Portable Air Conditioner



After an exceedingly drizzly and cooler-than-average spring, summer suddenly arrived about a week ago in a whoosh of hot air. Here in southeast Pennsylvania we went from early spring to mid-summer like bada-bing bada-bang and let there be 90 degrees!

When the weather gets warm the thoughts of many people, including Mrs. Working Stiff, turn to air conditioning. Our house has central air of course, but while the first floor will be pretty much whatever temperature we tell the thermostat to maintain, the upstairs is another matter entirely.  A warmer matter.  Our master bedroom is fairly large and has three windows facing roughly north.  That room can really heat up over the course of a long sunny day.  We can feel the AC coming out of the registers, but simply not with enough power to really cool the room.  So, like many homes in the same development as the Chateau Working Stiff, we install a window unit for the summer.  The window unit does a pretty good job of cooling the room down for sleep-time.  Also, I’ve moved it back and forth between our third window and its winter home in the garage enough times now that it really isn’t an ordeal.  (Let’s not sugar-coat it, it’s all relative.  Anyone who has ever installed a window AC unit knows that it isn’t exactly high on the Fun-O-Meter!)

Anyway – as the heat moved in for Memorial Day Weekend, something made me want to research portable air conditioner possibilities. As in – AC units of some sort that don’t have to be installed in a window and can be moved around easily.  Might be handy for travel.  If you google “portable air conditioners”, one thing you will find is lots of ads for the serious professional units made by the big appliance companies.  They can work well but even though they are “portable”, they typically must still be tethered to a window by a large hose.  Picture a dryer-vent type of flexible piping or something close to that.  So I looked further.

My casual research brought me quickly to YouTube, where I found countless videos of resourceful and creative people making versions of what they called rednec…   oops – PORTABLE air conditioners!  You can see for yourself.

I thought there was some potential there, so I did a bit of shopping and set to work in my secret laboratory. The result, in less than 24 hours and about $45, is my own portable air conditioner!  I venture to say that the unit I made is somewhat higher-end than many of those you can see on YouTube, but it can be done more cheaply or with more found materials if you wish.  For example, some people use a beat up old cooler they already have or buy one for a few bucks at a thrift shop, but I spent $20 on a new one.

We did the first test late in the afternoon of one of the hot days that made up Memorial Day Weekend. The wife was working in her office upstairs (a converted smaller bedroom), and the room was about 82 degrees.  I set the gadget up and pointed it at her.  If she harbored any fears that I was about to de-molecularize her and beam her up to one of the moons of Saturn, she did a good job of keeping those fears to herself!  The suspense was almost too much to bear!  I dumped in a 20 lb. bag of ice and turned on the fan.  Almost immediately, there was a substantial cool breeze coming out of both “cooling pipes”.  I measured the air at the exit at about 60 degrees.  Mrs. Working Stiff was sitting about five feet away and reported a pleasant and refreshing cool breeze.  While we could definitely feel the cool air blowing out, I was disappointed that it didn’t appear to do much in terms of cooling the room overall.  At least not at about waist height.  We tried another experiment in the other guest room after adding an additional 10 lbs. of ice with similar results – nice cool air blowing out but with not much noticeable room cooling.

I conclude that the first experiment had mixed results. The weather cooled down a day or two later and had not yet been sweltering again since. My theory is that there was too much space in the large cooler between the level of the ice and the cooler lid.  For my next experiment I plan to load in more ice, perhaps adding some water and with a good dose of salt to help the mix get colder.  I think if the cooler was more full a cold briny mixture (less empty space), the air coming out of the pipes should be substantially cooler.  I will have to report further on that after the next experiment!

In other news, the Clematis plant that bursts forth from the ground every spring and threatens to devour the light pole at the end of our driveway is exploding into a riot of huge flowers. It is really quite dramatic.  We have another, with a dark purple flower, that is taking over the mailbox but that one is lagging behind with the flowering.




The Working Stiff


4 thoughts on “Portable Air Conditioner”

  1. I just learned about this method this summer and am happy to have learned more about it! In a fit of desperation, I tried blowing a fan across the biggest ice packs I have ever seen (I was worried about my pets), and it worked! Not as well as this, I’m sure, but it worked in a pinch. I hadn’t thought of adding salt to the water! Thank you!

  2. This is something I have heard about before and it looks like your design is excellent. If I ever find out that the comet is about to hit the earth I will be looking to The Working Stiff to save the day! Mcgyver make way!!

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