DIY Eco-Friendly Air Conditioner

If you live somewhere where it gets hot during the summer season, then you will likely be used to looking for multiple different methods and ways of fighting the heat, especially when it spikes and becomes unbearable.

And if climate science is to be believed, then if you don’t live somewhere hot now, then you soon will! Aircon can be expensive, so we’ve put together a guide for a DIY eco-friendly air conditioner, or swamp cooler as they are more commonly known.

Read on and learn how you can beat the heat on the cheap, and save the planet at the same time.

Using air conditioners is the most common and popular method, as they are highly effective and truly a lifesaver.

They can get your home to a much more bearable temperature, keeping you nice and cool. 

However, air conditioners aren’t always the most eco-friendly of options. Not to mention that they can also be pretty pricey to install. So a lot of people actually end up looking for alternatives. 

If you want an eco-friendly alternative that you can make yourself, why not try a swamp cooler?

They essentially cool down the air by using water evaporation, and the cool air is then blown around the room to provide you with some relief from the heat. It sounds promising, doesn’t it? 

We can tell you all about swamp coolers, how to make one yourself with a DIY method, and even give you some tips on how to use them effectively! Ready? Then let’s get right into it! 

Swamp Cooler: all the key facts

Swamp coolers, also sometimes referred to as swamp boxes or evaporative coolers, are actually really simple.

They draw in warm air through evaporative cooler pads, and then the cooled-down air is blown out into the room. 

We’ll go over all the parts, and then explain exactly how it works in a little more detail, just so that it’s clear: 

Parts of a Swamp Cooler

Understanding the different parts of a swamp cooler can give you a better insight as to how exactly it works. Plus, it means you’re a step ahead for when it’s time to actually put it together yourself! 

Here are the main parts of a swamp cooler, explained:

Evaporative pads: These are what pull in the warm air and then cool it down as it passes through.

Float: This is a piece that rises to the top of the water and is in charge of shutting down the water supply valve once the water has reached a certain level. 

Pump:  This pumps the water into the evaporative pads, keeping them wet

The blower: This is powered by a small motor and it enables the cool air to be pushed out into the room, to fight off the heat

Water supply valve:  This valve brings water into the swamp cooler

How a Swamp Cooler works

We explained how a swamp cooler explains very over the surface, so here’s a more in-depth explanation: 

Basically, the water supply valve opens to allow water to enter the bottom of the swamp cooler.

There is a float that rests on top of the water, and it alerts the valve to switch off when the water reaches a certain level so that it doesn’t overflow.

When there’s enough water in the swamp cooler, the pump pushes it into the distribution lines. From there, the water pours through the cooler pads.

Once these pads are wet, the blower motor is engaged to pull warm air into the cooler pads.

As this air gets pulled through the wet cooler pads, it cools down, and it is then pushed back out into the room thanks to the blower. 

And that’s pretty much it, it’s a cycle that keeps going for as long as the swamp cooler is turned on, and the air gets cooled down by passing through wet cooler pads. 

How to DIY a Swamp Cooler

Now that we’ve covered what a swamp cooler is and how it works, you might be on board with giving it a go instead of using the air conditioner.

And the best thing is that you can make your own swamp cooler, with not too much difficulty or complication involved.

We have a DIY method that is pretty easy to follow, and if done right, it will provide you with a functional and effective swamp cooler that you can use in your own home. 

What you will need

Before we give you the instructions, you need to get all of the materials that you will need, so that you aren’t left hanging midway through the process.

Luckily, most items are easy to get, and you will be able to find them at any nearby hardware store.

Plus, if you’re lucky, you might already have some of the tools, or you might be able to borrow them from somebody you know! 

You will need: 

  • A five-gallon bucket
  • A drill
  • A saw drill bit
  • Cooling pads (Dura-cool are the best)
  • Scissors
  • 5 feet of clear PVC tubing
  • A garden cloth
  • A box fan
  • A small fountain pump
  • Some 12-gauge wire

Step-by-step guide of instructions

Once you have all of the necessary tools and materials, you can finally get started on doing your own swamp cooler, in a few easy-to-follow steps.

Some people can struggle a bit more than others, especially if it’s the first time doing something like this. Just be patient, and if needed, go back and start over. It will be worth it in the end! 

Here is how to DIY your own swamp cooler: 

  1. Take the bucket and fill it up with two gallons of water. 
  2. Next, you will need to use the drill and saw drill bit to make two holes at the top of the bucket, away from the waterline.
    The holes should be one above the other, all the way around the bucket in a line. They should also be around 2.5 inches in size. 
  3. After that, make a bigger hole (2 inches in size) on the left side of each pair of holes you made in the previous step. You should end up with a pattern of two holes, one above the other, and a bigger hole to the left, all around the bucket.  
  4. The next step is to cut the cooling pad so that it is 14 inches in height and 31 inches in width, allowing it to fit into the bucket as an insulation layer. 
  5. Cut some garden cloth or similar so that it is the same size as the cooling pad, and place it between the pad and the inside of the bucket. This will be in charge of absorbing the water.
  6. Cut a hole in the lid of the bucket that is large enough for the box fan. 
  7. Secure the box fan onto the hole of the bucket, you can use bolts and nuts for this. 
  8. Place the pump at the bottom of the bucket. 
  9. Next, connect the pump to the PVC clear tubing, so that it goes all the way around the top of the bucket. You will need around five feet of tubing. 
  10. Use the power lines from the pump so that they are out of the bucket. You will need to cut a notch on the bucket rim for this so that the power lines can be connected without having to move the lid. 
  11. Use the 12-gauge wire, making holes all along the tube so that the water can leak out onto the cooling pad in the bucket. 
  12. Clamp the end of the hose to prevent all the water from being released at once. 
  13. You can wire the swamp cooler up to a 12v battery, or to a solar panel, depending on what you have on hand. 

And that’s it! If you follow all the steps carefully you should end up with a functional swamp cooler that effectively cools down the room you are in, by using water evaporation!

You could cool the room up to 10 degrees, which is a decent amount, and more than enough to make the heat of summer bearable. 

How to use your Swamp Cooler

How to use your Swamp Cooler

Like with all things, using a swamp cooler correctly will ensure that you make the most out of it, so that it is as effective as possible and truly does deliver the results you are after. 

The swamp cooler is very easy to use, but we have some advice to help you use it even better so that you get the most out of it. 

Here are our top tips for using the swamp cooler:

Don’t use the swamp cooler on a humid day

For swamp coolers to work efficiently, they need to be able to function by providing water that evaporates into the dry air, decreasing the temperature of the room to cool you down.

The key part being “into dry air”. If the air is humid, then the swamp cooler will not be able to cool down the air properly, and if anything, it might cause the heat to feel worse. 

Keep the windows open

Swamp coolers work a lot better when there is a stream of fresh air in the room, as they will then be able to cool down the flow of air and it will naturally expand throughout the room, fighting off the heat.

So keeping the window can instantly make the swamp cooler way more effective. 

Use a dehumidifier on the side

If it’s too hot to open the windows and keep that flow of air going, then another option is to use a dehumidifier side by side with your swamp cooler.

The swamp cooler will pull the moisture out of the air and hold it in the water tank, and the combination will make cooling the air down a lot easier. 

Have plants that maintain the air dry

Another way of making sure the air stays dry, and therefore cool, is to have a few plants indoors, within the room, that reduce the moisture in the air.

There are many of these plants that are very efficient at this, and that also look amazing as decoration within your home. We recommend trying out aloe, cacti, succulents, air plants, or the Boston fern. 

Don’t expect the swamp cooler to work throughout the entire house

The swamp cooler is more like a fan than like an air conditioner, so you should not be expecting it to work for cooling down your entire house.

Instead, you have to position it somewhere where it will directly provide you with cool air. So basically, you should sit close to the swamp cooler in order to reap the benefits.

Some people actually choose to place wheels on the bottom of the swamp cooler, so that they can easily move it around to where it is needed. 

Make sure the cooler pads are wet enough

Before you start using the swamp cooler, it’s important that you make sure that the cooler pads are wet enough.

They will only be able to effectively cool down the air that goes through them if they are completely soaked through.

So when you set the swamp cooler up, you should allow for 15 to 20 minutes until the cooler pads are completely wet, before you start using it to cool down the air. 

Use some ice

If you want your swamp cooler to produce colder air at a faster rate, you can insert some ice into the bucket.

It will take some time to kick in, as the ice will have to melt before it evaporates, and the effect won’t last very long as it will be over as soon as the ice has evaporated, but it can be a great boost of cold air to relieve from the heat. 

Keep the swamp cooler in top shape

If you want your swamp cooler to last you a long time, and to work efficiently, then you have to take good care of it. It’s pretty common sense, right?

The main maintenance chores you should perform on your swamp cooler on a regular basis are cleaning the outside, cleaning the inside, and checking the different parts and elements.

Make sure everything stays clean, and that there is no debris blocking any of the functions, plus make sure everything is repaired as soon as it breaks if that is the case. 

Using a Swamp Cooler vs Air Conditioner

You might be thinking, after reading all of the information presented thus far, that the swamp cooler is a bit much in regards to effort and time.

And sure, making your own swamp cooler will take a little while, and using it isn’t as simple or as comfortable as pressing a button, setting the desired temperature, and letting it do its thing. 

So you might be wondering, why should I use a swamp cooler instead of just sticking with the air conditioner? And yeah, okay, it’s a valid question.

After all, air conditioning is a lot easier, faster, and convenient. 

But we have some very strong points to make when it comes to defending the use of a swamp cooler over air conditioning, that we’re sure will convince you. Here they are: 

Swamp Coolers are cheaper

Swamp coolers can be made very easy for little money, as they essentially just use a fan, a pump, and a few bits and pieces more.

They also don’t take a lot of electricity in order to run, making them incredibly cost-effective compared to other cooling options. Definitely a lot cheaper to run than air conditioning! 

Swamp Coolers can help fight off allergies

When you use air conditioning or even a fan, the air can dry out your sinuses very quickly, causing your summer allergies to get worse.

You might notice that after a while by the fan or air conditioning your eyes become irritated, and so does your nose! 

However, when using a swamp cooler, water is being used to cool the air down, which means your allergies aren’t prompted to react!

Swamp Coolers don’t require expensive maintenance

Air conditioners are super convenient until they break down and it costs you a significant amount of money to get them repaired and back up and running.

Not to mention that air conditioners need to be serviced at least once a year, which usually costs between $70 to $100 on average.

(The repairs can cost between $250 to $2000, so the air conditioner breaking down is a big cost). Plus, buying and installing air conditioning in the first place is also pretty expensive. 

Meanwhile, although swamp coolers do need regular maintenance (cleaning, check-ups, and repairs when needed), it is a lot cheaper to do so.

It basically costs a little bit of time and effort, and that’s it, you can do it yourself.

Not to mention that having a swamp cooler serviced (if you’ve bought one) will cost you $100 max, and it’s not always needed every year.

Swamp Coolers are eco-friendly

Last but not least, is one of our top reasons for recommending the use of a swamp cooler over any other alternative: it is eco-friendly. 

Swamp coolers are way more energy-efficient, and they barely cause any CO2 emissions (although they will still release some CO2 if the swamp cooler has been bought instead of made at home). 

The main resource they require is water, and this can be any type of water, as long as it’s safe and cool. 

Is there any downside to using a Swamp Cooler?

It is almost impossible for something to be all good news and advantages, so…what’s the downside to swamp coolers? 

Well, there isn’t much to say about the swamp cooler that is negative or bad, but one of the biggest drawbacks that it does have is that it can’t really be used if you live in a humid region. 

Swamp coolers are designed to work in hot climates that are dry, as they work by boosting the moisture content of the air around them, cooling it down.

So if the air already has a lot of moisture, they will just add to that and build up the heat, instead of effectively fighting against it. 

So yeah, if you live in a humid region then you will, unfortunately, have to stick to the air conditioning or to other alternative methods of cooling down the air in your home, as the swamp cooler will be unusable.

But if the air is dry enough, then we 100% recommend the use of a swamp cooler as the best option for cooling down during the summer heat! 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to buy a swamp cooler?

This depends on the type of swamp cooler that you’re interested in buying.

A mounted swamp cooler, on average, will cost between $500 to $1500. Meanwhile, a window swamp cooler will be slightly cheaper, and will usually cost between $400 to $1000 on average. 

Alternatively, you could make your own swamp cooler following the DIY method, and it will then be even cheaper, as you will only pay for the materials and possibly the tools needed. 

Why is a swamp cooler called a “swamp” cooler? 

You might be wondering why a swamp cooler has the word “swamp” in its name.

The answer is pretty straightforward. This cooler uses water in order to cool down the air in the room, through the use of evaporative pads. So the word swamp makes reference to the water element. 

How effective are swamp coolers?

Swamp coolers, overall, are pretty effective. They are highly cost-efficient, and very energy-efficient, using only about 15 to 35 percent of the electricity that air conditioning requires. 

As for the cooling effectiveness, it depends on how you’re using them. If you are using them properly, following all the right tips, then they are very effective at cooling down the air in a room.

However, they are not really an effective option for cooling down an entire house at once. They are for focalized air cooling. 

Can swamp coolers cause mold? 

Swamp coolers work by adding more moisture to the air around them, so they could potentially cause mold in localized areas of the room, or cause pre-existing mold to spread.

However, if used correctly, this should not be a problem in the slightest. 

Just make sure to keep the swamp cooler clean, and to maintain it regularly with check-ups to make sure there is no mold problem developing. 

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