School Bus Fleet: Air Conditioning Considerations

school bus fleet, school bus air conditioning

school bus fleetDo all the vehicles in your school bus fleet include air conditioning? In many districts, this is already the case - yet there are still plenty of districts playing catch-up. A/C comes standard on most new buses, but that doesn't help smaller or lower-income districts who can't afford to replace their fleet. For those districts, retrofitting is an option. 

Retrofitting can allow them to add A/C to existing buses - if they can navigate the maze of choices available. Here are a few of the most important factors to look at.

Four Critical Factors to Consider When Adding A/C to Your School Bus Fleet

1. Type of A/C Unit

There is a huge range of possible ways to add air conditioning to a school bus. These include upgrading the front-panel A/C system, adding an evaporator in the front or back, or installing a roof-mounted unit.

Rooftop systems are generally the most popular, as they require the least work to install and have relatively straightforward wiring/piping requirements. Still, interested districts should do their homework on the wide variety of technologies on offer.

2. Electrical Demands

This is one of the big factors which will influence whether a bus is even capable of being upgraded - can its electrical system support the A/C system? On stock buses, this is rarely an issue, but it can start being a problem for districts which have already added other upgrades to the bus over the years.

Be sure you know the battery's actual output - not just what's in the manual - and whether other add-ons are drawing from it.

3. Cool-Down Time

Of course, the cooling capacity of an A/C unit can vary quite a bit between models. What sort of performance should you look for? In general, consider the baseline to be the ability to cool a bus from 100°F to 80°F in half an hour. However, that's really the operational minimum. Being able to go from 100°F to 70°F in the same timespan will make the ride a lot more pleasant for passengers.

4. Know That Not All BTU Ratings Are the Same

Virtually all air conditioners will claim a certain capacity of BTUs (British Thermal Units) to rate their cooling power. However, there is no enforced standard for doing this. Different manufacturers can use wildly different methods for measuring their BTU capacity, which often makes valid A-B comparisons impossible.

Never choose an A/C unit based on claimed BTU capacity alone.

The best procedure for buying A/C upgrades for your school bus fleet is to take it slow. Talk to plenty of retailers and do research online before making any final decisions.

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Have you recently upgraded buses with A/C? Which products were best for you?