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! :)