RV Thermostats: What You Need to Know

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RV Thermostats: What You Need to Know

Written by: Jackson Systems



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We made it to summer! What better way to celebrate than taking the RV to a new park or distant location. The only problem is your thermostat isn’t working properly, leaving the RV deathly hot in the punishing summer heat.

This is a scenario a lot of RV owners find themselves in as maintenance starts to be a bigger part of their home on wheels. Today we’ll dive into what makes a good RV thermostat, what options you’ll have, and make a few recommendations.

What type of power source do I need for my RV Thermostat?

RVs have a limited source of power which can create issues for typical residential thermostats. You cannot use standard residential thermostats inside an RV because most thermostats are designed to run off 24-volt AC power sources, which is more than most RVs can provide. You can work around this issue by using a lower voltage thermostat or a millivolt thermostat that utilizes DC power to supplement the unit.

RVs can be unique due to their usage of both AC and DC power sources. AC (alternating current) power is overwhelmingly associated with residential homes because the flow of currents is allowed to change directions in residential electrical layouts. The power sources of a home allow for a more stable environment for AC voltage, making things like voltage thermostats an option for most homes.

DC (direct current) is typically associated with battery-powered devices. Battery power can be a great option for RV thermostats due to their low power demands and isolated “grid” that doesn’t require much from the overall electrical system inside the RV.

Utilizing DC power inside your RV thermostat allows for less demand from the 12V AC current coming from your RV. Although you cannot run an RV thermostat on only DC power, a good amount of thermostats allow the screen backlight or unit to use DC power to decrease the overall AC power load.

Choosing the right RV thermostat can be difficult. Luckily there’s a growing market of thermostat options available that allow for some flexibility in choice, overall price point, and device settings for your RV.

There’s still a great catalog of digital, analog, programmable, and smart thermostats to pick from based on your heating and cooling demands and desires to schedule. Remember when you choose: most RV thermostats run on 12-volt DC power sources. It’s implied that some 24-volt systems can work but it is not recommended in the protection of your warranty and overall power levels of your RV in practice.

Types of RV Thermostats

Analog

The great part of choosing an analog option for your RV is the simplicity. The majority of analog thermostats will be battery-powered and use a heat-sensitive metal that will bend when temperatures rise or fall. This is obviously going to be a great choice for RVs due to their low power demands and simplicity of installation. Any option that avoids putting constraints on the RV’s electrical system is an awesome pick for your next thermostat.

Digital

Digital thermostats should be devices you’ve seen before inside a residential area. The only difference is that now you are looking for a digital thermostat with power demands that make sense for your RV. Digital thermostats work by using electrical temperature sensors to detect correct responses for the current temperature of the RV. It relays these results to the display of the thermostat so the user can adjust accordingly. Remember to keep in mind these typically run off hard wiring to the furnace, meaning you’ll want to carefully select the proper AC voltage for your mobile home before installation.

Programmable

Programmable thermostats are a wonderful “sweet spot” for RV heating and cooling. They allow the user to make preset temperature ranges, schedule heating and cooling changes throughout your day and save money and energy by only running your AC or heat when you know you’ll be in your RV. There’s a wide selection of programmable thermostats available for an RV. It’s a perfect choice for people that prefer a “hands-off” approach to everyday heating and cooling needs.

Smart Thermostat

The list of available smart thermostats for the RV market is much smaller than the other types of thermostats. As technology continues to push more and more smart devices into the home, the next step is bringing these advancements to areas like RVs. Smart thermostats allow for intricate changes to the heating and cooling of a space based on things like proximity to your home or smartphone. With the help of apps, users have a much wider net of functionality than they might be used to with traditional thermostats. Some even allow you to set alarms, play music, and relay info like weather with the help of an internet connection.

Our Recommendations

When considering the selection above, some of the requirements we discussed, and the potential hassle involved with changing thermostats, we only want to recommend the best possible options we carry.

Our first and most highly recommended thermostat for your RV is the Honeywell FocusPRO 5000. This thermostat is the definition of “no-nonsense”. Visually it has a large, well-lit green display making it easy to read in almost any lighting situation, adjustable font size, and simple but precise controls. It’s a battery-powered thermostat, so you don’t have to worry about annoying wiring scenarios or potential energy-draining issues. 

The next recommendation for your next RV thermostat is the White-Rodgers Blue 2” Display 1H/1C Thermostat (1F86-0244). This simple and sleek design from Emerson is easy to understand and navigate. It’s millivolt compatible, optional hard wiring or battery-powered, and a 5-year warranty if anything goes wrong. White-Rodgers signature backlit blue display makes it easy to view in any lighting situation. This is another fantastic option for anyone wanting a non-programmable option.

Our final selection comes from the programmable thermostat category. The Honeywell 1-Week Programmable Thermostat (RTH221B1039) is a low-voltage option with programmable settings to make life easier. Their simple programming allows for an entire week to be set with options for four different periods per day. It’s compatible with millivolt systems and the installation is so simple anyone in the house could set it up. This model is extremely affordable and a perfect fit for more RV setups.

Finding that perfect RV thermostat to get you through the hot summer months doesn’t have to be a hassle. There’s a whole world of options available. Take your newfound buyer’s knowledge and find that perfect stat for your home on wheels. Happy camping!

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