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Hey, you're in the home improvement zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Cooling and Ventilation Systems Category:

Evaporative / Swamp Coolers

Improvement Project:

How to seasonally maintain your cooler during the Spring, Summer and Winter.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Screwdriver (or other fastening device as determined by the manufacturer's use of fasteners)

  • Cooler pad replacements

  • Motor replacement

  • Cooler belt replacement

  • Pump replacement

  • Belt replacement

  • Float valve replacement

  • Fuse replacement

  • Wire brush

  • Cloth/rag (wet)

  • Cloth/rag (dry)

  • Chemical solution to dissolve alkali / corrosion (such as CalClean HD-Rtu® by NU-Calgon)

  • Rust-resistant paint (in gallon can or spray bottle) (such as Rustoleum)

  • Paint brush (for rust-resistant paint)

  • Cooler coating and sealer (such as Submarine Cooler Coating and Sealer by Henry)

  • Paint brush (for cooler coating and sealer)

  • SAE 20W or SAE 30W non-detergent oil (with spout for easy pouring)

  • Cooler spider snake

  • Adjustable wrench

  • Winter covering (to cover cooler during the winter)



Evaporative / swamp coolers have their advantages to air conditioners in that coolers not only use less energy, but the maintenance of coolers is less expensive and noticeably less complex than that of air conditioners.  Having said this, while the maintenance of coolers is less complex, it is required year-round, preferably with monthly check-ups. However, for those of you who cannot conduct monthly maintenance check-ups of your coolers, seasonal maintenance should be done during the Spring time (Guide 1), Summer time (Guide 2) and Winter time (Guide 3).

Perform the following seasonal guides as follows:

For all seasonal guides, before actually physically working on your cooler, you should take the time to assess the condition of your cooler in order to make a complete list of what you need purchased so that you can efficiently spend your time productively accomplishing each task of the guide as opposed to making multiple trips to the home improvement store (or visits to the online store, too).  In this vein, as part of this wise assessment, be sure that all mechanical parts of your cooler are in good working order, including the motor, pump, belt, float valve, etc. For any part that needs to be replaced, making a note of its specification and size, or, alternatively, bring the bad part into the store (especially if the part's manufacturer's specifications are unreadable or otherwise unknown) to be sure to get an exact or compatible replacement. Because the cooler pads must be changed at least every year, make sure you write down and keep handy the size of your cooler pads.

Caution: When dealing with any device that requires electrical power, make sure you take precautions before you work on it, including disconnecting the power when power is not necessary for your maintenance work.

Guide 1: Spring Time

  1. Take off any winter covering you may have placed over your cooler to prevent cold air from entering your ducting system during the Winter season.

  2. Upon having disconnected the power to your cooler (at fuse box or circuit breaker), remove all pad frames from the cooler and safely rest them where there will be no foot traffic, and, if applicable, pull out the damper thereof.

  3. Carefully remove and discard the old cooler pads from the cooler pad frames.

  4. Then, with a wire brush, thoroughly clean the pad frames, including the louvers thereof, so as to make the frames free of corrosion and any alkali that built up during the past cooler season.  Further, if you choose to, you can apply a chemical solution that is friendly to metal surfaces, such as CalClean HD-Rtu according to its manufacturer instructions, to rapidly dissolve alkali and other deposits on contact.  Check with your local home improvement store, appliance store or online for available products of this nature.  Then spray or brush on rust-resistant paint, such as Rustoleum, on parts of the pad frames that are already suffering from rust or otherwise seem already susceptible to rust formation.

  5. Upon cleaning the pad frames, move to cleaning the interior parts of the cooler, including the pan.

  6. Then, upon cleaning the interior of the cooler, especially the pan thereof, apply a sealer coating that is specifically designed for coolers, such as Submarine Cooler Coating and Sealer, thereto.  Such coating product usually comes in gallons, quarts and spray cans, but your best buy is in the form of gallons, as you'll need to make sure that the cooler receives an adequate coating.

  7. After performing the task of applying the sealer cooler coating, turn your attention to the belt of your cooler.  Examine your belt to determine if it is suffering from "wear and tear," bearing any cracks/splits or otherwise noticeably strained areas.  If any such appears, you need to replace your belt, and to get the right replacement, upon taking it off the cooler, look underneath it to ascertain its size number, usually starting with "4L."  If it is unreadable or otherwise unknown, take the existing belt to a home improvement store to be sure to get an exact or compatible replacement.

  8. Next, take a look at the blower wheel to make sure that it rotates properly, does not wobble and is otherwise without any problems.  Any wobbling will result in a noisy operation.    If you find that your wheel experiences any of this, the blower bearings most likely need replacement.

  9. Then, take a look at the motor pulley to make sure that it also rotates properly.  If the shaft of the pulley will not move or is otherwise hard to turn, it should be replaced.  To eliminate an insufficient operation, ensure that the main screw of the pulley is tightly fastened to the shaft and that the other screw holding the part of the shaft that is movable is also tightly fastened.  It also goes without saying that a pulley that is bent or otherwise damaged should be replaced in an effort to avoid a noisy operation.  At the same time, make sure that the pulley and motor are in alignment, and if not, move the motor pulley until alignment is achieved.  Alignment is pivotal in ensuring that the mechanical system of your cooler (such as the belt and pulley) does not wear out prematurely.

  10. Next, lubricate the motor with four or three drops of appropriate oil, such as SAE 20W or SAE 30W non-detergent oil into the oil caps/holes of the motor.

  11. Next, lubricate the bearings with two or three drops of appropriate oil, such as SAE 20W or SAE 30W non detergent oil, if the bearings are actually "oilable," encompassing oil cups.

  12. Then, take a look at the blower wheel, making sure that the wheel wheel is positioned in the center of the blower housing with the screws thereto tightly fastened.

  13. Check the pump of the cooler, and definitely replace it if you find that the shaft thereof is bent or otherwise corroded.  Otherwise, if you find that the pump is relatively okay, make sure you clear out any debris found therein by gaining access to and removing the inlet cap found on the bottom of the pump.

  14. Then, make sure that the overflow pipe is clean inside and that it seals well when connected.

The rest of the steps of Guide 1 should be done the following day.

  1. After finding that your pad frames are dry, place your new cooler pads in them and then set the cooler pad frames to the side again.  Though, be sure when putting in the new cooler pads that they are just the right size so as to fully cover each pad frame in order to prevent warm air from making their way into the cooler without first going through the new wet pads so as to be cooled from the wetness thereof.  Also, another consideration of quality pads are their thickness consistency: You want pads that are relatively thick all around, or otherwise such pads will not cool properly (those that are thin will become hot areas in that there is not enough wet padding to cool the air coming in whereas there is enough wet padding to cool the air on the other side where the pad is thick); though, be careful not to get cooler pads that are too thick, since too-thick pads can potentially restrict air flow.  (If you have not already done so and it is applicable, store your cooler damper in a nice, dry area.)

  2. Next, reconnect the waterline (i.e., the thin copper tube/pipe) to the cooler and turn on the water supply.  During this time, assess the condition of the waterline to determine, and if necessary repair, any leaks to the waterline tubing itself or its fittings that may have occurred during freezing periods of the Winter period.

  3. Upon waiting for a curing period of at least 12 hours after having applied a cooler coating and sealer, such as Submarine Cooler Coating and Sealer, fill the pan of the cooler with water.

  4. Check to make sure that the float valve is working properly, adjusting the float arm (loosening the float screw to do so) as may be necessary when the water pan becomes full of water in order to ensure that the float valve will properly shut off.  If your adjustment has no effect on a troubled float valve, replace it, and preferably with one that is partly made of heavy duty brass for long-life usage, giving more bang for your buck.

  5. Turn on the pump only at this point to see that it is operating and properly pumping, and if it is pumping poorly or otherwise not working, have it replaced.  In the event the pump does not turn on, make sure there are no loose connections and that otherwise the pump is actually receiving electrical power; if possible, use a voltage meter to verify that there is power running from the electrical box from which the pump should be receiving power; if need be, replace any burned out electrical box fuse.  If the pump is working okay, but the pumping of the water is not being done equally from the side of each spider spout (i.e., distributor line), shut off the pump and clean out the spider (each distributor line and its head) with a cooler spider snake.

  6. Make sure that the water of your cooler pan rises to a level that allows just a half an inch of the top of the overflow pipe to be exposed.  This adjustment of the water level is done by loosening the screw of the float valve so as to adjust the angle of the float to permit the desired amount of water to accumulate until you meet the aforementioned half-inch point of the overflow pipe, at which point you need to tighten the screw of the float to sustain such a position.  Preferably, this adjustment should be done while the cooler is operating and the cooler pads are wet in the pad frames (one pad open, of course, to give you room to adjust the float, etc.). (Then, it is encouraged that you turn off the pump until all other steps are completed, at which time everything will be powered up.)

  7. Then turn on the power to the motor to make sure it properly operates the blower fan.  In the event the motor does not turn on, make sure there are no loose connections and that otherwise the motor is actually receiving electrical power; if possible, use a voltage meter to verify that there is power running from the electrical box from which the motor should be receiving power; if need be replace any burned out electrical box fuse.  If the motor does not work at all, or if only one of the two speeds of the motor works, the motor must be replaced.  Premium motors specifically manufactured for coolers are made by manufacturers such as A.O. Smith and Dial Manufacturing.

  8. Inspect the tension of the belt by pushing lightly on it halfway between the pulley and motor, and quickly release it to see if the belt will have a proper reactive "bounce-back" tension of about three-fourths of an inch to one full inch.  If adjustment is necessary to reach such a tension deflection, go ahead and loosen the bolts of the motor so as to give it enough slack in order to move it forward or backward until the aforesaid tension that is desired is actually met. Then tighten the bolts to secure this newly adjusted position for the motor. Turn the motor off momentarily.

  9. Finally, you are at the stage of "powering up" everything.  At the box, be sure to plug in the cord of the pump to have it turned on, and have it operate for a good twelve minutes, and then plug in the cord to turn on the motor.  Put in and close up all the pad frames (with the new cooler pads in place, of course) if you haven't done so already.  (Allowing the pump to run on first before the motor will allow for the pump to have some lead time in eliminating any dust build-up in order to allow as much pure cool air to enter the ducting system when the motor is powered on to operate the blower. The cooler should be working fine.

Guide 2: Middle of the Summer Time

  1. Remove the pad frames to gain access to the interior of the cooler.

  2. Check all of the mechanical parts, including the motor, pump, and belt, to make sure that they are all in good working order; if not, replace those that are not.

  3. Check the cooler pads to see that they are decently clean and otherwise relatively free of an excessive accumulation of mineral deposits.  If they are very dirty and otherwise covered with a lot of mineral deposits, replace the cooler pads with newer ones.

  4. If your cooler features a "bleed-off valve," which functions to drain recirculating water so as to avoid the excessive build-up of mineral deposits, make sure this bleed-off valve is adjusted properly so as to not drain out more water than required.

  5. Next, make sure that the water of the cooler pan is still at the level at which a half an inch of the top of the overflow pipe is left exposed, and if not, adjust the float arm as necessary in the method described in step 20 of Guide 1.  If you find that the water has run continuously because the float valve has failed, or that otherwise your adjustment now is not having the proper effect, replace the float valve with another one.

  6. Put the pad frames back into place of the cooler.

Guide 3: Winter Time

  1. Remove the pad frames to gain access to the interior of the cooler.

  2. To minimize the risk of waterline ruptures due to the freezing temperatures inherent of the Winter time, disconnect the waterline to the cooler and, thus, turn off the water supply thereto.

  3. Drain out any water in the pan of the cooler.

  4. Wipe clean the interior of the cooler with a cloth/rag, including the pan thereof, of any small remainder of water and debris (such as mineral deposits).

  5. Make sure the pan is left dry.

  6. Put the pad frames back into place of the cooler, including, as may be applicable, the damper.

  7. Put up and secure your winter covering over your cooler to prevent cold air from entering your ducting system during the Winter season.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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