How does a Swamp Cooler Work?

How does a Swamp Cooler Work?

How a Swamp Cooler Works

Have you ever traveled to a place with high humidity? You may have found your hair curled, your skin was softer, and you seemed to sweat a lot more. Your body was using the moisture in the air to cool you down; a process called evaporative cooling. This same principle is used when it comes to swamp coolers. Swamp coolers are prevalent in warm, dry areas, such as Utah, Nevada and Arizona, where there’s less moisture in the air, and evaporative cooling works better. But how does a swamp cooler actually work? The following animations will give you a better idea of what’s happening in that machine that makes you comfortable in those warm summer months.

Getting ready for winter? Click here to learn how to prep your swamp cooler for the colder months.

How to Winterize your Swamp Cooler

A swamp cooler uses moisture to cool air. A swamp cooler (which is also called an evaporative air conditioner) works by taking warm outside air through wet evaporative cooler pads, which cools the air. The cold air is then blown into a home through a vent. The main parts of a swamp cooler can be found in the diagram below.

Swamp Cooler Diagram

The Parts that Make Up an Evaporative Cooler:

Water Supply Valve

This valve is found inside of your home, generally where your water heater is connected to the rest of your plumbing. This valve is connected to your swamp cooler by a copper tube. It brings water into the swamp cooler. Without this valve, the swamp cooler cannot work.


The evaporative cooler float is found on the bottom of the swamp cooler. When the water in the bottom of the swamp cooler reaches a certain level, the float rises on top of the water and shuts off the water supply valve. If this float stops working, the swamp cooler may not work, or may overflow.


The swamp cooler’s pump is also found on the bottom of the unit. It pumps the water through the water distribution lines, keeping the evaporative pads wet.

Evaporative Pads

The evaporative cooling pads line the inside of the swamp cooler. They have to be wet for the swamp cooler to work properly. The clean and cool the air.

Blower and Blower Motor

The blower motor turns the blower, which brings cool air into the ductwork and forces it out of a home, cooling the air.

How Does a Swamp Cooler Work?

A swamp cooler works to cool the air in your home with four main steps. These are:

  1. Water Supply Valve Brings Water into Bottom of Swamp Cooler

Download Swamp Cooler Animations

When you turn the dial of your swamp cooler to the on position, the water supply valve brings water into the bottom of the swamp cooler. The water continues to pour into the swamp cooler until the float, which is sitting on top of the water, reaches a certain level. This signals the water supply valve to turn off.

  1. The Pump Brings Water to the Evaporative Cooler Pads

Download Swamp Cooler Animations

After there is enough water in the bottom of the evaporative cooler, the pump begins to pull water through the water distribution lines. These water distribution lines are located at the top of the evaporative pads and pour water through them. If the homeowner feels that the air isn’t cool enough, they can turn their swamp cooler’s switch to “pump” to pump more water into the evaporative pads.

  1. Warm Air is Pulled Through Evaporative Cooler Pads

Download Swamp Cooler Animations

After the evaporative pads have water on them, the blower motor begins pulling warm air into the swamp cooler, through the pads. As the warm air goes through the pads, the moisture cools the air, and cleans it. This process is called evaporative cooling. This works the same way when you are exercising, and sweat, and then have a fan blow on you, cooling your skin.

  1. Blower Forces Cool Through Vent, Cooling Home

After the air is pulled through the evaporative pads and cooled, the blower takes the cooled air and forces it through the ductwork and vent, and into the house. 

Did you know a Home Warranty Covers Swamp Coolers?

Unfortunately, each of these parts of a swamp cooler has a lifespan – they don’t last forever. Eventually, the mechanical aspects of your evaporative cooler will get run down and fail. When this happens, make sure your home is covered with a home warranty. Home warranties cover the systems and appliances in your home for a premium of $300 to $600 a year. When something breaks down, you pay a $60 deductible for it to be repaired and replaced. Click to learn more about what a home warranty is, or what’s covered with a home warranty. You can also learn about home warranties on our main page.

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