How to Make a PVC Swamp Cooler
Summer is in full swing and if you are anywhere dry you know the advantages of using swamp cooler
technology. This revolutionary idea is built on the principle of evaporative cooling. When water evaporates, it pulls heat from the surrounding air, which has a cooling effect. Evaporative cooling typically requires less energy than vapor-compression air conditioning, and many swamp cooler designs use far less electricity than standard A/C. Since swamp coolers rely on the evaporation of water to cool off the air, they don’t work very well in humid environments. They work best in areas where the air is very dry, in which case they can also improve the quality of the air by adding water vapor. In our case we decided to build the guts of this swamp cooler using PVC pipe, fittings, and Snap Clamps. This project is easy and fun, and it can easily be taken apart and stored in the container for winter or cooler days. For this project you'll need the following:
-Latching storage container with lid (23-3/4 inch Length x 16 in. Width x 6-7/8 in. Height)
-Small submersible water pump
-A section of swamp cooler media pad, you can find large sections at a local hardware store. You'll need
three pieces that are 23 in. x 16 in. / 11 in. x 16 in. / 11 in. x 16 in.
- (1) 22 in. x 11 in. electric fan. (Holmes makes the perfect fan with 2 separate blades that really move air fast, plus it has water resistant motors and it's cheap at about $15 on Amazon.)
-(2) 1/2 inch elbows
-(2) 1/2 inch 3-ways
-(4) 1/2 inch end caps
-(1) 1/2 inch Wye 45 degree
-(10) 1/2 inch EZ Snap Clamp (10 pc. bag of #11)
-(1) 19 inch section of 1/2 inch flex PVC
-(4) 8 inch pieces of 1/2 inch PVC pipe
-(4) 15 inch pieces of 1/2 inch PVC pipe
First lay out your sections of pipe and in the 4 short pieces you will need to drill holes in a straight line on one side of the pipe. Use an 1/8 inch bit to pop about 10 holes in your short pipe sections. This will be so that water can be pumped from the bottom and trickle through the cooler media. Once you have your holes drilled you can build the top portion of your cooler. Using the PVC pipe sections that have been drilled you can build a horse shoe shaped top. Make sure and face all of the holes slightly inward so that the water is directed through the media and doesn't bounce or trickle outside of your container. The ideas is to keep the cooler media damp so it is most efficient. Looking at the picture below you'll notice that you need to use the Wye 45 degree in between the back section. This will be the place where the pump attaches to feed the upper pipes with water. Again, make sure the holes are facing slightly inward so that the water stays in your container.
Next, you need to plug up the vertical pipe sections so that water is not being pumped back to the bottom. This is where you can use the end caps to plug up your vertical sections of pipe. Simply push your caps in place on one end of all 4 of the 15 inch pipes. Attach your longer sections of pipe so that you now have an open box frame like seen here.
Finally you can clamp your sections of evap. cooler media to your vertical sections. be sure that you line the holes up accurately with the media so as to absorb as much water as possible. I used about 8 clamps to attach the surrounding material. Using EZ clamps makes it easy to attach and remove for storage. Once you have your media attached you can place you frame inside of the container. It should fit perfectly, if not you can always trim down your sides or even rotate the legs in slightly.
As you can see here you want to try and surround the space as completely as you can so that the fan is forced to only draw air through the media itself. Once you feel you've attached the material well enough then insert the flexible pvc into your wye 45 degree and install the submersible pump on the other end. Fill the tub with water up to the bottom of the fan and then plug your pump in. I would let the pump run for a while so that you can make adjustments to your drip tubing but also so the the absorptive material can get a chance to fill up with water. Once you feel like your pump is running well and your drip tubing is in the right position you can fasten your lid to the top.
Cut two short pieces of left over Snap Clamps to make a nice hinged feature on your lid. Simply rivet, screw, or glue a clamp to two of the built in ridges of the lid like this picture. This will allow you to completely close the top of your cooler which is very important to maximize the amount of air the system pulls through the actual absorptive material.
There you have it, for a fraction of the price you can have a small window evap/swamp cooler. I place this in my back room to cool it down in the middle of the day and it does very well. And when you are ready to put it away or pack up for the winter you can easily break the system down and store it in the container. Stay cool out there and thanks for reading! To see more plans or to order your PVC parts click below.