got to get ac in my van

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rgs80074

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hello everyone,

I have a 97 dodge ram van b2500.

I live in florida (not a van dweller but love the idea) but I need to get some ac in my van.

I believe fixing the current ac system in the van (dual ac system) would be too expensive and vacuum tubes would need to be found and fixed to use the ac and why or what caused the electrical connections to melt the first time was it the wood wedged in it? why was the wood even there?

I just recently. had to purchase a new alternator and got rid of the one on that (worked just fine for what i needed until it went bad) was on it an 80 amp. the van calls for a 136amp alternator for the conversion van 80 for the base. Got the higher amp one when I replaced it think its actually 140amp but at the least its 136amp.

I'm thinking it would be cheaper, quicker, and easier to bypass the main vans ac system I can see it costing well over 500 to get this fixed just for parts alone and probably a good deal just to diagnose the issues to even be able to repair it.

what I want to do is get a window unit for the back window, i see vans all the time with them but never been able to ask anyone with one their setup. I have no solar or battery-back on the van(yet may in the future if i get all my crap together). So I am thinking I would have someone who knows what they are doing wire up directly to the battery to a power invert er. from there hook the ac system into it. I could be wrong but I think a 1500watt one would work but think i'd go for a 2000 watt one to be safe.

I also read a lot about a fantastic fan. Would it be a benefit to get one and have it installed as well? what kind of solar setup and battery would I need to be able to let it run (especially during the day) even when not using the van to keep it cooler before using it and have it shut off when i use the van and start the ac system.

perhaps in the future i could get more solar or better solar and panels to run things. for example say i have a 400watt solar system and 2 batteries (average size ones).
if this is hooked up to the inverter (can an inverter be wired for both solar and vehicle battery and be somehow not using the vehicle battery when the vehicle is not running?)

so if this was possible

how long rough estimate would the following run just assuming i am only using this one thing

5k btu window ac unit
the fantastic fan
normal house/shop fan
powering/charging a laptop


So the first thing I am looking at is just the hard wiring a inverter to the battery so I can use the window ac unit when the vehicle is running.

as time goes on possibly adding a bit of solar and battery if they would be of any benefit for short periods of use. I don't see myself needing to use them for more than 2-3 hours at a time.

Ryan
 

TMG51

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Short answer: not gonna work.

Longer answer: running AC off batteries is theoretically possible but requires a large set up of panels and reserves.

Longer-er answer: Although off grid AC is theoretically possible it has yet to really be demonstrated functioning 24/7 in a real life environment. When dealing off grid one must factor in weather and battery maintenance etc.

Final answer: get a generator or spend too much money on an experiment!
 

jimindenver

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We can run a 5000 btu A/C when the sun is high enough with 750 watts of solar and 675 Ah of battery, just to give you a idea of what it takes.
 

NeedAnEscape

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While driving, with a 140 amp alternator you should have no problem running a 5000btu window unit off an inverter. The more efficient ones pull around 500watts, which will be slightly less than 50 amps from an inverter on a 12v system.
 

Txjaybird

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If a AC system isn't a possibility I'd certainly put in a roof vent, if possible.  While living in TX I drove and used for camping at the lake and on the coast a black chevy cargo van.......no AC......no insulation.....no reflectix.   

What saved me from becoming "southern fried" was a passive roof vent made for truck bed camper caps, and rear door windows that popped outward at the bottom.  When parked this still allowed a air flow in thru the windows and up thru the vent.  I always looked for a shady spot when possible.      TJB
 

TMG51

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TMG51 said:
Short answer: not gonna work.

Longer answer: running AC off batteries is theoretically possible but requires a large set up of panels and reserves.

Longer-er answer: Although off grid AC is theoretically possible it has yet to really be demonstrated functioning 24/7 in a real life environment. When dealing off grid one must factor in weather and battery maintenance etc.

Final answer: get a generator or spend too much money on an experiment!

I misread your post in that you primarily want to run your window unit while driving. As was said yes that will work while driving. Just clarifying my response.
 

DannyB1954

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Keep in mind the starting current for any kind of compressor is much larger than what it takes to keep it running. That 5,000 btu A/c that runs at 5 amps at 120 volts may need nearly twice that much to start running. So plan on a system that can put out 84 amps at 12V for at least a few seconds, (1,000 watts divided by 12 volts).
I have drawn up plans for a similar system but using a 800 watt generator to power it. Normally that small generator would not run an A/c unit, but because the A/C would not run 100% of the time it might work, (this is in a camper with lots of insulation). The only thing the generator would power is a battery charger. The A/C would run off a battery and inverter.
I drew up a diagram and posted it at https://vanlivingforum.com/Thread-How-to-Monitor-Battery-Charge?pid=204281#pid204281 post #14. click on the image and it will give you a larger diagram.
 

acfdexpo

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Mobilesport

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jimindenver said:
We can run a 5000 btu A/C when the sun is high enough with 750 watts of solar and 675 Ah of battery, just to give you a idea of what it takes.

How much real estate does 750 watts of solar take up?
I have a picture in my mind that your roof is completely covered with solar , if so do all them solar panels create good shade?
 

rgs80074

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Hello everyone,

thanks for the replies.

yes my first objective was to get ac in the vehicle while driving.

the second part was dealing with down the road the possiblity of using solar and batteries.

how long with 675ah battery run the ac? how many batteries is that?

my eventual goal for non running ac wouldn't require the ac to be used for more than a few hours and very very likely the batteries would be fully charged.

but i had a few other things i wanted to run but don't think any of them (save possibly a refrig) would likely use much power

things in the future I might be looking at to run on batteries and solar (given if its feasible to do) can't use a generator becasue it would have to be located inside the vehicle and i don't think thats a good idea

5k btu window ac unit
the fantastic fan
normal house/shop fan
powering/charging a laptop
refrigerator


just curious how are those fantastic fan's powered.


as i said my first thing is to get ac in the vehicle while driving, driving in this high 90 degree heat with eh sun beating down is killing me. after an hour of driving I am total toasted for the day on anything else i would do.

the future stuff will be a while down the road as I have to get this stuff and then replenish my reserve funds before I do anything else and current vehicle repairs are tapping into my available funds.
 

jimindenver

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The 3 Lifeline 8-D's should run the A/C around 9 hours IF the compressor ran continuous but would need the power replaced very quickly.

The three 250w panels are 39x64 each and will cover a fair amount of roof once they let me play with my toys again. You could try and find some 400+ watt panels, they are a foot longer and it would take two. You are going to need a costly charge controller for the panels and a inverter to create the 120v. We use A morningstar TS-MPPT-60 and a Tripp lite 1250fc industrial inverter.
 

rvpopeye

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Just a quick measurement to get your head wrapped around......
Three pairs of 6 volt Deep Cycles (same foot print as group 24s) would be about 700amp hours and panels are roughly 8-10 square feet per 100 watts.

Maybe get the parts in a scrap yard for the under hood AC ???

Are you worried a generator outside would grow legs ? Put 'er up on the roof.
 

rgs80074

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first i am not a true mechanic so buying most stuff as a salvage yard isn't likely since you have to pull your own stuff at most and they have horrid conditions at them.
my first objective is to get ac in the van when driving and others have said a power inverter hooked to the battery with a window unit is totally doable.

the other stuff is for later and when i am out doing errands instead of running my vehicle to keep the ac running and some places i go and stay would not allow a generator to be running without claiming i am living in the parking lot. already had that happen once went after work to a place where i had stuff to do got there 3 hours before they opened so i decided i'd just lay and sleep in my vehicle until then. an hour later cops was knocking on my window because the place next door said i was sleeping in the parking lot all night. I could have given the cops and attitude since I had permission from the owners of hte business where i was at to be in their parking lot and technically i was not doing anything illegal but giving cops and attitude is rarely a good idea so i complied with all their requirements, id, what i was going could they search my jeep, etc.

they told me they got a call from the woman next door that i was sleeping all night in the jeep which i told them was a lie and she knew it but they wouldn't process the request to file a complaint for her filing a false statement. i told them she was giving me dirty looks from the moment i pulled in the parking lot which was not even hers.

so in the future i'd want to keep anything as low key as possible and a generator running or a vehicle running wouldn't do that. the reason i asked how long batteries would run stuff is most of the time 2-3 hours is the longest i'd be at any place and since errands are not done daily maybe once a week or so that would give plenty of time for the batteries to recharge.

but first is first is to get the ac working while the van is running.
 

highdesertranger

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if you are not a mechanic, how are you going to set up a 120v AC to run off your alternator and batteries? imo if you want AC while your engine is running the simplest way to do it is to fix your existing AC. highdesertranger
 

ColdBrook

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acfdexpo said:
I have been looking at this from a Canadian Rv manufacturer called Safari Condo.  This is built for the Express/Savana rear window.  I think it is about $700 after the exchange rate, but could be fabricated for much less.  I also like the idea of putting it in the door and hiding it behind a spare tire so it is not quite as noticeable. http://safaricondoacc.com/boutique/en/motorhome-accessories/removable-rear-air-conditioning-p112c35

The only problem with the one from the Canadian RV manufacturer is it states it will only run when you are hooked up to shore power. Do you plan to camp where you have electric to plug into?
 

acfdexpo

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ColdBrook said:
The only problem with the one from the Canadian RV manufacturer is it states it will only run when you are hooked up to shore power. Do you plan to camp where you have electric to plug into?

     I am still looking into it but I would imagine that has to do with there electrical/inverter set up.  I am still struggling to figure the electrical stuff out myself I just really like the idea of 
being able to take in out in 20 min. and it passes to look test for my Wife; otherwise I would just make a support for the front window or cut a hole in the rear door.
 

ColdBrook

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acfdexpo said:
     I am still looking into it but I would imagine that has to do with there electrical/inverter set up.  I am still struggling to figure the electrical stuff out myself I just really like the idea of 
being able to take in out in 20 min. and it passes to look test for my Wife; otherwise I would just make a support for the front window or cut a hole in the rear door.

If you ever do get it figured out please let me know how.  My biggest issue with getting a van is can I survive without ac at night.  I have asthma that is triggered when it's too hot and humid and at home I always have to run an ac in summer weather. I want to boondock a lot.
 

thatswhatsup

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ColdBrook said:
If you ever do get it figured out please let me know how.  My biggest issue with getting a van is can I survive without ac at night.  I have asthma that is triggered when it's too hot and humid and at home I always have to run an ac in summer weather. I want to boondock a lot.

boondocking in a van with AC is still a relatively unsolved challenge.

As some have posted..  you can technically do it, but its going to require at least 8 panels, probably more, and so much battery power that you'll either be forced to get Lithium batteries (insanely expensive), or end up with 600+ lbs of lead acid batteries in the back of your van. Also think about how that added weight will affect your vehicles mpg when considering the real bottom line savings.

It's not a lost cause..  we just seem to be at that frustrating cusp where it's technically possible with current technology, just not easy or cheap.
Now, if $130 panels pulled in 500 watts each, and LiFePo4 batteries were as cheap as flooded lead acid, we'd be in a different ballpark.

I'm in the same shoes as you. I desperately need to start vandwelling, but will not be able to unless I can control the climate/humidity at a reasonable cost.
Also, I can't yet relocate out of South FL. Boondocking here is no easy matter.

So far, the cheapest entry point I can come up with is either a 100 or 200w renogy kit with a walmart battery, and the "non-evaporative swamp cooler" design that's getting a lot of attention on this forum. Not sure how effective that will be though.

Don't give up... this will be solved one day, hopefully soon.
 

rgs80074

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i think to get the vans ac system itself up and running would be to expensive. the electrical connection is melted probably due to the piece if wood wedged in it.

on top of that all the freon is gone so there is a leak somewhere

then if all that was fixed we have the vacuum lines as you cant change where the air comes from.

probably cheaper and better just for a hardwired window unit.

once my repairs are done on my jeep and the van (takes me time due to the hot heat outside i can only work for a hour or two at a time) i have a mechanic whose going to check it out for me and let me know the best and cheapest route to go.

ryan
 

acfdexpo

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ColdBrook said:
If you ever do get it figured out please let me know how.  My biggest issue with getting a van is can I survive without ac at night.  I have asthma that is triggered when it's too hot and humid and at home I always have to run an ac in summer weather. I want to boondock a lot.

My post was more a suggestion of placement and using a window unit rather than a roof top one.  My son has a few medical conditions one being epilepsy and high heat sometimes triggers seizures so I really get the need for AC.
 

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