Summer is upon us and with it brings the high cost of keeping our homes nice and cool. My poor kids live in attic bedrooms where there is no insulation in the eaves of the roof, so their bedrooms get really really toasty warm. Having small children in those bedrooms, and being a single mom, I don’t really dare use a window Air Conditioning unit because I feel like it would make it just that much easier for someone to break into our home, so when I heard about five gallon bucket air conditioners I knew that I had to give them a shot to try to safely cool the upstairs because the two vents up there just don’t cut it.
For those of you that may not be familiar with these particular types of A/C units they work by drawing the air into the bucket with the fan, the air then gets cooled by a frozen gallon of water, and then that cooled air gets released through the pvc pipes…easy peasy. Of course, in addition to being functional, I wanted their Air Conditioner to be fun, so I decided that I would make a few of the five gallon bucket air conditioners, but I wanted to make the one for their room cutesy and I can’t wait until they get to see how cute it turned out because these unicorn loving little ladies are going to go NUTS! Please keep in mind that there is more than one way to do things…I just did these in a way that both made sense to me, as well as made them look a little less manly than many other units that I have seen.
Let’s just jump right into the tutorial. It’s a long one, but I actually do things a little differently than what I have seen other people do when making these, plus I try to tell you where I got the things that I had trouble finding, which is win/win. To start out, I got my five gallon buckets from The Home Depot. I knew that I was going to need a couple of different sized hole saw bits for my cordless drill and I really didn’t want to spend much money so I popped into Harbor Freight to see if they had anything that would work, for cheap, and they had a hole saw set that did just the trick without totally breaking the bank, especially considering that since I have never needed them for a project, who knows if I’ll even need them in the future.
The first thing that I did was mark the buckets where I knew that I was going to want to drill the holes that would have the pvc pipe sticking out. I used 1 & 1/2″ pvc for this project and so I used the 1 & 1/2″ hole saw bit to make the holes in the buckets…go figure.
It was actually much easier to use the hole saw bit than I thought it would be…it’s just really really messy, so plan on a fair amount of cleanup afterwards.
Just showing you what it looks like inside the bucket once the holes have been drilled.
To cut the PVC to my desired length I marked four inches, taped off as a guide for cutting, and then used a hack saw to cut to length.
When I was done with the cutting I decided that the plastic on both the buckets and the pipes were looking pretty crazy because of the sawing so I used a sanding block and sanded them all down anywhere that there was plastic hanging off.
Sanding is a really important step to having a finished product that looks a little better, so don’t skip this step… next I show you guys a pipe without sanding vs one that has been sanded… you just gotta do it.
Next it was time to put the five gallon bucket styrofoam liner into the bucket. This was actually the piece of the project that I had the hardest time finding and every single tutorial that I looked at did not give any direction as to where to find a liner for the five gallon buckets. I was finally able to find them on Home Depot’s website. There was an option of buying a three pack and I went ahead and did the site to store option and went and picked them up.
All you do is pop the styrofoam liner into the bucket.
I taped mine in place to avoid shifting while I was trying to drill through the foam.
Then I used a hole saw bit that was slightly smaller than the 1 & 1 /2″ one that I had used to drill into the plastic. You do this to give the pvc pipe a snug fit…otherwise the pvc pipes will slide right out and you will have to figure out how to get them to stay put…I promise it’s just easier to use the slightly smaller hole saw bit.
Here is what it looks like after the smaller holes have been drilled and then pushed through both the bucket and the liner.
I removed the tape after that and then started in on the lid. This part was fairly easy too, just had to be careful not to cut myself.
I cut out a big chunk of the lid…it was actually cutting off everything except the part of the lid that attaches to the bucket. This provides a place to set a fan on top to allow air flow.
Finding the perfect fans to use for this project was a bit of a beast as well. I ended up getting these 9″ Mainstays brand fans at Wal-Mart and they fit the buckets so perfectly that it’s like they were made for this project. I went with 9″ because I wanted to move as much air as I possibly could with these bucket a/c’s.
All I did to alter the fans was to take out the screws that were holding them to their stands.
See how good they fit onto the plastic ring lid?
The next thing that I did was to drill four holes into each of the lid rings so that I could zip-tie the fan to the lid ring…I knew my kids would be constantly messing with this thing, so I did a little bit of a design alteration to prevent them from messing anything up.
These particular fans have a little piece of metal that I suppose is meant to be a handle…I had to gently (one of the three broke when I bent it because I wasn’t being gentle enough) bend it upwards, but now have a super handy handle to pick the fan/plastic ring up any time that I want to with ease…which is necessary when it comes time to swap out the frozen water jug.
Once the lid was done, so was the whole project, so I threw a gallon of frozen water in there and fired it right up.
I have been super happy with how it turned out too! It’s very functional and I have already noticed a difference with the main house air conditioner kicking on far less than it did before…which was my goal. I wanted to make these A/C’s to try to supplement the houses main A/C because it’s so much cheaper to operate a fan than it is to cool a hole house with an old inefficient central A/C.
Now that I showed you all how to make the basic unit, I wanted to show you a few extra steps that I took to pretty up the ones for my kids. After all the drilling, cutting, and sanding was done I went ahead and used some old spray paint that I had on had to paint the buckets in the kids favorite colors. It took about three coats to get good coverage. I made sure to let them dry for a good hour or so between coats.
I forgot to mention that I had taped off the handles…so now you can see that in the next pics…in case you were wondering.
After the paint had cured (which can take 24 hours plus, so don’t rush it or you’ll be sorry later) I finished putting them together and added one more fun touch… a unicorn decal! I found these particular (9″) decals at an Etsy shop called Mermaids Make It All I fell love with them and knew that my girls would love them too. I just had to be super careful so that the sticker didn’t peel off the paint from the bucket, another reason it’s important to let the paint cure properly.
I gently placed the vinyl and it turned out super cute, at least I think so. I actually talked to Tiffany, the shop owner over at Mermaids Make It All and she said that she would give my readers a 10% off discount, on any of her vinyl (not just the unicorn stickers) if they mention coupon code LSCLDeal at checkout so now you guys can save even more money on this project if you’d like to pretty up your bucket A/C units as well.
Yes, I spent a little more to make them cute and fun, but even so, they’re still way cheaper than a window a/c unit. I’m working on adding a little more whimsy to my life so this was a fun way of doing that…or it’s just a cute piece of decor now.
What do you guys think? I had a surprising amount of fun making them and am excited to see how much of a difference they make in cooling my house this summer. I made three because my cottage really isn’t that huge and I was able to strategically place them throughout the house to keep the cool air flowing through the hole home.
If you don’t paint them, you could actually easily bust one of these out in less than a half hour…so don’t feel like you have to wait for the weekend to come to do one, honestly gathering the materials, and figuring out where to get everything was the hard part (half of which I’ve already done for you), so get right to it!
That’s all I have to share with you all today! If you’re confused at all there are several similar tutorials on youtube so go there if by some chance I didn’t go into enough detail. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog which helps me support my kids! Please make sure to share this post, via social media, with anyone that may find it helpful! ~Sarah
P.S. If you’d like to check out my entire DIY section, go here, I have some other fun projects I have done there too.