How to Make a Bucket Air Conditioner

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Updated May 10, 2023

If you are new to the world of DIY cooling, you may wonder how to make an air conditioner out of a bucket. You can make a bucket air conditioner with a 5-gallon bucket, PVC pipe, a fan, and ice. Cut holes for the pipe and fan, put ice in the bucket, and turn on the fan. The air will be cooler when it comes out. But, it only cools a small space and is not as strong as a real air conditioner.

Some of the best air conditioners, after all, use a similar method of operation. Even the leading portable air conditioners for RVs have to be designed for on-the-go use. Keep reading for the step-by-step instructions.


  • A bucket air conditioner is a budget-friendly and fun project to help you learn about how AC units work.
  • Building one from scratch requires some common tools, such as a jug of water, and around 30 minutes of your time.
  • This system does require electricity, though uses less power via a solar panel or regular grid than a traditional air conditioning unit.

Why Make a Bucket AC Unit?

The main reason is to have fun and to learn the basic methodologies behind air conditioning, and the same can be said about learning how to make a portable air conditioner. But, it’s a little different than installing a portable air conditioner in a sliding door, which can be hard. Also, these contraptions do work, allowing for a bit of extra cool air during the summer months.

How to Make a Gallon Bucket Air Conditioner

This is a relatively easy process that shouldn’t take you hours, in line with learning how to maintain a central air conditioner. Here are the steps.

Insider Tip

This basic design is limited only by the objects at hand. Any bucket can work, like a bait bucket, but if you have a larger bucket, more ice, and a bigger fan, try that.

STEP 1 Start Drilling

  1. Gather your tools and start drilling, grabbing the power drill and saw bits.
  2. Drill a pair of quarter-inch holes in the bucket to support the exhaust pipes near the top of the bucket but under the rim.
  3. Drill a pair of eighth-inch holes in the insulating liner that rests inside of the bucket. These holes will also hold the exhaust fans, so line them up

STEP 2 Cut to Size

  1. Using the utility knife or box cutter, cut a hole in the bucket lid so the fan can sit flush against the opening.
  2. Cut the insulator so that it fits snugly inside of the bucket, leaving a little room.

STEP 3Insert Exhaust Ports

  1. Affix the exhaust ports to the bucket, making sure they go through both the bucket and the insulating liner.
  2. Attach the exhaust port using the saw bits or some glue, if necessary.
  3. Wait until the glue dries to continue.

STEP 4 Place Cooling Agents

  1. Fill the bucket with cooling agents, such as ice packs, loose ice, or frozen gallon jugs.
  2. Don’t overfill the bucket, but place enough that it will do a decent job at cooling.

STEP 5 Close, Connect, and Test

  1. Connect the lid and place the fan so it blows air inside the bucket.
  2. Turn on the fan and test for cold air coming from the exhaust ports.


How does a bucket A/C work?

You fill the 5-gallon bucket with a lid with frozen bottles of ice during the hot summer months and let the fan blow over the ice to save you from the summer heat.

Can a homemade air conditioner keep you cool?

These contraptions create a cool breeze, but air conditioner buckets do not work as well as traditional AC units on a hot summer day.

Do DIY air coolers actually work?

A bucket air conditioner does actually work, as will a bucket cooler, assuming you follow the aforementioned steps and used a five-gallon bucket.

STAT: In 1558, Giambattista Della Porta described a method of chilling ice to temperatures far below its freezing point by mixing it with potassium nitrate (then called “nitre”) in his popular science book Natural Magic. (source)

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