Best Marine Air Conditioners

Best Marine Air Conditioners | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

May 2, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • The best marine air conditioner will vary based on key factors specific to your needs
  • Webasto, MarinAire, and Flagship are some of the most recognizable air conditioners
  • Most marine air conditioners are affordable and made with quality parts
  • Consider choosing a cooling system based on the size of your boat
  • Marine air conditioners will likely last up to 20 years with preventative maintenance

A good quality marine air conditioner inside a boat comes in handy on a hot day. But what qualifies one as the best marine air conditioner?

The best marine air conditioner could be argued for brands such as Webasto, MarinAire, Dometic, and Campelify. The best marine air conditioning systems all rely on factors for the size of the boat, how easy it is to install, and the budget in order to be considered the best.

Drawing from personal experience, the best marine air conditioner is one that can hold up well to the marine environment at a good price. You should also aim for air conditioning systems that do not require a lot of assistance installing if you are by yourself or have never installed one.


Table of contents

Nine of the Best Marine Air Conditioner Units

Hot weather in the summer is a great time for sailing but can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. Investing in marine air conditioners can make your sailing experience more enjoyable and prevent heat-related illnesses.

You and your passengers can stay cool and comfortable during hot weather especially in the summer with a functional air conditioner on board. Choosing the best marine air conditioner can be challenging due to the numerous options available.

MarinAire 16,000 BTU

MarinAire 16,000 BTU
MarinAire 16,000 BTU

Equipped with pressure gauges and a sound cover this unit boasts a stainless steel drain pan, D- Smart control system, a low startup current, and a compact design suitable for small spaces. While unsuitable for household installation, its standout features include a 60% noise reduction and 360-degree blower outlet to help make it a smart investment.


  • It has a D-Smart control system that protects from damage and detects humidity
  • Rotating 360-degree blower outlet
  • Includes sound cover


  • Short power cord
  • The electrical box can be intimidating if needing to work on

Webasto 10,000 BTU

Webasto 10,000 BTU
Webasto 10,000 BTU

Webasto's platinum series features a self-contained marine air conditioner with a 10,000 BTU cooling output with a robust design, is quiet, and has a reverse-cycle heat. This unit is great for new installations or as a system replacement and upgrade and includes a compressor compartment, condenser, evaporator, remote thermostat, and controller, as well as velocity blowers for superior cooling. Its programmable thermostat, low maintenance, fuel efficiency, and easy installation make it one of the top marine air conditioners available.


  • Respectable cooling results with low maintenance
  • More affordable compared to other models with the same output
  • Quieter when operating than other models


  • The square fit might be difficult to retrofit on some boats

CAMPELIFY Portable Air Conditioner Unit

CAMPELIFY Portable Air Conditioner Unit
CAMPELIFY Portable Air Conditioner Unit

This is a top rated portable marine AC unit with mild cooling and is ideal for boats and campers. It uses vapor compression, 134A refrigerant, and a micro-channel condenser for compact design.

It also features a DC rotary compressor for high performance and vibration cushioning. It can be powered by a grid or battery for spot cooling in small spaces or larger rooms.


  • Ideal as a small boat air conditioner
  • Energy-efficient and can be used with solar power
  • Easy to install and is cost-effective


  • Not as efficient cooling larger rooms

Dometic Envirocomfort 16,000 BTU

Dometic Envirocomfort 16,000 BTU
Dometic Envirocomfort 16,000 BTU

The EnviroComfort Dometic marine AC retrofit kit is a cost-effective, eco-friendly option for mid-sized boats that provides year-round comfort with a climate control feature. User reports claim that it is easy to install, clean, and monitor. This Dometic marine air conditioner has an audible fan that may unintentionally switch modes during extreme temperature fluctuations.


  • Best bang for your buck marine AC unit
  • Simple to set up and has quality air output
  • Energy efficient for mid-sized boats


  • Can be pretty noisy compared to other models

Black+Decker Portable AC

Black+Decker Portable AC
Black+Decker Portable AC

The BLACK+DECKER portable air conditioner is a powerful and versatile unit with a 10,000 BTU ASHRAE exhaust system that is ideal for midsize cabins at sea. It has a corded electric power source, remote control, environment-friendly refrigerants, LED control panels, and a 24-hour timer with auto-control sleep mode.

You would likely need to use two units as a primary and secondary backup for larger boats during a more extended sailing trip. Maintenance is easy with reusable air filters, pressure gauges, air intake gaps, and an exhaust hose. You might need a sound cover to help reduce noise.


  • Worth a shot as a backup marine air conditioner for larger boats
  • Very affordable


  • It can be quite noisy compared to other models
  • Somewhat bulky and can take up a lot of space if you buy more than one

ASA Electronics ACM135 Advent Air

ASA Electronics ACM135 Advent Air
ASA Electronics ACM135 Advent Air

ASA's AC model for sailboats is ideal for non-ducted setups with 13500 BTU cooling and eco-friendly features. Its robust build minimizes vibrations, has three fan speeds, and connects to a standard 14.25 opening.

It requires professional installation for this self-contained unit that has refrigerant. There are six foam pads that line the watertight vent opening and it has filters that you can wash to help ensure clean air. Saltwater may corrode the stainless steel drain pan faster and there is no warranty without professional installation.


  • Three fan speeds for various air output
  • It has a removable air filter
  • Can add a heat strip for warm air


  • No pressure gauge
  • Need a professional to install
  • Warranty in question

CTM Marine

CTM Marine
CTM Marine

Miami's CTM Marine created a powerful marine air conditioner that is resistant to corrosion and compatible with other major brands. These units are energy-efficient, eco-friendly, and quiet.

Depending on your cooling needs they can range from 6,000 to 72,000 BTUs and are compact. They also come with a two-year warranty and offer excellent as a top marine air conditioner choice in the market.


  • Competitive price compared to other marine air conditioner brands in the market
  • Quality materials meant to last in marine environments
  • It has a warranty for two years


  • Control is sold separately
  • The blower is not able to turn past 170 degrees
  • Have to buy from an authorized dealer

Flagship FM16H

Flagship FM16H
Flagship FM16H

Flagship Marine's FM series air conditioners are praised by boaters for their robustness and potency. Their units are renowned for their durability and are used on US Coast Guard and Navy vessels. These models have also lasted over 20 years for recreational boaters.

They operate quietly, utilizing isolator bushings, have insulated blower chambers, and use LG Rotary Compressors. Their low noise level enables them to be installed even beneath bunks. FM units also feature a smooth startup and low surge as well as dry drain pans that protect against condensation and corrosion.


  • Uses relays instead of circuit boards
  • Has a warranty on parts for five years and one year on labor
  • Constructed in the US


  • Does not have a variable speed
  • Unit has to be shipped off if problems cannot be fixed over the phone
  • Warranty can be strict in certain situations

Mermaid M16

Mermaid M16
Mermaid M16

Mermaid boasts a proficient crew and backs their products that include the M16 flagship model. This 16,500 BTU AC cools or heats boats to roughly 1,400 cubic feet with superior US-made parts and is perfect for larger boats.

They craft with high-grade components on sturdy stainless steel bases. It is also customizable with several different air discharge options.


  • It has a five year warranty on craftsmanship and materials
  • Easy to make repairs and install
  • Outstanding customer service where people talk to you that have built them


  • Unit has to be shipped to them if any major issues
  • Might have some minor noise issues

How to Find the Best Marine Air Conditioners

Choosing the best marine air conditioner can be a challenging task for some boat owners. You would need to understand a variety of factors before jumping into a purchase for one.

It is best to conduct all the research you can when considering a marine air conditioning. Choosing the right boat AC unit requires careful planning and significant investment.

How Big is Your Boat?

Selecting an optimal marine air conditioner requires measuring the cooling area and factoring in the following:

  • Adequate insulation
  • How much sunlight exposure
  • Number of windows
  • Size of your boat

Consider choosing a higher capacity unit or several smaller units for larger boats. Confirm that there is adequate space near the engine for the condenser when choosing a split system.

Important Details of the Marine Air Conditioner

Marine air conditioners come in a variety of intended uses and price ranges. However, there is more to look into than just that. Consider the type of unit you choose based on:

  • How much space it requires
  • Ease of mounting and its location
  • Research power requirements in case you need extra power
  • Evaluate the impact on vessel performance from added weight
  • Understand British Thermal Units (BTUs) and how they apply to output

Other factors will likely affect your decision to buy a certain model. You need to consider the noise level if you are a light sleeper in order to avoid sleep disturbances.

Some marine air conditioners are easy to install and you can do them yourself. However, some require proper installation for efficient refrigeration, return air flow, to allow for maintenance, and ducting or discharge options.

Budget and What it Costs to Maintain Marine AC Units

Only you know exactly what you can and cannot afford. Budgets are crucial in determining which AC units appeal to you.

Maintenance requirements should also not be overlooked. Complex systems might require more money to fix than standard AC units. However, most marine AC systems will have a customer support line to help fix any issues.


Some marine AC units have warranties on parts, labor, materials, or a combination of a few. You will need to verify warranty coverage for your chosen marine AC unit to ensure customer protection for potential defects, parts that need to be replaced, and urgent issue resolutions.

You should make sure to follow exactly what it explains so that you do not void your marine air conditioner warranty. This means properly following a schedule of routine maintenance and other rules for repairs.

Benefits of a Marine AC Unit

Adding an AC unit to your boat offers more than just cooling benefits on a hot day at sea. You will discover many advantageous features that make them more valuable than just that.

You can likely still find sailors that do not use an air conditioner on their boat. But there are plenty of positives to consider adding one to your vessel.

Fights off Mold

Air conditioners aid in preventing the growth of mold by promoting proper air circulation. This keeps boats free from mold and its associated foul odor caused by high heat and humidity.

Mold infestations can be challenging to eliminate once established. Installing an air conditioner will help keep you proactive of a mold situation.

Staying Cool

The main point for AC units is to help cool the boat cabin or intended room. You can escape the heat while sailing with an air conditioner on board your boat. This will also make your boat more appealing to be on as you explore the waters with your companions.

This feature maintains vessel coolness during rain in wet and humid regions. That allows for drying and cooling without opening windows. The air conditioner manages climate control and eliminates the need to expose the interior to rain and air.

Can Potentially Use as a Heater

Some marine air conditioner units double as heaters in winter. That alone could be worth the extra investment since you would not need to find a separate heating system like a diesel stove.

If you are able to use your air conditioner as a heater then it will allow you to save space. Some units are only for cool air so you would need another unit simply for heating and that will take up more space.

Helps Dehumidify Vessel

Marine air conditioners on boats help the cooling process but also dehumidification and heat through reverse cycle. Boats that are dry during storms or when it is insanely humid increase comfort and reduce corrosion for onboard systems.

Varieties of Marine Air Conditioners

Prioritize researching available marine AC systems and their suitability for your vessel's size and needs before making any extravagant purchases. Choosing the wrong unit can result in inefficiency, battery drainage, and inadequate cooling.

Self-Contained Units

These compact systems can be fixed onto a single chassis and make them suitable for cooling vessels between 25 and 40 feet. They can be installed in various locations, such as the living area, near the waterline, under a settee or bunk, and require thru-hull connections for efficient water absorption.

Hatch-mounted Units

Compact vessels like small motorboats and daysailers are ideal for using such systems and are popular due to their portability. However, they can be bulky and require two people to move. It is important to note that portable AC units for boats may not be effective in cooling larger cabins.

Chilled Water Units

These systems consist of a chiller in the engine room that cools freshwater. Units like this are ideal for cooling multiple cabins on super yachts and larger vessels.

The water is then circulated through a pipe loop to air handlers installed in the fore room. Despite their high energy requirements these AC units are an efficient option to consider.

Split-air Units

Boats up to 80 feet benefit from central or split air conditioning with a condensing unit housing the seawater condenser, compressor, and electrical parts. The evaporating unit, consisting of a blower and evaporator coil, is installed in living spaces. Insulated copper tubing connects the two units for refrigerant flow.

How You Can Install a Marine Air Conditioner

Installing an air conditioning unit on your boat can be hassle-free if you follow the manufacturer's instructions. Make sure to have the necessary thru-hulls and tools before installation. You can also watch instructional videos for your specific model or seek professional help for complex installations.

Placement is crucial and should be in a well-ventilated and dry area and away from flammable sources. If you do not have enough space then consider making some modifications. Follow the manufacturer's recommended installation instructions for best results.

If you find the installation process daunting then it is best to seek out professional assistance. In doing so make sure to pay close attention to the procedure and learn how to troubleshoot common issues. Being knowledgeable about your AC unit will help you keep it functioning efficiently.

How to Take Care of Marine Air Conditioners

To help optimize your marine AC unit's performance you can do simple tasks such as consult the manual and clean the rear filter. Further proper cleaning instructions can be found in the manual that might be necessary.

Most marine air conditioner units need the sea strainer cleaned for sufficient water supply. You should also check raw water discharge for proper operation.

Maintenance conducted by a trained professional is recommended every few years to prevent clogging. Extending the unit's lifespan up to 20 years is as simple as properly maintain your marine air conditioner.

Best Marine Air Conditioners
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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