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Special Report: How to build a $15 homemade air conditioner

Published On: May 21 2014 11:22:22 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 09 2014 01:53:02 AM CDT

Reporter: Collin Carroll

Now that temperatures are climbing into the 90s and beyond, you can be sure that water and electric bills will rise along with them.

But ABC-7 went searching recently for a cheaper way to stay cool this summer.

The El Paso Extreme Weather Task Force said this area saw two heat-related deaths last summer: a 52-year-old man and a 5-month-old girl. But it turns out that tragedies like these can be prevented without spending hundreds on a new air conditioning unit -- you can do it for less than $15.

"Anything for 15 bucks," said Andy Venegas, 67. "Might as well give it a try."

He said the heat gets to him a lot quicker nowadays.

"If I'm outside, I'll start feeling dizzy, since I have high blood pressure," Venegas said.

Venegas said he spends a few hours a day at the Polly Harris Senior Center on the west side, partly to check email.

"And because it's real cool inside," Venegas said.

But ABC-7 told him he's only a hardware-store run away from having, at his fingertips, chilled air -- cheap.

"If I would have known that, I would have done it a long time ago," Venegas said.

Pick up the following:

Materials:

(1) 5-gallon plastic all-purpose bucket w/lid

(1) 32-inch by 12-inch, 1-inch-thick styrofoam board

(1) 10-inch diameter circular 1-inch-thick styrofoam board

(3) 1.5-inch internal diameter, 2-inch length PVC pipes

(1) 5-inch personal fan

Supplies:

(1) basket saw

(1) 2.25-inch basket saw bit

(1) box cutter

(1) frozen gallon water jug

(1) pair of safety goggles

Directions:

1. Use the basket saw to cut three holes in the side of the bucket, roughly three inches apart

2. Place circular styrofoam board at bottom of bucket

3. Roll up rectangular styrofoam board into tube that fits inside bucket as liner

4. Use box cutter to cut three holes in styrofoam board, smaller than diameter of PVC pipes

5. Wedge PVC pipes into holes

6. Cut hole in bucket lid so that the fan can rest on top of lid and blow air downward

7. Close lid on bucket

8. Place frozen water jug inside bucket

9. Set fan on top of bucket

Venegas was impressed by the results.

"Heck yeah," he said. "Throws better air than those small, evaporative coolers that they sell at the hardware stores. ... It's a good deal. ... Probably uses less electricity."

The jug should stay frozen long enough to cool an area for about five hours.

"Five hours is enough, if you put two gallons in the freezer," Venegas said. "When it runs out, you put a new one."

The task force recommends checking in on your elderly friends regularly this time of year. Tell them to drink plenty of water -- and keep an eye out for symptoms like feeling lethargic or confused.

The group passed out more than 400 free fans last year to needy families and senior citizens. You can contact the El Paso Public Health Department, if you'd like to register for one.

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