Homemade Evaporative Cooler Tips and Strategies
Evaporative air coolers, also commonly referred to as swamp coolers, are great cooling options in areas with very warm and dry climates. They're also quite energy efficient and inexpensive to run. For areas with the proper climate, like the Southwestern portion of the United States, air coolers can provide all the cooling power you need, even a homemade evaporative cooler -- provided it is well-designed and maintained.
How Swamp Coolers (or your Homemade Evaporative Cooler) Work
Evaporative coolers typically consist of a large box-shaped exterior, which houses a fan, a thick cooling pad, and a water reservoir. Once the unit is turned on, water is distributed through the pads, soaking them all the way through. Air is then drawn into the wet cooling pads, or your version of homemade evaporative cooler pads. The air is blown through the wet pads, causing the water to evaporate. This evaporation process cools the air, which is then circulated throughout your room. This process can cool a room by up to 20 degrees in the proper climate.
How to Make a Homemade Evaporative Cooler
Creating a homemade evaporative cooler is fairly simple, provided you have some time as well as access to a few basic items -- most of which can be purchased from your local hardware store. You will need the following materials:
- A large storage bin with lid
- A small desk fan
- An evaporative cooling pad
- An aquarium pump or fountain pump
To begin, take a normal plastic storage bin, and cut two holes on opposite ends. One hole should be roughly the size of the fan head you will use, while the other can be as large as your evaporative cooling pad. Next, attach your fan to the underside of the storage bin or container lid. You can use bolts, screws or even duct tape, as long as it holds the fan in place and keeps it steady. Make sure you attach the fan so that it matches up with the fan hole you cut.
Then, place the evaporative cooling pad inside the storage bin. You can either lean it against the back of the unit -- where you cut the larger hole -- or create a stand out of available materials. You can use piping, spare plastic, or even Legos to create a stand, if you prefer to have the pad freestanding within your homemade evaporative cooler. Once you have the air cooler pad situated, take a PVC pipe roughly the same width as your cooling pad, and drill numerous holes lengthwise along one side. These holes will allow water to drip down over the cooling pad. Fasten the pipe along the top of your cooling pad using garbage ties, string, or anything else available.
Finally, take your aquarium pump or fountain pump, and attach it to the PVC pipe and place it in the bottom of the storage bin. Then fill the bin with water, and plug in everything. If done correctly, the pump will send the water through the PVC pipe, where it will rain down over the cooling pad. Your fan will draw air into the homemade evaporative cooler and through the water-soaked pad. That air will then be redistributed through the room via the fan.
While these units will provide a pleasant and cool breeze, remember that homemade evaporative coolers are typically designed only for personal cooling. These air coolers will only cool a small space, and won't work as well in a larger area. For full-room evaporative cooling, you will most likely need a larger and more powerful evaporative swamp cooler.
Get the Most out of a Homemade Evaporative Cooler
Again, whether you have a store-bought unit or a homemade evaporative cooler, it will perform best in hot, dry climates with little to no humidity. Since these air coolers add moisture to the air, they will not work as well in more humid locations. However, in dry, desert-like areas, even homemade evaporative coolers can be much more efficient at cooling your home, office, patio or even garage.
Also, as evaporative swamp coolers use the air from your immediate surroundings, use these units in a well-circulated room. Open a window and/or door inside to maximize the cooling potential for these air coolers. If you use a homemade evaporative cooler in a closed or confined space, over time you will simply make the room muggy, which certainly won't help make your air cooler.
Finally, proper maintenance and cleaning for your homemade evaporative cooler will help ensure your air cooler is running efficiently. You should regularly inspect and clean your homemade evaporative cooler. By keeping the unit clean and well-maintained, you will see much cooler temperatures without the corresponding high energy bill. Proper cleaning of your homemade evaporative cooler will also increase the lifespan of the unit, allowing you to keep your air cooler for a lot longer.