How I Cool My Camper with a Portable Air Conditioner- Installation Walk Through

Cool my vintage camperI cool my camper with a portable air conditioner.  If you are installing a portable air conditioner in your vintage trailer, this walk-through of our system might be beneficial to you.  We installed our EdgeStar Portable Ultra Compact Air Conditioner in our Shasta Compact and it has been a great unit.  You can read our review here.  Six years have passed since I completed this project, so I’m unable to give you the exact measurements of each piece I used.  This is more of a general guideline for portable air conditioners instead of a specific guide on how to install the EdgeStar Portable Ultra Compact Air Conditioner.

This portable air conditioner has two lines that you will need to run to the outside of your trailer.  I will cover each one separately.

Where Did you put the air conditioner in our shasta camper?

DIY Tea Towel Curtains

Our air conditioner stays hidden behind the curtains pictured above.  Originally, this was the cabinet that housed the plumbing for the sink.  As we already mentioned here, we didn’t need a sink.

When I’m ready to cool my camper, I slide the curtain to the side and turn on the air conditioner.  I took the curtain down so you could get a better view of the unit.

Cool my camper
This unit is all I need to cool my camper during hot summer months.

We chose this space because we didn’t want the air conditioner to be an eye sore.  Sure, with the curtain removed it looks like a big, bulky, ugly box.  Most of the time, you don’t know it is there.  We have seen other vintage camper owners place their portable unit in the closet.  That storage space was much more valuable to us than the cabinets below the kitchen counter.

This also felt like a smart option because the air conditioner weights 56 pounds.  We wanted to add that weight as close to the tongue of the trailer as possible so it would not effect towing capabilities.  We also wanted the weight to be centered, instead of distributed to one side in the closet.

Drain line

Vintage Camper Portable Air ConditionerThis drain line is at the bottom of the unit.  While the unit is running, condensation drips from this area.  To accommodate this, I drilled a hole through the floor of the camper and connected a hose to the unit with a 90 degree barbed hose elbow.  This fitting keeps the hose from getting pinched.  One end of the barbed hose elbow has a small section of tubing connecting it to the drain outlet on the air conditioner.  The other end of the fitting has a longer piece of hose that runs through the floor of the trailer to the outside.

I bought clear hose that was the same diameter as the drain outlet on the back of the air conditioner and attached the hose.  In the beginning, I tried PVC pipe.  The lack of flexibility caused the PVC pipe to pop loose from the camper when it was being transported to the campground.  The clear, flexible hose has worked much better.

The other end of the hose runs outside the camper through the hole I drilled in the floor.  I used silicone caulking to seal the space between the hole and the tube, to ensure insects couldn’t use it as an entry point.

Installing Camper AC

 

I created a two part fitting for the end of the hose that sticks out of the camper.  The cap stays on until we are ready to use the air conditioner.  Leaving the cap off is an open invitation to insects to build a nest in your unit.   The photo below is the drain sticking out of the bottom of the camper.  It has the cap on it in the photo.

Camper AC Drain

Exhaust vent

The exhaust vent is the larger black circle at the top of our portable air conditioner.  This blows warm air so you will also need to devise a system to send this warm air outside.  Otherwise, you will be heating the space you are attempting to cool.

The unit comes with a connector piece that is meant to run out of a window.  We were unable to utilize this due to how close our unit sits to the camper wall.  I devised my own system using:

Louvered Dryer Vent Cap

Foil Duct Tape

Plywood

Aluminum Rigid Pipe

Vintage camper trailer air conditioner

The photo above shows how the exhaust vent connects inside the trailer.  I cut a circle in the plywood the same diameter as the aluminum rigid pipe that is connected to it.  The plywood attaches to the camper so the louvered dryer vent had something to connect to other than the trailer’s thin skin and the birch paneling.

Below, you can see the vent I used (Cecilia needs a bath).  I applied butyl tape to the vent and screwed it to the plywood on the inside of the wall.

Portable Air Conditioner Camper Install

This system has held up and the air conditioner runs flawlessly.  I’m able to cool my camper during the hot summer months here in Missouri and it hasn’t required any maintenance.

You can read more about our vintage camper remodel and repairs here.

If you have questions about installing a portable air conditioner in your vintage camper, leave a comment below.  I will help in any way I can.  If you have installed an air conditioner in your vintage camper, leave a link.  I would love to see how you did it.
-Chris