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Roughing it only goes so far -- adding a portable air conditioner

I would like a room with a view please.

I would like a room with a view please.

Last year about this time, we were down south by Bryan/College Station and had a problem with lack of air conditioning. We only had 30 amps of service available and could not run both rooftop air conditioners at the same time – no way, no how. The solution was to buy a small window AC that would not overburden the current amp capacity. We installed the AC in a window over the couch and it worked just dandy. At the end of the season last year, we left the AC in storage in Terlingua; thinking we would be back to get it before it got hot.  Good plan, huh? Just didn’t work out that way. I hate it when the bank account trumps the road trip plans.  Everybody’s gotta work so the window AC is still settin’ in Terlingua.

Fast forward to this summer and the situation and requirements have changed somewhat.  The Old Girl has ducted AC.  Turn on the rear AC and the air comes out of all the ducts.  Turn on the front AC and the air comes out of all the ducts.  Turn them both on and twice as much air comes out.  Good plan but it is almost impossible to have different ‘zones’ inside the RV.   The oil field gate guard gig requires you to get a full complement of sleep.  We found that out early on when we were trying to work out our schedules.  Try to work a busy 12 hour shift in this heat and dust on a few hours sleep.  I was afraid Miss K was gonna wander out in front of one of these water trucks that was exceeding the posted speed limit by about 50mph.   They would run over her skinny butt and she would probably end up in the ditch next to that rabid skunk I had to dispatch last week.  In the meantime, I would be sleeping and blissfully unaware of any heinous acts happening 20 feet away.   It could happen ya know.

I remember once upon a time when Miss K and I used to sleep in the same bed at the same time.  It is a little fuzzy but I still remember it.  Miss Kathy likes to sleep in a warm room, I like it to be somewhere around meat cooler cold.  We pretty well had those issues worked out.  Now comes along this 12 on/12 off scenario and the sleeping hot or cold got to be an issue.  If I was catching quality Z’s in the back, Miss K was sitting in the front with all the vents turned off and her coat on. When it was time for her to go to bed at 3am,  I had trouble figuring out how cold to make it without freezing her to death or burning her up.  The outside temperature swings between 3am and Noon are sometimes 40 degrees and I just couldn’t get it right.  ( Nothing to do with you sweetie. I swear it has nothing to do with your quirky, oddball, unfathomable internal thermostat.  Honest!)

11,000 btu LG portable air conditioner

So the other day one of the crew doing flowback testing up on the hill in a nice fifth wheel stops by and asks if we are staying cool enough….  He goes on to explain they have a portable air conditioning unit in the fiver and it sure is nice.  That got me to thinking….with 12kw of generator, I have enough amperage to power up just about any damned thing I choose.   Fast forward to the end of last week and Miss Kathy comes home from shopping in Gainesville with an 11,000 btu LG portable air conditioner, only $399 at Home Depot.  She said “Well, there it is.” and carried an arm load of groceries in the RV. I was shaking my head and thinking ‘Man, she has a really nice butt’ as she walked away.

‘There it is’……… indeed.  This is going to take some figuring.  First off, I gotta power it up and it says not to connect it to an extension cord.    No way I can go with that because the Old Girl is simply not going to handle another load of 12amps.   Luckily, I have a heavy 12ga extension cord.  I wish it was a 10ga; it would be better.  I already have 2 outside power points that lead directly into the Old Girl at the front and rear so the extension cord will go to the 20amp 110 breaker on the generator.   The second problem is where to put it.  The portable A/C unit is really LARGE. About as tall as a big ol’ laundry hamper but deeper because the base widens out quite a bit.  It weighs somewhere around 75lbs.  The Old Girl  — 18 years young this year — has no slideouts.  Inside space is at a premium; specifically inside width.  We/I decide it needs to go back behind the door that we slide shut to close off the bed room.  That way whoever is sleeping can control their sleeping temp with the nifty remote control.   Good plan; I already have an exterior power point back there to fire that baby up.

OK, so I have this beast of an AC that is power hungry and pretty well blocks the center aisle side to side but I can deal with it.  But then it has this exhaust hose thingy that has to go outside.  Hmmm, what to do, what to do.   The exhaust hose is not small either– it is 1-2″ larger in diameter than a dryer vent hose. How much exhaust is this thing gonna blow????

I am scratching my head and figuring this and that and wishing I could just sit down and drink a cold beer.  Miss K is watching the Food Channel and ignoring me.  ‘Well, there it is’ and all that, remember?  I hit on a plan to exhaust it out the fresh air intake for the furnace which is down on the floor kitty corner to the bathroom vanity.  How insanely brilliant is that?  I know the fresh air intake is not connected to the furnace directly.  It just opens up into the airspace underneath the vanity and the pantry and the dinette where there are alot of miscellaneous service things hidden like water pipes and electric lines and the furnace.  Takes me all of 10 minutes to get that done with those plastic panels and a little bit ‘o duct tape.  I fire it up and instant hero!  Man oh man does that thing put out the refrigerated air!  Sometime during the night, Miss K has to come back in the bedroom and ask me a question.  It is SO cold back there, she is wishing she was wearing a coat!  Hell yeah!

3am rolls around all too soon and she comes back to wake me up wearing her coat— gotta love it.  I get up to brush my teeth and turn on the cold water — WTF!  I have to check and make sure the hot water tap is not on by mistake.  The cold water is hot!  Then I go and sit down in the dinette and the seat is hot–just like a heated seat in a fancy car.  I pull out the pantry and every jar and can in there is hot to the touch.  I am ony thankful a bottle of siraci sauce or a can of green beans did not explode during the night.

Time for Plan B.  The manual said to run the hose out a window so I guess I will play by the rules.  Luckily it is a holiday weekend and traffic is light.  We have a crank out window on my side of the bed and it looks to be a likely candidate.  It has the rounded corners common on most recreational vehicles but I figure I can get by that using the supplied plastic pieces, some cardboard and the duct tape.  The BIG problem is that $!*$@* exhaust hose.  It is only 4.5 feet long and to get the AC just barely past the end of the bed, I gotta stretch it pretty tight.  Oh well  — I can live with that I guess.  20 minutes later, we are again pumping out those cold btu’s. …..  with 2 glaring problems.  One, the AC unit is sitting so far back now that any additional cooling is not apparent toward the front of the bus.  I get the stinkeye on that one.  Second,  stretching the hose that tight pulls it away from the window.  More duct tape!  No bueno!  More duct tape x3….  and X4.  Crap!  It just ain’t working.  Now my brain is starting to hurt.   I don’t have a Plan C.

Growing up in Southern Appalachia it was a pretty common sight to see a car up on blocks out in the front yard because you just never knew when you might need a mostly slick tire off of it or a starter motor or some such as that.   Likewise, the front porch was a good place to put a few of those heavy upholstered recliners that were just not hardly good enough to go inside with the rest of the haute’ decor.  Stands to reason–why throw away a perfectly mostly good recliner when you had that whole front porch? Ditto on the chest type freezer. If you don’t have room in the kitchen, the front porch is a great place for the freezer- and nothing has to really match. Christ, it is the front porch, after all. So that is about where I was at. Necessity trumps looks and if it looks like ass and works –so be it.

My target was the roof vent over the vanity. It is a covered vent so I did not have to worry about rain coming in. It was easily within the 4.5′ reach of the exhaust hose. That placement would allow the portable AC to face forward during the heat of the afternnon when no one was sleeping and the front of the Old Girl was heating up something terrible. It could easily be turned to face rearward when the bedroom was occupied. Downside was you had this clothes hamper on steroids sitting in front of the vanity, shower door and closet with this huge ass white hose going out the ceiling. It is what it is. I took some of those plastic pieces and bridged the vent opening. A small length of cardboard on one edge and some duct tape sealed it up. I was more than tired of all this mess so I screwed the plastic pieces to the roof vent edge. Duct tape gets decidedly un-stickified when that hot exhaust hits it.

4 days later, we are still in business. It looks like ass. No, I am not gonna show you a picture of it because —you know, it looks like ass. What can I say, it is what it is. Miss Kathy is dead asleep right now with the portable AC unit set at her comfort level. I can turn the roof AC on whenever I like to suit me.

 

 

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5 comments to Roughing it only goes so far — adding a portable air conditioner

  • Ed Westerman

    The portable AC setup sounds like some of my plans at my house Andy, and I used to be a perfectness (spelling.?) new home builder for 33 years. you should see how I have a broken sew line patched for the last 3 years.
    By the way I love your blog, I read it almost everyday, so you need to keep writting. Ed

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  • Well Andy I do think ya’ll need a break. Have you lost your mind? There is no way anyone could go 50 on that piece of earth you call a road in front of your little compound. You could lease it to Goodyear as a torture test track for tires. When I saw the road grader in there last week I thought woohoo! Alas that was just some company man’s cruel joke. I think they fixed about 2 potholes and left the thousand or so other ones for another trip.And whatever the county did to the first four miles of the trek back in there wasn’t any better, it has been pulverized in less than a week into a radiator clogging dust that causes the A/C to quit working on my first trip in each night. All kidding aside, great blog, i love reading it. see ya’ll down the road. Mike

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  • Ron

    As a previous heating and ac man (before I joined the air force and transformed in to an airborne radar tech 🙂 ) I can tell you that for all the hot air that is blown out the coach fresh air will be seeping in through cracks in door and windows to replace that air. Rule of thumb. If air is being blown out the window…. That much dusty air will be sucked in. Now you might have got lucky and a second hose would be included that pulls air in from outside but I doubt it. I only say all this because I see how much dust you guys have. I know you both smoke so dust might not be an issue for you guys but if you ever want to get a very good air cleaner search for a honeywell 50250 hepa round filter. They sell many sizes of these but the key to removing dust is to pass it through a paper hepa filter.. I used to make safe zones in children’s bed rooms that were almost dust free and we always recommended good heap filters like these. Anyway love the posts. I have read almost a year of them so far. I am out in Iraq/Qatar now and I am finding what you have to say very intersecting. If you check out 2002 allegro bay walkthrough on YouTube you can see my new to me rig. I know after reading all your stuff I need to get a new water pump. Mine barely pushes out water to shower. Thx. Ron

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    • admin

      Thanks for your service Ron….and for the advice. Dust is just part of the job.

      Water pumps are EASY to replace. 20 minute job tops. Keep the old one for a spare; don’t wait for the current one to fail completely.

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