Introduction: Handheld Air Conditioner Unit

Picture of Handheld Air Conditioner Unit

Jambo Instructabrarians!

Picture this: It's 87 degrees and scorching outside, you desperately want a Slurpee, but the nearest 7-11establishment is about about 5 blocks down. You could go out for a walk, but the heat is so intense you don't think you can make it there and back. You might be able to take a drive, but- wait a minute- car's impounded. So what do you do- risk burning to a crisp for a delicious drink, or struggle through this insane weather, Slurpeeless?

Thankfully, you may never have to face this dangerous predicament again! Good News, Everyone! I just finished putting the latest touches on my newest Summer Mattraption- my brand new Executive Style Handheld Air Conditioner! Portable and eco-friendly, this useful device promises to keep you cool with only 4 AA batteries and ice water!

Author's Note: I recently took this with me when I went on vacation to Hawaii and, I don't mean to brag, but it worked phenomenally.

Step 1: How It Works:

Picture of How It Works:

If you've browsed our fine selection of Summer Instructables, chances are you've probably seen CameronSS's amazing 12V Air Conditioner.   The concept is simple: a bilge pump transports cold water from an ice cooler, and is then pumped through a wound coil of copper tubing, which surrounds the circumference of an electric fan.  Thus, when the bilge pump circulates the flow of ice water around the metal copper tubing coils, the cold air is sucked around them and produces and Eco Friendly blast of cold air.

Now imagine that same concept, except 70% smaller.

Instead of using a bilge pump, I opted out for a miniature water pump from a desktop fountain, a stainless steel 1 ltr Thermos instead of an ice cooler, and a mini plastic handheld fan.  The final result?  A conditioner that is as classy as it is portable.

Step 2: Aperture 1: "Executive Ice Container"

Picture of Aperture 1: "Executive Ice Container"

Glossy and oh so fashionable, this 1 ltr Stainless Steel Thermos is what makes the HHAC the business executive’s cordless air conditioner. I used the thermos, in lieu of an ice cooler, to maximize ease of transportability.  The thermos proved extremely useful and can keep ice water cold for up to 1.5 hours.

The thermos is what houses all of the ice, water and water pump system so that the fluid is always in motion. I also dremelled three small holes at the top lid, which is how the two stiff plastic tubes that are connected to the cooling coils, as well as the battery wire, fit through the lid to get to the ice water.

Step 3: Aperture 2: "Zen Pump System"

Picture of Aperture 2: "Zen Pump System"

Instead of a bilge pump, I needed something a lot smaller and decided to use a pump from a discarded desktop Zen fountain. After spending 20 minutes trying to open it with a dremel, I finally cracked it open with a hammer and chisel in 5 minutes, and took out the battery pack, switch, and pump.

Next, I re-soldered the battery pack to a 7- inch length of wire, fit it inside some shrink tubing and connected it to the water pump, after I had fed the wire through the thermos cap.

The whole device is powered simply by 2 AA batteries.

Step 4: Aperture 3: "Conditioner Coil + Fan"

Picture of Aperture 3: "Conditioner Coil + Fan"

The final aperture in this product is the copper tubing cooling coils. I bought a small length of tubing from the hardware store, (about 1 foot or so) which I then bent using a pair of pliers to form fit around my handheld plastic fan. 

Next, I used four tie-wraps to connect my now wound coils to my fan, and then took both ends of the coils and inserted them into the non flexible plastic tubing.  This connects the final piece of the HHAC, so now the ice water can travel from the pump, through the coils and back into the thermos again, in a rapid circular flow.

Step 5: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

So there you have it, my own personal Handheld Air Conditioner, Executive Style.  While you may need to replenish the ice inside the thermos every other hour or so, you at least will never have to worry about the air conditioner polluting Freon gases into the atmosphere.

Just a tip though, since I predict a number of you may ask this.  Even though it may be tempting to drink out of the ice water Thermos, especially if you are on a long walk, I would highly advise against doing so.  Not that it's dangerous but probably unsanitary, considering how OSH probably never disinfects their copper tubes.

Anyway, if you'll excuse me, there's still the matter of a Slurpee-shortage in my household, of which I must attend to.

Good luck with your Summer Instructables!


Step 6: Materials and Parts Index

Picture of Materials and Parts Index

Materials and Parts Index

Desktop Fountain
Thin Copper Tubing
Stiff Plastic Tubing
Soldering Shrink Tubing
Handheld Plastic Fan

Where to Buy:
Try Target


mktrost2 (author)2011-08-29

So all of you that think Shift is wrong and a fool? You should not put down ideas that may come from the person who may make it possible someday to reach the stars or could double human life span? Maybe you should say that is really cool, neat, boss, trick or whatever term that encourges him to make more things. Support & help him and others that are really thinking. GEEKS RULE!

clemmentine (author)2015-05-10

I just signed up just so that I could comment-this is brilliant!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing. You should patent!!! (Hope it's not too late!!!) Genius. Thank you again for sharing! :)

LunaEros (author)2014-09-26

Now this is what Instrucables is about.

Innovation and invetiveness not these ridiculous ibles about recipes, sewing and how to play with Legos.

Good job, Shift!

TheKnottedTrunk (author)2014-09-15

This absolutely is an "Air Conditioner." Just understanding a few laws of thermodynamics and refrigeration principles you can see why. "Pumping" Cool water through the copper coil on the back of his 12v fan he is effectively able to reduce the humidity and temperature of a relatively sized space. Condensation will form on the evaporator coil, effectively taking the moisture directly from the atmosphere around it. This will simultaneously recirculate air with reduced heat and humidity. Refrigeration is not chilling anything, it is the process of removing heat, which simultaneously removes humidity as condensate.

ebayboy98 (author)2014-07-07

So has anybody tried this? Does it actually cool the air enough to have it be worth it?

wliu3 (author)2014-05-18

You could have use those semiconductor cooling plates. Just that you need an extra fan to dissipate the heat transferred by the plate when cooling the interior. I prefer heatsink+fan so CPU/GPU fan is perfect and easy choice without considering weight and mobility. Ofcourse you can also use a smaller heatsink (about the same size as the plate and a fan that is reasonably sized.

You will never need to replace the ice/cold water and you can minimize the use of copper tubing(by setting a heatsink also on the cold side and have the fan blow by it.) so to reduce cost if you are doing this.

Wyattr55123 (author)2013-07-27

Someone should make this altoids sized

vinayakbhat82 (author)2011-08-01

Nice idea, but would this rather be an air cooler and not an air conditioner??

Jayefuu (author)vinayakbhat822011-08-01

+1 Not an air conditioner, OR green.

Jayefuu (author)Jayefuu2011-08-01

Sorry, that came across awfully negative.

Like others that have commented I think you'll "turn off" many people that come visiting this 'ible by your use of green and air conditioner.

Cool? Yes! Cooling? Very! Air conditioner? No. Green? Definitely not.

Your 'ible's well written, but it plays for views (hey, I've done the same myself, I don't blame you) and doesn't seem honest. It'd read a lot better if it didn't claim to be what it isn't.

SHIFT! (author)Jayefuu2011-08-01

Jayefuu, I respect your opinion even though I readily disagree with it. I didn't label this project "green" simply for false advertising, because I do consider this a very green project. True, it does use batteries but my city has a free recycling program specifically for them. There's no runoff of freon, or excessive amount of energy usage and compared to other AC devices, the design is a much cleaner alternative.

Jayefuu (author)SHIFT!2011-08-01

Fair enough, you could have used a TEC and claimed it was 90% efficient AND green, that would have been worse.

I respect your opinion, but it seems like you justified it being green to greenwash rather than it actually being green. I don't think it'd be constructive to argue about it, so let's leave it at that, or maybe we should work together on a cooler that's greener?

Ice wristbands? Something to cool your wrists or another close to the surface vein to truly cool you rather than the air blowing at your face? I'd be willing to bet that a battery powered TEC in contact with your skin would be more efficient than freezing ice and blowing cooled air at your face.

All arguments aside, as I said before, I don't think what you did is a bad idea, it looks neat, the 'ible's well written and the product's cool, I just disagree that it's green or "eco". Green would be rubbing water on your wrists and arms so that evaporation does the hard work, or staying in the shade. Not using power to freeze water and then using batteries.

SHIFT! (author)Jayefuu2011-08-02

Ice Wristbands? You just read my mind Jayefuu! However, I might just make a slight suggestion and rework it into a headband/neck brace since the head is one of the areas that collects the most perspiration.

hilldomain (author)SHIFT!2013-07-10

its not just about perspiration but by cooling the pulse points. there are actually a lot of them on your body

TECHMASTERJOE (author)SHIFT!2011-08-02

about 4 years ago i did something like this but i made 2 loop of copper tube add a thin copper plate in a way so it clipped over the back of my neck it worked real well but ICE was a no go in the long run i used a 200watt TEC and a set of lipo witch is far from green but it added more rounds of golf it avg well over 112F here so green was not what i wanted...................
but a good 25~100watt TEC a copper pate and a small old P3 cpu heatsink might do the trick. add a pwm power management with temp feedback and you might have a real cooling system..............

i can see TEC with power management in direct contact like this, green as over time your using far less total power then the ice water setup even just making the ice uses more power..................
a good 4500ma lipo/nimh can run a 50w TEC like this for days if power is done right....................
and yes the best way is stay out of the sun.
but it's 10am at my house I'm in doors and it's 102deg so far today so i know my A/C will be on soon.................

check out custom computer cooling sites for TEC's you can get good ones cheep..................
use a 6-8cell NiMh pack you can get them some what cheep now days as people go LiPo (NiMh live longer and have just as much power)
lipo are about 1/3rd lighter and smaller that's all......................

and hey people don't point out flaws unless your going to post ways around them. cooling the air is the lest efficient way direct contact is best.
just use a mini fan for your face if you need more air in your cooling setup 95% of the cooling is just sweating plus a fan ice is doing almost nothing take a before and after temp with pump on and off at best it's a 2 deg temp drop if that just not a lot of surface area on the tubes to cool the air .................

hint: if you apply anything to cold to the top of your skin your body will reduce blood flow around it so remember cool not cold.
(stay with in 20degs of body temp)................

i hope this gives you ideas for the next one good luck.........

cool the left side of your neck more then the right if you cool the right side to much you will get massive headaches when the cold blood hits your brain.
i learn this the hard way lol..

last tip ditch the long sleeves that will help to

l8nite (author)TECHMASTERJOE2011-08-02

actually long loose sleeves help keep you cool, I wear loose, long sleeved, light colored,shirts as much as possible when I need to be outside in the heat, a wide brimmed straw hat, while far from a fashion statement also helps keep you cooler with a combination of shade and evaporation

gemtree (author)l8nite2011-08-06

Many years back when I was doing yard work, I learned that long sleeve white cotton shirts bought way larger than fits and a long head scarf that was wetted and tied to my head that covered the back of my neck was THE best thing I could do for myself. Long brim straw hat over that. Oh, and totally cut out caffeine when I knew I would be working in the heat. I may go back to doing that again.

TECHMASTERJOE (author)l8nite2011-08-03

that works for you i guess. I'm stuck with long sleeves as i had skin Cancer. i do see now that shirt is "under armor" and is made to wick heat/ sweat away. i have a few my self. they help a lot if your in direct sun light witch you will never find me. i hate the sun witch the only time i'm awake to reply is late (now 3:23am).
i always hated long sleeves never owned a shirt with them tell about 13 months ago when i found out i had cancer
(i have beat it so I'm good just not aloud to be in the sun at all)

hilldomain (author)Jayefuu2013-07-10

not wristbands something around your neck would be much more efficient at cooling the body for physiological reasons and or the armpits, and groin. cooling underwear. wouldnt it be just as easy to use a gel pack shaped like underwear? But to keep it cooler longer some sort of circulation system attached to your back and circulating the cool liquid to all 3 body parts

hilldomain (author)SHIFT!2013-07-10

green is a relative term and really means nothing anymore- who cares if its green.

Semantics. Your air conditioner cools air by blowing it over a tube of cold fluid - same as here. The difference is that your AC creates the cold fluid (by compressing a gas - removing heat energy from it), whereas this works from a fixed cold reservoir.

SHIFT! (author)vinayakbhat822011-08-01

Technically, but I'm using it in the transitive verb sense, which is "A substance or appliance used to improve or maintain something's condition", the substance being my HHAC and the condition of which is improved being my own.

lloydrmc (author)2011-08-02

Couldn't this be considered "green" since it doesn't use fluorocarbons? And that it keeps you cool while walking, instead of driving while using the air conditioner in the vehicle?

And I'm still waiting for a technical explanation as to why making ice is 98%+ wasteful of electrical energy. Is refrigerating food "wasteful" as well? How about all that electricity used to treat and distribute potable water?

And, for that matter, how it is that a Zen fountain pump exhausts the batteries in an hour? Mine has a battery life comfortably measured in days.. Does making unsubstantiated claims count as fact now?

Jamie508 (author)lloydrmc2011-08-03

I'll try and be helpful on the ice energy topic. In order to understand why making ice is an expensive / inefficient process, you need to approach the problem from a thermodynamics sense.
If your seriously interested, this would be a worthwhile place to start, while I have taken courses in thermodynamics, I would not be qualified to talk in depth on the subject and am worried I would mislead you.

lloydrmc (author)Jamie5082011-08-03

Jamie, I appreciate your viewpoint and approach, not to mention your humility. I hope I do not come across as arrogant or sarcastic (or untrainable).

What BobCat is saying is that, somehow, having air cool air blown over you is somehow 98% less efficient than DRINKING ice water, which somehow magically cools your body's core temperature (one wonders why it is NOT accepted First Aid practice to give cold liquids to heat stroke or heat exhaustion).

As for the efficiency of the process of making ice, (or lack thereof), isn't it all relative? My Hotpoint/GE Eco-options refrigerator is EPA rated to use about $34 worth of electricity a YEAR. Of course, putting some room temperature water in an ice tray in the freezer will cause the compressor to run longer to compensate. But how much? Would it even be measurable? Would it be more than it would take to compensate for having to take a minute to dig through the freezer to find an item that is "hiding"?

Let's say that BobCat is right, and blowing cool air is somehow 98% less efficient than drinking cold water. Could an entire tray full of ice (let alone what will fit in a 1/3 liter cut) cost even a penny to freeze in an efficient, modern refrigerator? If it costs a penny to make the ice for the cooler, then who cares if it takes 1/50 of a cent to make the ice to cool down an equivalent amount by drinking ice water?

You do not give ice water to someone with heat stroke because doing so can cause cramping, nausea, and shock.

You DO give liquids to someone with heat exhaustion, but not cold liquids, nor is that how you help them cool down.

hilldomain (author)lloydrmc2013-07-10

there are two types of heat exhaustion and a spectrum of heat illness. you shouldn't be giving medical advice unless you are a medical professional and even then ...

CamButton (author)2011-08-04

Awesome cooler brother. I think it could be easily adapted for use with body armor. Imagine Joe or Jane cooled through an ice water vest with cool air blowing on their neck and face. Have a good one. Cam

imark77 (author)CamButton2011-08-22

they actually make a medical device which has a reservoir for ice water, housed in a pump unit. and has a detachable vest with tubing in it.

yeah it's real, at this point it's old news to me, as I saw this when I was 7 or 8 years old.
it was at a family members house, he had something related to agent orange if I remember right.

hilldomain (author)imark772013-07-10

its called a hot water bottle just add ice water instead ...or ...or an ice pack!

SHIFT! (author)CamButton2011-08-04

Dude, I'd totally buy that.

acostanza (author)2011-09-30

Couldn't you, in theory, even add a bit of salt to the water to get the water down below 32 degrees making it a bit cooler?

hilldomain (author)acostanza2013-07-10

why not liquid nitrogen? much colder

SHIFT! (author)acostanza2011-09-30

I forget what the specific chemical reaction of frozen H2O to NaCl but sure!

hilldomain (author)2013-07-10

lucky you didnt get stopped by the TSA LOL and you dont need AC in Hawaii just go to the beach. its also way too loud. but it works

the potato (author)2012-07-24

an easier thing to do is but a probeller and a case for it and hook a batterrie up to it with basic wiring skills and super glue(pretty easy huh)

mr fat (author)2012-03-17

Hammers rock! This is an excellent project now all I have to do is find a pump.

Bruce1212 (author)2011-12-19

Cool!..haha, I think that should be a standard issue for those living in hot climates, (texas..ahem!). Those should be standard medical devices for people that have to sit in a waiting room where the AC is broken, like I had to do last week.

romoshka (author)2011-08-27

As to the cooling vest idea - I was in the process of building a prototype of such a device for use by motorcyclists when riding long distances in hot climates. Just as I finished the prototype one of my MC mags had an ad that there was a commercially available device - almost identical to mine - now available for sale at a very reasonable rate. Day late and a dollar short...again.

Venemot (author)2011-07-31

You guys think 80 degree fahrenheit is hot....You should check out Pakistan....Here normal summer temeperature is 104 degrees....Thats about 40 degree celsius...and this temperature doesnt bother most of us Pakistani's....the temperature which bothers is 50 degree celsius......aroud these times humidity is extremely highi.e. 70 to 80 that is hot...!!!!!!

casemill (author)Venemot2011-07-31

Same here in Texas. It's 104 today. Will be 106 tomorrow. Not a problem. We know how to handle it.

BrianJone5 (author)casemill2011-08-01

@ jcosta-1: Toronto, 50C .. really?

Casemill: Texas, being dry, makes this bearable. Come and try Philly or Ny on a 100F day, with 85% humidity. It truly is a different deal.

absolofdoom (author)BrianJone52011-08-01

Come try Alabama, on a 105F day, with 100% humidity. :3

aldergarcia (author)absolofdoom2011-08-16

i agree

Euromongrel (author)absolofdoom2011-08-01

There's a reason why I live in AZ instead of Alabama... namely single-digit humidity (which it isn't right now, it being the rainy season and really, really gross out).

My heart goes out to you- may your AC never fail.

absolofdoom (author)Euromongrel2011-08-01

I sure hope it doesn't. XD
But I guess that's what this instructable is for! *gets buildin'*

jendamage (author)casemill2011-08-02

yea by not moving very far or very much! lol

About This Instructable




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