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Ruggedizing and bug-proofing a window air conditioner for tent camping

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My wife and I have an unexpected week off together next week where we are dropping off one of our kids at camp in one state and picking up the other one in another state a week later.  We are going to be travelling through Florida so I decided to try to book a room or condo at the beach last minute but there wasn't anything available that wasn't prohibitively expensive.  I pitched the idea of camping on the beach to my wife and bless her heart she agreed!  We have a small 2-3 man tent we got for the kids last Christmas. The campsite is at a Florida State Park and it has power, water and and an air-conditioned shower and bathroom facility but I became a little concerned we would be rolling around in our own sweat every night in that little tent in hot, humid Florida.  I briefly investigated purchasing an indoor or portable AC unit but they are much more expensive than regular window units and frankly I don't think we have room in the tent for one.  I read with great interest this instructable by zmatt (Thanks Matt!) so I did a little research and found this cheap, little GE window air conditoner that gets rave reviews at my local Wal-Mart for $98.  The only problem is that since it is a window unit, it is not designed to be carried around so the aluminum fins of the condenser unit on the back are exposed and can be easily bent or damaged during transport.  I came up with a cheap solution to protect the fins and ruggedize our new little camping air conditioner.

UPDATE: We just got back from our trip and the air conditioner worked even better than I thought it would.  The first night my wife asked me to turn it down because it was a "tad chilly". lol  We were nestled in our sleeping bags too!  Not too many bugs showed up but the laundry bag saved the air conditioner one day when a monsoon passed through the campground and the water pooled at the condenser end.  So much so that the fan blades were slapping the water and I was thinking "Oh no! It is splashing dirt and debris all over the inside of the air conditioner!" but after the rain I took the bag off and it had kept all the dirt and debris out of the air conditioner.  The door of the tent didn't zip snug against the side of the air conditioner so there was a little wedge of daylight there so I stuck a little soft cooler in the crack to seal it.  OK, gotta go add a 5-star review for this air conditioner at walmart.com!  Best money I ever spent!
 
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melliott112 months ago

I like it!

Sorry but there is nothing to apologize for if you need to air condition your tent to be able to sleep, or if you are physically unable to tolerate the heat and yet you want to enjoy a different view...(How many people air condition/heat huge amounts of space including rooms they don't even enter year round.)

You mentioned it rained while were using this, and it worked out okay obviously...but it looks like it sits right on the ground and it made me wonder about how safe this combination is.

bakdrft4 months ago

SORRY but there is NOTHIN rugged about using an ac unit while camping

joetwinkle4 months ago
Do you have an instruct able for the ingenious iPad device shown in one of the photos?
replayreb (author)  joetwinkle4 months ago

I do! Here it is: http://www.instructables.com/id/PVC-iPad-holder-and-mount-for-tent-camping/?ALLSTEPS

mguer1332 years ago
This is the second instructable I am reading about air conditionning a tent...
And I am still baffled about why on earth someone would want to do this.
If you are to need an Ipad and air con, why don't you just get a hotel room or a mobilehome?
Where is the pleasure of sleeping outside, sharing what nature has to offer (appart from the moskitoes of course)?

May be this is a cultural or local thing, please unlighten me.
Housedog mguer1334 months ago

If you read the intro, it says the only hotel rooms available were prohibitively expensive. So he's looking for cheap luxury, not an "outdoor experience".

mguer133: I live in North Carolina now, but I *grew up* in Florida. Believe me, it is NOT NUTS...<G>
One word "humidity" camping in the Florida Keys in July was unbearable.....will never camp in Florida without AC unit again.....unless it is like 40 degrees out. I think this is just a Florida thing. One of the tents in the group with us had the setup shown in this article and they were very comfortable.
replayreb (author)  mguer1332 years ago
In this case sleeping in a tent was a means to an end which was to spend a week on the beach when there was no affordable hotel, house or condo available for rent on such short notice. If I had been planning for a traditional camping trip for the southeastern part of the United States I wouldn't have done it in July. lol
thezapman4 months ago
amazing idea and well done. looks like the grate was made for your specific project too
replayreb (author)  thezapman4 months ago

I know, right? I couldn't believe it when I first held it up to the AC and it was a perfect match!

-Nate125-4 months ago
Wow talk about camping in style! I think that's not even camping? But I have one suggestion, the AC will get damp so try covering it up with a towel.
replayreb (author)  -Nate125-4 months ago

It's a window unit so it is designed to be hung outside a window and get rained on and exposed to weather.

rgerber14 months ago
(removed by author or community request)
replayreb (author)  rgerber14 months ago

An AC has two areas of circulation. One inside and one outside. The inside fan draws air from inside the room, or tent in this instance, and blows air across the cold evaporator coil on the room side of the AC to cool the air. It has an filter that can be slid out to clean periodically. The outside area of circulation pulls air from outside to cool the condenser coil on the back of the AC. This area has no filter so if you are camping in a area with lots of bugs or mosquitoes they can get sucked into the condenser coil clogging it up. The laundry bag pulled over the back of the AC acts as a bug filter for the outside area of circulation. It turned out to not be really necessary where I was camping since there weren't a lot of bugs but this person camped in a area with a lot of bugs and recommended a filter so that's why I came up with the idea to use a laundry bag... http://www.deltablues.net/camping2.html

I've been noodling around with ideas for converting a van to a camper, with a/c to use at night - this idea would work great! Thanks for the inspiration!

ggallen1035 months ago

From the looks of that tent, you would have not had a problem with the portable A/C. It is more expensive - $250-$300. Another option would be those A/C units you make from a Styrofoam coolers filled with ICE and a fan blowing air across the ICE. Supposedly the ICE would last 4-5 hours - and you could use a 12v fan and a spare car battery (if there was no Electric). Although they might not touch the humidity.

waldogonsh6 months ago

Wasn't there an issue with the tent walls being too thin? When I use an air conditioner to cool a room in my home, it works, but only because there's insulation. Does the tent stay cool for very long?

replayreb (author)  waldogonsh6 months ago
Not at all. Our tent was only a 3-person tent so it actually got too cold and I had to turn it down. Another major benefit is that while the air conditioner cools the tent, it also greatly lowers the humidity which makes it much more comfortable and wet clothes dry much faster. That's why they call it an air conditioner I guess in lieu of "air cooler". lol
Saiboogu9 months ago
Keeping bugs from entering the tent and protecting the fins are good ideas, but worrying about the water in the unit is unnecessary. In fact, when you heard the fans hitting the water, that was normal operation. There's actually a ring on the fan designed to sling water onto the coils for additional cooling.
visotech1 year ago
That's nuts. How does anyone NOT understand the beauty of sleeping outside - it's so awesome. Wow! I am going to try this next summer here in New England...this is an awesome idea. Thank yoU!
Did the screen mess with the air flow at all? Just want to make sure it wouldnt get clogged/catch fire
l8nite2 years ago
The grate on the back is a good idea even for normal home use, all kinds of things end up hitting the coils. Living in Florida the past couple of weeks has been a weather nightmare, first the rain from tropical storm Debby and NOW July 4th we still have the high humidity left over from all the rain coupled with unusually high heat.. hope you enjoy your mini vacation
I agree with I8nite! Up here in New England it is hot and humid summers and well below freezing winters so I have to take out and install my acs in fall and spring. The cover you show is a great idea to help eliminate damage from moving and storage thanks :-)
replayreb (author)  l8nite2 years ago
Hey thank you very much! I can't wait!
Brian9962 years ago
How did you power the unit? A generator?
replayreb (author)  Brian9962 years ago
The campsite was actually an RV site so it had power and water.
shmdesigns2 years ago
This is excellent! The grate even looks like it's supposed to be there. Glad to hear it worked out and will be giving this a shot myself. Thanks!
gomiboy2 years ago
So simple and elegant! I'm going to try this for our big cross-country trip next summer. Great idea.