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You're melting and you need to cool down. Aircon is on the blink, or you don't have any, and there's no way to deal with this ridiculous heat.
So, what can you do? The solution is simple: build your own air conditioner! Sound too complicated?
These DIY air conditioner projects demonstrate how easy it is to cool down your home and beat the next heatwave.
1. How to Make an Air Conditioner With a Fan and Ice
While there isn't a great amount of DIY about this, it's where most DIY aircon projects begin: a fan and some ice. Rather than blowing air around a room, the fan blows cool air.
Here, the ice is on a tray, in the form of cubes from your freezer. The fan is angled down slightly and the air is cooled as it passes over the ice. But how well does this work?
Having given this a go myself, it has a few flaws. For example, the ice cubes melt far quicker than a larger ice block. Also, a faster fan gives better results than a slower one.
Anyone can make this DIY aircon system. But there's considerable room for improvement.
2. Easy Plastic Soda Bottle DIY AC
Here's a slightly better alternative. In this video, small soda bottles are strapped to the back of a fan using cable ties.
Inside the bottles, which have been peppered with holes using a soldering iron, is the ice. Air is drawn through the bottles by the fan, and the air is cooled by the ice.
This is a great low-budget air conditioning solution, one that you can put together in just a few minutes! If you don't already own a soldering iron, we have found some of the best soldering irons for beginners that will do the trick here.
If you don't have any ice cube trays to make your own ice, try cool box ice blocks instead. Place them in a plastic net bag and attach this to the back of the fan with cable ties; just remember to place something underneath to catch any drips from the condensation.
3. Portable Air Cooler Milk Carton
If you're looking for something small and compact to keep you cool, this milk carton has you covered.
Featuring a computer fan and a 12V mains adapter, you'll need a hot glue gun and soldering iron to complete this build. The fan draws in air, pushes it over ice cubes placed in the carton, then out of the opening. This is a particularly smart build as milk cartons are designed to keep the product cool as long as possible.
Suitable for a desktop, you could also run a USB-powered fan from your computer or use a portable power bank instead of a 12V battery. Similarly, it's a good, compact AC solution for your car. If you do build it with a USB fan then you can easily plug it into your car with a USB car charger.
4. Cool Box Homemade Air Conditioner
Working with the same basic components (a fan, some ice, and a container), this cool-box-based DIY air conditioner features some drainpipe tubing as an outlet.
Here, two circles are cut into the lid of the cool box. One of these is big enough to fit the fan, which is placed face-down into the box. The other is for the outlet pipe. Finally, inside the cool box, which would normally store food or drink, is a big block of ice.
When switched on, the air is drawn in by the fan, cooled by the ice, and pushed out to chill your room!
5. Ice Chest Homemade AC Unit
A search of YouTube will reveal several variations on the previous project, including this slightly more attractive alternative.
Here, a Styrofoam ice chest is combined with a compact fan and two angled PVC pipe joints. Big enough to hold huge blocks of ice, this makeshift air conditioner will keep your room chilled during a heatwave.
Just remember to keep a bucket handy to empty it. Also, lifting the ice chest can risk structural issues that lead to cracking, so the best advice is to find a position and leave it there to avoid leaks.
6. Portable Ice Bucket DIY Air Conditioning
In some ways, this is a combination of the ice chest and cool box DIY aircon builds above.
Here, a compact fan is mounted face down into a bucket lid, alongside two short lengths of pipe. The pipes can be secured with hot glue or expanding foam, or even bathroom sealant.
You know the drill: air is drawn into the bucket, across the ice, and out through the pipes.
This time, of course, the DIY air cooler is portable. Just lift the bucket's handle to transport it around. Be sure to keep it within reach of a power supply, of course, or adapt it to run off a battery and go anywhere.
7. Convert Your Standing Fan Into a DIY AC Unit
So far, we've only looked at projects requiring a fan and some ice. For a more authentic air-conditioned experience, however, you can adapt your fan with some 1/4-inch copper tubing.
Mounted on the front of the fan cage, the tubing is then pumped with cold water using a fountain pump. The water runs through vinyl tubing first, then into the copper tubing, and back to the pump. The water is kept cool with ice bags placed against the vinyl tubes before it reaches the copper.
Although somewhat more complicated than the other projects listed here, it appears the results are good, and it looks rather slick too.
8. Portable Air Conditioner Fan Cannon
An alternative design that uses copper coiling is this DIY aircon unit with a cannon-shaped fan.
The copper coil is wound inside a large PVC pipe and then connected to plastic tubing. Once they are connected to a pump inside the cooler box, the pipes pump cold water around the system, with a fan blowing over the copper pipes to create cool air.
Inside the cooler is simply water, ice cubes, and the water pump. Because the fan sits on the outside and is not built into the cooler box, it makes it easy to port around to direct the air exactly where you want.
If you have a shed full of tools and don't mind buying a few inexpensive parts, the build takes about 1.5 hours. If you live in a humid climate, this design is even better. Because the fan doesn't blow directly over ice or water as in some other projects, it won't be adding extra humidity to your room.
9. Pond Pump-Powered Swamp Cooler
Eschewing the need for a fan, this build employs a pond pump and an evaporative cooler pad. Pinned up with a wooden frame, the project builder claims that it can reduce the temperature indoors by over 20°F.
Evaporative cooling is the process by which the temperature is reduced via the evaporation of liquid. It's basically how sweating works, removing heat from the surface of the skin. The method is also used in industrial cooling systems, yet this DIY evaporative cooling project should cost under $100.
Admittedly, this is the most complex project listed here, and again requires a source of relatively cool water.
10. Mini Evaporative Air Conditioner
Again using the principle of evaporative cooling, but far more simplified, this tiny 34-ounce container is turned into a homemade air conditioner, perfect for a small apartment.
All you need to do is cut a hole in the lid, glue a discarded computer fan, and make ventilation holes. Three wet sponges stand inside the container, with the fan powered by 12V battery.
It's as simple as that: a small, inexpensive, evaporative air conditioner that is the perfect size for your room or small apartment. Because evaporative cooling adds humidity back into the air, it's perfect for those in a dry climate.
11. DIY Peltier Thermoelectric Cooler Fan
Now for something completely different, a DIY AC setup with no ice OR cooler box! If you want to put computer parts to good use, this amazing project is for you.
Instead of ice, this small and portable AC system uses the Peltier-12706 thermoelectric cooler: a tiny, thin, electronic part normally used to cool down computer CPUs. Made from semiconductor material sandwiched between ceramic, you will need an aluminum heat sink to prevent it from burning.
Add in a CPU fan, a second cooling fan, and a PVC pipe to house the parts; then add a 12V power, 5A power supply connected via a DC jack. Finally, it's glued together with a hot glue gun and some vent holes are drilled.
Using the same system used to cool a computer, you can cool your room too!
Beyond DIY Air Coolers: More Ways to Stay Cool This Summer
Hot weather makes it tough to do anything, other than lay around watching TV, reading, or topping up your tan. (Plenty of sunblock, please, and only for short periods.)
A DIY air conditioner project should be enough to help you stay cool. While it might not work as a long-term solution, it's a smart stopgap when your air conditioner is down. If you live in areas where heatwaves are rare, a DIY aircon unit will also save you spending big bucks on cooling.
You should also try these additional ways to keep cool:
- Take a cold shower/bath: When things get unbearable, this is always a good option.
- Schedule your windows: Keep them shut when it's hot during the day, but open at night to let cooler air in. When you shut them in the morning, that cool air should be trapped for a few hours.
- Power down unnecessary electrics: TVs, clothes dryers, even computers should be switched off. They all contribute to the amount of heat in your home, which isn't useful in such hot weather.
Meanwhile, if you're reading this article because you feel your air conditioner isn't cooling well enough, be sure to check our post on common air conditioner mistakes to avoid.