DIY Portable Evaporative Cooler

DIY Portable Evaporative Cooler

A customer reached out to us recently with an unusual request: how might the Ice Box air-to-water heat exchangers be used to cool a camper van? The implication was to find a way to cool a small space using a minimal amount of electricity at a remote location.

If your unfamiliar with the Ice Boxes, they're very small air-to-water heat exchangers with small 3/8" connections and a convenient plastic flange/housing for easy connection to existing duct-work. So, in this situation, the customer might install the Ice Box into existing duct-work of his camper van which would take advantage of the built-in vents, and also make use of an efficient blower that's already installed in the van. That's all quite doable, and once installed like this we just need add a steady supply of cold/cool water. So, where does the cold water come from!?

There are at least a handful of options for this, eg: circulating ice water from a cooler, using water from a nearby cold water source (well, pond, lake, stream, etc), or maybe using the RV/van potable tank system. Those options would work to varying degrees, and they all have different pros and cons, but if we need a more perpetual cold water source we'd really need a way to make a cold water supply. In keeping with the low power consumption goal, we can't use a compression cycle (A/C or chiller unit), so we need to be a little more creative and take advantage of an evaporative cooling process either with a closed-loop or open-loop evaporative cooler system that's sized appropriately to service our small space and compact enough for easy portability.

There are many different ways to do this, and the different parts could be sourced to serve their respective purposes, but in it's simplest form it would need:

Some optional upgrades:

  • Autofill Float Valve
  • Drain Plug
  • Sprayer Nozzles
  • Barbed Fittings For I/O Ports

Use in conjunction with: