Solve Your Swamp Cooler Problems

When summer approaches, so does hot weather. If you reside in a dry, arid climate and wish to stay cool and comfortable during the warmer months, a swamp cooler (or evaporative cooler) is an efficient and cost-effective alternative to cool your home or workplace.

windtowerHistory of the Evaporative Cooler

Evaporative cooling has been in existence since antiquity. An early form of the evaporative air cooler, the windcatcher, was invented in Persia and consisted of wind shafts placed on the roof of buildings. These shafts would catch the wind, pass it over water reservoirs, and blow the cooled air into the building.

Although modern swamp coolers are a bit more advanced than these primitive air coolers, the cooling method still remains the same.

10126-mHow Swamp Coolers Work

Today's portable swamp air coolers are essentially large box-like frames containing large fans. Water-moistened pads made of wood shavings or cellulose are walled within the frame and continually soaked by a water pump.

When the fan blows hot outside air through these pads, it can lead to temperature reductions of up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Suitable Climates

Because evaporative coolers add moisture to the air, they are only suitable for climates where the air is hot and the humidity is low. High humidity levels can decrease the cooling capability of the cooler, and can also accelerate corrosion and cause condensation.

For people who live in suitable areas, this type of cooling can be one of the most energy-efficient methods of cooling a home. In fact, evaporative coolers can cost about half as much to install as central air conditioners and use about one-quarter as much energy.

Evaporative Cooler Maintenance Requirements

Evaporative coolers may require a bit more maintenance than refrigerated air conditioners. Since the pads need to be kept wet, the tanks need to be filled with water to ensure proper cooling - anywhere from 3 to 15 gallons of water per day, depending on the unit.

4086-8mAlso, the pads will need to be replaced periodically to prevent debris or bacteria build-up. Without proper maintenance and regularly inspection, it may be difficult to determine why a cooler is not running efficiently, or even if the unit is being over exerted.

Here are some general tips on evaporative cooler maintenance:

  • Check the water level in the tank to ensure that it is at the proper level in the tray. Make adjustments to the float arm if the water is not at the proper level.
  • Change the cooling pads frequently. Twice seasonal pad changes are ideal.
  • If the manufacturer recommends water treatment tablets, use these in your evaporative cooler to control corrosion, prevent mineral build-up, and to freshen the air.
  • Regularly inspect the motor, bearings, belt, and amp draw.

Swamp Cooler Troubleshooting Guide

If you notice that your unit is still not operating correctly even after routine maintenance, see if the following situations apply to you:


Possible Solution

My portable evaporative cooler doesn't start and/or deliver air.Check the fuse or breaker for the cooler. If you notice that the fuse is blown or the breaker is tripped, either replace the fuse or reset the breaker. If the problem still continues, check the wiring within the unit for signs of damage.
My evaporative cooler is running, but there's insufficient air.Ensure that there is enough exhaust supplied to the unit. For portable evaporative coolers without exhaust ducts, the windows or doors in the area need to be open to allow for proper airflow.

We generally recommend that a 2-square-foot opening is to be allowed for each 1000 CFM. If exhaust is sufficient, check the motor and belt tension.

There's sufficient airflow but inadequate cooling.Make sure the water pump is operating and not clogged. Also check the cooling pads, as dry or open spots on the pads can hinder the air cooler's capabilities.
My evaporative air cooler uses too much water.Excessive water use can result from a problem with the valve. If you notice a water leak or problem on the seat of the valve, this should be replaced.
There is a musty odor coming from my cooler.Odors can be caused from either stagnant water or mildew on the pads. Prevent stagnant water by draining and cleaning the reservoir and replacing it with fresh water. If the problem lies within the pads, check these and have them replaced if necessary.

A capful of vinegar added to the water tank can also help to reduce musty odors.

The parts within my portable swamp cooler are showing signs of corrosion. Corrosion and rust can be due to minerals in the water tank or even high humidity levels in the outdoor environment.

If you have a mineral problem, try adding mineral tablets to the water tank. On the other hand, if there is excessive humidity - above 50 percent - the evaporative cooler may not work efficiently, and you should consider purchasing a portable air conditioner instead.

If the above troubleshooting steps don't solve your problem, contact the manufacturer or a professional appliance repair specialist.

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