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


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 is Part 7 of the Mistakes were Made series.

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)

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 costly 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?

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2022, 2023

Categories:  Characters, Gear,

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