Custom alternative in-cab climate control system has heat, too

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The interior portion of the 12K-Btu Pioneer Mini Split HVAC, a wall-mount unit most often used in stationary built interiors. Mike Greenberg’s “tested it to 104 degrees in Vegas,” he says, low-30s in St. Louis when he spoke to Overdrive about it last fall. “Since the interior unit is above the bunk, I use a floor fan” for circulating heat, he adds.The interior portion of the 12K-Btu Pioneer Mini Split HVAC, a wall-mount unit most often used in stationary built interiors. Mike Greenberg’s “tested it to 104 degrees in Vegas,” he says, low-30s in St. Louis when he spoke to Overdrive about it last fall. “Since the interior unit is above the bunk, I use a floor fan” for circulating heat, he adds. Got your own example of a do-it-yourself solution to a problem related to truck equipment or the owner-operator business? Send your story to tdills@randallreilly.com with the “highway hacks” subject line to be considered for the monthly feature.Got your own example of a do-it-yourself solution to a problem related to truck equipment or the owner-operator business? Send your story to tdills@randallreilly.com with the “highway hacks” subject line to be considered for the monthly feature.

Following the part of our “Highway Hacks” monthly series about owner-operator Doug Hasner’s A/C alternative to a traditional auxiliary power unit — which employed a home window unit positioned high on/in the back wall of the sleeper — UPS-contracted owner-operator Mike Greenberg shared his own custom solution, including heating capability just in time for winter. It involves a gasoline-powered Champion generator and an HVAC typically used in buildings — the wall-mount ductless Pioneer Mini Split, also positioned on the sleeper’s back wall.

The Champion 3150 generator is installed on the driver side of the vehicle, as shown. Covered, “I can’t hear it” inside, Greenberg says. Depending on temps, he typically gets seven to 10 hours of use out of fewer than two gallons of gas. Side benefit of the oversize generator: “I can add a space heater for those balmy January evenings up north.”The Champion 3150 generator is installed on the driver side of the vehicle, as shown. Covered, “I can’t hear it” inside, Greenberg says. Depending on temps, he typically gets seven to 10 hours of use out of fewer than two gallons of gas. Side benefit of the oversize generator: “I can add a space heater for those balmy January evenings up north.”

“It took me two years to figure this out,” Greenberg says. “I checked out all the different aftermarket no-idle A/C units” — auxiliary power units designed and built for trucking applications. “I checked out every ‘Mickey Mouse’ setup I saw at the truck stops.”

He was looking for simple and solid mounting, easy service and low noise, with no modifications to the truck’s bedrock systems required.

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. That proved the biggest issue, for which he turned to the Custom Colors RV specialist in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “The workmanship blew me away. I have had it since July [2019], and no hiccups.”

The professionally mounted exterior portion of the unit on the back of Mike Greenberg’s 2013 KW T660.The professionally mounted exterior portion of the unit on the back of Mike Greenberg’s 2013 KW T660.

Benefits include simplicity, he notes, and “the components are serviceable by anyone.”

Downsides: the need to fill the generator’s tank, “and needing a fan” to circulate rising hot air from the Pioneer’s position, already relatively high on the sleeper’s back wall.

More in the Highway Hacks series. 

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