Nobody likes camping in extreme heat. Nobody. There are lots of portable air conditioners that promise to make your hot weather camping experience more pleasant, but the one thing almost all of them have in common is the need for electricity.
This portable air conditioner can be powered by your car’s battery, or another battery that’s recharged with a solar panel!
How To Make A DIY Air Conditioner for Camping or RVing
YouTuber desertsun02 has got you covered. With a few items from the hardware store and a visit to HarborFreight.com you can have all the cool air you want with a battery-powered blower that can be used in remote areas with no electricity!
For the body of his homemade cooling machine, desertsun02 selected the quintessential poor man’s toolbox, the 5 gallon bucket. His version is a Homer from Home depot which can be had for less than $10, including the Styrofoam liner (although, Home Depot is currently selling three liners in a set, for about $18). There are other plans using ice chests and coolers, but this is the cheapest DIY car battery-powered A/C we’re aware of.
Next up you’ll need a few PVC sections and fittings, all of which will run you another 10 spot. Watch the video for exact dimensions. There seems to be some discrepancy according to the comments, so some experimentation may be in order. Use the pipe that gives you the best airflow.
Here are the basic materials for the cooler.
The fittings will nest into the side of the bucket, providing ventilation for the cold air. Use a hole saw with the same diameter as the outside dimension of your fittings.
Choose a hole saw sized to match your fittings.
Now for the heart of this machine: the fan. You might consider picking up a fan model that will run off the 12 V outlet in your car (the cigarette lighter). Position the fan on the top of the cooler so it sucks warm air into the unit, and blows it out the exhaust pipes.
Power your 12 V fan with a variety of energy sources:
- directly from your car’s battery through the cigarette lighter
- from a separate 12 V battery that’s charged with a solar battery charger
- directly from a solar panel itself!
If you’re lucky enough to have a Harbor Freight store in your town, head on down and pick up one of their self-contained 15 watt solar panels, along with leads and clips. These are typically around $75, but frequently go on sale for $50! You’ll probably need to do some small amount of modification to get the fan hooked up to the solar panel’s output wiring.
Just cut the plug off, strip the wires and clip them to the leads of your solar panel’s output.
This fan operates off of 12 V DC.
All of the cold air comes from a one gallon milk jug that’s been frozen solid. You’ll need to keep the jug in ice so it remains cold for the longest time possible.
You could also use bag or block ice dumped straight into the 5 gallon bucket liner. The colder your ice, the better cooling it will provide.
Position your solar panel to catch maximum sun and place your bucket cooler in the shade so the ice lasts longer. Builders have reported blasts of cold down to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, enough to cool down a small camper or tent, or cool one or two people sitting close by.