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How to fix your swamp cooler ("Overclock" it 50%)

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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.
 
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Step 1: Replace the blue pads with good old aspen

Picture of Replace the blue pads with good old aspen
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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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of Arrange the secondary distribution array
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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

Picture of Remove Spider, Glue it up , Install It again
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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

Picture of Install the pump and supply line and the power connection
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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

Picture of Turn on the pumps for a test
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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

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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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Charlotteg221 days ago

can something b added to swamp cooler water to make it over corroded with salt ,I think my manger may have added something to the water an now its not working properly,plus its full of salt inside out everywhere

ChadD327 days ago

Another great addition to your swamp cooler basin is a Zinc anode ( about $8.50 at home depot ). If you arent familiar, it is a zinc pole about 8 inches long that rests in a plastic bed with a grounding wire. This zinc anode keeps your water nice and clear by attracting all of the hard water deposits and storing them in the plastic container. The zinc anodes last for 1-2 seasons and are self sacrificing... once they are gone simply replace. Not only will it filter the hard water but it will keep your tank from smelling like a mossy swamp.

JeffreyM121 month ago
GlobalFlex1 year ago

Just made a couple gallon jugs of ice and am going to put inside the box and see what happens.

vatosupreme (author)  GlobalFlex1 year ago

How did it work?

I would assume well with temporary results. Evaporation works best when the water is room temp or hotter. Chilling the water will make it more difficult for the water to evaporate. Great if you are standing in front of the unit but not affective long term.

jrand14 months ago
I live in Palm springs and rebuilt a unit on the house that hadn't been used in 15 years and was installed back when the house and as built in the early 60's. I tried the blue pads but could never get the house cool at all. Then went to Home Depot and bought the new waffle wax coated see through pads 6.39 each only 3 needed and already cut to size I only use two water spouts per side for a total of 6 spouts. Now the unit which is actually ducted into the a/c system is like a freezer. I put a thermostat at the vent and it was blowing at 71 degrees when it was 100 outside. I figure the system is so effective now with the new non messy style pads (that do not become mush at the end of the season. The swamp cooler keeps the house cool 25 degrees from the outside. Only one humid days will I use the a/c. I also keep the dial anti algee bacteria bars in the water all year and never drain the system. The water is bacteria free as I put anew cake in every 6 months. No need to over clock just use the right pads and make sure you use the right size pump and motor. I only use a 1/2 hp motor and my daily use of cost is about 1.30 verses 6.00 with the a/c. The key is to crack each window and door just enough to cause a string draw. I think you have a little over kill going. Use the new waffle pads and you will see s massive and cleaner difference). Right now the sun went down its 95 degrees outside and the cooler is keeping the house at 68 degrees. Nones for overkill just make sure the drain holes are cleaned out and the pads soak completely within 40 seconds
do you know what the brand of these cooler pads are. I went to lowes but they only had aspens, those blue ones, and these others that reminded me of a honey comb that were made of what looked like cardboard.
JunardiA4 months ago

I was told my the people who set up my cooler for the year that I didn't need new pads. I always replace my aspen pads. They told me you don't have to if they're still good/clean. True or false?

is there any alternatives materials that i can use instead of evaporating cooling pads?

any one have any experience with coconut fiber mat for transfer media?

tdavis41 year ago

I haven't read all the comments, so if this has been stated, I apologize..

I love this. I'm going to try it out myself. However, you could 'save energy' and frustration and wiring, etc, and could've saved some money on parts without using an additional pump. Just run the original line to the new four / "cross" spider and then run a short bypass line from an empty, unused port up to the original spider.

Voila. All that would be needed is about 3-6 inches of additional tubing and some zip-ties.

vatosupreme (author)  tdavis41 year ago

I found that when I added extra outlet tubes, the flow did not increase very much. That is why I added the second pump, so I could get more flow. But try it with one and update us with your results with the single.

mmestre1 year ago

Thank you for posting this instructable! We're from Florida, now living in Utah and had no clue what we needed to do with the swamp cooler. Good grief! I was so grossed out by the fishy odor! Now we know and I foresee a couple of days up on the roof doing some of these mods!!!

O-Budd-12 years ago
Living in the southwest US, what I do is use the aspen pads but single layered and then use the largest tubing the spider and pump will accept, but the caveat is you need to remove the smaller connector sections of the spider inlet and pump outlet or you might as well stick with the smaller tubing the manufacturer of the unit put in.

This alone helped improve the cooling on a mobile home in Moab UT even though that summer was hotter than the year before ... even long time residents said it was much hotter (120 in the shade)!
mattlth3 years ago
What a great article! I live in Utah, USA, and it's already been over 100 degrees F on several days this summer. So I started surfing for ways to lower the indoor temperature. After looking at the troughs above my pads, I noticed that they were only filling about halfway. So I assumed I could install another pump and go for a 100% increase in water supply. (The holes in the troughs get progressively larger as the water level rises, too.) Plus, I pulled out the high-tech paper pads and replaced them with aspen pads. (Upon inspecting the paper pads, they were only about 66% wet during a 90 degrees F day and on low cool at the time!) After installing an additional pump and an 8-way spider, the result is a decrease of 7 degrees F. (From 82 to 75.) At 4:00 PM, I inspected the pads and they were totally wet. Mission accomplished! Thanks for taking the time to devise and share an affordable and effective way to increase cooler efficacy.
mbush53 years ago
i have a couple of mastercools oon the roof of my house, they are over sized for the area they are cooling but do a very nice job when needed. my issue is that one of them has stoped turning on. i have taken a look and the cooler in question shares a thermostat connection w/ the ac and there have been contact installed on the cooler. the contact are getting signal from the thermostat as they are engaging but the cooler sits quiet. i am a bot new at these although my dad was always tinkering with our as i grew up. anyone have suggestions on what the next step is??
vatosupreme (author)  mbush53 years ago
Sometimes the relays go bad.
So you could check that. Check to see if the motor is receiving current.
smokeynutz3 years ago
I live in Palm Springs and I have noticed the blue sponge pads work much better than any straw ones. They tend to keep moist longer while after about 2 months the others will just drip down into the reservoir.
solarmatrix5 years ago

Hi all,
I live in Melbourne Australia where we have extremely hot and dry summers and as a result I have done a heap of modification and testing of evaporative coolers or Swamp coolers as you call them. My greatest success came from the use of celdex which is the media commonly found in rooftop home /commercial coolers.
It is a specially treated corrugated cardboard which remains rigid, is highly water absorbent, has much greater surface area than aspen and it doesn’t rot and smell like a swamp. The design and angle of the corrugations/ channels forces the air to foil or roll up and down through the material rather than a straight horizontal flow though creating a much cooler and less restricted and more directed airflow.
 I recommend being careful about airflow restriction as the motor/fan relies on flow for cooling and not all portable coolers have a thermal cut-out. I would not recommend multiple layers of aspen for that reason. Celdex is easy to cut to fit and is somewhat self cleaning in operation.
Filtration of the water going through the pump and spider is recommended because evaps filter a lot of dust from the air which ends up in the water reservoir and blocking spreader/spider holes. Flywire or fairly fine mesh around the pump does ok.
Bigger or more pumps will help to a point but the main key is the surface area of the media. I get superb performance from my coolers after mods but the only downfall is they use at least twice as much water. But this goes to prove that I am getting at least twice the performance from them as the more you evaporate the more you are cooling. A friend was seriously fooled into thinking they were a refrigerated air conditioners! I think they need float valves connected to the garden hose as I got sick of trying to keeping them topped up. I also experimented with a solar powered evap cooler made by fitting a small cooler with an auto thermo fan and 12 volt bilge pump from a boat running from 80 watt solar panel. One final note is to the importance of both ventilating the moist air from the opposite side of the room from the cooler and providing the back of the cooler with fresh dry air from outside. This helps keep internal humidity down so your sweat can also evaporate. Hope this is a help for all to stay as cool as I and use little or no power to do so.

This is exactly what I tell My wife: "you have to open the windows for it to work dear"!! I just installed the Low Profile "DURANGO" cooler from BONAIRE.
http://www.bonaire.com.au/evaporativecooling/range.aspx
I live here in Las Vegas Nevada, And this is the first time I've ever seen this type of media. The celdex is very efficient, wets completely, and allows for good air-flow even when salts are built-up. There was the added boon of cutting a 23x23" hole in the wall to install it, as I chose not to mount it in the windo!!!! RRRRRRR!!
Hi, I also live in Melbourne, and we also have a "Swamp cooler" Ours is a fairly recent model, with some handy features. The first, is if the cooler is left for 72 hours, it automatically drains the water, so it's never stagnant. The second is a float valve, so we never have to worry about the water levels. I believe it has paper pads, as we have never had to replace them.
Your friend is overlooking the savings you will achieve at lower temperatures by being able to run the cooler at a lower fan setting. Excellent 'Ible, as I wonder: Hmmm, May-be I can Boost mine!!
ramjet4 years ago
My previous house had a swamp cooler, and I was always looking for ways to improve performance. My best idea was to merely shade the unit. I used a piece of plywood larger than the surface area of the unit and placed it on standoffs on top of the unit. On my current house which we had built, I had the coolers installed on the ground (one at each end of the house) to allow for easier maintenance. They also were in the shade more.
colty774 years ago
You can build a very cheap primitive one of these. A medium large fan with a tub of water placed behind it. The tub is placed on something so that it's top is almost level with the top of the fan. Drape a wetted towel over the edge of the tub... one side of the towel is soaking in the water. The towel will wick the water over the edge of the tub as long as there is sufficient water in the tub.. have a tub also below the towel to collect the dripping water. The fan will draw air over the wet towel, cooling the air.
Cheiron4 years ago
Tinker234: A swamp cooler is a saturated mat of water that has air blown through it by a fan, a pump keeps the mat wet. In this case the mat is woven Aspen. The purpose is to be a cheaper and easier to maintain way to cool your house. I've read they work particularly well in arid climates.

Very nice instructable.
tinker2344 years ago
what is a swamp cooleer more importenly can it cool you down for cheap
use an outdoor thermostat(placed on the afternoon shady side of the cooleraway from any hot metal or asphalt shingles for greater accuracy) set to 95 degrees so that the power to the first pump would be on when switched and the 2nd pump would be on ONLY when main pump is switched AND the outside temp is 95+degrees. and to my previous comment of using mister sprayers you can build a PVC setup(a PVC cube that uses the cooler to hold it up?) to have 2+ levels of sprayers and to point the sprayers directly at the pads for more compete coverage of water on the pads(my cooler uses "green" pads so the water absorbsion is not as good but i have ALOT LESS chance of getting that musty/moldy/mildew smell. maybee i could do some drawings to better express my idea. shoot me a message if your intrested in taking this further
i am wanting to do this mod to my cooler(im a renter so it may not be feasible) but using the ecopump(shaft driven pump) as the secondary pump. the idea i had was to add a water mister system to the outside of the cooler. have 1-2 on top(spraying down) and the same on bottom (spraying up) on each side to pre-cool the air entering the cooler. this may only be usable on days with low wind or when the cooler is on high setting to have more pull for getting the air into the cooler thus pulling in the chilled misted water .my only worry would be the calcium clogging the system so i would highly recommend getting the in-line carbon filter available for these water mister systems. i have nearly no knowledge of swamp coolers as i am from the east coast but would alot of ice(or dry ice) placed in the cooler do any good by chilling the water to be pumped onto the pads?
Jawatech8 years ago
These things don't work very well. We put one in our shop to try it out and all it did was make everything smell like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney. A Large Shop Fan works way better.
If it smells, then you probably have algae or something growing in the cooler. And not having somewhere for the air to go also doesn't help. Unlike AC, a swamp cooler needs a few doors and windows open for it to be effective. Also, some climates aren't suitable for swamp coolers due to high humidity.
yeah these are designed for and work wonders in dry areas.
Omg I love that smell! I went as far as bottling some while on the ride! But now I can make my own Pirate of the Caribbean ride smell!
It is Extremely Humid here in Texas, Usually like 90-100% humidity. so that was probably the reason.
there is ALOT of good ideas here like swapping to a 12 tube spider(or even using 2 spiders..24 tube spider hmmm =:-P ). i didn't know about the ecopump and want to try it out for the 2nd spider. my thought train may sound like overkill but i thought about swapping to the 12 tube spider with a 95 degree thermo switch (to save power via cutting the electrical pump at higher temps) and then adding another 8 or 12 tube spider with the ecopump. but I'm surprised no one has mentioned a new technology called Coolerado coolerado.com uses 90% less energy than an A/C unit. the smallest one for a 1500sqft house can not only be powered by only 450watt of solar cells, it cools any other solar cells you might have to make them make efficient and cools the indoor air without adding or removing humidity to he inside of your house. would have a decent payback time of under 10 years for those of us in the dry desert climate(longer for more humid areas but works well in somewhat humid areas as well
jpatramirez5 years ago
I assumed others had great ideas...glad I checked this. I'm not as "handy" and not sure if I'll try this, but I'd throw these 2 ideas out: **what about painting the entire outside of the unit/box white? Mine is a cream color and I can only assume that by retracting light, I may also retract some heat. **years ago, I remember a commercial on local TV about a "cover" for the cooler...which was essentially a fitted styrofoam box (like those coolers at convenience stores). The idea was to keep the box cooler. There were holes on the sides of this to allow air flow. I have the blue pads and will probably replace them. I got up on the roof just now (Its 103 on the ground!) and was washing off the bird poop. My wife and I noticed that when I came down it was cooler. I wonder if just cooling the box like you mentioned with some water sprinkler could work. Great ideas. Thanks!
Theres a lot of good ideas here thanks. Ive researched a non electric pump called the eco pump it uses the spindle of the fan drum to power the pump its actually is a really good idea to double the flow of water i think the link is www.ecopump.net or check it on you tube. But iam really thinking of getting a 8 spider instead of the 6 that i have running on my window swamp cooler so i have 3 outs on two sides and the normal 2 on one but experimenting with doubling two sides on 3 outs and 2 outs on one or maybe reversing so there is not too much restricted air on the doubled pads
coldbear5 years ago
Aspen is not necessarily the best choice. Lived in Barstow CA for over a decade (think Death Valley). Aspen is better at the absorption than the blue but degrades more quickly and if you have a hard water supply it will cause it to clog really fast. The overall best choice for pads is paper, but that is becoming hard to find. Doesn't have the margin of the blue, nor the traditional appeal of Aspen. Aspen is also right out for those (like me) with tree allergies. Whatever pads you use, change that at least once a season. If in a desert area probably when you first use it around mid April and again around the Fourth of July. Shade for the cooler itself is also a big help.
Ed Jones5 years ago
There is a hotel in 29 Palms that uses Evaporative cooler only. This makes them very environmentally friendly. Check them out at www.sunnyvalesuites.com
robhybrid6 years ago
You want to switch the second pump based on outside air temperature. The swamp cooler is already outside. Just wire the second pump through a thermostat switch on the outside of the housing that will close when the outside air temp rises above 95º F. Problem solved.
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