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Ducted Vs Non Ducted RV AC: What’s The Difference?

Written by Philip Lopez / Fact checked by Paul Lemaire

ducted vs non ducted rv ac

I want to upgrade the air conditioning in my RV since summer is looming. After scouring the market, most RV owners like myself will be faced with two main types- ducted vs non ducted RV AC. Which is a better choice?

A ducted AC distributes cool air through the vents in your RV ceiling. Meanwhile, a non ducted model features a lower assembly part to blow the cool air out.

Let’s learn more about their differences below.

Table of Contents

About RV Ducted Air Conditioner


A ducted AC makes use of multiple ducts in the ceiling to distribute gentle air all throughout the RV interior. The air output is more consistent, providing a whole RV climate control solution in a single unit.

The operation is super quiet; hence, these models tend to be expensive.

So, how does a ducted RV AC work?

Ducted ACs use a refrigerant to cool the air temperature, passing through a small pipe to draw heat in the air from one place to another. To be more specific, the blower extracts the warm air from your RV. It transfers the warmth to the evaporator coils in the indoor unit for cooling.

The cold air is then brought back to the RV interior through the ceiling’s vents for gentle distribution.

The air is further cooled through the condenser coils in the outdoor unit as the compressor condenses the high-pressure refrigerant gas into liquid. A fan dissolves some of that heat from the liquid refrigerant to cool it even more.

About RV Non Ducted AC

A non ducted air conditioner doesn’t need any ductwork to operate around your RV. These units look like the traditional ACs in your homes, like window units, splits, and portable models.

They blow air from its vent, making it your only source of cool air in the RV.

If you have a small camper, then you can do with a non ducted AC. This type of AC is perfect for allergy sufferers because it won’t accumulate dust as much as a ducted model. Filters that purify the air can be easily cleaned to maintain good air quality.

RV AC Ducted Vs Non Ducted Comparison


Now let’s put ducted and non ducted ACs head to head. This way, you’ll know what type of AC fits your needs.

1. Design

Whether there’s a lower vent assembly or not is what sets the ducted and non ducted apart from each other.

A non ducted RV air conditioner has a lower assembly part that blows the air out on the vent.

A ducted AC has no lower assembly part, but it fits the duct design of your RV to distribute air evenly on a larger scale.

The vents built in the ducted AC units offer a discrete look, making them ideal for minimalistic interior designs. Since these models offer a greater airflow rate, they make a good option for large RVs.

If your RV has no ductwork system, you can settle for a non ducted unit.

2. Installation

It costs more to install a ducted AC than a non ducted one because technicians have to work on the roof to secure the ducting.

Pay attention to the joints within the ducts because the improper installation will result in reduced airflow. Installing a ducted AC unit for RV may cost less if your RV has a built-in duct system.

Non ducted ACs are fairly easy to install, especially the split types. When it’s time for replacement, you won’t have problems with a non ducted unit because there’s no need to match with the current duct pipes. You simply have to buy another unit with better features.

Watch this video on how to install an RV AC.

3. Noise Level

A ducted air conditioner seems to be a little quieter than the non ducted units.

These models have working parts located either in the ceiling or outside of the RV to keep the operation super quiet. When you close the outlet vents of the main unit, the operation becomes even quieter.

Non ducted ACs operate more loudly than ducted models because the fans are near the vents. However, recent non ducted models, like Atwoodnn 15026, are much quieter now.

4. Cooling Performance

Ducted ACs cool the entire RV more evenly, thanks to the plenty of vents on the ceiling. Also, you can close particular vents to concentrate the cool air into a specific area in your RV.

On the other hand, a non ducted AC may leave some hot and cool spots inside your RV as the cooling system doesn’t distribute the air evenly.

You can, however, find some recent models with inverter technology to increase energy efficiency. Some of these models even incorporate purifying technologies to improve air quality.


When it comes to the ducted vs non ducted RV AC debate, it all boils down to size and location. A ducted AC is much preferred if you have a large RV camping in a humid area. A non ducted AC might be suitable for a smaller RV that needs a single flow of cool air.

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