Parts of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas are ideal for evaporative or swamp cooler use. Coastal areas can carry a little too much humidity but most inland districts are dry enough to make the use of this simple technology extremely cost-effective. Equipment and running costs are a fraction of the more complex air conditioning systems that rely on the refrigeration cycle. The only consideration is the regular maintenance associated with the hard water found in our fair city.
Businesses and commercial properties can take advantage of a wide range of cooling options but this option is not suitable for most other parts of the country. The evaporative or swamp cooler has a different operating principle than a traditional air conditioner and needs a dry outside atmosphere. The basic principle of physics is the same but the mechanics are different.
What Are Evaporative or Swamp Coolers?
When a liquid turns to gas, it’s called evaporation, a process that takes energy to produce. If you put a saucepan of water on a gas cooktop to boil the water eventually boils away, in this case, the energy comes from the heat of the gas flame. If you force the evaporation by another method the heat “debt” needs to be paid and it’s taken out of the surrounding area. Methods of forcing evaporation other than heat include:
- Pressure reduction which is used in the refrigeration cycle
- The action of moving air over a liquid surface
Evaporative coolers work on the second principle to provide their cooling power. While air conditioners work in sealed indoor environments and repeatedly re-circulate the same air within that environment, evaporative coolers work in non-sealed indoor environments, as well as outdoors. Instead of recirculating the same air, they continually pull in fresh outside air.
There are four primary components to an evaporative cooler: a water tank, a pump, a series of cooling pads and a ventilator motor attached to a fan. During operation, water from the water tank is pumped to the cooling pads until those pads reach complete saturation. The ventilator motor pulls outdoor air over those saturated cooling pads, and this action naturally triggers the process of water evaporation. In turn, this process produces the desired reduction in air temperature. The fan circulates the cooled air. Many coolers come equipped with a filter designed to block the entry of dust and other particles.
Some evaporative coolers are stationary units designed for installation at ground level or on a rooftop. Others are portable units designed for mobility and spot use. In some cases, evaporative coolers have an attached ducting network like a central air conditioning system. However, the coolers may also circulate air directly into a room or larger area.
Evaporative Cooler Maintenance
Evaporative coolers must be maintained periodically throughout the year in order to function properly. The first stage of maintenance comes in the springtime when you first take your unit out of storage and prepare it for use. Important steps here include:
- Taking off the cooler panels and clearing out any leftover debris in the water tank
- Tensioning the fan motor belt
- Oiling the blower assembly and/or the motor
- Installing a new set of cooler pads
- Ensuring the water tank’s float valve works properly
- Performing a test run of the unit’s motor and recirculating pump
The next phase of required cooler maintenance occurs in the middle of Summer. Crucial steps here include:
- Checking water levels
- Re-checking the performance of the float valve
- Assessing the condition of the float pads
- Checking for a buildup of mineral residue caused by the recirculating water
- Rechecking the condition of the re-circulating pump, fan belt, and motor.
You may need to go through these steps sooner and/or more often if your unit sees constant use. The final phase of routine evaporative cooler maintenance is winterization. Essential steps in this process include:
- Draining the water tank
- Removing any remaining mineral residue
- Checking the tank for signs of cracking
- Clearing out any clogs in the water circulation system
- Clearing any remaining water from the cooler’s lines
At West Coast Chief Repair, we thoroughly understand each phase of evaporative cooler maintenance. We can help you set up a maintenance schedule specifically designed to meet the demands created by your cooler model and particular pattern of cooler usage. We can also take the worry completely out of your hands by performing the required work ourselves with our expert staff. During each visit, we’ll make sure that every relevant check and assessment has been performed as scheduled. We’ll also look for signs of any other problems not necessarily expected to occur at that time of year.
Common Evaporative Cooler/Swamp Cooler Problems
Evaporative coolers are not as complex as traditional air conditioners. Despite this fact, they can develop a range of problems that decrease their operating efficiency or cause them to stop working altogether. Mineral buildup is common, especially in hard water areas like LA. When the water in your unit evaporates, as it has to produce the cooling effect, the minerals get left behind. Eventually, this blocks the vents and pads and prevents sufficient air-flow. There are several methods of mineral buildup prevention, talk to us about which is best for you:
- Zinc anode in the reservoir
- An overflow of the reservoir
- Water filter
- Treatment tablets
Mold is another issue that can impair your enjoyment of the benefits of a swamp cooler. Warmth and moisture create a breeding ground for mold and fungus. The cool air these devices produce has the side-effect of having some parts significantly warmer. In a healthy system the water throughput and airflow keep everything clean but if preventative maintenance isn’t performed problems can occur.
Cooler Diagnosis and Repair
Most of the problems affecting an evaporative cooler or swamp cooler have more than one possible cause. For example, excessive water usage in an evaporative cooler may be the result of issues such as:
- An improperly set float valve inside the water tank.
- Leaking float valve seals.
- Improper storage of the cooler during periods of non use.
Potential causes of insufficient airflow include:
- Loose or damaged belt on the ventilator motor
- Fan belt or pulleys
- Installation of the unit in a location with inadequate clearance for efficient ventilation
An evaporative cooler that won’t start may have damaged components like:
- Ventilator motor
A unit that doesn’t produce enough cooling power may have operating issues that include:
- Lack of adequate water saturation in the cooling pads
- A malfunctioning pump
- Clogs in the water recirculation system
Regardless of whether you need a repair, seasonal maintenance, or just a bit of advice. Give us a call, and we’ll be certain to answer your needs. This company is not here to make a quick buck and leave you stranded with as many problems as you started with we are with you for the long haul.