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Replacing heater with a/c?


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Hello all!
I have a situation that has been bugging me for a while now and I'm hoping someone here will be able to tell me if my goal is indeed possible.

We own a small/medium(?) RV (two bedrooms, bath, kitchen, living room area) in a local resort in the mountains. A while back we started having trouble with our overhead A/C unit and I'm hoping to replace it with something that will actually circulate the air throughout the entire RV.

While the RV only had the overhead A/C, it had an internal heater with a vent in every room and a thermostat in the living room. Obviously this worked much better at actually getting the air circulated throughout the RV. The heater went out years ago, but we never got it fixed since we don't stay up there during the cold months.

I was hoping there would be a way we could install an A/C that would use the same duct-work that the heater used to use. A unit with a heater would be nice too, but a/c is the main. I can use portable heaters if I need to. Since we don't move it, I don't mind if it's something that would be external and sit next to/away from the RV.

I'm really up for any suggestions, whether it's a normal, small A/C unit, somehow adjusting a portable/window unit to use the duct-work, etc. I've called several Air Conditioning companies around here but nobody seems to have any idea how to tackle such a problem.

Thanks for any help you can give!!

Short Version: Is there any way I can get an A/C unit (with or without heating too) to use the duct-work from an existing heater? This is a permanent setup so I'm fine if it requires having something sit outside the RV.

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You could get what is called a "package unit" AC or heat pump and have the installer connect up the duct work to it. The thing would sit beside your RV with the ducts coming out from under it and entering the rig. You might be able to pretty it up some with a bit of fencing and some flowers.



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The problem will be to find something to fit the small duct-work of the old furnace. I assume that the non-working furnace is still in it's original position? If so the place to start would be by looking at it and measuring the size of the opening where it is now. Keep in mind that the plenum for air distribution for that furnace is the heat exchanger so you will need to construct some sort of plenum to go on the back of any air conditioner that you install into the place where the furnace is now. If the old furnace is one by Atwood, it will have an opening through the outside of the RV that is large enough to put it in and out and which looks similar to the one for the water heater but if your present broken furnace is by Suburban it will only have an opening for the exhaust and will have to be removed from the inside.


excalibur_th.jpg Shows outside of an Atwood RV furnace. 219NxWQDLGL._AA160_.jpg What shows on the outside of a Suburban RV furnace.

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Also keep in mind that an air conditioner recirculates air to cool it. You will need to provide a return air as well as connection for distributing the cooled air. I suspect this will not be as easy as it sounds.

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Residential units need large ducts. They are not designed to push air through a small duct/s. Rv units are designed for this. I have installed 3.5 ton units in Trailer houses. We had to install a new trunk line and branch off at register locations. Run a separate return line and it was a 14" and branch off of it for 2 locations.

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The Aussies seem to use mini-split level air conditioners on their caravans. The inside-environment (evaporative) heat exchanger is separated by some distance from the outside-environment (condensing unit) heat exchanger by an insulated hose/pipe. They do not require ducting.


Technomadia has a very good writeup on this and the threads on this blog are excellent. Apparently a number of US/Canadian RV'ers are using these at this time.


We have numerous 12 V outlets and 12 V fans which use only 12 W (1 amp at 12 V) which circulate the air and feels great when we go to bed.

Reed and Elaine

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