The Ultimate Guide to Getting Back to Chilling Out With Your RV’s AC

How to add freon to RV AC

Nothing beats the sense of peace and relaxation that a vacation brings, especially when you can pack up the RV and hook up the travel trailer and go. Some of the luxuries like air conditioning are still must-haves even if you are roughing it. When things get uncomfortable, you may wonder how to add freon to RV AC.

What Is Freon?

Freon describes a generic term for any fluorocarbon-containing refrigerant. It is also a registered trademark of the brand of the same name. The chemical was a collaboration between DuPont and GM, created in 1930.

Freon works by forcing colder air outside of your AC after being heated and compressed within the coils of the unit. Initially, it had a lot going for it. It’s chemically stable, making it safe to use. It is also non-toxic and colorless for aesthetic purposes.

Freon is part of a class of chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The term includes several products used for a variety of functions, including fire suppression, refrigeration, and aerosols.

The Problem With Freon

The refrigerant worked well for decades, providing cooling comfort in cars, homes, and RVs. Then, researchers at the University of California discovered a link between the use of CFCs and the integrity of the ozone layer.

The ozone layer protects the Earth from harmful UV radiation. The results would have been catastrophic to the planet if nothing was done to stop it. That’s why the 1987 Montreal Protocol was so critical. This international treaty put a framework in place to stop the use of CFCs, including freon. That’s where the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got involved.

Updated regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act finalized in 2017 stepped in and now have a say in how to add freon to RV AC. No longer is it a DIY project. Instead, it’s a bit more complicated.

Fixing Your Air Conditioning

The repair depends on the type of refrigerant that your AC unit uses. That, in turn, rests with its age. Camping trailers with air conditioners manufactured before 2010 likely use a coolant called R-22. That’s a problem because it’s one of the types that the EPA now regulates. You’re not going to find a DIY recharge kit anymore like you may have done in the past.

The federal law addresses several factors regarding the use of these kinds of refrigerants. First, the only people allowed to handle this type of freon must be EPA-certified. Second, they must know how to handle it safely and how to dispose of any product correctly. Remember, it’s an environmentally hazardous material. You can’t just toss a spent unit into the trash.

That also applies to the entire unit. Even if you decide to get a new AC, you must ensure that the refrigerant is reclaimed by a trained professional before you recycle it. These regulations may seem strict, but it’s essential to remember why they exist.

Signs of Other Problems

The other question you have to ask is, why do you need to add freon at all to your AC?

 Units in motorhomes differ from an automobile’s air conditioner. You need to recharge the latter when it starts blowing out warm air. That’s not the case with the former. This type of AC is a sealed unit. You shouldn’t have to add freon at all. Usually, it’s a sign of something else.

The chances are that the unit may have a leak. Nothing should escape. It’s not a matter of topping it off now and then. The EPA also has a say here. Certified technicians can only use approved equipment for maintenance and repair. They must document any refrigerants they use or dispose of too. Besides, only techs can buy regulated coolants anyway.

Even if you could get your hands on some freon, you still need to consider your impact on the environment. If you like a lot of RVers, you camp to get away from it all. Trashing the place you sleep is just plain wrong. That’s not to say you need to chuck your old rig for a new one. Hire a professional to get the job done right. Fix the leak instead of using a band-aid solution.

The same advice applies to newer RVs too. While many products aren’t CFCs, the hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) replacements also have federal restrictions. However, other issues could be affecting your AC’s performance that are worth checking out to save yourself a costly repair bill down the road.

Troubleshooting Your AC

Regular maintenance is essential to keep your RV’s air conditioning running properly. After all, the problem with cooling may rest with a dirty condenser and have nothing to do with the freon. That’ll involve removing the shroud off of your rooftop unit and taking a look. Before you start, make sure that your rig is unplugged.

Since the condenser draws in air from the outside, it’ll trap some dust and debris over time with everyday use. You’ll need a fin comb, foam cleaner, and a shop vac. Inspect the fins for any that are bent. You can repair them using a tool made for this purpose from your local RV store. Clean them gently to avoid damaging them.

The next thing to examine is the fan. Try spinning it to find out whether it needs some lubrication. Take a look at it, noting its condition and if it needs replacement. Also, test the capacitor with a multimeter. Another possible cause of the AC blowing warm air is not enough juice getting to the compressor to do its job of cooling.

The capacitor can go bad if you use your rig infrequently. Its purpose is to provide the extra power to start the unit. The AC may have one, two, or more, depending on the model. Fortunately, it’s an easy repair that you can do yourself. Other things to check include the thermostat and the compressor. The latter means a new air conditioner because it’ll likely cost more than buying a new AC.

Making Your RV Air Conditioner Run More Efficiently

The best way to ensure that your AC works to capacity is to make it easier for it to perform. That means cleaning the cold air and return air filters periodically to ensure unobstructed airflow.

You can also do some of the same things you do at home to keep your living quarters cooler. If possible, choose a shady camping spot or one that only gets the morning sunlight. Close the curtains and blinds that receive the most intense sun, especially in the late afternoon. While fans won’t cool the air per se, they will circulate it and help you feel more comfortable.

Reduce other sources of heat that could be pushing your air conditioner to its capacity. Swap out incandescent bulbs for LEDs instead. The former generates a massive amount of heat, with nearly 90 percent wasted. Think about how quickly they get hot after you switch on a lamp. That’s warming the ambient air around you as well.

An RV air conditioner should provide enough cooling power without the need to add freon. Warm air coming from the unit is a red flag that something is wrong, whether it’s a leak or simply a dirty filter. While you can troubleshoot some issues, a problem with the coolant is a job for a certified technician because of EPA regulations.

You can get the most out of your RV’s air conditioner with regular maintenance and some common-sense approaches to helping it run more efficiently. It’s a better option than scanning RVs for sale.