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4 DIY Air Conditioners That Actually Work

Jun 30, 2023Jun 30, 2023

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Simple air conditioners are really nothing more than a heat exchanger that move heat—or cold—from one place to another. Usually, they take warm air and move it across ice or chilled water where it warms the ice and continues on, in a cooled state. The most common DIY air conditioners are made out of coolers, with some type of fan to blow air in through a hole, and out through another. If you have most of the parts for this type, they’re easy to make and don’t take much time. Keep in mind that DIY air conditioners, while easy to make, aren’t necessarily very efficient, because over long periods of use, they need to continually be refilled with ice. Of course, the bigger the cooler, the more ice it holds, and the longer it will last

If you don’t want to cut holes in your cooler, there is another type of DIY air conditioner you can make. This type essentially uses a radiator, like your car, except instead of pulling heat out of your engine, it pulls cold out of your cooler. This type is more complex and requires copper or aluminum tubing, a small water pump, some flexible tubing, as well as a fan and a cooler. The metal tubing is arranged in a coil, flat against the fan, and ice water is pumped through it, from the cooler. This cools the air from the fan and sends warmer water back into the cooler. You could also use an actual heat exchanger designed to cool a computer CPU, or an inexpensive automotive transmission cooler

There are plenty of videos of these types of DIY air conditioners. The best part of this type of project is you can use whatever you have on hand, and you can wing it, once you understand the basics—or you can get some inexpensive parts and build something fancier. Here are a few examples to get you started.


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The heart of this cooling system is a small electric water pump that is typically used to circulate water in an aquarium. For this project it is used to pump cool water through copper coils attached to a fan, creating an effective cooling system.

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This little cooler is powered by a 9-volt battery and a small computer fan. It directs air in all directions, but could be modified to cool in just one direction.

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A styrofoam cooler makes a great DIY air conditioning box, as the holes are easy to cut and the coolers are cheap to buy. This video demonstrates how cool the air being circulated can be.

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This air conditioner is extra sturdy since it's made from a plastic cooler, and the fan can be powered by a 12 volt battery or a 15-watt (1 amp) solar panel. This makes it effective as a portable unit that can be run off your car battery or used for camping; ideal for a muggy day in the wilderness.

The Best Coolers

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