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Smart Home

How to make a portable air conditioner

Make your own portable AC unit for camping, the beach or just hanging out -- with no electrical know-how.

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There's no reason not to be cool when you're barbecuing, at the lake or camping with this simple DIY AC unit. You make it with a few inexpensive items available at any home improvement or hardware store. Best of all, you don't need any electrical experience to rig it up.

Why it works

How this AC unit makes cold air is pretty simple. A battery-powered fan pushes air inside of the cooler, which is cooled by ice. The cold air is then forced out of the pipes on either end of the cooler. The lucky person lounging at either end is greeted with a chilly breeze. 

Supplies

Here's what you need to get started on your AC project:

  • An ice chest
  • Drill
  • Skill saw  
  • Two 5-inch (13-centimeter) diameter PVC elbow pipes
  • Permanent marker
  • Duct tape 
  • Cordless fan and batteries
  • Ice

Directions

Now that you have your supplies gathered, use these steps outlined in the gallery below to build your DIY AC, or watch the video, above.

Pro tips

Use these tips to get the most out of your AC:

  • Instead of using bagged ice for your AC, get a couple jugs of water and freeze them. The frozen jugs of water are mess-free, and you can refreeze them over and over again.
  • You can use a solar-powered fan instead of a battery-powered one so you don't need to worry about changing out batteries.
  • Throw a few dryer sheets on top of the ice for scented air.