How to Buy an RV Thermostat: Five Things to Consider


When you think about RV thermostats, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a device with a blue screen. These devices are good at keeping your home temperature consistent and comfortable in all weather conditions. However, many people find themselves wondering what these thermostats do for an RV?

Thermostats regulate the temperature and airflow in your RV so you can stay comfortable. Most RVs come with a thermostat installed, but over time you may want to upgrade. Read to learn about the features, price, style of the RV thermostat, and if an upgrade is truly necessary when buying a new RV thermostat.

Consider the Available Features of an RV Thermostat

You may need some guidance on what features are available to you. But know the more features you want in your new RV thermostat, the higher your budget is going to need to be.

Some of the following features are standard in an RV thermostat:

  • Auto change from heat to cool
  • Delay start function
  • Energy-saving function
  • Programmable schedule
  • Remote controlled
  • Touchscreen
  • Wireless capabilities

Based on the features you want and the budget you have, you can select an RV thermostat for a great price. For reference, most options do not cost over $200. After you have established your budget, it is time to go shopping.

Choosing the right thermostat for your RV can be challenging, especially with so many options out there. There are so many different makes and models for every RV. But we are here to help you pick the best option for your RV.

Decide How Much You Want to Spend on an RV Thermostat

The first thing you want to do is consider when buying a new RV thermostat is your overall budget. As you decide on a model with high-end features or a complex installation, the price you pay will increase. Additionally, if you need to hire someone to do the installation for you, you will need to factor that into your budget.

Prices for RV thermostats range from $20 to $200, depending on the features and brand you choose to buy. A lower-cost RV thermostat will do the job for most RV owners. But keep in mind a lower price sometimes means a lower-quality product (even thought it’s not always the case), so refer to a sales associate or check out online reviews before you make your final purchase.

You do not want to upgrade your RV thermostat and end up with a piece of junk that does not do the job well. A high-end RV thermostat is going to come with more durability and better features. We’ll take a look at some of them here.

In the next sections, we’ll expand on the four steps you can take to pick out the perfect RV thermometer.

Gather Information on Compatibility for Your RV

The first thing to consider when buying an RV thermostat is what type of RV thermostat you currently have. If you have an analog thermostat and are upgrading to another analog thermostat, the wiring will not change too much. The same goes if you are upgrading from a digital thermostat to an upgraded digital option.

If You Are Upgrading from Analog to Digital

However, if you are upgrading from an analog to a digital thermostat, then the installation may be a little trickier to do yourself. This is something to keep in mind as you search for a new thermostat. It may cost you more, but you will be more comfortable in the long run.

If you do decide you want to tackle this project yourself, follow these steps to upgrade your analog RV thermostat to digital:

  • Disconnect the battery – Turn the battery disconnect to the off position and leave the key out of the keyhole. This makes sure you do not have any power while you are working with wires and electrical units.
  • Turn off the breakers – Your air conditioner and furnace may also have circuit breakers, which you need to turn off before you begin working. Again, this cuts the electricity, so you do not hurt yourself.
  • Remove the air conditioner’s shroud – Undo all of the screws on the shroud so that way you can easily access the control box.
  • Connect the new control box – Add the wires for the 120 V and 12 V sides of the control box. This can vary for each RV, so consult your manual to understand what each wire means and how to reconnect them.
  • Connect thermostat wires to the control box – This may require you to run new wires that allow you to mount the thermostat in the original’s location, or wherever else you want it.
  • Label your wires – If there is a problem in the future, you want everything labeled before you finish setting it all up.
  • Test the thermostat – turn on the breaker and see if your new thermostat works as it should. The air should turn on and be cool, the heat should turn on and be warm, as long as you adjust the thermostat settings.
  • Fill any holes that you drilled – As you reran wires, you may have had to drill new holes. Seal those holes to make sure all the cold air is moving in the right direction.
  • Replace the shroud – Reattach the shroud, once you have put the control box in place. Screw all the screws in place.
  • Do one final test – Once everything is in place, hook your RV up to a generator and see if everything works as it should. Then you are good to go!

Compatibility Is Key

Remember to review which models will be compatible with your RV before you make a final purchase. Not every thermostat may work with your RV’s system. The manual or guide that came with the RV will have more details on which styles of thermostat will be compatible.

The following is a list of general questions you can ask to ensure the compatibility of a new thermostat with your RV:

  • Does it work for your air conditioner, furnace and heat pump? – Compare the makes and model numbers of each piece of equipment to ensure compatibility.
  • How is the new thermostat powered? – Battery powered or hard wired are two common options. Choose a new thermostat that is compatible with how your current thermostat is set up. For example,
  • How many wire terminals does the thermostat have? – Most modern RVs will require four wires for an installation: two power and two “common” or neutral wires to be shared by both heating and cooling equipment. Old models may vary slightly.
  • Do you need special programming for your thermostat? – If so, remember that not all RVs will have the exact electronic system. Some older types of RV do not include a thermostat with a touch screen, and so it may require more power, more wires, and a new installation setup.

Pick the Right Type of RV Thermostat

Next, you need to pick which style or model thermostat is best for your RV. As we mentioned previously, you want to know what type of thermostat you currently must better inform your purchase of a new thermostat.

The following is a list of different types of RV thermostats:

  • Analog – An analog thermostat does not have a digital display and is seldom programable. However, these models usually will not be as expensive as the digital or programable options. Since these are basic options, they are common in much lower-end RVs.
  • Digital – These thermostat models have a digital temperature display. Some are programable or have additional features, yet some simply have a digital temperature readout and do not offer much more than the traditional analog model. Digital thermostats can usually be set in increments of 0.25 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Programmable – A programmable thermostat is one where you can set it to change the temperature at certain times. It is a very popular option that most RV people seek out. It makes your RV comfortable when you are home and can save you money and energy when you are away. Programmable thermostats tend to be slightly more expensive because they have additional features such as backlit LCD screens.
  • Remote Controlled – These thermostats can have a physical remote, or many newer models have wireless connectivity options. Some thermostats even have an app you can download directly to your smartphone to control the temperature. They can be set remotely to adjust or shut off when you like.

Oftentimes, digital RV thermostats have the capabilities to be programmed and remote-controlled. But this is not always the case, so review the specs carefully before buying if this is an option you need when replacing your RV’s thermostat.

Also, if selecting a low-cost model, make sure it controls both heating and cooling. Some low-end models do one or the other, and this will not be helpful as your new RV thermostat. Read the specs of a model carefully to make sure heating and cooling can be controlled.

Comparing Digital & Analog RV Thermostat Options

Since the main divide of RV thermostats on the market is between analog and digital options, we wanted to collect and compare how different these two types of thermostats are for your RV.

The following table is a quick comparison of the analog versus digital RV thermostats:

Key Features of An Analog RV ThermostatKey Features of a Digital RV Thermostat
Inexpensive compared to some of the fancier digital RV thermostats Less precise temperature readouts Not many bells and whistles Not programable Simple to installDifficult to install depending on existing wiring Easy to use Energy efficient More flexibility Increased control Precise temperature readouts Some options can be quite expensive for additional features

A Few Top Examples of Thermostat Options

So, we have covered a few different types of thermostat options. And we want to share some quick thoughts on the different type of upgrades available.

Now that you know which type of thermostat you are upgrading to, here are a few of our favorite choices:


Simple and basic analog option: White Rodgers 1C20-101Opens in a new tab.


Non-programable thermostat with digital display, HEAT ONLY: Emerson 1E78-140Opens in a new tab.


Programmable digital RV thermostat – DOMETIC 3109228.001Opens in a new tab.


A remote controlled option – Hutch Mountain MicroOpens in a new tab.


And since you have got your top choice selected based on the four steps we covered above, it is time to move on to the installation of the new RV thermostat.

Decide How to Install Your New RV Thermostat

There are a few universal things you can do when you plan to install a new RV thermostat, no matter if it is you or a professional that carries out the work. Whenever it comes to electrical work, you want to be careful that the power is shut off before you begin.

There are two ways you can go about installing your new RV thermostat:

  • Doing the installation by yourself – Installing one can be difficult if you don’t know how to do it yourself, but thankfully YouTube has plenty of instructional videos detailing exactly how they work. And most new thermostats come with instructions that are simple to follow for installation.
  • Hiring a professional – Additionally, if installing a thermostat is not in your toolbox, you can hire a professional or call a handyman who can do it. Many times, it pays to not have the headache of having to fix wiring and hire someone else to do the work for you.

No matter which option you choose for installing your thermostat, you want to take your time and make sure it is done properly. A new thermostat can save you lots of money on heating and cooling if installed correctly. However, sometimes there can be issues. Next, we cover how to troubleshoot different problems with your RV thermostat.

And we have finished covering the steps to install your new RV thermostat. Next up, we will answer some common questions that may come up during your searches for a new RV thermostat.

Do You Need to Replace Your RV’s Thermostat?

A common question we get is if you truly need to replace your RV’s thermostat. It may be the case that you do not need to replace your RV’s thermostat. But there are a few different scenarios where an upgrade would be preferred.

The most common reason for replacing your RV’s thermostat is because it is too old, or it is no longer working. Other people simply like to upgrade, so they have more options, settings, and controls.

In the following sections we cover possible reasons you need to replace your RV’s thermostat.

Age

If the thermostat has been in use for at least ten years, it may be time to retire and replace it. Age could be a reason for your thermostat needing to be replaced. It is common for RV thermostats to be used over 15 years; however, they can only last a certain amount of time and will eventually need replacing.

If your thermostat is no longer working, there are many different scenarios that may lead you to needing a replacement. Keep in mind that it could just need to be replaced because the wiring has been disconnected or loosened from corrosion, and the issue is with the wiring and not the actual device.

Convenience

It could be that you simply want the convenience of a newer model and you want the flexibility of a programable thermostat.

Convenience could be a reason for your thermostat needing to be replaced. If you are looking to replace your thermostat it is important to make sure that the new unit will be compatible with your RV. If there is any doubt, it might be best to talk with a technician at an RV center or a trusted service representative.

Cooling Issues

Sometimes, your RV is not cooling properly, but the HVAC equipment seems fine; it is likely a bad thermostat. Cooling issues could be a reason your thermostat needs to be replaced. If you are experiencing any kind of cooling issues it may be time to take a look at your thermostat.

You can quickly do a temperature ready at the intake and output sites and compare the temperature to the digital readout on the thermostat.

Heating Issues

If you are having heating issues, it may be a sign that your thermostat needs to be replaced. Sometimes it may be as simple as needing a thermostat with an outside temperature sensor.

But if your RV’s heating system never kicks into gear, as if there were no thermostat installed at all: this means either your old one doesn’t work anymore (likely), or its readings have gone haywire and need resetting or replacing.

Many times, you may not need to upgrade your RV’s thermostat, but you want an upgrade to better address your needs and create a comfortable RV-ing environment.

Are RV Thermostats the Same as Home Thermostats?

Every thermostat is different, but they work in the same way. RV thermostats are typically more simplified than home thermostats because of a reduced number of components to control and monitor air temperature. With an analog RV thermostat, you will just be able to adjust the setpoint, manual on and off switch, and on or off fan mode.

The following is a list of features that sets an RV thermostat apart from home thermostats:

  • Most have only three wires for power
  • Many RV thermostats come equipped with a separate sensor to read the temperature and send that reading back to the control unit.
  • Most RV thermostats do not contain humidity sensors that are present on home models, so this external device needs to be purchased separately if required for desired performance.
  • Some RV thermostats also have auxiliary heaters as well as heating strips or furnace connections. And these features can aid in heating functions while electrical power is being generated by solar panels or battery banks when off-grid during winter months.
  • Most run on only 12 Volts DC; in contrast, home thermostats are usually 120 Volts AC.
  • Most RV thermostats have a built-in boost function to allow for rapid heating or cooling of the interior while

If you fall in love with a home thermostat when searching for an RV thermostat, do not fret. You can install a home thermostat in your RV, but you will need a professional to do the installation. This way, they can make sure the wiring is done properly, and the voltage is correct.

In Brief: Considerations for A New RV Thermostat

There are many kinds of thermostats on the market that cater to all budgets and preferences. After that, you need to look at if a replacement is truly needed and how to go about installing correctly. Once all these things are taken into consideration, you can make your decision and purchase the RV thermostat that is best suited for you.

Martin

As an independent traveler, I try to share my positive and negative observations about van life as well as tips and tricks to make your life on the road easier. I travel and work in my old RV and would greatly appreciate a coffee from you if you find my content useful.

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