Hard Start VS Soft Start

We’ve all experienced the large “thump” of an AC compressor starting up in the night. Whether you live in your RV or enjoy camping in it, you’ll know that running your AC can be noisy, inefficient, and can cause damage to the internal components. 

Hard and soft starter kits both help your AC unit power-up. They both reduce damage to the AC’s parts and can prolong the overall lifespan of your system. 

So perhaps you’re wondering what the difference is between the two, and which comes out on top? In this article, we’ll be covering the key features of both hard starts and soft starts, and will be comparing their performance. We’ll also be focusing on which is best for use in an RV. 

Hard Starts

When you turn your AC unit on, its compressor, which is kind of like the heart of the unit, provides a surge of power which helps the system start up. However, this initial start-up requires 4–8 times more electrical current than running it.

Over time, this blast of power, which also generates heat, can take its toll on the compressor and other components of the unit – especially on older models that have already had their fair share of use. 

If your compressor is already worn out, it requires even more electricity to shift from ‘start’ to ‘running’ mode. 

A hard start kit basically shortens the startup period required by the compressor which reduces the amount of electricity your AC uses to start up.

A hard start kit can increase your electrical efficiency from 50% to as high as 98%, which is cheaper for you and significantly reduces the amount of heat generated, therefore decreasing the risk of overheating, and reducing wear and tear on your AC compressor and components. 

The benefits of using a hard start:

  • Considerably prolongs the lifespan of compressors by allowing them to start up more efficiently due to a reduction in the time and power needed.
  • Assists compressors if they need to start under harmful ambient conditions such as low voltage, high head pressures, or undersized wiring.
  • Reduces “light flicker” during compressor start-up
  • Lowers electric bills and power consumption 
  • Cheap to buy 

The cons of using a hard start:

  • The forcefulness of a hard start can cause compressor parts to deteriorate faster. 
  • They also tend to be noisy…not ideal for camping! 

Soft Starts 

A soft start also increases the efficiency and longevity of your AC unit or heat pump. It does this by reducing the in-rush current needed for compressors to start by around 60%.

Therefore, rather than relying on that initial bolt of power, the power is built up gradually and gently, reducing the overall strain on the compressor – hence the “soft.” 

 This minimizes potential damage to compressors and the other AC components from mechanical shock hard-starting current surges. 

It also reduces the required size of a generator needed to start the system by 60% – saving you more money and power, which is particularly useful if you’re camping and relying on a smaller generator. 

Using a soft start can also benefit the electrical distribution network, and using one can extend the lifespan of your entire system.

Benefits of using a soft start 

  • Reduces the risk of power surges and overheating, which reduces the burden on the overall system 
  • Reduces maintenance as the motor runs more smoothly and you’ll experience less downtime 
  • A soft starter can reduce the torque load significantly during startup and limit any problems that are associated with it.
  • Reduced power consumption and maintenance, meaning they typically pay for themselves over time 
  • Can also reduce the noise associated with contactors during the operation of the motor.

Cons of using a soft start 

  • They cost more initially, however, they’re also quieter and last longer, so you get your money’s worth several times over thanks to generator savings and increased compressor life.

Using a soft start for camping 

When it comes to camping, there’s nothing worse than the stifling heat of your RV in the peak of summer, but then again running your A/C compressor comes with its own issues: the noise, the amount of power it guzzles, the expense of generators…the list goes on. 

When you start up your AC unit, the compressor or induction motors experience in-rush currents up to 7-8 times higher than the unit’s running current, as well as a starting torque up to 3 times higher than the running torque.

This is where a soft start could help.

A product such as SoftStartRV enables you to reduce your start-up current by up to 70%, but still provides full startup torque for compressors and motors.

The reduction of that unnecessary torque allows you to decrease the amount of mechanical stress on the AC system, which lowers overall wear and tear and lowers your service costs in the long-run. 

Let’s have a closer look at some of the benefits associated with a soft start when used in an RV:

Reduce noise level at night 

If you’re a light sleeper, you’ll be more than familiar with the echoing thump of your AC compressor starting up, and, once you’re awake, it can seem impossible to fall back to sleep again. 

A soft starter, such as SoftStartRV,  helps your air conditioner start-up smoothly and gradually, which eliminates that notorious compressor thump, and also eliminates shaking of the RV as well. 

This allows you to keep cool, and enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep. Plus your fellow campers will be equally grateful!

Reduce your power consumption 

When you’re on a budget, it can become something of a talent to manage your power supply and ensure that you have enough power to run all of your appliances when camping in your RV.

Your AC unit can take up a huge chunk of this power, so any way to reduce this is welcomed, right? 

With a soft start, your generator won’t have to work as hard during the AC start-up, which enables you to have greater control over those frustrating power management problems.

By using a soft start, you’ll have more power available to use on other large appliances such as your refrigerator, hairdryer, and even your blender—all while still keeping your RV cool and comfortable. 

They’re easy to install 

If you’re into DIY, installing an AC soft start will be a pretty simple task for you. They can usually be installed inside the rooftop AC cover within around 45 minutes from start to finish. 

When you purchase a unit such as SoftStartRV, you’ll get all the details you need for the installation process, from easy-to-understand instructions to color-coded wiring diagrams, and helpful how-to video tutorials.

If you’re not too excited about the prospect of a DIY job, you’ll be pleased to know that the manufacturer is US-based and offers trained technical support staff that are able to easily install your soft starter for you. 

Saves you money in the long run 

While soft starters can be more expensive than hard starter kits upfront, you’ll reap the money-saving benefits immediately after installing. Not only will you save on power, but you’ll reduce your electricity bills and generator usage, too.

As well as this, because soft starts reduce the strain on the compressor and other components in your A/C units, you’ll also save money on maintenance. You’ll reduce wear and tear and will prolong the overall lifespan of your unit. 

Can be used with small generators 

If you use a small generator for your RV power needs, you might be wondering whether a product such as SoftStartRV is for you. The good news is that these soft starters are just as useful for small trailers which rely on a small generator, as they are for larger ones. 

We know that generators are crazily expensive, and a $2,000 upgrade simply isn’t an option for many of us, or even simply paying to rewire an old system.

On the other hand, spending a few hundred dollars on a soft starter is a great way to give your AC unit a new lease of life, and prolong its overall condition while saving you money on maintenance costs and reducing your power consumption. What’s not to love? 

Final verdict: soft start or hard start? 

While hard start kits have many benefits, for us it’s clear that the soft start comes out on top. If you’re looking for a simple, cost-effective way to improve the efficiency of your RV’s AC unit, a soft start such as SoftStartRV is the way to go. 

Improve your power management when camping by reducing the amount of electricity needed to run your AC, and enjoy a quieter and more efficient system by reducing the initial start-up current by up to 70% – meaning you significantly reduce the risk of your motor overheating or power surging.

This prolongs the unit’s overall lifespan and also drastically reduces maintenance costs, and we’re pretty sure that you’ll continue to reap the benefits for years to come.