Instructables

Build a Discreet USB Air Conditioner with a Brita Pitcher

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Last summer, the office AC stopped working. This is Los Angeles and outside temperatures were over 100 degrees. I had to do something to cope with the heat. Then I had an Eureka moment. I can make my own AC unit. But the problem was how can I use a homemade ice powered AC unit without looking like a total idiot at the office? I thought to myself, if I was to make a home made ice powered AC unit, it needs to be: portable, discreet and easy to maintain.  Thus, I came up with the idea of using a Brita Pitcher as the housing for my home made AC unit. It's portable. I can just pick it up by the handle and take it where ever i need it.  It's discreet. The Brita Pitcher on my desk just looks like a Brita Pitcher. Not some sort of wacky contraption on my desk. And finally, its easy to maintain.  When I'm done using the Brita Pitcher AC unit, I can just pour out the icy water at the sink. I can also wrap up the power cable inside the top compartment of the pitcher.

Best of all, once I no longer need the AC unit, i can just stick in a new Brita Filter and use the pitcher like any old Brita Pitcher to filter water.
 
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Step 1: Supply List


To do this project, you will need:

Old Brita Pitcher (not Pur)
Computer fan that can fit into the top compartment of the Brita Pitcher
Power source (battery pack, 12v computer source, USB)
2 Paper Clips
4-5 Index Cards
Philips Screwdriver
Small Pliers
Wire Stripper
Spare molex connector (optional)
Scotch tape

Step 2: Wiring the Fan

For this project, I will be powering the fan with USB power.  You could tap into your computer's 12v power and also power the fan.  Using the wire stripper, cut off the end of the USB cable (USB B) that doesn't plug into your computer.  Strip about 1in off the red and black wires on the usb cable.  Separate the red and black wires. Wire the red and black wires to a male molex connector. Cover each expose wire with electrical tape. You could solder the wires too.  Make sure the wires correspond to the polarity of the wires coming out of the fan. Also make sure the male molex connector plugs in correctly to the female connector coming out of the fan.

Alternative: instead of wiring the usb cable to the molex connector, you could wire the usb cable directly into the fan.  However, I am using a molex connector so i can preserve the fan and use it for future projects.

Step 3: Building the Index Card Structure for the Fan Part 1

Test your fan.  Note which direction the air is blowing towards. For this project, the air will need to blow down into the pitcher from the top of the pitcher. Have your fan pointing downwards. Lay down the fan onto your desk or working surface. The topside is the air intake side and the bottom side will be where the air exits into the pitcher. Now unplug the molex connectors.

Lay down 4 sheets of index cards length wise along the edge of the topside of the fan. Do not block the fan's air flow. The cards will overlap each other. Look at the pictures for reference. Tape the index cards together. Poke holes on the index cards where the fan screw holes are located. Insert and tighten the screws.  The screws should be holding the index cards in place now.

Step 4: Building the Index Card Structure for the Fan Part 2

With the fan facing upside down (bottom side facing up).  Fold up the index cards to form the stand for the fan. It should look like a box  with an open view of the fan.  If you know how to gift wrap a box, this should be fairly easy. If not, look at my pictures. Straighten out two paper clips. Then bend a 90 degree angle at the middle of each clip. Tape the paper clips along the edge of the index card fan stand.  The paper clips will reinforce the stand's structure.


Step 5: Install the Fan Structure into the Brita Pitcher

Make sure you do not have a filter in the Pitcher.  Drain and dry the pitcher. Attach the USB cable to the fan. Wrap the USB cable around the fan structure.  Insert the the fan structure into the top compartment of the Brita Pitcher. Back to why you should not use the Pur pitchers. The Brita pitcher provides a tube that extends down towards the middle of the pitcher.  This will allow the fan to channel air towards the ice. Pur pitchers do not have this tube, thus i find the air is cooled less effectively.

Next, we need to build a hood or air duct to direct the air.  Remove the little flap where the water is poured out of the pitcher. Using an index card, fold up 1 cm for 3 of the sides (1 lengthwise, 2 width-wise) . Please look at the pictures for reference. Cut a slit in the middle of the 2 shorter sides. This will form the slot for the pitcher lip. Now the air will blow towards what ever direction you point the pitcher.

Step 6: Toss in the Ice and Plug in the Fan

Now, all you have to do is toss in some ice and plug in the fan. Now you're ready for a cool breeze. The fan is not too strong if you are using a 5v power supply, thats why i said breeze.  Check out the last step for ways to pump up the fan speed.

Step 7: Clean Up and Final Thoughts.

Once you are done using the Brita AC Unit, just unplug the fan and pour out the icy water into the sink... or a friend =). No mess. No clumsiness. Easy to handle. Easy to store. Almost fully nondestructive. Now all you have to do is dry the pitcher and wrap the usb cable back into the top compartment. When you actually want to use the Brita Pitcher as a water filter, just flush out the top compartment and install a fresh water filter.

Tips and Alternatives:
You could install a power switch.
Instead of 5v USB power, you could use a battery pack or another higher power source. I have some pics of my 12v battery pack with and without a switch.
If you have a big enough pitcher, you could use 2 fans.

MimArt10 months ago
I think the best part of this project is that it is 'discreet'! One could have this on the desk at work and just tell people, 'oh yeah, I drink a lot of water', and jumble up the cord with other cords on the desk - we all have some, don't we? I like also that the air stream is concentrated and directed out the spout of the pitcher - I don't always want a/c or blown air all over, but on my face it can be refreshing.
Infinitevortex10 months ago
Wow, great idea! Love it!
chipper352 years ago
Down South, we call these "swamp coolers" -- when I was a kid, a few neighbors had HUGE ones in their living room windows! They were cool (if you sat RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM!) They made your house humid, though!
Syncubus2 years ago
Another alternative would be using waterproof plastic, rather than index cards. Think: soda bottle. (Either a bottle with a diameter large enough to fit the fan, or a sheet cut from a 2-liter bottle wrapped around the fan)

Another Another alternative (*giggles*) would be driving the fan using dual USB cables (for +10v rather than +5v)

Finally, a warning: Don't use dry ice, which besides being cold enough to possibly break the pitcher, melts into carbon dioxide. You don't need that much CO2 blowing in your face.
Warning:
Do not power the fan with dual USB ports. See above post.
imjasonc (author)  Syncubus2 years ago
thanks for looking.

great ideas!
foolios2 years ago
Can I wire this for two usb ports for more power? Just add another usb cable end wired to the same red and black that the other two are already onto the fan wires? Or will that cause a short?
foolios foolios2 years ago
EDIT:
As far as I'm told you can't 10v mod your fan with 2 USB ports from the same power supply or you'll blow out your ports since they share the same ground.
opanaligan2 years ago
how many hours can last?
imjasonc (author)  opanaligan2 years ago
depends on your room temp and how much ice you put in.
Coliflower4 years ago
How would you do this using a normal plug and not a USB cable?

Great 'ible, by the way.
Get one of those gadgets that let you plug a USB device into a ordinary outlet — http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=usb+wall+charger
@Coliflower You can always purchase an adapter, such as the ones used to charge a USB device using AC from the wall.

Example:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Dynex%26%23153%3B+-+Dual+USB+Universal+Wall+Charger/2525266.p;jsessionid=993655103F83E09D91159497D7B6EDD9.bbolsp-app02-02?id=1218332540505&skuId=2525266
imjasonc (author)  Coliflower4 years ago
thanks for the comment. regarding your question, that depends on the fan. the fan i am using runs on 12VDC. so if i want to get the max fan speed without destroying the fan, i need to find an AC adapter (spare one from an old cell phone might work) that will output no more than 12VDC. then just wire in the fan to the ac adapter.
ERIK G2 years ago
an excellent way to stay cool here in the texas heat,awesome project...
ttaylor103 years ago
Where does the air come out?
imjasonc (author)  ttaylor103 years ago
the air comes out on top where you pour out the water, the spout. you take the flap off and install a hood over the hole to redirect air towards you. to improve cooling ability, one can tape off the gaps between the plastics, use more ice or use a different fan.
Duckism4 years ago
how much could these few ice cube cool?
imjasonc (author)  Duckism4 years ago
its better than you think it would because the air is being channeled towards the ice. you could always use more ice.