How to Use and Maintain an Evaporative Cooler

Learn how to properly use and care for a swamp cooler

Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, are a summertime mainstay in many homes. If you live in a hot, dry climate, these units circulate cool air throughout the room and help keep your space comfortable on warm days. Read below for a detailed explanation on how to use and maintain a swamp cooler all year long.

What You Need

How to Use an Evaporative Cooler

How to Use an Evaporative Cooler

Since evaporative coolers work best in hotter weather, we recommend you wait to begin using one until temperatures routinely exceed 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is your first time using a new unit, follow these instructions in combination with your manufacturer's manual for a spring start-up.

• Install the motor and cord connector.
• Install the electrical components.
• Connect the water supply line (if applicable).

If you are starting a previously-used unit for the first time in a while, skip straight to the steps below. 

• Lightly oil the cooler motor and blower bearings.
• Use a wrench or screwdriver to tighten all the connections.
• Place the cooler near an open window.
• Clean the filter.
• Insert new cooling pads.
• Make sure the fan belt isn’t loose or sagging and has an adequate amount of tension.
• Fill the water reservoir to the fill line.
• Connect the power cord to a nearby outlet.
• Start the cooler.

Adjust the fan, pump and oscillating settings (if applicable) as needed. Water from the reservoir will dampen the cooling pad as the unit draws fresh air from the window. This produces a cool breeze that infuses the room with moisture.

Spring and Summer Maintenance

Spring and Summer Maintenance

If you use a swamp cooler often during the hotter months, it’s important to clean it regularly:
• Always clean it before startup.
• Wipe down the exterior with a damp cloth every few weeks.
• Don’t clean the unit with any surface cleaners, chemicals or solvents – warm water is sufficient.

It's also important to change the cooling pads mid-season:
• Cooling pads may need to be changed more often in areas with hard water or poor water quality.
• Remove any dirt or buildup from the pad frame.

Clean the water tank at least once per week: 
• Make sure the water levels are at the fill line before every use.
• Treat the tank with zinc anode tablets as needed to control rust and corrosion.

Fall and Winter Maintenance

Fall and Winter Maintenance

When the weather begins to cool, prepare your cooler for long-term storage with these steps:

• Turn off and unplug the unit. 
• Disconnect the motor and pump.
• Fully drain the water supply.
• Clean the exterior, water reservoir and filters.
• Let all components completely dry out.
• Wrap the cord and cover the unit with an evaporative cooler cover.
• Store the cooler in a covered space that is both cool and dry.

Evaporative Cooler Maintenance and Troubleshooting Tips

Evaporative Cooler Maintenance Tips and Common Problems

Swamp Cooler Blowing Hot Air 
• If the water tank is full but your swamp cooler is not blowing cold air, you may need to move it closer to the window. The unit needs fresh air to circulate through the cooling pad, and if it begins to recirculate used air from the room, it won’t cool properly.

• Alternatively, it may be time to replace the cooling pads, especially if they haven’t been changed in a while. If the pads are new, try moistening them first then placing them in the cooler.

• If neither of these solutions works, it may be time to clean or replace the water pump.

Swamp Cooler Leaking 
• If water is dripping from your evaporative cooler, it likely wasn’t stored properly during the winter. Turn off and unplug the unit, remove the cooling pads, drain the water and clean all components. Re-assemble and turn back on.

• If it’s still leaking, it may be an issue with the water pump or water supply line. In this case, we recommend calling a repair professional.

Swamp Cooler Not Blowing Air 
• If your swamp cooler is not blowing hard enough - or hardly blowing air at all - the swamp cooler pump may not be working properly. Turn off the unit and clean the pump. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, it may be time to replace the pump.

• Also, make sure to move the cooler close to an open window for optimal airflow.

Swamp Cooler Smells 
• If your swamp cooler smells murky or has a damp, stale odor, it’s time to replace the cooling pads. Over time, the pad material can develop mold and mildew, which emits a fishy or "swamp"-like smell.

• It’s also important to thoroughly drain and clean the water reservoir and replace it with fresh water before every use.