Portable Air Conditioning





Introduction: Portable Air Conditioning

My car's air conditioner broke and it is incredibly expensive to repair, so I decided to improvise! This is a great way to cool down a hot car.

It works on a car's cigarette lighter, with two easy to find computer fans and a common cooler. It took me a couple hours to make, and that was including the failures that you don't have to suffer through, thanks to this guide.

Step 1: Get Cooler, "fix" It.

I went with a small from Target that was only $13. The cooler must be hard, and this one had a swinging lid.

The first thing I did was use a Dremel to remove the lid (keep this, you'll need it). Then I cut two square holes, one in each side of the cooler, for mounting the fans. I already had two different sized fans, so I made different sized holes.

Step 2: Install Fans

Now insert two standard computer cooling fans into the holes. Make sure that they are 12v DC fans, because these are the easiest format to work with.

Also note that one of the fans should be pulling air into the cooler, and the fan on the opposite side should be pushing air out.

After I stuck the fans in the holes I used a little hot glue and duct tape to hold them in place, along with some weather stripping for insulation and waterproofing.

Step 3: Metal Grate

Everybody knows cold air falls, so the ice should be positioned over the fans. I took a metal grate I had, cut it to size, and added legs to support it just above the fan holes. Then I piled about 4" of ice on top of it. I also added some ice packs below the fans for good measure.

You can't see the grate real well in this picture, but the ice is being held above the fans:

Step 4: Wire Fans

This should have been the third step, but oh well. Find the positive and negative wires on the front fan, and extend them back to the rear fan. Twist the wire ends of the positive wires for both of the fans together, and then run one longer wire from that intersection to a 12v DC car plug. What you should have is a Y-shaped string of wires, with the positives from both fans going into the plug. Get it?! Now do the dame with the negatives.

You will (hopefully) end up with two fans that both turn on when you stick the plug in a car cigarette lighter.

Step 5: Put Lid Back On.

To keep the ice from melting you need to put the lid back on. Since the cooler now has fans sticking out of the sides, I used the Dremel to cut fan-shaped holes in the sides of the lid. It slides on smoothly, although it does not latch, which brings us to step 6...

Step 6: Secure the Lid!

Use a bungee cord to secure the lid! Remember, there is no latch now, so if you lift the cooler by the handle on accident, this happens:

Step 7: Done!

Done. It should look something like this. Oh yeah, it should also blow cold air out. If it doesn't look like this, or work at all, you probably did something wrong.



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    In hot summer, we use the AboveTEK cooling fan ( https://www.amazon.com/dp/B010CESJTC ) to quickly blow away hot air from inside car, and so efficient! FYI.

    As compare to putting the ice directly into the cooler i had tried this with an air tight shopping bag which absolutely keep it in working order for a long time.

    "...the one sucking the hot air in would just speed the melting of ice."

    This is exactly right. We just installed a full-size portable ac and it does use a multi-fan system but there's no ice involved here and there's still quite a bit of condensation. You can see how they're designed to work at this site http://www.sylvane.com/portable-air-conditioners.html. The water runoff will create a puddle if you don't vent properly, which is what I would expect would happen with this cooler ac design. Two main changes in my opinion; remove the intake fan and create a down spout for the excess water.

    It's an innovative idea though :)

    Sorry, but putting the lid on won't keep the ice from melting... The reason your cooler will blow cool air is that heat energy is transferred from the surrounding air to the ice. The effect of this is that the heat energy contained by the air decreases, while that of the ice increases. Unfortunately, heat energy is related to temperature, and we all know that as temperature rises, ice melts... You're gonna have water coming out through your fans eventually. If your ice isn't melting, then your device isn't cooling the air, either.

    I am going to make it, please tell me will it really coll my car if outside temp is 45C? Please specify the size of fan you used, and your results.

    1 reply

    haven't tried fabricating this, but... at 45C(113F?) Your best option would be to ... roll down your window :). Awesome instructable thou but it's more of a novelty than a portable ac.... A simple test, go to McDonalds order a large ice tea w/ no tea... Take that cup(of ice) and put it in your cup holder. That's about how long the slow mist of cooling will last. Grant it it's not in a cooler, but you got 2 holes in the side you will have little insulation to keep your ice cool... it wont last long. Infact the only insulation would be to keep the hot air in. If you want to make it , i wouldn't even put 2 fans... It's not a sealed container so the one fan would be plenty to suck the cold air out of the cooler, the one sucking the hot air in would just speed the melting of ice. Or if you really want 2 fans, you could put the one sucking on top, and the one blowing on bottom it that way the air on top the cooler would be about 110 degrees so it will cool the 113 degree air before it hits the 32 degree ice and blows it out at you at 32 degrees reaching you at around 114 degrees.

    I wouldn't recommend putting ice right next to electricity.... It sounds really cool though. I would try putting the fans on the top of the ice box in stead of on the bottom of it that way it would still cool your car without the risk of the ice melting onto the fans.

    4 replies

    But it works on the principle of cold air falling... The water is a bit of a problem so I got "ice blankets" which are lots of tiny ice packs attached together.

    For clarification, the cooler being smaller your temps will be similar, 4 inches wont make a noticeable difference.

    Heat transfers from hot to cold, Warm air is lighter, but your talking about a cooler not a building... Also, if you dont have a way to vent that heavier air on top it will be like a sauna in there so your ice wont last very long anyway

    Although the principle of falling cold air is correct, you'll face with water getting to the fan & power connections. i would suggest the correct position should be ice below & fan on top, this suction effect is greater that wat u have initial thought of air convection. an ideal design will be an opening for air inlet & fan outlet for drawing the cooled air out. Thanx.

    I work with peltier (thermo electric modules) coolers and this would be a perfect way to eliminate the ice in this project. They do draw considerable current, they are pricey, and require a specialized high frequency modulated control circuit to extend their life, but they would be a great step up from the ice. they are solid state and if controlled properly will last quite a long time.Check them out on ebay or the net as to their function and availability.

    5 replies

    Or you could put the ice in a zip lock bag so all u have to really worry about is condensation.

    Great suggestion! I remember trying to find a way to adapt a peltier as a CPU cooler....I ended up going with water cooling as the downside to a peltier is the opposing side creates heat.

    You could water cool the hot side of the peltier. With a peltier cooler, you will be able to get the CPU temperature to below ambient temperature since the cold side is, after all, a fridge...

    Hold on, are you absolutely sure you need a high frequency modulated circuit to extend their life? Seriously, I just bought one from ebay (it's still in the mail), and I was going to run it from a 12V DC supply or a lead acid car battery... will it end up dying after a short time? I thought solid state electronics lasted (nearly) forever?

    They draw a lot of current, they're expensive and they're hard to work with, but other than that. . . ; P

    Or you could use "dry ice" (frozen carbon dioxide) because it turns straight into gas and the gas from dry ice falls! You can get dry ice from fish shops because normally they use dry ice to keep the fish frozen or if you know someone who works whith blood and have to put it into boxes and test it and stuff like that more than likley they will be able to get some dry ice because that is what they use to transport the blood!!! I'm going to put up my own design using dry ice soon but I still need to finilize the design.

    What about the small amount of condensation that comes off of the ice blankets. I am not trying to criticize your idea. Trust me I am only giving suggestions to help make your idea a little better.