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How Does a Soft Start for RV AC Work?

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Your RV air conditioner can make the difference between a cool, comfortable trip and a sweltering nightmare, which is why many RVers rely on a soft start for AC. 

An RV’s electrical system isn’t always conducive to running AC regularly. Due to the combination of how air conditioners function and the limitations of RV power, you might not have enough power. 

That’s where a soft start for RV ACs comes in. It can help to run your AC more smoothly and prevent electrical problems. Let’s take a closer look at this valuable solution. 

What Is a Soft Start for RV AC?

A soft start for RV AC is technology that lowers the initial power draw used by your air conditioner’s compressor. You install these small electronic devices directly onto the compressor, and they directly modify the startup process to prevent issues related to the current spike when a compressor kicks on.

A Micro Air RV air conditioner soft start device
An RV air conditioner soft start device

How Does an AC Soft Start Work?

To understand how a soft start works on an air conditioner, you’ll need to know how an air conditioner works–specifically, how it starts. 

Compressors for air conditioners draw a tremendous amount of current at start-up, something inherent to larger AC motors. This is called the startup current.

A soft start connects to the air conditioner’s compressor and modifies how it operates when it turns on. Instead of drawing as much power as possible instantly, a soft start will gradually increase the power draw until the air conditioner’s compressor fully kicks on. 

This slight difference removes the problematic current spike that can overload the power system of the RV.

→ Can You Run Your RV AC Unit on Batteries? Yes! Learn how to do it here.

RV air-conditioner on top of an RV
RV air conditioners have large motors in them

What Are the Benefits of an RV AC Soft Start?

There are several major perks to using a soft start for RV AC systems. You’ll find greater flexibility and expanded usage options, as well as other perks. Here are some of the most notable. 

Prevent Excessive Breaker Trips

While you might be familiar with the experience of tripping a breaker at home, you may not be prepared for how often it can happen in an RV. It’s easy to draw too much power and shut everything down until you reset your breaker, especially for those with a 30-amp electrical system. 

As you might expect, the process of starting up an air conditioner is one of the highest draw activities you can do in an RV, and a soft start significantly reduces this load.

Enable Starting Two RV ACs on 30-Amp Service

Do you have a larger rig that needs two air conditioners to stay cool, but you only have 30-amp service? If this is your scenario, you may not have adequate power to start both at the same time. Unfortunately, the starting amp draw of almost all air conditioner pairs exceeds the power supply of 30 amps. However, with a soft start, the power draw as your dual ACs kick on will stay under 30-amps, allowing you to run them both without tripping a breaker. 

30A RV pedestal for Air conditioner soft start
When an RV is limited to 30 amp service frequently the breaker will trip when trying to start two air conditioners.

Enable Starting RV AC from Smaller Generator

Smaller generators commonly have issues with the power spike when starting an air conditioner, as can the constant power draw required to operate them. 

A soft start enables the use of a more modest generator, so you won’t have to upgrade to run your AC. Soft starts can work with generators as small as 2200 watts, allowing air conditioners to function with smaller RV generator setups. 

Reduce Load on Generators and Inverters When Starting

Even if you have the spare amperage, the massive spike from an air conditioner kicking on isn’t good for the long-term health of your electronics. This is also true if you’re using an inverter, which will endure similar elevated wear and tear. 

Over time, you might experience premature failure or overloading issues, requiring expensive repairs. Not to mention, you’ll get uncomfortably warm in your rig. Therefore, a small investment in a soft start could pay serious dividends extending the life of other, more expensive components of your electrical system.

Red Honda generator

Run RV AC Off-Grid via a Generator and Hybrid Inverter

Enjoying a cool, air-conditioned rig while camping off-grid is possible with the combination of a soft start, hybrid inverter, and generator. Hybrid inverters can combine multiple power sources like battery banks and a generator to create sufficient energy for running an air conditioner. 

However, even with this combined power and a sufficiently strong generator, that initial power spike can still overload your capacity. A soft start prevents this, so you can successfully run your AC off-grid.

Make Running an RV AC on Batteries Possible

A soft start will even make it feasible to run your AC on battery power. You’ll need a suitable system, both in terms of battery capacity and a sufficiently powerful inverter. With the addition of a soft start, you can power your AC without exceeding your inverter’s capacity or your batteries’ power draw. 

Tip: Don’t try this with lead-acid batteries, as you can seriously damage them. To run your RV AC off battery power, you’ll want to upgrade to lithium-ion batteries.

solar and air conditioner on top of RV
With enough solar and the correct battery system you can run an AC on battery and solar power

What Is the Best Soft Start For Your RV AC?

Sold yet? If you’ve already started making plans for all your new air-conditioned adventures, let us help. We’ve evaluated various models and picked the best one for RVers. Let’s check it out! 

MicroAir Easy Start

About: The MicroAir Easy Start bills itself as a “one-of-a-kind, custom-developed soft starter.” It uses a four-part technique to start your air conditioner’s compressor with just 25-35% of the typical power draw. 

Best Features: The MicroAir’s best features include specialized fault checks unique to the Easy Start. The critical technology protects your compressor and electrical system. It’s also water- and UV-resistant and includes side-angled flag connectors for installation in smaller spaces. Some models even come with Bluetooth, so you can control and monitor it from your phone!

MSRP: $299 to $333 for the Easy Start 364, the model recommended for most RV AC units. You can get it right here from our Battle Born Shop.

Easy Start mounted in Air Conditioner
Adventurous Way uses a soft start to run their air off batteries and generator.

Should You Get a Soft Start for Your RV AC?

Some folks simply don’t need a soft start for their RV. For example, those who rarely travel to hot climates naturally won’t need one. Also, RVers on a tight budget may skip the added expense and modify their behavior for better AC operation, or if you are always hooked up to larger power supplies, like 50 amp service, you won’t have problems getting started.

Other than those limited situations, just about every RVer will find some benefits from a soft start for their RV AC. Those with 30-amp electrical systems or those who only have access to limited power hookups can run two ACs. Thanks to the decreased startup power, even those with 50-amp rigs will worry less about a current spike tripping a breaker. 

In all cases, a soft start lets you run your AC off-grid or entirely on battery power. For this modest investment, you can enjoy cooler days and fewer concerns about your rig’s electrical system for years to come.

Want To Learn More About Electrical Systems and Lithium Batteries?

We know that building or upgrading an electrical system can be overwhelming, so we’re here to help. Our Reno, Nevada-based sales and customer service team is standing by at (855) 292-2831 to take your questions!

Also, join us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to learn more about how lithium battery systems can power your lifestyle, see how others have built their systems, and gain the confidence to get out there and stay out there.

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