How to Make a DIY Air Conditioner

Staying cool when the temperatures rise is a priority for many. Buying a top-of-the-line air conditioning unit can cost a pretty penny, so some opt to make their own DIY air conditioners to beat the heat on a budget. With some basic materials and a bit of effort, you can make an inexpensive AC that will cool you down all summer long.

Gathering the Necessary Materials

Making your own DIY air conditioner is relatively easy if you have the right materials on hand. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • An ice chest or styrofoam cooler – This will serve as the main housing for your DIY AC unit. Look for one at least 24 quarts or larger to hold all the components.
  • A small fan or blower – Find one that will fit inside your cooler housing to direct air flow. USB powered, battery operated, or electric fans will all work.
  • Plastic tubing, ducting, or dryer hose – About 5-6 feet worth to connect the cold air outlet and hot air exhaust. Flexible 4″ diameter ducting is ideal.
  • Insulation – Fiberglass, foam board, or even bubble wrap to insulate the cooler housing.
  • Scissors or utility knife – To cut the tubing and insulation to size.
  • Tape – Duct tape or strong packing tape to seal the tubing connections.
  • Ice – Crushed ice works best to chill the air flow. Cubes can also be used.
  • Salt – Table salt lowers the freezing temp of the ice to make cooling more efficient.
  • A drain or drip tray – To catch condensation and prevent water damage.

Double check you have all the materials above before starting your DIY air conditioner project. Having the right components ready will make the process quicker and easier.

How to Build the AC Housing

The housing for your DIY air conditioner can be made using either a foam styrofoam cooler or a plastic ice chest. Here are the steps to prepare the housing:

1. Select a Cooler

  • Choose an insulated cooler that is at least 24-quart capacity or larger. This allows adequate room for all the components. Wheeled coolers with handles offer easier mobility.
  • Opt for a sturdy plastic cooler or one with thicker foam insulation for better cold air retention.
  • Measure the internal dimensions to know what size tubing and fan are needed.

2. Cut Holes for the Tubing

  • Cut or drill two 4-6 inch diameter holes on opposite sides of the cooler – one for the cool air outlet and one for the warm air inlet.
  • Make the holes just large enough to fit the plastic tubing in snugly. Avoid oversizing.

3. Insulate the Housing

  • Line the interior with 1-2 layers of insulation like bubble wrap, foam board, or fiberglass.
  • This helps the cooler retain cold temperatures longer.
  • Close up any gaps in the insulation for best efficiency.

4. Attach Tubing to Housing

  • Take the plastic tubing and connect one end through the outlet hole, leaving 1-2 inches inside the cooler.
  • Run the tubing along the exterior and insert the other end through the inlet hole.
  • Use duct tape to seal up both connections airtight.

The insulated housing is now ready to hold the cooling components!

Setting Up the Internal Components

Inside the insulated cooler housing, you’ll need to setup the main components that will produce the cold air:

1. Add the Ice and Salt

  • Fill the cooler about halfway with ice cubes or crushed ice.
  • Sprinkling 1-2 cups of table salt over the ice can allow temps to reach below 32°F for faster cooling.
  • Alternate adding layers of ice and salt until the housing is full.

2. Install the Fan or Blower

  • Place the small fan or blower in the center of the cooler housing. Position it to point toward the cool air outlet tubing.
  • For electric fans, drill a small hole in the cooler to pass the power cord out and plug it in.
  • Use duct tape to hold the fan securely in place.

3. Elevate Components off Bottom

  • Set any ice, salt, and the fan up on blocks or cans to elevate them above the cooler bottom.
  • This allows thawed water to drain out, preventing flooding.
  • A small drip tray can also be used to collect runoff water from melting ice.

4. Close up the Housing

  • With all components installed, close up the cooler housing.
  • Use duct tape to seal the lid closed and make the seal airtight.
  • This helps hold the cold air in and maintains pressure for air flow through the tubing.

With the housing prepped and the interior components in place, the DIY air conditioner is nearly complete!

Setting Up the Exhaust Tubing

The last step is preparing the exhaust ducting that will direct cool air into your room and hot air back out:

1. Cut the Exhaust Tubing to Size

  • Measure from the cool air outlet tube to where you want the cold air blown into the room.
  • Add a couple extra feet to the measurement and cut the exhaust tube to that length.

2. Run the Exhaust Tube into Room

  • Take the exhaust tubing you just cut and attach it to the outlet tube protruding from the cooler.
  • Use duct tape to seal the joint. No air leaks!
  • Run the exhaust tube to the spot where you want the cold air directed.

3. Install the Intake Section

  • Take the remaining exhaust tubing and connect it to the warm air inlet tube.
  • Run the tubing so the open end is pointed at the heat source you want to draw air from.
  • Position it near the window or warmer area so the AC pulls that air into the housing.
  • Use duct tape to make all joints secure and air tight.

The DIY air conditioner is now fully assembled and ready for operation!

Operating Your Homemade AC

Once built, running your DIY air conditioner is simply a matter of turning it on and letting the cooling begin:

  • Place the air conditioner near an electrical outlet if using an electric fan.
  • To run it as a portable AC, use a battery pack to power a USB fan.
  • Turn on the fan to start forcing air through the cooler housing and exhaust tubing.
  • Let the AC run for 15-20 minutes before air blows cold to allow sufficient cooling time.
  • Add fresh ice and salt as needed to maintain the chilling effect as ice melts.
  • Expect cooling effects up to 10 feet away from the cold air outlet when placed in a well-insulated room.
  • Use a thermometer at the outlet to check your DIY AC’s cooling capacity. Temperature drops between 10-20°F are common.
  • Close windows and doors in the room to contain the cool air and maximize effects.
  • Adjust the ice, salt, and fan as needed to reach your desired cooling temperature.

With minimal electricity usage, your homemade air conditioner provides energy-efficient cooling on hot days! Just be sure to unplug and fully dry out the housing to prevent mold growth when not in use.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Not cooling enough? Water leaking? Here are some common troubleshooting tips if your DIY air conditioner underperforms:

Problem: Unit produces little to no cool air


  • Add more ice and salt to the housing for lower temps
  • Check for air leaks at connections and re-tape any gaps
  • Make sure insulation is intact and secured tightly in the housing
  • Point exhaust tube intake toward heat source to draw hot air into cooler

Problem: Ice is melting too quickly


  • Increase salt to ice ratio to 1-2 cups per gallon of ice
  • Use crushed ice for faster cooling effects
  • Check housing for gaps in insulation where cold air may leak
  • Ensure cooler lid is taped closed tightly with no leaks

Problem: Water leaking from the cooler housing


  • Elevate ice, salt and fan above housing bottom with blocks/cans
  • Use a drip tray beneath ice to catch melted water
  • Empty drip tray before it overflows
    -Plug any housing leaks with duct tape to prevent spills

Problem: Fan is not blowing or blowing weakly


  • Check fan wiring and battery pack if applicable
  • Make sure fan blade spins freely and is not obstructed
  • Tape down outlet and inlet tubes tightly so backpressure builds
  • Use a stronger fan or blower if existing one lacks power

With a well-constructed housing and properly positioned components, your DIY air conditioner should run like a champ! Make any needed tweaks and enjoy the cool breeze.

DIY Air Conditioner Variations

Looking to change up the design or make your homemade AC more powerful? Some simple variations can enhance performance:

  • Use a small computer case or fridge instead of a cooler for the housing. Offers more layout options.
  • Add a second fan on the exhaust end to improve air propulsion and cooling capacity.
  • Use copper tubing instead of plastic ducting to help conduct heat better from the housing.
  • Opt for quick-melt salt crystals instead of regular table salt to chill ice below 32°F faster.
  • Install a thermostat like those used in mini-fridges to automatically control temperature.
  • Insulate the exhaust tubing itself to prevent cooled air from warming up before entering room.
  • Add a second set of exhaust tubes to split cooling between two different rooms.
  • Use Peltier thermoelectric coolers instead of ice for electric-powered cooling without moisture.

The great thing about DIY ACs is that you can customize and upgrade the design in many ways. Experiment to make your system as efficient and effective as possible.

Safety Precautions

While DIY air conditioners are relatively safe and easy to construct, be sure to keep these precautions in mind:

  • Never leave the AC unattended for long periods to avoid potential leaks as ice melts.
  • Monitor electric fans and wiring to prevent overheating hazards.
  • Safely discharge any collected condensation so it does not spill.
  • Check that the AC is stable and cannot tip over accidentally.
  • Keep all components safely away from children and pets.
  • Use only exterior graded extension cords if needed.
  • Make sure no trip hazards exist from exhaust tubing across walking areas.
  • Follow recommended handling precautions when using insulating materials.
  • Avoid LOCATIONS That create falling risk if condensation drips occur.

Exercising care when constructing, operating, and maintaining your homemade AC system will ensure safe and enjoyable cool air all summer long.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about constructing DIY air conditioners:

How long will a DIY AC effectively blow cool air?

With adequate insulation and ice, a DIY air conditioner can blow cool air for 2-4 hours before needing fresh ice. Quick melt salt crystals extend this time further.

Does the size of the ice chest matter?

Larger coolers around 60 quarts or bigger hold more ice and work better. But smaller 24+ quart coolers can still work effectively depending on your space.

What temperature difference can a homemade AC produce?

On average, expect a 10-20°F drop in temperature between the cool air outlet and room ambient temperature.

What are the best ice and salt amounts?

A good rule of thumb is 1 gallon of ice per 2-3 quarts of cooler capacity. Use 1-2 cups of salt per gallon of ice for best cooling effects.

How long will the ice last before melting?

Ice lasts 1-2 hours typically before needing a refresh, though quick melt salt crystals can extend this closer to 3-4 hours.

How do you prevent water leaks?

Use seals and tape carefully at all joints. Elevate the ice above the bottom with cans to allow water drainage. Monitor to empty any collected water before it can spill over.

Can you use a portable AC without any ice?

Removing the ice eliminates the ability to cool air substantially below room temperature. But blowing room temperature air can provide light cooling effects through airflow alone.

How close must the outlet be to feel the cooling effects?

Expect to feel noticeable cooling within 5-10 feet of the outlet. Cooling capacity diminishes further from the outlet depending on room insulation.

Is it better to blow air upward or downward?

Downward works best so cool air sinks and accumulates near you. Angling the outlet slightly upward helps project air further out into the room.


Constructing your own DIY air conditioner is an easy and affordable way to beat the summertime heat. The simple functionality of an insulated cooler housing filled with ice and salt paired with an electric fan can produce chilled air for just pennies a day in electricity costs. With a flexible range of housing and tubing options, you can build a system sized perfectly for your space and cooling needs. Stay cool in style with your own homemade AC without breaking the bank!

How to Make a DIY Air Conditioner

Staying cool when temperatures rise is a priority for many. Buying an AC unit can be expensive, so some opt to make DIY air conditioners as a budget-friendly way to beat the heat. With basic materials and a bit of effort, you can build an inexpensive air conditioner that provides chilling relief all summer long.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Making a DIY AC is straightforward if you have the right components on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • An ice chest or styrofoam cooler for the housing
  • Small fan or blower to direct air flow
  • Plastic tubing, ducting, or dryer hose to connect inlet and outlet
  • Insulation like bubble wrap or foam board
  • Utility knife or scissors to cut tubing
  • Tape to seal the tubing connections
  • Ice cubes or crushed ice to chill air
  • Salt to lower freezing temperature
  • Drain or drip tray to catch condensation

Double check you have these items before starting your project. Having the materials ready makes constructing the AC easier.

Build the Insulated Housing

The AC housing can be made from either a foam cooler or plastic ice chest. Follow these steps:

Select an Appropriately Sized Cooler

Choose one with thickness insulation. Measure inside dimensions.

Cut Holes for the Tubing

Make them fit snugly – avoid oversizing the holes.

Insulate the Interior

Line with bubble wrap, foam, etc to retain cold.

Attach Inlet and Outlet Tubes

Connect tubing to opposite sides of the housing, sealing with tape.

With the insulated housing ready, you can setup the internal cooling components.

Install the Internal Cooling System

Inside the housing, you’ll need to add:

Ice and Salt

Layer ice and salt, using 1-2 cups salt per gallon of ice.

Small Fan or Blower

Position it to blow toward the cool air outlet.

Lift Components Off Bottom

Keep ice and fan elevated on blocks to allow water drainage.

Seal the Housing

Close up the cooler and use tape to make airtight. Retains cold air.

The main cooling system inside the housing is now ready!

Setup External Exhaust Ducting

The last step is preparing the exhaust tubing:

Cut Tubing to Desired Length

Measure room distance and add extra for slack when cutting tubing.

Connect Tubing to Outlet

Attach exhaust tubing to the outlet tube on cooler.

Run Tubing to Direct Air Inward

Point the outlet tube where you want cool air blown.

Setup Intake Tubing

Connect remaining exhaust tubing to inlet and place opening near heat source.

Your DIY air conditioner is fully built and ready for operation!

Operating Your Homemade AC

Using your DIY AC is as simple as turning it on and enjoying the cool breeze:

  • Plug in electric fan models or use a battery pack for cordless operation.
  • Turn on the fan to force air through the system.
  • Let it run 15+ minutes before air blows cold.
  • Add more ice and salt regularly as existing ice melts.
  • Expect 10-20°F cooling capacity from outlet when used in an insulated room.
  • Close windows and doors to contain the chilled air.
  • Make adjustments as needed to reach your desired temperature.

With minimal energy usage, your AC provides efficient cooling at low cost!

Troubleshooting Common Problems

If your DIY AC underperforms, try these troubleshooting tips:

No cold air: Add more ice/salt, check for leaks, ensure insulation is intact

Fast ice melting: Increase salt-to-ice ratio, use crushed ice, check for cold air leaks

Water leaking: Elevate ice/fan, use drip tray, plug housing leaks

Weak airflow: Check fan wiring and rotation, seal tubing tightly

Proper construction and component placement will have your homemade AC running optimally. Make tweaks as needed for peak operation.

Customization Options

To modify the basic design, consider options like:

  • Using a computer case or mini fridge for the housing
  • Adding a second outlet fan for stronger airflow
  • Insulating the exhaust tubing
  • Installing thermostats or thermoelectric coolers
  • Splitting into a dual exhaust system

Experiement to customize your DIY AC perfectly for your needs!

Safety Precautions

Keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Don’t leave the AC unattended for long with melting ice.
  • Monitor electric fans and wiring