Homemade Portable Air Conditioner – DIY Tent AC


If you are thinking of going camping this summer, air conditioning is probably one of your concerns. With most brand-new air conditioners costing hundreds of dollars, building a homemade portable air conditioner is a much better option, especially if you are on a budget. 

In this guide, we will show you how to build a DIY tent air conditioner. For just a few dollars and less than an hour (depending on how quickly you will be working), you should have a great tool to cool your tent. 

What You Will Need to Make a Homemade Portable Air Conditioner

To make a portable air conditioner for cooling your camping tent, you will need the following items:

  • An old icebox cooler 
  • Small fan 
  • A modest solar panel (the air conditioner can run on batteries as well)
  • Some ice 
  • 90-degree bend duct (elbow)
  • Drill 
  • Jigsaw 
  • Knife 

A Step by Step Guide on How to Make a DIY Tent Air Conditioner

At this point, we are assuming that you have managed to gather the items you need to make your tent air conditioner. To build the air conditioner, follow the steps below:

1. Mark Down the Holes for Your Fan and Duct on the Ice Box Cooler 

The first thing you will need to do is measure the holes for both your fan and the duct you will be using to make the cooler. When measuring the holes, try to be as accurate as possible. Being accurate will help you avoid problems when sealing the holes. 

The hole for the fan should be set in a way that does not allow the fan to go all the way in. Most cooling fans have 2 guard metal meshes (in the back and the front), joined together by a collar that is usually bigger than the mesh. Try to mark your hole so that the fan’s collar rests on the box and only the front mesh guard gets in the cooler. 

Note: If you cannot find an old ice cooler box, you can also use a Styrofoam ice chest. The idea is to use a box that prevents heat transfer as much as possible – this will keep the ice from melting. Metal and plastic boxes without any insulation won’t work. 

2. Drill and Then Cut the Holes Out 

After marking the holes, you will need to drill and then cut the holes out. If you went for a plastic icebox, a combi drill and a jigsaw should help you out. If you are using the Styrofoam box, all you will need is your camping knife

With your combi drill, drill a hole on the edge of the marking. Next, use the jigsaw to cut the rest. It is worth noting that if you do not have power tools, you can always use a small handsaw to cut the holes. 

3. Fit the Fan and the 90-Degree Bend Duct 

If both your holes have the right size, the duct and the fan should go in easily. At this point, you will need to decide whether you would like to seal the holes. 

On the plus side, sealing the holes prevents excessive heat transfer – this will help extend the time needed to melt the ice block. On the negative side, it can make the homemade portable air conditioner bulkier. 

4. Get the Ice In 

This DIY tent air conditioner will use the concept of heat transfer to ensure you have the right temperature after setting up your tent. The bigger the cold surface you have in the air conditioner – in this case, the more ice you have inside – the colder the air drawn in by the fan will get. 

If possible, try using a big block of ice in the homemade portable air conditioner. This will ensure that the ice does not melt too quickly. Additionally, the air drawn in by the fan will have a bigger surface to touch. 

Since carrying a big piece of ice to the campsite may not be practical, freezing some water bottles may be an ideal alternative. You can use the water bottles after arriving at the campsite and putting the parts of your tent together. 

5. Connect the Fan to a Solar Panel or a Battery 

As noted earlier, the air conditioner can run on either a solar panel or a battery. A solar panel is a better option considering that you won’t have to worry about the power running out.  

If you decide to use a battery, you must ensure the battery will last long enough – if the battery runs out, your DIY tent air conditioner will stop working. 

What to Expect When Using this DIY Tent Air Conditioner

When built correctly, the tent cooler should keep your summer tent cool enough. On average, the cooler will be able to reduce the temperature from 80 degrees Fahrenheit to 42 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If you use a big chunk of ice, it should take about 5 hours to melt completely. This will, however, depend on how overheated your tent is. If you will be camping solo in an area featuring incredibly high temperatures, the ice may melt much faster. 

To increase the effectiveness of the air conditioner, you can use something to lift your ice block off the bottom of the cooler. This way, you will increase the surface area coming into contact with the air and hence reducing the temperatures even further. The downside to lifting the ice block is that it will melt much faster. 



Q: Can You Air Condition A Tent?


Yes, it is possible to air condition a tent. If you are not on a budget, you can purchase an air conditioner. If, however, you are on a budget or you would prefer to save more money and still air condition the tent, you can make your own air conditioner. In this article, we have outlined the steps that you need to follow to make an effective air conditioner. 

Q: How Do You Make A Tent Cooler?


When summer camping, you can make your tent cooler via a number of ways. The most effective ways include:

  • Use an air conditioner.
  • If you brought a lunch cooler with you, place it in the tent and open it. The chill from the ice should lower the temperature. 
  • If you have a battery-operated fan, use it to circulate the air in your tent. 
  • Open the tent’s vents and door.

Q: Do You Put Ice in Front or Behind A Fan?


To cool your tent more effectively, you should put the ice in front of the fan. The fan will blow air over the ice – this process will cool the air. Over time, this should lower the overall temperature in your tent.

Globo Surf Overview 

Even on hot days, camping is a fun outdoor activity. However, the tent usually gets uncomfortable if it is too hot. Fortunately, you have options that you can use to keep your tent cool – one of the best options is using a homemade portable air conditioner. 

In this article, we have shown you how to make a portable air conditioner from scratch. The portable AC should help you solve the temperature issue at a minimal cost. 

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!