This LEGO Air Conditioner Is Cooler Than Yours

What’s the coolest thing a person can build with LEGO? Well it’s gotta be an air conditioner, right? Technically, [Manoj Nathwani] built a LEGO-fied swamp cooler, but it’s been too hot in London to argue the difference.

This thoroughly modular design uses an Arduino Uno and a relay module to drive four submersible pumps. The pumps are mounted on a LEGO base and sunk into a tub filled with water and ice packs. In the middle of the water lines are lengths of copper tubing that carry it past four 120mm PC case fans to spread the coolness. It works well, it’s quiet, and it was cheap to build. Doesn’t get much cooler than that.

[Manoj] had to do a bit of clever coupling to keep the tubing transitions from leaking. All it took was a bit of electrical tape to add girth to the copper tubes, and a zip tie used as a little hose clamp.

We think the LEGO part of this build looks great. [Manoj] says they did it by the seat of their pants, and lucked out because the copper and plastic tubing both route perfectly through the space of a 1x1x1 brick.

DIY cooling can take many forms. It really just depends what kind of building blocks you have at your disposal. We’ve even seen an A/C built from a water heater.

See How Wildly Different Air Conditioners Can Be (On The Inside)

Air conditioners are easy to take for granted. From refrigerators to climate control, most of us would miss them dearly if they disappeared. That’s part of what draws [Josh Levine]’s interest in air conditioners, and he has provided an interesting tour of several different units and how different they can be, despite all working in basically the same way.

That white PCB is crucial (for running the bluetooth speaker and LED flashlight, that is.)

One way that air conditioners try to stand out is by being quiet, and the bulk of noise comes from the fans and the compressor. One unit (the Haier Serenity) aimed to be the quietest unit possible, but while this effort had mixed results at best it is still interesting to see [Josh] give a tour of the different ways they tried to reduce noise (YouTube, embedded below). Noise-limiting elements include the unusual step of using separate motors for the indoor and outdoor fans, and even little counterweights to ensure they are perfectly balanced, just like wheel weights on automobile tires.

Another notable air conditioner is the Zero Breeze, a portable unit that was the product of a Kickstarter campaign. Features included (either bizarrely or predictably, you be the judge) a bluetooth speaker and an LED flashlight. [Josh] more than half suspected the product would never actually ship, but was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it deliver, it turned out to be a pretty nice design with only a couple of mildly head scratching moments (YouTube, also embedded below).

There are a few more to check out in the roundup on [Josh]’s web site, which he also compares and contrasts with his own DIY unit which we featured in the past.

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Down The DIY Rabbit Hole With A Shop AC Installation

There’s a fine line between a successful DIY project and one that ends in heartbreak. It’s subjective too; aside from projects that end up with fire trucks or ambulances in the driveway, what one DIYer would consider a disaster might be considered a great learning opportunity to someone else.

We’re pretty sure [Cressel] looks at his recent DIY mini-split AC installation for his shop as a series of teachable moments. Most folks leave HVAC work to the pros, but when you run a popular YouTube channel where you make your own lathe from scratch, you might be persuaded to give anything a go. [Cressel] did everything possible to do this job like a pro, going so far as to get training in the safe handling of refrigerants and an EPA certification so he knew how to charge the system correctly. He also sunk quite a bit of money into tools; between the manifold gauge set, vacuum pump, and various plumbing bits, that was a hefty $300 bite alone.

The install went well until he started charging the refrigerant, when a mistake with a fitting caused him to contaminate his nice, new batch of R-410A. Rather than back out and call a pro to finish up, [Cressel] stuck with it, to the tune of $900 in extra tools and materials needed to recover the old refrigerant safely and replace it with virgin R-410A. The video below has a condensed version of the whole tale.

It all worked out in the end, but at a cost that probably meets or exceeds what an HVAC contractor would have charged. [Cressel] seems like a glass-half-full kind of guy, though, so we expect he’s happy to have learned something new, and to have a bunch of neat new tools to boot.

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Simple Jig Uses Electromagnet For Clean Angle Grinder Cuts

We like it when hacks are literal hack jobs, put together with what’s on hand to do a specific job. This quick and dirty angle grinder circle cutter certainly fills the bill, and makes decent cuts in sheet metal to boot.

The build starts with an unlikely source for parts – an old automotive AC compressor. The one that [Made in Poland] chose to sacrifice was particularly nasty and greasy, but after popping off the pulley, the treasure within was revealed: the large, ring-shaped clutch electromagnet. Liberated from the compressor, the electromagnet was attached to a small frame holding a pillow block. That acts as an axis for an adjustable-length arm, the other end of which holds a modified angle grinder. In use, the electromagnet is powered up by a small 12-volt power supply, fixing the jig in place on the stock. The angle grinder is traced around and makes a surprisingly clean cut. Check out the build and the tool in use in the video below.

At the time [Made in Poland] recorded the video, he noted that he did not have a plasma cutter. That appears to have changed lately, so perhaps he’ll swap out the angle grinder for plasma. And maybe he’ll motorize it for even smoother cuts.

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Cryptanalyse Your Air Con

Infrared remote controls are simple and ubiquitous. Emulating them with the aid of a microcontroller is a common project that hackers use to control equipment as diverse as televisions, cable boxes, and home stereos. Some air conditioners can be a little more complicated, however, but [Ken]’s here to help.

The root of the problem is that the air conditioner remote was using a non-obvious checksum to verify if commands received were valid. To determine the function generating the checksum, [Ken] decided to bust out the tools of differential cryptanalysis. This involves carefully varying the input to a cryptographic function and comparing it to the differences in the output.

With 35 signals collected from the remote, a program was written to find input data that varied by just one bit. The checksum outputs were then compared to eventually put together the checksum function.

[Ken] notes that the function may not be 100% accurate, as they’re only using a limited sample of data in which not all the bytes change significantly. However, it shows that a methodical approach is valuable when approaching such projects.

Thirsty for more checksum-busting action? Check out this hacked weather station.

Air Conditioner Speaks Serial, Just Like Everything Else

Like so many other home appliances, it’s likely that even your air conditioner has a serial interface buried inside it. If you’re wondering why, it’s because virtually every microcontroller on the planet has a UART built in, and it’s highly useful for debugging during the development process, so it makes sense to use it. Thus, it was only a matter of time before we saw a hacked airconditioner controlled by a Raspberry Pi.

[Hadley] was growing frustrated with the IR remote for his Mitsubishi air conditioner; it can issue commands, but it’s a one way interface – there’s no feedback on current status or whether commands are received, other then the occasional beep or two. Deciding there had to be a better way, [Hadley] grabbed a Saleae Logic Analyser and started probing around, determining that the unit spoke 5 V TTL at 2400 bps with even parity. The next step was to start talking back.

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Arduino Replaces Bad AC Thermostat, Hacker Stays Cool

Most of North America has been locked in a record-setting heat wave for the last two weeks, and cheap window AC units are flying out of the local big-box stores. Not all of these discount units undergo rigorous QC before sailing across the Pacific, though, and a few wonky thermostats are sure to get through. But with a little sweat-equity you can fix it with this Arduino thermostat and temperature display.

We’ll stipulate that an Arduino may be overkill for this application and that microcontrollers don’t belong in every project. But if it’s what you’ve got on hand, and you’re sick of waking up in a pool of sweat, then it’s a perfectly acceptable solution. It looks like [Engineering Nonsense] got lucky and had a unit with a low-current power switch, allowing him to use a small relay to control the AC. The control algorithm is simple enough – accept a setpoint from an encoder, read the temperature sensor, and turn the AC on or off accordingly. Setpoint and current temperature are displayed on an OLED screen. One improvement we’d suggest is adding a three-minute delay between power cycles like the faceplate of the AC states.

This project bears some resemblance to this Arduino-controlled AC, but it seems more hackish to us. And that’s a good thing – hackers have to keep cool somehow.

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