How and why a swamp cooler works or in some cases doesn’t
If you’ve ever been swimming and gotten cold when you get out of the water, you have experienced evaporative cooling in action. When hot, dry air passes over water (or better yet, through it) the air cools off. Evaporative coolers affectionately known as Swamp coolers or swampers are a cheap and efficient way to cool your home. However, they have many limitations. The basic premise is that warm dry air is cooled by passing through wet pads and into your home. They do not work in areas that already have moist air, ironically places like swamps.
They do work relatively well in arid places such as Colorado. Swamp coolers are an open system. They rely on the flow of air through the building to direct the cool air, and since they need hot, dry air to evaporate the water, it needs to displace the air already in the house. Air from the outside is drawn through the pads in the swamper and then into the house, air from the swamp cooler needs a way out. Opening and closing windows and doors controls the air flow from the swamp cooler to different parts of the house, swamp coolers may use duct work to move cool air to a specific part of the house but it is not as common or as efficient as it would be in a standard A/C unit. Swamp coolers should be placed on the roof or sunny side of the house for greatest efficiency. A note: While it is important to open windows to allow for air flow, there needs to be no more than about ½-1” opening, you want to provide air flow, but not defeat the cooling abilities by allowing too much heat in.
The cooling pads should be replaced every year, the motor and “Squirrel Cage “ or large fan that pulls air through the pads should be oiled every spring, the main water pan should be cleaned and checked for possible leaks. At the end of the season, it needs to be drained and the water line disconnected to prevent freezing, the unit should be covered and the inside vents closed. There is typically a large opening directly from the cooler into your home, if not covered this will allow cold winter air to enter.
On first look evaporative coolers look like a great option; and they can be, however, before you make a determination let’s look at the drawbacks.
Swamp Coolers require water to operate:
They are often placed on the roof to take advantage of the sun adding to the evaporative effect. Putting a metal box filled with water with an opening directly into your home, should be an obvious cause for concern. If the unit leaks, overflows or has other issues it can cause serious damage.
In drought ridden areas, the amount of water usage might be a concern 3.5 – 10.5 gallons per hour
Swamp Coolers work with evaporation:
They require hot dry air to operate, on humid or cloudy days the cooling efficiency drops considerably, they also add a lot of humidity to a home, and if not cared for properly can have a musty smell or even allow mildew and molds to occur.
Since the air is cooled with evaporation it limits the ability of it to stay cool if traveling through duct work. Evaporative coolers are typically installed and designed to cool the most used area of a home.
Fesmire Heating and Air Conditioning installs and services Evaporative coolers or “swampers” as well as Central Air Conditioning, both can be connected to a thermostat so they come on when the temperature rises above the set level. Please contact us at 719-240-5109 to discuss which option is best for your needs.