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Old 07-15-2019, 07:13 PM   #1
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T21DMHW bug and A/C problems - first trip nightmares

Howdy folks,

We just came home a day early from the maiden voyage of our new 2019 Flagstaff T21DMHW (also our very first camper trailer) and I must say I'm in a bad mood and not quite sure what to do next. I'm starting to wonder if we were sold a fair-weather camper for some mystical place with no insect life. Nom I'm just trying to find a bright side in all of this so we can get back on the road and salvage my remaining vacation time. Any tips or knowledge from those of you with these campers would be greatly appreciated.

Background: My son and I have been tent camping for a few years, so I felt my standards were pretty low. I just wanted hard walls to keep the bugs and noise at bay, and an air conditioner to provide a retreat during the hottest parts of the day. So we pulled the new A-frame just down the road to a state park, backed it into our little site, and had it set up in under five minutes. Unfortunately, it failed at meeting my two requirements.

Problem 1, short version: wasps are getting into the living area from outside after everything's assembled.

Long version: The pests at our site started coming in even before the sidewalls were up, but that didn't bother me. I shooed them out as I was going and ensured nobody was trapped inside by the time I got it all sealed up. Imagine our surprise, then, at finding ourselves in the company of new indoor wasps (and mud daubers) several times during the next 24 hours. I woke up to a wasp on my bedding, a wasp landed on my son's breakfast at the dinette, another joined me in the shower, etc.

I can only assume they're coming in through the corners of the dormer or the peak of the roof, as I can see a little sunlight peeking through those areas. I didn't actually catch any of them in the act of breaching the perimeter, though. Is this common / expected?

Problem 2, short version: the Cool Cat AC only cooled down most of the trailer to a stuffy 90 degrees.

Long version: Yes, it was 100 degrees in north Texas today and yes, the site we got didn't offer any shade. I understand that's a worst-case scenario. When we started setting up yesterday afternoon it was brutally hot but I closed all the shades and blinds, ran the ceiling vent fan at low speed, set the thermostat to 60 degrees auto, and let it chill (thinking we'd come back to a pleasant bedtime).

When we came in at sunset, we got our first taste of reality: The air coming out of the floor-mounted Cool Cat was nearly freezing, and the walkway about 24 inches in front of that was lovely, but the dinette was uncomfortably warm... and the remaining space (namely the bed, kitchen, and shower) were nearly 90 degrees. I couldn't even feel the effects of the AC standing in the entryway with my palms out toward it.

Having said that, I woke up around midnight and was absolutely freezing. Everything had chilled pretty quickly once the sun went down, and I had to raise the thermostat to 68 (and it promptly cycled off for a while)!

BUT... all that went away as soon as the sun came up. We could feel the temperatures climbing rapidly after sunrise and we had to evacuate by 10:30 AM because we were dripping with sweat. A quick "touch the ceiling" check revealed it was already radiating tons of heat into the cabin. At lunchtime, we decided it was FAR NICER OUTSIDE in 105 degrees with some shade and a light breeze than it was indoors (again up to around 90 degrees with no improvement anywhere except the floor right in front of the Cool Cat vents... which was so cold I couldn't stand there for more than a minute or two).

I feel like they can't all be this bad... are they? Are these not ready for Texas summers?


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Old 07-15-2019, 09:23 PM   #2
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I know nothing about A-Frames or your specific layout.

Can you put in a fan to move the air around from the A/C?

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Old 07-15-2019, 09:39 PM   #3
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I would think that something may need to be adjusted to correct the sunlight shinning in/bug issue. As for the AC, did you continue to leave the roof fan on? If this is an exhaust fan it will pull the heat out at first but then it will continue to pull out your new cool air. I'm not an owner of an A-Frame but in my travel trailer I can't run the exhaust fans in extreme heat. The A/C will not be able to keep up. I only use my fan when we are showering to remove humidity or when the weather is nice enough to have doors and window open to move air. I also would say that hot people, doors that get open, cooking..... are all heat makers. My trailer can be 75 and the four of us can come in after being on the hot beach and we raise the temp 3 or 4 degrees within a few mins. We must put out a lot of BTU's. Just a couple of thoughts.
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Old 07-15-2019, 09:43 PM   #4
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We have a Rockwood A214HW which I think is equivalent to your Flagstaff.

We haven't had any wasps so I can't speak to that except to make sure all of the vinyl covers are properly velcro'ed in place around all of the hinges. We get an occasional fly but we've seen them come in with us so I doubt we've had them come in anywhere else. FYI, an old-timer's trick to keep crawling bugs out is to smear a thin layer of Vaseline all around the shore connections near the trailer, i.e. power cord at the connector, water hose, jack foot at the front of the trailer, etc. This works because ants and other bugs can't crawl across the Vaseline and they prefer those places to the tires. Just wipe it off with a paper towel before you put the cable/hose away.

As to the CoolCat, it works pretty well in Texas when you make sure the vents are pointed UP and not down or sideways. It will be cooler in the "center" of the trailer and slightly warmer near the sides until it cools down completely. The only real problem is that if we set up in the early afternoon (2 or 3 pm) then it can take hours for it to cool down everywhere so use the exhaust fan to get rid of some of the heat. Leaving the Cool Cat on continuously results in it being comfortable the next day more so than the first. Setting up in the early morning with it on full blast will usually prevent it from warming during the afternoon but that depends on what time you can arrive at the camp .

Note that our summer Texas experience is usually from San Antonio or Houston and farther north. My DW hates the heat so we don't usually head any farther south than that past May or so.
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Old 07-16-2019, 05:37 AM   #5
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When we were down in Texas with our A-frame, I found:

- just crack the vent open to let heat and humidity escape. I do not turn on the fan while using either air conditioning or heat. When not using heat or air conditioning, I open the vent a lot wider, and often turn the fan on low.

- we found out one time at Waco that the fan mode on the thermostat had gone from "Auto" to "High". The Cool Cat does not work well if the fan is not in "Auto". I was shocked at the difference.

- Also, found out the hard way in Colorado, the Cool Cat won't heat worth anything once the outside temp goes below 50. It sort of works between 40 and 50, but no real heat out of the vents.

- In Texas, you should be seeing real puddles of condensation underneath your A-frame in the vicinity of your Cool Cat. If you are not seeing the condensation puddles, that's a good clue the drain is plugged or not aligned properly or the Cool Cat is not working right.

- as was pointed out, aligning the vents for optimum cooling is critical. On the TBHW (A213), I moved one of the vents from the aisle between the beds to forward facing at the end of the bed. The idea came from another A-framer. That forward facing vent (directed upwards and towards the door) does a nice job of cooling the dormer area. In other models with all forward facing vents, it took a fan to redirect cool air back to the bed. Also, make sure bedding isn't blocking the upward flow from the vents.

I would check very carefully in every compartment and underneath to make sure you don't have an existing wasp or mud dauber nest. Also, while you have the covers off, vacuum all the sawdust out the production line gifted you with. We have never had a problem on the A-frame (our TBHW was vacuumed thoroughly by the dealer), but they do like to set up in my outside electrical panel and on the eaves of our house.

just my thoughts and experiences
Fred W
2019 Flagstaff T21TBHW (A213HW) A-frame
prev 2014 Rockwood A122 A-frame
camping Colorado and adjacent states one weekend at a time
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:32 PM   #6
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A quick addition to note that a hand adjustment of the dormer roof latch can make the roof to wall seal a little tighter. Wish mine had 2 latches, the center one doesn't take care of the slight warp at the left end of the roof. But so far, no problems during rain and thunder storms.

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Old 07-16-2019, 03:34 PM   #7
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As I'm sure you've figured out by now, find a campsite that is shaded, preferable deep shade. In the summer here in North Texas we only go to campgrounds that we know offer shade. These units are just not well insulated.
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:35 PM   #8
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These A frames are not well insulated and the bubble windows radiate intense heat into the trailer. If my only choice is a non-shaded site in the heat of summer I will pass on that trip. The AC will not be able to keep up in 100 degree no shade. There are many methods to cover the bubble windows. Some do so from the outside some do it with reflectix from the inside. It makes a huge difference in the amount of heat in the trailer.

Also, occasionally I will have a bit of daylight on one side or the other at the peak. I just stuff a grocery bag up there to prevent pests coming in. Other than that I have not had a pest issue except those coming in the door when opened. It seems like you may have a nest somewhere. You should pull all the vent covers off and make sure there are no nests anywhere.
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Old 07-16-2019, 07:29 PM   #9
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The skylight windows do let a lot of heat in. I put Reflectex in all three windows plus I put a heat reflective film on all windows. It all helped. However the best thing you can do is to park under a shade tree whenever possible.
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Old 07-16-2019, 07:57 PM   #10
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Park the tt with the cool cat on the shade side of the trailer. If this is not possible anything to block the sun from hitting the cool cat will help.

The cool cat is a A/C and heat pump. It has reversing valves built in to change from cooling to heating. When in a/c mode they absorb heat from inside the camper and dump it outside just like a regular window type a/c. As the temperature goes up it will take longer for the exchange to occur. The more it is shaded from direct sunlight the better it works.

When in heat pump mode the unit absorbs heat from the ambient outside air and dumps it inside the camper. As the temperature drops there will be less heat in the ambient air so they do not work well as a heat source in temperatures below 40 degrees. Many larger tt's may have the main A/C heat pump just to take the morning chill off, they also have a regular furnace for colder weather.

If I may make a suggestion you might block the vents on the outside with cardboard to see if it will produce more heat. I know it worked for the A/C heat pump that was in the car shredder control room where I worked. During the summer I would fasten a 3' x 3' plywood on top to block the sun from shining on the unit. This room was 8' x 8' x 10' with 4' high lexan windows on all sides 60' off the ground (30' above the rest of the building).
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:06 PM   #11
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Thanks, everybody, for your helpful interactions! I have a few follow-up questions and details based on what you've all shared:

- the trailer is currently back at the dealer for a complementary AC performance check and detailed inspection of the roof and side panel joint seals. Maybe this will turn up something helpful, should know by tomorrow.

- our maiden run was to Lake Arrowhead State Park near Wichita Falls, which, like so many in Texas, has little to no shade on all of the campsites. It was a perfect storm of heat with the dome over the bed facing west into the sun and the limited AC blowing any cool air toward the other end of the camper.

- some of you mentioned that these trailers specifically are simply never going to do well in direct summer sun. As a newbie... would a fully enclosed trailer like Flagstaff's E-Pro 19 be any better in the heat? Or is comfortable summer camping in a travel trailer in Texas out of the question? Already having thoughts of bailing out of this mistake, but only if the alternatives are significantly better. We're targeting summer because the kid's out of school.

- I'm on board with putting Reflectix on all the windows. The darkness of having all the curtains drawn already made the wasps that much scarier to the kiddo, though Would also covering the entire underside of the roof panels with Reflectix be possible or do any good?

- pretty certain we didn't bring any wasp nests with us, as there were no problems during our dry run at home last weekend or during unscheduled walkthroughs at the dealer. The amount of wasp activity at the campsite from the moment we pulled in was incredible (think two dozen hanging around and exploring by the time I started unhitching). Same thing was true all over the park. Still, I'll do a check for nests when we get it back.

Thanks again for your feedback and advice!
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:22 AM   #12
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Update: dealer called today after a day of work and measurements yesterday. They found and repaired hole in the plenum ductwork that was killing our airflow into the cabin, and built up the weatherstripping in several areas to plug a number of wasp-sized gaps. Now measuring a -22 degree differential indoors (with still a massive hotspot on the bed under the skylight).
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Old 07-17-2019, 03:26 PM   #13
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I don't think adding reflectix to the underside of the roof will do anything for you. The radiant barrier claims are dubious at best since vents do more in most attics than aluminum barriers to reduce heat gain/loss. The only way I think that would help would be to put it on the outside which wouldn't be very durable in the long run.

A layer of insulation inside on the roof "might" make some difference if it is thick enough. R factor is directly related to the thickness of the material and the ability of the physical material to shed/retain heat. It would take some work to make it look nice enough to live with though. There is already some styrofoam insulation in the roof.

Small fans placed around the trailer would probably help more than insulation if you can set them up to direct the cold air from the cc up to the roof or at least higher than your sitting space.

Reflectix in the windows is a good idea since that would reflect sunlight back out of the trailer. Even thick insulation would probably help if placed in the windows. Reflectix is better at reflecting light than it is heat and keeping the light out is the main culprit. Think about it this way: glass (and some clear plastics) are reasonably good heat insulators but provide little or no attenuation to light. If sunlight gets in, then that will heat every absorptive surface (especially dark colored ones which are abundant in the trailer). The heat radiated from those surfaces will then be trapped inside because of the insulative properties of the glass.

Just my two cents. I spent years working as an engineer dealing with environmental and thermal issues.

I wouldn't give up. We've been comfortable in RVs over the years with their A/C units despite the fact that they never really work as well as in your home. The cc seems to work well once things stabilize. The plenum hole is a definite contributor so maybe most of your problem is now fixed.
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:27 AM   #14
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Hit the road again and am glad to report that the patched-up Cool Cat and a trailer in the shade keeps things nice and comfy until 3:00 or so when the temperature creeps over 100 degrees. I'm sure some Reflectix could get me the rest of the way there.

Discovered a few stripped-out screw holes (in weight-bearing areas like the dinette table's wall bracket and the front folding shower hinge) which led to near catastrophes, and a little dribble of a leak from the ceiling fan housing during our first rain shower, but nothing else to report other than a comfy little A-frame!

Thanks again for the helpful welcome.

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