DIY A/C window unit in rear van door

stkshooter

Observer
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This seems to be an ongoing subject in many forums over the years but I have never seen an install like this or anyone selling kits to do so.

I've seen side window projects you set up when camping or back window installs using plywood or plastic, etc. I was looking for something that could handle off road driving and ready to use when I needed it.

I'm working on DIY website showing step by step pictures for those interested but here is a look at the in progress picture. I Plan to add solid cover over outside with louvers like you see on the old hot rod hoods. so it looks more like storage box vs air conditioner and painted to match vehicle.

My Yamaha 2000 runs A/C unit just fine since it only pulls 450 watt. (start up 4.5 amp, I tested with meter. if you wait 1-2 min. between turning unit off and restarting the pressure drops and was about 4.5-4.8 amp on restart up. Now if you pull the plug and plug it back in which you would never do the amp draw can reach 22 amps but waiting even 20-30 seconds and plugging in changes to 8-9 amps. Now wait 1-2 min. which is what the unit would do on it's own and amp draw is back to 4.5 approx.) Wanted to clear that up since I have heard people say these little units draw much more than that. This leaves enough power for everything else I would run provided A/C compressor is not on when using microwave but that is easy enough to prevent.

FYI: power boosters or capacitors for A/C can be added to larger A/C units to help smaller gen. handle start up. Do a google search, lots of DIY on the subject.

Will a 5000 btu cool the interior of an insulated van in the Florida heat ? depends on many variables but I can say it cools much better than not having A/C :a3: I placed thermometer outside in direct sunlight and one inside heated van ( Elk factory conversion van only no extra insulation has been added ) which had been sealed up in sun till 1 pm. with no window covers other than windshield. It was well over 110 degree inside and outside reads 110 in direct sunlight while in damp shaded corner of house with oak trees reads 90 then inside van reads 84 degree after 90 min. approx. with 45% humidity inside and 85% outside. Park vehicle in shade and that number quickly dropped to 74 degree. Once the sun went down and outside temp was upper 80's the inside temp fell to 63 in 90 min. with 35% humidity. Unit may not work as well as 10k to 13,5k roof air but total cost was under $500. That includes Upholstry shop after cutting hole in panel.

Because of door pillar support and locking latch / cable inside door you don't have room for a larger unit without cutting door pillar and I wouldn't suggest that unless your going to mod door support. Unit is riveted to A/C frame and then riveted to van door. because the 2 pc. slides together it sandwiches the door between them and frame is riveted to door panel inside and out. Very sturdy install. Unit sticks out 6" beyond door.

You can pick up A/C unit from Sears for $100 and when I get a chance to finish website you can see how it's done and purchase fabricated frame support pieces if you like.


Also wanted to touch on van insulation. People may think conversion vans are already insulated from the factory but as you can see by my ELK conversion pic. they are not. But mine is now. All this was done after adding A/C in rear door and should make a huge diff. I insulated windows also. Floor has 2 layers of carpet, 1 down & 1 up is how conversion company does it.








From what I have read it takes approx. 15 degree temp diff and higher humidity to sweat. If your inside humidity is higher than outside and temp is 15 degree higher your vehicle may start to sweat inside but if you pack insulation in every crack between metal and interior wall the temp / humidity on metal area inside will not be the same as what your reading with meter if you have 3-4" of insulation. I looked for mold and could not find any on the insulation from factory and that has been in there for years so if insulation soaks up moisture and then grows mold I guess mine had too much air flow around it. Either way, I would only have a problem during winter months and plan to keep the van vented and watch humidity meter. I have a full time solar roof vent which stays open so I dont expect a prob. Just wanted to offer a little info about insulation. With my A/C test results before being acceptable with no insulation, I should have a rolling ice box now.




I designed this out of need but will fab frame pieces if others need them.

for more info contact stkshooter@gmail.com
 
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Stumpalump

Expedition Leader
Cool! No pun intended. Do the new units like that still need to be run horizontal like that? I allways thought it would be nice to mount one under the van with a hole only big enough for the air vent and controlls.
 

partsflyin

Adventurer
I really like this idea!!

nice idea.
If it was mounted higher you could hide it behind a spare tire carrier.
Exactly what i was thinking except on the other side. Behind my ladder/toolbox. Does anyone think airflow would be an issue??
Here's the current setup for reference.

How about the added weight on the hinges?? Any issues there?
 

stkshooter

Observer
Does anyone think airflow would be an issue??
How about the added weight on the hinges?? Any issues there?
Air flow would cause A/C problem if run behind tire cover.


How much does spare tire and rack weigh ? 50 lb.

5000btu with frame kit was 40 something lb. and isn't stressing mine yet.
 

stkshooter

Observer
The PleasureWay install looks pretty similar.
Thank you

That is the one I have heard about. I have never seen one but somebody told me a company used to install in rear door.

Do you happen to have more pictures of A/C inside and out ? You could send them to me direct if easier stkshooter@gmail.com

I just purchased white material like that to make a cover. Going to put snaps on side of unit to eliminate the looser 45 angle cover would have if snaps were on door. Not worried about water but forgot about dirt/dust filling up the coils while driving down dirt roads.

I was given prices between $55-75 for same cover with snaps so I spent $20 and bought enough materail/snaps to make 2 myself. Figure the FL sun will reduce life span to a 2-3 yr. period so I better make 2.
 
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CSG

Explorer
Sorry, I don't have pictures of the install but you might contact PW and ask if they have any. Perhaps a google image search will reveal something. I think I paid the upholstery $40 to make the replacement for the mostly brittle and disintegrated cover that was on there when I got it. FWIW, my van came out of Florida and was six years old when I bought it.
 

stkshooter

Observer
Sorry, I don't have pictures .
O.K. Thanks, I have spent hours searching in the past and spent a couple more hours tonight looking for pictures. Found 2, all others were dead links. Seems people prefer to take van to dealer and have this type of install done because they dont know how or are not confident enough to try it themselves. The 2 pic I found were GTRV and PW, both were installed the same way. Owner posted that unit was 6000 btu. This means unit would not fit in the lower door panel where I installed mine without major mods. That is prob. why they installed higher up. Also looks as if my install is much stronger. Which is always nice to see compared to a conversion van company that does this for a living.

One also said it worked o.k. but later said he didn't use it much. Based on the door panels showing open cut out for storage inside door, they couldn't have had much insulation. The roof had a few paper thin layers of fiberglass from the looks of one pic.

My roof has regular fiberglass house insulation since conversion when new and when I dropped interior roof panel to verify and install solar vent there was no sign of mold as some people claim will happen if you use house insulation. I have camped in the van approx. 30-45 nights each year and drive it daily past 4 yr. so I assume if there was going to be a mold problem, it would have shown signs by now. My doors are now packed with 4" of insulation in every crack I could reach as well as some of the side walls so we will see how much of a diff. it makes. Just saying those who claim 5000 btu will not be enough might not have insulated, plus added 10-15 degree based on darker vehicle color.

One thing I noticed is heat transfer works both ways. If your window shades are up and windshield screen is not installed, the van holds the heat coming in windows better now that its insulated. Where as before it stayed closer to the outside temp in fall with the solar roof vent running. shaded side of van before was loosing as much heat transfer as sun coming in windows but now its warmer inside.

Wanted to mention this so people gather all the details before making decisions. Just because somebody with black un-insulated window van post a 5000 btu wont cool his van.... You need ALL the facts to make an educated decision.
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
I was thinking of putting one of these in my camper last year. I wanted one that could run off the smallest inverter generator possible.

I checked the specs on them all, and the most efficient one I found was the Frigidaire FAA055P7A. I don't think they are making them this year, but there are still some in the pipeline.

5,200 btu with SEER 11 - which means it uses a few less watts than Frigidaire's 5,000 btu unit with SEER 9.7. Lots of features, plus a "low-voltage startup". I emailed their tech support and they told me that the unit first turns on the fan, then after a timed delay it turns on the compressor (ala modded RV a/c unit).

They also told me that the max this unit ever draws is 1350w, So I'm sure it would run off a 1600w Honda eu2000i.

Also a bit shorter top to bottom than most of the standard 5,000 btu units.


I heard some trailer guys were thinking of trying to install Sanyo Mini-Split units on their trailers:

http://us.sanyo.com/HVAC-Single-Split-Systems

The Sanyos have a motor that slowly spools up to speed so there is no surge load with these. The smallest ones, on low, draw only 300w. The smallest is variable from 3,000 btu - 9,000 btu. Can be had in heat pump version as well. SEER 16.

These Sanyos are very popular with the off-grid solar crowd.
 

stkshooter

Observer
I checked the specs on them all, and the most efficient one I found was the Frigidaire FAA055P7A. I don't think they are making them this year, but there are still some in the pipeline.

5,200 btu with SEER 11 - which means it uses a few less watts than Frigidaire's 5,000 btu unit with SEER 9.7. Lots of features, plus a "low-voltage startup". I emailed their tech support and they told me that the unit first turns on the fan, then after a timed delay it turns on the compressor (ala modded RV a/c unit).

They also told me that the max this unit ever draws is 1350w, So I'm sure it would run off a 1600w Honda eu2000i.

Also a bit shorter top to bottom than most of the standard 5,000 btu units.


I heard some trailer guys were thinking of trying to install Sanyo Mini-Split units on their trailers:

http://us.sanyo.com/HVAC-Single-Split-Systems

The Sanyos have a motor that slowly spools up to speed so there is no surge load with these. The smallest ones, on low, draw only 300w. The smallest is variable from 3,000 btu - 9,000 btu. Can be had in heat pump version as well. SEER 16
The FRA052XT7 5000 btu is 16" wide X 12" high and about 12 inches deep. I'm not positive on the exact depth but could dig up my notes.

5200 is 18.5 wide X 12.5 high X 16 deep with front. and more weight.

Manufacturers website has the wrong size listed for 5000 btu. I own the unit and looked at their spec sheet thinking am I wrong. I walked outside and measured mine and they are wrong. Either way the 5000 btu is smaller than 5200 and about $50 cheaper. ( If website offers correct 5200 sizes ) 5200 btu wont fit where I installed mine. You would need to install it higher up. As for the unit not using any more than 1350 watt. you understand unit doesn't create A/C without Elec. and only offers back what you put into it. There is much more to the SEER rating than energy used. Kind of like toyota claiming the camry got 35 mpg and sold a ton of cars only to find out years later they lied. Sorry! Same thing with selling A/C based on SEER, let us tell everybody it has a rating of 11 vs 9.7 to justify the $50 higher cost since they cant prove otherwise. 5200 vs 5000 btu is splitin hairs. Now let us break this down.

5000 btu test results from my home test shows.
450 watt. steady draw, tested for about 15 min. while cooling.
4.5 amp draw
fan on high turns at 1080 rpm.
med turns at 970
low turns at 840.


5200 btu specs show
465 watt. draw when cooling
4.5 amp which is prob. more like 4.6 or 4.7
fan on high turns at 1290 rpm. (210 RPM more ?)
med turns at 1200 (230 RPM more ?)
low turns at 1130 ( 290 RPM more ? )


It is amazing they designed unit with larger everything turning fan at higher rpm and then claim it uses less power. My 5000 btu unit on their website claims it uses 515 watts. and 4.8 amps but when I tested, it shows 450 watt. and 4.5 amp draw when cooling. That is less than the web site shows 5200 uses and 5200 turns fan at higher rpm. My experience has been higher fan rpm requires more elec. because of higher resistence. So is this whole thing a big smoke screen to sell 5200 units for more money ? Is the 5200 a 5000 pushing more air over the coils with higher RPM fan ?

Higher RPM fan creates higher noise decibel. So 5200 is louder.

They also show 5000 btu at 9.7 SEER and 5200 at 10.7 SEER on website. So many variables go into that you couldnt prove otherwise but if you consider the above info. you have to ask how. Just like these other units that claim crazy SEER ratings. I will let my up front purchase price and install cost along with Elec. bill do the talking. Comparable to when gas prices went up and everybody ran out to buy a $30k car which will normally never pay them back the diff. based on fuel savings.

As for the Sanyo split system. I have read peoples post about these but nobody offers prices or links where you can buy one. I did a search and cant find a dealer within 50 mi. and I live in Central Florida the heat / humidity capaital. If they are so great, why doesnt everybody sell them ? Just saying I read post about this or that but nobody takes the time to provide detailed info. Which is understandable if info is easily available by doing a quick search but if not, how about some idea of how much this amazing system cost. If it is $1500+ including installation and you can buy a 9000 btu window unit for $250, what is the point. The fan decibel numbers I was looking at on high are not much diff. then window unit. Fans are loud and there isnt much you can do about that when they are in the same room with you.

Sorry for the long post but these SEER numbers everybody keeps throwing around based on manufacturers info. is not accurate and people should be aware. I have said this before, dont base your purchase on SEER ratings alone. :coffee:
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
No argument from me. I will note a few things though.

Amp draw is a function of voltage, so the measured amps any particular widgit draws will depend on what voltage you feed it. Nearly a 10% diff in amperage between 110v and 120v for the same wattage.

For me personally, my main concern wasn't the insignificant difference between 5,000 and 5,200 - it was the startup load. That timer between fan start and compressor start keeps the max startup surge under 1400w, which is important for boondocking. Without it, a regular 5,000k btu unit could (when hot and under head pressure) peak a load above what a 1600w rated Honda could handle. That would require a bigger generator, such as the 2000w continuous rated Yamaha 2400is or the Honeywell HW2000i. Since neither a/c will realistically run for long from batteries - it takes a generator to run these things when bookdocking - so avoiding moving up a notch on gen size was something I was interested in.

As for the Sanyo - no, not cheap I'm sure. I personally wouldn't buy one for my old beater van, but there is talk of trying them in mobile applications since they can realistically be run (for a while anyway) off of batteries. Nor was I recommending them - just putting suggestions and alternatives out there for anyone who might be interested.

As for fan noise...HA! A life spent in intimacy with aircraft and rock and roll has left me 20% deef anyway, what care I for a db here or a db there of fan noise? Besides, you need a generator to run one of these things either way, so I'd be more concerned about generator noise - that is, I would be IF I could hear either one above the tinnitus ringing in my ears (particularly noticeable on a quiet night in the boonies).
 
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stkshooter

Observer
o.k. others have compared / suggested window unit vs split on other forums and attempted to use SEER and fan noise as reason.

I have run air with gen before without a prob. but this last time I was using my 5000 btu with yam 2000 gen. and being in a hurry I didnt let gen warm up. I had it on idle mode and turned on A/C withn a min. of starting gen and gen stalled. It did not kick breaker but stalled. I started it up again and turned off idle then turned on A/C again and it started up just fine. I let the gen run for about 1 min. and flipped it back to idle. It ran at idle like that for about 4 hrs. and never missed a beat. No diff. then any other engine, has to warm up. Plus gen had not been run in about a mo. it was my fault.

You can buy hard start booster for A/C unit for around $20 and never have to worry about that again. If the unit I have installed now ever fails, I will add one just to reduce the load on gen. while running other things. I can get by without it but would be nice to eliminate that extra start up load.

I tested the start up loads and if you allow unit to cycle on its own it will run fan for couple min. and then engage comp. It is only if you unplug from gen and then plug back in on my model that it would pull a high enough load on start up to kick breaker. But you should never do that any way. Very hard on unit. Human error is the biggest issue.

I know this is not A/C related but a 1500 watt space heater draws more on COLD start up then after it has been run and warmed up. So if your using gen. to run small space heater, make sure you start it on low and work your way up if possible.
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
I know this is not A/C related but a 1500 watt space heater draws more on COLD start up then after it has been run and warmed up. So if your using gen. to run small space heater, make sure you start it on low and work your way up if possible.
I use one of these:

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200339239_200339239

Usually low is good enough, I rarely run it on high. The built-in Suburban 12k btu direct vent, like this but 12k instead of 16k:

http://www.shoprvparts.com/product.do?no=11108F

Is a total pig. It eats the battery and propane like candy. It does blast heat though, but I never use it.

I've been very seriously considering ripping out the Suburban and replacing it with a Propex:

http://www.propexheatsource.co.uk/air-heaters.php

http://www.van-cafe.com/home/van/page_316
 

stkshooter

Observer
Off topic! This is an A/C thread. Dont want to go off in diff. directions. but I guess if we can keep it heat and A/C related only since they are both climate control items.

I would like to ask some heat Q. Let us figure your living in and heating a standard full sized extended van with insulation added. The outside temp may range between 0 to 70 for several months below 5000 ft. That type of long term exposure in a small space would require clean air. If you attempted to run propane heater inside without proper ventilation, your asking for health problems. If you buy a $1000 propane forced air heater, it still requires elec. or batt. power for fan so how do you supply that long term ? The cost of propane is not really cheap but you wont use as much to provide 5000 btu compared to space heater & gen. but can you add another 50-100 lb. of weight for something that gets little use over the entire year. You would be forced to purchase solar panels with propane set up to eliminate running gen for propane heater fan.


Example 1: You buy $1,000 propane heater / propane tanks and another $500-1000 worth of solar panels and batt. to supply fan with power. Your solar panels might provide additional power but not that much. Then factor in the extra weight you added since we are always fighting with going over GVWR. Your only using this heater for 3-4 mo. out of the year but have to carry the weight all year long. Part of the fuel being burned is wasted because of exhaust but you dont have a choice. How much will it cost you in propane ? The van is not that large so you could prob. run heater on low but still need to keep the fan on. So let us say you will use $70 worth of propane per week. Now let us guess that you will save $325 over the 3 mo. period running the propane heater vs gas for gen to run heater. This will pay for propane heater over a 3 yr. period and since solar panels are used year around you cant apply all their cost towards this comparison. You would also need to refill propane tank or exchange every 3 days and that may not be easy depending on your location. Plus the cost of driving there.

Example 2: You buy $1,000 yamaha 2000 watt gen. which will power A/C in summer and elec. space heater in winter. you need to own one any way so it is not as if you wont use it for other things unlike the propane heater. It will power 1500 watt. space heater which inside insulated van should be fine and the space heater will save you weight over propane tanks and heater. But you wont have any extra elec. from gen for other things so if you want to run microwave, lights, etc. you have to turn off heater or turn it down. If you run gen at full cap. it wont run as long on 1.1 gal. tank so now you have to run extended tank or tap into your vehicle tank which would give you several days worth so not much diff. then propane except much easier to locate station. Lets say 5 hr. per gal. X 5 gal. tank is 25 hr. Gas cost $2.75 so about $14 per day in gas. or $420 per mo. just in gas. With that much use your gen will prob. only last 1.5-2 yr. and need replaced. If you had purchased propane heater then you wouldnt have to run gen. except for microwave and to charge batt. once in awhile or would you ? If solar panel wouldnt keep up with batt. then you would need to run gen. and every time you need microwave, light or charging / using lap top, etc. Maybe you should buy a bigger gen. so you can run everything but then it will cost more, use more fuel and add more weight to vehicle.

As you can see there is no easy solution without spending thousands. You can always buy a big buddy heater and take your chances running it inside provided you have good ventilation. My prob. is not only the cost but I dont have room for propane tanks nor can I afford to add the weight. If you can find a cheap camp ground with hook ups that is your easy way out.

I am planning a trip to SD for 15-20 days during Nov. and since I will be living in my van the entire time, I need a way to stay warm and still be able to pack all my things for a big hunt trip. I will have space heater and look for ways to plug in when not running gen. Since I live in FL cant really justify spending a ton of money on propane heater that will get used a few weeks per yr.

Any suggestions ? If I did add heater it would have to be removable for my next van. Nothing I have to sell with this one. Cant afford to keep buying all this stuff over every time I buy a new vehicle.
 
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