Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Swamp Coolers

A swamp cooler is an effective alternative to an air conditioner. They operate on simple physics: Dry air absorbs moisture through evaporation. Evaporated water absorbs heat. In a swamp cooler, a fan is used to increase evaporation; making the air cooler and distributing it throughout your home. However, swamp coolers are only effective in dry climates with low humidity. It is important to keep ample ventillation and air circulation when using a swamp cooler. They rely on exits, like open windows, to erradicate hot moist air. Evaporative coolers are super energy efficient, requiring only one-tenth the energy needed for a traditional air conditioner.

Bi-annual maintenance is essential for your swamp cooler operation to remain smooth. Exposure to the weather causes a collection of dust and debris throughout the year. High mineral content in your water will cause large deposits in the cooling pads during evaporation.

Luckily, regular maintenance is easy. You should prepare your swamp cooler at the beginning of spring and at the end of fall.

Spring Maintenance
Usually, dry operation (fan only) is adequate in early spring so avoid filling the sump. The water pump should not be used when no water is in the sump. Wait until you are sure there will be no more freezes before filling the sump and connecting the water line to avoid bursting and replacement. If you chould need to replace the water line, copper tubing is easy to install and will last many years longer than plastic tubing.
  1. Turn off the circuit breaker to the swamper, if not already off.
  2. Remove all side panels and replace the cooler pads. Aspen pads are reccommended for cost and because they are biodegradeable. Synthetic pads don't work any better, but they cost more and must be cut to size.
  3. Clean any dust and debris from the water sump.
  4. Remove the sump pump and make sure theimpeller moves smoothly. If minerals or mud accumulate in the impeller housing it could prevent smooth rotation. When this happens, the motor will eventually burn out.
  5. Be sure that the drip-tubes at the top of the cabinet are firmly connected. A small, flexible "snake" can be used to be sure they are clear of any clogging.
  6. Check the V-belt connecting the fan motor to the blower fan. It should be replaced if excessive wear is visible.
  7. Check for free rotation of the blower fan and fan motor. Excessive noise means the bearings have probably accumulated dirt or minerals. Oil the pillow-block bearings at each end of the blower fan. Most fan motors have sealed bearings and will not need lubrication, but if yours has oil fittings, be sure to oil the fan motor bearings also.
  8. Connect the water line to the water source and allow the sump to fill. The float valve should close when the level is about ¾ inch below the level of the over-flow pipe. The cooler pads will hold a significant amount of water during operation. When the swamper shuts off, the water will drain into the sump. If your swamper continually over-flows onto the roof, bend the float-arm down about 1/8th inch at a time and check again. If the water level is too low and your sump pump is sucking air, bend the float arm up about 1/8th inch until the desired level is reached.
  9. Install all side panels and you should be set for the coming season.

Preparing for Winter

Preparing your swamp cooler for winter is basically the opposite Spring Maintenance.

  1. Drain the pump.
  2. Clear out any debris.
  3. Disconnect the water line before the first freeze.
  4. Cover your swamp cooler, or wrap it in a tarp to prevent winter drafts.
  5. Turn off the circuit breaker.

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