This easy DIY travel Air Conditioner, is an energy-efficient AC unit, that can be built in about 10 min to build for less than $35! It is perfect for pets, garages, RVs, converted van’s, and road trips. It’s cooling power comes directly from frozen ice, and electricity is not required. Depending on which type of fan you choose, it can be battery powered, or electric powered. We used a small personal fan that runs off just 1.5 amps, and plugs directly into our 300 watt solar system, in our Sprinter van.
This is the air conditioner that saved us during an urban camping trip to San Diego, where temperatures stayed in the upper 80s all night long. As we were trying to be very stealthy with our camping, all doors had to remain closed. The only airflow we had available, came through the roof top fan and sunroof. (Not a lot of air flow)
This is also the same air conditioner that allowed baby to nap peacefully, while we drove through Redding, CA. At peak sun, in 110 degree heat. As well as many summer beach camping trips.
If you travel with your pets during summer months, a DIY Travel Air Conditioner is the perfect thing to keep them cool when you’re parked. This air conditioner kept our pup cool and comfortable sleeping in the van all night, when we stopped in no man’s land at a No Dogs Allowed hotel.
When starting this trip in December, we were dreaming of snow, and snowboarding, and cold, and rain. The van did not come with working AC, but our focus was on heat, and keeping our new little one warm and snuggly. While considering options, we made-do by bundling up, and running a temperature controlled electric heater. This worked great when we were able to plug-in to campsites and friends/ family’s places. This was the only way we could run the heater. It sucked entirely too much energy to work with our small 300 watt solar set up.
Then the seasons changed, we pushed heat back as a project for next winter, and started moving our focus towards air conditioning. If it were just the two of us, we possibly would have put that off too, but a hot baby makes naps hard to come by. When baby doesn’t nap, we all (including the pup) loose a bit of our sanity.
It feels like the van gets smaller in the heat. Especially when we are in route and not able to stop, open the doors, and spread out. Things get a little edgy in our tiny space. In an effort to keep morale (and our sanity) air conditioning moved up to the top of the necessity list.
With the education of Youtube, The Husband fashioned our own simple air conditioning unit after this video. I saw another design that used more than 1 pvc pipe, which allows cold air to blow multiple ways, but this single pipe design is working good enough for us at the moment.
Keeps baby cool? Yes
Keeps puppy cool overnight when we sleep at No Dogs Allowed hotels? Yes
Makes driving through hot no-man’s land areas do-able? Yes
Allows us to urban camp in hot weather? Yes
Money saving? Yes
Can revert to a baby bath tub, or storage unit, when not in use? Yes
Is a cool conversation piece? Yes
Overall Rating 8/10
If traveling in really hot weather, try this trick to extend the life of the ice, and keep your DIY Travel Air Conditioner blowing cool air longer.
Extend the life of that quickly melting ice, by adding a little extra insulation. I recommend Patagonia nano puff jackets, if you have any. We wrapped our AC with them while road tripping through Arizona in August, and it greatly extended the life of the ice. Otherwise, simply wrapping the ice chest in towels, blankets, or whatever u can get your hands on, will still add some extra insulation.
I suppose you also could go with a better ice chest, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut holes in something like a Yetti. But maybe it would make this diy AC work really good? Maybe that will be a future challenge.
How to build an easy DIY travel Air Conditioner in about 10 min, for less than $35. No electricity required!
- Ice chest ($20)
- Small fan ($6)
- 90 degree PVC pipe elbow ($5)
- Pen/ pencil
- Saws all, or pocket knife and muscle
- Drill (optional)
- Ice ($3)
- Trace around the fan and pipe on top of the ice chest
- Cut out the circles. (optional- drill a few holes to start the cuts)
- Fit the pipe and fan into the holes.
- Fill the ice chest with ice
- Turn on the fan
When the AC not in use, the pipe and fan can be easily removed, and stored inside the ice chest, to save on space.