easy, but normal A/C and solar panels are the wrong answer.  Solar really won't provide enough power to run an A/C effectively, and solar panels in general aren't a good idea in the summer because parking in the sun during the summer is just plain nuts, and the only people recommending them are those who are getting paid, or those with no experience, or haven't had them long enough to give an accurate review or opinion.  A typical window shaker A/C is going  to require shore power or a generator. 

If possible, park in the shade.  That move alone will keep your van 40-50 degrees cooler than if parked in the sun.  If you're in an area where shade is a problem, you can mount a thin plywood on top of roof racks to keep your roof in the shade all day.  Window vans are also best because of the increased ventilation.  Positioning your van so only the back windows are facing the sun, and possibly blocking those windows can help a lot too.

Insulation is not necessarily a good thing, it can trap that heat inside long after the sun goes down.  In the winter, it can also keep free heat from the sun out.

Swamp coolers can be built or bought that run on 12 volts, and use very little power.  There are different designs that work better depending on whether you're in a dry or a humid area.  I think my swamp cooler uses something like 2-3 amps per hour, and even parked in the sun on a 120 degree day, it can get too cold inside to be comfortable.

In dry areas, the swamp coolers work best pulling in outside air, then having a window open on the opposite end of the van for the hotter and damper air to be exhausted out.

In humid areas, you want the swamp cooler to both intake and exhaust to the outside, then the cold water that this is producing in the reservoir is pumped through a radiator with a fan behind it on the inside.  This way, no moisture is added to the inside air, so it still works even in humid areas.

Depending on just how hot it is, parking in the shade, with a window open on each end, and a fan blowing out on one end or the other can create a nice airflow through the whole van to keep you cool as well.  Add a small fan blowing directly on you, and simple misting from a spray bottle can do wonders.

The ice powered coolers work too, but then you have the added expense of ice.

I have a stock window van with no added insulation, and have no problem keeping my van cool in the summer, or warm in the winter.

There are many more techniques for staying either warm or cool too, if you need them.  Are you mainly in a city or boondocking?  Is shade usually available?  Describing your van might be helpful too, or maybe even pictures...

Good luck and holler if you need more details.

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