By Ros Bromwich
Some sort of climate control is a most desirable feature of any caravan or motorhome, as it extends the length and scope of the travelling season so effectively.
The technology of reverse cycle air-conditioning means that chilly autumn evenings and hot summer afternoons become much more comfortable, as it becomes possible to both heat and cool your RV.
As part of the bundle of appliances generously given to CW for our project makeover van, the Dometic Climaster is a reverse cycle, ducted air-conditioner ideal for a small caravan.
Compact in size, it is designed to fit under bunks and is quiet and efficient, providing cooling and heating through flexible hoses ducted under bunks or seats and through cupboards. Air outlets and thermostat control are unobtrusive.
Perfect for aftermarket installation in a caravan renovation or upgrade, the unit is compact and can fit in many locations.
An essential element of the installation is that it must abut an outside wall; it is installed from the outside. Inside the air-conditioner unit is fixed with pull-down straps on mounting brackets provided. The holes are drilled with the aid of a template.
Climaster has a bonded rubber base to prevent noise transmission. The ducting is insulated to maximise optimal cooling and is extremely flexible, so as to enable easy installation in tight locations.
The three directional air outlets are unobtrusive and easily mounted but the number of air outlets is not restricted, as joiners are available. The internal grille is placed in a caravan cupboard/bunk or under a seat to allow for air flow.
The central operating component of a reverse cycle air-conditioner is the reversing valve (throttle) which reverses the flow of gas. When changing from cooling to heating the condenser, which was used to cool the air, now becomes the evaporator and warms the air as a result.
Fitting the unit
The Climaster is installed in such a way that it is easily accessible for service work at all times and can be easily removed and installed. In order to achieve uniform cooling/heating of the vehicle, the air-conditioning unit must be installed centrally in such a way that the air distribution ducts can be laid vertically in covered areas (such as in cupboards).
The air-conditioning unit is mounted on the floor and the indoor air which is to be cooled/heated is drawn in directly by the unit via an additional air grille in the stowage box wall.
The hole in the external caravan wall must be lined with timber to give a firm support for holding the unit in position.
The air-conditioning unit is fitted through the hole in the wall, making sure that the 240V cable is not trapped under the unit. Then the outer grille is placed over and screwed on.
The condensation water drain is located on the side of the vehicle.
In order for the condensation water to drain away freely, after the installation a check should be made to ensure that the drain hose is free of dirt or any other obstruction. If this is not done, there is a risk of condensation water penetrating into the vehicle.
The air-conditioning unit is secured with the supplied tensioning belt.
The simple-to-use control panel for the unit is installed in the vicinity of the unit but, if required, a cable extension of 5m can be supplied.
If a flush installation of the control panels is not possible, surface mounting frames can be used.
The cold air duct must be connected to all three apertures, with at least one outlet. The cold air distribution is designed for each vehicle type individually, on the modular principle and a wide range of accessories is available.
To achieve the best possible performance, Dometic recommends:
1. The air outlets be fitted in the upper part of the vehicle
2. A maximum of 15m cold air ducting to be used.
3. The ducts are as short as possible and in a straight line to the air outlets.
4. To avoid condensation water, the ducts are not laid in the vicinity of sources of heat (eg, behind the fridge).
Note: The electrical connection should only be carried out by a licenced electrician. For maintenance and repair work a disconnecting device must be provided on the vehicle for all-pole disconnection from the power supply, with at least 3mm contact clearance.
After installation, check all functions of the unit as specified in the operating instructions. These, as well as the completed warranty card are to be handed over to the vehicle owner.
The Climaster reverse cycle air-conditioner retails for around $1849, plus ducting plus installation costs.
For more details on the Climaster or any Dometic product and your nearest stockist call (03) 9545 5655, fax (03) 9545 5966. The Climaster air-conditioner was installed by RetroVan Caravan Accessories Australia: Factory 1, 16-18 Fleet St, Somerton, Vic; (03) 9303 7388.