I really need help deciding A/C

Hello from a oldish newbie! I purchased my van back in February of this year. I wasn’t too worried about air conditioning because my plan was to follow the weather as many do.

However, I am currently living in Southwest Central Florida. The day after I got home with the van, we went to Home Depot and purchased a 5000 BTU window unit. My husband took out one of the back windows and installed it right away. What a blessing that has been! I could not stand it if I did not have it. I do not handle the heat well at all.

I still plan to follow the weather as much as possible, but there are going to be those times when I will need dependable air. I’ve got the heating for winter under control; that’s not a big deal.

But as far as AC, I have re-searched the Internet, asked friends, watched YouTube videos, but I still am in limbo.

Initially I wanted to put a roof unit in. Then I saw how much they cost. But more than that, the top of my van conversion is fiberglass and I don’t know if a roof unit would be compatible with fiberglass.

Then, I was looking at mini splits. They seem to be ideal. Much less in cost and much quieter, from what I hear (actually, no pun intended.)

But there again, the problem was the fiberglass topper. I could see a decent place to put the inside part, but I would not want to put the condenser part on the back (metal). It would be low enough that somebody could steal it (for the copper). The other option again would be putting the condenser on the fiberglass part of the top, even if it was on the side. As I said, I’m just not sure how well fiberglass would hold up to cutting and also the weight.

I would also be concerned about anything on the outside jostling around and perhaps tubing breaking or something equally disastrous. I love my van, but she is not exactly a smooth ride.

OK so now I’ve been considering portable ACs. I have looked at many. If I got one I would be willing to spend up to five to $700 at the very most. There is a place in the side of the van where a vent hole could be drilled.

We have discussed that we would like to have one with a single hose going out the vent. I have seen some that supposedly turns the water into a mist and goes out along with the heat. I’ve even seen a couple where there is a tube within a tube. In other words, there is a drain tube inside the heat exhaust tube.

I’ve even thought about just using the window unit that we have in it now. The problem with that, other than it being outside is that I really need the storage space in the back of the van. I am planning on raising the bed quite a bit and that would not work with the air conditioner as it is.

I never thought that I would consider a swamp cooler, but I have read some pretty good reviews right on this thread.

So there you have it. All my concerns about each type of cooler. I’m sorry that this is so long. I tend to write long posts and be very detailed and I’m sorry if that gets on anyone’s nerves.

If you made it this far, thank you so much. Any and all suggestions are very very welcome and appreciated.

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Hi guys! So my two cents are probably not worth much since I happily do without AC and seldom find myself camped anywhere that gets over 75-80 degrees (and not the humidity of Florida). Even 85-90 is no prob if 1) you’re parked in the shade, and 2) you’re using a high volume roof fan (I use a dual direction Fantastic Fan but have met several ppl using MaxAir and happy). I did meet a nice young woman a few years ago who travels with a few dogs and worked as a casino dealer into the summer in Vegas and she used a portable AC unit very successfully with the only downside being it takes up prescious space. Of course I’d hate to see what the RV park was charging her for electricity. Also, if you plan on staying at RV parks out west here (I usually just boondock) be aware that many of them will not allow any van with a window unit AC installed, and many parks have an age limit of how old your vehicle can be in order to stay there (usually 10 to 15 yrs old max). Hope this helps!

I’m North of you in NCFL. My friend (a FloGrown local) also pulled a rear window and inserted a small AC unit. Apparently, it is the answer. When in Rome…(?)


Thanks for your reply! I do appreciate your input even if you don’t use an AC!
It’s good to know about the trailer parks out west who don’t allow window units or older models of RVs. I had heard “rumors”.

My tiny home-on-wheels is a kind of cobbled together 2003 Ford E250 - cargo van to which former owners had added a high top. I bought it partially built out and am trying to get it finished in record time. -slowest in history- lol The point being I doubt it would meet the aesthetic standards of some of those campgrounds.

Anyway, it would be wonderful to travel continually and follow the cooler weather. But with my very small monthly check and the cost of gas, I doubt if I’ll be able to do that as much as I’d like. I will certainly do it as much as I can.

Another issue is that my husband loves it here in Florida and is adamant about not moving or probably even going anywhere (for any length of time) where the temperature is less than 80°. Plus, he is still working so he can’t pick up and leave.

We’ve lived down here about 30 years, and I have done my best to get used to it. But seriously, I’ve finally realized if haven’t adjusted by now, I’m not going to. So a large part of the plan of me getting a camper van was so that I could get away and have some comfort during the hottest part of the year, i.e., April to mid-November.

The heat indices here (real-feel) have been over 100 now for days on end. I know it’s bad everywhere, so I shouldn’t complain, but I have some health issues that make it almost unbearable.

The camper did come with a Maxx Fan, but it hasn’t been effective in this climate at all.

I’m still sorting through the options, and haven’t come up with a great one yet. The most practical in my situation seems to be a portable AC, but like the lady in Las Vegas, my space is very limited & precious. I also have two cats that will be co-piloting with me.

Enough of my rambling on. . . Stay happy and free!

@Gardner Hello Gardner! — fellow Floridian

Are you a native or transplant like me?

Yes, I agree, the window unit has been the best as far as making it endurable, but. . . apparently some of the “Romans” in certain areas (to which I may want to travel) don’t appreciate the fun kitschy, low-rent trailer park look, which may include more than just the AC hanging out the window in my case. To which I say, “Ask me if I care? But, please, step inside and see my beautiful knotty pine, tongue-and-groove ceiling with the recessed solar puck lights.” LOL

Seriously, I would leave as is if it wasn’t for two things:
1.) I’ve heard that all the jostling down the road may be a little too hard on the copper tubing in the unit. Still, I might attempt that if I could only find a good place to mount it because…

2.) I desperately need storage space. My plan was/still is to have a high bed in the back and use the space under that for storage.

Do you know an idea came to me just now while typing that? Eureka! If the bed were raised just above the AC unit, why couldn’t I make a couple of holes, attach a couple of 5” or 6” diameter plastic tubing, run it under or beside the bed and, Voila - custom ductwork?

I would need to build a rectangular box to cover the top area of the AC, where the airflow comes out into the room, and then make the holes for the ductwork in the front of that box (probably no more than two).

As for my fears about two much bouncing around and broken copper tubing, I did read where one person had really made the mounting of the window unit super secure, so not much bouncing took place. She said she used it that way for years only taking it down to clean it.

Now I have to remember where I read that post, Because she told exactly how she mounted it.

Just curious, Gardner, does your friend that has the back windows mounted AC travel with it in place?

I am so excited because I think this is an idea that just may work! Maybe it’s a Godsend!!

Yes, transpant as yourself. And ‘yes’ he does drive with the AC unit installed.
Tbh, he redacted the left rear window , made a cutout of that window and inserted the AC Unit with 220 AC into it. Granted, it is requiring the grid to feed it but it’s as stable as Hogan’s Goat.
Regarding the ‘sweat joints’ and an AC series that you’re contemplating; those joints aren’t going to rattle loose if you sweat them correctly. But most of the runs you’ll need can be done w/o sweating.