campervan air conditioner install

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Our DIY Campervan Air Conditioner Install | Stay Cool on Your Van Adventure

Are you planning a camper van adventure and looking for ways to stay cool on the road? Look no further! In this article, we will guide you through the installation process of our 12 volt air conditioner that’s perfect for your camper van, skoolie, or overland truck.

Whether you’re a seasoned van lifer or a newbie to the world of mobile living, this step-by-step guide will help you beat the heat and make your travels more comfortable. So grab your tools and let’s get started on this campervan air conditioner install!

Don’t miss ➡ What Is The Best 12v Air Conditioner

HIGHLY RECOMMEND also watching our two installation videos below which go along with this article.

Which DC Powered Air Conditioner Did We Choose?

If you’re in the market for a 12 volt or 24 volt air conditioner be sure to check out our round up article of all the AC’s that we considered. Including some very efficient residential mini-split air conditioners.

In the end we opted for a 24 volt air conditioner that was a split system similar to the residential mini-splits AC’s. We decided on this unit for the following reasons:

campervan air conditioning unit
  • Very affordable
  • Not roof mounted
  • Compact and flexible mounting options
  • Could be disassembled to make more compact

Air Conditioner Equipment and Tools

Head to our Amazon Store for a complete list of everything needed(Click HERE)

Our Budget Campervan Air Conditioner Install

There was very little information on this AC unit so it was a bit of a gamble especially since it is a drop shipped air conditioner from China.

I opted to purchase it through Amazon and purchased the extra insurance coverage just to be safe.

I did message the seller several times with questions and they were quick to reply and seemed knowledgable.

Step 1: Taking The 12v Mini Split AC Unit Apart

My plan for the AC unit was to disassemble the outdoor condenser/compressor into its individual components so I could ditch the ugly red box.

I originally wanted an undermount air conditioner but I opted for the mounting spot below.

I confirmed with the manufacturer that once disassembled I could mount the fan and condenser(radiator) upright or flat with a slight tilt..

The only component that must remain upright is the compressor motor due to oil circulation.

Original outside unit
Outside unit taken apart

One of the reasons I picked this unit was the flexible hose that connects the compressor to the condenser. This would allow me to mount the compressor away from the condenser.

Step 2: Mounting The 24 Volt Air Conditioner

Condenser mounted to box
Compressor mounted to plate on frame rail

With the original box apart it was easy to mount up the compressor and condenser. I used some aluminum angle to space the condenser off the box to allow for air flow.

The compressor I bolted to a 1/4 steel plate which was bolted to the frame rails.

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Step 3: Mounting The Inside Air Conditioner Unit

The inside unit I kept in its original box but will likely build a better looking box for the indoor evaporator and fan unit.

Indoor air conditioner unit
Indoor AC unit with cover off

The connections between the indoor and outdoor air conditioner components are two refrigerant lines and an electrical/communications line. There’s also a condensation drain line that gets routed to the outside.

Once the indoor and outdoor components are mounted it’s just a matter of routing and connecting all the lines.

Check out the video for details on hose lengths and the various electrical connections. The manufacturer also mentioned that they can do custom length hoses if needed.

Step 4: Connecting Air Conditioner to Power

The air conditioner comes complete with wiring and a fuse to connect to your battery bank. It comes with about 8 feet of wire but it could be extended if needed.

For a 12 volt system wire gauge would need to handle 75 amps or 35 amps in a 24 volt system.

Step 5: Checking Air Conditioner Hoses For Leaks

Once all of the refrigerant lines are connected it’s time to test for leaks. This is done using a vacuum pump designed for 134a refrigerant line connections.

All air conditioners have a high pressure side and a low pressure side. The connection fittings are different so you can not connect things incorrectly.

Once everything is connected you simply open all of the valves and turn on the vacuum pump and let it run for 20 minutes or so.

Then make a note of the negative pressure reading, should be around negative 22-28 psi(depends on elevation).

Then wait for several hours and make sure that the pressure did not change. I actually let it sit overnight to be certain there were no leaks.

Step 6: Vacuuming Refrigerant Lines

Now that you’re sure there are no leaks it’s time to vacuum the lines again for a period of at least 30 minutes. This is important as it helps to pull any moisture from the air inside the lines as well as create the vacuum needed for adding refrigerant.

Step 7: Charging With 134a Air Conditioner Refrigerant

This particular air conditioner uses the common 134a refrigerant. It’s also worth noting that oil has already been added to the system so there is no need to add refrigerant oil.

Other air conditioners may not come pre-oiled so it’s important to double check.

In order to charge with refrigerant the air conditioner needs to be running on high with the coldest temperature setting.

With the AC running you can now add the refrigerant. See video for details on how to do that using the vacuum pump assembly that I had.

The refrigerant is added through the low pressure side of the system and this particular air conditioner needs about 660-700 grams of refrigerant. The bottles that I used had 340 grams per bottle so 2 bottles was just right.

As you add the refrigerant you will start to see pressure readings go positive on both the low and high pressure gauges.

Adding the correct amount of 134a refrigerant by weight is the most accurate way to get the correct amount but it’s also important to keep an eye on the gauges to make sure you’re within specs for the AC unit.

134a High and Low Refrigerant Pressure Specs From Manufacturer

  • Air temp. 25-30C – High pressure 130-160 psi
  • Air temp. 30-35C – High pressure 145-175 psi
  • Air temp. 35-40C – High pressure 175-218 psi
  • Low pressure readings across all temps should fall between 29-49

You’ll see some variation in these pressures as the air conditioner compressor cycles on and off so it’s not exact but make sure you’re in the ballpark.

Now that the correct amount of refrigerant is in the system it’s time to hop inside and see if it’s cold. I must say it was a good feeling having that frigid air blow in our faces.

Two happy campers!
best campervan air conditioner

Final Thoughts

So far it’s working really well. We’ve been bouncing around Baja and Mexico with it for the past year with 100’s of hours of use and it just keeps on ticking.

It cools our Total Composite Camper Box easily on the low setting and even with the door wide open the medium setting keeps us nice and chill.

The fan noise on low is plenty quiet and is similar to your roof vent fans. It has an eco mode but not really sure what that setting even does.

The air conditioner only comes in Celsius and can not be changed to Fahrenheit. It has a digital touch pad on the unit itself if you don’t want to use the remote.


If you’re on Facebook join our DIY Overland Truck Build group and post your questions there as we can respond to those quickly. Otherwise drop a comment here and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Air Conditioner Equipment and Tools

Head to our Amazon Store for a complete list of everything needed(Click HERE)

1 thought on “Our DIY Campervan Air Conditioner Install | Stay Cool on Your Van Adventure”

  1. Huge thanks to the authors for sharing their innovative ideas and empowering fellow adventurers to stay cool during their van travels.

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