Date: 30 July 2022. AC Install from Hades
(Mistakes were Made, complete series)
a series detailing the nightmare upgrade to a plug-and-play
air-conditioning system aboard Seaweed. I would love to be able to
tell you how well it went, explaining how smart I was, and the
debacles I avoided. Alas, that's not what happened. Details
follow. This page is the complete series.
For those who prefer shorter
articles, here you you:
For folks that prefer to have
all details on one page, this is the link you want:
(AC Install from Hades (Mistakes were Made, complete series)
Date: 22 June 2022. Seaweed is too Hot (Mistakes
were Made, Part
Last summer I had saved enough
money to upgrade my air-conditioning system from a 5000 btu wall-banger to
a much larger RV unit. Then I came into the difficulties of finding
the one I wanted due to supply side interruptions. Finally on 17
September 2021 I was able purchase the
Penguin II with heat pump made by
As noted in the comments of the
Adding Renogy and Upgrading Solar Regulator
(#4 in series)
article, on 16 Oct '21 The newest ac
arrived (Dometic Penguin II 15k btu with heat pump for an rv) deep
breath!!! This will work off a Honda2200eu (soft start to be
installed in ac unit) however now I am looking into starters for the
Honda. As you know, any addition to a boat brings complications.
Covering a generator is always a good idea.
Side Note re using a Honda2k
to start my Air Conditioner when at anchor: I
do not own one, yet. The problem is, unless the Honda has been
running and is warm, I am unable to start the 2000 model. If the generator has
been running, I can restart it like an expert. Let the unit be cold
and nothing I do works. This is the main reason why I opted for a
Yamaha1000 portable generator.
Smaller engine equals lower
which translates to something I can start.
If you are like me
and not quite as physically strong as you once were, consider a
smaller generator IF it will provide enough power for your needs OR get a generator
with a built-in starter. I opted for a Yamaha because this brand of
generators has a fuel shut off valve. I turn off the (ethanol free)
gas feed and four minutes later the unit sputters to a stop with the
carburetor empty of fuel.
But I digress...
5000btu wall-banger worked. In the dead of summer with 90-plus
degree temperatures (32 Celsius) the heat was too much for my small
air-conditioner. Seaweed has a lot of windows and those provide a
perfect greenhouse effect, heating the interior. Additionally, as I
get older heat bothers me more.
Seaweed has a lot of windows. This
photo ↓ is from 10-plus years
The pilothouse and galley are surrounded by windows
let in sun. This is a perfect recipe for a sweltering boat interior.
The solution for that greenhouse effect combined with an inadequate
ac unit was a simple shower curtain. A fabric curtain closed
off my pilothouse. This allowed my 5000btu Haier air
conditioner to cool just the galley on the hottest days of
Small 3/8" #4 screws hold
curtain when needed.
Note: Years ago I purchased 100 small
3/8" long size #4 screws. It is amazing how often I have
pulled out that jar of stainless screws.
Further details on ways to cool your home can be
found in the
Tips for Cooling the Boat
Eventually I came to accept that while at a dock I wanted
a bigger/better air conditioner. That is when I turned to my
readers and friends for advice. The 13.5k BTU Dometic Penguin II
unit with a heat pump was recommended. The specs looked more than
adequate for my Seaweed.
Thus began my quest for a new
spiffy rooftop air conditioner for Seaweed. More details follow in
the next article. Thank you for reading.
Date: 4 July 2022. Ordered
Dometic AC (Mistakes were Made, Part 2)
The decision process to determine which particular
air conditioner would suit Seaweed best was time consuming. Like all
things boat, choices were weighed by virtue of cash on hand, space,
and practicality. Though initially I appreciated the 5000 BTU
wall-unit and its installation detailed in the
Moby-Cool a/c cover Tweak
article, I came to realize a larger more powerful unit would be
better for when docked.
After much research and many
recommendations I chose a Dometic brand. Although I still do not
understand the differences between heat strip and heat pump
air-conditioning units, I selected the latter. Apparently heat
pumps are better.
Knowing Cap'n Rich had a Dometic RV unit on his boat was reassuring.
His boat has lots of windows too.
Cap'n Rich wrote
Varied Recommendations which is a
recommended read for those visiting a boatyard.
Of course when I decided on the Penguin II with
heat pump, it was on back-order everywhere. Eventually a reader
pointed me to
Camping World. I must say each person on the phone at Camping
World was professional and very helpful.
I purchased from Camping World the outer unit and the
interior air distribution portion. This combination supposed to be Plug-and-Play, which sounds
great in theory. Of course
Dometic has a rule for their warranty to
be valid an authorized company has to install it. Still,
plug-and-play is simple, right? Right???? NO. No, it is not.
First the old AC unit came off. I
am committed now!
Birds from left to right: (top) Ibis, Great Blue
Heron, and Snowy Egret.
Two night herons are next to me having cleared out the hotdogs.
feeding the pooping machines aka my feathered friends. Goodness gracious, but birds can
deposit a lot of stuff. It was not just on Seaweed either. I was
spending copious amounts of time and water scrubbing both my boat and the one
I am rafted up to. Now that Red Tide has disappeared there is no need
for bird handouts.
So, the new upper unit and an inside portion arrived.
That is when the trouble began. More on that shortly. I definitely
need coffee. Thank you for reading.
Date: 13 July 2022. New Model Woes
(Mistakes were Made, Part 3)
This has become a multipart series
on how to install an RV air-conditioner on a boat the wrong way. If
there was an opportunity for something to have gone wrong, it did
so. Though ultimately I am holding the proverbial bag, in retrospect
mistakes I made throughout COULD have stopped the financial
So, in my last article I
mentioned how helpful the telephone staff at
Camping World was. Quite frankly I was impressed. I was
overjoyed at finding the unit I wanted was finally in stock.
Though I had initially selected a 13,500 unit, that one had been
replaced by the manufacturer
Dometic with 15,000 BTU Penguin II.
brand is well-regarded. I know many boaters have Dometic 12-volt
refrigerators aboard their vessels. RV'ers also love the Dometic
line of rooftop air conditioners. The new 15,000 BTU one I chose
is white and has a low profile.
The low profile is important as it is tucked between my two 85
watt solar panels.
Hopefully this will not cost me too much solar
power due to shading on my panels.
Here is the first problem:
Getting help. The pandemic caused not only supply issues, but
also manpower scarcities abounded. People who were willing to work were
incredibly busy. I needed help to safely mount the new unit to
The Dometic Penguin II weighs
70 pounds. Fortunately I had access to a dock and men with
muscles. We carefully maneuvered the outside unit into place. It
should be noted that the box was in perfect condition. Yes I did
Why did I
check the box of the new a/c? Because in
the springtime I had purchased a less expensive model AC unit
from a smaller company. The box had clearly printed labels
saying "This Side Up" which were ignored by the shipper. The
cardboard was partially crushed and damaged on one side.
Something inside the box was rattling.
Getting that company to accept
the return was a Major Fiasco. I did have documentation, and my
credit card company was willing to go to bat for me...
fortunately the company chose to accept the return for a full
That experience is exactly why
I was particularly careful when my air conditioner arrived from
Camping World. Their delivery service was top notch. The
boxes were delivered with the correct orientation and appeared
Now you know
why I checked the new air-conditioner. The box was pristine. It
arrived flat, as per the printed instructions on the shipping
box. And all was well in my world... until we opened the second
smaller box with the interior air-handler portion of the
In the meantime, at least the
weather is not hot.
this is a Plug-and-Play unit. Presumably one plugs the wires
from the top portion into a mated set from the bottom part of
the a/c unit. That is what I expected. How hard can that be?!?
Well, this is impossible if the lower unit does not match up
with the new improved upper mechanicals.
Fortunately this was still
wintertime so we had time. I called Camping World. The gals
there are incredibly polite, listened to my problem, verified
that I had indeed ordered the proper part, then took it further.
Camping World told me they contacted Technical Support at
Dometic who said my 15,000 BTU unit required a different
At no additional charge to me,
Camping World arranged for the proper inner to be sent. I
returned the old one to Camping World at their expense.
In the meantime, I have spent a great deal of money to have a
beautiful *reverse-cycle air-conditioner sitting atop my boat doing
absolutely NOTHING. My sense of humor is deteriorating. Bought on 17
September I honestly expected to be able to using the heating
element over the winter. Alas that is not working according to plan.
*Reverse-cycle means the
air-conditioner will both cool AND heat.
Fortunately my life is pretty good.
It is hard to complain when on a boat in Florida in the winter.
Skipper and I have been enjoying the cool weather. She snoozes while
I read on my Kindle.
To make the process more
interesting, the person I had
hired for the a/c install has moved. He is no longer available. Thus
continues the saga of how not to install a rooftop RV
air-conditioner efficiently on a boat in Florida. More will be posted shortly. Thank you for
Date: 20 July 2022. Thermostat
and RJ11 Troubles (Mistakes were Made, Part 4)
In the previous installment of the Mistakes series, I detailed how I
had purchased a brand new model 15,000 BTU Penguin II rooftop RV
air-conditioner with a heat pump by
Dometic. This was supposed to be a
plug-and-play unit. The instructions though complicated were
straight forward. I needed 110 AC power, plus 12 volts. How hard
could that be?!?
Seaweed is a boat. Stuff happens.
Every project has quirks. The air-conditioner needed 12
volts in addition the the standard electricity. Though I had a
power line feeding a light aft, I needed to upgrade.
A new fuse block was mounted
where the light had been. →
Though I like the look of
the round lights many boats have, I have seldom used mine out
here in the galley. It was too high on the bulkhead. With the
necessity to add a fuse block, I opted to remove that light.
You might have noticed a
hand-held VHF radio in the corner next to my speaker. Having a
convenient means of communication is nice. My daughter bought
that for me so I would have a VHF to use in the dinghy. It is
handy and provides another layer of safety afloat. I am
grateful. Generally my main radio is on at all times. Having a
portable is convenient when a friend hails me as I can answer
without getting up.
For folks worried that they will never have the funds to have
all the cool stuff, not to worry. You are
looking at 14-plus years of slow acquisitions. The VHF radio by
my bunk was $5 at a marine flea market.
Yes I am indeed fortunate to have been able to
own this older unit. Having redundancy makes me feel
safer. I also listen to the weather channel each morning before
getting up. Most mariners do this too.
But I digresss...
Eventually the inside unit that mates with the exterior motor
arrived. It indeed was Plug-and-Play. Unfortunately we could not
see how to turn the dang thing on. A quick call to
Camping World informed me that there was one more piece
required. I needed to purchase a $267 thermostat!
By this time
spring has arrived. Though the weather was not yet unbearable,
summer was rapidly approaching. It was incredibly frustrating. Fortunately Camping
World did ship out immediately upon payment a brand new
spiffy thermostat for my system.
The thermostat arrived quickly. We plug it in and
... nothing. Not a ding-dang thing
happened. Deep breath. It is getting hot and my last nerve is
being stomped on! There is no power apparently to the
thermostat. So, back to the instruction manual, and coffee. I
The instruction manual was quite specific. It
stated that I must utilize an RJ11 telephone cord. I had missed that
in the initial read-through. Fortunately I found a 25' RJ11 cord
for $10. It was ordered promptly.
Thus began yet another
delay in the A/C upgrade plan. I have spent a LOT of perfectly
good money and have only sweat to show for it. Yes, the unit is
mounted. The Penguin II looks beautiful. The fact that it does not work
As the temperatures increase, I am becoming more surly.
I will tell you more about the
next layer of frustration shortly. Thank you for your patience
while I slog through this seemingly never-ending tale of how not
to have a plug-and-play air-conditioner on a boat. Thanks too
Date: 24 July 2022. Calling Cap'n Jesse
(Mistakes were Made, Part 5)
The Penguin II is mounted
between the two 85 watt solar panels that were gifted to me some
time ago. All is well in my world, except the air-conditioner still does not work. It took a week for the new
$267 thermostat to arrive from
Camping World. In about the same time-frame the spiffy new
25' RJ11 telephone cord arrived via an
seller. Finally I had all pieces together and I should have cool
air. But I don't. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. ARGH!
The unit is absolutely beautiful... and she's
breaking my heart!
There are many schools of thought on what to do when items do
not work. Bruce Van Sant (he wrote
Tricks of the Trades and
The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South) advocated replacement of
parts after initially checking electrical connections. We have
verified power, both AC and DC. Everything is perfect. I have had others aboard
to look and see if I missed something.
As an aside,
on our 40'er we too replaced parts. The removed items were
always dissected. If possible we would either rebuild or have
someone do that. In this manner we eventually had spares for
basically everything aboard our boat.
This is the boat Daddy built. I told you about her in
The Fishing Boat
So after plugging in the
thermostat with zero success, I again called Camping World. The
gal was sympathetic to my plight. She got approval to send me
out a second thermostat immediately so I could get the A/C unit
working. The temperatures here are now over 90 degrees (32
Celsius) and I am wilting.
In the meantime I again go to eBay and order a second 25' RJ11
cord. I wanted to be certain where the point of failure was. The
second RJ11 cord was $5 whereas the first was $10. I won, sort
While waiting for the second thermostat I considered my system.
As the thermostat is critical to the function, I decided to go
ahead and purchase the one that was heading my way as a spare rather
than do a swap. That way I would have back-up if something went
wrong. At this point I am thinking it is the RJ11 cord that is
Even with the
new thermostat and new RJ11 cord my air-conditioner would not
turn on. I had exhausted myself, spent $$$ and had zero to show
for it. The time to call in the big guns had arrived. I needed
someone who could make this air-conditioner work. I called
This is Cap'n Jesse.
And finally I again had hope. The first things
Jesse did was verify power was to the unit. He checked both AC
and 12v, then went topside. He removed the white cover, then the
shroud over the motor. In less than an hour we knew why the
air-conditioner did not work, nor would it ever have functioned.
The motor is askew.
Brackets are bent.
Nuts are missing.
Nuts off, motor askew.
these pictures can be enlarged. Because the box was
perfect, we suspect that this unit was returned, and
accidentally repackaged for resale. There is absolutely no
way it could have happened while we had it, nor in transit.
The box would have shown damage.
Additionally the fins
on one side of the air
conditioner are crushed along the top edge.
BUT no matter what caused the problem, I purchased this thing
17 September 2021. It has been months and months of hot
sweltering weather and I have only just discovered I own a motor that in no way, shape nor form
will ever spin. Dometic will not honor their warranty because I
failed to have an authorized installer put it in.
I wonder though if I had tried
to install an RV unit on a boat (not that I could get Seaweed to
an RV place anyway) ... well, it is my loss. And frankly, if I
were Dometic I would not be too keen on replacing a several
month old unit anyway. Too much time passed between purchase and
figuring out what was going wrong.
Delays cost me a lot of
money. I am most irritated with myself. The fact that nothing I
had done would ever make this thing spin is disheartening. AND,
I should have been smart like Jesse and taken off the shroud to
check. I did not, and again, that is my mistake.
For the record and to
reiterate, I am not happy and blame MYSELF for the multitude of
errors made. Ultimately it is my fault this whole thing turned
out poorly. Still, I live on a boat in Florida. This not a
terrible life. I am indeed blessed.
But I still need to be cool and this weather is MISERABLE.
Honest to goodness, that final nerve of mine is seriously
frayed. Thank goodness Jesse believes he can make this dang
thing work. More on that shortly. Thank you for reading.
Date: 25 July 2022. Grainger's has Parts
(Mistakes were Made, Part 6)
Cap'n Jesse's first stop was
Grainger's here in Clearwater. They are a major seller of gear,
hardware, fan belts, bottom paint, motors and more. One of the
things we hoped to purchase was a replacement motor for the
We also were seeking a new thermostat.
When I was a little girl I
remember purchasing 5 gallon buckets of
bottom paint from Grainger's for our boat.
They do mail orders too.
The motor that came with my Penguin
II 15,000 BTU RV air-conditioner with a heat pump was 1/3
I also took a picture of the motor label:
Finally, I took another photo of the label inside my unit:
Grainger's did have a thermostat for my system. It is not
beautiful and elegant like the $267 one from Camping World. The
less than $100 and works perfectly. I am grateful, and I saved a lot of
money. That said, Grainger's does not sell double shafted motors,
which is required to make my a/c work.
The gent at Grainger's was kind
enough to do a search
for the motor we needed. He located a match at HD Supply.
I was unfamiliar with the
company but called them on the telephone while heading back to
Seaweed with Cap'n Jesse. I was told by Arielle they had the motor I
needed in stock. Brian confirmed and $200 later a new motor was on
the way to me.
On the drive home I spotted an HD Supply truck on the highway. It was
cool to see that.
My new motor from HD Supply arrived
quickly. It was carefully packed so no damage could occur during
motors all come with
extended shafts. That way you can cut it to the length needed.
Here is where I made yet another mistake: I did not
confirm the horsepower of the motor ordered. Instead of the 1/3 hp I
needed, I bought and paid for a 1/10th motor. It is much smaller
than the one in my
We did attempt to run the
smaller motor. I REALLY wanted to be cool rather than continue to
bake in the summer sun. Alas, the internal thermal protection caused the
motor to shut down after two minutes. I have to find a bigger
motor to replace the broken one Dometic supplied in my Penguin II
with heat pump.
By this point I was thoroughly
disgusted with what I perceived to be ill-treatment by Dometic. I
had such high hopes for this thing. Saving up for such a major
expenditure took time. And then to not catch the problem soon enough
for the company to be forced to resolve it has left a bitter taste
in my mouth.
disheartening as the first reefer on our boat was a Dometic. I LOVED
having a refrigerator. It was a Major upgrade as I grew up without
any refrigeration. The Dometic was such a a big deal to finally own.
I suspect most could not imagine life without a cold glass of milk.
Indeed, I have never drunk a glass of milk. So that is a part of my
disappointment in this whole sad fiasco. I expected better.
On the bright side, I do have visitors that do not seem to mind the
lack of air-conditioning aboard Seaweed.
Jackie and Anisha had a great time in their kayaks.
It is always nice to see friends on the water.
Having company helps when my
world is discombobulated. Getting out does too. The thing is, no
matter how bad all this is, I know it will end. There is a solution.
I just have to come up with the parts and Cap'n Jesse will make it
Wish me well. And thank you for
Date: 28 July 2022. Lessons Learned
(Mistakes were Made, Part 7)
This journey has been harrowing. I
started out with a goal. That was to have an air conditioner that
could cool my entire boat at the dock. For that I needed more than
my 5,000 BTU wall-banger. After careful consideration I bought what
I thought was a great RV a/c unit, the Penguin II with heat pump,
Dometic. Unfortunately I received a damaged unit, and discovery
of that was too late for me to be able to invoke the warranty or
return it. I was stuck.
What it finally came down to
was the absolute need to come up with a 1/3hp double shafted motor
spinning 1650 rpm. I found a used one on eBay for $125 and snapped
it up. Jesse was able to cut the shafts to the proper lengths. He
also created a bracket for the motor and installed it. A couple of
adjustments were made and voila: I have cold air.
The further into this whole mess
the more difficult it was to maintain even a smidgen of cheer. I had
created an entire human being in less time than it took to get a
working air conditioner. From purchase until cold air was nearly TEN
It is not perfect
(doesn't heat any more) but you know... sometimes you have to accept
that the ideal solution is not presently attainable. The best part
is that I am no longer
melting in 90-plus (32 degrees Celsius) heat. I am grateful.
Jesse also installed a switch on
my bulkhead so I can easily turn the unit on and off. My friend Mark
installed the new AC breaker. He also provided and installed a fuse
block for the DC power. There really was a group effort in getting
this solution going. I will have more pictures later.
Mistakes were Made. Here is a list
of errors that were
overcome successfully due to diligence, perseverance and luck.
When I ordered the new upgraded
15,000 BTU Penguin II air-conditioner I should have double checked
that the interior air-handler part which matched the discontinued 13,500 BTU
would also work with the 15k.
I did not learn that in addition to an outside motor and the inside air-handler, I
also needed an expensive wall mounted thermostat. That was an
unpleasant and expensive surprise.
Said thermostat also required an
RJ11 telephone cord. The instruction manual did state a standard
telephone cord would not work. I did not realize this important
distinction, thus yet another delay occurred while I ordered one from
Dometic requires for their
warranty to be honored that only certified Dometic installers handle
the project. I chose the do-it-yourself (with help) method.
I should have removed the shroud
covering the double shaft motor immediately when the unit did not
spin. Then possibly I would have seen the skewed motor, bent metal
and noticed the missing nuts.
Calling in Jesse who knows his
HVAC should have happened much sooner.
Not verifying that the replacement
motor was 1/3 hp. I relied on a counter man at a store instead of
personally confirming the specifications matched my needs.
Instead I paid $200 for a 1/10 hp that isn't
strong enough to turn the two squirrel cages (parts that spin/push
air). The shafts were cut, so this small motor is mine forever.
Things I got right:
Measurements were accurate. The
new 15,000 BTU Dometic does indeed fit between my two 85 watt solar
Had the unit mounted properly. It
does not leak.
I called Cap'n Jesse
Thou the project
took far longer than anticipated, I am grateful to have a way to
stay cool when at the dock. Much of the delay is as a direct result
of not calling Jesse early on. Cap'n Jesse did actually install a
Soft-Start so theoretically I could use this at anchor with a
Honda2200eu -- IF I can find one for sale with a built in starter.
In the meantime, it is so TOTALLY
WONDERFUL to sit here on my Seaweed in comfort. I am indeed so
blessed. Thank you for reading. I appreciate that.
Have you installed an RV rooftop AC unit on your boat or
And, which one did you chose?
Regarding the Comments Section,
found at the end of every article:
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