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Can You Really Beat the Heat With a $20, D-I-Y Air Conditioner? (We Give It a Try)

Can You Really Beat the Heat With a $20, D-I-Y Air Conditioner? (We Give It a Try)

(Editor's note: This story has been updated below and now features at least one video submitted by a Blaze reader who tried our experiment - and succeeded!)

It's hot. And according to the national heat map from the US Weather Service, the heat is sweeping all across the country. (Today, Las Vegas is expected to smash an all-time high temperature.)

Map showing the heat wave

However, there is hope. We discovered an easy way to beat the heat without breaking the bank. Thanks to the clever minds at Snapguide, there's a simple way to build an actual air conditioner for about $20...and in less than 30 minutes.

In case you're not familiar with SnapGuide, the site's "About" page explains their mission quite simply and clearly.

Snapguide is a free iOS app and web service for those that want to create and share step-by-step "how to guides." Users are invited to create their own guides using the iPhone or iPad app. Snap pictures and videos of your project, add captions, and share your guide with the Snapguide community.

Snapguide user Rory Boyer came up with a very simple way to create a cheap and rather uncomplicated air conditioner. While it is doubtful that you could cool an entire house with this ice chest AC unit, it does appear to be an easy way to add some cool air to any room.

The material list for the D-I-Y air conditioner is very basic:

Make Your Own AC Unit

  • A medium sized styrofoam cooler
  • One small electric fan
  • Some PVC pipe
  • Tape (duct tape is likely the best choice)
  • A drill or a sharp knife (for cutting through the styrofoam)
  • Ice packs

The construction process is very simple. Cut a hole for the PVC pipe to vent the cool air. Cut another hole on the top -- just slightly smaller than the circumference of the fan (and on angle to prevent it from falling into the cooler). Secure the fan in place with the tape. Add ice packs into the cooler and plug in the fan.

After showing this item to my editor, he challenged me to try and build one myself. After all, I have a history of in the D-I-Y arena. Does anyone recall the D-I-Y Twinkie experiment from November 2012? So, it was off to the store to grab the four items needed to start the adventure.

Cooler, PVC, Fan and Duct Tape Four basic parts make this D-I-Y- air conditioner

Although the Snapguide article says that you can make this AC unit for $20, it's probably closer to a $30 price tag. Does the 50% cost increase mean we're not going to try it? No. Full speed ahead.

Does it work? Yes! Can you cool a house with it? No. However, we bet that this unit would significantly lower the temperature of an average sized room.

Watch the 3:00 video showing the construction of theBlaze's $20 $30 D-I-Y Air Conditioner here.

Update #1: Many readers have written asking about our D-I-Y project, specifically the ice.

How long did the ice last? - We only had enough ice on hand to fill the cooler about 25%, but it stayed viable for over four hours. Loading the cooler with more ice (50-75%) would likely make the air coming out of the exhaust even colder, while extending the time that the unit would run before needing to be replenished.

Update #2: Blaze reader, Matt from Yuma, AZ was tired of dealing with an underperforming car AC unit that was struggling to keep up with the relentless triple-digit temperatures of this past week. So he built the $20 AC system and sent us this video. It appears to be working quite well.

Update #3: Another enterprising Blaze reader named Charlotte shared her step-by-step video showing the construction of her AC project. The total cost for her creation was under $18. Charlotte used dryer vent tubing for the cool air exhaust. Watch Charlotte's project here.

$20 Air Conditioning Unit

We still have room to display your version of the D-I-Y discount AC system. Please send videos to mopelka@theblaze.com.


 Follow Mike Opelka on Twitter - @stuntbrain

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