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Old 01-09-2014, 04:42 PM   #1
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1972 25' Tradewind
Montrose , Colorado
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Replace AC ?

Debating on whether or not to replace the original AC unit. Not having any specific problems just thinking a newer model would operate more efficiently. The current unit is not sufficient if the outside temp is over 85/90 degrees and the heater portion of the unit is not effective. I have my Airstream in storage at the moment so I don't know what type/size unit it has. Any recommendations on which manufacturer and size would best suit my needs for efficiency/cost? Thanks
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Old 01-09-2014, 05:13 PM   #2
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First off I'd determine whether you actually have the original Armstrong unit, or some random replacement unit installed in the ensuing 40+ years.

If it's an Armstrong, it's an excellent, durable unit and servicing it may get you plenty of cooling ability. Heat strips are only ever going to be able to give you so much heat... they're more for taking the edge off on a cool morning than heating the trailer when it's cold outside, but people like them because they use that "free" campground electricity.

The 1975-vintage Armstrong in my 24' Argosy has kept it tolerable inside at 105F with high humidity (it was about 82 inside in the heat of the day, but quite dry and comfy, especially compared to outside!) and at 90F it's quite capable of making it uncomfortably cold inside.

If it's some other-brand replacement unit (Coleman, Carrier, etc.) then it's probably easiest to replace with new.

With a 25' trailer you should be able to make do with a 13,500 btuh unit that'll let you skate by with a smaller generator setup if you'll be boondocking when it's hot. A heat pump will provide better heat than heat strips (until it gets down into the 30s at least) but for my own trailer I prefer the furnace or an electric space heater to noisy RV heat pumps.
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Old 01-09-2014, 05:39 PM   #3
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1972 25' Tradewind
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Thank you for the info. Will I be able to tell if it is an Armstrong unit from inside or do I need to look from atop? I hope it is, although, trying to find a reliable rv ac tech in my area may be the challenging part. If I can find someone...what exactly do I ask them to do when it comes to servicing the unit? I want to be specific so I seem like I know what I am talking about and don't get someone who does not know what they are doing. Thanks again for responding so quickly!
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Old 01-09-2014, 06:20 PM   #4
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The '70s Armstrong cover is pretty recognizable. An Airstream one will probably have a different-colored trim strip than mine, but the shape should be about the same. I've put a photo where you can see my AC unit below. I have seen some early '70s Airstream units with a cover that's more smoothly integrated with the top of the trailer, but I don't know if they came that way. You can see from the photo of mine that the cover isn't the sturdiest thing, and that's after a lot of work the PO did to build one good cover out of 2 ratty ones.

Happily I haven't had to take the inside cover off mine so I don't know with certainty if there's an identifying label that's visible under there, and my inside cover doesn't have a name on it. Hopefully someone who's had one apart will show you a photo or describe where the label should be.


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Old 01-09-2014, 08:43 PM   #5
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another thing to think about on replacing an A/C is the in wall water drains, not always easy to make work with new a/c's. I know Dometic has a system available, but the recommend using 2 gaskets, and this looks kinda strange on a round roof rv , Rvp/Coleman offers a low profile too , which I do recommend a low profile regardless of the brand because they are more streamlined and just look better. I personally like the Dometic Penguin, the redesigned cover looks great, imoa. but I don't like the looks of the 2 gaskets
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:26 PM   #6
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I will start with trying to find someone who services AC systems on RVs. With that said.. what exactly should I ask them to do when it comes to servicing the unit? I want to be specific so I seem like I know what I am talking about and don't get taken by someone who does not know what they are doing.
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:42 PM   #7
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I doubt you will find someone to repair or even check the A/C unit out while on the coach. An RV tech will probably recommend replacement.
BUT! If you can find someone to remove the unit and take it to an A/C and Heating shop. They may be interested in refurbishing it.
They are excellent, well designed units. Certainly worth putting a few $$$ into.
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Old 01-10-2014, 09:19 PM   #8
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TG Twinkie may be right about no one wanting to look at it while on the trailer. The sort of shop that works on refer units for semi trailers and delivery trucks will have experience dealing with this sort of compact unit that's designed for serviceability. Conceptually it works the same as any other freon-based AC unit, so any AC or refrigeration service tech will know how it works, though.

The reason we're telling you that if it's not an Armstrong it's not worth working on is that most other RV air conditioners are just not designed to be serviced, they're built to be single-use so you'll have to buy another one from them a few years down the road.
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Old 01-11-2014, 10:27 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone for your input!!!!
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Old 02-07-2014, 03:48 PM   #10
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I'll be interested in your progress. The unit on my recently acquired AS looks just like the one on top of WBCCI# 15566 in post #4 (although the cover is a little beat up). Fan works fine, but it has been too cold to test the cooling. I have a friend in the a/c business who worked as a kid for an RV dealer and will come to check it out when the weather warms up. He says (if it needs some) there's a newer type of coolant gas that is environmentally and legally okay to use, rather than the former auto/freon gas that we can't use any more. I like the idea that these older units are still sound. Let us know what you come up with.
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Old 02-07-2014, 03:58 PM   #11
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If it looks like the one on my Argosy in the photo above, it sounds like you've got an Armstrong to work with. If it does actually need more refrigerant, it uses R-22 rather than R-12 (the old automotive one), and it's still OK to use on existing systems (it's against regulations to produce any NEW systems that use it, however.) There's no EPA requirement to retrofit for a more modern refrigerant, but per their page (linked above) you can retrofit to R-407C. I wouldn't do that unless you already need a bunch of new seals and such anyway, since that requires more work than just introducing more refrigerant.
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Old 02-07-2014, 08:12 PM   #12
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Yes, I'm betting it is the same as yours. It will be a couple of months before we can get back on top and do a thorough check-up. My A/C guy has said much the same as you about this. Sure would be nice to use it, but of course it is 40 years old. By the way, this AS spent its entire life in Arizona, so the unit will have been used regularly--hopefully that's good for the seals.

By the way, I've always liked the Churchill quote you use. One of many great ones.
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Old 02-07-2014, 11:47 PM   #13
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Replace AC ?

fwiw, I am pretty sure that the Armstrong unit on my 72 is pretty much original factory, I cleaned it up good, and it performed great all last summer....

Knock on wood....

Very substantial units, I am about sure to repair rather than replace when the time comes.

When I first got my Airstream I was thinking that the smart move would be to replace the 40 plus year old a/c, but in reading over this forum it became obvious that there is much respect for these Armstrong units.

Once I actually looked at the thing I understood why. If a person could find a comparable unit today, (and you can't), it would cost a thousands I am sure.

Apart from the basic structure, there is hardly anything I didn't replace on my trailer but the Armstrong a/c, I respect it.
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