Summer Comfort System

A recent exchange about air conditioners on the Lagoon Owners forum prompted me to post some photos of our Summer Comfort System (SCS). 

Our boat does not have either built in air conditioning nor a generator. And we lived a dock in Florida for a full year (something everyone told us could not/should not be done!). When we bought the boat we intended to go cruising right away, so no AC was not a deal breaker. Once we had the boat we decided to continue working another year, which meant living at a dock. How did we do it?

After looking at the options, we purchased a stand up 8000 BTU air conditioner from Lowe’s for $275. These are the type of AC’s that have a vent hose to duct the hot hair out of a window vent (I call them R2-D2 units because they look a little like my favorite Star Wars character!). In the Lagoon 380, we are able to sit the AC in the galley sink. The vent hose sits vertically in the sliding saloon pass-through window, next to the door. It plugs into the galley outlet. 
Salon SCS in action!
These AC units are designed to catch the condensation water in a small reservoir and beep when they need to be emptied. Ours even uses evaporation into the air that is being vented outside to extend the time between emptying the tank. Living on the boat though, this didn’t work out. Sitting the unit on the sink enables us to just leave the drain plug out and let it drip down the sink. 

While it works reasonably well upstairs, it was no match for some Florida summer afternoons. If doing it all again, I would go up to a 10,000 or 12,000 BTU model (as long as the amps work for our little genny). 

For the owner's stateroom we move the same unit downstairs for sleeping. We sit the AC unit on top of a plastic container to catch the condensation and sit that on the stool at the desk. The unit is pretty stable (for dock life and quiet anchorages only!) but I use a webbing tie-down strap to hold the unit up right. I have to use a bubble level to make sure it’s all sitting vertically and can adjust the strap as necessary. The vent air tube goes up and out the 10” overhead hatch at the desk. We’ve engineered  a simple rain cover to keep this tidy. The power cord gets plugged in at the desk. The tupperware has to be emptied every night (Yep, it makes about 2 gallons every 12 hours on the really humid nights! Who needs a watermaker?)
Cabin SCS in action!
Outside hatch cover. 
These portable AC units are not very efficient (that's why they aren't that popular). They use a large plastic duct to vent the hot air out, which makes the air around the duct hot. They pull air in from the outside, so they can never really recycle the inside air and get it very cold.

Another disadvantages of our system is that it only cools one room at a time. I don’t really have a good way to cool the two staterooms on the port side. We’ve had guests over and just left the AC in the saloon running on full blast and it does work but only marginally. Again, a slightly higher capacity unit might accomplish this better. Another disadvantage is the labor involved in moving the unit around from upstairs to downstairs, and setting it up just right. It’s quite a system that took me about 3 months to perfect. It is also loud, but in the way that a window AC unit is loud. If you think about it and listen to it, it’s loud. If you are doing something else, it’s just background noise. Lastly, you have to store the thing someplace. When out and about I leave ours tucked under the owner’s side desk. The stool keeps it upright and secure there. 
Tucked out of the way. I never sit at that desk anyway.
The advantage of the system is simplicity and cost. A full blown marine AC system for the 380 would’ve easily passed $5000. For us this would’ve also included adding another 120 VAC circuit to the electrical system, plus through hulls for the cooling water intake and outlets. Most folks put three AC units in the Lagoons, one for the saloon, one for the owner’s side and one for the port side. Once you’ve spent the money and installed it, you now have another boat system to maintain. Our portable unit is basically maintenance free.

Away from the dock we have been lucky enough to not need the A/C often. If we do, we have a small Honda gas generator (and lots of carbon monoxide detectors!) onboard to run it. I plug the unit directly into the genny (which sits outside on the decks) with a hefty extension cord and it works great.

Another major part of our SCS is Lucy's custom windscoop, which keeps us from using the A/C very much at anchor. We shopped around for wind scoops that might work over our cabin hatch, but didn't find any that would work. Most are designed for the forepeak hatch on a monohull, hung by a halyard in the fore-triangle directly above. Freestanding units would work but generally aren't very tall. Plus they require a frame inside the hatch which would've prevented us from using our lovely Oceanair roller bug screen. In the end, we built one out of Sunbrella scraps and other found items. The windscoop hangs from our bimini frame and the shroud. It's made a huge difference in improving airflow in our cabin. As Lagoon owners probably already know, the hatch is located behind the coach roof, so it doesn't get much air on it's own.
Lucy's custom windscoop.
Da scoop!
All of these efforts have made summer more bearable, especially when temps are in the 80s and 90s. When feels like temps get to the 120s, all we can do is read brochures on Novia Scotia. We're hauling out tomorrow and looking forward to using the portable A/C "on the hard". Actually, it's just our dog Hastings that will be enjoying the A/C. We'll be outside, painting! What larks!

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  1. You guys are very inventive! I love the storage area for your AC as well! For a few years (starting with summer in the Annapolis area and ending at a yard in Panama in the summer), we had a window unit AC on Irie. We only used it in boat yards and it was such a welcome reprieve to sit inside a cool cabin in a hot, steamy and bug rich yard after the workday! We had to balance it in the door well, slide the door against it and block the big gap above it with a stretched out reclining cockpit seat! It was a hassle, but worth every effort and penny. We sold it when entering the Pacific.

  2. We love the AC! Isn't everything on a boat so much more complicated than you imagine?


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