5 Best Marine AC Units (For A Cool Boating Experience)

Josh Mitchell

Written By

Josh Mitchell

Expert Reviewed By

Holly Curell

Last Updated On

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A hot day on the water doesn't have to mean sweating to death. The best marine air conditioners can keep the inside of a boat ice cold even on those 100-degree days.

I know that a marine air conditioner can be an expensive investment that should not be taken lightly.

That's why I made this list of the best marine AC units to help boaters find the best way to stay cool in those hot summer months.

Quick Glance - My Recommendations

Dometic Brisk II | 13.5K BTU Air Conditioner...

Dometic Brisk II ‎B57915.XX1C0

Editor's Choice

Webasto A/C Retrofit Kit

Webasto AC Retrofit Kit

Best Replacement Marine AC
Dometic Emerald Titanium Deux

Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX

Best High-End

5 Best Marine Air Conditioners For a Cool Day Of Boating

1. Dometic Brisk II ‎B57915.XX1C0

4.8

Overall Score


Energy Efficiency

5.0

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Cooling Ability

5.0

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Value for Money

4.5

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Who is the Dometic Brisk II best for?

This Dometic marine air conditioner is best for people who don’t have room for a conventional marine air conditioner.

Pros
  • No condensate line or water pump required
  • Completely self-contained
  • Easy to install if you already have a hole
CONS
  • The unit is very noisy
  • Installation may require extra bracing on the roof

The Dometic Brisk II resembles an AC unit on a camper or RV, but this one goes on the roof of your boat.

It is a perfect replacement for an existing roof-mounted air conditioner unit, and I really like how easy it is to add to a boat without air conditioning.

Not all boats can support a roof-mounted marine air conditioner. However, this air conditioner does not take up space inside, and it is easily accessible to work on.

The condensing and evaporator unit is housed entirely on the roof and is shielded from the elements with a cover.

One thing that some people do not like is that the air conditioner is visible from the outside.

However, I don’t mind it on some boats because the white cover keeps the unit from sticking out like a sore thumb.

The noise level is also a common complaint, but it’s about as loud as a window air conditioner.

All that you will see inside the boat is the ceiling-mounted vent and the air conditioner controls.

The indoor trim is called a distribution box and provides a way to direct airflow (I often compare it to the air vents in a car).

The air conditioner’s manual controls are also mounted on the distribution box.

The Dometic Brisk II requires a 14" X 14" hole in the roof with structural supports.

Dometic Brisk II ‎B57915.XX1C0 14x14 hole

The boat's roof must be able to support about 75 lbs, and there must be space to run electrical wires.

If you are comfortable making a couple of cuts in the boat, then this can be a DIY job.

I'm pretty daring, but this is one of those projects that could turn into a major undertaking.

Also, remember that lugging this thing onto the roof alone may be difficult, so be sure to guilt a friend into helping.

Alternatively, the Brisk II can connect to ductwork. This would require your boat to have air ducts running up to the roof, as well as a thermostat mounted on a wall.

Although I like the cleaner look of a ducted system, few boats have ductwork running to the ceiling.
Dometic Brisk II ‎B57915.XX1C0

If you don’t have ducts already running to the ceiling, then I would stick to a self-contained marine air conditioner, like the Webasto AC Retrofit Kit below.

Feature

Details

Heating Method (If Equipped)

Electric heat (optional)

Thermostat Type

Manual knobs

BTU

15,000 BTU

Dimensions

28” X 14” X 30”

Warranty

2-year parts


2. Webasto AC Retrofit Kit

4.7

Overall Score


Energy Efficiency

4.75

Current Progress
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Cooling Ability

5.0

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Value for Money

4.5

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Who is the Webasto Retrofit Kit best for?

The Webasto Retrofit Kit is the best marine air conditioner for people who need to replace their existing marine air conditioning system.

Pros
  • Easy to install yourself
  • Compact enough to fit anywhere
  • Includes digital thermostat
  • Unit is painted to prevent rust and corrosion
CONS
  • Noisier than comparable self-contained units
  • Thermostat requires a special cable

I found the Webasto AC Retrofit Kit to be the perfect replacement for an aging marine air conditioner that is limping along on its last leg.

I really like this self-contained unit, but unlike the Dometic Brisk II, it does not require cutting a hole in the ceiling.

The compact size makes it easy to install, no matter the current unit's size.

The Webasto AC Retrofit Kit is a standard, self-contained marine system, so it relies on seawater for cooling.
Webasto AC Retrofit Kit dimensions

It also requires a condensate drain hose, which can connect to the boat's bilge. I prefer to connect to the waste tank so the bilge isn't constantly filling up with condensate.

Besides AC, the Webast Retrofit AC Kit also has heat, which is great for boating in the winter months or for people traveling up north.

Setting the AC and heat is easy with the included digital thermostat that can be mounted on a wall with the included cable.

If you don't want to get up to change the temperature, Webasto has you covered with an optional remote control.

If your boat doesn't have AC, then the Webasto AC Retrofit Kit is a good option.

I recommend looking for an easy place to install it, like under a bench or bed. Try to find a place close to existing plumbing and an electrical box.

All that's required for installation is a 5" piece of ductwork, ¾" piping for the seawater inlet/outlet, 12-gauge stranded wire, and some determination.

It also needs a submersible pump to suck water from the sea.

Feature

Details

Heating Method (If Equipped)

Heat pump

Thermostat Type

Digital wall-mounted (remote sold separately)

BTU

16,000 BTU

Dimensions

34” X 23” X 15”

Warranty

1-year parts (must be registered)


3. Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX

4.6

Overall Score


Energy Efficiency

4.75

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Cooling Ability

4.75

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Value for Money

4.25

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Who is the Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX best for?

The Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX is the best marine air conditioner for large boats with over 300 square feet.

Pros
  • Several different BTU options available
  • Customize your AC with different air handlers
  • Condenser noise stays contained to the engine room
  •  Also serves as a heat pump
CONS
  • Very complicated to install
  • Requires separate air handlers
Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX

When I look at a new air conditioner, I expect it to last for a long time. The Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX has the best marine air conditioner design on the market!

The white painted body helps to protect it from rust and corrosion. There are also brackets that serve as a frame to protect the compressor if it gets jostled around.

The Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX is not a standalone unit. Unlike the Webasto AC Retrofit Kit, this air conditioner only consists of a compressor.

The upside is that you can mount this unit in an exterior compressor compartment and run pipes to the evaporator.

I like modular systems, especially for larger boats, since they allow for more customizability.

The Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX is the perfect choice for large boats because it comes in a range of cooling capacities.

I mentioned that this is a well-built system, and that is evident when trying to pick up this 150 lb brick.
Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX weight

Be sure to keep the weight in mind because you will need help to get it aboard.

Although I really like the quality of the Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX, I can't overlook the installation challenges.

Copper lines must be run to a condensing unit, and electrical wiring must be connected to both the condenser and the evaporator.

It also needs a thermostat to control the air conditioner.

Feature

Details

Heating Method (If Equipped)

Heat pump

Thermostat Type

Wall-mounted thermostat (sold separately)

BTU

36,000; 48,000; 72,000 BTU

Dimensions

16” X 19” X 20”

Warranty

2-year parts, 1-year labor


4. Ivation IVACA6500

4.6

Overall Score


Energy Efficiency

5.0

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Cooling Ability

4.5

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Value for Money

4.25

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Who is the Ivation IVACA6500 best for?

The Ivation IVACA6500 is best for people who want to quickly and easily add a marine air conditioning system to their boat.

Pros
  • Easily add air conditioning in less than an hour
  • One of the cheapest marine air conditioning systems
  • Has a digital thermostat built-in
  • Dehumidifying mode removes moisture
CONS
  • Requires an opening window
  • No option for heating

The first time I saw the IVACA6500, I mistook it for a home window air conditioner.

It works just like a window air conditioner, with the condenser sitting outside and the evaporator inside.

The only difference is that the IVACA6500 actually has two separate parts connected by a rubber tube.

This makes it ideal for marine applications, thanks to the flexible mounting system.

The most important thing that may be a problem is the need for a window that opens to pass the connections through.

I found installation to be super simple, though, thanks to the included adjustable brackets.

These brackets allow for placement adjustment by clamping the unit to the window.

However, I recommend placing the unit below the window and modifying the brackets to mount it in a more discrete location.

After you get the unit mounted, just plug it into a 120V outlet and fire it up. The digital thermostat on the front can set the air conditioning to a desired temperature.

Ivation IVACA6500 wattage

However, I find that these thermostats are not nearly as accurate as wall-mounted ones used in traditional AC systems, like Dometic and Webasto.

As a light sleeper, I highly recommend this unit for a bedroom thanks to its quiet operation at 55 dB.

I suggest setting the timer to turn the air on an hour or two before bed so it is nice and cool, then take advantage of the sleep mode to quiet the fan noise.

During the day, I find it much better to use the dehumidifier mode.

I like the IVACA6500's dehumidifier mode since it is perfect for keeping the boat nice and dry on those temperate days.

Some people do complain about the look of the outdoor condensing unit, but at least it doesn’t obstruct the window.

I personally don’t think it looks bad, and it is easy to remove the unit in the cooler months.

At only 6,500 BTUs, the Ivation IVACA6500 will cool a room or a small boat. One good thing about the smaller units is that it doesn't need a ton of electricity to keep it going.

With that in mind, you are still stuck running on shore power with this air conditioner.

Feature

Details

Heating Method (If Equipped)

None

Thermostat Type

Digital (attached to the unit)

BTU

6,500 BTU

Dimensions

18” X 14” X 9”

Warranty

1-year parts


5. MarinAire Self-Contained Marine AC

4.5

Overall Score


Energy Efficiency

5.0

Current Progress
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Cooling Ability

4.5

Current Progress
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Value for Money

4.0

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Who is the MarinAire Self-Contained Marine AC best for?

The energy-efficient MarinAire Self-Contained Marine AC is best for boats with little room for a marine AC unit.

Pros
  • Self-contained unit with plastic housing
  • Energy efficient cooling power
  • Pressure gauges to check refrigerant
  • Insulated blower keeps noise down
  • Humidistat controls humidity levels
CONS
  • Requires a separate water pump sold separately
  • Special wiring must be run to the thermostat

The MarinAire is my favorite self-contained air conditioning unit, but it is unique.

The compressor and coils are protected by a molded plastic case, which definitely adds some protection.

The case also helps to keep the noise level down when the air conditioner is running.

The MarinAire is also the most compact marine ACs I've come across, and it is even smaller than the Webasto AC Retrofit Kit.

It will fit in tight compartments or under benches where other self-contained systems can't.

I also like the hook on top, which is a lifesaver when lowering the air conditioner into the cabin. It really turns the installation into a one-man job.

The standout features are the built-in pressure gauges to quickly check the high and low pressures without special tools.
MarinAire Self-Contained Marine AC gauge

I’ve looked at a lot of marine air conditioners with varying features, but the Marinaire has some of the best features included, such as a wireless remote.

It also comes with a conventional thermostat for the wall.

The Marinaire is the only marine AC unit I have seen with wireless connectivity.

You can control the marine AC unit from anywhere with the included WiFi thermostat (assuming you have internet access).

Installation is also a breeze since this is a self-contained unit.

The main components not included are some pipes for the stainless steel drain pan and water cooling, as well as a pump.

From there, all it takes is running the pipes and wire for the thermostat and humidity sensor wiring to the cabin.

Finally, connect the duct (size varies by BTU) and plug in the marine AC unit to start cooling off.

Feature

Details

Heating Method (If Equipped)

Heat pump

Thermostat Type

Digital wall-mounted, digital remote

BTU

16,000 BTU

Dimensions

24” X 16” X 15”

Warranty

1-year parts (with registration)


Comparing Marine Air Conditioners

Preview

Name

Rating

BTU

Dimensions

Price

Dometic Brisk II | 13.5K BTU Air Conditioner...

Dometic Brisk II ‎B57915.XX1C0

4.8

15,000 BTU

28” X 14” X 30”

Webasto A/C Retrofit Kit

Webasto AC Retrofit Kit

4.7

16,000 BTU

34” X 23” X 15”

Dometic Emerald Titanium Deux

Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX

4.6

36,000; 48,000;
72,000 BTU

16” X 19” X 20”

Ivation 6,500 BTU Camper Air Conditioner,...

Ivation IVACA6500

4.6

6,500 BTU

18” X 14” X 9”

MarinAire Self-Contained Marine AC

MarinAire Self-Contained Marine AC

4.5

16,000 BTU

24” X 16” X 15”


Factors To Consider When Choosing a Boat AC

What Size Cooling Does Your Boat Need?

The exact size cooling capacity your boat needs requires a complex calculation.

My general rule of thumb is that one BTU (British thermal units) cools about 5 square feet and heats 10 square feet.

This is based on moderate climate control and cooling an area below deck.

  • Large Boats
    The Dometic Emerald Titanium Deux is perfect for large boats over 500 square feet. I recommend this for a very large yacht with a separate engine compartment and large living spaces. Sometimes, larger boats use two units.
  • Medium Sized Boats
    Smaller boats from 200-500 square feet have a few options, including the Webasto AC Retrofit Kit and the Marinaire AC system. These self-contained systems are perfect for small to mid-size boats with room to run a short piece of ductwork.
  • Small Boats
    Finally, marine AC units like the Dometic Brisk II and Ivation IVACA 6500 are perfect for small boats in the 100-200 square foot range.
I always consider the size of an existing marine AC unit and also perform a new calculator. 

There are several formulas that get very scientific, but a simple online capacity calculator is my go-to.[1]

TL;DR: You much choose an AC system based on the covered area of your boat. The larger the boat, the more powerful systems with high BTU capacity is required.

What Is Your Budget?

The most budget-friendly marine air conditioners cost less than $1,000, while ducted systems can easily cost a few thousand.

I know most people have a budget in mind with these larger projects. In that case, the budget will dictate what type of system you can get.

A traditional self-contained marine AC system like the Marinaire or Webasto I mentioned above typically costs about $2,500.

Split systems like the Dometic Emerald Titanium Deux cost significantly more.

The exact price varies by dealer as Dometic does not advertise the cost for its high-end split systems.

AC Lab Note:

Don't forget to consider installation, which will likely cost about the same as the unit, depending on the required work. Similarly, split systems cost significantly more to install than self-contained marine air conditioners.

Continuing on with self contained systems, the Dometic Brisk II is a fairly cheap option as it starts around $1200.

However, the cost to install may be higher than other self-contained systems like the Marinaire and Webasto .

Retrofitting a smaller unit like the Ivation will be the most affordable route. I commonly see these systems for around $700.

Most marine AC units I've found run on a generator, which will add a significant cost if you don't already own one.

TL;DR: You budget would dictate the type of AC you choose. Some AC systems like the split or self-contained marine AC systems are more expensive than roof-mounted ACs.

How Long Is The Warranty?

Marine air conditioner warranties vary significantly between brands, but most come with at least a one-year parts warranty.

Higher-end models like Dometic's Emerald Titanium come with a parts and labor warranty.

In comparison, companies like Webasto and Ivation have a parts-only warranty.

One and two year parts warranties are pretty standard in the marine air conditioner industry.

I find that Dometic offers the best marine air conditioner warranty at two years on many of its higher-end products. It is also one of the most inclusive warranties.

TL;DR: One and two years parts warranty is fairly standard but try to look for a unit that offers a longer warranty period.

How Easy Is It To Install?

Some marine air conditioning systems are easy to install, while others vary in complexity.

More importantly, everyone has a different level of abilities.

People planning a DIY install should first determine if there is room in the boat to mount a self-contained unit. Then, plan where to run the pipes and electrical.

Alternatively, consider a roof-mounted unit if there isn't space for a conventional marine AC unit.

The roof-mounted unit requires a single hole but also requires framing out the roof around it.

Most people don't want to spend days hacking away at their beloved boat, so I would go with the Ivation IVACA6500, or even a portable boat air conditioner.

The most difficult-to-install marine AC units are split systems, where the condensing unit goes in the engine room.

These are more expensive units and difficult to install since pipes must be run throughout the boat.

These may also require extra refrigerant to be added, and the lines must be vacuumed.

I would only recommend this system for really large boats or if it is already undergoing extensive maintenance.

TL;DR: Most ACs systems are easy to install, some like the roof-mounted ACs would require cutting holes. Marine ACs are also very heavy so they will definitely require help in installation.

How Easy Is It To Maintain?

Maintaining marine AC units is similar to keeping up with a home AC system.[2]

The most important thing to do is keep the return air filters clean. I also recommend checking the coils annually to ensure they are not dirty.

A chilled water system such as the Webasto, Marinaire, and Dometic Emerald Titanium I looked at do require a little extra attention, such as ensuring the water does not freeze in cold months.

I am a fan of low maintenance, and you can’t get much simpler than the Ivation IVACA 6500 and the Dometic Brisk II.

Both marine AC units are easy to access, so filter cleaning requires little effort.

The good thing about most marine AC units is that they are serviceable.

Most marine AC systems mentioned above have service ports so an AC tech can easily perform a check-up and get the system running like new again.

TL;DR: Look for marine ACs that offer ease-of-maintenance features such as service ports, easy to access filters etc. 


How We Review & Rank Our Product List

At Air Conditioner Lab, our team follows a similar process when evaluating all products reviews before formulating our final lists for readers.

We begin by gathering data sources directly from brands, e-commerce platforms, online retailers and press releases.

These are then added to a master file we use to compare features specifications from all air conditioner models. You can access this Air Conditioner Sheet Here.

Next, we narrow down all the products on the market by evaluating user reviews, ratings and feedback from a wide variety of online and in-person sources.

Our team then discusses and co-ordinates our first hand experiences using these products, as well as gather independent opinions and feedback through Youtube and customer reviews.

4 Types Of Marine ACs Found On Boats

Types of marine AC

1. Self-Contained Units

Self contained marine air conditioners like the Webasto and Marinaire place the condenser and blower in a single package.

Most marine air conditioners rely on seawater to cool the returning refrigerant. These units are very efficient, quiet, and compact, which is perfect for a boat.

Adding this type of marine air conditioner is also very easy, even if your boat never had air conditioning.

All that they require is a hose for the seawater, electrical, and a hole for the vent.

Using a vent means self-contained units are great for directing airflow to a specific part of the boat.

It is also worth noting that self-contained units can also refer to portable, roof-mounted, or hatch-mounted systems where the condenser and evaporator are together in one assembly.

2. Hatch-mounted Units

A boat hatch-mounted marine air conditioner is designed to fit into a boat’s existing hole in the roof.

These units are very easy to install, but they come with a few challenges.

Hatch mounted air conditioners are essentially a window AC unit with an angled duct that attaches to the boat's hatch.

AC Lab Note:

I often see people confuse roof-mounted air conditioners like the Dometic Brisk II with hatch-mounted marine AC units. It may be possible to install a roof-mounted AC unit into a hatch, but most hatches are too large.

3. Chilled Water Units

Chilled water units are some of the most popular marine AC systems, and chilled water may be used on both split and self-contained systems.

A pump takes seawater and pushes through copper piping on the chiller, known as a heat exchanger.

Instead of using large condensing coils like your home's AC system, the seawater cools the coils, so there is no need for a fan.

Besides heat transfer, chilled water units still operate like most other air conditioners.

For instance, they have a compressor, evaporator coil, and a reversing valve (on heat pump models).

To boil this down, chilled water units are perfect for boats because there is a constant supply of water to keep the system cool.

This also removes the need to place a condensing unit outside since the seawater literally removes heat from the boat.

4. Split-air Units

A split-air unit is simply an air conditioning system where the condenser and evaporator are separate.

In most applications, the condenser coils and compressor are outside, while the evaporator coils and air handler are inside.

This is the exact opposite of a self-contained marine air conditioner. However, it can use either a chilled water system or an air-cooled condenser.

I don’t want to make this too complicated, but the Ivation we covered is technically a split system since the condenser and evaporator are separate.

However, a more conventional example is the Dometic Emerald Titanium DEUX.

Split systems are ideal for larger vessels with an engine room or boats with multiple evaporator units.

I recommend against these complex split systems for many boaters because they are very complicated, and repair can be costly.

TL;DR: There are many different types of marine AC systems. Some systems are suitable for smaller covered area such as roof-mounted ACs, others systems like split air or self contained units are essential for larger covered area.


FAQs

How Many Watts Does A Marine Air Conditioner Use?

The exact number of watts a marine air conditioner uses varies by model and BTUs. For example, a 6,000 BTU self-contained unit uses about 500-550 watts.

How Long Do Marine Air Conditioners Last?

A marine air conditioner’s lifespan hinges largely on how well it is taken care of. The average life is about ten years, but this may vary depending on how much use it gets.

How Do You Size A Marine Air Conditioner?

You size a marine air conditioning unit based on the cubic footage of the boat, as well as sun exposure and climate. A quicker and easier way to get in the ballpark is by multiplying 5 BTU times the square feet of the boat.

How Do You Maintain A Marine Air Conditioner?

The most important part of maintaining a marine air conditioning unit is to clean out the return air filter and keep the condensate pan clear. Be sure that water does not freeze in the pump or pipes during the winter.

What Is The Difference Between Refrigeration And Air Conditioning On A Ship?

Refrigeration and air conditioning are often used interchangeably when discussing cooling systems on a ship.

However, the word refrigeration is mainly used when talking about cooling systems like freezers and other cold storage. In contrast, air conditioning commonly refers to regulating temperatures in a living space.

So, Which Will You Buy?

The best marine air conditioner will depend on your boat’s size and needs. I like all of the marine AC units that we covered, but each one really fits a specific need.

However, I find the MarinAire Self-Contained system to be the best marine air conditioner because of its casing and integrated gauges.

But best of all, it is easy to install.

I also like the units built by major brands like Dometic marine air conditioners because they are well-built for a harsh marine environment and offer an excellent warranty.

My #1 Recommendation
Dometic Brisk II ‎B57915.XX1C0

  • No condensate line or water pump required
  • Completely self-contained
  • Easy to install if you already have a hole

References: 

  1. https://www.marinaire.com/category-s/28.htm
  2. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner
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Josh Mitchell

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Josh Mitchell
My name is Josh and I am obsessed with home appliances. From portable AC units to heaters and air purifiers, I enjoy testing, learning and using these devices to improve the air quality inside my family home.

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