How to install a truck camper shell air conditioner?

In this article, we will answer the following question: How to install a truck camper shell air conditioner? We will guide you through the installation process step-by-step and also tell you how to choose the best truck camper shell air conditioner unit. 

How to install a truck camper shell air conditioner?

Before installing a truck camper shell air conditioner you have to think about the AC setup and find the best unit for your camper shell. 

Most camper shells nowadays come with a roof-top AC pre-installed, and this is the best type of AC unit you must install in your camper. Roof-mounted AC units save us a lot of space in the vehicle, in addition to promoting efficiency, since hot air is sucked in and cooled and cold descends naturally: pure physical laws.

Now that you know what type of air conditioner you must install in a truck camper shell, let’s move to other important criteria to make an appropriate choice:

  • Cooling capacity: Air conditioners have to report their cooling power in the specifications. It is expressed in Frigories or in BTU (British Thermal Unit). One Frigoria is equivalent to 4 BTUs, so a 1000 Frigoria air conditioner has a cooling capacity of 4000 BTU / hour.
  • Additional functions: It is common for these devices to integrate various functionalities: dehumidification, humidification, ventilation and even heat pump, undoubtedly advantages that you should assess at the time of purchase.
  • Noise: Let’s face it, air conditioners are annoying. If you are a very light sleeper you should look for a device that is not very noisy, which are generally more expensive.
  • Weight and dimensions: As we have seen, an air conditioner with a compressor easily exceeds 25 kg. The wheels help to move it somewhat, but they are heavy and bulky. Air conditioners do not have this problem. You should also consider it.
  • Remote control: Almost all air conditioners have a remote control, some can even be controlled by Wi-Fi. They can also be programmed to turn on or off by themselves.

The installation steps of a truck camper shell air conditioner

The installation of a truck camper shell air conditioner unit is pretty straightforward actually. Anyone doing a truck conversion should be comfortable cutting large holes in the sheet metal. So there is that part. In this case, it is a “standard” square hole of 35.5 x 35.5cm. It is “standard” in the sense that almost all ceiling fans, ventilation fans, or air conditioning units use this opening of the same size and shape.

  1. The first thing you want to do is to build a wooden frame and support system inside the truck camper. An air conditioning unit is generally quite heavy so you want to provide a little extra rigidity to the metal roof of the truck. Start by glueing a piece of 1/2 plywood that is large enough to fill the rectangular-shaped area found on that part of the roof with heavy-duty construction adhesive. 
  1. Next, run the 120 volt AC wiring from the load centre to the location of the air conditioning unit. Use a 12 gauge wire for this, but since it is a 15 amp circuit technically a 14 gauge would be fine.
  1. With the wiring in place, continue to build the bracket for the air conditioning unit by adding two longer brackets directly to the front and back, where the 35.5 openings would be 2.5 x 15cm wood. This should be glued and screwed to the base. 
  1. Then use 2.5 x 10cm lumber to fill in the “sides” of the opening. Again, the combined depth of these frame materials matched the other roof brackets so that when the roof panels are installed, they can be attached to the van’s roof brackets as well as this wooden AC frame.
  1. Next, prepare the roof panel for that first (most front) section of the roof. The ceiling panel needs to have a 14 ”opening for the air conditioning unit, as well as holes for the LED lights that would be placed in this part of the ceiling.  It is a good idea to waterproof the wooden frame that forms the 35.5 openings. You can use liquid rubber for this task.
  1. The next step is to cut the hole in the ceiling. Start by drilling 4 holes from the inside (one in each corner) of the opening as a guide. Then climb onto the roof of the camper shell and cut the opening with a jigsaw. It is really important to catch as many pieces of metal that are created when cutting the sheet metal of the camper shell. Once the hole is cut, be sure to file the edges and then coat the bare metal with primer.
  1. Inside, the ceiling mount comes with a metal frame and 4 super long bolts. The frame fits against the roof panels and the four bolts go through this frame and up onto the threaded nuts built into the roof unit. Simply tighten these bolts to secure the roof unit to the camper shell. There are white “tabs” on the inside (located in front of the foam gasket) that indicate when you have tightened these bolts enough.
  1. The final steps conclude the installation by mounting the ceiling. Begin this by connecting the electrical wires inside a junction box built into the ceiling assembly. This is pretty simple – just use the supplied wire nuts to connect the power, neutral and ground wires to the corresponding wires in the ceiling mount. 

Next, you need to cut the flexible fabric duct material to the correct length and attach it to the ceiling mount with the included VHB tape. Finally, the “cover” roof mount (the part you see inside) with the controls and vents is attached to the metal frame with 4 bolts.

Difficulties when installing a truck camper shell air conditioner

Installing air conditioning in a truck camper shell is a simple task, but don’t be fooled, you have to have some expertise and be a little handyman. Many stores, in order to sell, will tell you that everything is very easy, and they do not lie, it is easy for us who dedicate ourselves to this. 

A person with some DIY skills will have it very easy. Next, we will review the requirements for the installation of a truck camper shell air conditioner, but we anticipate that the greatest difficulty may be having to make a new 36 × 36 cm hole in the roof of your caravan if you do not want to take advantage of the standard 40 × 40 skylight cm.

Requirements for the installation of a truck camper shell air conditioner:

Typically a 40 × 40 cm skylight is needed. These air conditioners are perfectly adapted to these measurements since they need a minimum of 36 × 36 cm. In this case, the installation is much lighter since we will only need to attach and screw. 

The machine comes prepared with rubber bands to prevent water from entering the interior of the caravan. It is also advisable to get help from another person to be able to raise the outdoor unit to the roof of the caravan as it weighs about 40 kg.

Another important point is the energy requirements. At least 5.5 Amps are needed to operate and connected to 220 V. Consumption is around 1270 W nominal, so they are very low consumption equipment.

The bottom line

Finally, if you do not manage to install a truck camper shell air conditioner, you should know that there are alternative methods to keep your camper shell cool in summer. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Maintain good ventilation, generate drafts but watch out for bugs and mosquitoes, use mosquito nets or screens for doors and windows.
  • Check that the windows, walls, ceiling, floor and doors are well insulated, this is important because if we can cool the cabin we can maintain that temperature for longer, saving on air conditioning.
  • Park in shady areas, and try not to stop at peak times of heat.
  • Keep ice in the freezer to use later with a fan, a cheap trick in the absence of air conditioning.
  • Avoid turning on appliances that emit heat such as laptops, TV, lights, oven, stove, etc.
  • Keep the floor cool, mopping the floor before going to sleep for example.
  • Use window shades to help keep your RV interior cool without AC.

Please feel free to get in contact if you have any questions or comments on the content. 

FAQ on How to install a truck camper shell air conditioner?

Do truck campers have heat and AC?

Yes, almost all truck campers on the market today have heat and AC, and some larger RVs can have even two or three pre-installed units. 

How does the air conditioning work in a camper?

The air conditioning system in a camper works when the RV engine is running, using the vehicle’s own compressor and the condenser that is already installed in the engine compartment.

What air conditioning to choose for an RV?

When choosing air conditioning for an RV, take into consideration the following:

  • Telair Air Conditioner Silent 500H.
  • Aventa Comfort.
  • Airva 12V & 24V.
  • Dometic Freshlight 1600 & 2200 air conditioner.
  • Portable air conditioning SW Cube.
  • Kronings Rooftop Air Conditioner K2400.
  • Euromac AC2400 Split System.
  • Telair Silent 220V-8400H.


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