Factory air on solar

I’ve been interested in air conditioning solutions for stealth type vanlife camping. There are videos of people installing portable units and window units in their vehicles, but they all require cutting holes in the body of the vehicle and making space for an outlet of coldness inside the vehicle instead of running the tubes to blow through the ducting their vehicle already has. Then I wondered if anyone, instead of installing a whole other air conditioning system, has just tried running their vehicle’s built-in air conditioning system with a solar setup. Is that something people have tried? Does it work?

Greetings & Welcome!

The vehicle’s A/C is belt driven off the engine, so the engine must be running.

Generally speaking, A/C while parked requires either shore power or a generator. To do it with solar would cost $5k+ and be very inefficient.

Many of us build 12v swamp coolers for under $100, that are energy efficient & effective. That’s what I use.


"Be a credit to the human race, and make the world a better place." ~ Off Grid

Do the math on how much power it takes to run AC off of solar. You’ll see that it’s not realistic.

I was wondering if someone had come up with a way to kick on that belt driven machinery without the engine running.

Typically it’s run off of the serpentine belt which is directly rotated by the engine turning, in short it wouldn’t be possible.

I have seen people install computer style fans inside of their duct work to provide extra airflow. I have no idea if it actually works or helps though.

The best AC is simply traveling with the seasons and staying away from the heat.

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Your swamp cooler sounds interesting. How did you build yours?

Greetings & Welcome Back!

I didn’t actually build mine myself. There was a guy at the big RV show in Quartzsite selling ones made into ice chests. I envisioned one built into a tall kitchen trash can instead, so I could sit it on the passenger seat and have it’s intake/exhaust at the top of the passenger window. I spoke with the fellow, and he told me that if I supplied the container, he’d build it for me. So I drove ~40 miles to the nearest Walmart in Parker, and purchased the trash can I wanted it built into, and delivered it back to him in Q. The next day it was waiting for me, and for many years it kept me comfortably cool no matter how hot or how high the humidity was.

It’s the indirect type that uses a small radiator or heater core for the air exchanger. Fresh air comes in from the outside, through the evaporation pad, then is exhausted back outside. This cools the water in the reservoir which is then pumped through the radiator. Inside air is then blown through the radiator cooling it, and as condensation forms on the radiator and drips down into the reservoir, it is actually dehumidifying the interior.

Mine works well anywhere, in either dry or humid climates, but in especially dry climates, I would guess that the direct type that adds moisture to the air, might be better.

I would consider what types of climates you’re going to encounter, and build whichever type is most appropriate for that. The direct types are much easier to build, but won’t work as well in humid areas. They’ll still work, but not nearly as well as the indirect type.

This year, I have a new toy, a liquid candle powered heater/cooler using peltier chips. It’s a sealed unit that does not require being filled with water regularly. The water in the tubes circulates through a radiator, and is heated/cooled & powered by peltier chips. I just picked it up on my way back to S. Miami for the summer. So far it is keeping me cool, but it does not lower the humidity like my old one does, but it doesn’t raise it either. I don’t want to give a review of it yet because I haven’t had it long enough, but I will say that my goodies that are candle powered instead of electrically powered are extremely neat.

This heater/cooler isn’t exactly what I had envisioned. I was planning on going with a candle powered stirling engine design, rather than peltier chips, but we’ll see how this works out when it gets really hot & humid down here.


"Be a credit to the human race, and make the world a better place." ~ Off Grid

Hi, as a person who can’t live without air conditioning in summer, I confidently say buy it.