Even though air conditioning has proven itself one of the big breakthroughs of the 20th century, someone occasionally tries to rig up a contraption they think will work better or at least, cheaper. One such do-it-yourself gizmos is a simple dry ice air conditioner. It might seem easy to make, but there are risks and it’s usually self-defeating in the end. To get an idea, here’s some quick instructions along with warnings of where it can go wrong.

Needed Pieces

  • Styrofoam Box with roughly 8 cubic feet of space
  • Metal Canister no more than 1 foot high
  • Small Fan
  • About 4 feet of half-inch diameter vinyl tubing
  • Duct Tape
  • Insulated Gloves

Putting It Together

Starting with the larger Styrofoam box, cut a 2-inch diameter hole in one side, a half-inch diameter hole in the opposite side, and a hole in the top slightly smaller than the electric fan. The fan is placed over this top hole and duct-taped in place. Next, cut a half-inch diameter hole in the side of the metal canister. The canister will hold the dry ice and tubing is inserted, held in place with duct tape, and passed through the smaller hole in the box so it can vent the evaporating dry ice outside. The potential danger here is that dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and changes directly from a solid to a gas. While carbon dioxide isn’t toxic, if it builds up to about 10% of the indoor air, it can cause suffocation. Since the gas generated by this device is cold, if it leaks in the room, it will settle to the floor and easily reach the 10% level. Pets or young children near the floor will be in serious danger. Finally, dry ice is added while wearing protective gloves. At -109 degrees Fahrenheit, dry ice can quickly cause severe frost burns.

Less Than Cheap Cooling

With the fan switched on, air passes over the dry ice canister and is cooled before it flows out through the larger side hole. With this constant movement of warm air, the dry ice will evaporate fairly fast. At $2.00 a pound, this is not necessarily a cheap cooling method. In addition, if there’s no electric outlet, the fan will need batteries that will drain quickly. If there’s an outlet, it probably makes better sense to just get a portable air conditioner unit and plug it in.