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Old 06-27-2013, 04:08 PM   #1
grozier
 
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Default Removal of the rear A/C

Hi all,

As hinted on the Yahoo board, I have removed the rear Kerstner air conditioning unit from the roof. I have driven through and parked in enough rain to be able to recommend this, but as always, your mileage may vary!

This air conditioner was originally designed for delivery vans and thus is not optimized for noise or comfort. Early NAFTA James Cooks apparently came with a smaller unit originally, but these were swapped out in the U.S. at some point before sale. Perhaps that was a quieter air conditioner, but it was apparently outgunned by Texas and Florida heat.

In any case, we had no need for this A/C since we hardly ever used it and, living in Europe, don't have access to 110V shore power. So off it went, all 60 kilograms (~130 pounds), not including the components in the closet.

I was very curious to see how the handling would change after removing the A/C. The improvement was dramatic, and perhaps a better change than switching to the Koni dampers. On undulating roads, there is significantly less "head toss." On the highway, side winds and the bow wave of trucks still push the van around, but there is only the initial movement, easily corrected, instead of the sway, followed by counter sway, etc.

Removal is pretty much as per the manual, with the following additions: (if you don't have the manual, get it, because I do not cover the steps here in sufficient detail to do this job safely without it.)
  • I removed the interior cabinet without an assistant, but I would recommend having one if at all possible.
  • Protect the counter tops in advance. The scratches in our van are clearly from an earlier removal, either to replace the unit or repair the evaporator drain hoses.
  • I removed the "hat box" and the lamps in the cabinet, even though the manual does not call for it.
  • After loosening the six allen bolts (M8, 6 mm head if I recall correctly) I pushed up from below to help loosen the unit before lifting it.
  • Hoisting eyes are provided on the unit. You will need a suitable hoist (ours was rated 500 kg) and a secure anchor (ours was a huge tree). Remember that you need to lift the unit almost two feet higher than its installed position to clear the bath skylight. Then, after driving the van out from underneath, you need to be able to get it down to the ground. It is a long way!
  • The roof is not designed to be stepped on. Be careful.

After removing the A/C, you need to patch the hole. The rough-cut hole is approximately 58x40 cm. It is not perfectly square. The roof is approximately 2" thick. Above this rough cut is a plastic flange that the A/C engages. On our van, a sheet of 8mm polycarbonate, 595mm x 425 mm, with 50 mm radius corners, covers the lip well. It is attached with self-tapping screws and a healthy bead of Sikaflex. The 8mm sheet is overkill in terms of toughness, but you don't want it to bow under the weight of water, snow, or ice!

In retrospect, I might have removed that plastic flange and patched the roof directly, as there are some hairline cracks in the flange that I did not notice until after the repair. Ideally, you will do this operation under a covered spot so you can decide for yourself. If you remove the flange, however, you will have to contend with the slight curvature of the roof.

Inside, I fitted a good chunk of polystyrene insulation, then placed a 3 mm acrylic sheet (63x39 cm) in place with self-tapping screws and duct tape. Note that the rough-cut hole extends slightly under the cabinet, at least in our van. This sheet cannot be much more than 39 cm in the front-back direction without being an interference fit that could cause squeaks. You can see most of this with a good flashlight after removing the vents from the cabinet and peering in through the narrow door in the bathroom.

You will need six plastic bolts (M8x20mm) to replace the metal bolts that held the A/C in place. Out of an abundance of caution, I also covered these with duct tape. Ugly, but on the roof so not visible.

Then there is some housekeeping of the remaining wires to prevent shorts and rattles. Presumably you will not replace the 150 Amp fusible link, but a future owner might, and that cable is hefty enough to be a major hazard if it ever went live. You'll also want to close off the evaporator drain (I made a simple wye with the remaining hose) and, if you're ambitious, you'll fix the air pipe for the exhaust fan. (I did not.) No wonder it does such a poor job, as it is squeezed nearly flat as it comes up behing the pantry!

An additional benefit to this job is you get a nice new linen cabinet!

Here are some photographs.

Next up is to get the other components out and investigate the feasibility of turning the water heater cabinet into a propane locker with the space that becomes available.

Ted
Attached Images
File Type: jpg cabinet removed.jpg (203.4 KB, 307 views)
File Type: jpg westy 121.jpg (205.9 KB, 277 views)
File Type: jpg liftoff.jpg (206.4 KB, 272 views)
File Type: jpg way up there.jpg (292.9 KB, 275 views)
File Type: jpg getting it home.jpg (210.5 KB, 266 views)
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:10 PM   #2
grozier
 
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

More pictures
Attached Images
File Type: jpg the lip.jpg (193.2 KB, 247 views)
File Type: jpg to clean up.jpg (168.5 KB, 236 views)
File Type: jpg evaporator hose.jpg (176.4 KB, 231 views)
File Type: jpg exhaust hose.jpg (203.3 KB, 225 views)
File Type: jpg test fit.jpg (177.0 KB, 230 views)
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:11 PM   #3
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

Even more
Attached Images
File Type: jpg foam.jpg (155.7 KB, 227 views)
File Type: jpg sealed.jpg (250.2 KB, 229 views)
File Type: jpg complete.jpg (161.7 KB, 234 views)
File Type: jpg linens.jpg (155.2 KB, 236 views)
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Old 06-27-2013, 05:07 PM   #4
OldWest
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

Thank you, especially for the photos.

A dilemma--hate driving West in windy conditions but do like AC in hot/humid weather. Europe & Australia have split air systems for RVs so not all weight on top. Also, the American units are 90-100 lbs so slightly lighter. When AC becomes unrepairable, will have to decide.

Solar panel would be easy to out in that location. Run wires down corner where kitchen fan duct is. Could even hinge panel and have a second skylight.

Eternabond tape is not too bad to patch holes (used small pieces to cover TV antenna mounting holes until glued solar panel on top. Vinyl plasticky part of tape may release from sticky stuff though--that is what happened to take around Fantastic Fan.
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Old 06-27-2013, 05:23 PM   #5
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

Was that a wood frame inside opening for ac or just some type of insulation? Was there access with ac unit removed to add insulation in rest of area between fiberglass top and inner ceiling?

Fred had laminated his upper cabinet white to cover holes. Could also use the self-adhesive stainless steel stuff for appliances. Also saw some self-adhesive metal tiles at Home Depot but heavy. If tall, could put an erasable writable strip to cover vents.
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Old 06-27-2013, 07:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

Nice job with the write up and useful information. Very interesting comments on the handling improvements. Hope it doesn't get too hot over there this summer! :)
The pictures are a real aid if any of us need to tear into ours in the future. I noticed that your unit has the cut off shielded cable where the drain hose, power cables, and exhaust duct drop down next to the cabinet. I had just run a thermostat cable through that area a few weeks ago when I added a digital thermostat, and had stuck my I-phone into the chase and took pictures to confirm what opening space was available. I guess that made it an eye-phone. I'm sorry, i couldn't resist. Anyway, I saw that cable and have no idea why it's there. Anyone know what that abandoned cable is from? It is visible in "to clean up" picture.
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:12 PM   #7
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

Ted,

Many thanks for the excellent/detailed write up on A/C removal.

I have been toying with the idea of swapping out that heavy beast (Kerstner) with a swamp cooler. I mostly travel out west ( where the humidity is typically low [hence good swamp cooler country]). Armed with your pictures and dimensions I am more confident than ever that the Solar Chill Truck Cool might drop right in as a replacement. The base of the Truck Cool is about 20" wide and the length is about 15 1/2" ( the fan shrouds poke out an additional 2 1/2"). I'm thinking about just dropping the base of the swamp cooler into the hole and then add a couple of those swivel ducts to get the cool air down through the roof and into the van. I'm also thinking about yanking out the generator and putting a 20 to 30 gallon water tank in it's place (swamp coolers are thirsty). I would probably only fill the tank up when I get to a destination campsite so I'm not carrying around unnecessary weight.

If any of this makes any sense I'd appreciate your opinion as to whether or not you think this sounds like it might work?

John...

http://www.southwest-solar.com/produ...atalog&UID=145

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Old 06-27-2013, 10:17 PM   #8
OldWest
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

As apparently many Westies have this piece of cable, would guess that maybe was intended for something. Other end dangles down behind black tank.

If only in the first few Westies, would have guessed that Airstream put in for the TV or antenna, but then changed their mind and routed wires differently.

But as apparently pops up on later numbered Westies, maybe an option for antenna, cable, TV? Looks like that kind of cable but don't know.
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:29 PM   #9
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

Not answering for Ted but just chiming in.

1. Price as compared to American ac unit.
2. Power usage is considerably lower but still maybe too much of a drain on batteries alone (and if need to plug in, why not go for ac unit). Or if delete generator then need more batteries?
3. Weight advantage? If lighter on top, then great but if need a source of water (gallon per hour?) Then maybe consider type of camping.
4. Type of camping. If plugged in and water source, then pros of evap cooler would be less weight on top? Energy savings would not matter as plugged in.

If dry camping a lot, pros would be less power usage (but still maybe too much for batteries) and still need water?
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:35 PM   #10
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Default Re: Removal of the rear A/C

The photo of ac flange reminds me of the flange for the big skylight. If the flange were in good condition,, wonder if a skylight cover might fit over the flange--and either figure out hinges or some other method to keep in place. Add gaskets. The skylight cover would overlap flange so no leaks as long as flange doesn't lrak. Same with a metal framed solar panel where metal frame would overlap flange. Just idle thoughts.
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