A portable air conditioner made with 12 volt fans, a Styrofoam beer cooler, an air vent, and frozen beer, that will work on USB, AC adapter for an electrical outlet, or a 12V car lighter.
I made this portable air conditioner to use at a craft fair that I go to every Saturday to sell my art.
The only power available to me at the fair is either through my laptop, through rechargeable batteries, or through my cars 12 volt lighter and it is hot as Hades, so I hacked this together, since I always have the cooler full of beer with me anyway.
If you aren't a beer drinker, or find yourself in a situation where you can't freeze your beer, you can also use bagged ice.
Step 1: Materials
You will need one Styrofoam beer cooler that you can get at the Dollar General Store for $2.50, an air vent that can be bought at a goodwill or thrift store for $1, three computer cooling fans that can run off USB or an AC adapter that can be bought at Wal*mart for $4 each, and a 12 pack of beer in aluminum cans.
Altogether, this project cost me about 30 bucks in start-up funds, including the beer, or about 35 bucks including beer and ice.
If you are using only ice, your cost will be about 20 bucks.
Step 2: Cut Holes for Fans
Lay the fans down on top of the cooler lid and trace circles around them. Use a knife to cut the circles.
Once the circles are cut, lay the fans down into the holes.
I had to use a small amount of duct tape to reinforce around the cut circles.
The fans should be facing out and blowing air out. They are going to draw the air in through the vent and over the beer cans/ice and then out the top, instead of pushing the air over the cans.
After numerous tests, I found that the air was much cooler and more powerful if the fans drew the air through the vent and over the cans, rather than push it over the cans and out the vent.
Step 3: Splice Fans Together
Splice the fan wires together in parallel.
Step 4: Intake Vent
Trace around the air vent. Use a knife to cut the rectangular shape for the vent. This will be your air intake.
Step 5: Freeze Beer
Take your 12 pack of beer out of the container and freeze it.
Don't worry, it will not explode. Make sure the beer is in aluminum cans, not glass.
I made a special container made of aluminum to hold the beer, thinking it would work better, and be more efficient, but it was not. The more surface area you have for the air to move around, the better.
So far I've frozen PBR and Bud Light with no problems.
Because of the alcohol, the beer has a higher freezing point and a lower melting point than plain water, plus, the aluminum is a good conductor and gets nice and cold as opposed to plastic so the beer works a little better than freezing plastic bottles of water.
Step 6: Plug In
Your air conditioner can either run off your laptop battery, your AC adapter for electrical outlet, or a car's 12 volt cigarette lighter.
I didn't splice in the cigarette lighter charger because I didn't need it. But it's easy enough to do so.
End note: this air conditioner isn't very powerful, but it does provide cool air in a camping situation. It will make a difference in your tent or underneath your canopy.