Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Eastern Pennsylvania
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I do not know if all brands have a stepped turn on feature, but when I added a 16K unit to my 36' boat the installer recommended one that had this feature.
My unit has a single compressor with two separate heat exchange units, one forward and one aft. The system is set to turn on the pump first, then the compressor and finally the fans. This makes sure that the 30 amp service is not overwhelmed with a voltage spike at turn on.
I would check on this if you are sticking with the 30 amp service.
On your original question, I think you could get by with something less than a 16K unit, I doubt if there is much price difference between that an a 12K unit.
By the way, you are using the term air conditioning, but I assume you mean heat pump unit. On the Chesapeake, heat is just as essential to extending your season as cooling. Let the purists suffer, I have really enjoyed the comfort the heat pump provides.
I went so far as to add a diesel generator so I could use it on the hook. In the summer, sailing is great when you are outside, but it can take hours for the inside of the boat to cool down enough to sleep. We like to anchor out, so at the end of a sailing day, we would crank up the AC, do our cooking while it was on to avoid heating up the cabin, then shut it down and open up after sun was down.