DIY Baby Swampy (small Evaporative Cooler)




Evaporative coolers extract heat from the air in order for the liquid (water) to evaporate. The baby swampy is an idea I've had for quite a while, using the wicking power of common swamp cooler pads, and some household items and tools. We can build a small, portable, personal evaporative cooler. "baby swampy"

Keep in mind, this will not cool off your entire house, or maybe even a room. Evap coolers work best in hot dry climates, when the humidity is very low. The principle however, can cool off an entire house. That being said, become creative, the more air you move through your cooler, the more evaporative capacity your cooler has. I chose this design because it's cheap, simple, and it doesn't require anything other than what I had lying around.

Step 1: Tools and Items.

Some things you'll need and others you won't I chose to solder and shrink wrap mine (not a huge fan of house fires or electrocution), you may choose to tape it or use butt connectors (not shown). One thing I didn't label on the picture is the power supply, which deserves it's own paragraph.

* Power supply -  for this I used a 9.6v power supply I robbed from an old guitar pedal or something. I have others lying around but this one had already been used to power a similar fan, so I felt that it was adequate. A switch would have been a nice touch, but I couldn't find one that wasn't in use.

* Solder Iron  - Only needed if you plan to solder and shrink wrap or tape your connections (suggested method). If your not soldering be sure you have an strong connection with your butt connectors and what not. I will not be held responsible for you electrocuting yourself, your children or your pets. Nor will I if you burn your house down. I might feel some sympathy, but I doubt it.

* Swamp cooler padding -  Obtainable from any hardware store, this was left over from replacing mine in my big swamp cooler, if you can't come across or afford any, I'd maybe suggest an old cotton t-shirt, sponges could work, but I don't think they'd let much air through them, I suppose you could consider paper towels.

* Fan, shroud, and mounting hardware - The fan was a 120mm computer fan, they're rated at 12v (I know, I know. My power supply is only 9.6v) try to use a fan that matches up with your power supply as well as possible. Computer fans are all 12v. Household fans are almost all 120v (wouldn't suggest this for the inexperienced). 

* Shrink wrap, electrical tape (or butt connectors) - You have to isolate those connections from the outside world, or worse, each other. I would suggest the shrink wrap, but your choices are your own. If you choose electrical tape, at least solder the connections and inspect before every use. If you use butt connectors, tape it any way, these things have a way of wiggling themselves loose. I've stopped using them almost entirely.

* Scissors - choose some you don't care much about. Your sister's, mother's or wife's best pair will do perfectly ;) for this I chose some that'd already been sprung, and probably should be thrown away, but they're awesome for cutting random things, and cutting open " Otter Pops"

* Container - This can be almost anything, be sure that it has a big enough surface to mount the fan, the one shown is a disposable tupperware type container (these are very brittle). If using a larger fan, I'd totally suggest a five gallon bucket. 

* Screwdriver, pliers and wire strippers - The wire strippers aren't shown here, and I didn't even end up using the pliers, but if I really need to explain these tools to you then maybe you shouldn't try this.

* Drill and bits - At the very minimum you should have a rather large one and one in the range of 11/64 (if using a similar fan). If you're lacking a drill and bits you could possibly get by with a precise cutting instrument and an awl of sorts.

* Heat gun - you'll only need this if you're using shrink wrap, a blow dryer works, or even a cigarette lighter. The gun shown is the type built to remove paint, but it works wonders on shrink wrap in only a few seconds. It's also incredible for scrapping parts from circuit boards, if you're a tinkerer this is a very handy thing to have in your arsenal, and they're rather inexpensive at wal-mart.

* Pile of dishes and dirty working area (kitchen counter) - entirely optional. If you're married you might be in trouble for tinkering instead of cleaning, in my situation the wife thought the baby swampy was cute, and then laid down for a nap. Exercise your own judgement here.

Step 2: Cut Hole for Fan

You want this to be about the size of your fan blades. I placed my fan on the lid, and traced around the inside with a pen. For cutting I would have rather used an exacto type knife, but as always, half of my tools are exactly where I left them and I have no idea where that is, so I used scissors. Centering the fan as much as possible is probably desired, as you can see my hole wasn't very center, but as it turns out, it was a bit lopsided as well, so it became quite a bit more centered before I mounted it up.

Step 3: Mounting Your Fan

This part was actually one of the more difficult parts of the project. The flimsiness of the lid made it hard to line up with the holes correctly between the lid, shroud and fan. As you can see, computer type fans have the direction of air-flow labeled, which is a convenience. Most fans in correct polarity will be pushing air outwards, you may need to experiment with this. You need your fan to be drawing air through the container, this is going to help the pads stay moist. I'd imagine it would still work in the reverse direction, but my thoughts were, that drawing the air up through the container would help pull moisture into the pads. Feel free to experiment. 

Step 4: Intake Holes

For this step, try to think about the flow of air through your container, as well as how much reservoir you want. I chose to do 3 holes on each side pretty much in the middle of the depth of the container, all level with each other (give or take). The purpose of this step is the most airflow, without compromising the structure of your container. As you can see, the bottom of my container changed, I cracked the initial one while drilling. You'll want to use a high speed, and try not to force your bit through it. If not using a drill, a dremel would be ideal, but I'd imagine you could use a razor knife or probably even scissors.

Clean up the holes as best as you care to, it's not really going to affect the outcome of it, but it looks better.

Step 5: Padding

The entire purpose of the pads, or whatever material you're using, is to soak up water (such as a wet paper towel will soak water up through it even if only part of it is immersed in water). Also, it needs to be permeable enough that the air can flow through it. I had extra swamp cooler padding, which seems to be perfect for the project.

I wasn't extremely precise through the entire production of mini swampy, and this isn't really a step that needs to be either, It's better to cut the pads a little bit bigger than what you think and then trim them to fit. You definitely don't want air traveling through the container, without constant contact with the pad, that's wasted efficiency. Cut them a little bit big and trim off the excess, use the scraps to fill in gaps and you should be good to go. Don't try to squeeze the pad in there, that would limit it's ability for airflow, just look for the perfect fit. 

Once you get them set up, be sure to test the lid, if it's a low lying lid you might need to trim some excess off your pads, on the finished product I had it so the pad was just barely touching the fan shroud, if it's pressing against it hard you could run into problems with water gushing up into your fans motor, and if it's too low, well you're just wasting air.

Step 6: The Fan

Here's where you'll get a bit technical. If using a computer fan, the ground pin is in the center of the Molex plug, if using a three pin plug, hopefully they're colored.

The fan shown wouldn't work with my 9.6v power supply, so I had to revert to a known good fan that would work with it. The white stripe on your power supply wires (hopefully there) will indicate the negative wire on your power supply.

Try your hardest to not take shortcuts here, electrocution, damage, or fire could be the outcome. As shown, I soldered the connections and used shrink wrap. Again, I will not be liable or even sad if you electrocute yourself, children, pets, or burn your house down.

Be sure to slide your shrink wrap down the wires before you connect them, for this I used one on each positive and negative, and a larger piece over the top of them.

Soldering is easy enough, be sure that you get a good hot joint, you don't want those to come loose. Using more solder doesn't help much, but making sure you heat the entire connection so that the solder flows through both wires to form a solid connection is what you want.

After the connections are soldered, slide the shrink wrap up over them, and all you have to do is heat it up. I heated the two smaller connections at the same time, and then heated the larger connection over them.

If you're uncomfotable with using a power supply, feel free to use a 9v battery and connector. That should be adequate to run most fans.

Step 7:

There you go! Plug it in and make sure it works. Fill up your container (and make sure it's not going to drip all over your house). Test it out and let me know what you think. I think this is a fantastic pumpless design, that could cool a room or on a bit larger scale whole area! 



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    18 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 7

    Very cool!

    Question: Do you find the pads wick water up from the bottom?

    I have a similar design, using a larger container (2Gal, cylindrical food-bucket with lid)... I used burlap and much larger holes. Just finished it...

    I'm thinking you could open the holes in to large slots to maximize airflow and reduce the load on your fan...

    Nice 'ible...

    1 reply

    Reply 9 months ago

    It wicks up pretty well. I wanted the holes placed about right there as a reservoir area instead of having to pump it up and through them.You could always do larger horizontal slots, especially in something a durable as an old bucket or something. The container I used was pretty flimsy so slots wouldn't have worked well. It vibrated quite a bit.


    Reply 9 months ago

    Glue guns are pretty cheap. You get what you pay for though. They might break, be slow to heat up or have other problems


    6 years ago on Introduction

    this would be perfect for me i live in the attic and it gets sometimes above 100 degrees and u have about 500sq ft in my room and i have 3 cieling fans going and and to ground 1s and i need something more this might be my answer

    10 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    i might try it in a couple weeks ill try to sneak the sponges past my parents im only 14 so i hope they dont care


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Um... Wouldn't it be easier to just tell your parents about the project? There's also some parts you'd probably want them to help with: Cutting and soldering.


    Reply 9 months ago

    6 years later- I am 15 right now but I first learned to solder and using a Dremel when I was 11. I want to know if old sponges can work. I can also slice the sponges since they are very old and used. Please give me some advice


    Reply 9 months ago

    Uhm ... Sponges are just going to hold the water. They won't be very effective for transferring it through the air and my guess is it won't be very breathable at all.

    If you're in a jam and have no cash, try maybe some cotton/polyester or something. An old shirt maybe loosely stuffed in there. Decent breathability and should wick up the water well.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    oh its ok i already know hot to soder and cut and my grandpa puts in air condictions and heat pumps for a liveing ive probly put of 30 of em in so im ok


    6 years ago on Step 7

    The pads actually draw the water through them really well. Better than I expected really. I had considered slots in the container or larger holes, but the container I used was far too flimsy. I even broke one while making the holes.

    The baby swampy actually creates a noticeable temperature difference, the upstairs of our house can sometimes exceed 100f. The trick is just keeping the reservoir full.