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Air Conditioner Flicka20 Sailboat

18 Helpful Tips to install air-conditioning on your boat

As a lad I once took flowers to a girl I fancied when visiting her in hospital. Her mother shook her head and immediately removed them from sight, just as the poor thing in bed started sniffling and sneezing. How was I to know that she suffered from hay fever?

I once accidently filled an almost empty 40 gallon diesel tank with water on a sailboat after a race. No fun for me that night, having to drain and dispose of that much stinky, milky water in the exclusive playground of Puerto Cervo, Sardinia. I blame the boatbuilder for not putting the filler in the wrong place.

Mistakes. We all make them. Some more than others ...

So, when contemplating the installation of an air conditioning system on a boat, it’s well worth taking time in the planning stages to minimize the possibility of mistakes, because inevitably some will happen. Installing air conditioning on a boat as an after-market exercise is about the most invasive and disruptive thing you can do to your floating dream palace, and there are few short-cuts available when doing it correctly.

However, there are a number of logical steps you can take, and many potential pit-falls can be identified during the planning stages.

Reliable and Affordable DC air-conditioning options

Endurance-in-ice-packIt seems that there’s an ongoing quest in some circles for the holy grail of boating comfort: DC air-conditioning, either 12v or 24v. Yet few seem to be aware of the more practical, but far less complex and expensive alternative - 115v AC air-conditioning powered by batteries through an inverter.

An inverter is a device that changes battery power into the mains power that you have in your home or the shore power on your boat. So many boats these days already have inverters installed, many of which will be combination inverter/chargers, and there’s a wide range of inexpensive models available that are suitable for powering small marine air conditioners.

jellyfish skull dreamstime m 39050204 480x480Down south they have Miracle Mussels ...

And lurking in many harbors are evil, vindictive, plastic baggies.

What do they all have in common? They can all ruin one's day by clogging sea water intakes and strainers for refrigeration or air conditioning.

Anyone who has ever had to rid a sea strainer of Sea Snot (AKA Sea Nettle; Jellyfish) will know that this can be an unpleasant task. I'm told that in the coastal waters of Louisiana, Alabama, and other areas of the Gulf Coast, mussels and other sea-critters can grow in numbers resembling an armada in a matter of days, clogging not only strainers, but hoses, intakes and much more.

The part floating, part sinking, part ready-to-clog-an-intake plastic bag, is also a nuisance, but typically gets sucked onto the outside of the intake thru-hull, and then floats/sinks away once the pump is stopped.

In light of the chaos these latent disasters can cause, it's no wonder that some boaters take serious measures to combat the threat. Plastic bags, like naughty schoolboys, are a mere annoyance, but swarms of Sea Snot are a real menace, and we see live-aboards in the Chesapeake fashioning domes out of chicken netting and positioning them over the sea water intake in an effort to keep the menace at bay (oh, pun eh?).

dog in pool boat dreamstimemedium 77015612 768x512
My first dabble with installing air conditioning on boats was in the mid ‘80’s. I was new to the game and was an eager gofer helping to install a system on a 44’ sailboat. When I mentioned this to my buddies at the bar, they were amazed to hear that you could actually install air conditioning on a sailboat, especially on one that small! Nowadays it’s expected that even 25 footers have air conditioning as a standard item.

Those days were before rotary compressors replaced the noisy, heavy, and power-hungry reciprocating versions, and when one unscrupulous manufacturer would chisel the metal data plate off the compressor in order to fudge the specs to boost their claim that they had bigger units than their competitors. Yes, really!

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