12v air-conditioning-when cool is not hot
It seems that there's an ongoing quest in some circles for the holy grail of boating comfort: 12 volt air conditioning. Yet few seem to fully appreciate the benefits of the more practical, but far less complex and substantially less expensive alternative: 115v AC air conditioning powered by a DC source through an inverter. Many boats these days already have inverters installed, and if not, there's a wide range of inexpensive models available that are suitable for powering small air conditioners.
This post will focus on small air conditioning systems that are suitable for sleeping cabins or for small boat applications. With a small unit, the DC current draw is low enough that they can usually be powered by an engine alternator whenever the engine is running, as well as from the batteries when required. Of course, any sized air conditioner can be powered by batteries through an inverter, it is just a matter of practicality.
To better understand the differences between the two concepts, some comparisons are shown below between the Climma Compact 4,200 Btu 115v AC unit and the Dometic Cuddy II 3,500 Btu 12v DC model.
Marine Solar Planning Guide
Typical marine solar panels are comprised of a number of silicon cells (normally 32+) connected together electrically in a series string. Individual silicon cells produce only around 0.6v to 0.7v, and so enough of them have to be connected together in series to produce a voltage high enough to be able to charge a 12v battery.
A Charge Controller must be connected between the panel and the battery to reduce the panel output to a safe charging voltage. Some panels have less than the normal number of cells and produce less voltage than is required to charge a 12v battery, and these will require either a special boost controller, or for a number of them to be connected in series to produce a higher voltage.