We all purchase our boat with an idealistic idea of cruising through their harbor, across the lake, or going on a deep-sea adventure. The wind is blowing, the fish are jumping, the drinks are cold, and your engines are running smooth and clean!
But it can get hot on the water! While it’s easy to picture those 75-degree days with blowing wind and low humidity, nine times out of ten the weather isn’t that perfect.
Frequently, you’ll be cruising through a no-wake zone on a 101-degree day or sitting in one spot fishing for extended periods of time. In times like these, you’ll wish you had some ice-cold air conditioning.
Already have a boat with no A/C?
That’s not a problem! Many can be retrofitted with a small to large-sized marine air conditioning unit.
You’ll often need an HVAC technician to install these units, especially if you’re not replacing an existing unit. But much of the repairs and upkeep (not related to the freon system) are simple and easy for the average boat owner to figure out!
Here we will look at several of the best marine air conditioner units on the market. We also include a buyer’s guide to help give context to your choice.
Now, let’s check out your options!
- 1 Best Marine Air Conditioner
- 2 Our Top Pick: MarinAire 16000 Btu/h Self Contained Marine Air Conditioner
- 3 Our Runner Up: DOMETIC EnviroComfort ECD16K-HV AC Retrofit Kit
- 4 Best Budget: MarinAire 11000 Btu/h Self Contained Marine Air Conditioner
- 5 Best Portable Marine AC: Transcool Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
- 6 Best Heavy Duty Marine AC: Webasto AC Retrofit Unit
- 7 Best Marine Air Conditioner Buyer’s Guide
- 8 Other Products We Looked At:
- 9 Conclusion
Best Marine Air ConditionerTable could not be displayed.
Our Top Pick: MarinAire 16000 Btu/h Self Contained Marine Air Conditioner
Key Points at a Glance
- Built-in pressurized gauges
- Compressor acoustic cover
- Powerful low start-up current
- Secure D-Smart Control System
- Manageable health monitoring air conditioner and diagnostic options
- Quiet compressor compartment
- Variety of small size options.
- R410A Refrigerant Environment friendly
- Powerful high heating and cooling efficiency for low energy consumption
If you’re looking for the ultimate marine air conditioning unit, then look no further! MarinAire is one of the top marine HVAC manufacturers on the market. They have a full line up of products that share a similar design and varying levels of size and power. You will find that we’ve included several of MarinAire’s other top-selling AC units in this article as well.
They’re just that good.
According to most experts, a 16,000 BTU AC unit is enough to cool 850-square-feet. This means this machine is strong enough to cool most boats with a fairly large cabin. For perspective, 850-square-feet is about the size of a studio apartment.
The MarinAire 16k Marine A/C unit features a blower that can be rotated 360-degrees so that you can position it wherever is most convenient. The casing is made out of a durable polymer casing combined with high-quality aluminum and stainless steel to ensure long-lasting strength and to protect it from corrosive salt air and water.
One of the things that we like the best about this particular MarinAire unit is that the compressor features an acoustic cover designed to limit the annoying noise that cheaper units make whenever they’re turned on. This will help you maintain a modern, upscale design and appearance.
The lightweight construction of the MarinAire 16k Marine Air Conditioner also makes it a great low-profile choice. It won’t weigh any more than your marine cooler packed full of ice and beer (and it’ll probably take up less space).
Their 16k unit is a great choice for large-sized sailboats and yachts as it can easily cool one floor at a time. If you are fortunate enough to have a double-decker yacht, then you may want to consider adding one of these units on every floor so that all of your guests can be comfortable.
- Built-in pressure gauges, 360 Degree Rotatable...
- SS316 stainless steel drain pan
- Compressor sound cover
- Low start up current
- D-Smart Control System
Our Runner Up: DOMETIC EnviroComfort ECD16K-HV AC Retrofit KitNo products found.
Key Points at a Glance
- Reversible cycle heating
- Easy and simple install
- Great for new or retrofit installations
- Advance digital control
- Led display and strong mounting bezel.
- High-Velocity blower
- Internal motors for a compact installation
- Installation flexibility, horizontally/ vertically
- Durable stainless steel drain pan
- Easy removable pre-installed return air filter.
Dometic Environmental’s EnviroComfort 16k BTU Retrofit Kit is a powerful competitor for MarinAire’s 16k air conditioning unit. They both share a similar high-efficiency build that’s designed to take full advantage of the surrounding atmosphere and climate to minimize power draw and overall fuel consumption.
Both are lightweight and well-built with soaring reviews, but there are a couple of key differences that resulted in the Dometic unit being ranked second.
The first is that Dometic’s 16k unit does not have a 360-degree rotating head, meaning that you’ll have to put extra thought into where and how you install it.
Dometic also doesn’t have the acoustic sound dampening or protective polymer casing to protect the fragile inner parts. It’s also a bit more expensive.
However, with Dometic, you’re paying for more than just an intuitive, protective design- you’re paying for the history and impeccable quality associated with these units. In fact, Dometic is the child-company of Eltrolux- the engineers of the world’s first refrigerator in the early 1920s. Dometic itself has been making refrigeration and cooling units since the 1950s. We love their electric coolers.
These units are designed and manufactured in Switzerland, and if you know anything about Swiss engineering, you’ll know that it’s far higher quality than most of the Chinese-made products on the market.
So, while this Dometic unit may not be as stylish or intuitively-designed as the MarinAire, the quality of parts, warranty, and functionality are second to none.
No products found.
Best Budget: MarinAire 11000 Btu/h Self Contained Marine Air Conditioner
Key Points at a Glance
- Toshiba R410A long-lasting, high-efficiency compressor
- Heavy-duty high static centrifugal blower
- Built-in high pressure and lower pressure gauges
- 360 Degree Rotatable Blower
- Accessible built-in pressure gauges
- Monitoring air conditioner and health diagnostics
- 60% noise level sound-reducing cover.
- Small, compact size for easy installation
- Environmentally friendly R410A refrigerant
If you’re on a budget or you’re just looking for a smaller unit designed for a smaller boat, then MarinAire’s 11,000 BTU self-contained AC unit is perfect. At first glance, it’s very similar to the MarinAire 16k (our top pick). This unit is basically the 16k’s younger brother.
The 11k model features a high-quality, durable, and lightweight design. It utilizes the latest refrigeration technology and uses R410A refrigerant fluid instead of traditional freon. While this fluid can be more expensive than freon, it’s more energy-efficient, and you’ll need less of it.
Toshiba manufactures all of MarinAire’s compressors, and they’re known for being some of the best on the market. They can run for years without any problems. Toshiba is known for its quality control and attention to detail.
Although this 11k unit is slightly less noisy than the more powerful 16k unit, it still features the intuitive acoustic sound cover to prevent distracting noises from ruining the perfect ambiance of the waves and wind.
The overall dimensions are similar, but the MarinAire 11k is a little lighter and is perfect for small to mid-sized cabins. According to BTU charts, 11k is perfect for a 500-square-foot room.
This unit is still a good choice for those with smaller cabins that may not feature the same thermal insulation as your home. When it comes to air conditioning, sometimes overkill isn’t always an issue- it just means that you’ll be able to cool more space quicker.
- Toshiba R410A High Efficiency Compressor
- High Static Centrifugal Blower
- Built-in High Pressure and Low Pressure Gauges
- Compressor Sound Cover
- 360 Degree Rotatable Blower
Best Portable Marine AC: Transcool Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
Key Points at a Glance
- Portable personal air cooler conditioner spot AC
- Multi-purpose: RV, Boat Camper, Camping, Aircraft, Golf Cart, Air, Home, Office
- Weighs 7 lbs, Dimension: 13”X 15” X 9”
- Semi baffled for use in moving vehicles or boats
- Can be powered by a 12V car charger, 20V power supply, or 110V home cords.
- Pet- Friendly design.
- Energy-efficient and Eco-friendly
- No installation required.
- Can be used in still or moving environments without damaging any internal circuits.
- Quick and adjustable fan speed
These marine air conditioners are great for those with bigger boats, but what about the small 2-person sailboat, skiff, or half-cabin? Most of the time, smaller boats don’t have the necessary space for a large air conditioning unit or may not have a secure place to house the unit and protect it from outside elements.
What about weight capacity? Many smaller boats have weight limits of 800 to 1,100 pounds, and a heavy marine air conditioner can easily take up 100 to 150 pounds of valuable space.
This is where Transcool’s Portable Evaporative Air Cooler is a perfect choice. This particular unit almost made our “Budget Choice” due to how affordable it is, but we decided that it was worthy of a category of its own.
This small portable A/C unit can be used anywhere and connects to your standard 12-Volt car charger port or a standard 110-Volt house plug. This means that you can either plug it into an existing charger port on your boat or use one of those external power banks with the built-in plugs.
Either way, it’ll use minimal power thanks to its high-efficiency design.
While this small unit won’t be able to cool an entire room, it’s great for a tiny cabin or just to prop on your dashboard to give you some cool air. It features three vents that move 360-degrees in all directions so that you can share the airflow (or direct it all to yourself!).
Last but not least, this small, versatile air conditioner only weighs 7-pounds, so you can take it almost anywhere you go!
Best Heavy Duty Marine AC: Webasto AC Retrofit Unit
Key Points at a Glance
- Unibody welded construction for full capacity and extreme strength
- Long-lasting anodized evaporator
- Accessible removable air filter
- heavy-duty 3-speed high-velocity rotable blower
- 360 degree rotation for maximum comfort
- Reversible cycle heating
- Easy installation
- Minimal sound compressor
- Dimensions: 32″ x 50″ x 30″
We almost selected Webasto’s 16,000 BTU marine air conditioning unit as our first choice due to its high-quality design, but we figured that it was better to list it as our “Heavy-Duty” choice.
It’s a good bit heavier than both the MarinAire 16k unit and the Dometic 16k AC unit. This means that it may be a bit more of a pain to install. But once it is you won’t have to worry about it going anywhere.
The dimensions are 32” x 50” x 30”, which makes it almost double the size of the MarinAire. It also weighs 120-pounds thanks to the high-quality aluminum and stainless-steel build featuring uni-body welds to ensure strength.
One thing that we really appreciate about Webasto’s 16k marine air conditioner, though, is its fully-anodized coating. One thing about the ocean that always remains consistent is its corrosive qualities. Saltwater will eventually eat through most metals and cause them to rust or lose strength over time.
This is why many of the other marine A/C units we’ve reviewed feature outer casings to limit exposure to salt air.
Anodizing is a finishing process that involves electrically binding a decorative coat to the surface of metals. Apart from giving it a clean, modern appearance, an anodized coating is also 100% corrosion-resistant. So, while the Webasto may not feature a bulky outer protective case, it makes up for it by anodizing the entire unit.
Given that this unit is capable of producing 16,000 BTUs per hour, it’s an excellent choice for large yachts, sailboats, and even commercial fishing boats! The heavy-duty, durable design is built to withstand rough seas, high winds, and corrosive salt air. If you’re looking for a marine air conditioner that’s going to last you a long time- this is it!
- Unibody welded construction for superior strength
- Anodized evaporator
- Multi-capillary ports
- Hi-velocity 3-speed, 360 Degree rotatable blower
- Removable air filter
Best Marine Air Conditioner Buyer’s Guide
Who Should Buy a Marine Air Conditioner?
Not every boat owner needs a marine air conditioner. Salty old fishermen will likely be the first people to tell you how much they don’t need to waste another dollar on their “money pit.”
However, this is an entirely subjective subject and has a lot to do with the climate of wherever you’re located. If you’re somewhere like North Carolina or Virginia where the weather is pleasant year-round, then you might be fine with a smaller A/C unit or no unit at all.
On the other hand, if you live somewhere like South Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, or other southern states, then you’ll know just how hot the summers can get. Having a reliable marine air conditioning unit onboard is one of the best ways to ensure that you’ll never have to cancel your weekend plans due to an unexpected heat wave!
Important Features to Consider
Here are some important features to consider while you’re comparing marine air conditioners.
Weight and Dimensions
There’s nothing quite as annoying as shelling out thousands for a high-end marine A/C unit and lugging the heavy thing to your boat just to find out that it’s too big (or small) for your watercraft.
Before you order, make sure that you know your boat’s measurements. From how many square-feet the cabin is and the boat’s weight limit, to finding a space for your unit to fit in, make sure that you do your homework so you don’t have to ship back and replace a 100-pound + A/C unit.
How Much Power The A/C Unit Requires
A/C units that put out more BTUs per hour usually require significantly more power. Keep this in mind when you’re looking at your options and make sure that you do your homework to see if your boat’s existing power supply can handle the extra load.
In some cases, you may need to upgrade your wiring, batteries, or power supply.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Maintenance Do Marine Air Conditioners Need?
Most professionals recommend regular maintenance every 5 years on the unit itself. That being said, there are multiple other considerations with marine air conditioners that make it different from your typical home system.
Since the unit sucks air in from under the boat, it’s very common for these systems to get clogged and stop working. You’ll need to make sure that you regularly check your filters, pipes, and pumps to make sure that dirt, debris, and small marine life aren’t messing with your system.
How Long Do Marine Air Conditioners Last?
Most marine air conditioners are built to last 15 to 20 years as long as they’re well-maintained. This also depends on how often the unit is used and on the environment that the system is exposed to every day.
Other Products We Looked At:
MarinAire 14000 Btu/h Self Contained Marine Air Conditioner
If you’re looking for the perfect mid-sized marine air conditioning unit, then you can’t go wrong with MarinAire’s 14k BTU self-contained A/C unit. The only reason it didn’t make our top picks is mainly that we didn’t want to be redundant by picking three MarinAire-manufactured products as our winners.
Another reason for this is that the pricing isn’t that different from the 16k BTU unit. When you’re already spending upwards of $1,500 to $2,000 on an expensive marine A/C unit, why skimp and save less than $100 and get a unit that’s 15% less strong? Then again- it all comes down to your personal taste, budget, and preferences.
Quality-wise, though, the MarinAire 14k marine air conditioner is just as durable and reliable as its larger 16k and smaller 11k siblings. It features the same sturdy polymer case to protect inner components, the 360-degree rotating blower, accurate pressure gauges, compressor sound-dampener, and low-profile.
It’s basically the same dimensions as the 16k unit, but it weighs slightly less. This 14k unit is a bit better for energy efficiency and needs less power to start up and run than the 16k, which also makes it a decent choice for those with strained or limited power systems who need to make the most of their boat’s limited batteries and power supply.
Key Points at a Glance
- Heavy-duty built-in pressure gauges with a flexible 360 degree rotatable power
- Light-weight, durable, SS316 stainless steel drain pan
- Efficient low start-up current
SEAFLO Marine Air Conditioning/Seawater Circulation AC Pump 250GPH
You may have noticed that this product looks a lot different than all of the other products that we’ve reviewed in the article. That’s because this is a pump, not the more advanced (and expensive) self-contained air conditioning unit.
One of the things that most first-time marine air conditioner buyers forget about is the pumps. The air conditioning units themselves rarely, if ever, come with pumps included, which means that you’ll need to budget out an extra few hundred bucks to buy one of these.
Marine air conditioners work differently than your typical home A/C unit. Instead of cooling the unit with air, marine A/C units pump a steady stream of seawater from below the hull into the A/C unit to aid in the temperature differentiation process that cools the air. Most systems circulate hundreds of gallons every hour!
SEAFLO is one of the top-rated pumps on the market and is rated to work with A/C units up to 12,000 BTUs. While it’s a bit too small to work with our 16k BTU top choices, it’s perfect for the 11k MarinAire “Budget Choice.” If you’re looking for a pump that’s compatible with the larger 14k and 16k units, then SEAFLO also manufactures those as well.
SEAFLO’s unique design utilizes a magnetically-driven pump that optimizes efficiency, uses less power, and ensures that your A/C unit will never go dry (a very important consideration).
Key Points at a Glance
- Reliable SEAFLO marine air conditioning circulation pump
- Compatible with most systems up to 12,000 BTU
- Completely submersible, sturdy seal-less centrifugal magnetically driven pump for optimized efficiency.
There you have it! The conclusive list of some of the top-rated marine air conditioners on the market. From backpack-sized portables to large heavy-duty units, we did our best to include a wide range of options that are applicable to every boater.
While we’ve done our best to categorize and simplify these untis, keep in mind that these can be complicated systems and often require a good bit of time and money to install.
That being said, there’s nothing that compares to having the cooling creature comfort of cold-blowing A/C on a scorching hot day while also being able to cast out a couple of lines and have a few cold ones!