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Step 10: Chill Out!

Picture of Chill Out!
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All that's left to do at this point is to fill our cooler with ice, plug in our fan, and sit back and let the magic happen!

There are several ways to fill your cooler to power your Hot Dog House AC unit, starting with just simply dumping in bags of ice and turning it on. While this is perfectly fine and will actually result in the COLDEST air, be aware that it will melt faster than any of the other options and that as the ice melts, it will turn into water and you will have to make sure that water level never reaches the fan as it could potentially cause a bit of a shocking situation (which reminds me, while it's perfectly fine to leave your Hot Dog House outside regardless of weather, bring your cooler in when not in use or if it's raining.)

The same goes for block ice. Although it will melt much slower than cubed ice (it should last about twice as long but will admittedly not be quite as cold as it would be if you used cubed ice) you will still end up with a cooler full of water and as this cooler model doesn't have a drain, that means I have to make sure to remember to unplug it and dump it out.

The solution to all of this is to make your own completely sealed ice blocks. This can be easily done two ways:

  1. Frozen plastic jugs of water
  2. Polar Bear Tubes

Because my family drinks a lot of juice in jugs, I am ultimately going with option #1. You can also do this with milk jugs or soda bottles. Make sure whatever you end up using are thoroughly clean and then fill them up about 80% of the way with water. Add in a few drops of bleach to prevent anything nasty from growing in your bottles, screw down the cap tightly and pop them into the freezer for at least 24 hours.

My 38-gallon cooler can easily hold 4 fully frozen 64 oz cranberry juice bottles and still have room enough for a soda can or six (hey, nobody said we couldn't multi-task with this cooler! I am slowly working my way up to 8 cranberry bottles full of water (just have to keep the family drinking cranberry juice 24/7!) which will give me 4 at a time (which should last 2 days at least in the cooler, even with the fan running over 12 hours a day) and leave me with an additional 4 to freeze so they'll be ready when the first 4 melt, making it possible for me to keep the cooler continuously full of ice.

Another option is to make your own Polar Bear tubes, which is very similar to the plastic jug solution but uses PVC pipes instead. Because I'm using my juice jugs and skipping the Polar Bear Tubes, I thought I'd link you all to a great Polar Bear Tubes Instructables by RustonReds99 that explains exactly how to make them.

A WORD OF WARNING...DRY ICE SHOULD NEVER BE USED IN THIS PROJECT.

Dry Ice, while much cooler, is actually incredibly dangerous, especially as I've put a dog door into the house to keep the cool air in the space. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide and has a freezing point of minus 109 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 78 degrees Celsius). As dry ice melts, it undergoes a process called sublimation, in which the solid is converted directly into a gas. If dry ice is stored in an area without proper ventilation, it may cause whoever (or whatever) is in the space to inhale large amounts of the gas CO2, which displaces oxygen in the body. This, in turn, can lead to harmful effects, including headache, confusion, disorientation and potentially, death.

So how does the Hot Dog House stack up?! Well, as you can tell by the photos, it's already very popular! While I'm ultimately going to use the frozen juice bottles, I only had one half frozen one when I started this project and was too impatient to wait for more so I made a quick trip to the market and snagged two 10 lb bags of cubed ice and dropped them right inside. Once the fan was turned on the temperature within the house became noticeably cooler, by at least 15-20 degrees which means on our 90F day, the inside of the house was a crisp 75F...just right for a fuzzy pup.

Right Fat Panda?

And if you're wondering, those two bags of ice were dropped into the cooler yesterday and when I checked on them this evening at 7 pm, I still easily had half left. Depending on what kind of ice you use to cool your cooler, where you keep it (shade is the best!) and how long you run your fan, you should have cool air for at least 24 to 36 hours. That's pretty darn impressive!