Summary: This post shares why we decided to replace our original Dometic Penguin II Low Profile air conditioner on our 2015 Roadtrek Adventurous CSXL, why we selected the Quiet Air Conditioner from Advanced RV, the installation, and very preliminary comparison testing. I plan to update the blog post after we have a few months of day-to-day experience with the new air conditioner.
The Dometic Penguin II Low Profile air conditioner on our 2015 Roadtrek Adventurous CSXL never seemed to work as well as Roadtrek and Dometic probably intended. We are the second owner having purchased it from the original owners when it was one year old. Our first opportunity to use the air conditioner extensively was at the FMCA Rally at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis, IN, in July 2017. We found it could only cool the inside of the Roadtrek to about 80 degrees (sunny, outside temperature was 85-88 degrees), despite running on high. And after a couple of days, it quit cooling at all. We found the coils had iced up, which can be caused by a low Freon condition. This required several hours of running on high fan only while the ice on the coils melted.
Later that summer, we ran some tests of the temperature difference on intake and exhaust, and found we could only get 10 to 12 degrees. Research found that properly operating units like this should get 18 to 20 degrees difference.
We consulted with a Dometic authorized service provider about getting the Freon recharged, and learned the air conditioner is a sealed unit. Some other research indicated that other owners had experienced low Freon situation with their Dometic Penguin II units as well.
The air conditioner was very loud as well, making it unpleasant to be around. As a result, we rarely used the air conditioner. The marginal cooling effectiveness was not worth the noise we had to endure.
In the Fall of 2018, while attending a Roadtrek Rally in St Augustine, FL, we ran the air conditioner as it was warm and muggy. On the low fan setting, the coils froze up in about 20 minutes. This required running on fan only mode to melt the ice on the coils. With the air conditioner on high fan cooling, the coils froze up in less than 3 hours. Typical of a low Freon situation. Regardless of the cause, the air conditioner clearly was not working correctly.
And it was very loud on the outside as well – loud enough to hear it a block away. So we decided something had to be done. After all, sometimes we will need to deal with warm and muggy weather as you can’t always travel your way out of it.
As we were spending the winter traveling in the desert Southwest, getting the air conditioner replaced over the winter just was not going to work as we were only staying at a location for a few days – not enough time to go through the diagnosis, warranty approval, parts procurement and actual air conditioner replacement.
In the meantime, we learned that Advanced RV had done a lot of testing to find the best rooftop air conditioner available for RVs – and they did not limit their search to North America. They found the Houghton air conditioner, designed in Australia, that was was quieter and more efficient than all the rest. Search “Quiet Air Conditioner Advanced RV” on YouTube for related videos:
- RV Air Conditioner testing for Quiet and Efficient Comfort: https://youtu.be/_9aMANXybD0
- The Nuts and Bolts of the Quiet Air Conditioner: https://youtu.be/2zQkBDPOLW4
- Tech Talk: New Air Conditioner Noise Testing with Todd: https://youtu.be/Qk7Ol80x2K0
The reduced noise and increased efficiency were appealing, and just replacing the poorly functioning Dometic with a like unit (just as noisy) did not seem to be an ideal solution. We contacted Advanced RV and learned the new unit was rated at 13,500 BTU/hr (the original Dometic was rated at 11,000 BTU/hr) and they had done replacements on Roadtrek Adventurous models before.
After initially trying to get it replaced by a Roadtrek service provider in Florida, we decided to take our Roadtrek to Advanced RV to do the replacement, in part because the Roadtrek company went into receivership in January 2019 making any warranty claim unlikely.
Advanced RV (www.advanced-RV.com) is the the sole source in North America for the Quiet Air Conditioner unit, and they have experience doing replacements on Class B and Class C RVs, including Roadtreks. Ordering the units was pretty straightforward via their web site.
Note: Advanced RV required a 30% non-refundable deposit at the time of scheduling the service.
Advanced RV Replacement
We arrived at Advanced RV in Willoughby, OH, late in the afternoon on the day before our service appointment. After letting the staff know we had arrived, we set up in their parking area behind their building where they have 30 amp hookups. A minor challenge was the frequent trains going by, sometimes less than 10 minutes apart. All evening and throughout the night. No worries about oversleeping in the morning.
Just before 8am, we checked in with Frank, head of service. He said that Ron would be the primary technician who was going to be doing the air conditioner replacement and that others would likely be assisting at various times. We had been told when we made the service appointment (which Frank reminded us when we checked in) that the replacement was almost an all-day process.
Our Roadtrek was pulled into the shop area. Advanced RV has a nice customer lounge with a large picture window overlooking the shop, guest WiFi, coffee, and water.
The work started with removing the inside panel and disconnecting the wires above the interior panel. On the 2015 Roadtrek Adventurous CSXL, the cables to the SoleTV OTA TV antenna and the power awning are run through the air conditioner opening. Roadtrek ran the TV cable through the seal under the Dometic air conditioner, while the power cable for the awning was run through the housing of the air conditioner. This resulted in some recabling for the awning and TV antenna – which Ron was able to do without having to add any new holes in the roof of the Roadtrek by running it through the air conditioner as Roadtrek originally did.
Next, Ron removed the Dometic air conditioner.
Then the dirty work of removing the old sealant began. It was obvious Roadtrek had applied the sealant to prevent any leaks, and took quite awhile to remove. Ron initially carefully cut away the bulk of the sealant using a utility knife. Then Patrick provided assistance in getting the old sealant removed using some sort of power tool.
Next came fitting the hard seal ring. The seal ring was applied just before lunch and the sealant allowed to set up during lunch. The interior ceiling panels also required some minor trimming to accommodate the new air conditioner.
After lunch, the new air conditioner was installed on the seal ring and wired up.
Once the new air conditioner was checked out on shore power, our Roadtrek was moved to the wash area for a leak test.
After the leak test, Frank went over the operation of the new air conditioner and provided us with the Owners Manual. He also advised the air conditioner warranty is for 2 years and to call Advanced RV first should we encounter an issue. He also said that the air conditioner does not work well while driving – the air flow over the unit causes the outside fan to stop rotating which will then cause an error code in the controller.
And about 4pm, we were headed out.
One minor consideration for others contemplating this change is that a minor misunderstanding regarding the existing Dometic thermostat control for the original Dometic Penguin II Low Profile air conditioner led to a little more work than necessary. The tech at Advanced RV was not aware that the thermostat on the 2015 Roadtrek Adventurous CSXL only controlled the air conditioner – that the heat function of the thermostat did not do anything. This led them to spend more time configuring the old freeze sensor to the new air conditioner, something that served no purpose. One the positive side, we will probably repurpose the power and hole for the original thermostat to be an additional 12v outlet on the passenger side.
The following day I did comparison testing. The test conditions were similar – parked at same parking lot at 2,500 feet elevation in Western Maryland, mostly cloudy day, with a temperature inside the RV about 76 degrees. The testing was done on battery power using the 3,000 watt invertor to be able to measure the input current to the invertor and get relative load off the invertor display. The current measurements were done with the same inexpensive clamp-on amp meter. The noise measurement were done same iPhone from the same locations using the NIOSHSLM app.
The measurements below were not done with calibrated, professional instruments. However, as the same process and same devices were used to do both tests under similar conditions less than a week apart, the measurements are adequate for comparison of the Dometic and Houghton units.
Dometic Penguin II Low Profile air conditioner (original)
- Rated at 11,000 BTH/hr
- 12v Current draw at the invertor on high cooling: 107 amps
- Invertor display indicated the invertor was at 37% load
- Noise on high cooling at bed level: 70dB
Houghton Quiet Air Conditioner (replacement)
- Rated at 13,500 BTU
- 12v Current draw to the invertor on high cooling: 98 amps
- Invertor display indicated the invertor was at 35% load
- Noise on high cooling at bed level: 52dB
The air coming from the air conditioner was noticeably colder, and the air outlet did a much better job sending cold air towards the front of the RV, something the Dometic was not able to do very well.
In addition to more cooling at less power consumption, with significantly less noise, other benefits include:
- Built-in soft start
- Three fan speed settings (compared to only two on the Dometic)
- Dehumidifier mode
- Outside noise is also significantly reduced, from being able to hear the unit 200+ feet away (Dometic) to not being able to hear it 25 feet away (Houghton)
Advanced RV sells the Quiet Air Conditioner (Houghton) outright (for someone else to install) for $2,137.00 plus shipping, or they will install it for $2,749.00.