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Old 10-01-2020, 03:00 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Lightbulb Tutorial Needed on Installing Dash AC or Custom AC

Hello all,

I have searched everywhere for a tutorial explaining the intricacies of installing a cooling system which will be used while driving. I only need it to cool the front of the bus.

I would like it to be engine driven and cool the driver seat. I have an international 3800 with a T444e (7.3 Powerstroke).

Has anyone installed an engine powered AC unit of some sort? I saw a post by a user called Cadillackid who built a cooling unit after gutting the console heater. He said he purchased components and put it together. However, the post did not go into detail and I'm not sure which components were used.

Any help from anyone would be greatly appreciated.

My original intention was to run the 12k BTU Inverter Minisplit off of a battery bank powered by 800w of solar. I realize now that this plan is unrealistic.

I do plan on buying an inverter generator in the future and trying to find a way to keep that running while I'm driving to power the minisplit and the bus itself.


We'll see.

Thanks to anyone who can assist!!!
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Old 10-01-2020, 03:29 PM   #2
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Keep in mind, I believe CK is a diesel mechanic and works on this stuff for a living. I'm not sure such a system exists that is a realistic DIY for the average person. Most factory systems require installation of refrigerant lines, extra wiring, sensors and controls that aren't necessarily a DIY project. Restoring functionality to a gutted existing system is much easier than installing what wasn't there to begin with.

As I see it, you have two options - an RV roof top unit with a generator for power, (alternately an Automatic Power Unit with an auxiliary electric HVAC unit from a wrecked semi, essentially the same thing with a couple other fringe benefits), or you might see if Vintage Air has anything that could be adapted.
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Old 10-01-2020, 06:23 PM   #3
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unfortunately the install of that A/C was back when we were allowed to use photobucket,, instead of the admins keeping the posts but remoiving the picture links they removed all the posts when they banned photobucket so a good part of that A/C install was lost at that time..



first off, the dash air alone doesnt cool the whole bus.. it does blow a good but of cold air on me while im driving.. and also serves as my driver heat and defrost-assist..



ill try to find the old pictures and grab up some model numbers on pieces i used..

that unit is a 20,000 BTU cooling and I think its 25,000 BTU heat.. I also still have the factory right-side stepwell / defroster / aisle heater in the bus.. I restored that heater but didnt install an A/C coil in it..



what body is your bus? mine is a carpenter body so the heater was easy to gut as its just a big metal box that I could install into and came out of the bus as a unit.



Cheese-wagon ha! im actually a telecom engineer / programmer / network engineer..

I have lived my whole life around turning wrenches and building things.. I was an HVAC engineer for commercial building systems for awhile till i realized the $$ was better in computers..



diesel engines for me started when I was about 11 and we bought a couple diesel IH scouts.. and then in 89 I got my first diesel, a Peugeot with a blown head gasket and steamed piston.. so I rebuilt the engine because i loved that car..



I got into building hotrods in the 90s and one of my things was no matter how fast or radical a car i came up with.. it always got A/C'd.. thus when I got into busses I end up A/Cing those too.. ha!!
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Old 10-01-2020, 06:27 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
I have lived my whole life around turning wrenches and building things.. I was an HVAC engineer for commercial building systems for awhile till i realized the $$ was better in computers.
BINGO. HVAC engineer + learning from others who do it for a living = knowledge. And knowledge is power.
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Old 10-04-2020, 03:49 AM   #5
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Thanks for the prompt replies! I have an international 3800. The box looks very similar to the pictures I’ve seen of your system. I will take some pictures tomorrow when I get a chance.

There’s another Skoolie owner who ran his minisplit off of 600ah of lithium batteries. I am wondering if I’ll be able to do this as well. I have an energy efficient 110 inverter 12k btu minisplit already hooked up and attached to a little roof top deck I built. Planning on buying an isolator for the alternator as well. Plan on upgrading the alternator at some point too.

Well, that’s what I’m currently working with. A generator would currently have to be plugged in via the 50amp extension chord. I guess I could wire another 50amp extension to the roof where a little Honda generator will live.
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Old 10-04-2020, 05:08 PM   #6
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Hi CadillacKid. I just checked and I too, have a Carpenter chassis!
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Old 10-04-2020, 06:46 PM   #7
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this works.. the big issue with te carpenter bergstrom box in my bus is they made it so you had to remove the complete unit just to change a bad heater motor.. Grrr!!.. thats when i got the idea to just gut it and rebuild it..



how much A/C are you looking to put into that bus.. just a dashboard unit or be able to have dash air and part of the bus too?



what year was your bus made and does it say whether your bus was made in Mitchell or richmond? with a 444E I know its at least a 94..



the riuchmond built busses used the old Wayne heating and defrostimng systems (carpenter bought out the wayne plant in the 90s)...


my mitchell bus, the heater box could actually slide out from under the switch panel and leave the switch panel completely intact hanging on the wall of the bus..
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Old 10-09-2020, 06:27 AM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
this works.. the big issue with te carpenter bergstrom box in my bus is they made it so you had to remove the complete unit just to change a bad heater motor.. Grrr!!.. thats when i got the idea to just gut it and rebuild it..



how much A/C are you looking to put into that bus.. just a dashboard unit or be able to have dash air and part of the bus too?



what year was your bus made and does it say whether your bus was made in Mitchell or richmond? with a 444E I know its at least a 94..



the riuchmond built busses used the old Wayne heating and defrostimng systems (carpenter bought out the wayne plant in the 90s)...


my mitchell bus, the heater box could actually slide out from under the switch panel and leave the switch panel completely intact hanging on the wall of the bus..
Thanks CadillacKid, I will need to check on the Mitchell/ Richmond question. My IH is a 1997.

I don’t need an incredible robust ac system, just a dash installation with a couple of vents to help keep the front end cool would be awesome!

Sorry for the delay and thanks in advance!!
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Old 10-09-2020, 07:32 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stoveman View Post
Thanks CadillacKid, I will need to check on the Mitchell/ Richmond question. My IH is a 1997.

I donít need an incredible robust ac system, just a dash installation with a couple of vents to help keep the front end cool would be awesome!

Sorry for the delay and thanks in advance!!

97 will be a richmond.. overcoming the engine heat is the hardest part.. ewith a 444E the engine sits forward enough that it wont be as hard but ultimately for any A/C to stand a chance make sure the firewall is good and sealed.. I went to great pains to reduce engine heat in both busses.. I also hush-matted the ionside of the firewall on the DEV bus since i had the wholke area in pieces.. hush mat is very sticky and is designed most for sound insulation but a side benefit is some heat insulation and also it seals up air leaks around wires, hoses, plugs, seams, etc..



there are an extreme amount of evaporators out there.. I used ProAir because they have units designed for build your own..



what I did is I used flex duct and Y-connectors. so I could locate some vents up high and some down low.. for A/C I usually close the lower ones and open the uppers.. opposite in winter.. the advantage being that if i want cool air on my feet or warm air on my hands I can adjust the vents to my desire. (vs having to choose floor for heat and upper for A/C).. when I was in texas where it was 104 and sunny this summer i had all the vents open.. blowing cool air in the footwell was nice.



here are some ideas for various inside units. that are heat / cool.. you likely want someplace aroind 20,000 BTU or more.. you can easily run about 40,000-50,000 BTU on a single compressor (esp if you use a Sanden SD7 enhanced) and a skirt condenser..



https://www.proairllc.com/921-heat-cool-unit/


here is a Big one.. similar to what I used for my mid-ship unit.



https://www.proairllc.com/917-freeze...eat-cool-unit/


mid size here


https://www.proairllc.com/935-heat-cool/


this is a new product that i was recently notified of that may interest some skoolie converters..



this is a combo system designed to be engoine-driven when driving and also has a 110 volt component when connected to shore power so it can be a parked A/C as well..


https://www.proairllc.com/310-110-12v-kit/


this is a bigger unit designed to be a custom dash unit..


https://www.proairllc.com/960-electr...ool-dash-unit/


the other option to consider if your driver heater box is restorable is to pull out the right side / step well unit and put your new system in place of that.. you can still work ducting to ensure heating and defrosting of the door / windsihield..



now onto condensers.. your best bet is an underbody or underskirt unit.. you can install a condenser on the roof however im not a huge fan of drilling holes in a roof and potentially creating leaks.. not to mention I dont know your plans for solar / roof deck etc..



you need to somewhat size. the condenser to the evaporator but I ternd to oversize the condenser a bit to account for under-body heat from the engine / road, etc. I have a skirt and an underbody condenser. . the farther forward you go with your condenser the more I prefer skirt as it sucks its intake air from outside the body and not underneath where engine heat is more of a factor.. I have one skirt mounted condenser right behind my air dryer and it tucked in nicely beside the air tank so it works great for my front units because its close to both evaporators up front..



proair owns ACT.. I use the bigger version of this one..



https://www.proairllc.com/cs-2-skirt-mounted-unit/


that one is 60k so maybe a tad large for a dash air..



slightly smaller version that would tuck in nicely and be good for what you are working with..


https://www.proairllc.com/cs-22-skirt-mounted-unit/




compressors.. everyone has their opinion about compressors.. there are many different ones available but i stick with genuine Sanden and use the SD7 enhanced.. those compressors have a really nice output curve. that gives a lot of bang for the RPM..



https://www.sanden.com/sd7e.html


they have different bracket kits so the belt routing and pulley type would depend on what kind of bracket you find.. if you can fimd someone removing A/C from a T444E you could source your condenser, compressor, and brackets cheaper than if you buy them new.. I bought new because I wanted to know what I was getting and that it would be new and ready to go..



Hoses..


Proair uses Burgaflex / burgaclip fittings and Good year reduced barrier galaxy hose. . the reduced diameter hose is very easy to work with, the burgaclip fittings are easy for the DIY to crimp on and are versatile..

I have an extra pair for the crimp pliers I can send you if you decide to go this route..



Jeff at proair set mne up with pseudo Kits that included wiring, lengths of hose, fittings and the system parts.. i ended up with a lot of extra parts, however since ive cntinued to work on the climate control in multiuple busses these kits have been the gift that keeps on giving as. ifind myself pulling out the extra wiring to use for other projects, heater hose, and clips..



one of my "kits:" was designed to be a sprinter rear system so it came with cables and wires and such...


proair isnt the cheapest.and just the option I chose.. there are lots of ways to do this. . i was more concerned with building something that works than I was with $$.. and its proven successful for me.. I did have one expansion valve that was bum and it took me awhile to figure that out but that may have been my fault when I put the system together I possibly damaged it..





-Christopher
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Old 10-09-2020, 07:48 AM   #10
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OP, keep in mind that more glass and more square footage means more space to cool and more sunlight heating the interior. These things tend to be a furnace from spring to summer without A/C, and are going to need more BTU to keep up.

Food for thought, I had a 12k BTU window shaker in my old Ford B700, and it did okay, but mine wasn't being driven and sat all the time (was housing a surveillance system DVR array). I also had some minimal insulation (1/2-inch styrofoam, which probaby had about an R3 rating, which isn't much) that did not run the length of the bus, the front half was blocked off, but not very well.

Obviously, your results may vary, but an undersized system will struggle to keep up and almost be like it's not there at all. It will also use more energy because it will be running and cycling constantly. Also keep in mind that I never saw the electric bill, the property owner took care of that. Choose wisely.
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Old 10-09-2020, 11:43 PM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Christopher,

I can’t thank you enough for the detailed post. I am glad to know this is possible! This is a topic I’ve been interested in since before I bought the bus.

Thanks again. I’ll let you know if I have any questions
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Old 10-09-2020, 11:46 PM   #12
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Cheese wagon,

Thanks much for the input ! I currently have a 110v 12000 btu inverter minisplit installed with about an inch and a half of insulation all around. I am covering 6 of the 16 windows which I’m hoping helps as well. It’s a mid size bus which helps the minisplit adequately cook it. I just wish there was a way to run it off of my 800w of solar and 600ah battery bank (which I have not purchased yet.)

To both you an Christopher, thanks for the good input. I’m excited to start being more active in this niche community!
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Old 10-14-2020, 06:05 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stoveman View Post
Hello all,

I have searched everywhere for a tutorial explaining the intricacies of installing a cooling system which will be used while driving. I only need it to cool the front of the bus.

I would like it to be engine driven and cool the driver seat. I have an international 3800 with a T444e (7.3 Powerstroke).

Has anyone installed an engine powered AC unit of some sort? I saw a post by a user called Cadillackid who built a cooling unit after gutting the console heater. He said he purchased components and put it together. However, the post did not go into detail and I'm not sure which components were used.

Any help from anyone would be greatly appreciated.

My original intention was to run the 12k BTU Inverter Minisplit off of a battery bank powered by 800w of solar. I realize now that this plan is unrealistic.

I do plan on buying an inverter generator in the future and trying to find a way to keep that running while I'm driving to power the minisplit and the bus itself.


We'll see.

Thanks to anyone who can assist!!!
You could use a vintage air system. It is completely self contained in the cab so the only work you would need to work out is the compressor side for your engine combo.
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Old 10-14-2020, 08:34 PM   #14
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Quote:
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You could use a vintage air system. It is completely self contained in the cab so the only work you would need to work out is the compressor side for your engine combo.

vintage air is great for a car. but the BTU is pretty low for in a moving bus to do any more than just blow some cool air on you.. I have used Vintage air in my hotrod projects and it works well for what it is..
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Old 10-15-2020, 06:13 AM   #15
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vintage air is great for a car. but the BTU is pretty low for in a moving bus to do any more than just blow some cool air on you.. I have used Vintage air in my hotrod projects and it works well for what it is..
I guess it depends on how much of the front of the bus you want to cool. If its just him and the passenger, then it would do well for that small of an area. To increase the effectiveness a curtain behind the driver/passenger area could be added so the cool air stays in the cab area. Also using dynamat extreme over the doghouse and all over the floor would help also with the radiant heat coming from the engine. The biggest reason I like the vintage air is because it is designed to be a fit to any application kind of thing. All the details of installation have been thought out from controller, to heat/cool unit, to piping.
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Old 10-15-2020, 07:33 AM   #16
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Hi Stoveman . I removed all brackets and pulleys + comp. from my secondary Ac of my t444e engine . You can have them if you choose to go that way. I.m going to Run to the Sun carshow in Myrtle Beach in March . Can bring it if you want .

Rune
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Old 10-15-2020, 07:39 AM   #17
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also depends on whether you want to drive in a 2x2 "cab" closed in... (which is what an insulated curtain will do because it will need to be literally AT your seatbacks).. also depends on whether you want cool air blowing on you or to be Nice N cool..



a big part of it is dependent too on whether you delete your skoolie door and either completely cover up , install flooring, a window and a passenger seat (like some of have done making their bus more like a tradional RV offering a nice co-pilot seat experience up front).. that door is a huge source of hot / cold air and radiant heat..



I question simply using a house door in place of the skoolie door but about anything seals tighter than the factory door..



I also wouldnt place a condenser in front of the radiator on a school bus.. there are many documented cases of barel;y enough engine cooling as is through hot summer days so adding a front mount condenser will only make that issue worse.



I completely re-did the cab area of my DEV bus.. i tore it down to the metal, fixed the mate between the chassis and body. (there are more busses than i ever knew that have issues with gaps where the chassis floor and body floor meet).. I hush-matted and sealed upo all the cracks i could find.. the doghouse cover fit was less than ideal so I evened that area out andmade a new gasket for it..



thje vintage air under-dash units suck their intake air in from the footwell of the passenger side.. thats one of the hottest places in the cab which works the unit harder..


im not sayin dont use Vintage-Air, they make top notch kit.. (like i say ive used them before).. just like you wouldnt use a small window unit to attempt to cool a restaraunt kitchen, dont use a small car A/C to attempt to cool a school bus.. or if you do then accept the results that it will just blow cool air on you vs actually cool the inside..



and maybe you'll never get into hot enough weather. . I seem to always end up in the deep south a few times between may-august. where the dewpoint is in the 70s and actual temp is triple digit.. maybe you wont exoperience that weather.



all depoends on your desires im only here to share my real world information about this stuff...
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Old 10-20-2020, 03:06 PM   #18
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I wold like to thank Cadilackid and Cheese Wagon both for taking the time to gather and post all of this information for us. They have expanded on and clarified information from another thread that has been sitting in the back of my mind while I plan my build.

I have been wanting to do a mini split running off of the house solar system but have been concerned that it will not be enough to keep it comfortable while traveling. The information posted in this thread explains and illustrates another option to allow me to build a rig that can keep us comfortable in all climates while driving or parked. This is exactly what I have been needing to know how to do.

Thank you both for taking the time and effort in providing this information.
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Old 10-20-2020, 07:11 PM   #19
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cool deal. cant wait to see what you decide to build out!
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