12-volt Air Conditioning You Can Make!

I was watching a YouTube video this morning about something totally unrelated, when this happened to pop up. I had seen similar things done before, but this guy does it really well, and explains it in detail, in a way that anyone can understand. With summer coming up soon, many of you that are “car-living” or “van camping” might want an inexpensive way to stay cool even if you’re out boon-docking, and this thing will run off 12-volts from one of the jump starter packs that I recommend in my ebook as a secondary battery system.

But before you watch the video, let me share some observations. First, I happened to see another video that showed this same fan running, and it’s a bit noisy for my tastes. Being mounted in that foam panel makes it sound like a guitar box, and only amplifies it, so before you run right out to Wal Mart to buy one, I suggest you look around for an alternative. There are many 12-volt fans available that are quieter, and also more energy conservative, such as the Hella brand of fans, of which there are several models available. One of them is shown on my main site under the “Appliances” / “Comfort” category.

Also, as I suggest in my ebook, when you buy one of those jumper packs for starting your car in an emergency, they come in many different sizes and with different features. First you want to make sure you get one that has the most amp-hours that you can. More amp hours means it will hold the power longer. You have to remember, these aren’t exactly designed for long, slow power consumption, like a typical RV battery. They’re designed for short, high amperage draws. Still, amp-hours is amp hours for all practical purposes, and for portability and convenience (as well as weight) they will do the job nicely if you get one with enough amp-hours in the rating.

The third thing, is that any HVAC technician will tell you that for a system to operate efficiently, you have to have as much air coming out as you do going in. If you don’t, something is going to work harder than it needs to, and that’s usually the fan, which will cause it to draw more power. In the example in this video he shows a (roughly) 6-inch hole for the fan, and only a 2-inch hole for the air vent into the room, which is a plumbing elbow with a 90-degree bend in it, further restricting the air flow. His alternate method of using a floor vent diverter (the clear plastic curved thing) is a much better idea, as the hole under it can be cut larger to allow more efficient air flow.

And lastly, if you don’t need the air running constantly, shut the cooler lid to keep the ice from melting any more than it will already. I know, that should only be common sense, but just like people who will open a magic marker and wave it around while they talk, and then wonder why it won’t write anymore, or those who turn a flashlight on and leave it on while they do other things, and then wonder why the batteries don’t last… ice won’t last either. When you’re not using the “air conditioner”, close the lid!

Now, here’s the video (and no, that’s not me!):


I saw another video out there where the guy mounted the fan and vent right in the cooler lid, rather than use the styrofoam panel, but I don’t suggest doing that, or you won’t have any way to seal up the cooler to conserve the ice when you’re not using it.

Also, just a thought… if you were to use a regular floor vent and a fan designed for panel mounting (like a computer fan), everything would fit flush. Most coolers have a lip on the inside for holding up trays, and if you fit the styrofoam to lay on that lip, all you would have to do is unplug the cord, lay it inside the lid and close up  the cooler! You could still use the diverter for the floor register, as most of them have magnetic feet that would attach to the metal register grill. Simply take it off and lay it on top when you close up the cooler, and leave the metal register in place in the styrofoam!

Keep in mind, too, that this is shown in a normal sized cooler. In a minivan we may not have that much room, but I’m sure the idea could also be used in a compact console type cooler as well. The ice may not last quite as long, but it would sure take up less space!

And another thought… ice cubes are not going to last as long as a block of ice, so it might be better to buy a large block, if you can find one. In our minivan camper, we’re going to use a compressor style refrigerator that has a small freezer compartment… enough for a couple of half-gallon jugs. Those could be freezing while we’re traveling, and then used in the “air conditioner” when we park for the night, possibly in conjunction with ice cubes around them, to make everything last longer. Any thoughts?

As always, if you have any questions, or ideas, please let the rest of us know. I see a lot of people commenting directly to me, rather than posting on the blog, and although I don’t mind that anyone contacts me directly, I would really rather see the comments on the blog. Number one, it helps in the Google rankings for Google to see lots of activity on the blog, so they don’t think it’s “dormant”. Secondly, many of the comments are useful for others to know, not just me. We need to share ideas… that’s what blogs are for, and that’s how we all learn.

I see every comment that is made on the blog, and I have to approve it before it shows up here, so I will see everything that is written, and can do a comment reply if I need to. All you have to do is click on the “comment” link at the bottom of every post, and it will open up the comment box. If there is any reason why people aren’t using this feature, please email me to let me know. If I can change or improve it I will, but really… it can’t be much simpler!

Also, if the comments aren’t showing when you read these posts, that’s one way to open up the full page so that you can read the comments. It’s always “assumed” that “everybody knows” how to use a blog, but there are a lot of newbies out there!

As I have time, I will try to add more features to the blog, such as a way for you to receive automatic email updates, so I don’t have to email you manually, but please remember, this isn’t my only project. Just this last week, one of my major suppliers informed me that they won’t be able to supply the product anymore. It was created for a specific purpose and was never intended to sell to the public, but it did, and now after several years the molds are going bad, and it is not financially feasible to remake them. So that product has gone away permanently, and as a result I had to locate other products in that line to offer, rebuild all the site pages affected, change the meta-tags and correct the SEO, and get everything back to normal as fast as possible! That alone was a full day project!

Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish the minivan project in the garage, draw up the dimensioned plans, as well as search out new products and ideas to add to the value of what I provide to you. It’s really a full-time job right now, and the minivan project has less than half of my total time devoted to it. The rest is spread among my other sites, eBay sales and the normal projects and chores that any other money-pit owner  I mean, “homeowner”, has to deal with.

As always, let me know what you think about this portable air conditioner idea. Have any of you ever actually used one, to let us know how efficient it is? What ideas do you have to improve it?

For those out west, where the air is drier, you might be able to use an evaporative cooler, so stick around, and I’ll try to locate some information on those for the next post.