Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Air conditioning

Cruisair air conditioner on Whispering Jesse's cabin top
For the nearly three years we have owned Whispering Jesse, our 1980 Valiant 40, I have planned to replace the installed Webasto diesel heating system with a Webasto central air conditioning system. My thinking has been that I could just reuse the existing vents and ducts, and replace the one unit with the other. The only problem I could see was the expense. The air conditioning unit, seawater intake kit and basic duct work would add up to almost $2400, plus installation, which could easily run another $2000.

I was talking on the phone with my father about boat projects a few weeks ago, and he asked me why I wasn't considering a portable air conditioner like the ones he had seen at Best Buy. I told him we had personal experience with one in Isla Mujeres when our rented apartment's main air conditioner stopped working. It wasn't very effective. But my father's idea got me thinking about the air conditioners I have seen on sailboat cabin tops blowing cool air in through open hatches. After I got off the phone, I checked West Marine's website and found that they carried their own model that did exactly that, but it was over $1700 after you added in the cloth hood and rubber air deflector. Searching the Web, I discovered that the original model was produced by Cruisair. I went to eBay on a whim to see if there were any used ones for sale and was surprised to find three of them. I put in a bid on the one that appeared to be in the best condition, the seller offered a counter-bid, and I accepted it. It was a good deal at less than a third the price of the West Marine one, even with the expensive shipping--it weighs almost eighty pounds! I had it shipped to my folks' house in Savannah so I could try it out on the boat while I was out there.

Cruisair air conditioner as seen from cabin of Whispering Jesse
I'm happy to report that the new (to us) Cruisair air conditioner works well. After lugging the unit into place at the most central hatch, located just forward of the mast, I covered the open hatch and unit with the included hood, plugged in the power cord and turned the unit on from inside the cabin, where the controls are located. Cool air poured out immediately, and the fan noise was not too bad, like light white noise. When I went up on the deck to check the unit from that angle, I noticed that there was water around it on the deck, which would be expected from condensation, but it was minor and would be drained off by the scuppers.

I could see only two issues I would need to resolve. The first was that the hood did not fit snugly around the base of the hatch, but I think I can fix that with some bungee cords. The second was that the unit was not level due to its position at the lip of the hatch, though it probably needed to be if the bubble level on the top of the case was any indication. I found a block of wood in the marina dumpster left over from a recent construction project and put it under the forward edge of the unit. The bubble leveled right out.

When it's not living on the deck, the air conditioner will need to be manhandled down into the cabin and stored in the V-berth, which will end up being more of a large closet than a possible guest room once we get where we are going. My hope is that the air conditioner, in combination with sun shades rigged above the decks, will keep us tolerably cool in tropical marinas, especially at night when we're trying to sleep. We will see.

1 comment:

Oma Gammel said...

That was a really good deal. It saved you a lot of money, which you can use for some important matters. With your new A/C unit, you now don’t have to worry about good flow of air inside your yacht. You’ll now enjoy sailing even when the temperature is so hot. ->Oma Gammel