Following the story here about owner-operator Doug Hasner’s A/C alternative (paired with a fuel-fired heater), UPS-contracted owner-op Mike Greenberg shared his own solution, which involves a gasoline-powered Champion generator and a Pioneer split mobile HVAC unit (yes, it heats, too).
“It took me two years to figure this out,” Greenberg says. “I checked out all the different aftermarket no-idle A/C units. I checked out every Mickey Mouse set-up I saw at the truck stops.”
He was looking for, ultimately, simple and solid mounting, easy service and low noise, with no modifications to the truck’s bedrock systems required.
The interior portion of the 12K-btu Pioneer Mini Split unit system. Greenberg’s “tested it to 104 degrees in Vegas,” he says, 38 degrees for a low as of this week in St. Louis. “Since the interior unit is above the bunk, I use a floor fan for circulation. Uses less gas that way, and I like the breeze.”
The exterior portion of the unit on the back of Greenberg’s 2013 KW T660. Clean, professional installation of the unit proved the most difficult part of it all, Greenberg says. “After all I may want to sell the truck and retire some day.” For that, he went to the Custom Colors RV specialist in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “The workmanship blew me away. I have had it since July and no hiccups.” The owner at Custom Colors, Larry, notes they do paint and collision work, too: 888-719-8526. The Pioneer HVAC unit has a soft-start compressor, Greenberg adds, so “no starting surge.”
The Champion 3150-watt generator sits on the driver side of the vehicle, as shown. Covered, “I can’t hear it” inside, Greenberg says, as the generator typically only runs at 25 percent of total capacity, capable of more output than the system requires. Depending on the temperature, the owner-operator is typically getting about 7-10 hours of use out of it on less than two gallons of gasoline. “I carry three 2.2-gallon gas cans. Enough for 21 to 26 hours of use.” At the lowest temps he’s tested the in-cab heating functions so far (low-30s), Greenberg notes, “it was comfortable, but an auxiliary fan is needed for circulating the output because the hot air rises,” that floor fan he mentioned up top. “I don’t think this would be enough heat in really extreme cold. The side benefit of the oversize generator means I can add a space heater for those balmy January evenings up north.”
All in, total investment for the system was $3,900, well under most auxiliary power units purpose-built for tractors, under a third of the price of some. Installation costs, however, Greenberg emphasizes, are likely to vary considerably, depending on the truck.
Benefits include simplicity, he notes, and “the components are serviceable by anyone.”
Downsides: the need to fill the generator’s tank, “and needing that fan” to circulate rising hot air. “Also you’ve got to watch the tilt of the truck when you park. The condensation drain is on the back wall.”
All things considered, “I would do it again,” he adds, “even in a new truck.”