How do I get this swamp cooler to work?
July 19, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

How do I make my swamp cooler work best?

The house I rent has a swamp cooler, which I haven't used that much, but now that it's really hot out I've been turning it on -- and haven't noticed it getting significantly cooler. There are conflicting instructions out there as far as how many windows to open, which windows to open, whether to run it on high cool or low cool, whether to leave it on all day, whether to switch it to "pump only" before cooling, etc. I'm most interested in keeping my bedroom cool. I live in a 2-bedroom house in Denver, where it's usually pretty dry but has been a bit more humid than usual in recent weeks. Please help me stay cool!
posted by Clustercuss to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Longtime Tucson (ex-) resident here.

Swamp coolers are only effective to the extent the air is a) hot and b) dry. If the weather's been humid recently, it's not going to work well, and if it's really humid, you're just going to end up making it more damp inside the house.

The cooler has two components: a pump that soaks the pads, and a fan that draws in hot, dry air through the wet pads. Make sure the pump is working to soak the pads before the fan is on, otherwise you're just drawing in air from the outside without cooling it.
posted by holterbarbour at 9:07 AM on July 19, 2011

I always check the dew point temperature to see if I should use the swamp cooler or AC. Once that's above about 50 degrees, the swamp cooler is just going to blow out warm, humid air. At that point you'll be more comfortable just sitting in front of a fan.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:17 AM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: I'm a lifelong swamp cooler afficianado and can tell you there are lots of variables and only a few hard rules when it comes to swamp cooling. Here is a good basic explanation.

Open the doors on the cooler and take a look around while the pump is running. Those black tubes that distribute the water are called the spider. Is each leg dropping a sufficient amount of water? No water at all is a likely indicator the pump is bad and that's a simple job. It's also a cheap job (15-30 dollars for the pump, depending upon gpm flow). Most of them just are simple plug and play jobs. Uneven water distribution thru the spider legs means you need to replace the spider. That's a very cheap and easy job.

Do the pads look fresh or are they dirty with mineral and mold? It's a good idea to replace them anyway if you dont know how old they are. There are several pad choices: cementitious, blue fiber, some kind of papery light green stuff and (my favorite) aspen excelsior. I prefer the aspen because it holds water well, has decent air flow and nothing makes a house smell as good as nice fresh aspen cooler pads on a summer day. The blue pads are great if air flow is your key objective and the light green papery pads might actually cool a little better than aspen but don't have that great foresty scent of the aspen.

As for how many windows and doors you want open, that's going to vary. If your cooler blows enough air to cool the entire house, open as many as you want. If your cooler blows less air, start with closing most opening except for the room(s) being used and experiment with opening (or partially opening) more opening in more rooms until you feel you've reached the optimum.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:28 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have purchased large blocks of ice and placed those in the bottom tray, making sure that the current water level plus the melted ice won't overflow the unit. It's a nice little trick that makes a swamp cooler much more like an air conditioner.
posted by plasticbugs at 12:05 PM on July 19, 2011

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