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Old 04-16-2020, 07:22 PM   #1
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1966 24' Tradewind
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Lynchburg , Virginia
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Mini-split heat pump install in 34’

I have a 95 Excella 34’ that I purchased about 5 years ago. I have recently started a complete interior and system rebuild of this trailer. The project thread is in the Excella 94-96 section and is titled Dan’s 34’ Makeover. I have always intended to install a mini-split in this Airstream and it is finally time to do it.



Why a mini-split? The primary reason is that they are quiet. I can not stand the noise of a normal RV air conditioner. I have always believed that heating and cooling in a home should be quiet. You should not hear it operate. When I built our home many years ago it was important to me that the HVAC system was quiet. I believe the same goes for an Airstream trailer.



How quiet are they. Well, I used to be a home inspector and when I inspected a home with a mini-split, I could not hear the air handler fan running. I know that a quiet car going 60 mph down the road has an interior noise level of about 65 dB. The air handler that I am installing has a maximum noise level of 36 dB. Now that is QUIET.



The most significant improvement in Airstream trailers in the last 40 years is ducted air conditioning. This was a real improvement in lowering the noise level in an Airstream. I don’t know the noise level in an Airstream before ducted air and after ducted air. I know that it is significantly louder than the mini-split at 36 dB.


Another advantage of the mini-split is that it will heat all the way down to -13 degrees. This is a real improvement over normal residential heat pumps and RV heat pumps that typically don’t provide much heat below 40 degrees.

Dan
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Old 04-16-2020, 09:00 PM   #2
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Mini-split heat pump install in 34’

Another advantage is that mini-splits are very efficient. The SEER rating for the one I am installing is 21.5. There doesn’t seem to be a SEER rating for RV air conditioners as it isn’t required. I would estimate that it is about 12.

A normal RV air conditioner requires more than a 2,000 watt generator to operate unless you have installed an easystart.
The mini-split I am installing requires about 1,200 watts to operate so a 2,000 watt generator will work just fine.

Let’s talk size. The largest minisplit 120 volt heat pump is 12,000 btu/hr. It is a single zone. If you want to go larger than 12,000 btu/hr or go to a 2 zone (2 air handlers) design you have to go to 240 volt. I decided to go with a 120 volt 12,000 btu/hr because I believe this will cool and heat my 34’ just fine.

One more point on the high SEER rating of minisplits. The highest SEER minisplit is a Carrier 240 volt 9,000 btu/hr unit with a SEER rating of 42!

Most folks are buying 2 air conditioners and forced to upgrade to 50 amp service to feed both units. They believe they need two air conditioners to be comfortable. I believe that one 12,000 btu/hr minisplit will cool my 34’ just fine. Here is why. During the heat of the day I won’t cool the bedroom (8 ft long and 25% of the total length). If it still not cool enough, I won’t cool the bathroom (6 ft long and 20% of the total length. I will only be cooling the living room and the kitchen area (17.5 ft long and 55% of the total length). I can also take additional action by blocking the sun in the 3 large street side windows that don’t have shades and blocking the sun in the two large skylights. The sun will be blocked with insulated shades- still needing to be designed and fabricated. At night I am confident that the minisplit will cool the entire trailer (31.5 ft). There are 3 Maxxair ceiling fans that will keep the cool air evenly circulating.

I searched the internet for the highest SEER 12,000 btu/hr 120 volt minisplit. I found a Pioneer unit with a SEER of 21.5. The price was slightly under $1,000 but all 3 sellers I located were out of stock. After about 2 weeks, I decided to keep looking. I found the Cooper and Hunter unit that I ended up purchasing from Amazon. Here is the information.Click image for larger version

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The specs on this unit are about the same as the Pioneer unit. The compressors look the same. I believe they are built in the same factory. However, the C&H unit has a much better warranty- 7 years on the compressor and 5 years on parts. Now the warranty is only valid if it is installed by a licensed HVAC technician and registered within 60 days. I know a licensed tech. I will do most all the work and call him in to bless what I have done and to start it up.

I paid for the highest SEER unit because I plan on operating the unit from 8 lithium ion batteries. There is a 12,000 btu/hr unit available from Klimaire that has a SEER of 19. It is about $300 less than the C&H unit. Here are the details.Click image for larger version

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Dan
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Old 04-16-2020, 09:19 PM   #3
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Dan, I’ve always been impressed with the Db level and efficiency. Wish I could have figured out a way to place it in the 55. We have a friend who has owned a 55 FC and a 55 Safari. Both had mini splits. The Safari, they took it to a nearby RV dealer who researched the installation of a mini split and did a great job with the installation. One AS had the condenser on the tongue parallel to the front and the other was perpendicular with one propane tank. Figure it out and if we end up in this stay at home requirement, I may re-renovate the 55 with a mini split. Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 04-16-2020, 09:45 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bubba L View Post
Dan, I’ve always been impressed with the Db level and efficiency. Wish I could have figured out a way to place it in the 55. We have a friend who has owned a 55 FC and a 55 Safari. Both had mini splits. The Safari, they took it to a nearby RV dealer who researched the installation of a mini split and did a great job with the installation. One AS had the condenser on the tongue parallel to the front and the other was perpendicular with one propane tank. Figure it out and if we end up in this stay at home requirement, I may re-renovate the 55 with a mini split. Good luck and keep us posted.


Bubba, yup this being stuck at home is sure good for house and Airstream projects, but my traveling itch will need to get scratched sometime. Just don’t know when that will happen.

Installing a minisplit in an Airstream is a real challenge. Much harder than installing it in a house. The benefits will be worth it though. After the installation in my 34’ I will install one in our son and daughter in law’s 78 Caravanner. They live in Fort Worth.

Dan
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Old 04-16-2020, 11:08 PM   #5
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Mini-split heat pump install in 34’

Since I am installing this in a 34’, I am fortunate that I have some vacant wall space where I can install the air handler. I will need to build a wall cabinet, then install the air handler in front of the wall cabinet. The picture below shows the vacant wall space where the air handler will be located. Click image for larger version

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One of the challenges will be routing the refrigerant lines and drain line(s) within the wall cavity and between the floor and the belly pan. This should be fun.

The original converter was plugged into a receptacle on the front wall between the two batteries.Click image for larger version

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ID:	365942I will use this receptacle to provide power for the minisplit. A 12/2 line will be run from this receptacle to the compressor installed on the tongue. I have moved the batteries and the converter to the middle of the trailer over the wheels. This will help reduce the tongue weight.

The biggest challenge will be installing the compressor on the tongue. I originally thought that I would install the compressor behind the two 30 lb propane tanks. This just wouldn’t work as there was not enough room. I finally settled on the idea of installing the compressor on the tongue (A frame) right behind the electric jack. I plan to install a 10 or 20 Lb horizontal aluminum propane tank behind the compressor. This also helps in the performance of the unit as the installation instructions call for 12” of space behind the compressor. I should add here that I really believe that a 10 Lb propane tank will be adequate as we don’t need it for the furnace and we will be installing a compressor fridge.

Installation of the compressor on the tongue is further complicated by us having a Hensley Hitch. I have already decided though that having the minisplit is more important than having the Hensley. Hopefully we will be able to retain the Hensley.

Actual installation started earlier today. I removed the two propane tanks, the hardware securing the tanks and the regulator and hoses. Here is a photo.

DanClick image for larger version

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Old 04-17-2020, 12:39 AM   #6
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Dan,

I mentioned this in another thread I believe you are on but when mounting the condenser unit on a wall, you can have a minimum of 4" of clearance on the back. As I'm sure you are aware, wall mounting isn't much different than mounting on a trailer tongue. While the outside unit isn't terribly heavy, it's no box of tissues either. If it were me, I'd put it as close to the shell as possible and put my lighter weight LP tank in front.

Could you elaborate as to your reasoning for putting it so far forward? I am genuinely curious.

The 4" clearance is what the installation manual for my 12,000btu/240v Pioneer stated. And yes, it look's exactly the same as the one you are getting. Sitting in my studio now and I have to look to see the louver moving to know it's on, yet the temperature is perfect in here.

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Old 04-17-2020, 05:17 AM   #7
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Just curious, do any of the splits have a condenser unit that would fit inside a Continental Tire style enclosure like on a 55 T-Bird, maybe with louvers on the flat surface to conceal on a vintage trailer?
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Old 04-17-2020, 08:10 AM   #8
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Mini-split heat pump install in 34’

The compressor is about the same height and depth as the two 30 Lb propane tanks with the cover but it is about 4” wider. I was hoping that it would fit, but you just don’t know until you try to set the compressor in place. Here are some photos.Click image for larger version

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Looking at the first two photos, you can see that it barely fits. There is only about 1/2” clearance between the jack assemblies and the compressor. The compressor actually touches the tongue jack at the top. This is why I put a piece of aluminum here to protect the compressor cover. I will need to fabricate a 1/4” plate for the compressor to mount to. This will be secured to the top of the A frame using bolts. I will probably install some spacers under the front mounting bolts to tilt the compressor slightly so there is some clearance between the compressor and the tongue jack.

Looking at the third photo, when the jack assembly rotates forward there is only about a 1/2” clearance between the jack assembly and the refrigerant line cover plate.

Looking at the fourth photo, it looks like installation of the refrigerant lines will be difficult. There is just very little room and a very tight bend will be required.

Looking at the fifth photo, the back of the compressor touches the frame bracket. There is still room to access the storage box.
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Old 04-17-2020, 09:10 AM   #9
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I got timed out for the above post.

Looking at the sixth photo there is not much room for installing the nut for the bolt for the right rear compressor mount.

Looking at the seventh photo I will just get a longer bolt to secure the compressor to the A frame for the left rear compressor mount.

It would be nice to have a little more room by moving the Hensley frame brackets back. The installation manual specifies a distance of 25.5” from the ball centerline to the frame bracket. If this distance could be increased from 25.5” to 26.5” it would move the frame brackets back about 0.75”. This would make installation of the rear mounting bolts and nuts easier. However this would probably prevent access to the storage box. I will probably try first to install the compressor without moving the frame brackets back.

Dan Click image for larger version

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Old 04-17-2020, 09:15 AM   #10
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Dan, what would happen if you removed the jack baseplate bolts, cut the jack shaft hole out another inch forward, re-drilled the bolt holes and rebolted? Sounds like an inch would help a lot. The jack only lifts and lowers, so not a structural compromise. That’s just a thought.
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Old 04-17-2020, 09:22 AM   #11
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Since you are in the middle of a rebuild, have you considered removing the tongue jack completely and using dual jacks inside the front of the cabin like some of the 34’ Limited models?

I’m very interested in how well the 34’ will cool with the single unit. Thanks for posting and I’m looking forward to your results.
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Old 04-17-2020, 09:30 AM   #12
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Mini-split heat pump install in 34’

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bubba L View Post
Dan, what would happen if you removed the jack baseplate bolts, cut the jack shaft hole out another inch forward, re-drilled the bolt holes and rebolted? Sounds like an inch would help a lot. The jack only lifts and lowers, so not a structural compromise. That’s just a thought.


That is a great idea Bubba! Why didn’t I think of that? That is what makes this forum so fantastic. This will provide the extra room needed while meeting the Hensley specs and still allowing access to the storage box. Thanks Bubba!

This will give me an opportunity to repaint the jack also.

Dan
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Old 04-17-2020, 10:29 AM   #13
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There are two threads being run on this subject now. Any way to join them together?

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f42...ll-115745.html

Dan, I would mount the compressor right up to the wall as I did mine. The specs call for 4" but the Airstream wall slopes inward as it goes down.

You could also mount the compressor on a stand, as I did mine. That way you can also mount a ASME-RV horizontal tank, either below or in front. And not block access to your weight distribution.

Don't forget that you'll need to fashion a plug to insert into the front grill when you travel. Otherwise fying stones can damage the coils.
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Old 04-17-2020, 10:33 AM   #14
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The road debris will definitely have a impact on performance
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Old 04-17-2020, 11:13 AM   #15
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Hi Dan, it's great to see real progress. I'm at the trying to figure out the refrigerant lines stage of planing on mine. I don't have a handy HVAC buddy so I'm going by the installation manual which might not be ideal; to me it seems that the lines will work best if they exit from the unit on the tongue and gradually rise as they make their way to the internal unit. I wanted to ask what you had planned for sleeving them through the shell to get into the trailer and then a question? are you intending to run all the lines in the wall cavity and through the bows (ribs) or just the drain line?

I plan on running the control line and the refrigerant lines with insulating jacket in a discreet channel hidden behind whatever cabinets etc that I end up building. I'm also keeping the outdoor unit at 4" off the wall but mines a vertical front wall (1960 trailer), and then just a lightly padded cover to slip over the unit for travel and storage, although Joe's plug idea seems simple, maybe a magnetic plug?
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Old 04-17-2020, 11:53 AM   #16
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Mini-split heat pump install in 34’

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmokelessJoe View Post
There are two threads being run on this subject now. Any way to join them together?



https://www.airforums.com/forums/f42...ll-115745.html



Dan, I would mount the compressor right up to the wall as I did mine. The specs call for 4" but the Airstream wall slopes inward as it goes down.



You could also mount the compressor on a stand, as I did mine. That way you can also mount a ASME-RV horizontal tank, either below or in front. And not block access to your weight distribution.



Don't forget that you'll need to fashion a plug to insert into the front grill when you travel. Otherwise fying stones can damage the coils.


Thanks for chiming in SmokelessJoe, especially since you were the first to install one, what 13 years ago? With the improvements in their design and the significant advantages they have over RV air conditioners in the areas of noise, heating ability and efficiency, I really see this as the next significant improvement in RV HVAC systems, along with compressor fridges.

I will probably make a cover for the compressor to protect it from debris.

Dan
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Old 04-17-2020, 12:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by truckasaurus View Post
Hi Dan, it's great to see real progress. I'm at the trying to figure out the refrigerant lines stage of planing on mine. I don't have a handy HVAC buddy so I'm going by the installation manual which might not be ideal; to me it seems that the lines will work best if they exit from the unit on the tongue and gradually rise as they make their way to the internal unit. I wanted to ask what you had planned for sleeving them through the shell to get into the trailer and then a question? are you intending to run all the lines in the wall cavity and through the bows (ribs) or just the drain line?



I plan on running the control line and the refrigerant lines with insulating jacket in a discreet channel hidden behind whatever cabinets etc that I end up building. I'm also keeping the outdoor unit at 4" off the wall but mines a vertical front wall (1960 trailer), and then just a lightly padded cover to slip over the unit for travel and storage, although Joe's plug idea seems simple, maybe a magnetic plug?


truckasaurus

My HVAC friend will pop by after I have done all the work to evacuate the system, charge and then start up the system.

I have figured out how to run the refrigerant lines and drain in my pea brain only. I plan to wrap the refrigerant lines and control wiring in insulation tape and then cut the wall open to install the bundle. I will cut a hole in the floor below the wall to get the bundle into the belly pan area. I will open up the belly pan to run the bundle below the floor and out to the compressor. My refrigerant line set is 16 feet long. I believe and hope that it is long enough. If it is too long I will adjust the length in the spare tire cavity. I am not running a spare tire. I see no need when operating with a triple axle.

I will run the drain separately in the wall and straight out the bottom through the curved section of the belly pan.

That is my plan anyway. Always subject to charge when my plan doesn’t work.

Dan
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Old 04-17-2020, 12:19 PM   #18
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I am considering the same improvement for my trailer. So I’m watching
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Old 04-17-2020, 01:39 PM   #19
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SmokelessJoe- I looked at installing the compressor next to the Airstream. There isn’t enough room behind the Hensley bracket, just 9.5”. Then if I raised it up, reduced performance because less than 12” clearance and no access to the storage box. I think it is best to leave it in front.

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Old 04-17-2020, 01:47 PM   #20
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Mini-split heat pump install in 34’

truckasaurus

The refrigerant bundle is about 2”x1.25” before wrapping with insulation tape. The liquid line is 0.25” diameter. The vapor line is 0.50” diameter. I think the rectangular shape will help when installing it in the wall and floor.

bibs- glad to have you following along. Lots for all of us to learn on this install.

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