Cool Your Boat Cabin With a Portable DIY Air Conditioner

MarkS just a moment. 0 comments

Some of us out there actually USE our boat’s cuddy cabin, either to get out of inclement weather, for a quick “pit stop” or imagine this: for sleeping! My wife usually insists on an air-conditioned hotel room, but I find the gentle rocking of the waves actually helps put me to sleep.

Of course, there’s a problem with boat cabins — most get really hot after your boat’s been out in the hot sun all day, raging across the water on a Poker Run. Sure, if you’ve got a big-dollar boat with built-in air conditioning, this is no problem, but for many people with more modest rides, the answer to cooling is either an expensive custom built-in unit, something really bulky and ugly-looking, or—the hotel room.

For those of us who are handy, however, I came across this neat project on Instructables (via Lifehacker) where user CameronSS has a guide to building a portable air conditioner out of a small cooler, a cheap bilge pump ($11 unit from Wal-mart) and other materials that you might already have in your garage or basement. Even if you need to buy a few parts, you’re in for about $30 or so at most for the base model. The whole unit runs on ice-power and 12v fans, which can plug into the DC outlet in your dash. Here’s what happened when the builder used it to cool off a hot vehicle:

“...the air in the cab was 95 degrees, parked in the shade after a morning of sun, and the outside heat index was 108 degrees. Within five minutes the cab had cooled to 75 degrees, and the air output was 65 degrees. With two quarts of water that had been refrigerated and 8 pounds of ice cubes, the ice had melted after 40 minutes, leaving 50 degree water, with an output of 65 degree air...”

While it’s not perfect, this project should work decently for many boats under 30’ — depending on the size of the cooler. Don’t forget, you could also put beer in the cooler too, which is a side benefit for many of us.

The Instructables website also has some alternative versions of this air conditioner; some are simpler (like the one above) — using no pump or internal radiator but simply one or two fans, with a warm-air-into-cooler / cold-air-out-of-cooler design. Check them out — I’m sure boaters would have a lot of great customizing ideas to add as well. If you build one - take a picture and send it to us!

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