Portable air conditioner

Discussion in 'Heating / Cooling Systems' started by Solo camper, Apr 11, 2019.

  1. Solo camper

    Solo camper Member

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    Wondering if anyone has any experience using a portable air conditioner. Looking for input from using one in a pop up or even in a room. I am considering purchasing a cargo trailer and wonder if this would be an acceptable substitute for a roof mount. Would definitely be cheaper.
     
  2. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

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    I use one in the garage when woodworking and we have brought it along on a few camping trips in the pup. Ours is a two-hose which is more efficient than the single hose ones that are more common.
     
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  3. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

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    I used a 8k btu in my Apache for 8 years. With solar bunk and window covers it did ok in direct sun. In the shade it did great. I have used the same unit during power outages at my house. I shut some doors and was probably only cooling about 500 sq ft. However, it was 90+ outside and cold enough to need a blanket inside.
     
  4. Sneezer

    Sneezer Well-Known Member

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    I have an 8k btu portable. I use it to help supplement the roof A/C during the TX summer. Mine is a single hose model, and not as efficient as the dual hose ones, but I got it for 50-75% off, so I can't complain much. I have a large pup - dual king beds, slide out dinette, and the portable alone can't make a dent in the heat. I had it running one day last year due to an electrical problem, and it was sweltering inside. This was in a site with close to full shade, awning deployed, pugs all around and reflectix in almost every window.

    For a small trailer you might be OK if you take the effort to properly insulate. I know the van folks often install a portable to cool the interior, and I have seen others mounted on outside with ducting to go into a homebuilt trailer. If you do go this route, I would get the biggest unit you can afford and fit.

    We have a 10k btu portable at the house that we bought when the main unit died at home - we couldn't afford to put a new unit in at the time so we had to make do with a window unit in the master and a portable for my son's bedroom. In that circumstance it did an admiral job of cooling the room, keeping it at 73-75 during the day, and down to 69-70 at night. I think it would have done better if we kept his door closed, but the cats needed to move between rooms during the day.
     
  5. Blackripley

    Blackripley Active Member

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  6. kcsa75

    kcsa75 Well-Known Member

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    We had a floor model AC in the Pup. I don't know how big it was but it would freeze you out in Kansas in July.
     
  7. eoleson1

    eoleson1 Well-Known Member

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    We have a 10k unit that we use in the house and in the pop up. With no extra shading or insulation the camper isn’t what I would consider cool with temps in the 90s and sun on the canvas, but it’s not miserable either. After the sun goes down and the temps fall into the 80s or lower, the pup cools down nicely.
     
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  8. Spaceace5150

    Spaceace5150 Active Member

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    Is there anything special that needs to be done electrical-wise for these portable a/c units? I just purchased one for my house and planning taking along on a camping trip.

    Camping in a 2014 Rockwood 1640ltd with electrical hook ups.

    Thanks!
     
  9. eoleson1

    eoleson1 Well-Known Member

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    It depends on the electrical system in your pop up. Mine was "prewired for AC" which meant there was a 20 amp circuit that didnt have anything on it except one outlet. We plugged into that and had no issues. We just set it on the counter and ran the exhaust hose out the back screen.
     
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  10. Spaceace5150

    Spaceace5150 Active Member

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    I also have been told that my pop up is prewired for AC. How did you find that outlet on the 20 amp circuit?
     
  11. eoleson1

    eoleson1 Well-Known Member

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    When we bought ours, there was an electric box in the dinette that had a blank cover marked 'for ac.' I had to put the outlet into that box.
     
  12. dbhost

    dbhost Well-Known Member

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    I have a portable AC, that is a 2 hose model, 12.5K BTU @110v, made by Royal Sovereign.

    The good.
    - It will freeze you out of a fairly good sized room in July. Our home AC is weak, and my AC guy is a side gig kind of AC guy so we are putting off full replacement until the fall when he won't get cooked in the attic, and I can afford the rest of his services. We use it for the main part of the house instead of the central unit as it is MUCH cheaper to run right now.
    - Cost wise, portable units are far less expensive than roof top units.

    The bad.
    - The condensation has nowhere to go except the catch pan, once full, the AC turns off, or the catch pan overflows. I set mine up on a riser, keep the plug out of the drain pan and put an aluminum steam table pan under it to catch the condensate.
    - They suck up more floor space than I would be willing to sacrifice in a camper.
    - Mine at least, was far less than reliable, I had to dig into it myself and repair a broken squirrel cage fan that was never attached correctly at the factory. I do NOT recommend Royal Sovereign products period.
    - Compared to other style air conditioners, portables just aren't as efficient to use. Only reason mine is more efficient in the house is my central AC is dying and sucks energy like Dracula at a blood bank.

    An alternative.
    To keep your build costs low, AC efficiency high, and eliminate the drawbacks of a portable unit. Seriously consider one of the following...
    - A small mini split ductless system. Known to be efficient, but cost more than...
    - A small window unit A/C. Depending on the size cargo trailer you are building out, and how much insulation you use if any at all, the smallest 5K BTU units, which go for just over $100.00 and can run easily on a cheap Harbor Freight 700 watt generator, would be more than enough.

    Most small pop ups, camper van conversions, truck campers etc... that are using window units, are using 5K BTU units. One thing I would HIGHLY suggest though, is that you use Henry TropiCool on the roof to help control heat in your trailer. You'd be shocked to see the difference a little thermal coating does. Insulation during the build also helps, a LOT. Even if it's just a layer of reflectix...

    While not a pop up, I have been involved in one Camper Van and a camping / cargo trailer conversion.

    The cargo trailer was a 7x16 with a 7' interior height. We used 5K BTU Window unit AC at the nose of the trailer by the bedroom airea, rolled Henry Tropicool on the roof, and lined the interior with a layer of R-Max, I believe it is R5 with a radiant barrier, between the outer skin and interior walls. The owner uses it to take his family to various racing events and is able to keep the trailer cool and comfortable even in the Texas summer heat.
     
  13. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

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    Mine had a tube that runs through the exhaust hose for the condensate. The hot air makes it a mist that goes out the exhaust.
     
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  14. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

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    My camper had a 15 amp breaker for all outlets and the converter itself, and a 20A breaker for "future" roof AC prewire. That 20A breaker was unused since I didn't have AC, and ran to a box with a blank plate near the sink. What I did was ran additional wire from that box to where I wanted the portable AC to live... I then replaced the original blank plate with a GFCI outlet, and then put a second outlet in a new box where we put the portable AC. The first outlet could be used for a space heater at some point, which is why i did it that way. Anyway, that gives me a dedicated 20A circuit for the portable AC and leaves the 15A circuit available for everything else.

    If you don't want to go to that trouble, just get a 12-gauge extension cord, probably 25 or 50', and run that directly to the pole and use it for your portable AC. Make sure you get a 12 (or 10) gauge as most "outdoor" cords are smaller gauge (bigger number) and will strain your AC compressor by starving it of power.
     
  15. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

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    I am thinking about removing the refrigerator that we don't really use and putting a portable AC unit in the space. Could cut an exhaust hole in the camper wall. Anyone have a portable AC installed where the fridge goes?
     
  16. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    Our 17' travel trailer has a standard wall a/c. The condensation just runs down the side of the trailer. The bulk of the a/c is inside, framed like a cabinet, and apparently it sits in a tray that collects the condensation, tipped so it drains out. We haven't taken ours apart, though others with our brand of camper have. There were some issues with the water draining into the wall instead of out, usually due to drain holes blocked by butyl tape of framing. We had to bend the drain holes a bit, but it does drain if it's humid enough.
    I don't know the size, but it isn't huge. It does cool off the trailer very well. The bathroom wall blocks air flow to the front corner, so we used a fan on the last trip to help that. (A friend was sleeping on the dinette bed, and her head was in that area with less air flow; she appreciated the fan.)
    We're happy with the wall a/c; newer models have the roof-top ones. We run the fan all summer while it's parked at home, and can run the cooling if we're working in the trailer. We still mostly dry camp, so not having the huge and more expensive a/c sitting idle is good for us.
     

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