How to Troubleshoot Your Swamp Cooler


Some homes here in Albuquerque have swamp coolers due to our dry climate. If you have a swamp cooler which isn’t performing as it should, here are some do-it-yourself troubleshooting tips:

  1. The unit won’t turn on. Be sure to check your circuit breaker or the fuse for the unit. Reset the breaker or replace the fuse. If you find yourself having to reset the breaker repeatedly, faulty wiring probably needs to be repaired.

    If your unit has a thermostat, it may be set too high. Be sure to check this before you assume your swamp cooler needs repair. (If you don’t yet have a thermostat and are just turning the fan to high or low as you need more or less cooling, a thermostat will save you a lot of work.)
  2. Not enough airflow through the house. Your swamp cooler is continuously pumping a large volume of air into your home. Air pressure in a home increases to the point that there is resistance to more cool air entering the home.

    A whole-house system will be equipped with exhaust ducts that let the air flow right back out again. If there are not enough ducts or they are too small, you may not get enough air flow to allow cool air to enter. You may have to assist your system by opening windows slightly.

    If your system is not equipped with exhaust ducts, then you definitely will have to open windows to allow this air pressure to escape. You will also need to open doors to any rooms you want cooled.
  3. Air is not cool enough. Check that the cooling pads are wet. If they are dry, wet them and try again. If the pads are not retaining water, they might need to be replaced. Also check for clogs that could be preventing water from moving through the system. Swamp coolers tend to accumulate dirt and dust and if these are not cleaned out from time to time, this dirt can clog the water pump.

    If your swamp cooler is running well water through its pump, calcium can also accumulate and it may need to be cleaned out using a vinegar solution.
  4. Unpleasant odors. If the cooler is not used for a while, water sitting in the water pan will grow mold or bacteria. It must be drained and cleaned with a chlorine product like diluted household bleach. Be sure to rinse the water pan thoroughly before starting the unit up again.

    The more common cause of odors is mildewed evaporative pads. Check your pads regularly for dirt, mildew or buildup of minerals. If your pads are just mildly dirty, you may be able to clean them with a white vinegar solution. If they are mildewed, you are much better off replacing them. 

When It’s Time to Call a Plumber

Of course, from time to time your swamp cooler may need more major repairs. That’s when it’s time to call a plumber that services swamp coolers. 

For instance, your swamp cooler has a fan motor and a water pump that might need replacing or servicing. You could also have problems with the float in the water pan at the bottom. If the float breaks, then it won’t regulate the water supply. Your water may then run continuously and leak out of the basin, plus increase your water bill. Many floats are cheaply made and need to be replaced every year or two so be alert for this problem. 

Evaporative coolers are also prone to rust that can eventually lead to water leaks. This calls for a professional repair which, when done in time, can prevent you having to replace your cooler.

The best way to keep your swamp cooler operating as it should is to have a qualified plumber start it up in the spring and close it down in the fall. Then, if maintenance is needed, it can be done while the problem is small and before it can lead to a bigger one. 

Why Refrigerated Air Is a Better Solution

While swamp coolers are better than no cooling in your home, refrigerated air is a far more effective solution. Swamp coolers, for instance, will lower your home’s temperature by just 15% from the outside temperature. When it’s 95 degrees outside, it will still be 80 degrees inside. By contrast, with refrigerated air, you can keep your home at a comfortable temperature 24/7 all through our hot-weather season. 

Another factor to consider is humidity. When the humidity exceeds 40 to 50%, swamp coolers stop working. That’s because the existing moisture in the air blocks the cooler air. With a refrigerated air system, however, your home stays cool despite humidity and all other weather conditions.

If you would like to know more about refrigerated cooling or need help with your swamp cooler, give us a call at (505) 243-1227.

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