Category Archives: Equipment

Airstream A/C Shouldn’t Be This Hard

The Attwood going up

The Attwood going up

The Pursuit of Happiness

I decided to upgrade the Airstream’s OEM Domentic Penguin II 13.5k air conditioner with an Attwood Air Command. The Attwood promised to be:

1) Quiter (this would be easy as a jet engine would be quieter than the Penguin II)
2) More efficient (supposedly the 13.5k operated at an equivalent of a 16.0k)
3) More air volume
4) Cooler (anything blowing air cooler than a jet engine would beat the Penguin II)
5) Able to start with a Honda EU2000i generator – one, not two tangled together

So, the decision was made and everything was ordered. It all arrived except the gasket that went between the A/C and the roof, so we had to stop and wait TWO WEEKS for the gasket to arrive in Nevada from Ohio. It came by horse, or my order wasn’t important to the distributor, not sure which.

My installation crew came back and installed the Attwood. We turned it on. Glorious! It blows so much more air than the Penguin II, it was much cooler, much quieter, and boy was I happy!

And then the bad news came that the Dometic thermostat that runs the air conditioner, heater and heat strip doesn’t communicate with the Attwood, so the new delicious A/C had to run manually.

Well, I didn’t know it at the time, but the Air Command does not shut down when the desired temperature is reached. Nope. It switches to the fan only mode, then back to A/C, then back to fan, then to A/C, forever. It never shuts off until the human intervenes.

That little bit of rather vital information wasn’t really in the sales print, though it was sort of eluded to in a roundabout way, kind of. That’s what Attwood said, anyway. So, now my dream machine had a good a/c, cheap insulation, a thermostat that was useless, no heater, and cost about $800 more after the a/c installation. Oh, and I gave the Penguin II to the repairman as I thought I would have no more need for it.

I was broken hearted yet again. After much stewing, I decided I had to do something for heat before winter set in, and I hated the Attwood staying on all day long in it’s perpetual cycle, so I came to grips with ditching the Attwood and $800.

Oh, and during this whole fiasco, I contacted Attwood. They were very concerned and were going to jump right on engineering a fix, but then they disappeared. No contact. No reply to my emails. No nothing. It wasn’t until later I heard they had been bought by… Dometic – the Penguin II people. I’m thinking it’s part of a vast conspiracy against Airstream owners who try to disconnect from the Mother Ship.

Dometic Brisk Air II

With much more research done, I found I could recover the use of my heater and thermostat if I went back to a Dometic product (conspiracy). I initially refused for moral reasons, then finally capitulated. They promised, like Attwood, that their Brisk Air II unit would be wonderful. I didn’t really believe them now that I knew Attwood and Dometic were in bed together. With much chagrin, I ordered the BA II. However, I ordered a 15.0k unit rather than the 13.5k, with a hard start capacitor, and the heat strip option.

I called the installers again and had them swap the a/c units again. Now, my new air conditioner solution cost $1,600 rather than the $800 I originally thought no one who bought a $70,000 trailer should have to do.

The results? The heater works just fine. The 15.0k BA II is still noisier than the 13.5k Attwood, but not by much. At least it now shuts on and off on its own via the thermostat. The air is not cooler, though the air temperature stays cooler longer (15.0k v 13.5k?). The outside profile is much, much higher than the Penguin II, and a little higher than the Attwood. It kind of looks dorky on the roof, but it works. I have not tried it on the Honda EU2000, so we’ll see how that goes later. The air vents for the BA II are poorly designed for the Airstream. The forward vent emits very little air even with the rear vent closed. A sketchy design from the same folks who brought us the Penguin II.

Sorry for not pulling punches on the equipment manufacturers. When they fall short, I call them on it.

And speaking of falling short, the distributor I bought the Brisk Air II products through ended up being the worst vendor I’ve experienced over the last many years. They actually have zero ways for a customer to speak to a human, they provide nearly nothing in the way of assistance in ordering, and their returns policy requires you stop payment on your credit card before someone will speak with you. Totally grumpy – totally 1970s longshoremen union mentality. The company is I cannot speak loudly enough about my terrible experience with them.

The end of the whole story is the air conditioner to buy is the Dometic Brisk Air II if you have the Dometic Comfort Control Center thermostat in your RV. It works well, though not ideal. An Attwood would be good for a race car trailer or somewhere you want cool, quiet, efficient air blowing 24/7. The OEM Penguin II is horrible, but you already know that.