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Get Your Swamp Cooler Ready for Winter

Updated on September 18, 2013
Swamp cooler on home waiting to be winterized
Swamp cooler on home waiting to be winterized | Source

Swamp coolers are a common cooling system used in the southwest region of the United States, installed as an alternative system to air conditioning. Swamp coolers, also called evaporative coolers, operate on the principle of pulling warm air from the outside into the unit, which is usually located on the roof of the house. The air is cooled with water and then vented into the home.

Part of maintaining a swamp cooler is shutting it down for the winter months. This reduces the risk of damage to the unit when not in use and increasing its longevity. Follow these few basic steps to winterize your swamp cooler.

1. Shut off the water valve that controls the water flow to the cooler. This is a dedicated water line so you do not need to shut off the water to the house, only the valve that feeds the water into the cooler.

2. Drain any water remaining in the system. Remove the access panel from the unit and remove one of the cooler pads to get to the overflow tube. Pull the tube away from the drain opening and allow the water in the tube to flow into the water tray inside the unit.

3. Carefully remove the tray and empty it. You'll likely see mineral deposits on the surface of the tray. Use a general purpose, acidic cleaner, such as a vinegar and water solution to clean the tray. Set the tray aside and allow it to dry.

4. Look at the supply hose, located above the slots for the pads. This hose has several small holes in it to allow water to drip over the pads. Gently clean the exterior of the hose using a small brush and vinegar and water solution to remove mineral deposits.

5. Check the water tray for cracks or rust. Repair small cracks with marine grade sealant and remove rust with a scouring pad and place the clean tray back into the unit.

6. Leave the water flow tube disconnected to prevent condensation from building up in the line over the winter months. Put the pads back into the unit. Do not put new pads into the unit at this time. Put new pads in when you prepare the unit for summer use.

7. Secure the access panel back onto the unit, making sure the screws are tightened, and that screws on the rest of the unit are tight as well. Check the mounting bolts to be sure the unit is secure.

8. Insulate the cooler by wrapping it in a thin layer of insulation or a thick blanket. This guards against heating loss, as the unit allows for air flow into the home. Cover the insulated unit with a cooler cover.

Winterizing your swamp cooler takes little time and doesn't require any special skills. Performing this basic maintenance prolongs the life of the cooler and reduces the costs of heating your home during the winter months.


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    • Shelly McRae profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelly McRae 

      9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      The design is improved, but only in terms of the motor being more efficient, really. Otherwise, the principle remains the same. So simple, yet so effective. Thanks for reading my hub, RTalloni.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      About 35 years ago we experienced using a swamp cooler during a visit to the Mojave--it was amazing! I imagine they've improved the design somewhat by now, but even then we were delighted with how they worked.

    • Shelly McRae profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelly McRae 

      9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Swamp coolers are everywhere here in Phoenix, and they do help keep cooling costs down. Thanks for stopping by, Simone.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, I've never even HEARD of a swamp cooler before! This is so useful. Thanks for putting together the Hub, Shelly McRae!

    • Shelly McRae profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelly McRae 

      9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Patty, thanks for stopping by. A good many homes have both swamp coolers and air conditioners here, and use the swamp coolers through to June or July, then switch to AC. But you can't get up on the roof until October to winterize them because it's just too hot!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      We had swamp coolers at a steakhouse chain for which I worked many years ago, but I did not know that homes in the SW use them routinely. Rated Up.

    • Shelly McRae profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelly McRae 

      9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thanks, Donna. Swamp coolers can actually last a long time if they are well maintained.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 

      9 years ago from USA

      Good advice and easy to follow directions. Voted up and shared on my social network.


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