Air-conditioning in Caribbean Yachting
Some people scoff at air conditioning on the yachts, but to a charter company the breakdown of the on-board A/C system can be the difference between getting a charter for a vessel or sitting alongside during the height of the season. When this runs into thousands of dollars in lost revenue, trust me, everyone feels it.
So I wanted to just touch on this topic for a bit. There are many brands on the market so you should make sure that you are familiar with what is fitted to your vessel. Keep any paperwork you have on the units as the identification plate does not always make it through the life of the unit.
When you have multiple units, try to ensure that as you replace them that you are putting in the same brand throughout your vessel. This feeds into redundancy very well. It’s nice in a panic to be able to take the controller from the crews quarters and put it onto a malfunctioning guest cabin to finish a charter. Not great for the crew but very good customer service. You can only do this if the logic used in the systems you have is consistent throughout the vessel. Logic: that is the language that the control board uses to talk to the controller. This can get confusing, even to those of us that work in the industry.
SMX is the logic used by Cruisair, Passport I/O and Passport II are used by Marine Air. (Both of these brands now fall under the Dometic Group umbrella.) The two kinds are not compatible and even more confusing is the fact that Passport I/O and Passport II are not compatible. The thermostat is located in the controller on one and the thermostat is located on the control board on the other… yet at a glance they look the same.
If you change to a digital control you will have to make-good the area used to install the big analogue controller. There are adapters available so you can still use the old controllers, but they are expensive and if the controller breaks down you will likely have to wait while a new one is ordered.
So what should a person do? Well in my opinion you should:
1) Ensure that you have the same brand and logic used throughout the vessel.
2) Redundancy is always good at sea, so make sure that you can swap out to keep important cabins cool.
3) Don’t use just one pump to run everything, if you lose that then everything is down.
4) Keep spares onboard, controllers, pump,control boards and filters should get you through.
5) Have the paperwork on all systems so that you can identify what parts you will need.
6) Ensure that the same gas is used in all units.
7) Is there a dealer close by and what is their stock? (Parts & Power retain a large stock and they have a dealer network throughout the Caribbean)
8) Do they have trained technicians for the gear you have?
Service the units regularly, make sure that the filters for discharge and return air are not fouled. Check the hoses and the clamps, if salt water is leaking onto the unit then you will definitely have a problem. Have a look at the pan and check that the drain for condensate is running to the bilge and is clear. Check the filter on the raw water intake to ensure correct flow is getting to the unit.
With good maintenance you should be cool and comfortable all the time, even on the warmest Caribbean day!