All over the world, outdoor temperatures have been rising along with fuel prices. The cost of staying cool is becoming prohibitive for those with strained budgets. In areas of the world without electricity, staying cool has been out of the question.
Not any more. Individuals have designed, built and tested DIY solar air conditioners with success. Although the units will not cool entire houses, they can provide relief from hot temperatures to allow some semblance of comfort during the day or night in smaller rooms. This could be life-saving in an emergency or power grid failure.
Here are three DIY solar air conditioners you can make for camping, use in an off-grid cabin, RV or your home. No data is available that states how many BTU’s are provided by each unit, how long the refrigerant (ice) will last, or what size room each will cool. You will need to experiment and keep notes.
Natalie Rhea describes building a type of cooler commonly known as a swamp cooler. It adds moisture to the air, cooling takes place through evaporation. This effect has been used throughout history in dry climates with success.
Although various swamp cooler designs are advertised on the internet and a few big box stores, this design is simple, easy to use and affordable. Prices for components and ice may vary in different areas and by users.
On 26 May, 2010, designer Wallybydam was challenged by a friend to build an air conditioner using items he had around his property. The result was amazing; he made a true air conditioner that uses ice water as the refrigerant instead of compressed gas. As a result, the unit can be used indoors without anything sticking out of a window.
In the first video, he explains each component used and how the unit works. In the second video, he shows the unit in practical use by cooling an uninsulated metal shed.
Costs for the project will depend on each builder’s choice of materials and the cost of ice. Using a highly insulated ice chest, perhaps wrapped in additional insulation could help the ice last longer, as would adding salt to the ice.
Of all the DIY solar air conditioners I have researched, this is one I am going to build and use in my campervan. I’ve already worked out the particulars and wiring of adding a 12 volt thermostat to the unit and will be using a deep cycle battery and solar panel for power.
As with the other two units, this one was not designed by an engineer or a scientist. The inside of a bucket is lined with plywood rings covered in aluminum, stacked in a cylinder that is topped with a chute (or PVC pipe) that has a fan inserted. (A 12-volt van would work well in this case, or a small desktop fan). Fill a metal bucket with ice and place the cylinder inside, then place both inside a covered plastic bucket to prevent leaks.
Designed and made in India, a test showed that it consumed less power than a 25 watt light bulb and cooled a room seven degrees. The ice lasted approximately five hours. Wrapped in insulation, it could last longer.
Power outages occurring during heat waves can be life threatening; any of these homemade units could cool a room using solar power.
These units can be used in RV’s, off-grid cabins, homes or businesses. Those wishing to reduce energy costs during peak billing periods could use the units to reduce utility bills.
Without sounding political, change is made by individuals, not by businesses or governments. The ability to lower energy costs and stay cool is at everyone’s fingertips. This can also be a fun science project for kids and adults to work on together.
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse subjects and skills such as DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects, RV’ing and more.
Source: Natalie Rhea, “DIY Solar Powered Air Cooler,” Survival Life website, 30 May 2014
Source: Wallybydam, “Homemade Air Conditioner,” UTube website, 26 May 2010
Source: Zenable, “Snowbreeze Ice Cooler,” UTube website, 14 October 2007