Cool Your House on the Cheap- How to make a Homemade Air conditioner for less than $50

Living in Iowa is a pain in the a**!

This summer alone it has been in the 90’s for 3 straight weeks and it’s only July!

Being a Poor Girl, I struggle with heating and cooling our quaint 2 bedroom home that has zero insulation.

During the winter our heating bill runs close to $400; summer isn’t much cheaper.

I have found cheaper ways to heat my home, such as a Solar Heater which I will cover this fall when I make them, so I thought to myself ” There has to be an easier and cheaper way to cool my home!”

Strangely enough, there are actually lots of ways to achieve that goal that won’t cost you an arm and a leg and don’t involve the expensive commercial air conditioners.

Now, I wasn’t interested in the cheap swamp cooler made with a fan, cooler, pvc pipe, and ice, though that is definitely a viable option that I will try out at some point for comparison.

I wanted something different!

After about two weeks of searching for ideas, I came across a hybrid that’s part  air-conditioner part swamp cooler and really cool looking!


And it cost me less than $50 to make!

You’ll need:

1 fan (I used my old box fan, it works great even after 4 years! You can get one like it for $17 by clicking the link.)

1-20 foot roll of 1/4 inch copper tubing (this one is only $17.41, mine is only 10′  and I paid $23 at True Value.  I’m going to get 20′ next time for extra surface area cooled.)

1-10 foot, 3/8 inch clear tubing (this one is $6.75 but you can get it for about $0.25 a foot at the hardware store.  You can use 1/4 inch but it’s a really tight fit and requires heating to stretch over the copper tubing)

50- 4 inch zip ties (I think I paid $2 for my 100 ct. at walmart, you probably won’t use that many)

1- fountain or fishtank pump (mine is 265 gallons per hour [or GPH for short] submersible water pump I got off ebay for $12, this same model cost $36 on amazon)

1-5 gallon bucket or plastic cooler with lid ( you can really use anything to hold the water and frozen jugs. I use a large metal pot right now but will switch to something with a lid soon to hold the cool air in and make it last longer)

2- 1 gallon jugs of ice (or 2 liter bottles of frozen water, this won’t cost you anything at all)


Now that you have everything, assembling is super simple.

1: Place your jugs of water in the freezer overnight to freeze.

2: Uncoil the copper tubing in a circle around the front of the fan and zip tie it in place; it doesn’t have to be pretty.

3: Cut the plastic tubing in half and slip one end of the first half over one end of the copper pipe. Use a zip tie to hold in place or a hose clamp.

4: Slip one end of the other half of the clear tubing over the other end of the copper tubeing and clamp.

* If your cooler has a lid, here is where you would cut a hole big enough to slip both clear tubes through before attaching one to the water pump.

5: Slip the open end of one of the halves of clear tubing over the spout on the water pump and clamp together.

6: Fill the cooler with 4 to 6 inches of cold water and submerge the pump.

7: Tie the 2 clear tube together so that the open one won’t fall out of the tub and pump water all over.

8: Place the frozen jugs of water into the tub, close the lid if it has one, and turn the fan and water pump on.

*Check for leaks, if you do have a leak tighten the clamp down more.

9: Enjoy your cold air.


Assembly time: 30 minutes

You may want to place a towel under the coil because they sweat and remember to switch out the jugs of water when they melt so the water stays continuously cold but that’s the only upkeep you have to do for this unit.


See? It really is super simple and alot cheaper than a window air-conditioner that will run you over $100. The plus side, not only is it cheap to make but it also uses 1/10th of the electricity a window cooling unit uses; that saves you hundreds of dollars per year!

Another plus? No more expensive upkeep! You can replace the entire unit for less than it costs to have your air-conditioner fixed!


So it’s been 48 hours sense I built the cooling unit and things have been going well. The unit is keeping my bedroom quite cool compared to what it was when I was just using a fan to cool it.

I have found that there is a slight downside to the unit which has a couple of easy fixes.

First, with the temperatures outside being over 100° and inside in the 80° range I have noticed that the jugs of ice are melting much faster than I can freeze them.

Fix #1: I have started freezing multiple jugs of water to compensate for the amount of changes I make during the day. I have to swap out jugs once every 4 hours or so, so I have begun placing 10 jugs of water in the freezer at a time instead of 3. Believe me when I say that you want to have jugs of frozen water ready to be switched before the jug in the water melts all the way. The longer you wait to change the jugs the hotter the water in the cooler gets, the longer it takes for the water to cool back down, the hotter it gets in your home, which leads to your ice melting faster…it’s a vicious cycle.

We just purchased an extra large 25 Sq. Foot deep freeze to store meat from our pigs we butchered this summer so we have plenty of room. For those of you who don’t have that type of room I suggest checking Craigslist and local facebook swap groups for deep freezers. I always see tons of people posting free or cheap deep freezes on there.

Fix #2: I will be purchasing a large insulated cooler next week that has a lid. I think the insulation will keep the cooled water from reaching room temperature as fast and slow down the melting rate of the ice in the jugs.

Tip: If you want the air blowing out of your fan to be colder, place more jugs of ice in the cooler to bring the temperature of the water down lower. The colder the water running through the copper coil is the colder the air blowing out of the fan will be.


Do you use unconventional methods to heat or cool your home? Tell me about it in the comments below! Do forget to check out some of my other money saving blog posts!

*This post contains Affiliate Links as you may have guessed. Clicking these links and purchasing products won’t cost you anything extra but it does help me keep this blog running and provide you with new and innovative ways to Live Rich On A Poor Girls Budget. Thank you for your support and understanding.


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