Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A "Cool" Science Experiment - DIY Air Conditioning

My house is about 60 years old. This means the attic is poorly ventilated, the walls are thin, and what little insulation that may have once existed has probably turned to clumpy wads of structural detritus. The result is that our house is consistently in the mid 80s throughout the summer. My wife and I have discussed central air a few times but there are some other home improvements that are higher priorities. So until I check a few things off my list, I'm stuck sweating it out.

Today I was looking around Instructables (which my sister-in-law accurately describes as "Pinterest for guys") and I spotted this tutorial on how to build a DIY air conditioner using a box fan, copper tubing, and an outdoor fountain pump. It was just too cool not to try. 

Here is the finished project. I zip-tied the copper tubing to the fan and then carefully attached the pump inside the styrofoam cooler. We already had the box fan, so the whole project only cost about $40. 

Before adding ice, I checked the air temperature with the fan on. Yes, that's a meat thermometer. I'm an English teacher, not a scientist. Give me a break. 

Add ice. I remember learning once that salt water has a lower freezing point, so I imagine that experimenting with that could improve the air conditioner's performance.

3.3 degrees cooler after running the pump for about 5 minutes! Ok, maybe that's not a lot, but I'd like to think of it as a starting point. I bet with some tweaks, this baby could hit the 5 degree mark.

Realistically, my homemade contraption would last about 6 minutes in a house with three kids under the age of five, so I'm taking it to school for the final days before summer recess. Not only will my students appreciate the (slightly) cooler classroom, but my DIY air conditioner practically comes with a pre-installed teachable moment about conductors/insulators, air temperature, and freezing point. What a "cool" way to review for the science final exam. 

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3 Responses:

Adam Cross said...

Very cool project sir! I want to build one for my office now.

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