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Date: 30 July 2022. AC Install from Hades (Mistakes were Made, complete series)

janice142
 

This became 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 1)
 

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 Dometic.
 

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 compression
 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...
The original 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 ago.

The pilothouse and galley are surrounded by windows that
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 summer.

 

Small 3/8" #4 screws hold
the shower curtain when needed.
 

Side 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 article.

 


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)

janice142


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.
 

I stopped 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)

janice142
 

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 bloodbath.
 

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.
 

The Dometic 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 overhead.
 

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 check.

 

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 refund.
 

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 perfect.


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 air-conditioner.
 

In the meantime, at least the weather is not hot.

 

Remember that 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 inside air-handler.

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 your patience.
 



 

Date:  20 July 2022. Thermostat and RJ11 Troubles (Mistakes were Made, Part 4)

janice142


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 need coffee.

 


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 on eBay 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 is infuriating. 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 for reading.
 

Date: 24 July 2022. Calling Cap'n Jesse (Mistakes were Made, Part 5)

janice142

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 eBay 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 article.


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 of...


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 the problem.
 

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 Jesse.


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.
 

All 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)

janice142


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 Dometic. 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 horsepower:

 

I also took a picture of the motor label:


Finally, I took another photo of the label inside my unit:


Fortunately Grainger's did have a thermostat for my system. It is not beautiful and elegant like the $267 one from Camping World. The thermostat was 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 transit. These 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 Dometic Penguin II.



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.
 

This is 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 all work.
 

Wish me well. And thank you for reading.



 

Date: 28 July 2022. Lessons Learned (Mistakes were Made, Part 7)

janice142
 

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, made by 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 months!



 

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.


Lessons Learned:


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 eBay.
     

  • 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 panels.
     

  • 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 RV?
And, which one did you chose?
 

Regarding the Comments Section, found at the end of every article:

  • Before you type in each block be sure to hit the backspace key. Coding inserts a space in every box. Your email address will come back as malformed unless you remove that space. (You don't have to include your email address.)

  • The capcha is case sensitive.


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