Why You Want a Soft Starter for Your RV AC

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Woman standing directly in front of a fan with her hands up on her forehead trying to cool down.

If you find yourself camping in hotter climates, you know how miserable it can be when there’s not enough power to utilize your RV’s air conditioner. Boondockers dependant on the juice in their batteries will discover there’s never enough left to cool down their rigs. That’s where an AC soft start device might come in handy. Let’s see what it does and why you might want it. 

A motorhome drives down a road in the desert on a hot summer day with the sun beating down.

What Is an AC Soft Starter?

Created to use less power when starting the compressor on an air conditioner unit, a soft starter gives RVers more options for keeping cool. This little addition can help your coach use lower voltage power sources to start and run an air conditioner for longer periods. The control over the amount of energy used makes it possible to run several appliances simultaneously.

A soft starter mechanism is designed for use on single-phase motors. It makes it possible for you to operate air conditioners and refrigeration compressors on smaller generators, inverters, or on limited utility power. This means cool air can flow throughout your coach just when you need it!

How Does a Soft Starter Work?

An AC soft starter for an RV is basically a power manager. Because most air conditioners require five to eight times the standard current to start up, many generators cannot handle the power required. 

A soft starter reduces the necessary starter current by 65% to 75%, giving you more energy in your batteries. Many boondocking RVers install soft starters on their air conditioners, which gives them more current in their batteries. This means they have a longer period to cool down their rigs.

Pro Tip: Consult our Battery Buying Guide to help you choose the best RV battery for your needs.

Why You Want a Soft Start

In addition to using less power, there are several other benefits to having a soft start on your air conditioner.  Let’s look at some advantages.

First, you can avoid the power surge that startup normally requires. This surge can sometimes pop breakers and overpower generators. It also gives you the ability to run two air conditioners while hooked up to a 30-amp power pedestal. Plus, you can run your RV air conditioner through an inverter or alternate power source. 

If you’re on generator power, you can run your air conditioner with a smaller generator. Not only will the smaller generator be quieter, but the soft starter makes the air compressor itself run more quietly. You can avoid the loud noise associated with compressors turning on and off. 

A close up of an AC unit on the roof of an RV parked in a grassy field.

How to Install a Soft Starter

Installing a soft starter isn’t complex, but it does take basic knowledge of electrical work. If you don’t have the right tools or feel uncomfortable working with wiring on your RV, you might consider consulting a professional. 

If you feel confident in your installation abilities, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you install a soft starter for your RV air conditioner:

Cut the Power

First, turn off all power to your coach and pull the fuse for your air conditioner. Carefully climb on the roof and remove the cover to the air conditioner box. After locating the compressor and main capacitor, remove the latter’s cover and remove the charge. You can do so using needle nose pliers with insulated handles to touch the two terminals and release the charge. 

Splice and Connect the Wires

Now, you can take the top off the compressor. Locate the “R” wire (typically white) on the compressor and follow it to the main capacitor. Test both ends of the wire with a multimeter to ensure they’re the same wire, and remove the wire ending on the main capacitor terminal. 

At this point, you’re ready to do some real electrical work. Splice this white wire with brown wire on the soft starter, stripping and crimping wires together. Connect the white wire from the soft starter to the top of the main capacitor (where you took the original off).

Find the “S” wire (usually red) on the compressor and follow it to the terminal it attaches to on the main capacitor. Attach the orange wire from the soft starter to that same terminal–you may need to put both the “S” wire and the orange wire on the same post. There should be a “double” post in the installation kit that comes with the soft starter.

Next, find the “C” wire (ordinarily blue) on the compressor and follow it to the main capacitor, pulling it off its terminal there. Then splice it with the black wire from the soft starter, stripping and crimping wires together.

Close up of two hands stripping electrical wires.

Put It Back Together and Test It

Replace the main capacitor (if applicable) and the covers to the capacitor and compressor. Mount the soft starter box inside the air conditioner box with sticky-sided tape or screws. Then, put the fuse back and turn on the power breaker.

Finally, you’re ready to turn on your air conditioner unit. To ensure that the soft starter understands the starting behavior of your air conditioner, experts recommend turning it off and on five times with five-minute intervals between each start. 

If everything is working as it’s supposed to, you’re ready to go!

Keep In Mind: Now that you know how to install a soft starter for your AC unit, make cooling your RV as efficient as possible with the right thermostat.

The Best

In our opinion, the ultimate choice in this technology is SoftStartRV. It’s the leading technology in its field and is ready to run two air conditioners on pedestal power, one on a generator, or several different appliances simultaneously.

It’s easy to install and comes with all items needed to do a DIY installation and video instructions and support contacts. 

SoftStartRV Soft Start for RV Air Conditioner, RV AC Soft Start Kit for Air Conditioner, Easy Start Even with a Small Generator, 100% Waterproof, Trailer Camper, Motorhome HVAC -NetworkRV
  • HOW DOES IT WORK?: When your RV air conditioner compressor kicks in, it can overload your generator and trip the...
  • WHAT SEPARATES US FROM THE COMPETITION? It’s NOW 40% smaller than all others, allowing it to fit in all Low-Profile...

It’ll cost you $329 for the entire kit–money well spent if you ask us. 

Watch an instructional video on how to install a SoftStartRV

Alternative Option

We also like the Micro-Air EasyStart. It’s also highly touted, and the 120V unit can power your air conditioner(s) onshore power or by a generator. The company also offers a 240V option for homes and larger systems. 

The unique thing about this device is that you can operate it via wireless or with Bluetooth options. However, it does not come with an installation kit. You’ll have to purchase that separately for $10. 

The price of the EasyStart is $300, so with the kit, it’s $310 total. Not as affordable or easy-to-use as the SoftStartRV, but still a useful option. 

Is It Worth Installing a Soft Starter for Your RV Air Conditioner? 

We think so! 

A soft starter for your RV air conditioner can solve your summertime heat woes, whether you’re on shore power or using a generator. Not only will it provide a quieter experience, but you’ll use less energy. 

Imagine having the current necessary to run the AC while you sleep or returning from a fishing outing to a cool camper. A soft starter will give you options on your power usage, as well as provide comfort for your camping trip.

Have you used a soft starter for your RV air conditioner?

Last update on 2024-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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