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Air-Conditioning a Teardrop

A common question from those camping in hot weather is "can a teardrop be air-conditioned?", to which we reply a resounding "Yes!"  

Rest assured there have been many talented, clever, and sweaty minds working on this problem.  There have been numerous designs of swamp coolers, ice coolers, and other gizmos that use 12V battery power, but most of these increase humidity, which is fine in the dry western deserts, but will evoke screams of agony from folks in the humid east.  I've come to the conclusion that 120V power is necessary for real air-conditioning that actually de-humidifies the air, which means you have to either have power hook-up at the campground, or a generator with a capacity of at least 5 Amps, or 500 Watts (see photo and caption at the bottom of the page).

There have also been attempts to use RV air-conditioners ($600) or modify window units to make them split-systems, with the coils outside and the fan/condenser inside.  This requires Freon work, which is out of the realm of the average builder.  Considering all this, I believe the  best way is with a small window unit (5,000 BTU or less), commonly available at Home Depot for around $79 and weighing 40 lbs.  

I solicited people for their way to mount this air-conditioner in their teardrop, and following is some of the best replies I received.  One thing I found is that even at 5000 BTUs, the unit is vastly oversized for a teardrop, which presents a couple problems.  The cooling cycle has to run in order to dehumidify the air, and so if the condenser cycle kicks on for just a few minutes, it will not run long enough to dehumidify.  Also, if there is not an adequate flow of warm air over the evaporator coils, they will ice up.  

A normal installation of an air conditioner calls for it to re-circulate the air inside the room, as it is more efficient to cool air that has already been cooled.  But to avoid the problems mentioned above, you should set it up so the unit brings in warm air from outside and then blows it into the teardrop.  This will make the unit run longer and give the best dehumidification.  For window units just mounted in the wall or doorway, sometimes this is just a matter of moving the damper lever to "fresh air" instead of "re-circulate".   Some smaller units may not have this option built-in, and so you will have to devise some way to get warm outside air to the intake (or leave all your windows open). But for those units modified with ducting, you can just put the duct on the cold air output and let the unit take in outside air normally.  You will also have to install vents to let the air out of the teardrop, so that the cabin is not pressurized, which will reduce the airflow and potentially ice up the evaporator coils.

So which is my favorite?  Operationally, the remote-ducted unit is best set up for a teardrop.  Since you only use the A/C part of the year, you are not taking up space full-time with the A/C unit. This would also be the quietest installation.  However, I realize some folks will not want to go to the trouble of setting up the A/C every time, so I can see where the in-wall units would be best for them.  For units mounted inside the teardrop, you also must make provision for the condensate water to drain out of the unit, or you will flood your teardrop!

So click on the photos below to see some examples of how people have installed their A/C, and start dreaming of cool bliss.

Brad Ferguson's In-Wall (Galley)

Darryl Engle's Remote Ducted

Roly Nelson's In-Wall (Tongue)

Chip's Sliding A/C

For those remote campers, Honda makes a 2000 Watt generator that's small and super-quiet and will power an A/C unit about 3-1/2 hours on a tank of gas. The jewel runs about $800. 

When using a generator to power your A/C unit, make sure it's well away, lest the A/C suck in exhaust from the generator and pump it into your teardrop, which could be deadly.


Never sleep in a totally enclosed teardrop- always have a window cracked open or fresh air blown in by the A/C.  If you have a totally sealed cabin and the A/C is just circulating air, you will have nice cold carbon dioxide, but still suffocate!


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