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Homemade air conditioner

by ehensel1 on July 7, 2006 Table of Contents License: Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Intro: Homemade air conditioner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 1: Attach copper tubing to the fan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 2: Attaching the tubing to the pump . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 3: Submerging the pump and testing it out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Related Instructables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 2 3 4 5 6

License: Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa) Intro: Homemade air conditioner
Before I get started, I have to give props to Geoff Milburn, at whose plan it was I copied. I'm not smart enough to think up something like this on my own. That being said, one of the places I work has no AC, but I'm allowed to have fans, so this seemed like a good project for me. It's not perfect yet, but it does cool the air better than just a fan.

Image Notes 1. Note one tube from the pump to the exchange, and the other dumping the water back into the cooler

step 1: Attach copper tubing to the fan

I took the grate off of my fan, so I could put the heat exchanger on the inside, hopefully making it look better. I'm using copper tubing as the heat exchanger, although you could use something else, as copper is not cheap, and not easy to work with. As you can see in the second photo, it's very easy to kink the tubing, in which case, you stop the flow of water. I grabbed a hole saw to use as a die to wrap the tubing around, and the teeth held nicely against the grate of the fan. As I was going along, I used zip ties to hold the tubing to the grate. Of course, because this will be inside the fan, make sure to clip off the loose ends. Also, make sure that you have both ends of the copper tubing sticking out of the fan, so you can hook up the tubes to the pump.

Image Notes 1. I used a pair of pliers to help get this kink out.

Image Notes 1. Notice tube sticking out of the grate

step 2: Attaching the tubing to the pump

Now, the cheapie pump I bought would only fit 1/2" ID tubing, and they didn't have anything that would downsize it to 1/4" for me, so I just rigged it up. As you can see in the first and second photos, 1/4" tubing fits quite nicely around the copper tubing. In the third photo, you can see how I just inserted the 1/4" into 3/8", into 1/2" tubing, which would then fit onto the pump. This of course leaked, which necessitated the use of hose clamps, photo 4. I feel that this greatly reduces the effeciency of my pump, but now I have a reason to buy a bigger, stronger, more manly pump! Either that, or buy bigger copper tubing, which is not as exciting.

Image Notes 1. Look at how tiny this thing is! I should have known better when I bought it!

Image Notes 1. Not a gushing leak, but enough to make a mess after a little while.

Image Notes 1. Problem solved!

step 3: Submerging the pump and testing it out

I bought a foam cooler to hold my coolant(ice water), as I have easy (free) access to both water and ice. Once I had it all hooked up, with one tube going from the pump into the heat exchanger, and another from the heat exchanger back to the cooler, I submerged the pump and plugged it in. At this point you'll be able to tell whether or not you have leaks real quick. If you do, just shut it off and tighten things up. If you've got a hole in your copper tubing from over-zealous bending, you might have a tricky problem to solve. I didn't have that problem, so I couldn't begin to tell you how to solve it. (I am partial to JB Weld for all things broken though) I've noticed that towards the end of the copper tubing, I'm not getting any condensation, which means by the end, the water has lost it's cooling effect. When I get a bigger pump, the water will flow much faster, and hopefully won't warm up as much. Well, that's about it, any suggestions would be welcome!

Image Notes 1. Make sure you have this part sticking out of the fan. If you have a leaky fit, it would be easier to fix than if you had to take the whole grate off again.

Image Notes 1. Note one tube from the pump to the exchange, and the other dumping the water back into the cooler

Related Instructables

Portable Air Conditioning by LowCostCrap

Ice box air conditioner by chr

Home Made Air Conditioner II by hleon

Cheap DIY Air Conditioner by samw8888

Mini Solar AirConditioner (a.k.a Swamp cooler) by ANDY!

Home Made Air Conditioner I by hleon

50 comments Add Comment view all 242 comments

PIman says:
I am a PI and want to make a rig to cool my van(130 F). I need suggestions (& spelling tips).

Jun 11, 2007. 6:29 AM REPLY

South Texas Connection says:

Aug 5, 2010. 9:39 AM REPLY STC here: You want to cool a van, huh... OK, do this -- Get a car or truck heater core from a junk yard, any kind.. Now get a bilge pump (pump for draining water out of a boat). Ice chest & hose to fit. Put the pump in ice chest with hose connected to out put of pump. Run hose to heater core & output of heater core back to ice chest. Now connect a small fan in front of heater core so the fan is pulling air through the heater core, not pushing it. As you know: You can do more work with a vacuum than with pressure. Place crushed ice in chest with one gallon of water. Now as the fan & pump are 12 volt just fix a plug so they can be plugged into the lighter socket. WALA COLD AIR................ If you put the heater core & the fan in a small box it will work much better. I used this setup some time back in my little motorhome when we were camping in the boonies. Had us looking for the covers... Nother though, If you had a solar panel that put out enough current, you could run this thing all day from it and keep that van cool all day, just add some ice as required. will work to keep a tent cool too.. many uses. STC we gone

Swapnil242khadke says:
hey hae u done this project ???? and if yes then does it cools as ac or not

Sep 25, 2010. 9:11 AM REPLY

eskimojo says:

Jul 10, 2010. 7:30 AM REPLY (part 2) So we wanted to tap into that potential for quick cooling while mobile and compact(ish). Luckily professional sports already did the foot work. They made a jersey that has tubing attached to it and then the tubing has cooled water run through it. This was our jerry-rigged version plan. 1 Jersey(of no sentimental value) as much clear tubing as needed(the kind you can get at a pet store) a cheapo electric-water pump(12v) or fuel pump(we work at an auto parts store). some wiring + accoutrements. small 12v battery water(as use would be limited) Cold source(ice packs, ice blocks/cubes, frozen water bottles) a water-tight container. sew the tubing to the jersey, concentrate on the upper back, shoulder, neck area, in zig-zag pattern, coil tubing around cold source, clamp all connections, attach pump to power source and you have yourself a quick and dirty cooling jersey! you can wear it and it will bring your core body temperature down. Jul 10, 2010. 7:06 AM REPLY Why try and cool the whole van when you can just gool personell(sp?)? My friend is fabricating a Big Daddy suit(from Bioshock 2) and we have heard horror stories about the heat generated in large suits so we had a brain storming session. Basically your blood along with being the life-essense in your body(providing nutrients and sugar to your body's components and removing toxins, exchanging oxygen/CO2, etc) is essentially the cooling/warming system of your body. Jul 25, 2007. 8:24 PM REPLY I'm interested in cooling down my car too for Private Investigating. I'll just perhaps get a portable a/c unit and small gas powered generator. (silent generator).

eskimojo says:

brianroesch says:

maxpower49 says:
i'm working on a mini air conditioner that uses a 12 volt boat pump, a mini fan, and a inverter for cars and stuff.

Jul 26, 2007. 5:02 PM REPLY

PIman says:
Let us know how it works out.

Jul 27, 2007. 10:17 AM REPLY

maxpower49 says:
i'll post it soon

Jul 27, 2007. 5:59 PM REPLY

PIman says:

Jul 26, 2007. 12:49 PM REPLY How would you not die from the fumes? My small fan makes a loud noise. I have rigged s cooler with a fan that blows in?downward from the top an fore air over ice blocks and then out vent. Melts in the hot van, but i works for a short time. Any info on ac units would be great.

brianroesch says:

Jul 26, 2007. 1:10 PM REPLY Pop the trunk a little and drag an extension cord around to the inside through the window into you a/c unit. Swamp coolers are cheaper than the a/c units. If you have a van you can mount the generator to the roof and cover it with a plastic box to protect it from the rain. The charging power pack inverters are not good because the watts are not enough. Gas powered generators are the best.

PIman says:

Jul 27, 2007. 7:27 AM REPLY Swamp coolers work well in dry areas mine is humid(very). In the PI biz the box on the roof would be noted and then expose me. I like the concept though. Where are you a PI?

brianroesch says:

Jul 28, 2007. 7:00 AM REPLY A CC license is an intern license. Anyway, I hope you find a device to help cool you off. Running the car while parked all day is not good, especially when the companies only reimburse milage. A friend of mine suggested cutting three holes in the top of a large cooler filled with ice. Next, place three battery charged fans (one in each cut-out). One fan blowing down into the cooler and two blowing up. Jul 27, 2007. 10:12 AM REPLY I'm not a PI yet----just training to be one down in Broward county Florida. Still deciding due to wear-and-tare on the car. I may just stick with my night job. I'm currently working as an intern to get my CC license and in about two years my C and hopefully go on to my Agency license if all goes well. It's fun work, but very HOT!

brianroesch says:

bo88y says:

Jul 26, 2010. 2:31 PM REPLY Until you find your more permanent cooling solution, it can help to keep a plastic jug of water in the car to sprinkle generously on the roof when it gets heated up by the sun. First you'll get some evaporative cooling, and then some conductive cooling. When the roof's too hot to touch, even water that's warm (from sitting in the car) can take a lot of the heat out of the metal in the roof and keep it from radiating into the interior. When my AC broke, I'd do this before opening all the windows, and it would make the car much cooler to get into on hot days. If you're sitting on hot days, it may well be worth it to close up your windows to wet down the roof once in a while.

el Pipo says:

Sep 10, 2010. 7:33 AM REPLY For better performance, you could divide your 1/4" copper pipe into 3 separate shorter coils, as 1/2" pipe will easily feed 3 x 1/4" pipes at the same volume of water. You'd have to figure out a way to put a couple of T's at the outlet of your pump and reduce them to 1/4". Sep 9, 2010. 5:33 PM REPLY poo-poo on u none-believers, and number crunchers...A for effort...A for the thought...A- for not getting the little spring benders at the hardware store to bend the copper tubing without kinks. I would reconnoiter the near by your areas for more copper tubing, bend it tighter to make more surface area for the air to flow over, to cool better. Also, it you have a freezer, get some of the 'gel' pack re-freezable do-hickey's, put them in the boss's freezer, and let him pay for the here in Texas- which the last 28 days has been over 105f , I would do this in a heart beat....Danka....

jpnagle59 says:

jmeyerson2 says:
how much tubing do you need? also, would just using plastic tubing for the whole thing work, or does it need to be copper?

Sep 1, 2010. 1:05 PM REPLY

ryandean98 says:
It Needs to Be Copper Because The Metal Gets Cold then When the air passes, it will be cooled.

Sep 4, 2010. 1:51 PM REPLY

mechno says:
I had always heard that salt is best for bending pipes. it is course like sand, but water soluble so you can rinse it clean.

Jul 12, 2010. 7:50 PM REPLY

Power23432432 says:
Wouldn't this also induce corrosion...

Jul 26, 2010. 8:40 PM REPLY

Power23432432 says:

Jul 26, 2010. 8:38 PM REPLY Wouldn't it be more efficient if you had the tubing in a closed loop so instead of just sucking up the cold water (which is normally above 32 degrees cause the ice has to compensate for the temp of the water) it would instead give up it's heat to the much cooler ice(32 degree).. not to mention having the lid open messes with heat having holes thru the side would make a big diffrence. *sarcasm(not really)* Why not just put the fan in front of the cooler skip the pump skip the tubing and blow the air over you that way...............Or like the simpsons build a tent around you and open the fridge door, winter indoors! Jul 11, 2010. 5:17 PM REPLY Try thermosiphoning instead of using a pump. Mount the fan beneath the cooler. Run the 'out' line from the bottom of the cooler to the bottom of the fan. Bend the hose back and forth but do it so that it is always going up. Run the top of the hose to the top of the cooler but BELOW the surface of the water. As the air warms the water it will expand and go up into the cooler and the cooler water will travel down the tube.

Davidfromcali says:

bo88y says:

Jul 26, 2010. 2:41 PM REPLY Instead of messing with all that tubing, you might get lucky and find a crapped-out dorm-sized refrigerator and pull the condenser coil off of it. You should take the unit to a refrigerator or AC repair place and have it purged of coolant before disconnecting.

Wasagi says:
Nice! Simple, and it looks pretty effective, where'd you got the pump?

Jul 17, 2010. 8:10 AM REPLY

bgc1999 says:
Great idea, and is a crime that we can't apply this ideas in third world countries!

Jul 12, 2010. 1:02 PM REPLY

Phoghat says:
If you have a hole in the copper pipe you can repair it wit J-B Weld

Jul 11, 2010. 2:05 PM REPLY

bwolfe says:

Jun 4, 2008. 1:45 PM REPLY this is an old moonshine trick- before you work with the copper pipe fill it with sand, and cap off both ends. this should prevent it from kinking

dj2quick says:

Jul 11, 2010. 11:08 AM REPLY

eskimojo says:

Jul 10, 2010. 6:44 AM REPLY Or you could just get a tubing bender they cost like $20 or less(american). They make them in all sizes and them might even come with some tube cutters.

xtr3mx7 says:
You'll certainly benefit from it rather than using an AC which uses around 1,000W/h for a 10,000BTU unit.

Jan 11, 2010. 3:29 AM REPLY

The problem I see is with the pump, it should be powerful enough to send the water across the copper tube. Recommend one with at least 1,500LPH. As I have a small water pump same as per picture above and it only provides 230LPH. Are you sure a small water pump would be enough for the water to flow?

seb1188 says:

Jan 14, 2010. 7:54 AM REPLY That makes no sense, one watt (W) is one joule (J) per second. 1000W/h (=1KJ per second per hour???) is a measure of rate of change (acceleration) of use, not of the actual energy use. You're suggesting that freezing water using similar if not identical technology (so same efficiency) and then using electricity to pump it around as well is going to be more efficient than an air conditioner, which doesn't have the additional pump? When an air conditioner, might I add, doesn't just throw the waste warm air back into the room anyway but blows it outside, unlike a freezer, which won't actually remove any heat from the building at all? A/C is more efficient. Just a big initial investment.

joosh says:

Jul 8, 2010. 2:10 PM REPLY I think he meant kilowatt hour, which is the amount of watts an appliance using in an hour. He is just saying his AC uses 1000 watts per hour or 1 kilowatt hour of energy. Its just another way to measure the amount of energy something uses.

zchampine says:

Jul 7, 2010. 5:21 PM REPLY Even better, get a refrigerator compressor with freon! Put the compressor in front of the fan to keep it cool, find a way to collect condensation, and its good to go!

omgitzstegman says:
Where does he pump the heat? A real air conditioner is heat pump.

Jul 8, 2010. 1:38 AM REPLY

ladyharley05 says:
why can't you substitute copper tubing with the plastic tubing (black/orange) that you use for evaporative cooler?

Aug 13, 2009. 7:08 PM REPLY

Tannius says:

Jun 4, 2010. 10:34 AM REPLY Plastic is an insulator. You wouldn't get nearly the cooling effect that the copper pipe allows. Metals, especially copper allow for rapid temperature changes for heat exchange. That's why they don't use plastic tubing for moonshine stills.

spa31rky says: would you know about the moonshine stills???? Hhhmmm???? I didn't find one on here .....yet!.

Jul 7, 2010. 5:28 PM REPLY

rickym says:
So...does it work? and if so how much did all the stuff cost?

Jul 7, 2010. 2:27 PM REPLY

Mr. Grumpus says:

Jul 7, 2010. 10:02 AM REPLY Buy a metric buttload of copper tubing, a high effieciency pump, run the tubing underground, and insulate the heck out of the tubing from a few feet under all the way to the fan. If you get low enough, the average underground temp is in the mid to low 60's (64 degrees, I think). need for ice or a freezer. Another option is going the old-fashioned "swamp cooler" route, using some sort of evaporative cooling system. Won't work great in the South most of the time (too frigging humid most of the summer) but will work "somewhat." Utilizing the various instructables here regarding rain-barrels and runoff catching installations, you could combine the three:

1. Setup a rain-barrel system. 2. Build a lengthier version of the above. 3. Instead of the ice bucket, rig the copper tubing to an evaporative system. (think nuke cooling tower). There you go. That system would probably cost more to build (maybe mitigated by some adventures to the junkyard or creative scrounging) but I would imagine that power consumption wise, it MIGHT come out a little cheaper than a window unit. If you really wanted to take this to the extreme, you could even rig the water line from the barrels to a hydrodynamic generator at the top of the cooling tower to gain some juice by good-old-fashioned gravity. Again, more cost up front, but MIGHT be cheaper in the long run. All in all, it would be a heckuva fun project to build.

Pretty Idiot Productions says:

I built a swamp cooler (spot cooler) and it works very well. I'm gonna give your version a try.

Jun 23, 2010. 7:20 PM REPLY

I know a whole bunch of nothing about nothing, but all I can say is the cheap foam (styrofoam) coolers are usually not very waterproof and end up leaking eventually. ... and try running the copper/tubing through the cooler instead of in through the top, so you can actually keep the cooler closed and the ice won't melt as fast. My apologies if anyone has already touched on these issues as you have a lot of comments here. (which must mean it's awesome! )

Mr.Canuck says:

Jun 22, 2010. 2:06 PM REPLY Whats funny is that companies are starting to do this because of variable electricity pricing. All night the unit cools a slush of water and anti-freeze and then a coolant line coils through it. The big benefit is that you don't have to run ducts either. You deliver the refrigerant to the fan units just like you are doing. Theirs works more efficiently though. Jun 6, 2010. 4:35 PM REPLY I thing that is a very creative idea. This fan can be used in the exterior for taking some fresh and cool air. Can be used in your car, if your a/c doesn't works and for what I think is th most interesting; you can use this for cooling your PC case, for an easy and probably cheap way. P.D. Never worry about thermodynamics or other stuff like that, because if that is the case, you'll bettter go where the air is cool to no generate heat. If this looks stupid to you, talking about thermodynamics in this fan is also stupid.

F430gx says:

zchampine says:

Jun 4, 2010. 4:53 PM REPLY I would suggest some sort of pan to collect condensation to avoid wet carpets... I built this and it happened. Other than that its a great instructable!

kishida says:

May 30, 2010. 9:21 AM REPLY I was going to make a similar "air conditioner" to use on my desk at work, but instead of the copper tubing, I was going to use an automotive heater core (a mini radiator used for the heater in a car) because I had an extra one. May 27, 2010. 9:53 AM REPLY I had an idea to expand on some of the other comments: Use the 2-Liter bottles filled with salt water, and put them in the cooler filled with anti-freeze or some other corrosion-resisting liquid to extend the life of your pipes. Then you don't waste water, and don't have to worry about corroding pipes.

exaran says:

dbixler says:

Jul 30, 2009. 7:05 AM REPLY The problem with this project, and projects of its kind, are the laws of thermodynamics. Granted, if you're doing this to use during camping or something like that where AC is unavailable, it has its merits. However, unless your cooling mechanism is free (which, for the author, it is) you're actually spending more money. I'd bet my life's savings that this is far more inefficient than a window mounted AC unit. Because of that, it probably takes more energy creating the cooling compound (ice, in this case) than what you're going to save cooling a room with something like this.

ewhipped says:

Jul 31, 2009. 11:28 AM REPLY Not fully understanding the laws of thermodynamics why would more money be spent this way? If you fill 2 liter bottles full of water you are going to spend a nickel tops on water that you can use multiple times. And unless you are plugging in a freezer for the sole purpose of making ice for this contraption I don't see how you can use more energy. From everything I have heard it is easier on a freezers compressor to have it as full as possible. My freezer only has 4 ice cube trays and some liquor bottles. Plenty of excess space to be utilized there.

hotbboj says:

Apr 24, 2010. 7:00 PM REPLY The compressor would have to run more, because there would be more heat absorbed into the evaporator inside the freezer.

dbixler says:

Jul 31, 2009. 2:43 PM REPLY Suffice to say, you can't fool Thermodynamics. The amount of energy spent making the ice is "ALWAYS" going to be more than what this type of cooler will ever give back. What does your freezer produce when it makes ice? Heat. Where does that heat go? Into some area in your home that's going to be cooled. The cooling process will use more energy, thus the inefficiency. Now, in your example, you say your freezer has plenty of space. If that's the case, then it should only run to keep that amount of "solids" cool. When you use the ice cubes, for example, in the cooler from this article, and then fill the ice cube trays, your freezer will then run to make new ice. This in

turn generates more heat (and the amount of heat generated will be greater than the amount of cool that the ice cubes generate). Think about it this way, if this kind of thing were truly feasible, why not just leave your freezer unstocked and opened to cool your house? Because it's not 100% efficient. The inefficiency is reflected as heat (not to mention the electricity). I realize I'm not very good at explaining Thermodyamics, suffice to say that your freezer is far more efficient than this fan and a copper tube. I'd even go so far as to say if you REALLY wanted to run something like this, then buy a freezer, drill holes in it and run the copper tube through the freezer into your fan. At least then it's being cooled by something more than ice cubes (and you're not potentially wasting the water to produce the ice). I'll refer you to this article and maybe it'll make more sense :).

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