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Bilge Pump vs Drip Irrigation for Low-Power Swamp Cooler Answered

I'm building a small evaporative/swamp cooler for Burning Man that I would like to use as little power as possible (no solar panels). Traditional playa swamp cooler designs use a small pump to continuously irrigate the cooler pads. I'm thinking it might be more efficient to put the water in a reservoir that sits above the pads and gradually drips down on them. But since the pads need to be saturated for maximum evaporation, eventually the water will pool at the bottom and need to be pumped back to the reservoir by a pump controlled by a float switch. Which of these designs do you think would use less energy?


If you use a bilge pump, you could get away without using power at all - once or twice a day, just pump it by hand, or (in the spirit of Burning Man) build a pedal-powered pump.

Actually that's a great point: with a big enough reservoir I could just flip it once per day. Thanks!

Get the flow just right, there's no water left by the time it reached the bottom, surely ?

I think for optimal evaporation it needs to be saturated, which will result in a bit of waste water.