How to Make a Homemade Swamp Cooler

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If you've ever been camping in the middle of summer, you know how hard it is to sleep when you're hot and sweaty. Even a 10 degree drop in temperature can make a big difference in your comfort level.


Swamp coolers are an easy solution. Most of them work by blowing air through water-saturated pads. As the water evaporates, it cools the surrounding air. These units have simple designs, and they're cheap and easy to maintain.

Things You'll Need

  • Cooler (ice chest)
  • Tape measure
  • 3 foot straight edge (or square)
  • 1 inch thick wall insulation sheet
  • Utility knife
  • 12V auto fan
  • Soft tip marker
  • Large drill bit
  • 2 inch PVC pipe and PVC elbow (or plastic floor vent deflector)
  • Small crescent wrench
  • Small bungee cord
  • Blue ice blocks
  • 12V power source
  • Roll of duct tape (if using plastic floor vent deflector)

Converting a Cooler to a Portable Air Conditioner

  • Measure the length and width of the inside dimension of your cooler's mouth with your straight edge or tape measure. Transfer these dimensions to the wall insulation sheet and cut out the piece with your utility knife. It should fit snugly inside the top of your cooler so no air escapes.

  • Lay the front of the fan on the right side of the foam insert and trace around the guard with your marker. Cut just inside this line with your utility knife to create a hole that your fan will rest on but not fall through.

  • Hand turn a drill bit that is slightly thicker than your bungee cord to punch two holes in the foam insert. The holes should be an inch away from the fan hole and on opposite sides of it. Make them diagonal to the cooler.

  • Stand the PVC pipe up on the left side of the foam insert, and trace around the base with your marker. Cut along this line with your utility knife. If you use a floor vent deflector instead of a PVC pipe, make sure your hole has a circumference that's smaller than the deflector.

  • Use your crescent wrench to loosen and remove the mounting clamp that's attached to the fan. You won't need it because the fan will be resting face down in its hole.

  • Put the blue ice blocks in your cooler and add water until it's 80 percent full.

    Put the fan face down in its hole and clip the bungee to one side of the guard. Pull the bungee through the hole on this side, stretch it across the front of the fan, and pull it back up through the hole on the opposite side. Clip the bungee to the opposite side of the guard to hold your fan in place.

    Connect the PVC pipe and elbow, and press the PVC pipe into the hole you cut for it. If you're using a floor vent deflector, put it over the hole and duct tape it to the foam insert.

    Press the foam liner into the top of your cooler and plug the fan into your 12V power source. Enjoy the cool air!

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