Portable Air Conditioner




Posted in HomeLife-hacks

Introduction: Portable Air Conditioner

I work out of my truck 8 hours a day as a security officer. My truck is my office. It is not cost effective to run my truck air conditioner all day. I built this portable air conditioner to use in my truck and it works great.

Parts List

1) cooler

1) 12 volt DC Fan
(My fan will run on AC and DC)

1) 4 inch 1/4 Bend PVC Hub
Lowes Hardware

1) 4 inch RDR DR 35 PVC Adapter
Lowes Hardware

1) 12 Volt DC Accessory Plug
Radio Shack

1) Piece of Plywood
Already had this

6) Wood Screws

7) Ice

Cut the plywood to fit the inside lip of the cooler. This needs to be a snug fit so you don't loose air but not too tight as you will have trouble removing it.

Cut two holes in the plywood, one for the fan and one for the PVC exhaust.

Step 1: Portable Air Conditioner

Cut a 3 inch plywood strip a little bit narrower than the width of the board. Screw this into the bottom of the board. This strip forces the air to go further down into the cooler forcing the air into the ice.

Step 2: Portable Air Conditioner

Place the fan over the large hole and drill 4 holes into the fan. Make sure you do not drill into any wires when doing this. You may have to take the fan apart to find the best place to drill. Also make sure the power plug is facing towards the top so you will be able to access it. My fan came with a two speed on off switch. The switch was on the opposite side of the power plug. I put the switch on high and mounted the fan switch towards the board. If I want to turn the fan off I just unplug the cord. Screw the fan to the board. Be sure your fan blows into the cooler.

Step 3: Portable Air Conditioner

Put the 4 inch PVC adapter into the hole.

Step 4: Portable Air Conditioner

Put the 4 inch 1/4 Bend PVC Hub into the adapter. You should be able to turn the PVC Hub 360 Degrees. This allows you to blow the air in any direction.

Step 5: Portable Air Conditioner

Plug your DC Adapter into the fan and the other end into your vehicles 12 volt DC accessory plug. You are now ready to use your Portable Air Conditioner. The air will be cooler if you use bag ice, however bag ice will probably melt in about 2 1/2 hours. I freeze water in 1/2 gallon milk jugs. The ice will stay frozen twice as long but the air is not as cool as using bag ice. If you use milk jugs do not fill them up all the way. When water freezes it expands and will burst the milk jugs if they are filled to the top. If you like this project PLEASE VOTE FOR IT.

Step 6:



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    I did this awhile back found it did better with loose ice rather than a big block

    Great suggestions JoeH9 & Toolboxguy! I'll have to try reversing the air flow on my design. I've added an aquarium pump to mine, and am working out the installation of a humidifier filter to act as the radiator. I use a 15 gallon cooler with gallon and half gallon ice jugs (Hawaiian Punch has a great handle/lid design). Looks like I'll be posting my first instructable very soon!

    If you ever notice the way firemen clear the smoke out of a house, they always set the fan a few feet back from the door then open the windows on the other side of the house. One important thing is that the open windows are bigger in total area than the door. This causes the wind blown by the fan to draw more air with it as it rushes thru the doorway. Plus the fan does not have to work as hard forcing the air. If you stand the fan off the top just a little and increase the volume of the exhaust ports, not only will it get a lot cooler faster, the running fan motor will contribute less heat...

    Typogenerator, thanks for the idea!

    ToolboxGuy, Thanks glad you like it. Thanks for the suggestion also.

    Medicmeister, you are correct with the pressure. I have a small computer fan that I am going to put on the pvc exhaust. I think this will help with drawing more air out. I will post this step and the results soon. Thank you for commenting.

    1 reply

    Here's a potential easy solution to this problem: Reverse the direction of the fan so you're *pulling* the air through the ice via the PVC inlet. You'd lose the option of directing the air flow, of course, but it's an easy fix and avoids over-engineering your very simple design.

    Nice work! If you are going to use plain ice and water, you could improve the cooling performance (if needed!) Please consider my suggestion so you can keep cooling off, even when the ice is completely gone. Granted, your ice will melt faster, but you will get a faster cooling effect, and the water left behind will still help keep you cool long afterwards.

    I was originally going to suggest that you cut down a car radiator to fit inside here, but given the contaminants like rust, copper, radiator fluid and paint, you'd never be able to use it as a regular cooler ever again. Seeing how neatly you cut the plywood, I also assumed that this needs to be holding food/drinks at some point again in its lifetime.

    So, let's build a food safe radiator instead. Take a few metal kitchen exhaust fan screens (use new/clean ones) and place/mount them into the ice/water vertically, so the air passes through the screen, but make sure to keep them upright, so the air flows through the screens. You could hang them right from the plywood to dangle into the slush, or make a simple bracket to hold a few of them in a row. Their position is best if all of the air must pass through them, and immersed in the slush at the same time. If you can find ones big enough to run diagonally and nearly touch the bottom, you'd have a real winner.

    If you do stack several together, don't be surprised if your screens actually "ice over" from time to time. You have plenty of humidity in the box, and rapid cooling going on. If this happens often, take one or two of the screens out, or space them farther apart from one another, or reduce the fan speed (if possible) to reduce this effect.

    Battlespeed that's a great idea.

    With summer here, I wonder if you might try this with freezer packs instead of ice. You can get excellent packs used by fishermen, etc., and it eliminates a lot of the mess involved with ice. If you do, hope you'll post a reply!

    There are many things to consider. The fan speed, How hot the temperature is out side. Crushed ice, cubed ice, block ice or frozen water in jugs. Block ice last longer. I have got as little as two hours on days that it was near 100 degrees. I have also got near 6 to 7 hours on days in the low 80s. I use cubed ice and frozen jugs at the same time.

    How long does the ice last on one of these?

    The problems I seem to be having when I have attempted these in the past, is finding a decent enough fan to maintain enough positive pressure to pass through the ice and then through the exit vent. And most of the time the fans that I have tried couldn't produce enough force to go in thru the ice and exit with enough pressure to feel it from more than 6 to 8 inches away. I do like the lip you put into the top, but with all of the variety of fans I have tried, it still will not produce enough force to prevent air from leaking back out through the fan.

    Thanks, but I am disappointed that the mobile app deleted steps and pics. Tried to fix it but the upgraded app version of instructables sux. All kind of bugs.

    Nicely done. Thanks for sharing this!