Making a 'Poor Man's Air Conditioner' Making a 'Poor Man's Air Conditioner'

Sometimes called a "poor man's air conditioner," the swamp cooler is an amazingly effective and inexpensive way to cool your home, trailer or even outdoor space. Air is drawn into the room through a moistened pad, adding moisture to the air which, in a hot climate, quickly evaporates, cooling the room. You can buy commercially made coolers, or make your own.

Things You'll Need To Make Your Own

  • Two commercially made swamp cooler pads
  • A box fan
  • Four 1-inch thick, 4-inch wide boards 2-3 feet long (depends on your window width)
  • 12- 1/2 inch long drywall screws
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Screen mesh
  • Staple gun with 3/8-inch staples
  • Submersible water pump (like found in fish tanks)
  • 8-feet of 1/2-inch clear plastic tubing
  • Water Collector Tray at least 2-inches wider than your frame and 4-inches deep

Step 1-Build A Frame

Use your four boards and drywall screws to build a square frame that will fit inside the window you plan to use your cooler in. Use your drill and drill bit to drill pilot holes in the end of each board for your drywall screws. Join each board together with the screws.

Step 2-Add Rubber Tubing

Drill a  1-inch hole in the center of one side of the frame. Insert your tubing through the hole and run it across the inside of the top of the frame. Drill 1/16-inch holes into the tubing every 2-inches beginning from 1-inch from the side and stopping 1-inch from the side. Seal the opening at one end with waterproof silicone caulk. Secure the rubber tubing to the top inside board of your frame using staples. Make sure the holes in the tubing are on the bottom, facing the bottom of the frame. Staple the tubing to the outside of the frame, taking care not to puncture the tubing. Connect the other end of the tubing to the submersible pump. Set pump inside water collecting tray.

Step 2-Add Screen Mesh

Stretch your screen mesh over one side of the frame and staple. Start in the center of one side and work from side to side, pulling the screen tight as you staple. The final screen should be taut across the entire surface.

Step 2-Add Swamp Pads

Place your frame, screen side down, on a flat surface. Put your swamp pads inside the frame. Use two pads if one doesn't stick at least 1/4-inch above the frame. Stretch and staple your screen over the frame to hold the pads in place.

Step 4-Add Water Collector Tray And Box Fan

Remove covers of box fan. Drill holes in frame and use wood screws to attach fan to frame. Replace outer cover of fan. Set unit on top of collection tray and fill tray with enough water to cover the submersible pump.

Step 5-Finish Up

Set entire unit in open window and secure with fan on the inside of window. Open another window on opposite side of room or house to increase air flow. Plug in pump and fan. Water should begin to be pumped up the rubber tubing, drip on the swamp pad. As it drips and flows to the bottom of the unit and back into the collection box it will recirculate. Once the pads are moist the air should feel cooler.

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