How To Use A Swamp Cooler

man sitting next to indoor ac unit

How To Use A Swamp Cooler

Evaporative cooling is one of the best possible ways to save electricity in the summer when temperatures rise to their peaks and your home AC just can’t keep up. Swamp Cooler is the popular name for an evaporative style cooling system. There are swamp coolers big enough to cool an entire home and portable swamp coolers that are perfect for cooling one room at a time. There are even entirely non-powered swamp coolers that you can take with you on summer camping trips to beat the heat inside your tent.

That all sounds pretty great, right? Before you bust out a brand new swamp cooler in your living room or at your campsite, it’s important to understand how they work. Swamp coolers are not like normal AC units and they don’t even use the same technology to make a room cooler.


The first thing to understand is that swamp coolers are nothing like a traditional AC. Normal ACs use a ton of electricity to keep refrigerant running through condenser coils which together create the cold that cools your air. Swamp coolers, on the other hand, work through the pure cooling power of evaporation. In fact, swamp coolers don’t even have to run the fan, but the fan helps to circulate the now-cooled air.

The way a swamp cooler works is the same way sweat works to cool down your skin. When water is evaporated into the air, it takes a certain amount of heat out of the air at the same time and replaces it with an aerated water droplet. It does this by soaking cooling pads in water and waiting for the pads to begin to dry via evaporation. The drying process really does cool down the air around the swamp cooler and a small fan can spread that cool air around.


However, because swamp coolers work by adding water molecules to the air, they are also most effective in lower humidity environments. The drier your hot summer air is, the more powerful a swamp cooler can become. The reason for this is because dry air absorbs moisture through evaporation easier, causing the air to give up heat in return for moisture. The moist air not only cools the ambient temperature of the room, it can also act as a humidifier making dry summers more bearable and less damaging to the skin.

However, you can still use your swamp cooler in regions that tend toward humidity and on days with higher humidity than usual. Swamp coolers work in humidity up to about 70 percent. However, you may begin to feel muggy before the air reaches this saturation with or without a swamp cooler.


Now let’s move onto what you really came here for: A quick and comprehensive guide on putting your swamp cooler to use.


Start by filling the tank of your evaporative cooler. Whether you are camping or have the cooler plugged in next to your couch to cool you directly, it can’t work without water to soak up and evaporate. It’s best to start with cool tap water, about 50-degree water. When that cool water evaporates, it will further cool the air around your swamp cooler and the fan cal blow that cooled air directly onto you.

Ice can offer a temporary boost to the coolth but does not actually increase the efficiency of the swamp cooler for cooling a room. In fact, because ice can’t absorb and evaporate without melting first, it can serve to slow down the cooling process overall.


Once the reservoir is full, give your swamp cooler a little time for the pads to soak up the water before turning on the fan. This is how the cooler works. The pads wick moisture up from the reservoir then act as fins exposed to the air to promote cooling evaporation. If you start the fan before the pads have become moist and ready to evaporate, you’re just blowing around hot air. But if you wait about 5 – 15 minutes before filling, the cooler will be ready to go.


Some swamp cooler users swear by priming the pads. This is done by pouring a little water over the pads to moisten them at the beginning of a cooling session. Priming the pads gets them initially wet so that the evaporation can begin. It also makes it easier and faster for the pads to wick moisture up from the reservoir as it gets started.


Evaporative coolers are not as powerful as their electricity-hungry counterparts, but they can make you feel a lot cooler when used correctly. One of the best ways to optimize your swamp cooler is to point it at exactly where you want the cooling to happen. Swamp coolers are often pointed at the couch or seating area to keep you and your guests cool or at the dining room table for a cool summer dinnertime.


One interesting difference between swamp coolers and AC is that a swamp cooler can actually work better if you open the windows a bit. The reason for this, again, is the humidity. If the cooler is efficient, it will put a significant amount of cool moisture into the air which will, in turn, raise the humidity and lower the cooler’s efficiency. To keep your swamp cooler cooling, consider cracking a window to let out the current humid air and provide new dry air for the cooler to evaporate water into.


Alternately, if the day is just too hot to crack the windows or you’re experiencing a hot muggy summer, a dehumidifier can do the trick. Dehumidifiers work in the opposite way that swamp coolers do. They pull water moisture out of the air and slowly fill a tank reservoir that will need to be emptied. The dehumidifier will then blow out a steady stream of drier air and lower the humidity in the surrounding room.

Paired up, a dehumidifier can significantly improve the cooling efficiency of a swamp cooler on a humid day or inside a sealed house. For best results, point the dehumidifier vent at the swamp cooler intakes so that the driest air is being used to create more lovely coolness. All told, a swamp cooler next to a dehumidifier still use less electricity than a hard-working AC trying to fight off the summer heat.

Using a swamp cooler is not nearly as complicated as you might think. Boiled down, all you need to do is fill, wait or prime the pads, then point the fan at wherever you want the cool air to go. If you have trouble, test the humidity and increase airflow or use a dehumidifier paired up to manage the moisture. For more information on how to use your swamp cooler or other methods to stay cool this summer, contact us today!

Share this post