How to Build Your Own DIY Air Conditioner in Minutes

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Hot and sweaty woman on couch overheating and using a fan to cool herself
Gladskikh Tatiana /

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

The good news is you may not need to run out and buy an air conditioning unit. We have a dirt-cheap, low-tech way to turn a simple ice chest into an AC unit that will keep you cool until the weather turns.

Following is a guide to make your own DIY air conditioner units using just a few spare parts.

Materials you need

Styrofoam cooler for homemade DIY AC
Aaron Freeman / Money Talks News

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

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

Preparation steps

Styrofoam cooler with fan and PVC pipes for homemade DIY AC
Aaron Freeman / Money Talks News

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.

We have a video guide demonstrating the process.

Assembling your DIY AC

Installing fan for homemade AC
Aaron Freeman / Money Talks News

To construct your DIY air conditioner:

  1. Fit the vents snugly in their holes.
  2. Place the fan on top of its hole, turning it to face 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 homemade air conditioner by turning on the fan. But we have a few more tips.

Tips for making your AC work better, longer

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson explaining how to make a homemade DIY AC
Aaron Freeman / Money Talks News

The DIY air conditioner works by having the fan 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 milk jugs filled with water in your freezer, you’ll always have easy access to 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 DIY air conditioner will work in a blackout as long as you’ve got ice and batteries.

For more ways to beat a hot day, check out this handy reference: “5 Unusual but Effective Tips to Stay Cool Without A/C.”

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