Good portable swamp coolers? Reflective material for bedroom windows?
June 5, 2006 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Any specific recommendations for brands of portable swamp coolers? Also, where could I find the reflective material used in car windshield shades in sections large enough to fit in my bedroom windows?

My apartment has windows (louver and french) that cannot accomodate either an A/C or a window fan. The living room and dining room stay pretty cool, but when it heats up (like it did here in LA this weekend) the bedrooms are sweltering. An elaborate system of fans set up to create a cross-breeze was only marginally effective.

I've seen portable swamp coolers touted as being a good solution for dry heat. However, the few reviews of particular swamp coolers I've seen online aren't very positive -- I don't know if the buyers were just using them in more humid conditions, or if they really don't work all that well, even in dry conditions. So anyone with any specific recommendations for brands/models that do work well would be great. I'd like to spend in the $100 range.

Also, at the risk of looking like the neighborhood crazy lady (though please note I have only one cat, and it's really my roommate's), I'm tempted to put something reflective up in my south-facing bedroom windows, a la the windshield shade in my car. My google-fu is failing me, though, and I can't find any place that seems to sell such a thing. I also draw the line at actually lining my windows with tin foil and duct tape -- what I envision is something I can cut to fit in the windows during the heat of the day, then take down at night so that I can open them to let the cool air in.
posted by scody to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
dunno about the swamp coolers, but i think the second thing you want is reflective mylar.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 4:19 PM on June 5, 2006

In reference to sergeant sandwich, 3m makes window laminates that filter significant amounts of the UV and offer tinting which should help without subjecting you to crazy cat lady with the tin foil windows persona.

They do make air conditioners that only require a single vent point (something along the lines of a dryer vent in size), something along the lines of this big link. which is just a search on Home Depot for portable air conditioner.
posted by iamabot at 4:35 PM on June 5, 2006

Blah, ignore the big link, it is useless, just search for portable air conditioner. Stupid interwebs.
posted by iamabot at 4:39 PM on June 5, 2006

Reflective mylar is just a thin film. I imagine you're looking for something more like this.

A swamp cooler is only going to work if it can suck a substantial amount of outside air and work into a ventilated space; otherwise it will just cause massive humidity buildup and make everybody sweaty and miserable as well as hot. Basically, a swamp cooler just does your sweating for you. They're nice things to sit near out on the patio, but they're not much good for interior cooling.

If rooms without direct solar gain stay tolerably cool, putting reflective barriers in the sun-side windows is exactly the right thing to do. Anybody who says you're a crazy cat lady can stay outside your cool cave and suffer :)
posted by flabdablet at 4:55 PM on June 5, 2006

I don't know if this would work for you, but if it's just for your bedroom, why not try a small (say 5000 BTU) window air conditioner? I've seen them at Best Buy for as little as $100 U.S.
posted by mykl at 6:04 PM on June 5, 2006

Best answer: I was able to get stuff like flabdablet's mylarized bubble-wrap at Home Depot for relatively cheap. I got it from one of their contractor stores, across the street from one of their regular stores.

I used it to build a my home in the desert but it is very good at bouncing sunlight out and would work well for your purposes.
posted by aubilenon at 6:08 PM on June 5, 2006

Best answer: They're nice things to sit near out on the patio, but they're not much good for interior cooling. posted by flabdablet

I beg to disagree, swamp coolers work great for interior cooling if you are in the right climate. The key is outside humidity must be fairly low and you need lots of airflow through the house. We're in our 4th straight day of temps over 110 degrees and have relied solely on a swamp cooler to remain comfortable.

scody lives in L.A. and that is the perfect climate for a swamp cooler 90% of the time. What scody should look for in a portable cooler is lots of pad area to draw air through and get the cooler with the strongest fan you can find. Also look for a large reservoir because you will need to be adding water frequently unless you jerry-rig a 1/4" water line and float into your cooler.

A portable is a stopgap measure at best, but it would be better than nothing. Once you're up and running, you'll want to experiment with the exit airflow until you get it right for your room. If you open the window too wide, you'll just be blowing the cool air out faster than you need to. If the window isn't open wide enough, the humidity will build and make it less comfortable than it could be.

I've never seen a quality-built portable that would last more than a season or two before the fan motor craps out. If you go to Sears, Home Depot, or Lowe's, you'll stand a better chance of getting a decent quality box than if you buy one ar WalMart. Either way, you're looking at spending about $100-125.00.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:10 PM on June 5, 2006

See this mefi post for the orginal swamp coolers - which were actually desert coolers and may be just right for SoCal - here

See Bob Vila's guide to low-e windows here, but it's really about new windows, not coatings.

This company here makes exactly what you are looking for in the window film department.

For lots of techncial stuff see here.

If memory serves - the stuff that works the best costs the most AND requires professional installation.

posted by Jos Bleau at 8:09 PM on June 5, 2006

Best answer: Scody, you can buy window drapes with reflective metallic fabric sewn into the window-facing sides. My condo in Bangkok had them and they were wonderful: they blocked a very high portion of the heat from the tropical sun, and they kept out so much light I could have my bedroom as dark as cave even in the middle of the brightest equatorial day. I wouldn't know where to buy them in the US, but a bit of googling would probably find them.
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:30 PM on June 5, 2006

Response by poster: thanks for lots of the answers so far -- esp. to buggzzee for tips on what to look for in a swamp cooler. Any other info still gladly accepted!
posted by scody at 8:37 PM on June 5, 2006

See this mefi post for the orginal swamp coolers - which were actually desert coolers and may be just right for SoCal - here posted by Jos Bleau

Have you heard of Nader Kahlili? He's the Iranian-American architect who said. "Every man and woman should be able to build a home for his or her family, using the earth under their feet, and integrating some features of modern technology to make their homes resistant to fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake and other disasters." and invented the superadobe system to make that possible.

Nader has incorporated the badgir's passive cooling technology into his designs by using a windscoop and it works great here in the desert. You can see the windscoop at the top of this building

I've helped build a few of these and have been impressed by how well they handle the extremes of hot and cold weather here in the desert.
posted by buggzzee23 at 1:03 AM on June 6, 2006

Any other info still gladly accepted!
posted by scody

Just don't expect any miracles. scody. The portable coolers work just a little better than a box fan and require refilling the water every 1-3 hours, but they will keep you cool if you're directly in the path of the fan.

One more tip: Replace the blue synthetic pad with an aspen pad. Not only do the aspen pads cool better, your water will last a little longer and they'll fill your house with the scent of fresh, cool aspen.
posted by buggzzee23 at 1:09 AM on June 6, 2006

scody, my mom just tinted her storm door (faces west, no trees around her home) with this material, and so far it's cut down siginifcantly on the glare and heat coming in. You can also remove it in the winter if you like, then put it back up in the spring (but this being Georgia, mom plans to leave hers up year-round).
posted by BoringPostcards at 6:17 AM on June 6, 2006

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