Can a Styrofoam AC Powerfully Cool down a Van in 5 Mins?

A Styrofoam air conditioner can indeed cool down a van, although its effectiveness may not be as robust as a traditional air conditioning unit. This type of DIY air conditioner works by leveraging a fan to blow air over frozen water bottles or ice packs placed inside a Styrofoam cooler. The chilled air is then expelled through vents in the cooler, creating a cooling effect in the surrounding area.

Building a Styrofoam Air Conditioner for a Van

To construct a Styrofoam air conditioner for a van, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Styrofoam cooler (a common size is 48 quarts)
  • One or two 4-inch x 2-inch dryer vents
  • A 12V, extra-large muffin fan (recommended for low voltage draw)
  • Frozen water bottles or ice packs

Step 1: Cut the Vent Holes

Place the dryer vents on the lid of the Styrofoam cooler and trace around them. Carefully cut out the vent holes using a keyhole saw or a sharp kitchen knife.

Step 2: Cut the Fan Hole

Trace and cut out a hole for the fan, making it slightly larger than the fan itself to allow it to sit securely on top of the cooler.

Step 3: Clean Up the Foam

Vacuum up any excess foam to prevent it from sticking to everything and causing a mess.

Step 4: Load the Cooler

Place the frozen water bottles or ice packs inside the Styrofoam cooler.

Step 5: Assemble and Power On

Place the lid back on the cooler and turn on the fan. The fan will blow air over the ice, and the chilled air will exit the cooler through the vents, creating a cooling effect in the van.

Technical Specifications

Can a Styrofoam Air Conditioner Cool down a Van

  • Styrofoam Cooler Size: Varies, but a common size is 48 quarts
  • Dryer Vent Size: 4 inches x 2 inches
  • Fan Size: Varies, but should fit securely in the hole cut in the cooler lid
  • Fan Type: 12V, extra-large muffin fans are recommended for low voltage draw
  • Cooler Liner: Styrofoam bucket
  • Cooling Duration: 3-6 hours per set of frozen water bottles or ice packs

Effectiveness and Limitations

While a Styrofoam air conditioner can effectively cool down a van, it may not be as efficient as a traditional air conditioning unit, especially in larger vans or during extremely hot weather conditions. However, it can be a cost-effective and easy-to-build option for those looking to cool their van without breaking the bank.


  1. KipKay. (2014, May 26). $8 Homemade Air Conditioner – Works Flawlessly! – YouTube.
  2. Expedition Portal. (2014, April 22). Homemade Air Conditioner | Expedition Portal.
  3. Expedition Portal. (2017, July 20). DIY A/C when camped (ice box air comditioner)? – Expedition Portal.
  4. Lucas, J. (2018, March 19). Homemade Portable Air Conditioner DIY – Version 2 – YouTube.