Help me fix my evaporative cooler without being electrocuted.
June 26, 2011 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Is it OK to perform exploratory surgery on an evaporative cooler?

I bought a portable evaporative cooler (AKA swamp cooler) on craigslist (NewAir Model AF 350) that doesn't seem to be working correctly now that it's home. The fan works, but no water is being transported to the wick. I'm hoping it's something simple, like perhaps some tubing that came loose upon transport. Is it safe to unscrew everything and have a look? I'm not very handy and want to make sure this isn't the kind of appliance that holds a charge even when it's unplugged. And if it's okay to open it up, what else should I be looking for?
posted by Wordwoman to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
Yes it is safe. It seems you have a handle on what a simple machine it is. It's a water pump with a float switch and a fan. No sweat. Check the float switch and the water tubes. they can be fouled by crap in the water or rust from the pan. Also check to see if the water is being pumped but lost somewhere before it gets to the pads. If all that is ok, it's the pump.
posted by txmon at 10:12 AM on June 26, 2011

It should be safe when unplugged; there's nothing in a normal pump and float-switch that'll be storing a charge. Unless the insulation is worn or cracked it should be safe to mess with while plugged in, too (eg, try moving the float switch to see if it activates the pump). Just keep your wet hands away from anything that wasn't obviously designed to get wet.

As txmon says, it probably just something clogged by crud. OTOH, it's also possible that clogged by crud ⇒ pump gets stuck ⇒ motor overheats ⇒ motor burns out (or non-resettable thermal fuse trips), in which case it's not easily repairable, unfortunately.

(Your caution is wise but it's partly based on the fact that TV sets are unusually dangerous to mess with. Most home appliances don't have the tendency to store high voltages for a long time that a CRT does.)
posted by hattifattener at 12:04 PM on June 26, 2011

And the ones that do tend to have stickers on the dangerous bits that say "No user serviceable parts inside". Go no deeper than the outside of any such enclosure you find. I don't expect you'll find one inside a swamp cooler.
posted by flabdablet at 6:35 PM on June 26, 2011

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