The Redneck Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) for Trucking

Having an auxiliary power unit for your truck can be a life changer. They are definitely one of those things that once you have one you will never want to go back to not having one. In fact they are such a quality of life improvement many company drivers may actually turn down a job offer if the truck they will be driving does not come with an APU. The only real problem with APUs is that they are prohibitively expensive… so much so that many drivers just simply cannot afford them.

Depending on the brand and model you wish to purchase an APU’s price can range from five-thousand dollars all the way up to twelve-thousand dollars for a top of the line model such as the Thermo King brand. For those of us that are price conscious there are remanufactured or refurbished APUs available from various small businesses. One such example is Dale’s APU Sales out of Springfield, MO (Their website can be found here). By purchasing a refurbished model you can save another twenty to thirty percent… but even more many folks that is still to expensive.

So the question now becomes what other options do you have? You want your truck to stay cool during the summer and hot during the winter, but how? There is another option folks that some truckers have done and while I may not necessarily agree with it I owe it to my readers to describe what is being done and how it works.

Redneck APUs

As we mentioned earlier the cost to purchase an APU is quite high ranging from five-thousand dollars all the way up to twelve-thousand or more. Many folks do not have this type of money lying around and just are not able to afford these APUs, but they also want to be able to sleep in comfort during cold and hot nights. So, what do they do?

Well, these innovators come up with their own APU system. Remember how I said earlier that the APU is typically just a portable generator? Well in these innovative setups truckers will purchase their own portable generator and typically insert in an enclosure behind the cab close to the fifth wheel. I’ve seen some folks build custom enclosures for the generator to sit in. Others will have the generator boxed away until they need it and then set it up outside their cab with no enclosure.

No matter how you do it, you now have a portable generator running that can provide you with power. The next thing to do here is to route the extension cords from the generator into your cab. Now, inside your cab is the next step. Let’s say you are up in the north part of the country during winter and you need some heat. All you need now is to purchase a space heater and setup a place in your cab for it to sit. Then plug in the heater to your generator’s extension cord and bam you now have heat!

Air conditioning is a bit trickier as you need a way to expel the heat out of your vehicle. There are a few options here. You can purchase a portable air conditioner and set it up inside your cab with the exhaust port going out your passenger window. Just be sure to get this air tight or else all of the heat is going to come right back into your vehicle. This will take some playing around with it to get it just right.

You could also look at purchasing a window air conditioner and trying to mount it to your truck’s passenger window, but I would not recommend this approach as the unit could fall and break and it could also end up causing damage to your door or window. Not to mention having to mount and unmount this thing each and every time you wish to have air conditioning. It could end up being a pain.

The last option for air conditioning is installing an actual mini-split system. Mini-splits are much more expensive then a portable or window unit but they also provide you with a good source of air conditioning. These systems have two sections to be installed: One on the outside and one on the inside. They are then connected by copper refrigerant tubing. As you can expect this takes quite a bit of work to install and will have to stay on you truck permanently or until the air conditioner fails. For the sake of those on a budget I would suggest you get the portable air conditioner and play around with the exhaust tube and your window.

Now depending on the generator you have running you may have room to run other things in your truck along with the air conditioner or heater. Perhaps you have a refrigerator or microwave that you wish to run. It can all be done by using that same generator. I have seen some people do these redneck generator builds for as low as eight-hundred dollars. While you can get a heck of a lot of savings by doing this I do need to state that it is not the RIGHT way to do it.

I also need to put a disclaimer to protect myself here. We here at ToughAssTools do not recommend this approach as there are risks involved. If you decide to do this approach we are not liable for any damages to you or your vehicle that occur. It is always best to go with a true APU system that comes from the various manufacturers out there.


So folks if you are in a pinch and cannot afford those luxury APU models out there then there is still hope for you. It may not be the prettiest approach, or even the safest, but it will get the job done for you and provide you with that needed cool or warm air to ensure that you are able to comfortably sleep. As I said earlier though, use this ‘redneck’ apu technique at your own risk as you are dealing with multiple machines such as generators, air conditioners, and heaters along with running extension cords through your cab. If proper caution is not taken then there is room for error. These redneck APUs should be a temporary solution until you are able to purchase a genuine APU model. Worst, case get yourself a refurbished model.

I hope this article was helpful and that I was able to answer any of your questions.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

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