Introduction: DIY Solar Air Conditioning Unit

Picture of DIY Solar Air Conditioning Unit
The sun is great, and vital to nearly all of Earth's processes.  What bothers me is that the sun also makes the air really hot!  As a result, millions of people turn to air conditioning to cool their homes, cars, offices, etc.  Traditional air conditioning units use massive amounts of energy, making electricity bills skyrocket in the summertime. 

What if there was a way to cool your home, car, or workplace without the need for a big, loud, and energy-hungry machine?  What if this device also was entirely solar powered with no moving parts?  Sound to good to be true? 

This Instructable will cover the method I used to build a prototype Solar Air Conditioning Unit.  This unit is a prototype, and was only ever meant as a proof of concept that my idea could work.  There is a lot of testing that needs to be done to see how this idea can be used in more practical applications.
  • Introduction
  • "Why?"
  • Theory of Operation
  • Gather Materials
  • The Build Pt. 1 - Cutting Wood
  • The Build Pt. 2 - Gluing
  • The Build Pt. 3 - Metalwork
  • The Build Pt. 4 - PVC
  • The Build Pt. 5 - Miscellaneous
  • Using the Unit
  • Going Further and Conclusion
  • Videos!
.:| This Instructable was intended to be entered into the Green Technology Contest.  However, because this project uses no electronics, it was not accepted.  I entered this into the Hurricane Laser Contest instead, and if you like this Instructable, it would be awesome if you would vote for it in the contest!  Having a laser cutter would be awesome because it would allow me to build things better and more quickly to be able to share them with the community! |:.
7/17/2012:  Thanks so much for the feature!!

Step 1: "Why?"

Picture of "Why?"

I wanted to try to keep the Intro fairly short and sweet, and more formal.  But why build this, at a personal level?

-I'll take this point to say that if you don't care about specifically why I built this, then move on to the next step, no hard feelings : )

My car sits in the sun all day, and has a black interior.  I'm sure you already know that dark colored things tend to get hotter when they sit in the sun than lightly colored things.  Additionally, windows do a funny thing when light hit them, and serve as a sort of insulation, so that the air in my car actually gets hotter than the outside air temperature.  Both of these factors cause me to start sweating almost immediately upon entering my car, which isn't very attractive when going to work, nor very comfortable.

Therefore, I was thinking of different ways I could cool down my car while it sits in the driveway.  Leaving all my windows down isn't very practical for safety reasons and letting bugs in.  A foil sun shade that would sit on my windshield would be annoying to put up and take down.  I also had a vague idea of how a Solar Air Conditioning Unit could work, and decided that a car would be the perfect test medium for my concept!  The car would allow me to attempt to cool a small amount of space, in a fairly controlled setting, and potentially save me from a very uncomfortable commute.

Step 2: Theory of Operation

Picture of Theory of Operation

There's some awesome scientific stuff that makes our Solar Air Conditioning Unit possible!!  The three major principles at work are convection, evaporation, and adhesion-cohesion.

1.  Convection:
     But what does that mean!?  Hot air rises.  As the hotter air rises, it can draw cooler air up with it.  Convection cycles can occur when hot air rises, and draws cooler air from lower elevation.  When the hot air rises and loses energy it begins to fall.  This is the bare bones explanation.  There's a ton more information out there from people who know more than I do.  I did a lot of reading before starting this project, and I'd encourage you to do likewise.  I've listed some sources for more information at the end of this step for your convenience : )

2.  Evaporation:
     We are using water in this project as our cooling agent.  Evaporation is when a substance changes from liquid to gas at it's surface.  Links to fun evaporation information down below.

3.  Cohesion and Adhesion:
     Cohesion and Adhesion are two properties of water, and closely related.  Cohesionmeans that water tends to stick to itself, or try to stick together.  You can see this by placing small drops of water onto wax paper.  You'll notice that the drops tend to ball up.  This is because of the strong polar bonds in the water that attract individual molecules to one another.  Adhesion means that water sticks to other stuff.  This effect is best seen by dipping part of a paper towel into a small amount of water, and watching as the water makes its way up the paper towel.
(*7/23/2012: shannonlove was nice enough to point out that a more accurate term for this water property is "capillary action".  I was going from what I remembered in my chemistry classes, however doing a search for "capillary action" may lead to more helpful information.)

These three principles make the Unit what it is.  The sun will shine on the unit and heat the air at the bottom of the shaft.  The air will rise, and also draw in more air from the bottom.  As the air rises, it will cause water in a small chamber to evaporate.  When the water evaporates, it will take energy away from the heated air in order to change from a liquid to a gas.  This will cause the surrounding air to get cooler.  The water is brought into contact with the moving air by a piece of fabric.  The fabric will pull up water from the chamber to increase the surface area of the water with respect to the moving air.  As the water evaporates and the fabric gets dry, more water will be drawn up the fabric due to the awesomeness of cohesion and adhesion.

Got it?  Awesome.  Let's get building!
Jump over here (step 11) to see my video on how it works:
More on Convection:
More on Evaporation:
More on Cohesion/Adhesion:

Step 3: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
You'll need a few different tools and materials to build your Solar Air Conditioning Unit.  I'm sure all of these could be substituted and worked around in some way, but here is what I used.  Keep in mind that this unit will be made to fit my car.  I tried to keep track of prices as best  I could, because cost is always a consideration with my projects.  I had a lot of the materials already.

  1. MDF Sheet.  |  1/4" thick.  2'x4'.  $7 or so.
  2. Glass sheet.  |  11.5"x20.5".  $5 At local hardware store
  3. Sheet Metal.  |  Recovered from old microwaves.
  4. 1" PVC Pipe.  |  A small section.  I had this already.
  5. 1/2" PVC Pipe  |  A small section.  I had this already.
  6. 1" PVC-1/2" Elbow.  |  The 1" side was a slip coupling, and the 1/2" side was threaded.  $0.80 or so.
  7. 1/2" PVC Male-thread Coupler.  $0.80 or so.
  8. 1" PVC End Cap.  $0.50 or so.
  9. PVC Primer and Cement.  |  I had these already.
  10. Wood Glue.  |  $3-4.
  11. Caulk.  |  This was left over from another project.  Outdoor Acrylic-Silicone I believe.
  12. Matte Black Paint  | $6 at craft store.
  13. Mesh.  |  A splatter protector from the Dollar Store. $1
  14. Small wood screws.  |  $2 at local hardware store.
  15. Fabric.  |  From an old t-shirt.
Total cost: $27.10
  1. Dremel Rotary Tool.
  2. Oscillating Cutting Tool.
  3. Jigsaw.
  4. Drill.
  5. Various hand tools: knives, scissors, screwdrivers, etc.

Step 4: Build Pt. 1 - Cutting Wood

Picture of Build Pt. 1 - Cutting Wood

..No, it's not technically wood that I am using.  It's MDF, as stated in the previous step.  MDF stands for "Medium Density Fiberboard".  I had been wanting to see what it was like to work with MDF for a while, because in a lot of cases it can be more durable than wood.  This was also very easy to cut and work with.  I used mainly the jigsaw and oscillating cutter for this step.

(*7/23/2012:  tafelice and isaacwilk were nice enough to point out that MDF has the tendency to absorb moisture easily, which I didn't know when I began this build.  It's a good idea to make sure you coat the Unit with a clear coat, or paint of some sort once it's built to try to minimize this.)

I began by cutting my largest shape.  In this case I had to try to match the shape of my car window.  I did this by measuring the general dimensions of the window, and gradually cutting down the edges and adjusting the curve to match as best I could.  it's not perfect, but it fit somewhat nicely.  I'll refer to this as the "base board".

After knowing how big my window was, I was able to identify how large the outer box of the Unit could be.  I marked this on the base board, and measured to cut for sides of my box, and thin strips for the top of the box, where the glass would be mounted later.  Notches were cut out of all the pieces so that they would fit together nicely to be glued together.

There's not too much I can do to describe this step.  It was a lot of tedious measuring and cutting, as I made it up as I went along.

Step 5: Build Pt. 2 - Gluing

Picture of Build Pt. 2 - Gluing

At this point I glued the box together with wood glue and used some caulk to try to make it as airtight as possible.  I did not glue it to the base board, but instead cut notches into the bottom of each side, and cut holes into the base board so that the box can slide slightly into the base board.  This will allow it to be removed.

The window was installed at this point.  I wanted to use a piece of glass I found in the trash from an old window, but shattered it in the process of trying to cut it to size.  Getting a piece from the hardware store was much easier, however it ended up being slightly too small for the box I had just built.  It get around this I used the trimming I had taken from the window to add some bulk to the sides so that it could be securely caulked in place.  The metal trimming was really dirty, so I cleaned it off with an angle grinder while I was cutting it.  Caulk dries very quickly when you place it in the sun in 90+ degree weather.

Step 6: Build Pt. 3 - Metalwork

Picture of Build Pt. 3 - Metalwork

I wanted to use sheet metal for the main convection shaft.  This is because metal conducts heat well, and so it would better heat the air than say, MDF or plastic.  I used sheet metal from the housing of a microwave that I took apart.  I cut it to size with an angle grinder, and cut a few pieces that were riveted together to form a sort of box.

The ends of the box were bent out with pliers, and holes were drilled along the sides so that it could be attached to the base board.  A small amount of caulk was placed along the edges to try to make a good seal with the base board, but the two were not caulked together, so that it could be easily taken apart and repaired if necessary.

It's important to note that I did not attach the metal piece to the base board at this time.  We will do that later.

Step 7: Build Pt. 4 - PVC

Picture of Build Pt. 4 - PVC

I decided to build the water holder/trough out of PVC pipe, since it's easy to work with, easily available, and inexpensive.

A small section of 1/2" diameter PVC will go through a hole cut in the top of our metal container to a male adapter coupling and into a 90-degree elbow, which has a 1" slip-coupling on the other side.  The section of 1" PVC will have a slit cut in the top (via the oscillating cutter) for the fabric to go into, and be capped off with an end cap.  I used PVC primer and cement for the smooth coupling pieces and end cap, but did not glue the threaded piece in case I need to take it apart for repairs.  I used a 1/2" end cap, not glued in place, to top off the 1/2" pipe.

I cut a small piece of sheet metal, again from the microwave housings, and bent it into a bracket to hold the pipe in place with rivets on one end.  On the other end the pipe simply sticks through the hole in the metal box, however glue or caulk could be used to permanently affix it.

Step 8: Build Pt. 5 - Miscellaneous

Picture of Build Pt. 5 - Miscellaneous

There are a few unrelated things that still need to be done before this is operational.

1.  A small piece of fabric must be cut and fit into the cut made in the 1" PVC pipe.  Mine was from an old t-shirt.

2.  A hole must be cut in the base board for the air to be able to move into the car.  This was done with the oscillating tool, and was about the same width as the fabric piece.

3.  A hole was cut into the bottom of the outer box, and a piece of mesh glued in place to allow air to be drawn in from the bottom.

4.  Everything must be assembled.  The piece of fabric was put into position, from the pipe to the edge of the metal box.  Holes were drilled, and small wood screws were used to hold the metal box to the base board.  The bottom of the metal box, as well as the wooden outer box were box painted black.

Step 9: Using the Unit

Picture of Using the Unit

Once everything is put together, the fun part starts!

To use the unit. I simply place it in my car window, add water to the spout above the metal housing, and put the window-box in place over it. 

This project could definitely use some in-depth testing, which I haven't had too much time for.  However, the first time I used this unit, my car's internal temperature dropped 10°F within only 40 minutes!  This was without any noticeable change in outside temperature, shading, or other factors. 
Update 7/31/12:  On most occasions, the Unit drops the car's internal temperature by 2-4°F.  Not nearly as awesome as the first test, however considering Ohio is not the ideal location where evaporative cooling would be most efficient, and the Unit is very small, the drop in temperature is still a success.

However, the thermometers I bought at the Dollar Store can hardly be called high-precision instruments, and one actually broke when trying to measure the initial temperature of the car one day because it was so hot.  When I can find affordable precise temperature monitoring equipment I'll do more testing.

Step 10: Going Further and Conclusion

Picture of Going Further and Conclusion

It would be awesome if this Instructable was only the first step in Convection-Evaporation Cooling becoming a widespread and widely used technology.  This project was an experiment, and meant to exercise and test the concept I had imagined.  This would undoubtedly be much more effective if it were scaled up to be used in homes, where air conditioning costs a fortune to run all summer, normally on carbon-produced electricity.

I'd like to point out also, that if water were not added to the Unit, it could act as a heater, using sunlight to heat the air in the shaft, and simply funneling it into the home/car.  Definitely an awesome feature if this were to be considered as a device to be incorporated into homes.


At this point I'd like to sincerely thank you for reading my Instructable.  I'd like to encourage you to leave a comment, because I like reading them and it motivates me to actually document my projects as opposed to silently enjoying them.  If you wanted to rate this Instructable and Follow/Subscribe that would be awesome as well!

Good luck with your build!

Step 11: Videos!

Picture of Videos!
The first video shows how the Unit is assembled and set up.

The second video explains how the Unit works.


ChristopherJames (author)2016-02-18

This is an amazing idea mate! Not that I would do this to my car, but it could potentially make a difference to some of my self storage units since they're all pretty much just sitting in the sun. It could be a cheap alternative for climate control in your own home storage rooms like the attic or garage or even garden shed too I think. Way to go to do your part for the planet!

SabineT (author)2016-02-13

I love reading about diy solar projects. Yours is esp interesting!

Gadget93 (author)2015-08-13

Awesome idea and great video production. Unfortunately it's not at all safe to use while driving.

T0BY (author)2015-08-03

How about a small solar panel powering a computer fan to speed the heat transfer?

nate.jen.1 (author)2015-04-05


aniltvmin (author)2013-04-09

I have previously asked for the videos for some clarification, and happy to find it now. I couldnt start the project without it. Thanks....I will update after i try..

Also expecting your updates about any improvement or addition..

Redstormx1 (author)2012-11-17

Im glad your using your brain and trying to thinks of idea. Even though this might not be the easiest and simplest idea. you can take what you learnt from it and use it in the future for something else. You got some handyman skills there.
I was thinking Get some kind of air scoop so when you drive it directs the wind inside the car. Then have a wet medium infront of it . And mybe a bottle of water and a pump which sits under the seat and pumps new water to the unit.
The car would cool down pretty fast after a few mins of driving .
IF you have any questions im an air conditioning mechanic .

Ranie-K (author)2012-08-17

Author: What do you think about this idea?

shannonlove (author)2012-07-22

I wouldn't worry about high precision in this case. Getting down to the nearest degree is more than sufficient. Don't do more work than you have to. Adding needless precision also adds the risk of additional error. Learned that one the hard way after mis-measuring hundreds of blue crabs with needlessly precise calipers which I misread.

I would recommend cooking thermometers like the kind they sell to make candy. They have a wider upper range than weather thermometers, they are more durable and, most importantly, you can calibrate them using boiling water (corrected for barometric pressure of course.)

fozzy13 (author)shannonlove2012-07-22

Hi there!! : )

I considered using candy thermometers, however they can be $10 or more, and so I didn't want to buy them when I'd only really be using them for these measurements.. I also wasn't sure how accurate/reliable they would be hanging in air, as opposed to being submerged in a syrup.

Thanks for the read and the comment!! : )

static (author)fozzy132012-07-24

I use the ~ $5 digital food thermometer in Walmart's kitchen accessories section. Unless you are working with serious critical chemical reactions, their accuracy probably is good enough for the home shop. Good instructable, but a project I would duplicate, you gotta be tough :) Currently it's 102 F outside at a time when are having record triple digit highs. I live in the part of KS swamp cooling works well most days.

fozzy13 (author)static2012-07-25

That's not a bad idea. I actually got a candy thermometer yesterday, so I'll be able to take some measurements soon.
: )

shannonlove (author)fozzy132012-07-23

$10 bucks is $10 bucks, especially when you are a young student as I remember all to well. Back in my day, $10 bucks was 2 hrs labor at my minimum wage college jobs. However, I also remember wasting a lot of time, money and effort because I guessed at something instead of measuring.

All science begins with measurement. If you can't produce repeatable measurements, whatever you're doing isn't science and probably not even useful inventing/engineering. You can easily end up pursuing dead end design paths because you had to guess whether any particular design or change was really producing the results you thought they did.

I always recommend to people building anything whether woodworking, electronics, software, cooking etc to spend money first on measuring tools. It's the traditional, "measure twice, cut once" wisdom.

Check around. You can get relatively descent infrared thermometers for $20 bucks or so. Also, remember you can borrow tools. Make friends, schmooze and help other out and they will return the favor. When you're working on a shoestring friends are more important than cache.

fozzy13 (author)shannonlove2012-07-23

That's right, and I've been working 2-3 jobs all summer trying to save for all the upcoming expenses.. That said, you have a good point about the importance of measurements.

Thanks for your input and comments!! Your help and interest is appreciated : )

bpfh (author)fozzy132012-07-23

Temperature is temperature, be it in a solid, liquid or gas. What would change would be the time taken to get a distinct reading. The candy thermometers I've seen are heavier than house ones, inside a steel casing with a window to see the temperature, and that would take longer to warm up or cool down in air compared to a plain household bulb thermometer on a plastic mount.

shannonlove (author)bpfh2012-07-23

You are correct that it would seem like the increased mass of the candy thermometer would make them less reactive but I haven't noticed any issues with them.

Candy thermometers are quite reactive because candy making requires precision as some task like chocolate making will fail if the temperature goes outside a 4F/2C range. On the other hand the thermal mass of water, solids and sugar is enormous so they might be slow measuring just air. I have used them for a surprisingly wide variety of task e.g. checking engine temps (but please don't tell my significant other) and they seem very reactive.

Their major advantage vs weather thermometers is their upper range. Most weather thermometer peg out at around 120F/49C making them useless for measuring any temp you couldn't touch with bare hands anyway. The second advantage is that you can calibrate them with boiling water.

fozzy13 (author)bpfh2012-07-23

Thanks for your input!! I may try to look for some decent thermometers later today!

Thanks again!
: )

rhooie (author)2012-07-24

Won't work here in Florida, to much humidity. But putting this thing on every day is easier than a foil reflector?

fozzy13 (author)rhooie2012-07-25

RIght, certainly no help to Florida, unfortunately : )
It's not hard at all to put on, however I can't really say whether or not it's "easier" since I haven't tried a foil shade. It's certainly more fun and fulfilling to put on to say the least : )

StuNutt (author)2012-07-22

Don't worry that you've "reinvented" the swamp-cooler - These are very good and very efficient. I had a whole house "air-conned" with one on the roof when I lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where (being basically in the centre of a large desert) it was hot (up to 115 degrees F or even more) and very dry.

Compared with a "compressor-type" air-con, they cost pennies to run, and made he place more comfortable with the humidification or the air indoors.

I like the idea too of making it "dual purpose" to heat the car in the Winter before driving off - I'm currently doing something a bit similar to stop my workshop in the garden getting too cold and damp at night in the Winter by fitting a "Solar Collector" on the South end, blowing air heated by the sun in the day through a THICK insulated concrete base, which should radiate into the workshop at night and keep the conditions in there a lot nicer.

fozzy13 (author)StuNutt2012-07-22

Thank you!! I did have hotter and more arid regions in mind when I thought about the possibility of scaling this project!

Your garden heating project sounds awesome! A great idea for passive solar heat.

Thanks for the read and comment!! : )

StuNutt (author)fozzy132012-07-22

Hi Fozzy, It's not strictly speaking a "passive solar" system - that's where you just use a large area of South-facing glass (or polycarbonate) to heat the internal structure of a building directly by the sun. It's "active" because I will be using a fan to circulate the hot air captured in the solar collector and circulated through a base of rammed earth and concrete (about 100 cubic feet in my project) which is insulated from the ground below it.

The thermal mass of this base is intended to store that heat and to radiate it from the floor into the building once the temperature inside starts to drop at night. Yes - I've been taking pictures as I've been going, and it will be submitted as an instructible when it's finished . . . . But that won't be for several months as I won't need the heating until later in the year when it starts to get colder at night. I've been neglecting a lot of other chores since I started which I'll have to catch up on!

I've built the workshop with stud wall, OSB skin inside,  which will have the space between the studs insulated with glass wool insulation and twin-wall plastic cladding outside, while the roof is OSB, covered with glass wool and another layer of OSB over that. Should be nice and cozy!


static (author)StuNutt2012-07-24

Respectfully your definition of passive is much stricter than it is in the general community. In using a solar chimney to create a cooling breeze in a building wouldn't be passive given how you define passive. For most. passive solar means using solar without any other additional energy input to complete the desired task. In the event you could design it to use heat from the sun to circulate the air through the thermal mass in your project it would then be %100 passive.

StuNutt (author)static2012-07-24

I did think about that for my project, and "hot air rises" - yeah? So if the cold air comes into the bottom of the collector, and goes out of the top, then a pipe from the top of the collector should connect to the top of the concrete storage slab, circulate through it, drop to the lower area of the slab (as it cools, giving up heat to the slab), circulate and then return to the bottom of the collector.

I agree it would work - to a degree, but I'm putting in a "muffin" fan to be able to get the airr to circulate better.

Of course, I MAY find that it circulates enough without the fan, and that will save me having to provide a small power source (probably solar PV) to run the fan during the day.

In fact, I have the air planned to go to the bottom layer of the slab first, as this way the heat should take longer to transfer to the top of the slab (and hence into the structure above, in order to achieve my aim of keeping the building warmer during the late part of the night (electronic equipment does not like cold, damp atmosphere), but it still may work . . . . (?)


GordieGii (author)StuNutt2012-07-24

If your muffin fan were powered by a solar panel, would that be considered passive?


StuNutt (author)GordieGii2012-07-24

Good question Gordie - But I really don't want to get into a lot of semantics. Yes, the muffin fan will probably be powered by solar. I intend to have a small solar PV (about a 10-watt panel) to charge a "float battery", but mainly to allow me to use my ham radio gear in an emergency (I'm a member of the UK ham emergency volunteers) should we have a total power failure. The fan will be powered from that battery-backed supply.

fozzy13 (author)StuNutt2012-07-23

Ah! I called it "passive solar", since I thought that term applied to systems that stored solar energy in stone, or in your case concrete.  I guess it does make sense that it's not truly passive if there's a fan involved.

An awesome project nonetheless!  Can't wait to see it!

Thanks! : )

(My good friend, the "vote" button, gets forgotten and feels unloved)
: )

dll932 (author)2012-07-22

Nicely done. When I was a kid in Arizona "swamp coolers" for houses and even cars were common. There was also flax bags: You would saturate them with water, then fill them up. Hung on your car outside the grille, after driving awhile the water would be ice cold!

The idea of using your apparatus dry creating heat might be useful in the winter.

fozzy13 (author)dll9322012-07-22

Flax bags sound interesting!! And I'm excited to try using it for heat as well! Thanks for the read and comment!! : )

*casually points to the "vote" button in the upper right* : )

dll932 (author)fozzy132012-07-23

You can still buy flax bags:

This is about Trombe walls: Same effect as using your device dry:

static (author)dll9322012-07-24

The water bags I recall had a canteen like neck . In the process of keeping the water cool, water in the bag was consumed by evaporation. While they keep the water refreshingly cool, it certainly isn't  ice cold as the other commenter stated.

dll932 (author)static2012-07-24

They're not perfect devices, but I recall using them in 90-100 degree heat in Arizona resulting in very cold water. The basic principle remains the same: Cooling by evaporation.

tafelice (author)2012-07-22

Just a note about MDF.
-very susceptible to moisture, and it will swell up to maybe 3 times its size. Not desireable.
-the strength on the face of it is very good, i.e. you want to walk on it or rest things on it. I built a medium duty workbench with it, works wonderful, nice flat surface. I built utility shelves with it, very nice. I did all the wood work in my house with it... OUTSTANDING.
-but it is not structural in that it has very little span, not good on its edge, won't hold a screw (or nail) very well in the edge or even on the face to well, suggest glueing along with screwing/nailing.
-absent of moisture it is extremely stable.
-MDF is VERY heavy

For this project I would almost suggest some type of foam board with hot glue gun. Easier to work with, more resistant to moisture and very economical

albeem (author)tafelice2012-07-23

Yes MDF is heavy and susceptible to moisture. /You can use GatorBoard foam at 1/2" thickness to construct a rigid, lightweight more waterproof housing. Should paint it. It is a phenolic resin paper sandwich with a styrofoam interior. styrofoam interior wither different than FoamCore.

fozzy13 (author)albeem2012-07-23

Is GatorBoard available at your average home improvement store at a reasonable price? I'm definitely interested for future projects.

Thanks for the read and comment!! : )

tafelice (author)fozzy132012-07-24

I was thinking more of R-Max 1/2"

This stuff doesn't have a rigid outlayer but has a somewhat rigid inner core between some silver reflective paper. It has a less than 2% water absorbtion. It is just $9.48 at Lowes. I put this on my basement ceiling and had a ton of big scraps leftover, some of which spent a couple of weeks out in the weather and it came in still in good shape. I read they do a lot of modeling with that gatorboard and perhaps it is a tad more permanent but this R-Max 1/2" would be great for proof of concept projects and I even believe it would hang in there for a good deal of years outdoors, but I can't be certain.

tafelice (author)tafelice2012-07-24

I guess it is also called R-Matte Plus 3 and I looked up the specs and it is <1% water absorbtion, and can be used between -40f and 250f

It is NON-structural. but for small boxes etc I would try it. I'm thinking of trying a dual chamber swamp cooler using this material.

fozzy13 (author)tafelice2012-07-24

With that low of water absorption and wide temperature range, I could easily look past the "non-structural" label, especially for a project like this.  For this specific application however, the 1/2" thickness would be a bit of an issue, since my car window is thinner than that, but the 1/4" fit very nicely.

I can't wait to see your cooler!

Thanks! : )

albeem (author)fozzy132012-07-23

This is used in Graphic Arts or TradeShow/ Exhibit displays. Photographers use it for mounting. You might find some scraps or used panels if you check around local companies.

The price is rather high, but here are some sources for single sheets.
Paint edges with latex or acrylic! Maybe 3/16" would be sturdy enough for your use...


UltraBoard is similar but with plastic surfaces (I haven't tried it):

fozzy13 (author)albeem2012-07-23

Ah, okay, it's too bad that it sounds hard to find. It's good to know it's around though so I can look for it.

Thanks! : )

fozzy13 (author)tafelice2012-07-22

I didn't know MDF was so susceptible to moisture! I chose it because I thought it was made of sawdust and a sort of resin, which I assumed would be more resistant to moisture than plywood.

I don't know if foam board would be quite sturdy enough for this project though, but it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot.

Thanks! : )

kjemielity (author)2012-07-23

great idea,and a well executed instructable.two thumbs up!!!

fozzy13 (author)kjemielity2012-07-23

Thanks for the kind words, as well as reading and commenting!! : )

SAWWAS72 (author)2012-07-23

Could the effectivness of your design be increased by using a small solar powered fan? I just curious.

fozzy13 (author)SAWWAS722012-07-23

Yes! It would just need to be placed at the bottom near where the air intake would be.

Thanks for reading and commenting! : )

Mig Welder (author)2012-07-23

I commend you for an excellently written instructable with no noticeable grammar or orthographical errors (that's a big deal for me). I'm rather busy with work these days but it's something I'm seriously considering doing for the car that I drive.

Also, I voted for your 'ible.

fozzy13 (author)Mig Welder2012-07-23

Thanks so much! I definitely tried hard to keep my grammar in check. I'd love to see your version if you get around to making it!

Thanks! I'm really glad you did, I would be ecstatic if I were to win a laser cutter!! Thanks for reading and commenting : )

tafelice (author)2012-07-22

I have a generic comment that applies to many instructables. Whenever someone builds something and "they have it already" they count the cost as $zero. This is soooo misleading. Not everyone "has it already." I would encourage everyone who "has it already" to say they have it BUT would cost $1.87 etc. Some instructable writers "have" some very pricey stuff. Just saying.

graydog111 (author)tafelice2012-07-23

I agree with "tafelic" about pricing stuff you already have. I cancelled my subscription to "Mother Earth News" magazine after the cover said it had an article on how to build a free wheelbarrow. In the story, they explained, "Get the nose wheel off a Cessna airplane". Sorry, I could not get one legally.

fozzy13 (author)graydog1112012-07-23

Thanks for your input!! I will definitely take that into consideration when I'm writing my new Instructables!! I hope nothing in the project is quite as obscure as an airplane nose wheel! : )

Thanks for reading and commenting!! : )

About This Instructable




Bio: I am currently a mechanical engineering student at the University of Toledo, and the founder of the University of Toledo Maker Society. I have a ... More »
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