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two young girls on boat laughing

As summer gets closer and the air heats up, we’re hearing that familiar question again – Can I run my boat’s air conditioner from my battery bank?

Any air conditioning unit can run from lead-acid or lithium batteries through an inverter. The issue is whether this is practical and economical considering batteries will need to be recharged at some point.

UnlikelyBoatbuilder.com snow2010

As tough a job as it is, trying to sell air conditioning and refrigeration up north here in the midst of ice storms, arctic blasts, and brass-monkey weather, is nothing compared to installing the stuff in those sorts of conditions.

For those of you snowbirds currently basking in warmth and lathered up with sunblock, this will serve to reinforce the notion that you shouldn’t start heading north anytime soon.

In the years leading up to 2019 BC (Before Covid), boats would be sold at the Fall Boat Shows here on the East Coast and then start rolling into the boatyards and dealerships throughout the winter.

giant flywheel prototype

So, let’s say that you bought a 16,000 Btu air conditioner from Coastal Climate Control and politely rejected our suggestion to add an EasyStart compressor soft start device. Then, the first time you try starting it from your aging Ohno generator it issues a disturbing death-like groan as the compressor tries to start, and then the poor thing pops its breaker. So, what just happened there?

speed dump ahead sign

Is variable speed marine air conditioning really worth it?

OK, I admit it. I’m a graphaholic. I can’t turn the pages of a newspaper without studying each and every graph and chart, regardless of the subject matter. I make them, I dream of them, and I get itchy if I don’t pore over a graph or two for a few days. (Today I studied one showing the rate of decline in teenage marriages in Bangladesh since 1970). But I’m also acutely aware that the accuracy of any conclusions gleaned from graphs and charts are totally dependent on the validity of the data they are constructed from. Remember; Garbage in - Garbage out.

I turned to graphs recently in my quest to ascertain whether employing variable speed compressors in self-contained marine air conditioning units (i.e. compressor, blower and other bits and bobs all together on one base) really has any great benefits, especially considering the considerable extra cost and complexity involved.

Compared to a contemporary self-contained unit, a variable speed model requires the addition of a number of special sensors plus an electronically controlled expansion valve, all feeding data into a specialized electronics package that powers a three-phase compressor.

There’s a lot to go wrong there, and no way to jury-rig an override if the electronics suffer premature death from water ingress, lightning, or even just plain ol’ electrickery.

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