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How To Add an Air Conditioner to Your Boat

Photos by Capt. Vincent Daniello

How to install an air conditioner on your boat - photo 1

Cool Addition

Turn an open-air helm into an air-conditioned saloon.

Boatbuilders want simpler installations, so today many air-conditioning systems now contain all electronics within a single remote-mounted electrical box. This allows flexible placement of air-conditioner units and simpler electrical connections—both are huge benefits for do-it-yourself installations. We added a MarineAir Vector Turbo rated at 16,000 Btu ( to my brother’s 35-foot Contender to cool the area inside the isinglass enclosure. Given the tight mounting location belowdecks, the remote-mounted electrical box helped considerably. The only connections made at the unit itself were the air duct, two seawater hoses, and a condensate drain hose.

“I can diagnose 70 percent of all problems from the circuit board in that box,” says Rich Meister, Vice President of Gulfstream Marine Air in West Palm Beach. “Make sure it’s mounted for easy access.” If the air conditioner itself needs service, Meister can quickly remove the entire unit and carry it to his shop, where workbench tools and test equipment as well as his inventory of spares save labor and travel time in the long run.

Multiple factory-installed wires between the remote-mounted electrical box and air conditioner run through a three-foot-long black umbilical (A). All of our electrical connections were made within that box—just 120-volt power in (B) and seawater pump power out (C). Flat cables were snapped into “phone jacks” for the cabin display unit (D), and an optional remote air sensor (E) shown here in my hand.

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.