The $20 5-gallon-bucket Air Conditioner Saga, PART 2

air conditionerMy 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.

Yesterday, I blogged about my adventures at Lowes and how easily I blew my $20 project budget (PART 1). I ended the post with two materials missing from my inventory: The bucket liner and the fan.

Minus those two items, I was at $40 already, including:bucket1

-A 5-gallon bucket & lid from Lowes
-3 pieces of 1.5″ PVC piping
-2 hole saws (2 1/8″ & 2 1/4″)
-2 gal water for freezing
-A utility knife

bucket2With my 3yo son, I leave Lowes disappointed I didn’t get everything on my materials list but determined to gather up the stragglers on Amazon. Because just about everything you could possibly want is available on Amazon. I’m a Seattlite AND an Amazon Prime member. This means I can often get items delivered for free or the next business day. It’s pretty sweet.

Imagine my surprise when I log onto Amazon and find they do not carry the bucket liners shown in the video. WHAT?! How can Amazon not carry something as simple as a foam bucket liner? Especially when I KNOW other people have been looking for them because the item list that came up when I searched for “5 gallon bucket liner” included 5 gallon buckets, 6″ fans, and PVC pipe sections: the exact materials used in this DIY project.

Amazon is usually so good at reading their customers and catering to their needs. I think Amazon knows what people need before they know it themselves. Amazon is like the perfect British butler in that way.

But my digital-shopping butler let me down. No, Amazon, NOOOOOOOO!!!!! You’re missing a great opportunity here! Do you KNOW how many people are trying to build this DIY AC-in-a-bucket? Probably thousands! You could be cleaning up on bucket liners!

Okay. Enough scolding my butler. He’s usually very efficient and discrete with my secrets, and nobody’s perfect. At least I have the entire internet at my disposal.

So I do a broader search for 5 gallon bucket liners. The only place I can find them: Home Depot. (That might have been nice to know in the video…”Oh, by the way, intrepid DIY viewer, don’t attempt to find a bucket and liner anywhere but at Home Depot. They’re the only ones that make the liner you’re seeing here.” Would that have been so hard?) Furthermore, they only come in packs of 3 if bought online. For $17.91. Plus $11.50 shipping & handling.

Untitled picture


Seriously? That’s almost $30 for three bucket liners! I only need one, and I can get a foam cooler in the shape of a rectangle at my grocery store for $3.

I realize that if I want to make this project exactly as it appears in the video, I am either going to have to make the dreaded drive to Home Depot (see PART 1 for why I do NOT like driving to Home Depot) OR I will have to vastly increase the budget for this project. It was supposed to be a $20 project, but I’m already at twice that. I refuse to make it a $50 project (and that’s not even including the fan!), so I bite the bullet and drive to Home Depot.

I only need to check my iPhone once for directions as I meander the unfamiliar streets of Seattle’s SODO district: think industrial and somewhat seedy but also artsy. Fortunately, I got to stop for a looooong train, so I had plenty of time to look at my Google Map and figure out where I was going.

Once the train passed, I find Home Depot relatively easily. No wrong turns, no ending up going the wrong way on a busy down-town street. I’m wiping my brow by this point and nearly sagging with relief that I’m about to purchase a single bucket liner for a reasonable price at the only store in all creation that apparently sells them.

My mom is with me. She graciously agrees to wait in the car with the kids so this quick errand doesn’t turn into a fiasco. (Anyone with kids knows there’s no such thing as a quick stop at the store).

There’s a host at the front when I enter the store. He’s wearing glasses and a tie and looks very helpful. I ask him where the bucket liners are. I even spot a display of 5 gallon buckets and PVC pipes, and I think to myself, Yup, they’re getting a lot of DIY AC-in-a-bucket folks in here. I bet the bucket liners are right over there.

The helpful employee in a tie has NEVER HEARD OF BUCKET LINERS! He has to look up the item on his phone to figure out what the heck I’m talking about.

Another employee comes over. This one is in a smock and looks like he might know the inventory a little better than Poindexter. I ask him for the bucket liners.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that video,” he says. “We don’t carry those,” he says.

What do you mean, you don’t CARRY those?! You’re Home Depot! You’re the ONLY place that carries those, and I NEED THOSE! I HAVE KIDS IN THE CAR! I’M OVER BUDGET ON MY PROJECT! GIVE ME AN EFFING BUCKET LINER!

I don’t say any of this, though, because I’m a very sweet, rational person once the filter kicks in. What I say is, “Do you know where I can find a liner for a 5 gallon bucket?” My soul for a liner for a 5 gallon bucket!

“Nope, sorry. Good luck.”

Woodenly, I get in the car and tell my mom about the exchange with the Home Depot employees. I mean, seriously, why would they have an entire end display devoted to this AC-in-a-bucket project AND NOT HAVE THE NECESSARY BUCKET LINERS THAT ONLY THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE?!

Mom is livid on my behalf. She knows how much I didn’t want to drive to Home Depot. She knows how much I loathe being hot and how much I want to build this goshdarnmothereffing AC in a bucket.

I appreciate her support, but this doesn’t stop me from crying a little as I drive home, because not only have I wasted an hour of all our lives, but I get lost driving out of SODO and end up in Renton (don’t ask). I no longer feel like going grocery shopping, like I had planned. Instead, I cart everyone home, go online, and pay an arm and a leg for three bucket liners. I figure, I can use the additional two liners to make ACs-in-a-bucket for some friends who hate the heat as much as I do. Some people knit for their friends. I build odd DIY projects for them.

I get around the shipping cost by adding enough items to my cart to get free shipping. That’s the good news. The bad news is, I’ve already ordered a 6″ fan from Amazon. The fan is the last item I needed to complete my project. I could have used the fan to bring me up to the free shipping ceiling, but it was too late. So I buy $30 worth of storage stuff I won’t need until my kitchen remodel, which is several months away.

I have now spent $105 on my $20 AC-in-a-bucket, and I still have no AC-in-a-bucket. Why?

Because the bucket liners won’t arrive for two weeks. TWO WEEKS! I learn this after I make my purchase. Thanks, Home Depot.

“But never fear,” Home Depot tells me, “the rest of the items in your order will arrive in 4 business days.”

Awesome. I get the stuff I don’t really need and just bought to get free shipping (am I the only one that does this) lickety-split, but I have to WAIT 14 HOT, SWEATY DAYS for my bucket liners.

bucket3Thus ends part two of my saga. I am currently $85 over budget and two weeks from a completed AC-in-a-bucket.

I am filled with rage. I am apparently not a very good DIY person. Yet I refuse to give up. I will build this project, and it will be awesome.

It might be a while, but I’ll be back with more AC-in-a-bucket Saga. In two weeks.

In the meantime, enjoy these images of the little bit of progress I’ve made on what I can do without the liner:

bucket4To the left: Cut-out for fan, which I completed with the nifty new utility knife I bought.

(Home Depot, take note. I ordered this fan from Amazon on Saturday evening. It arrived Tuesday morning. That’s 3 days, 1.5, if you count only business days. Just sayin’.)

Perfect fit!

bucket5To the right: Frozen water.

So glad I’ll have these enormous jugs in my freezer for two weeks while I wait for the bucket liners to come.

Note to any spouses glimpsing the words “enormous jugs” over the shoulder of the person reading this post: I’m talking about water. Just water.

So the saga continues. I may attempt to make something work with one of those $3 coolers I mentioned I could get from the grocery store.

Thanks for reading! Do share DIY projects you’ve attempted that have not gone quite as expected.






About Jessi Gage

USA Today Bestselling Author Jessi Gage is addicted to happy-ever-after endings. She counts herself blessed because she gets to live her own HEA with her husband and children in the Seattle area. Jessi has the attention span of a gnat…unless there is a romance novel in her hands. In that case, you might need a bullhorn to get her to notice you. She writes what she loves to read: stories about love. Leave a comment to introduce yourself! There is no better motivation to finish her latest writing project than a note from a happy reader! Don't forget to sign up for Jessi’s newsletter so you’ll never miss a new release. Thanks for visiting!
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36 Responses to The $20 5-gallon-bucket Air Conditioner Saga, PART 2

  1. Mae Clair says:

    You do realize this could be a Seinfeld episode, LOL? I feel awful you had to jump through all those hoops (since when does Home Depot NOT carry something?) but the “saga” has been fun to follow. I can’t wait to see the finished project. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Jessi. You made them highly entertaining! 😀

  2. Pingback: The $20 5-gallon-bucket Air Conditioner Saga, PART 3 | Jessi Gage…A Time to Love

  3. says:

    So, you can do this whole project without those pesky bucket liners. Since the styrofoam is the insulation that keeps the stuff colder for longer and the bucket is really more for structure and durability, I am going to just forget about the bucket and the round liner and use one of the styrofoam coolers that are square. It will do the same job but it will just be a bit more susceptible to damage.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      This is WISE! This year, I’ve done a rectangular cooler. I went with a small one, just big enough to stick a fan in the mesh-lined lid. Instead of ice, I got ice packs, which are colder and take up less room in my freezer. I’ll post after I use it the first time!

      Good luck with yours!

    • Cam says:

      Your probably bought the male 1.5″ pvc couplers, which are way more expensive than the female couplers. I almost did the same thing, and nearly spent $9 on the pvc pieces, but then I saw the 1.5″ female couplers for $.67 each. Note: the male and female pvc couplers are also different external diameters. If you buy the 2.25″ bore bit for your drill, you’ll definitely want to make sure to use the female pvc couplers, as the male couplers will be quite a bit smaller than the holes.

      I enjoyed reading this, as I tried this project from Lowe’s, yesterday, and had nearly an identical experience. Still looking for bucket liners, or an alternative, as I do not intend to Doreen another $30, just to get my hands on one.

      • Jessi Gage says:

        Guess what? I caved and bought a portable AC unit for my living room. There was just no fan powerful enough to make this project worthwhile. I guess it was a good lesson in patience and improvisation though 🙂

        Good luck with yours!

  4. Eric says:

    I just went through this ordeal and found this post while looking for liners. I gave up and went with a rectangle cooler sand bucket. I cannot believe no stores sell them!

  5. Jason says:

    I built one of these for my girlfriend and went through all of the stuff you had to go through also with finding and getting the materials. Got it all built and operational for her only to find out that this thing really doesn’t work very well. We found that just using the fan alone cooled us off better then this contraption.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Yes. I suspect because the fan is so small, it just doesn’t provide much power. I feel cooler if I’m sitting right next to it, but that’s about it! LOL!

  6. Chels says:

    Yeah… I gave up on the bucket liner and instead bought pool noodles at the dollar store. I just sort of coiled them up in the bucket. No way was I spending $17 on three liners I didn’t need.

  7. charles wells says:

    I tried selling single liners on etsy, but profits turned red once shipping services started breaking them all. 😦 I make a really nice honeywell turbo fan 5 gallon bucket A/C for under $70, available on etsy under the shop name 2kFragmentations. Good luck to everyone trying, I’ve made over 300 and have it close to $20, but still haven’t done it for less yet. Kit’s available with single foam liners in them also. 🙂 Happy shopping/building.

  8. Susan says:

    Hi Jessi ~ I can’t find a round bucket liner either. Your article made me laugh! Do you like your portable AC unit? Can you recommend a good, energy-efficient, small one (1 room) for me?

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Thanks for commenting, Susan! Glad I gave you a laugh!

      I bought my portable AC unit during a heat wave, so the selections were limited. I got it through Amazon Prime and didn’t have to pay shipping! It is a 1200 BTU unit that cost around $450. For one room, you could probably get by with 800 BTU or 1000 and save a hundred $$ or so.

      I missed a chance to get one just as powerful for $350 at Costco. You snooze you lose!

      Good luck staying cool!

  9. Ivan says:

    A 5 Gallon Rubbermaid Orange water cooler would work the same. It is also already insulated to keep things cold and it cost around $20 dollars.

  10. Making buckets for the 2016 season! They come complete and ready to use. 🙂 I’ve still abandoned all hope of shipping single liners, I wonder why home depot doesn’t sell them instore singularly.. Buy a fully built/shipped to you bucket air conditioner here:

  11. gts says:

    I’ve been to that Home Depot and then ended up in Renton. Here’s the kicker: I’ve never lived in Seattle.

    Thanks for the laughs.

  12. Mikel Moller says:

    amazon has them but same problem 3 or 6 packs . also buy the bucket with liner if you search for a minnow bucket (intended for fishing / bait ) and some are just styrofoam… but seriously is this the only product in the US where you can not buy just 1 unless fabricated driving the price up to the cost of three… bah.

  13. Angelchathuri says:

    I also buy A conditioner bucket.This tool is very creative. use this bucket and get more advantages.This is relay save your money and Efforts

  14. Supun says:

    When I’m working in my room this tool very interesting to me.Because I working hard.I want to fresh and cool Air.This Ice bucket conditioner gave me it.It is really helpfull

  15. pamu says:

    I buy air conditioner.I off my real ac machine.Now I don’t use My AC machine.This is save my money.very useful.

  16. dilki says:

    This ice bucket Air conditioner is cool me.when I start to use this air conditioner save my Electricity and money. Buy this awesome product and save your money.

  17. nalin says:

    My garage is very hot.I work everyday in here.I want air conditioner.I buy this product. I was not trust this product. But It is really cool my garage.I recommended this product.Buy it

  18. Cc cole says:

    Why not use packing ñeanut in plastc bags, as this is just used as an insulator to keep the ice gallon from melting too fast, right?

  19. Jeff Muetz says:

    so long as you already have an old cooler you are willing to donate and a 20 dollar jigsaw w/blade you can go buy the 6 inch fan and a 4 inch 90 degree elbow…around 20 bucks minus the sunk cost of the cooler and saw. just cut a hole on the lid for the fan and a hole on the lid for the elbow. Drop a big chunk of ice in it and enjoy

  20. katrinamonarco says:

    I am leaving one in the cooler just so I don’t have to clean it out before we use it.
    So, when you do use it, it’s insanely simple. There’s a drain cap, so you can use it easier, the material is stretchy and it’s so easy to use a, well…I can use it. I giggled.
    Since these are reusable you don’t have to buy a ton, but you can throw it out if u want to, but try not too since these are pretty freaking hefty and awesome.
    Why no one has thought of this before is beyond me, but I guess all great ideas have people saying the same thing.

  21. Lisa says:

    OMG @katrinamonarco…YOU are a freaking genius!! Where have these BEEN all my life?!? TY TY TY TY

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