Starting Up Your Swamp Cooler for Summer

At the beginning of swamp cooler season, swamp coolers need to be inspected and repaired. I thought I’d walk you through a recent swamp cooler conversion so you know what kind of actions are needed to get a cooler up and running for the season. Before we start running through that procedure, I wanted to talk about the casing outside the blower that forces air into your house. Sometimes they are completely rusted out. Therefore, it’s sending your cooled air into the outdoors. We just replace the whole thing. You’ve also got evaporative cooler pads in your swamp cooler. Water from your pump goes into a trough along the top of the frame around this pad. There’s a bunch of slots all the way along the trough. The water drains through these slots to wet the pads and cool the air. Those slots will get full of calcium or they will get plugged. If you have two or three in a row that are plugged up, that’s a section of your pad that does not get wet. One thing that’s very important, whenever you’re servicing a cooler, is to make sure all these little slots are open. If they’re open, they’re getting water as long as the pump is working. Now, let’s look at the steps of a swamp cooler conversion. I’ll walk you through the steps of a recent job:

  1. Remove covers. Take the covers off and fold them up.
  2. Remove panels. Remove all side panels and spread them out on the roof so we know which panel goes on which side. On this recent job, there was a cooler on one side of a house that we replaced at the end of last season, so it was basically a brand-new cooler. All we needed to do was vacuum it out, oil the bearings, and, since even the pads were almost brand-new, we didn’t have to change them on that cooler.On the other cooler on that roof, it was almost on its last legs. It was starting to get very rusty. We had to assess the condition of the pulleys and the bearings, see how much rust there was so we could make a decision whether or not we thought it was going to make it all the way through the summer.
  3. Oil the bearings. We always oil the bearings. There’s one on each side. There’s one behind the pulley. There’s a little cap that you have got to lift up to make sure it takes oil. All bearings have a place to put oil in.
  4. Check the belt. The next thing to check is the tension on the belt. You want about a three-quarter inch play. If it’s too tight, it puts too much strain on the motor and on the bearings and it causes either or both to go out sooner.
  5. Clean the pans and hook up water. Once you’ve cleaned the pans, the next step is to hook up the water and get water flowing into the cooler while it’s filling up. That’s when you take off the old pads and put the new Aspen pads on each cooler. Whenever you have a swamp cooler that runs on Aspen pads, the most important thing to keep it working all year long is to make sure there’s a pump screen over the pump. And the purpose of this is so the little pieces of the Aspen pad do not get sucked up into the pump and plug up the spider tubing up above.
  6. Check the holes in the trough. When the pump is pumping, the water drops into the trough along the top edge of the pad so the pads get wet. Then, the outside air gets sucked through the pad and that’s what cools your house. The important thing to check is to make sure all of these holes are clear. As I mentioned earlier, lots of times they’ll get clogged up with calcium or other debris and then we’ll have a section of the pad that’s not even wet. It’s very important to make sure the holes are clear.
  7. The float. Some of these coolers come with the cheapest floats made. So, lots of times we put on a better float right off the bat. We’ll wait and see if they work once we get water in them. And if in doubt, we replace the float because stuck floats are the biggest cause of callbacks. The float sticks, it overfills and then water comes out, starts running off your roof and that’s bad.
  8. The overflow tube. The other thing you check is the overflow tube. When this is screwed into the bottom, you want the water set about a half-inch from the top of the tube. And if it gets too full, water goes over the tube and then runs down out on your roof. So that’s what we don’t want.
  9. Connect the water supply. Then, we connect the water supply line up to the swamp cooler. So, there will usually be a quarter-inch shut-off valve for the water. If it’s been leaking, it might need to be replaced pretty soon. You want to be very careful that the line’s not busted from the cooler to the attic, because sometimes the line bursts in there and it just floods out the whole house. The ceilings will come down and cause a lot of water damage.We want to ensure that the nut is tight on this connection. When you turn on the little water shut-off, you should be able to hear the water flowing through the little quarter-inch copper line. It’s important to dry the little nut on the connection, make sure you get all the water out of the way. This way, next time when you come to double check it, you can be sure that there are no leaks. If you see some water, then you know there’s a leak. Then, you also want to take a look up into the line and make sure that there’s no water spraying out of anywhere. We need to go up on the rooftop and make sure that there are no leaks.
  10. Start up the motor. Next, we’ll plug in the motor and start turning it. When I was on this recent job, when we started that older swamp cooler, it made a terrible, godawful noise. That showed us that we were going to have to replace that cooler. It wasn’t going to last one more year.
  11. The damper. Now, as we fire up the cooler, we leave the damper in and plug in the motor. We leave it in as we get the motor spinning. That way, if there’s any dust, it blows out instead of blowing inside the house. We’ll run the motor just for a little bit. Then we pull the damper out.It’s very important to have the damper in when you winterize the cooler, because if you don’t have it in over the winter, you heat the great outdoors all winter long.
  12. The water. Once you get the covers on three sides, we adjust the water level. We check the overflow tube and make sure the water is high enough. If it’s not quite high enough, we want the float to turn off the water when it is right at a half-inch from the overflow tube. With many types of floats, you can adjust the level of the float just by carefully bending their brass rod. So, we can adjust the level of the float a little bit. And the other thing we check is when we lift up on the float, does the water stop completely. So when a float starts going bad, they almost shut off the water, but not quite. 

Those are our steps to ensure you’re up and running for the whole summer. If you need your swamp coolers repaired or converted for the summer season, call us at Rocketman Plumbing – 505-243-1227.