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An Eco-Friendly DIY Air Conditioner That Uses Almost No Power

An Eco-Friendly DIY Air Conditioner That Uses Almost No Power

If you’ve heard about swamp coolers, you’ll know that they work to cool down the air by means of water evaporation.

They’re also called swamp boxes or evaporative coolers.

How do they work?

Put simply, a swamp cooler draws warm air through evaporative cooler pads that help to cool the air. By means of a blower motor via a vent, this cooler air can then be blown into a room so it can feel less warm.

But that’s just the start of the story! Here’s everything you need to know about swamp coolers and how to make your own.


What Are The Main Parts Of A Swamp Cooler?

Illustration Of Cooling System Parts

The main parts of a swamp cooler are as follows:

  • Evaporative pads: As we mentioned, these pull warm air through them so that it can be cooled down.
  • Blower: The blower has a motor that turns the blower. This enables cool air to move into the cooler, before pushing it out so it can decrease the outside air’s heat.
  • Water supply valve: This is a valve that brings water into the swamp cooler.
  • Float: This rises to the top of the water and shuts the water supply valve when the water in the swamp cooler has reached a specific level.
  • Pump: This pumps water into the evaporative pads so that they remain wet.  

How A Swamp Cooler Works

So, to break it down, the water supply valve allows water to enter the bottom of the swamp cooler.

The float (which rests on top of the water) reaches a certain level, alerting the water supply valve to switch off.

When there’s a sufficient quantity of water in the swamp cooler, the pump will push water through the cooler’s water distribution lines.

These are found on top of the cooler’s evaporative pads and they work by letting water pour through the cooler’s pads.

Once these pads have water on them, this signals the blower motor to be engaged. It pulls warm air into the cooler via these pads.

The warm air passes through the pads and the moisture cools the air.

When the air has moved through the pads and had its temperature dropped, the blower then pushes this water through the vent and into the room so that it can be cooled down.

How To Make Your Own DIY Swamp Cooler

Now that you know how a swamp cooler works, it’s time to make your own one!

Although the way a swamp cooler works might seem complicated, the truth is that you can build a simple yet effective swamp cooler without much hassle (via YouTube).

First things first, you’ll need quite a few items. Hopefully you have a lot of these lying around your home so you don’t have to buy them.

List Of Items

  • Five-gallon bucket
  • Drill 
  • Saw drill bit
  • Cooling pad (Dura-Cool)
  • Scissors
  • 5 ft clear PVC tubing
  • Garden cloth
  • Box fan
  • Small fountain pump
  • 12-gauge wire


  • Once you’ve collected all the items you need, you can start by filling the bucket with two gallons of water.
  • Make holes in the top of the bucket, steering clear of that water line.
  • With your drill and saw drill bit, you will need to make two holes, one above the other, all the way around the bucket in a line. These holes should be 1.5 inches in size.
  • Then, make a bigger hole (that’s 2 inches in size) to the left of every pair of holes you’ve made. So, you’ll have two holes (one above the other) and to the left of those, you’ll have a bigger hole between the two holes. To the left of that, you’ll have two small holes (one above the other), and to the left of those holes you’ll have a bigger hole between them. See how it works? Do this pattern all around the bucket.
  • Once that’s done, you need to cut the cooling pad. It should be approximately 14 inches in height and 31 inches in width so that it can fit into the bucket, forming an insulation layer on the inside of the bucket. Always measure your bucket and pad first so you ensure the pad will fit!
  • Take some screen, such as garden cloth, and cut it to the same dimensions as the cooling pad so that you can fit it between the bucket and the pad. You need this screen to absorb the water.
  • Cut a hole in the lid of the bucket – it should be large enough for your box fan to fit into the hole.
  • Secure the fan onto the hole of the bucket with bolts and nuts, as well as adhesives if there are any gaps.
  • Place your pump into the bottom of the bucket.
  • Connect the pump to the clear PVC tubing. Make it go all the way around the top of the bucket. You’ll need about five feet of tubing.
  • Take the power lines from the pump and guide them out of the bucket.
  • You’ll need to cut a notch at the bucket rim so you can neatly direct the power lines without the lid of the bucket getting in the way of them later.
  • With the use of the 12-gauge wire, you should make holes all along the tube so that water will leak out onto the cooling pad.
  • Clamp the end of the hose to prevent all the water from being released.
  • The swamp cooler can be wired to a battery (it’s recommended to use a 12v battery for this DIY task) or a solar panel.

How much will your swamp cooler make a difference in air temperature? This is the big question and you’ll probably be able to achieve a drop in temperature that’s a few to 10 degrees.

Tips For Using Your Swamp Cooler Effectively

Using Swamp Cooler

You now have a fantastic swamp cooler that you made yourself and it’ll keep you cool on hot days.

But, there are some important tips you need to follow if you want to be able to use the cooler effectively.

Don’t make use of a swamp cooler on a humid day

For a swamp cooler to work effectively, it needs to be used to decrease the temperature by providing a water supply that will evaporate into dry air – the key is “dry air!”

When the water evaporates, this is what helps the temperature to decrease. If you use a swamp cooler when the air’s very humid, this could actually cause it to feel even more stifling.

Keep your windows opened

You might not think this is important, but it is! Your swamp cooler will work optimally when there’s a stream of fresh air in the room that you’re trying to cool down.

This will help you to maintain a flow of air through the room, which will make you feel more comfortable.

Make use of a dehumidifier

If the temperature is just too hot for you to open the windows in the room, you should use a dehumidifier instead. This will be beneficial for you and your swamp cooler.

The cooler will pull excess moisture out of the air and hold it in its water tank, so it will make the surrounding air dry and this will enable it to work better.

Pro tip: To make it work even better, position your dehumidifier next to your swamp cooler’s air-intake grill so that you can better control the air that enters the cooling pads of the cooler and ensure it stays dry.

Maintain dry air with special plants

There’s another trick you can use to make the air dry, and it’s completely natural: bring plants indoors that reduce moisture in the air!

Some of the best ones to achieve this goal include aloe, cacti, succulents, air plants, and Boston fern.

Don’t expect to cool down your entire home

DIY Swamp Cooler

Just like with using a fan, you’ll have to ensure that your swamp cooler is in the right position to make you feel its cool air.

It should ideally be placed in such a way that its air will blow directly on you.

To prevent having to carry your swamp cooler around to find the best position for it, build wheels onto it so you can move it around much easier.

This will also help you move it into other parts of the house with you in a less stressful way.

Ensure the evaporative pads are wet enough

You’ve just built your swamp cooler and you can’t wait to start using it immediately.

Before you do, make sure that its evaporative pads are wet enough so that they will be able to cool down the air effectively.

You should wait for about 15 or 20 minutes for these pads to fill with water before you try the swamp cooler. 

Make use of ice

If you want cold air to be produced really quickly, it could be a good idea to make use of ice in your swamp cooler.

However, although this is sometimes recommended, it’s good to bear in mind that ice won’t give you more than a sudden and short-lived flow of cold air.

This is because the ice has to melt before it can evaporate, and that takes a bit of time. But, it’s worth doing if you need fast relief, like if you’re sweating and need to cool down.

Keep your swamp cooler in good condition

As with any appliance, you want to be sure that you look after your swamp cooler so that it stays in good condition and works for a long time.

On a regular basis make sure you clean the outside of the swamp cooler, especially in the air grills where dust and debris can collect.

If the inside of the water tank is looking a bit dirty, you should use warm water and gentle soap to clean it.

Finally, check the cooling pads and other elements on a regular basis for any damage, such as in the form of cracks, tears, or mildew, and make sure you repair them.

Why Should You Use A Swamp Cooler Instead Of An Air Conditioner?

Man Sitting Infront Of Swamp Cooler

You might wonder if you should put in all the effort and time to make your own swamp cooler when you can just plug in a fan and use that to cool yourself down or use an air conditioner, especially since you won’t be able to use a swamp cooler to cool down your entire home.

However, there are some really good reasons why you should invest in a swamp cooler, or make one yourself, instead of opting for other cooling options for your home. Here’s a rundown of the most important ones.

They Cost Less Money

Swamp coolers only make use of a fan, pump, and water to provide you with cooler air.

You don’t have to use much (or any) electricity to run them, so they are therefore much more cost-effective than other types of cooling options.

For example, air conditioners usually contain components like compressors and refrigerants, and these increase your energy bills.

They Can Be Used To Fight Allergies

If you’ve ever used a fan or air conditioning unit throughout summer to cool you down, you’ll know that the air can dry out your sinuses and prompt allergies.

It’s no fun. Because swamp coolers make use of water to cool the air, this makes them better for you if you suffer from sinus, allergies, or rhinitis.

They Are Eco-Friendly

If you’re worried about the environment, you’ll be pleased to know that swamp coolers are more energy efficient as compared to cooling systems such as air conditioners.

The main resource they do require, however, is a regular supply of water.

That said, even if you choose to purchase a swamp cooler instead of build one yourself, it will still release less CO2 emissions as compared to air conditioners.

They Don’t Require Expensive Maintenance

Fixing DIY Swamp Cooler

If you own an air conditioner, you’ll know that its maintenance can end up being quite expensive.

This is because you need to have your air conditioner serviced once a year to ensure it stays in good condition. This can cost between $70 to $100, as Fixr reports.

In addition to that, air conditioners have many parts that can require repairs from time to time, which can increase your expenses by between $250 and $2,000.

Even if you purchase a swamp cooler instead of making your own, you will need to maintain it regularly, such as by ensuring it always has a water supply, but it’s not a lot of work and shouldn’t cost you much money.

If you’ve bought a swamp cooler and you want to have it serviced, this will cost you around $100, as Fixr reports, so it’s much cheaper than maintaining an air conditioner.

What’s A Drawback Of Using A Swamp Cooler?

One of the biggest drawbacks about swamp coolers as compared to fans or air conditioners is that you won’t benefit from them if you live in a very humid region.

Swamp coolers are meant for dry, hot climates because of how they boost the air’s moisture content.

If you use them during times of humidity, swamp coolers will increase the humidity of the air, which is what you really don’t want.

So, if you live in an area that experiences lots of humidity, your best bet for staying cool is to choose an air conditioner.

This works well to reduce the humidity because of how it dries out the air, which also makes it effective in all types of weather.

Related Questions

How much does it cost to purchase a swamp cooler?

It depends on the type of swamp cooler you’d like to purchase. If you want a mounted one, expect to pay between $500 to $1,500.

On the other hand, if you want a window swamp cooler it will be a bit cheaper – you’re looking at around $400 and $1,000.

Why is it called a “swamp” cooler?

You might be wondering why the evaporative cooler is usually called a swamp cooler. It makes sense, actually, because of how it makes use of water to keep the air cool via its wet evaporative pads.


If you want a cost-effective and eco-friendly way to cool down in summer, a swamp cooler is worth considering.

Best of all, you don’t even have to buy one – you can make one yourself!

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a DIY pro, you’ll see in our step-by-step guide on making your own swamp cooler that it can be done without too much hassle.

You can even make it greener by connecting it to a solar panel so that you make use of solar power.

Stay cool!

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