Introduction: Figjam's Swamp Cooler

Picture of Figjam's Swamp Cooler

This is a rendition of figjam's solar Swamp cooler. it works pretty well and is great for keeping you cool when you are in the hot hot heat! This is a great piece of equipment have when you want to be able to cool things down while you are camping or at burningman (like I will be!).

Step 1: Gather Your Gear

Picture of Gather Your Gear

Things you will need are pretty simple.

- submersible pump ($9.00): you can find them at your local hardware store. I went to harbor freight and they had a few to choose from! figjam's version uses a solar pump which is 12 volts and pumps about 42 gallons per hour. I loved the idea of having it be completely solar, but when I tried it out, there wasn't much power going through it, and if there is any over cast, it won't work at all. and for 20 bucks i didnt think it was worth I opted for one that I can plug in that I'd 120 volts.

- cooling fan ($7.00): I bought this at Frys. it's a 12 volt 120 mm fan and goes at about 96 cfm. it pretty much means the pumping power. There are cheaper and different ones you can buy out there. I picked this one bc I was going to splice it to the solar pump, but when there wasn't enough power going to it like I wanted it to, I found a 12 volt ac adapter that worked perfectly for it!

- homedepot bucket ($7.00): I bought the bucket and the lid because it's the perfect travel size. Figjam drilled 2 inch holes into the sides, but I just did 1 inch ones and had more of them for air to get into the bucket.

- cooling pads (9.00): homedepot has some and they are pretty cheap. I bought one sheet which was 28th I think. be careful when cutting these because they get messy!

- hose and T connector ($4.00): again homedepot lol. I got these in the lawn and garden area. It's a 3/8 diameter hose and same for the T connector. you are just going to have to cut to fit.

- drainage hose pieces ($14.00): the size is about 4 inches for this. It fits completely over where the fan goes and makes for good air flow.

Step 2: Do the Dang Thing!

Picture of Do the Dang Thing!

1.First thing I did was drill the holes in the bucket. I placed them pretty close to each other and made sure I had plenty of them to go around.

2. cut the cooling pads. I cut them in different sizes. The first is 33 inches by 13 inches. it should let it fit perfectly in your bucket with out overlapping. The second piece should only be 24 X 13 inches. and you will roll this one in tight with the original.

3. cut the drip hose to size, and make it make a circle. This is for the water to floe from the pump and drip into the cooling pads. now you're gonna have to poke holes into the circle of the hose. I had a soldering iron and was able to burn the holes with great ease.

4. connect the hose to the pump. I wanted to make sure the hose and pump worked properly so I tested it out to make sure that everything worked. yay for me!

5. fan and lid. first thing i did was took a marker and traced the inner circle of the drain pipe. After getting the size and spot of where I wanted it, I cut out the piece of plastic from the lid. I screwed the fan on the bottom of the lid so I could save room and have the fan pump the air directly out of the bucket. I took the fan and was able to splice it to the ac adapter with ease.

6. Drain pipe. The pipe and connector fit perfectly into each other. After I was able to get them done, I just glue the pipe to the topside of the bucket lid. i made sure it covered the whole hole and that the fan would only be pumping into the pipe.

Step 3: That's It!

Picture of That's It!

Make sure you test it out and use clean water. but it works perfectly and since mine need to be plugged in, I just use my solar portable generator that I built to power it.

hope you liked it, and have fun out there!


JuanH60 (author)2016-08-02

Would reversing the fan and pushing the air into the bucket and forced out through the pad make this work any better? I'm asking because I designed a similar system using a 48qt cooler and an inline fan pushing air into the cooler and out through a series of holes i drilled.

StevenH79 (author)JuanH602016-10-02

It is more efficient to pull the air through the pads. Swamp cooler on rooftop houses do the same, pull in thru pads. Also a propeller fan is three times as efficient as a squirrel cage fan, uses 1/3 the power for the same cfm.

StevenH79 (author)2016-10-02

A solar panel would have to have an output HIGHER than the amperage required for dc use. 12vdc requires 10 times the power that you get from 120vac. Also you'd better have four times as many 1" holes as 2" holes to flow the SAME amount of air.

billbucket (author)2014-07-23

I'll be at the burn this year too. Where will you be getting 120v on the playa?

wyocoyote1 (author)billbucket2016-06-20

his is 12v

a206h (author)billbucket2014-07-25

You get 120v from the sound camp that is near/next to your plot. Bring a 100 foot cord, happy brownies or other sundry gifts, and see if they mind you plugging into their generator :)

victorg6546 (author)billbucket2014-07-23

I've actually built a solar generator. I will be posting an instructable on that prolly a little later today.

wyocoyote1 (author)2016-06-17

I tried to reply to specific comments below, the one about adding ice for my latest comment.

and the one about how big a solar panel for the latter comment. Instructables wasnt working right, I'll try and move them later: Be cool! Ha.

wyocoyote1 (author)2016-06-17

Not sure that is the case, and I sure want to know. if the h20 is cooler but not ice will that mean more evaporation perhaps even cooler evaporation by the warm dry air flow through and over the wicks, I believe so. of course a chunk of block ice wouldn't wick.

Warmer water well the closer the water is to the ambient temperature less cooling.....correct?

The drier the air the better, this I know.

Some expert schooled in the sciences better that I please give us the science (outside of the relative humidity. will ice water work better at cooling in an evaporative cooler that water x degrees below ambient temperature or is there some ideal gap for the evaporation point of water......I'll try both ways on my swampy for a proof is in the pudding response.

wyocoyote1 (author)2016-06-17

Without having profound electrical knowledge. a motorcycle battery and a 10 to 20 watt solar panel should do the trick. there is a nice price point on 50 watt solar panels and they are a convenient size. so why not.

You can get the numbers you need off your two "appliances" your fan and your pump and match that too your panel/ batts. I'll post my numbers. Please correct me if I'm wrong with your best nice folks, but you can not really oversize your battery, you just need enough electricity from your panel to charge what your swampy and??? are drawing factoring in for losses. I have a feeling there is a balance here to be achieved: too much water pumping over the wick: not enough evaporation. too many cfms of air could be too much evaporation of just defuse the nominal cooling?????? to powerful a fan in a small tent or hexayurt might be uncomfortable.....noise from a fan too small or big yet another consideration.

Was going to use a 4 inch inline fan and may in the future with a fan muffler.

EUREKA! for more efficiency why not have a drip swampy with no aquarium pump?

there must be a way to get optimum drip and and have but a bit of water to pour up higher when not evaporated, or even to have flow stop w/o power. Ay yi yi, I'll post if achieved.

On amazon and else where there are solar submersible pumps that come with a 5-10 watt panel, it may be that that would run the fan too and if you just want a daytime solution you could skip the battery "bank" perhaps. there are some decent battery operated fans that also will run off 12 volt. one could mount one of these and use rechargeables.

A nice jumper pack in conjunction with a solar panel is a great way to go. This is how I run my ARB fridge freezer which draws far more than a small DIY swamper. Also ideally if you are "boondocking": you want you place of rest in the shade and your panel in the sun, so you want long leads of the correct gauge or other portability.

ggallen103 (author)2014-07-23

Dump some ice into the bucket to really give it a kick start - Of course you have to be able to get the ice - and at those temps, I'm sure it will only last for a couple hours. Or use the gel packs if you have access to a freezer to refreeze them.

MarkU3 (author)ggallen1032015-08-21

actually swamp coolers work on the cooling effect of water evaporating. Adding ice to the water you want to evaporate makes it harder to evaporate and is counter to what you want to do. The only way this would help is if you had a separate compartment that the already chilled air goes through and receives a second chilling from the ice.

Kinnishian (author)MarkU32016-04-01

Hi Mark,

the water in the swamp cooler is not boiling, but being evaporated by the dryness of the incoming air and it's capacity to hold water. So the cold water would indeed just be colder after it pulls into the air. But, I suppose, the colder air could not evaporate as much water. So the end would be your configuration (amount of cooler pads, amount of air) might need to tweak a little for optimal performance, but pre-cooled water would result in a little colder air.

That said, I don't think it's a good use of ice water. The 'cooling' in ice is something like 4kj/mol, and in evaporation of water 48kj/mol. Don't quote me on the numbers, but the point is it's a many fold greater energy change in phase from water --> gas than from ice-->water

Kinnishian (author)Kinnishian2016-04-01

6.7 is the difference when I later looked it up.

beamer.smith (author)ggallen1032015-06-23

You could freeze water in a jug or two.. it adds to the cool.. and you could drink it if needs be... or pour the melted water into the bucket to replentish..

victorg6546 (author)ggallen1032014-07-23

Ice sounds like a great idea! ice can be purchased at camp arctica at burningman, it's the only thing that can be bought there, except for coffee at center camp!

raymond.jimenez.906 (author)2015-04-28

Does anyone know how to step by step use batteries(size?) to power the device, then charge the batteries via solar panel(size?)?

tom.hobart.3994 (author)2015-04-06

The original designs can be found here............

They are all 12 volt and can run 5 or 6 hours a day for 8 days on a 115AH deep cycle battery, without having to recharge.

joe.andolina made it! (author)2014-12-09

This thing was great thanks for the ible.

spark master (author)2014-07-25

so you suck air through a dripping pad, dropping the temperature a nice 10-15 low does the humidity need to be. They still use these in places like New Mexico, they do work...but how dry does the air need to be?

sarrabeth (author)spark master2014-08-07

I have lived most of my life in California's Mojave Desert, where swamp (or evap) coolers are in most homes. Our average daytime humidity is under 30. Swamp coolers are least effective when the day is overcast and working up to a rain. Interestingly, once it actually starts to rain, the swamp cooler works well. On a normal, dry summer day, a good swamp cooler can shave 40+ degrees off the temp.

victorg6546 (author)spark master2014-07-26

I have no idea about humidity, but I live in sacramento and works fine with me, plus the playa is incredibly arid and dry, which is exactly what I want for it.

throwedoff (author)2014-07-28

Your "swamp cooler" would be more effective if it had more than one little row of holes at the top of the pads to draw air through. Your design greatly limits the amount of heat transfer and evaporation you are able to achieve. If you look at a commercially built residential "swamp cooler" three of the four sides are completely louvered for air flow across the pads (sometimes all four sides are louvered in the case of roof mounted evaporative coolers). They are also scaled in size. The larger the space the larger the size of the evap cooler while the drive motors and air handlers (fans) see some variation in sizing, it is not necessary to scale the air delivery system up as much as the evaporation side of the unit when increasing capacity.

jjaminc (author)2014-07-24

I think I am missing something. I think one end of the hose go into the water in the bucket and one end to the pump. Where is the third end of the hose going to? I'm trying to understand the use of the pump. What is it pumping the water to?

phoe (author)jjaminc2014-07-26

I'm a bit perplexed about the pipework too, and think the instructions are missing a bit of description about how it's supposed to work.

I *think* the pump sits in the bottom of the bucket, which is part filled with water, and the output goes to a "T" at the top of the absorbent pads, soaking them from the top ? - connected like "---O" from the pump (to the left) to the top of the bucket (the "O" to the right)

The fan to move the air is then mounted to the lid of the bucket, and draws air through the holes in the bucket, through the damp pads, and the pipe above lets you make it slightly directional. The moist air probably provides evaporative cooling - when the water evaporates, it provides a cooling effect.

I suppose if you have a material that wicks the water well enough by itself, you could do away with the water pump completely - all it's likely to do is generate heat and warm the water up, which isn't really the idea (unless that helps the evaporative cooling effect ?)

victorg6546 (author)phoe2014-07-26

You've pretty much got the idea. The pump connects to a hose, the hose connects, and makes a closed circle. The water drips through the holes in the circle, into the cooling pads. The fan pumps the air out. lol its pretty simple.

T_om (author)2014-07-24

Before people spend time and money on this, be advised that swamp coolers only work well in areas of low humidity. When we lived in Lancaster California (in the high desert above LA), our house had two swamp coolers that worked perfectly as air conditioning all summer. They cooled down the whole house. But we had very low humidity.

We live in Florida now and swamp coolers are useless. With high humidity they just make everything get soaking wet instead of cooler.

boocat (author)T_om2014-07-24

Great point. My grandmother lived in Sacramento fifty years ago and used a swamp cooler in her little apartment. It worked very well. It was basically a bladed fan mounted behind an upright, flattish wire box (reminiscent of a box springs under a mattress) that was filled with a mat made of straw. The bottom of the straw mat sat in a pan that always had a pitcher's worth of water poured into it, so the straw wicked it up and stayed damp. So much for 1960.

t.rohner (author)boocat2014-07-24

I like the idea.

But then, i'd like it with a smokestack for the airdraft. No el. power...

As you mentioned. Pretty useless in humid areas. Hopefully you have water in the deserts... Around here, it can be "hot" and humid, like at the moment i'd like to have a air conditioning. Or it can be hot and dry, which i like much better. (It happens here when the wind blows over the alps from the south. Around LA, it's called Santa Ana wind. Nice and dry, except when bushfires are raging...

Definitely not really cool in the swamps.

Bobey (author)2014-07-23

I know someone who did it with a cooler

MFCK (author)Bobey2014-07-24

I think you can get arrested for that..

nwlaurie (author)MFCK2014-07-24

Yeah ... maybe ... but worth it!

Eh Lie Us! (author)nwlaurie2014-07-24

Will you guys cool it with the wise cracks, please?

(insert cymbal sound)

mid_life_crisis (author)2014-07-24

What exactly are the cooling pads and what department were they in? Pictures of the packages the parts come in are helpful for finding things like this in stores.

Okay, Google is your friend. It's a "replacement evaporative cooler pad".

All I did was ask the guy at home depot where they store the evap cooling pads. He took me straight to them. They were in the area where all the fans and ac units were.

Carleyy (author)2014-07-22

Very cool! I've never seen it before. How does it compare to a store bought air conditioner?

victorg6546 (author)Carleyy2014-07-22

a store bought air conditioner is going to be leaps and bounds better. But this is great and portable and can be taken anywhere. It does work well enough to def cool my tent down by 20-30 degrees!

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