Man VS Machine – Garage AC
The battle against the Florida heat, humidity and mosquitoes in my garage reached a tipping point. I decided to install an air conditioner in my garage. The easiest and cheapest solution would be to install a rolling portable AC, which I had attempted with a 5000 BTU unit, but it just didn’t have enough power to get the job done. The rolling portable units are just not as efficient as the window AC’s as they used the air conditioned air as part of its process to expel heat. Window AC’s were out of the question as I had no easy place to mount a decent sized unit, unless I knocked a hole though my cement wall, which was out of the question.
The next (most labor intensive and expensive) solution was install a mini split AC. Basically its a miniature version of the home central AC, splitting components between the interior and exterior.
In theory, you can install it yourself and that’s what I attempted but it was not without its issues, which caused it to take one weekend and 8 evenings, vs. the one day I originally thought it was going to take. If you want to take the DIY route, here are some lessons learned:
– AC contractors are EXTREMELY prejudiced against anyone who can install anything themselves and then call them to come inspect the work and vacuum / fill the lines. Arrange an AC contractor who will do this prior to purchasing the unit.
– There is a procedure on YouTube that shows a person purging the lines without the use of a vacuum. Don’t do that. Hire the AC contractor to connect the lines for you. That way you can have the warranty card filled out. It is 100% worth the $150 they could charge to have that peace of mind.
– There is a version of the mini split that has a “quick connect” for the blower and evaporator lines that eliminates the need to vacuum a line. I would have got that version if I could find it.
-Make sure this unit is R410a and not R22.
– Consider a mini split ONLY if a window AC is completely out of the question. There are plenty of cheaper window units that have the same cooling capacity. If something breaks, you could always exchange the whole window unit for another one under warranty.
– Plan on running a dedicated 110v circuit from the main breaker box. Dont’ not underestimate the time and labor required on this.
– Knocking a 4″ diameter hole through 10″ of solid concrete is no easy task.
– BE CAREFUL BENDING COPPER PIPE. Those lines can EASILY kink or snap.
– You MAY need some specialized tools: Pipe flaring tool, tube bender, multimeter, deburring tool, pipe cutter, hammer drill.
– If I hired someone, it would have cost $750. Doing it myself cost $100 in materials, $70 in tools, 1 weekend, 8 frustrating evenings and one $150 visit from an AC guy who was willing to jump start the compressor.
In the end, I was rewarded with a whisper quiet and ice cold 12000 BTU AC for the garage. It also dehumidifies about a gallon per hour and was tired into the transfer switch so it could be powered by an emergency generator. I literally gained 400 sq ft of living space with this addition.