My dear friend, critique partner, and sports romance author extraordinaire, Julie Brannagh told me about this $20 air conditioner Youtube sensation because she knows how much I loathe being hot. Click HERE or on the image to see the video for yourself.
The video makes the process seam simple and fun. I though, heck, I’ll do this with my kids. They’ll especially enjoy taping streamers on so we can “see” the air conditioner working when we’re done. It’ll be fun.
Famous. Last. Words.
I’m 3 days and more than $100 into this project, and I am still not enjoying my home-made air conditioner.
The “$20 5-gal-bucket Air Conditioner Saga” begins with an optimistic trip to Lowes with my 3yo son. The video shows a Home Depot bucket, but Home Depot is in a part of town I’m not very familiar with. The potential to get lost and end up driving the wrong way on a one-way street in downtown Seattle is high.
In contrast, Lowe’s is 3 miles from my house and also right next to the grocery store where I knew I could by a gallon of water to freeze and use as the core of this awesome homemade cooling unit. Plus their buckets are blue, which I love, not orange, which I dislike.
Here’s my thoughts as I head out with the boy: I’ll make a stop at Lowes for the materials, then hit up the store for water to freeze, then whip the project together. I’ll be chillin’ in style by dinner time.
Yeah. Not so much.
As soon as I walk into Lowes, I see their 5-gallon buckets. They are such a pretty blue, don’t you think? Much nicer to look at than orange, IMO. I snatch up this beauty and tossed it in the shopping cart along with a lid like the one shown in the video. Total so far: about $4
Directing my cart toward the plumbing section for PVC piping, I’m thinking: so far, so good.
The PVC piping is a little harder to find. The sections I find aren’t quite as long as those in the video, but I think they’ll work just fine. And they are less than $1 a piece. So I’m up to about $7 so far. Still doing good.
Next on the list are two hole saw extensions that will work with my power drill. This is where I blow the $20 budget. The harder the material you need to cut through, the more expensive the hole saw. I just need to cut through plastic and foam. Unfortunately Lowes doesn’t have the sizes I need in stock for the cheaper hole saws. I have to trade up and get kind of expensive ones. At $16 a piece, these hole saws put me up to $32. I’m still well under what I would spend on a traditional compressor AC unit, so I figure I’m doing okay.
Now that I’ve got most of the materials, I’m just kind of wandering through Lowes, looking for an insulating liner for the bucket. Odd that they didn’t have a big stack of liners right there with the buckets, but I’m not deterred. I keep looking.
Up and down the aisles I go. My son is being very patient. He wants to buy everything in sight, especially the orange traffic cones. They ARE made of molded foam, so I briefly consider using one as a liner for the AC-in-a-bucket, but they were $8 a piece for the smallest cones. Too much. I’m still determined to find the liners made specifically for the buckets, like the one shown in the video.
While I’m wandering, I pick up a new utility knife because I can’t remember where the one at home is. Now I’m up to $35. No big. I’m talking myself into not counting the tools in the budget since tools can be reused.
Finally, I find an employee–the hardware-store equivalent to admitting defeat and asking directions. When that employee answers: “Bucket liner? You mean like a trash bag?,” I look for someone more helpful. The second employee responds thusly to my request: “Oh, you must be making one of those Youtube air conditioners. Yeah, we don’t carry those liners. Only Home Depot has those.”
I inwardly groan. I do not want to drive to Home Depot. I take another turn around Lowes, looking for some substitute for a foam bucket liner. I look at hard coolers and wonder if the hole saws will grind through them. I look at soft coolers and wonder how they’ll hold the PVC pipes in place. I look at flexible duct insulation and wonder how disgusting it’s going to be after a gallon of frozen water sweats into it a hundred times. I also frown at the price tag, $20 for a single roll of insulation! A liner shouldn’t cost more than $5. I’m not spending $20.
At this point, my 3yo is done with Lowes. So am I. I leave without bothering to look for a fan and without the bucket liner.
We head over to the grocery store and spend $5 on 2 gallons of water. I’m up to $40. While I’m at the grocery store I swing into the next-door drug store to look for a 6″ fan like the one in the video. It’s mid-July, and the fan shelf is bare. This is what happens in a heat wave in Seattle.
No foam liner. No fan. No problem. I’ll get them on Amazon.
Tune in for PART 2 to see what goes wrong next!
Thanks for reading! Leave a comment and let me know what DIY projects you wished you never started.