Is a homemade air conditioner worth the time and money to build it?

homemade air conditioner
YouTube: Consumer Reports

It’s an insanely popular Google search: “Do homemade air conditioners work?” More than 11 million sites talk about the efficacy of going DIY to cool down your home.

It makes sense to consider a super-cheap alternative. After all, if you rent in an old apartment building or home, it likely won’t have central air. And if you own, that’s an expensive upgrade.

As a result, many people head to YouTube to learn how to spend about as much as they might on a tank of gas in order to construct an air conditioner. They seem to feel it’s worth a try before springing for a window unit.

But two different journalists put these homemade products to the test, and they weren’t so impressed.

MORE: How to ‘supercool’ your home for chilly air and energy savings

How Much Time And Money Does It Cost To DIY It?

The materials for most versions of a homemade air conditioner include a bucket or cooler, a bag of ice, a fan and something to push the cold air, such as plastic cups or PVC piping.

Chris Regan, who tested two concepts for Consumer Reports, made each version for less than $30.

As far as time goes,’s Dan Basile wrote that it took him approximately one hour to construct his homemade air conditioner.

Does It Work?

Both testers made clear that they were looking at how well the homemade air conditioner would cool just one room, as it would be nearly impossible for a simple DIY item like this to cool an entire apartment or home.

Basile wrote, “The air cooler created slightly colder air than an average desk fan would, as evidenced by stable temperatures throughout both [] tests.”

Consumer Reports‘ Mary Farrell summed up their results:

After multiple runs using 8 to 12 pounds of three different forms of ice—cubes, reusable ice packs, and a frozen gallon jug of water—the homemade air conditioner was able to lower the temperature of a small room by only 2° to 3° F, and within 30 minutes the room temperature began to rise again.

The Bottom Line

Both teams of testers aren’t running back to the hardware store any time soon. As Basile wrote, “You would be better served sitting in front of an average house fan or biting the bullet and springing for the air conditioner.”

However, if you’re still curious and willing to spend an afternoon and a few bucks, YouTube user desertsun02’s tutorial video is also immensely popular, with more than 13 million views.

Worth the experiment?

About the Author

Haley Otman

Haley Otman is a news and features writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she roots for the University of Michigan Wolverines. A former broadcast news producer, Haley has 10 years of writing experience and has worked in both journalism and public relations. More.

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