It’s Gettin’ Hot In Here

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Pop quiz… what’s the last thing you want to hear when you walk into a camper on a 93 degree afternoon?

Answer: “Uh Oh”.

Especially when it’s exclaimed by the person walking into the camper first.

It helps to have a little back story to give the expletives that followed some context.

We have one rooftop air conditioner in the Turtle, and normally it’s enough to keep the main part of the abode cool. We run a fan in the bedroom at night and it keeps it pretty cool. We knew we were going to need the second air conditioner in the bedroom eventually but were getting by without it for now.

Until about a week ago when our one and only unit starting having some problems.

The compressor wouldn’t cut off, or would only cut off for a few minutes before coming right back on. Obviously if anything runs constantly it has a risk of burning up, but the fan was still working and blowing cold air, so we tried to limp along for a little while until we could figure out the problem.

After a little Googling I decided it was either the thermostat or the control board on the unit. Since the thermostat was a cheaper and easier fix we picked one up and I installed it… no dice. So now we had to figure out whether to get the board fixed or replace the whole unit, and if we could do it ourselves or would have to take it in somewhere.

A few phone calls and a trip to Camping World later we realized mid June is not the time to go in for repairs, because apparently everybody else got there in early June. Or maybe it is the time and we’re just a bit slow… either way it wasn’t happening.

By now we are turning it off and on at the breaker. Since we don’t want to let it run all the time we play a fun game of turn-the-camper-into-a-meat-locker shortly before bedtime and then cut the unit off so hopefully it stays cool overnight. It’s worked so far, but I think I’ve come close to hypothermia once or twice… Marty disagrees. We’ve been running it quite a bit during the day too, because the June weather is really uncooperative when it comes to air conditioning problems. Needless to say I’m expecting an overly exciting electric bill this month.

We had decided to order a new unit online instead of paying the extra money at a dealership, and had been told the install was a piece of cake so we weren’t going to spend that money either. I just needed to do some more research and decide which type of unit we wanted… there are way too many options out there. Ducted, non-ducted, 13.5k, 15k, Dometic, Coleman, Low Profile, Heat Strip or not. There should just be something called “The RV Air Conditioner”, you could throw it in your cart at Wal-Mart before the canned cheese and fuzzy dice. Because that’s what people buy at Wal-Mart ya know. That and spandex. Lots of spandex.

Anyway, back to the story. On Sunday we headed south to set up at a flea market for a balmy seven hours. We had a tent and there was a breeze so it really wasn’t that bad, but I was definitely looking forward to a good shower and watching the next episode of Breaking Bad on DVD in the cool. Until I heard the “Uh Oh” and I instantly knew what had happened.

We had left the unit on that morning, so the dogs didn’t suffocate, and although it wasn’t the first time it must have been just hot enough to freeze it up completely. We didn’t get home until around 3 o’clock, so I don’t know when it quit cooling but it was much hotter inside than out by then. Luckily it hadn’t gotten hot enough to do any damage to the dogs, but were still really happy to come outside and hang out in their tiny fence.

We spent another three hours sitting outside while we waited on the great thaw to happen. Now don’t get me wrong, we love to sit outside. But when you’ve been sitting outside all day, and are noticeably sticky with a slight dusty aura, nothing sounds better than a recliner and cold air. But it was the approximate temperature of the fourth layer of hell inside, so we settled for shade and a little breeze instead.

At this point it became pretty clear we didn’t need to waste any more time researching and otherwise procrastinating. It was also at this point I remembered we had bought an extended warranty when we bought the Turtle. That’s very unusual, because I’ve been known to get pretty irritated when the guy at Best Buy pushes the extended warranty for my laptop, hard drive, or DVD box set. I don’t like salesmen or extended warranties, so that’s dangerous ground right there. But it seemed like a decent idea at the time, since we know right next to nothing when it comes to the components of this rolling apartment.

So I dug around in my files and found the cards for the Xtra Ride policy we obtained a mere 4 months ago, and was able to figure out that the air conditioner was indeed covered. I tried calling the claims department that day, but it informed me if I was making a vehicle service claim I needed to call the 24 hour automated claims line. Great! I hang up and try that number, where I find out the company has a great sense of humor, because I got the exact same message I had just gotten, telling me to hang up and call the phone number I was already calling. Fun stuff.

The unit finally thawed, and we were able to put the dogs back in and go out to eat dinner, because at this point nobody was willing to turn on anything hot just to make food. I kept all my paperwork out and started my phone marathon Monday morning.

In good news, the warranty adjustor that I spoke to was really helpful and friendly. He basically said if the board was bad in the unit, which we think it is, they would pay parts and labor to replace it. He also said if we wanted to have a new unit installed instead, which we do, they would apply the money towards that and we could pay the difference. I was afraid we would have to pack everything up and go camp in the parking lot of a service department for two or three days, but he said they would pay for someone to come out and do the work, so long as they were certified.

Thus ensued a second phone marathon, where it became painfully obvious that we need to learn more about these things and start a mobile RV repair service around here. I managed to find a grand total of one. One repair shop that will do on location repairs and is certified to do so. And they are over an hour away. And even better than that, they were closed on Mondays.

Luckily they picked right up this morning when I called, and are coming tomorrow to give us and the warranty company an estimate on the repairs. We have a couple of other small electrical problems that we’re hoping might be able to slide in under the $100 deductible, but if not we’re still going to get them fixed while we have someone here… because that’s evidently a bigger feat than you would think.

My question today is this, if you live in or just have an RV, what type of air conditioner do you have? Do you love it or hate it? We had heard that the Coleman’s were very quiet, so we were leaning that way, but the repairman has thrown a wrench in by saying that is the last unit he would ever pick. What do you think?

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