The Pursuit of Quiet: Replacing our RV’s Air Conditioner… AGAIN!


Now that it’s starting to warm up, I was checking the air conditioners in both Lance and Parky before we really needed them.  Good news, they both worked!

But I also noticed that the air conditioner in Parky was considerably quieter than the one in Lance.   It was enough of a difference that it caused me to investigate.  You see, Parky has a Coleman-Mach 10 NDQ, and Lance had a Dometic Penguin.  But a couple years ago, I had actually removed the Coleman-Mach 10 and replaced it with the Dometic Penguin because, among other things, the Penguin was quieter!  You can read all about that swap in this post from the Fit RV’s wayback machine.  Well, one thing led to another, I busted out the sound meter app, the video camera, and a supply of my favorite bandages and the result is this video.

(Yeah… It seems like pretty much everything I do requires bandages…)

 

Depending on the settings, the Mach 10 was between 4 and 6 dB quieter than the Dometic Penguin.  It’s certainly noticeable without having to take readings.  But I did, and there are screen shots in the video of the different dB readings I took.  I do have to say though, you may hear me say one thing when the screen shot shows another.  But that’s because the readings jump around a lot and it’s really difficult to get a screen shot at any one particular value.  I did the best I could getting screen captures.  When I was all done, this was the quietest reading I was able to get in Lance with the new Mach 10 NDQ, and it’s the quietest reading Lance has seen with any air conditioner ever:

 

 

One other benefit to the Mach 10 NDQ is that it seems to consume about 33% less energy than the Penguin did.  Since our rigs are all lithium powered (we don’t do generators anymore) this is a big benefit to us, because it means we get 33% MORE RUNTIME on a battery charge.  So 3 hours of runtime became 4… just like that.

Believe it or not, this is actually the FOURTH air conditioner that has sat atop Lance since we’ve had him.  Four.  (And none of them were broken or worn out.)  He started off with a Coleman-Mach 8, and that was replaced with a Mach 10.  The Mach 10 was replaced with the Dometic Penguin, and now the Penguin has been replaced with a Coleman-Mach 10 NDQ.  I think that works out to one air conditioner per year, which seems like a very accelerated maintenance schedule to me, but whatever.

Sounds great!  Where can I get one?

If you’re looking for further information TODAY on the Coleman-Mach 10 NDQ, you probably won’t find much.  But I’ve been in touch with the folks at Coleman-Mach, and they tell me that they are updating their website this week, and they should have more information on the NDQ available by the end of the week.  I’ll come back and update this post with their official links once I see that it’s live.

Enjoy the video and we’ll see you on the road!

 



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    67 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Quiet: Replacing our RV’s Air Conditioner… AGAIN!

    1. Terri Gerasco

      Good day James and Stef! When considering replacement of your a/c unit, did you give any thought to the unit offered through Advanced RV? I follow you both and was just wondering, other than price, what your thoughts were. Any feedback is always appreciated. Thank you so much for all of the information that you provide.

      Have a terrific day!

      Terri

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes, we considered it.
        The main thing that kept us from pursuing it is that it is a good bit wider than our other units have been. We were concerned it would not physically fit on the roof. Others with Travatos have had them mounted successfully since then, but our roof configuration is a little different from the standard due to Lance being Lance.

        Reply
        1. C

          James- Do you have any knowledge of the noise level on the Mach 8 PLUS (which appears to be newer), I see your readings on the Mach 10 NDQ. Just wondering?? The NDQ seems very hard to get!
          C

    2. Jerry & Joanne

      I called (315-832-4357) and the fellow did not know what the correct part order numbers are. Can anyone help us to obtain the right part numbers for the Mach 10 NDQ 13,5000 BTU with black upper unit in ultra low profile and the white interior unit with Bluetooth capabilities?

      Reply
      1. David

        I found one for sale. Not familiar with the company so I won’t name it. But it had this number listed with it. Hope this helps. 452038793

        Reply
    3. Rufus Thomas

      James, having the A/C while traveling and while boondocking has become so important to most of us. Since this requires a large amount of lithium, a larger inverter and an under-hood alternator, my question is: are there now companies that will retrofit your several year old RV? Especially, for those of us who are not DIY’ers!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        AM Solar in Oregon will take on this kind of work.
        Other than that, you could look for a marine electrician near you. They deal with these kinds of things regularly.
        Those would be my first choices.

        Reply
    4. Michael

      One thing I don’t see ever mentioned. When you are at a campground that has poor power, like not really enough to run your AC, couldn’t you run the AC of the lithium battery and charger the battery at whatever rate it could get. Even if it was running a deficit, it would still provide AC and last a long time.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Theoretically, yes. But it depends on if your inverter/charger will allow it.
        Some inverter/chargers can only either “Charge” or “Invert” (current in or current out). What you need to do what you describe is a system that has “load support”. Different manufacturers might call it something else, but basically, the device would need to allow pass through current from shore power, and then supplement that with the inverter and battery charge. Not all inverters can do this.

        Reply
        1. Marshall

          You want what is called a hybrid inverter/charger (Victron MultiPlus is one example). When necessary, a hybrid will combine a shore power source (whether that be an actual shore power connection or a generator) with supplemental battery power in times when the shore power connection is not sufficient to run all loads.

    5. Ken

      Very informative.
      I need to replace my A/C unit on my Sprinter.
      Saw you went with a Coleman unit but why not look at the ProAir used in the Coachman Galleria?
      I don’t have lithium nor do I have a high wattage inverter to run an A/C. The idea of a 12 volt DC A/C unit that I could also use to supplement the engine A/C going down the road would be attractive to me.
      I would welcome your insight and knowledge on these ProAir units.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The ProAir unit is interesting, and I would like to try one out. But in our rig, the air conditioner wiring was set up for 120v and 15 Amps. To run the ProAir, I would need much thicker cabling, capable of running 100 Amps at 12 volts. Just didn’t feel like tearing up the walls to run new cabling.
        My knowledge on the ProAir units is limited to what you saw in our videos, and a brief encounter I had with a ProAir equipped rig at the Tampa RV show. The unit at the show was as quiet as you would expect from the video, but I didn’t try the arm’s length test with it then.

        Reply
    6. Phil

      As mentioned by one of your astute followers, temp performance of each is critical ‘thermo’-dynamic decision criteria (or the model specs of each unit.)

      Another decision variable would be the drag coefficient variable difference which equates to RV mpg (a side by side photo shot of the ac models would have been informative… sleek and sexy vs ??)

      From my brief investigation earlier of the 2 models, owners surveys of Coleman and Penguin reported the Coleman had more variability and less meantime to failure (but that was then and this is now -?)

      I did appreciate more roof-top photos of your Dream RV! Thanks for your excellent investigative work (although the hip high arms length sound level response variable had me scratching my head – ?)

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Now that it’s good and hot, I should be able to get temperature delta info for the new unit. The data I gathered on the Penguin II from the last replacement still stands.
        As far as aerodynamic data – having switched back and forth a few times now, I can tell you that you won’t notice any difference in MPG. While I’m sure there is a difference, I’m also sure it’s not worth chasing. You’d notice more difference in mileage by dumping out your fresh water before each trip.
        We’ve experienced no failures, so I can’t comment on that.

        Reply
    7. David P.

      James, Thank you for your great Solar article as I am getting ready to update a Class A 40 diesel pusher with a solar system and batteries to allow us to boondock more. One of the things you said about a solar/ battery update was a change over in the lighting in our coach from fluorescent and incan to led lighting. I have done this in my home with great result and savings. I am having trouble finding some good sources to replace the 18″ double flour overhead fixtures and other lights. Could you or someone on the fourum give me some suggestions so I can start getting these replaced as we move more solar power and reliant.
      David P.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I keep checking. Nothing yet.
        Your best bet is to call Service and Support. From their web site:

        Phone Number: (316) 832-4357

        Reply
    8. Darrell Van Hutten

      I recently had my original Dometic Penguin II Low Profile air conditioner on our 2015 Roadtrek Adventurous CSXL replaced with the Quiet Air Conditioner from Advanced RV. I have published a post to share 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:

      http://sprintychronicles.home.blog/quiet-air-conditioner-install/

      My apologies in advance for the ads WordPress serves up – I am new to WordPress. I am using their free version and this post as a preliminary test of WordPress as a tool.

      Darrell
      2015 Roadtrek Adventurous CSXL

      Reply
    9. Dusty in Texas

      Ummm, I’d love to know the cooling temps the two units were pushing out.

      How does the NDQ cost compare to Stephane’s $2100 + shipping?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The NDQ is quite a bit less than $2100.
        Don’t quote me on this, but I think people are paying somewhere in the $800 range for one. Just the rumors I’ve been hearing.

        Didn’t take temperature readings before the swap. When we get home off of this trip, I’ll take some intake/output temperature readings.

        Reply
    10. Jason Ludwig

      Hi James great post. Did you mention the overall height of the new NDQ? I have a Dometic Penguin II on a sprinter and it just fits in the garage.

      Does anyone know if the ARV’s unit come in 120v AC? All of the info on the website for Houghton shows 220-240v for international. http://caravanandrvparts.com.au/product/houghton-belaire-hb3200/
      Maybe ARV is importing a different 120v version for US.

      Wondering if the 2x price tag for an ARV install is work it vs a self install if you can get 120v AC

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The overall height of the NDQ is a little bit taller than the Penguin we replaced. Maybe 2 inches? I think the specs say it’s 10 inches overall.
        (We’re in a National Park right now and service is spotty, so I can’t get to the AirExcel site.)

        Reply
        1. Jason Ludwig

          James I ordered and self installed the unit with BlueTooth Grill. ($1440, $922 for AC, $282 for grill and $112 for Shipping). Local RV Mechanic was 4 weeks booked out and would charge $400.

          Can you share with me what happens when your setting is on Auto Cool Hi / Low? In my unit the AC cools to temperature and then goes to “off” I waited for it to come back on for 10 min and watched the temp climb by +5 degrees. I have a follow up call into Airxcel to see If I am missing something.

        2. James - Post author

          Does it ever come back on?
          10 minutes seems a bit long to wait. It would be reasonable for Mach 10 to have a lock out to keep the compressor from stopping and starting again within a short time, but I’d say 5 minutes would be the longest that might be.
          5 degrees however might be within the parameters of how they manage the thermostat data. It may overcool and allow a 6 degree rise or something.
          I haven’t looked into the programming much, but the AirExcel folks ought to be able to tell you if that’s within parameters.

      2. Aaron

        ARV is importing a 120v Houghton. I was going to order it before our summer travels, but our solar panels and fan vent were too close to our existing AC (Winnebago Trend). I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a NDQ. It’s about time US manufacturers offered an AC unit that doesn’t cause hearing damage.

        Reply
    11. Aaron

      Thanks for another great video and post James. This AC is great news. I don’t think our Trend can fit the houghton given the placement of our AC panels and the fan.

      We’re currently in Yellowstone (snow forecast for tomorrow!) and SLC’s temps don’t look too bad for next week, so I think we’ll be able to survive another year with our insanely loud stock AC.

      Reply
    12. Dave Staublin

      In addition to the benefit of reducing start-up current, would the installation of a soft-start reduce the noise of the air conditioner when starting? I’m deliberating the purchase and installation of a MicroAir Easy Start 364….

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I haven’t dabbled in the Soft Start stuff, and I likely won’t. The startup current is easily handled by our inverters. There’s just no need for a soft start.
        About noise: What I CAN say is that the noise on the outside is extremely quiet already. I mean CRAZY quiet. Like, I have to tell people to stop talking so we can hear if it’s on or not.
        The majority of the noise is from the internal ADB and fan.
        A Soft Start would not likely change the airflow inside the unit. So my guess is no – a Soft Start won’t affect the noise in any noticeable way.

        Reply
    13. Dan Goetzman

      So, any clue to what internal changes make up the NDQ? I assume low cool is now actually different than high cool? And that they have to control the evaporator from freezing? Maybe?? Anything high tech like a variable speed compressor or something? Or just a redesigned fan assembly, or something? Curious to know what technology is employed and if failure points have been increased?!?! 🙂

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Low cool is definitely quieter than high cool.
        As to how the internals are different, I can’t say. I don’t have a Non-Quiet Mach 10 here to take apart and compare it to.
        I’m hoping the official website will have better information later this week.

        Although… as we’ve replaced our AC every year, I don’t think I’m too worried about failure modes! lol! 🙂

        Reply
        1. Marshall

          We installed a Soft-Start on Kelly’s RV last summer. It does one thing very well – what it’s designed to do – allow you to start your AC on a smaller gennie (though don’t get me started on how it won’t really work on a 2,000 watt gennie like they claim when you are at anything other than sea level, etc, etc, etc).

          It doesn’t reduce AC noise. But wouldn’t that be awesome if it did?

        2. Dan Goetzman

          Ha! I guess it’s that Thrifty part of my character… I need to get more than 1 year out of my A/C and I installed the older Mach 10 about 2 years ago. However, if it suddenly broke NOW I could replace it with a NDQ model! 🙂

        3. James - Post author

          Well if I slept more than two feet away from it, a quiet air conditioner might be less of a motivator… 🙂

      2. richard labat

        This is my exact question. I have a 2019 Travato model 4523-879. If the physical size is the same , I would guess they only changed the fan speed to slower RPM’s? But, that may cause freezing problems. They may have changed the compressor speed AND the fan speed? AKA “low” “low” mode. If you think about it , the MACH 10 low speed mode is over cooling (not necessary to run so fast) . I would bet if we wait we may be able to modify our Non-NDQ models.

        Reply
    14. Jaime O Diaz

      This is the only thing that we hate from our ClassB RV… how loud the A/C unit is..

      Did you check the internal construction? Aluminum and cooper on the coils or ??

      I am looking at the Advanced RV Houghton unit and at 55/53 dB it is extremely quiet… but this Coleman unit comes really close in dB on the lower setting. And pretty sure that the price will come at less than half of that of the ARV unit… so if the internal construction is Aluminum/cooper and not steel… something to definitely consider.

      Thank you for the video. I enjoy watching them and seeing the changes made to your RV.

      Looking forward to the update on the RV on loan that you have. When is that video coming out?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The internals do seem to be copper and aluminum. That was one thing I noticed when Chris and I were picking it up to move it around… it was noticeably lighter than the Penguin unit.

        Reply
      2. Stéphane Lavergne

        Indeed, the Houghton comes to about US$2100 + shipping if you self-install. It’s what I got (before finding out about this alternative).

        The hardest part will be hoisting it safely on the roof (all 100 lbs of it); after seeing this video, I think I’ll go straight for heavy machinery as well so I can gently lower it on the roof.

        Reply
    15. Gene

      Nice Job!

      I’m wondering if Winnebago is going to put the larger battery in the regular GL/KL Travato’s any time soon. I am sooo close to buying one after I sell my class A coach that I no longer need.

      Might you know, being that you’re an insider?

      Also wondering if this air unit is to be standard on all Travato vans.

      Anyways, I’m really looking forward to your review of the NPS unit you and Steph are evaluating. That’s one nice coach!!

      Reply
    16. Toby Carlson

      My question is the spec’s of the two units…..

      BTU and CFM could be the reason one is quieter, if the new unit is lower on both it will be less noise also less cooling ability

      Reply
    17. Harold McCarty

      How does your new unit compare to Advance RV air conditioner? They have several videos. I know you are west and they are just east of Cleveland. I am also just east of Cleveland. One of their video is The Nuts and Bolts of the Quiet Air Conditioner
      Enjoy your videos. Wanting to buy a new rv class b. Just need to get over the make.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I haven’t personally heard the Advanced RV unit (I believe it’s a Houghton) in a Travato. So I can’t speak from real experience.
        I have heard demo units, and units on benches. It’s pretty darn quiet, but I didn’t take any readings personally.
        They generally pay attention to the details there at Advanced RV, so if they’ve quoted decibel numbers, you can trust them. They do their homework.

        Reply
        1. Graham Smith

          I have one of the Houghton A/C’s installed by Advanced RV so we can compare readings and do some watt draw tests in July at GNR. The biggest improvement for the Coleman is the thermostatic control because it conserves electricity. The Houghton goes further by using a variable speed fan and two cooling profiles (AC and dehumidifier).

      2. Darrell Van Hutten

        I just had the Advanced RV Quiet Air Conditioner (Houghton) installed on my Roadtrek Adventurous CSXL, replacing the Dometic Penguin II Low Profile it came with. I had them do the install at their location. Last evening, I did the James “arm length, navel height, iPhone app, microphone pointing at a/c” test – and got 55 dB on high cooling. It was drawing about 9-10 amps on shore power. Other benefits include 3-speed fan, dehumidifier mode, built-in soft start, and a lot less noise outside.

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          I love it!
          I’ve inadvertently created a standard!
          “arm length, navel height, iPhone app, microphone pointing at a/c” test”
          We can call it the ALNH2019 test.
          This made my day.

      1. Jerry

        Do you have the Model Number for this unit? We cannot get a hold of anyone at the Coleman Mach facility and our mechanic stands ready to ready order it!

        Reply
    18. Dan

      You didn’t mention one of the great benefits of the Bluetooth grille: you can put it in a mode where the fan will completely shut off when the compressor does. So on low cool at night, it’s completely silent until it needs to turn on to cool you down, then goes quiet again. In addition to the quiet, you save even more power.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        True, it does have that mode.
        I didn’t mention it because I don’t think it’s something we’ll use often.
        Stef is one of those who likes a constant noise while she sleeps. The thought of a fan being silent, then loud, then silent, then loud, is enough to give Stef insomnia just talking about it.
        I suppose we could use it for Mel if we left him in the rig. He could sleep through anything.

        Reply
    19. Robert Nixon

      James,
      I just watched your cassette toilet video where you found the emptying process really smelly. Did you not use a treatment additive in the tank before you started using it same as you would in a regular RV toilet with a dump tank? I’ve used cassette toilets in European RVs and a portable one while tent camping for years here in Canada and never had the problem you describe but I always used a treatment additive (like RV boss). I’ve also watched your composting toilet video and although I’ve never used one, based on my experience with cassette toilets I would always pick a cassette toilet over a composting one.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes. For that product test, we used the included additive in the recommended amounts.
        More details on that in the cassette toilet video post.

        Reply
    20. Ian F

      I was going to post a question about the energy usage and then James addressed that right at the end. Now I’m off to find a vendor who sells a Coleman Mach 10…

      Reply
      1. Shaun Simpkins

        James, it will be interesting to see what you and Graham come up with at GNR. So far, everything is falling in line: 10 dB or more quieter than the stock Mach 10 on high, 5 dB less than that on low, about the same loudness on low as the ARV unit on high…so on low, the ARV unit would be less than 50 dBA. And it does fit the G and K with a bit of roof rack crossrail juggling. The question is…with the projected price of the NDQ, will the ARV unit justify itself at $2200 as a retrofit for most people?

        Reply
    21. Peter

      Hello James,
      I may be getting horrendously confused – which isn’t surprising at my age – but didn’t you visit Advanced RV a while back to replace your AC with their quiet model from Australia?
      Peter

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We considered the Houghton from Advanced RV, but it was quite a bit wider on the roof. I didn’t think I would have room for it.
        So I never went through with it.
        I hear someone else has done it by now with my floor plan though.

        Reply
    22. Greg

      So pleased to have you validate my findings regarding the NDQ sound levels, especially since you sleep with one ear against the A/C unit. I will be interested though in following your adventures to see what you do to keep cool in the dinette bench seat next to the window.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        What I’d really like to do is move the temperature sensor somewhere else. We’ll see if I can get that worked out.

        Reply
    23. Jeremy Specce

      I am having a hard time finding any information on this unit besides right here on your site. What I was wondering is if there is a ducted version of this AC unit. I guess it would be like a Mach 10DQ. I’d love if you could point me in the right direction. Right now we have a dometic 13.5 ducted unit in our travel trailer that is quite loud, so a significant reduction in noise would be great.

      Thanks,
      -Jeremy

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I don’t know about a ducted version. I do know they are targeting vans with this one, so making a ducted version probably wasn’t a priority.
        Coleman-Mach should have more information out this week. Check back for a link!

        Reply

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