How to Build a DIY Air Conditioner in Minutes for Less Than $10

Summertime means heat, and that can make living not so easy.

The National Weather Service reports that on average more than 130 people a year die due to the heat.

The Mayo Clinic explains why hot weather puts extra stress on your body:

“To help cool itself, your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate. … Under normal conditions, your skin, blood vessels and perspiration level adjust to the heat. But these natural cooling systems may fail if you’re exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long …

The good news is you may not need to run out and buy an air conditioner. We have a dirt-cheap, low-tech way to turn an ice chest into an air conditioner.


You need only a few items to build a DIY air conditioner. None is expensive, and some you may already have around the house. They are:

  • A cheap Styrofoam ice chest
  • Two dryer vents or PVC joints
  • A small fan
  • Ice to fill the ice chest


Follow these steps to ready your materials for assembly:

  1. Set the vents on top of the ice chest lid, facing down, with one vent on each side of the lid. Space them far enough apart that the fan will be able to fit between them.
  2. Trace around the perimeter of the vents, creating two circles on the ice chest lid.
  3. Use a serrated knife to cut out the two circles, creating holes for the vents. Make sure the holes are sized such that the vents will be able to fit snugly inside them.
  4. Cut out a hole for the fan, making sure this hole is a bit smaller than the fan itself. You want the fan to be able to rest on top of the chest but not fall into it.


To construct your air conditioner:

  1. Fit the vents snugly in their holes.
  2. Place the fan on top of its hole, facing down so it will blow air into the ice chest.
  3. Fill the cooler with ice.

Then, all that’s left is to turn on your air conditioner by turning on the fan.

The fan will force air into the chest, over the ice and out the vents — which you may wish to angle in a particular direction. As a result, you’ll feel cold air blowing out of the chest. It should be around the same temperature as air from a traditional air conditioner — until the ice melts.

If you keep a few water-filled milk jugs in your freezer, you’ll always have a free supply of ice blocks that will last a long time in the cooler.

Now, what if a heat wave knocks out your electricity? Don’t sweat. Instead, get a battery-powered fan, and your air conditioner will work in a blackout as long as you’ve got ice.

For more ways to beat the heat, check out “5 Odd but Effective Ways to Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning.”

What tricks have you discovered to stay cool and healthy in the heat? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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