Unwell woman in discomfort with her hand on her head

Can a Swamp Cooler Make You Sick?

July 30, 2020 2:07 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Swamp coolers, also called an evaporative cooler, can effectively cool spaces with a desert climate. There are a lot of myths about swamp coolers, including that one can be bad for your health or make you sick. Here’s the truth.

What is an Evaporative Cooler?

An evaporative unit pushes hot air through water to reduce the air temperature. It’s a time-honored method, dating back to ancient Egypt when people would hang up damp curtains. As the breeze passed through the fabric, it would feel cooler. In some places, servants would fan jars of water to provide cooled air. Today, many desert communities embrace evaporative coolers because the modern method is cheaper to create, install and maintain than air conditioning.

How Does it Work?

Another example of evaporative cooling is when you get out of a swimming pool or body of water. You feel colder, as does the air. Evaporative coolers work on the same kind of technology. A swamp cooler has relatively few moving parts. The main housing is a metal box. At one end of the end, a fan pulls air into the box from the outside. The air is pumped out through a set of wet pads. The unit also has a small pump that inputs water into the pads to keep them moist. While it sounds like an air conditioner, your AC pumps the air over refrigerated coils and recirculates the air in your home. You cannot open the window or doors without making your AC work harder. With a swamp cooler, you can open your house up and enjoy the great outdoors.

Swamp coolers cost less to operate and are better for the environment. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint when you have an evaporative unit cooling the air instead of an AC. An evaporative unit does not produce CFC gases that contribute to ozone depletion. Another benefit is that evaporative coolers cost less to make. The materials are recyclable and easily accessible. Most homeowners can DIY maintenance when required, because it’s usually as easy as replacing the pump or blower.


Can a Swamp Cooler Make You Sick?

A well-maintained unit won’t make you sick. The key is maintenance. Your cooler should get fresh water every three to four weeks to prevent stagnation and bad odors. The pads that the water passes through will need to be cleaned every year, not just to prevent mold and mildew, but to reduce hard water buildup. It’s recommended that you clean the exterior of the unit every few weeks during the busy season.

Swamp coolers do have the potential to harbor mold and mildew. The pads do stay wet through the season, which means that mold could grow. In more humid weather, mold is more apt to grow. When you turn on the cooler, the mold in the device could be spread through the process of blowing the air out into the ducts. This can certainly cause problems, whether or not people are allergic to mold and mildew spores. Indoor air quality decreases when mold is present. Some people may experience difficulty breathing if your evaporative unit gets mold.

To prevent mold growth, you need to keep the moisture level under control. In many cases, you can leave another window open to reduce the overall humidity in the evaporative cooler and air. A HEPA air cleaner can clean the air if you do get mold in the unit. You’ll need to clean it before operating it again. Fortunately, because of the simple design of a swamp unit, it is a much easier process than working on an air conditioner. However, because mold can be toxic, you may want to call in a professional for cleanup.

Some people are concerned about Legionella bacteria being carried through the water. Legionnaires’ disease is very serious. It is caused by inhaling contaminated particles of water or dust particles into the lungs. Cooling towers and warm water systems are known for amplifying the growth of the bacteria. The technology of cooling towers or evaporative condensers is much different from evaporative coolers. An evaporative unit does not produce aerosols, which is how Legionella bacteria is transmitted into the air and breathed in. Even if the bacteria is present in the system, it can’t be distributed into the air as an aerosol.

How Often Should Swamp Coolers Be Cleaned?

These coolers do require more cleaning than your air conditioner, but they are still very easy to maintain. You should clean it before you start to use it in the spring. If you use it heavily, you may need to clean it at least once during the season, maybe twice. When you close it up for the winter, you should clean it again. The pads may need to be replaced if you see cracks or other problems.

At least once a month during use, you should refill the tank with clean water. Water has a tendency to become musty over time. Fresh water prevents that swampy odor associated with evaporative coolers. Some manufacturers recommend using water treatment tablets to prevent corrosion and to help keep the air fresher. You may also use some essential oil in the water to add a light fragrance.
How Often Should Swamp Coolers Be Cleaned

Learn More About Swamp Coolers For Your Home or Business

These coolers are probably called that because they do have the tendency to smell musty when the water isn’t kept clean. These units should not be used in a humid climate with a lot of humidity because they will have a tendency to grow mold. Keeping your evaporative unit in good working order prevents many issues that you could experience.
Evaporative technology is improving all the time to create water pumps and blowers that last longer and are less noisy than their AC counterparts. Premier Industries focuses on evaporative coolers. The Phoenix climate is perfect for these coolers to operate efficiently. We design and manufacture evaporative coolers to help you reduce your energy bills. Contact us today for more information.

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This post was written by Mike Nicolini

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