Monday, October 19, 2015

Swamp thing!


Have you ever wondered what I'm talking about when I mention the "swamp cooler"? I have offered a link to read now and then (here it is again, if you're interested). That's our swamp cooler in the photo above. It sits permanently on our home's flat rooftop. The swamp cooler is our home's cooling system. It's an integral part of our lives between May and October each year. Earlier this summer, the Bear had to do some work on the swamp cooler and I asked him to take a few photos for me. I know you're simply dying to learn more about this contraption. Close your browser window now if you came for coziness; today we're talking machinery! Ha.


Our swamp cooler is a MasterCool* which is considered a very good brand. (It came with the house). "Swamp cooler" is a colloquial term; the formal term is "evaporative cooler," but people call it a swamp cooler because it can make your house sort of...swampy. To work well, it depends on the driest of air. On dry days, it works beautifully, but on wet days, it's pretty much useless. Monsoon season happens to also be swamp cooler season; you can imagine how effective these coolers are when it rains all afternoon and evening. But generally, it's very dry here and they work great. I'm not a swamp cooler salesperson, just a happy user-owner! I'm not a swamp cooler mechanic either, so I can't offer really good technical discussion. I can tell you the basics, though: there's a pump that sprays water (from the regular household plumbing system) onto a cardboard-like mat. At the same time, a fan blows air across the wet mat. The air is cooled by this process. The cooled air travels through the duct-work and blows into the house.


Some people prefer regular air conditioning, and we probably would too, but the swamp cooler is much less expensive to operate. Swamp coolers are ubiquitous in the southwest because they do generally work well in this climate. I happen to like the moisture it puts into the household air; it can be so dry here that I have minor nosebleeds sometimes, and my skin is always dry and flaky. The slight dampness in the house feels good to me. I like the sound of the air through the vents too; it's a gentle whooshing sound in the house day and night (once the cooler comes on, it tends to stay on until late evening).

One negative is that the swamp cooler can't really be programmed with a thermostat and it is limited in how cool it can make the house. We set the controller (inside the house, near the furnace thermostat) for the indoor temperature we want the cooler to come on (usually 74 degrees) and we can expect the indoor temperature to stay at about 15-20 degrees cooler than the outdoor temperature, though that depends on the dryness of the outdoor air. It can't cool wet air, though it will often continue running during a rainstorm, which makes the air in the house humid. Sometimes papers and fabrics will feel damp (especially bedsheets, and oh, how I hate a limp bedsheet...yuck). Dry foods need to be sealed well or they'll get slightly dampened too. Also, in order for the swamp cooler to work effectively, you have to keep a few windows cracked open when it runs. Then, you basically have wind blowing through the house, out through the vents into the rooms and out of the house through the windows. This keeps the air moving and helps the house cool. But it can be a bit windy indoors, which isn't always welcome.


This is a water reservoir inside the cooler. It has a floating valve, just like a toilet. Actually, the entire mechanism is a little like a toilet. A very cool toilet, hee hee.


Here is the back of the swamp cooler, where the air intake occurs. This is the cardboard thing I mentioned earlier; we have to replace it every few years for good performance. There is other maintenance too; the cardboard can become moldy and can also develop mineralization from the water unless you "bleed" the water mechanisms periodically. The Bear does all of this himself in the spring and fall each year (I don't get up on the roof, thank you very much). I had been meaning to share some tidbits about the swamp cooler for a while and was inspired by his recent ascent to the roof to shut down the cooler for winter. He disconnects the power to the swamp cooler and also disables the water and closes the vent that lets cool air into the house; if we left it open, the hot air produced by the furnace would escape. It's a bit of work to keep it all working well, but after seven summers in this house, he's a swamp cooler aficionado (well, for this swamp cooler, anyway).



So there you go, a glimpse into our HVAC life. I really should get up on the roof sometime...just look at the view!

*This is not a sponsored post, I just really like my MasterCool! :)

28 comments:

  1. That is absolutely fascinating. I often wonder what it's like living in a different climate. Our main battle in the UK is keeping warm, it's not much of a battle, mostly people just light a woodburner or flick a switch. What a clever machine the swamp cooler is and what an interesting, well written post!

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  2. How interesting Jennifer. I had no idea such a thing even existed. It would not work well in our climate, where it is always a bit damp to begin with... we've just stayed in a house that had dehumidifiers on each floor to prevent excessive moisture build-up. Have a lovely dry and cool day. xx

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  3. Haha Jennifer. I think you and my husband would get on very well. He is as obsessed (in a very good way) with the weather as you. This time of year our breakfast conversation revolves around what he should wear to cycle to work - sunglasses and shorts today - yay! (He cycles 10 miles off-road up and over the hills as our local roads are too full of school run mums driving enormous vehicles to make cycling on them anything but very dangerous. Even I who used to cycle eight miles into and out of London every day avoid the school run hours at all costs.) I digress, this was a fascinating glimpse into how you cope with your extreme temperatures and I do love how you make technology sound like fun. The personification of the swamp cooler - brilliant!

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  4. Not something that I have come across before, so I found your post today quite fascinating. You certainly learn something new everyday in Blogland. Take care.

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  5. What an interesting insight into something I didn't even know existed! I'm fascinated to see how it works so well in your dry climate. Hardly anyone here has air conditioning, so I forget that it's an everyday thing for lots of people. Well done to the Bear for his great maintenance of it, I love how you guys take such good care of your home. And the views up there are great! CJ xx

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  6. I never knew such a thing existed. Not much need for humidifiers in the UK and flat roofs are complete nightmare too, they tend to leak with all the rain. How great that you are able to look after it yourselves, great views from your roof :)

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  7. I definitely wouldn't be able to live in a hot climate without something to cool the air. It sounds like your hubby can turn his hand to most things, saves paying someone to do the work for you.

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  8. I have never heard of this system either, but I like the idea of it, and that it is cheaper to run. It sounds more environmentally friendly than our systems. However, while we do have hot dry times, we also have far more heavily humid ones, so perhaps it is not the thing for Brisbane. Very interesting, Jennifer.

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  9. Hmm..I had no idea about this. Interesting :)

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  10. Very interesting. We rarely need anything more than opening a window to keep the house cool enough in summer. I don't think I'd like to have my summers as hot as yours but I suppose you get used to it.

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  11. Interesting, but of course they'd never work here, we're damp and humid all the time, so it's AC for us.

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  12. I've never heard of a swamp cooler, probably because what we laughingly call summer over here in Britain rarely gets hot enough to take off your cardi! Thanks for an interesting insight into life in a warmer climate. Have a great week Jennifer xx

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  13. Good Morning Jennifer. Hubby read this with me, (we're on a mini-vacation right now at the beach), and he told me he had a swamp cooler when he lived in New Mexico. I've heard of them but had no idea how they worked. It was really interesting. It sounds like it a bit more maintenance than our central A/C unit. I change the furnace filter monthy because the A/C unit and furnace both use the same ductwork and one of them seems to be I use most of the time. Nice views from the roof! :-)
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  14. I thought about air conditioning in the Philippines while reading your post. It's hot nearly all the time there we really need them but they're so expensive and not many people can afford them. This could be a more affordable option but we have humid heat there so I don't think this will work. Anyway, still very interesting though. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Interesting. I've heard the term HVAC before but don't guess I really ever knew what it was. We have regular a/c here because of the intense heat, but when it's humid, that sticky wet feeling can permeate things since nothing is really sealed or vented properly. Still hot and humid here. Still using the a/c each and every day. Will be glad for the day when we can shut it off for at least a couple of months. Have a good week.

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  16. Oh that's brilliant, I never realised such a thing existed. the things you learn by reading a blog! x

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  17. I certainly have heard of them, but had no clue how they work. What a marvelous invention and what a blessing to have a husband who is so clever.
    I do remember the feeling of damp sheets!

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  18. Love the edification on "swamp coolers".

    But ~ can you tell me the name(s) of all your pretty plants in the last photo?

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    1. Hi Lacy, sure, I can try. Starting from the street and going back - there are some hairgrasses and chocolate daisies near the sidewalk, with a fernbush at the edge near the walkway path. Then there are two winter jasmines and behind them, two Russian sages with two rosemary plants to their right along the walkway. I hope that helps. :)

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  19. Fascinating! In Scotland we've no need for swamp coolers - or even air conditioning.

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  20. Although I have benefited from the cool my oldest sister's swamp cooler provides when I visit her in Sonoma, CA, I did not know much about the innards of the contraption and enjoyed learning more in this post. MasterCool is such a great brand name, isn't it Jennifer :) I'm having a happy week thus far, and hope you and yours are as well xx

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  21. I actually found that very interesting about the swamp cooler because I had no idea what one is! Here in Illinois, everyone has central AC. Thanks for the little lesson! :-)

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  22. Well this is very interesting. I learned something new today! I never heard of a swamp cooler, probably because it gets so humid here, that we have to run a dehumidifier all summer. Thanks for the info, and the photos from bear!

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  23. My favorite part was seeing the kids from the roof.. your front yard is pretty and I love the mailbox surround! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  24. Maybe not cosy but fascinating and yes, I have wondered about the swamp cooler! It sounds like quite a lot of work but I'm sure the cooling is much appreciated :-) x

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  25. There is barely ever any need for a cooling system here. Once we get heat for 2 days on the trot above 25C everything goes into meltdown about a possible heatwave. Then suddenly we're back at 13C and rain! Our house would not cope well with a swamp cooler as it's far too humid and we get too much rain. Btw I'm hoping to join in with next month's Winter project link - I wasn't quick enough this time. Have a fab week x

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  26. Very interesting, I had no idea this even existed. We are in full fledged air conditioning mode here still.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  27. I had a few friends in Southern California with swamp coolers on their homes. Mever looked inside though. Thanks !

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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