This is the sequel to the A/C Removal post I put up earlier. It turns out that installing a new A/C is more difficult than removing the old one. Unless you get a direct fit replacement A/C unit you'll need to get imaginative and have some metalwork skills.
The replacement A/C I got was a Frigidaire FFRA0611U1. It was very similar in size to the standard Fedders unit, the biggest difference was the depth of the new A/C - about 4" shorter than the old one.
I chose a Frigidaire A/C as they have good reviews on the consumer websites and claim to have a low-power start feature (so should work with my generator). The one I bought was 6000 BTU which is smaller than the standard unit but should be adequate, and has manual rotary controls which should be more reliable than the WiFi-connected electronic units out there.
Anyway, here's my experience of installing this A/C unit in my 1991 Roadtrek
YOU WILL NEED:
1. Selection of square (Robertsons) screwdrivers or bits – smaller sizes
2. Medium sized Philips screwdriver
3. Medium sized flat bladed screwdriver
4. Low profile ratcheting screwdriver
5. Power drill
6. Good quality hacksaw or other means of cutting metal (eg. Power grinder)
7. Some basic metalworking skills!
1. Fit the old drain hose into the base of the new A/C. Before drilling through the A/C case check that there are no cooling pipes behind the place where you are going to drill! If you are reluctant to do this to your new A/C you could always drill a small (1/8”) hole near the base of the case, or remove one of the screws near the bottom of the unit. The drain hose doesn’t seem to be essential as it just directs the condensate further down the cavity to ensure it drains outside the van.
2. Your new A/C will likely be a different size to the old one. Mine was 4” shorter than the OEM one. This means the two baffles in the cavity need to be extended to reach the rear of the new unit. These baffles channel the warm exhaust air out of the van and keep it away from the cooling air coming in to the A/C. You could use ¼” plywood or some sheet metal, cut to size. I used some steel sheet I had in my shed, drilled some small pilot holes in the existing baffles and fastened the extensions to them with self-tappers.
3. Cut a piece of wood to the exact width of the rear of the new A/C. I bent the existing baffles (easily) to angle the extensions so they just rested on the piece of wood. The A/C should just slide between the new extensions.
4. Cut a piece of ¼” plywood to the width of the front of the new A/C, about 1” deep, and fasten it to the ½” plywood base that the bottom of the A/C rests on. This angles the A/C slightly backwards to improve drainage.
5. Put some silicone caulking along the bottom of the two baffle extensions. While this is still soft, slide the new A/C into the cavity ensuring the rear slides between the extensions. You may have to slide it at an angle and wiggle it a little to make sure it fits inside the extensions snuggly. Position the front of the A/C where you want it to be, resting it on the raised plywood constructed at step 4.
6. This step is the most tricky. You will need to secure the new A/C to the structure of the van somehow to prevent it moving around. The old A/C used two large screws anchoring the sides of the A/C to the wooden sides of the cavity opening. If you do this, drill small pilot holes where you want the screws to go into the A/C case, before installing it at step 5, Check there is nothing (wires, pipes, etc) behind the case where you are drilling the pilot holes!
I used some aluminum strip to make two brackets (one each side) which I screwed to the plywood base, and into the A/C casing by using existing screws from the A/C unit itself. This avoided the need to drill new screw holes in the A/C unit. Usually there will be lots of screws holding the two casing halves together – just pick a suitable one and remove it. Make the brackets and screw them to the A/C using these existing holes and screws.
Securing the new A/C will require some imagination and metalworking skills as each A/C will be different and there is no standard approach here.
8. The old A/C had the vanes on the side vents cut away. I soon realized why – the top vent will be blocked by the vinyl ceiling resting on it. I didn’t want to destroy the side vents on my new A/C so I wedged two pieces of plastic (or wood) to the top of the unit and securied them with a dab of silicone caulk. This held the vinyl ceiling fabric off the top of the A/C by about 3/8” so air can flow into the top as well as the sides.
9. Most likely there will be a gap around the new A/C as it will not be the same size as the old one. To finish the job you will need to make a trim to fill this gap. My new A/C came with a plastic expanding window frame kit which I adapted to fit around the new A/C. Another alternative would be to use some ¼” plywood, varnished for appearance.
10. The rest of the job is straightforward. Align the overhead cupboard frames (after routing the power cord properly) and reinstall the two screws holding each in place. The inner wood panels inside the overhead cupboards (if removed) can now be refitted. Finally the cupboard doors can be remounted.
11. Here’s a photo of the finished unit