Can A PTAC AC Unit Work In Your Skoolie?

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Bus Life Beginner Tips: Which Cooling And Heat Source Is Best For A School Bus Interior?

When you’re just starting off with bus life, figuring out which system to use for cooling and heating can seem daunting. Depending on your available power source and preferred place to park each night, you may be far better off with some options than others. For example, if you’re only using solar panels, your flexibility in choosing an air conditioning system for your school bus will be limited unless you make a significant investment in a large battery bank. To help you determine which air conditioner and heating setup make the most sense for your skoolie goals, we’ve assembled this article to cover the various options available to you.

Different Heating Systems Can Make A Huge Difference In Power Consumption

If you’re using a propane heater or tiny wood stove as your primary heat source, keeping enough fuel on hand can become a major issue in winter months with snow-covered roads and potential stock issues at nearby stores. Depending on where you’ll be spending time in the winter, you may want to choose an electric heating source instead.

Keep in mind that many air conditioning units provide heat as well, so finding a setup that delivers all of your heating and cooling needs in one tidy system can make a huge difference when it comes to maintenance and system reliability. 

A wall ac unit such as a PTAC unit with a heat pump will reduce your reliance on wood or propane, requiring instead a system of batteries and inverter to produce warm or cold air whenever you need it. Similar systems like a mini-split or roof heater and air conditioner can also provide comfort using electric or battery power alone.

Do You Need AC In A Skoolie?

If you never plan on traveling to places with intensely hot temperatures like the southwest, you may be able to get away with open windows and small fans for ventilation. This certainly cuts down on how complicated your school bus conversion will be, but also reduces your travel flexibility, so think hard about potential plans down the road.

Will A Super Cold Air Conditioner Use Too Much Power?

If you haven’t fully insulated the living space on your bus by using high-efficiency materials like spray foam, you might find some ac units use too much power for a battery bank charged by solar panels alone. Your best bet is having a hybrid system that allows you to plug into a power source for consistent comfort without running your batteries dead when you need super cold air.

What Types Of Heating And Air Conditioning Do People Use In A School Bus Conversion?

Full Size Skoolie AC

Skoolies don’t have much square footage, so open windows can often provide enough air flow in a school bus conversion when you’re in milder climates. But when you’re traveling out west or down south, you’ll want something to cope with the heat when there’s zero breeze. Some people opt for mounting a window ac unit in a window frame, which is about the easiest installation process possible. That said, these units can struggle to cool a full size skoolie in the summer in hotter climates. There’s also significant equipment protrusion from the window.

Heat Options For Your Bus Space

When it comes to heating options, there are numerous possibilities as well. Depending on what type of environment you’ll be traveling to most, you may want to steer clear of some methods for keeping your bus interior warm. Let’s run down the list of options for heating and cooling your skoolie so you’ll be comfortable year-round wherever you roam.

Window Unit And Tiny Wood Stove Combo

Installing a window unit for AC is a simple as sliding it into the window frame and plugging in. And tiny wood stoves just need a chimney to vent the smoke. Keep in mind, each of these require some sealing work to keep your heat or cool air from escaping and blocking rain from intruding. The biggest downside to a tiny wood stove is dealing with wood, which can prove cumbersome in the middle of the night.

PTAC AC Units With A Heat Pump

PTAC ac units come in a couple of heating configurations, with some using heat pumps and others using resistive electric heat. Be sure to choose one that can keep up with the degree of cold you’ll experience most often. The primary challenge is wiring everything up for the required 208-volt power connection. Aside from that, it’s as simple as cutting a standard 42″x16″ hole for the sleeve that holds the unit in place. This  installation configuration makes changing out the unit fast and simple.

Propane Heater And Window AC

Anytime you’re introducing a combustible fuel into a living space, you’re inherently increasing risks. There’s also the necessity for constantly keeping fuel levels stocked up with some extra in reserve.

Mini Split AC Unit 

When you don’t mind a more complicated install, a mini split ac system might be worth the cost if you plan on traveling to areas that get very hot or cold. Mini splits are relatively efficient, but there are more components involved than more simple setups like a PTAC unit. There is the fan unit itself, but a condenser unit as well that must be mounted outside the vehicle somewhere. You’ll also need to run refrigerant lines, which could require the help of a certified HVAC technician, adding significant cost.

Are Roof Heater Units Enough For A Full-Size Skoolie?

Roof heaters for RVs are another option for full-size skoolie conversions. Just know you’ll probably need more than one if you’re planning on traveling through colder months up north.

What About Using A Diesel Heater?

You may have noticed trucks idling for hours at truck stops to keep drivers warm while they sleep. Although this method can work for the smaller interior of a truck cab, it’s not very efficient for heating the full space of a school bus conversion. And who wants to smell all those fumes or hear the engine running all night? Much mindful heating methods are available.

Consistent Temperature Control In Different Climates

One significant benefit of installing a PTAC ac unit in your bus is the consistent control you’ll have over the temperature. Air conditioning a school bus conversion requires an ac unit that is powerful enough to overcome less efficient insulation of the space. When your skoolie is sitting in the full sun, it can get super warm in a matter of minutes.

PTAC units deliver more power for cooling and heating, easily maintaining comfortable temperatures in the warmer months as well as the colder ones. PTAC units are highly effective for heating your bus without burning wood or propane. Just flip the switch and enjoy the warm air!

Looking For A Deal On A Refurbished PTAC Unit?

PTAC4Less has a wide selection of refurbished PTAC units that are perfect for keeping a full size skoolie comfortable year-round, wherever you roam.