Swamp Cooler Basics: How Does A Swamp Cooler Work?

Swamp coolers work on the principle of evaporative cooling, and you probably know more about this than you think. But really: how does a swamp cooler work? If you’ve ever wondered which direction the wind was blowing and held a damp finger up in the air to notice which side got cool first, you understand the idea of evaporative cooling.

Similarly, you may have noticed how much cooler it seems outside when you get out of a swimming pool. That’s because the wind is evaporating the water from your skin, cooling you down.

Swamp coolers are sometimes called evaporative coolers or water coolers because the evaporation of water is essential to how they work. Some of these units can be inserted into a window and have large pads outside while others may be portable so they can be taken where the need for them exists.

You may be wondering this: how does a swamp cooler work since it has no compressor and uses relatively little electricity compared with a compressor air conditioner? Keep reading for more details.

Cooling Based On Ancient Principles

In ancient Egypt, in pioneer days in the United States and in many times in between, people cooled their homes by hanging wet blankets or towels in the windows so that the air coming through them would feel cooler than if the moist surface wasn’t there. That’s exactly how swamp coolers work. Today, electric fans draw air past large damp pads made of a variety of materials, then that cooled air is pushed out into the room.

It’s as simple as that.

But a swamp cooler may not work for you. Actually, one of the worst places to use a swamp cooler is a swamp. These machines are named for the way they get a surface saturated with water — like how a swamp is saturated with water — not for where they’re used. They work best in hot, dry areas where you benefit from having more cool humidity in the air. As you can imagine, in a coastal area, for example, where the air is hot and damp, you need a compressor air conditioner that will remove humidity from the air instead of adding more of it.

And this brings us to the most important lesson of using a window-mounted or portable swamp cooler: never use it in conjunction with a compressor air conditioner. The two kinds of units work in opposite ways, as I’ve explained, and will actually counteract each other.

– Swamp coolers are for hot, dry climates where you can benefit from cool, damp air.
– Compressor air conditioners are for hot, humid climates where you want to get some of the humidity out of the air.

Is A Swamp Cooler Right For You?

Maybe you’re asking the wrong question when considering a swamp cooler. The question isn’t so much how does a swamp cooler work but will it work for me? Use this three-step process to find out:

Check your home’s humidity. You need low humidity for a swamp cooler to work well — along with hot temperatures, of course. If the average humidity in your home often exceeds 40 to 50 percent, you need to put aside any thought of getting a swamp cooler and get a compressor air conditioner instead.

Consider where the water will come from. Swamp coolers must have water. For small portable units, this may come from a supply that you pour in when you turn it on. In many cases, you may need to hook the unit up to a water supply. Some people even spray down outside pads with a water hose when it’s especially hot or the unit is getting old and inefficient to increase the flow of water and also the cooling capacity.

Think about your home’s ventilation. Swamp coolers raise the humidity in your home greatly, so you need good ventilation to clear moisture out to prevent molding of your home and discomfort for you and your family. Opening a window in the evening may be all that’s needed to give you the ventilation you need.

Some Final Thoughts On Swamp Coolers

If you decide to choose a swamp cooler — or several swamp coolers — for your home, be sure you maintain them properly. The most important thing is to keep the unit clean and make sure the water circulates correctly. And make sure clean, fresh water comes into the system frequently for the greatest cooling power.

You can’t use a swamp cooler in a swamp, but you can create a cool, moist atmosphere inside your home that will increase your comfort and the comfort of your entire family when you choose a window model or portable evaporative cooler.

When used correctly and maintained adequately, swamp coolers take advantage of ancient concepts to keep you feeling great even in the hottest weather.

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