San Diego Boat Air Conditioning Repair

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San Diego is home to a very large naval base so you have a mix of recreational and commercial service providers in the area. Much of the boat repair companies are concentrated in southern San Diego on either side of the airport. La Playa, and Barrio Logan, for example, have tons of service providers. Unsurprisingly, this is the area with the highest concentration of naval bases and even the USS Midway Museum. However, boating is not limited to San Diego proper, and you can find service as far north as Carlsbad. Given that boating is year round and the naval presence, the boating economy is such that you should have no trouble finding marine air conditioning repair and other such specialists.

The best thing to do is research service providers online. If you are outside San Diego, you can search on Mariner Exchange for marine air conditioning repair in your area. You will see all of the marine air conditioning repair options within a 50mi radius. When you are reading reviews, make sure to weigh them based on how specific the boater is about the work that was completed. It is also worth asking friends who have a similar boat or AC unit to you. Despite the trend towards online reviews, word of mouth can still be a great way to find a service provider. You can also look at the manufacturer website of your marine AC unit - the website will likely have a dealer locator you can use to search. Typically, the dealers are also able to service the units. Asking your marina for recommendations is another option. The marina may have marine air conditioning service providers that rent space from them. If you find someone outside of the marina, make sure that the marina allows outside companies before you book the repair.


San Diego has year round boating so you shouldn’t be hard pressed to find marine AC repair. From a cost perspective, average marine AC repair can cost $250 to $500. If you find a mobile repair shop, they will likely be cheaper because they don’t have the big overhead cost of a shop in a marina. However, you want to be sure to understand if there are any travel costs before you book. The last thing you want to do is think you are getting a cheaper rate but then receive the bill and see a big line item for travel.


AC units have three major components that you should be familiar with:

  • Evaporator - absorbs heat from the outside air using boiling refrigerant.

  • Compressor - pushes the refrigerant through the system.

  • Condenser - cools and liquefies the refrigerant before it goes back to the evaporator.

Most marine air conditioning systems are what’s called direct expansion, which means that refrigerant is pumped directly to air handlers around the boat. You should always keep the manual for your unit handy on the boat so that you can troubleshoot if you are out to see. If you are a weekend boater, this may not be as important, but cruisers on long voyages should definitely adhere to this. If you have a modern unit, then there is likely a digital display that will show error messages and the manual will help you decipher them.

Understanding how all the parts of your unit fit together can help immensely when you have to troubleshoot. The expansion valve is the first thing you should be able to locate and it is just upstream of the evaporator. The expansion valve is what controls the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator. The refrigerant is liquid before it passes through the expansion valve, but after passing through, it starts to boil as the pressure drops. Refrigerant R410A - the most common - is around minus 55 degrees F. The boiling refrigerant then removes heat from the surrounding air which gives the cooling effect.


The last thing you want to do is buy and install a unit that can’t cool the cabin, makes a ton of noise, or just flat out won’t fit. Take the necessary precautions below to make sure you don’t end up in a lurch:

  • Cooling capacity check: You need to make sure that your unit can handle the size of the cabin. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a light cool breeze but the unit won’t be able to hold the temperature.

  • Measure your cabin and make sure your unit can handle it based on the BTUs of cooling power it puts out.

  • Battery and electrical check: You will blow a lot of fuses if you don’t do this standard check first. It might be worth leaving this part to a professional, but you need to make sure your battery and electrical system can handle your unit. Between 115 volts at 60 Hz and 230 volts at 50 Hz is typically what an AC unit needs.

  • Space check: Between the compressor and condenser you are going to be pressed for space. You need to find as efficient a unit as possible that isn’t bulky while also making sure it can handle the size of your cabin.

  • Climate zones: This isn’t so much a tip, but rather something to keep in mind. If you are lucky enough to have a boat with a large interior, you can get an AC unit with multiple climate zones. The AC system is more complex and has multiple evaporator units with one large condenser. The condenser is typically located in your engineer room with the evaporator units spread throughout the interior of the boat.

  • Think about heat as well: Many AC units can double as a heater, so if it gets cool at night, you may want to consider this feature as you shop around.