DIY Mini Desktop Air Conditioner to Keep You Cool

A tutorial on how to make a USB-powered personal air conditioner to keep you cool throughout the summer.

Summer's great, but if you don't have an AC unit in your work/home office, good luck trying to get any work done. What to do? Why not have your computer work for YOU to keep you cool? Based on one of eHow's most popular projects, this nifty DIY Portable Bucket Air Conditioner, we've come up with a mini desktop version using a USB-powered fan, some food storage containers, and PVC pipe. So stop sweltering and start DIYing!

Remove Fan Stand

Use your driver to remove the stand from the fan so that it sits inside your containers without any obstruction.

Prepare Inner Insulated Ice Container

You're going to use your styrofoam containers to create a double-walled inner container where your ice will be stored. To start, use your utility knife to cut out the bottom of one of the containers, then place that container inside the other. Cutting out the bottom will give you more room for ice.

Cut Holes in Inner Container for Discharge Tubes

If using a hole saw, you'll get a cleaner cut through your styrofoam containers if you stabilize the area to be cut with masking tape. If not using a hole saw, see the tip box at the end of this step.

Apply tape to the inside and outside of the styrofoam walls where you will cut through.

BEFORE you cut, you'll first need to mark where your hole should go. You need to ensure that the hole is placed beneath the fan or else you won't be able to insert the PVC tubes into the styrofoam container. To do this, measure the front half of the fan as shown below. This is the portion of the fan that will sit inside the inner container.

Take this measurement, and use it to mark a dot down from the top edge of the styrofoam container.

Ensure that you cut your hole right below this mark.

Now, with your hole saw set in REVERSE, drill a hole through the styrofoam at high speed. Drilling in reverse at high speed will give you a cleaner cut through the foam.

Now, repeat the hole drilling process to create another hole either below the first hole or beside it -- depending on personal preference as well as the size of your containers.

Cut Holes in Outer Container for Discharge Tubes

It's now time to cut holes in the outer containers, making sure that the holes align with those in your inner container. If your container is transparent, place the foam cups inside and mark the placement of the holes you'll need to cut, as shown below. If your outer container isn't transparent, measure the holes on the styrofoam container and transfer those measurements to the plastic container.

Once again, drill your holes in REVERSE. Not only will reverse-cutting give you a cleaner cut through plastic, it will prevent the hole saw teeth from grabbing the plastic (which will heat up from the speed of the drill) and spinning the container around and/or twisting your wrist! (If not using a hole saw, please see tip box in step 3.)

Cut Lid

If your outer container fits the entirety of the fan (like ours does), you'll need to cut a hole allowing you to pass your USB cable through, as well as additional holes that will allow your fan to draw in ambient air, as shown below. If your container is smaller and the fan doesn't fit inside completely, see the tip box beneath the photo.

Make it Cute! (Optional)

Left as is, your AC unit will keep you cool, but it won't be much to look at. Get creative and gussy it up with some primer, paint, decoupage, etc.! If you opt to decorate (yay!) make sure to do the outer container, the lid, and both of the PVC pipes.

We primed all the pieces with a spray primer first, then used a textured faux stone paint for the outer container. For the lid and PVC tubes, we used metallic paint in gold and silver. If painting, we recommend that you let the paint dry overnight before proceeding to the next step.

Assemble the Unit

Insert the inner container into the outer, making sure to align the holes.

Before inserting the PVC discharge tubes through the holes, put a rubber band on the end of each tube. This will keep the tube in place as well as create a tighter air seal between the tube and styrofoam container.

Insert a sandwich bag with ice into the inner container.

Place the fan face down into the top of the inner container. Try to get as snug a fit as possible.

Pass the USB cable through the opening you made in the lid.

Finally, snap the lid shut. (If your container is not large enough to fit the entire fan, see the tip box in step 3).

As you can see, our fan's power switch is conveniently placed next to the power cord, so the opening we made for the cord also allowed us to switch the unit on and off without having to remove the lid. If your switch is elsewhere on the back of the fan, either create a separate opening for the switch, or lift the lid in order to turn on and off.

Plug your DIY air conditioner into your USB port, power on, and enjoy!

About the Author

Maya's an avid DIY-er whose primary goal is to motivate those who consider themselves DIY-challenged. Her creative skill set includes yarn crafts, upcycling old items, and recipes for people on restricted diets (herself included). Prior to becoming an independent media producer, she led content creation for sites including Ticketmaster, Saatchi Art, and