How to Fix Your Swamp Cooler ("Overclock" It 50%)





Introduction: How to Fix Your Swamp Cooler ("Overclock" It 50%)

Swamp coolers work ok until it reaches 94 degrees. At that point, they stop cooling as well, because the pump can not get enough water on the pads to keep them wet. So by increasing the amount of water going to the pads by 50% the unit cools the house down faster, and the pads don't dry out.

Step 1: Replace the Blue Pads With Good Old Aspen

The blue sponge pads do not really absorb the water very well and do not cool well at all. So pitch them and replace them with the low tech, sustainable aspen pads. the aspen wood actually absorbes water in additon to creating a curtain of water which makes the swamper cool better. It does get messy at the end of the year but it is worth it. These pads are also cheaper.

Step 2: Materials

you will need the following: (I purchased everything at Home Depot, but any decent hardware store should stock it) A pump, a supply tube, a distribution array ("spider") a pump basket, a basket filter bag, a grounded 3 prong splitter (not pictured) 7" and 14" zip ties... (10 of each should do) a pair of dykes, a utility knife, a radio or cell phone to have someone turn on and off the pump for you and about 2 gallons of water- to drink while you are cooking on top of the roof because you didn't get started until 1:00 pm in the afternoon.

Step 3: Shut Down the Power and Lock Out the Power

ok. Go to the power switch and turn off the swamper. Then take some duct tape and tape it off. Then put a little sign that says not to turn on the power. (if someone turns on the fan motor while you are in there you will get hurt.) Also, you can unplug the fan motor up in the swamper for extra safety.
OK.. notice that there are 8 tubes on the distribution assembly, 2 on each side. We are going to add 1 tube to each side taking the total tubes to 12, our 50% overclock.

Step 4: Arrange the Secondary Distribution Array

Now take the spider and put 4 of the 8 tubes in it so that they form a cross. Then Put it up under the existing one and loosly zip tie it into place ( you are going to cut it down in a minute). Next you need to cut the distribution tubes to length such that they will empty out into the trough. (I had to offset the center of the second spider slightly so each tube is a different length) Measure the distance you need then pull the tube out of the spider and cut it down. then re- insert it. Repeat this on all 4 sides.

Step 5: Remove Spider, Glue It Up , Install It Again

Cut the zip tie that is holding the spider in place and pull the spider out (keeping track of the orientation) then use the glue that comes with the spider to quickly glue each piece in. Then you will need to glue the plugs in for the other 4 holes that you aren't using. Make sure the tubes are pointing down, because you don't get 2 chances at gluing since it welds the plastic.
Now re-install the spider. I used two zip ties to hold it to the original one. I went around it in an x pattern. You may have better, and cleaner ways to do this but the reality is that the roof was about 105 degrees so zip ties seemed great at the time

Step 6: Install the Pump and Supply Line and the Power Connection

Now put the basket filter on the basket, the basket in the water and the pump in the basket. Take the supply line and run it up to the spider alongside the original supply line. (the tubing I purchased tended to kink so I tried to zip tie it every so often to the original to keep smooth curves.) Cut the tubing to length and fit it onto the spider.

Unplug the pump power from the connection and pull that connection out of its mounting slot. I got a grounding splitter to plug both pumps into the power source. (they are now both controlled by the main switch.) I zip tied it to the mounting area making sure that the cords are attched with zip ties and the whole thing is out of the way of the fan, fan belt and the water. You dont want something migrating into one of those areas.

Step 7: Turn on the Pumps for a Test

Now call down and have somone turn on the pumps only and you can verify that you are getting the water comming out of the pump and that the spider is filling the troughs and there are no leaks. Also check that the pads are aligned correctly and you are getting good distribution of the water. Let the pads soak for about 5 minutes and then let it rip.

Step 8: Improvements and Such

I would be interested in ideas to improve the cooling ability of this project.

My business parnter said that the second pump should only come on when it is over 95 degrees outside (to save electricity) and that I should install a second switch for the second pump.. But I don't want to do the wiring.

so, possibly a wireless switch in the swamper with the other switch downstairs. It would be really cool if you could just get the second pump to kick in when necessary, but that is beyond my techability.

Other ideas might involve adding a unit for spraying the inside or outside of the pads with a sprinkler head. to get better distribution of the water on the pads.

Anyway, hope it works for you .



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    120 Discussions


    1 year ago

    So I'm not looking to bash the guy that made this instructable but this isn't going to to do much at all as long as you have a properly sized pump. I'll tell you why, the pump pumps water to trays that sit over top of the pads. These trays have slots in them every inch or so to let water drip onto the pads and on the end are open to let excess water fall directly into the pan at the bottom of the cooler. If your cooler pumps enough water to make it to the end of the trays then the maximum amount of water is already reaching the pads. Pumping more water into the trays is not going to do anything in this scenario.
    Now you can open up these slots a bit more and let more water through but if the bottom of your pads stay wet already then this isn't going to help much.
    In my opinion your best bet is to check the temperature of the incoming air right at the cooler vent and if the further reaches of your house are significantly hotter than this, say 10-15 degrees then you need more air movement.
    If so make sure you have a window partially open in the room/rooms you want to be cooler. I'm surprised how often I have to explain this to my tenants. An evaporative cool is not a closed loop system like an AC unit. You gotta let the hot air a way to escape to let cooler air in.
    Now if you are already doing that and you still need more air movement your best bet is to change out the little pulley on the motor to a larger size. This will cause the squirrel cage to spin faster and move more air. If you cannot get the pulley off you can always buy a new motor with a little more hp and put the new pulley on that. Just make sure to check your temperatures to see if it is going to be worth the effort.
    Now I'm sure you are asking yourself why you should believe me and not the guy who wrote the article. I service 300+ evaporative coolers on a yearly basis and I have a lot of experience fixing/replacing them.
    A final note don't expect an evaporative cooler to be more than 20 to 25 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature. If you are already in that range and you want to be cooler your best bet is to go with an AC unit. This is the reason why you don't see many evaporative coolers in places like Phoenix Arizona, it's just too hot for em. If you have any questions, feel free to message me.

    11 replies

    So whenever I turn on my swamp cooler sand and debris blow through the front grill. I live in the high desert and was wondering if it's possible to take off the face plate of the cooler (It's coming in through the window) and put in a thin filter of some sort?

    Thanks in advance!


    You can do that though it's not commonly done. Just make sure you use a low density filter like the fiberglass media ones. Evaporative coolers only work well with a lot of air flow so you don't want to restrict it very much. I would also check your cooler pads and make sure they are in good condition and fully cover the louvers on the sides. The pads usually do a good job of filtering out debris themselves and if they are in bad condition, I would replace those first.

    Hello have you ever had a condition where the blower is sucking water out of the pads as its going down the face of them which in turn the water spins around the blower for a little bit but eventually spits out into the house... i have the blue pads and im wondering if it has to do with them not absorbing the water and its just going on the face of them which allows the fan/blower to pull the water. the other thing i thought about was possibly the blower is spinning too fast? your help is appreciated

    I have seen that a few times before and it could be a couple different things or a combination of them. First off I have seen where the water isn't soaking into the pad and is getting pulled in. I would go ahead and replace those blue pads with some Aspen ones, they cool better anyway. I have also seen where the pulley ratio was too high and it was just pulling in too much air and sucking the water in with it. Once you replace those pads turn on the cooler on high and put the last side on. If you can see the pads flex in as if they are being pulled towards the squirrel cage, if so then it's moving too much air. (a little flex is normal) One last possibility is that your distribution tray at the top of your cooler pads has a larger hole rusted in it that is letting too much water onto the pad in one spot. One last note, I am assuming that this is a side draft unit and that's why it's pudding water in the squirrel cage housing. If that is the case you should drill a few weep holes so that water can drain back into the pan. Good luck with it.

    I would like you to work on my swap cooler in phoenix. How do i contact you?

    KaseB. The water cooler I have is on a mobile home and its a straight shot into a hallway ceiling register. I removed the register to look at the metal inside and find that it is very rusted. I have scraped off the rust and figured I should paint it. what kind of paint would you recommend?

    A couple ideas. The easiest is to get some

    Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer. It converts the rust to a paintable surface that is supposed to keep the rust from coming through. It is a cheap solution. If you want to go pro - get some POR 15 (it is alot more expensive but works better.) Don't just rattle can it, unless you sand all the rust out, and prime it first. If you don't get rid of the rust it will just come back.

    I would use an acrylic paint like rustoleum to paint it with. Acrylic has good moisture resistance and the rustoleum brand is designed to bond well to rusted metal.

    Believe it or not the issue was resolved just by replacing the blue pads with aspen.. is it that those absorb the water better and don't allow the water to be sucked out?

    Cool thanks! i will try that later today!!

    The best thing to do is to take a look at what is happening inside. Take one of the panels off and see. Sometimes the fan is spinning too fast, but lots of times, the hoses aren't filling the troughs correctly and water is spilling or splashing. Try that and see how it goes.

    Interesting take on it. I have been able to solve many of these problems by fixing the troughs too. This instructable is for when that doesn't work; which is fairly often. Lots of times, I run into a unit where the flow rate is fine, the troughs are open but the pads are still dry. In these situations, this fix has done the trick. I had to do it on 10 units on a commercial building after trying to open up the slots. We had great flow on the units from about 10 am until noon, and then after that, it was so hot, that the water wouldn't make it to the bottom of the pads, even though it was flowing correctly. So I agree, that the first pass is to check your flow, your slots and make sure everything is running correctly. This will solve it 80-90% of the time. When/if that doesn't work then you can try this one. If you set everything up correctly, this is a great fix in these situations.

    I live in Utah and I am looking at installing a cooler in my garage shop. I am looking at the traditional types like the one pictured in the mod instructions and also the MasterCool units which seem to be more expensive and designed different. Does anyone know if the MasterCool units are any good and if they can still be moded like the one in the instructions? I have not been able to find good information on the differences.

    3 replies

    There are two types of coolers sold.

    1. Centrifugal fan.

    2. Axial fan.

    Centrifugal systems: Champion, Phoenix Mfg, Master Cool.

    Axial fan systems: Bon Air, Master Cool.

    Let's talk about the Axial fan system's first. The Bon Air ( Durango ) is manufactured in Australia from domestic and imported parts. The Bon Air uses a Axial fan motor, a single circulation pump, a 3 piece rigid media pad (celdek). and a analog controller. I have installed more than 40 of these units in the past four years and only one unit had a detective pump. The master cool unit, although similar in construction, is manufactured almost entirely in China and is assembled in the united States. This cooler has proved less than satisfactory, I have replaced over a dozen of the units digital control modules over the past two years at a cost to my customers of approximately $100.00 per each cooler, it seems that the control modules fail about six months after the coolers warranty expires.

    The Champion unit uses Aspen pad's. Some models of the Phoenix use Aspen pad's and some models use rigid media. The master cool units ( aero, trophy, ll, etc.) uses rigid media. Replacement rigid media pads range in price from $75-125, depending on the particular cooler.

    vatosupreme is correct about the MasterCool units. They are way more expensive. I got ripped off on a used one.

    They used to be made by AdobeAir and are discontinued. I needed parts for mine and the parts were either not available or more expensive than just replacing the unit with a traditional type. I needed new pads too. The total would have been more than $350.00.

    The traditional type are very easy to service and some maintenance folk don't know how to work on them. I can't remember exactly but the pads for mine were in the $150 to $200 range.

    The difference in cooling wasn't worth the cost for me personally.

    I have had both, (here in Utah) The Master cool works a little bit better, but they are expensive and you have to replace the cardboard insert things every couple years and they are also expensive. I modded the master cool to spray more water also, but I did it a little differently, but same basic idea.

    We installed a swamp cooler about a year ago and it was working fine up until recently. There is no actual leakage but it seems as though the fan is pulling the water out of the air in the cooler and throwing it down to the register and onto the wall of the house. We changed the pads, to no avail. Everything else is working ok with the swamp cooler. We can't figure out why it's doing this. Has anyone heard of this happening?

    1 reply

    Here is a list of possible issues with your cooler:

    1. The pads are worn out and need to be replaced.

    2. The pump is putting too much water into the troughs.

    3. The blower fan is running faster than it was designed to.

    4. The float could be defective or improperly adjusted and too much water is in the cooler pan.

    In order to determine what change has happened since the unit was new and operating normally, you need to be a detective.

    1. If the pads are worn out or were installed incorrectly, the flow of water could be drawn directly into the coolers blower rather than being drawn out of the pads first.

    2. If the pump was recently replaced, a larger pump may have been installed than the pump that was replaced. If your cooler was originally equipped with a 5000 series pump, then another 5000 series pump should be used. If a larger size pump is used in a cooler then what it designed for, there will be too much water put into the water troughs and water droplets can be drawn into the house. A restrictor can be installed on the pump water supply hose to reduce the amount of water that is delivered to the water troughs.

    3. If the blower pulley has been changed or the motor pulley has been changed or misadjusted, the blower may be turning faster than it was designed to. An increase in air pressure can draw water droplets from the pads and or liquid water directly from the coolers pan. Also if any baffles have been removed from inside of the cooler, splash water can be drawn into the blower.

    4. If the float has malfunctioned, too much water may be in the cooler pan and water may be leaking from the pan directly into the coolers ducting under vacuum pressure.

    Simple solution: I have always double padded my swamp coolers - aspen pad on the bottom, blue on the inside, installed both a more powerful pump and motor than came with the cooler (as these parts wore out), kept the pan clean by draining the water and refilling it several times during the summer months and been very happy with the results - the coolers have always worked very well here in the CA high desert. The newer Mastercool is a bigger problem - there's way too much humidity in the air and another problem to figure out.