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Old 07-04-2007, 08:59 AM
 
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Default Swamp Coolers vs. Refrigerated Air

If you had your choice, but your were on a limited budget, would you prefer to have a swamp cooler or refrigerated air in your place?
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Old 07-04-2007, 10:10 AM
 
Location: The Hot Dry SW
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Here's a good comparison of the two, for folks like me who never encountered swamp coolers until a visit to the SW.

Swamp Cooler vs Air Conditioner (http://tinyurl.com/39cd8t - broken link)
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Old 07-04-2007, 11:31 AM
 
Location: Maine
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Well, in my 20+ years of suffering through NM summers, having experienced both refrigerated air and swamp coolers, I'd go with refrigerated air all the way. They help keep rooms much cooler.

Although I will admit a great nostalgic fondness for the thumptiy-thumpity whirring hum of the swamp cooler on hot summer nights and the smell of tangy water filling the house. Brings me right back to my childhood.

The one great thing about a swamp cooler in the window: Turn that sucker on high, and your kids can stand right in front of it with their bubble wands and fill the entire house with thousands of bubbles. You just can't get the same effect with refigerated air.
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Old 07-04-2007, 12:24 PM
 
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I posted this awhile back over on the Colorado forum. It would apply equally to New Mexico:

I worked with evaporative cooling for years, both in home and confined livestock operations. Unless the outside relative humidity is high, a properly operating evaporative cooling system is highly effective. Contrary to another post, I have regularly seen evap coolers drop the incoming air temperature by up to 30-35 degrees if the outside air is dry and the cooler is operating correctly. An evaporatively cooled livestock facility I worked in could maintain a 75 degree inside temperature with 100+ degree outside temps. I lived in a couple of the hottest areas in Colorado, and--excepting maybe one or two days each summer, evap cooling kept the house perfectly cool.

When evap coolers have problems is if the owner does not know how to properly maintain the system, or they mistakenly think that the windows should be closed. There needs to be unimpeded airflow to allow the air to move out of the house.

I would add that an advantage to having an evaporative cooler in an arid area like New Mexico is that it ADDS humidity to the air in the house when outside humidities are often in single digits. Mechanical A/C actually removes humidity from the air--an advantage in humid areas, but not desirable in New Mexico's already dry-air climate.
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Old 07-04-2007, 04:36 PM
 
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Default Swamp coolers are more energy efficient.

I have a large house and use two large swamp coolers which lower the temperature about 20-30 degrees depending on the hunidity and outside air temperature. They use very little electricity compared to refrigerated air and they add humidity to the inside air, which in New Mexico is a good thing. They are also fairly simple to maintain and are MUCH less expensive to buy than refrigerated a/c's. They used to be the best and most efficient way to cool a home or business here in the Southwest until places like Tucson, Phoenix and Scottsdale started adding high humidity to the air, thanks to golf courses, pools and man made lakes. Now swamp coolers won't work in those places so people have to pay high energy bills to keep refrigerated air going. New mexico isn't there yet but it's coming.
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Old 07-04-2007, 04:58 PM
TKO
 
Location: Cruces
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My sister lives in Phoenix and they have both. I think that's a fairly common setup there. Evap for normal heat and AC for those more hellish temps.
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Old 07-04-2007, 06:56 PM
_yb
 
Location: Central New Mexico
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To me the ease of maintenance and the cost of electricity makes a swamp cooler ideal. If you have an energy efficiant home plus the size of swamp cooler is properly matched with your sq footage and your duct work you are good to go. Hard water can be hard on the system but I have delt with those issues with the use of magnets.
Swamp coolers are much cheaper to operate.


I lived in a town just west of Phoenix called Buckeye for about 6 years. We had both a swamp and refrig air system. I think just about everyone had swimming pools. Most yards were flood irrigated and all of the farm fields were flood irrigated. So there was really to much humidity in the air for the swamp cooler to work very well. We hardly ever turned the swamp cooler on in Buckeye. Our cooling bills were reflective of the refrig air and the pool. The bills were high dollar.
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Old 07-04-2007, 07:17 PM
 
Location: Metro Milwaukee, WI
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I am in Albuquerque where normal summer highs range where I am in the town between 90 degrees and 104 degrees. Some days only in the 80s. Nights cool off, but usually not highly significantly (unless rain / monsoon season) until after midnight.

Not the opressive heat of Phoenix, Tucson, Vegas, etc., but then again, I lived most of my life in Milwaukee, WI where it is rare to get over 90. So to me, the heat seems quite warm here in the summer.

And...this coming from a single-income family...I still would prefer an AC to a swamp cooler.

My house has a swamp, and overall it works OK. However, this June, we've been consistently in the high 90s / low 100s, and it only cools my house about 20 degrees more than the outside. Thus, we have to ensure all windows are covered (to block sunlight), even our french doors (to block the sun).

However, most of June has been ultra arid - very low humidities - so it has worked OK.

Yet, today (4th o' July) we had a more monsoon-like humidity / dew point, and thus even though it was only in the mid-90s and not as warm as other days, the house was far warmer...the swamp just couldn't fight off the humidity.

That is probably my 2nd biggest beef with the swamps - while Albuquerque (and these other cities) are part of a desert and thus can justify using swamps, let's not forget that 2.5 (most of July, August, and early September) of the five summer months here (May thru September) are part of the monsoon season. Thus, humidities commonly get into the 30s at least, and even though the drier parts - mid-May through early July - are usually physically hotter, the swamps falter in July and August and thus make indoor areas relatively warm.

I am weird. I LOVE being outdoors in 90 - 110 degree desert heat. But indoors, trying to concentrate or relax, etc., I want it pleasant and cool. I HATE being warm indoors. Tough to sleep, etc.

My first biggest beef with swamps is the maintenance. I am not a fixer-up type guy I was born and raised in Milwaukee where swamps didn't exist. Thus, it is a major pain in my butt to deal with the maintenance on the swamp. Guys like _yb I am guessing are longtime to this area and, _yb, not to speak for you, but I bet you are a handy sort anyway. For guys like that, yeah, hauling up on the roof a few times a year to deal with the swamp is no big deal / no huge effort. To a non-handy guy like me that isn't used to swamps, it is a major pain in the rear end to try to replace a motor, to winterize, etc. I think the estimated trips to a home supply store per swamp start up / shut down is 3 (this is the joke I always hear) and to guys like me, it isn't fun...it is a MAJOR pain in the backside.

Plus, frankly, while the swamp is overall pretty effective, and Albuquerque is no where near as hot as Phoenix, Vegas, etc., it gets darn hot enough enough times in the summer to make me yearn for some brilliant, pleasant, 70 degree refrigerated air. When I get home from a drive home from work in 99 or 101 degree temps and stumble out of my car, I would be much happier and content getting into AC.

Having said all of that, admittedly, swamps are nice on the wallet book (although sometimes when I factor in the maintenance, I am not sure they are all that more cost-effective). Yet, as a monthly bill, swamps are sure alot more pleasant than refrigerated air.

I guess if I lived in cooler spots like Santa Fe or Denver, I would be more than fine with a swamp. But starting down that hill from SF to Albuquerque, and then starting and Albuquerque and down and/or west to El Paso, Las Cruces, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, etc., I would greatly prefer AC.
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Old 07-04-2007, 07:26 PM
 
Location: Metro Milwaukee, WI
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark S. View Post
Well, in my 20+ years of suffering through NM summers, having experienced both refrigerated air and swamp coolers, I'd go with refrigerated air all the way. They help keep rooms much cooler.

Although I will admit a great nostalgic fondness for the thumptiy-thumpity whirring hum of the swamp cooler on hot summer nights and the smell of tangy water filling the house. Brings me right back to my childhood.

The one great thing about a swamp cooler in the window: Turn that sucker on high, and your kids can stand right in front of it with their bubble wands and fill the entire house with thousands of bubbles. You just can't get the same effect with refigerated air.
Mark - I have to say that although I have often disagreed with your posts / takes here about New Mexico, I was absolutely dying of laughter at your post here - spot on! Really funny stuff and I really couldn't agree more.

There was a Jim Belshaw column in the Albuquerque Journal about 2 months or so that he entitled "Ask Dr. Swamp Cooler" that was a pricelessly hilarious column to read for any New Mexican from Central or Southern NM who has dealt with scorching hot summers and swamps...it was just hilarious and a recommended read.

One point he alluded to New Mexicans taking great pride in that first blast of air from the swamp for the season right after starting it up, enjoying every minute of blowing a winter worth of dead spiders through the house, etc., it was really hilarious.

As for me, I am a fan of AC (even though my house is fully swamp!)....
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Old 07-04-2007, 07:38 PM
_yb
 
Location: Central New Mexico
1,135 posts, read 3,244,610 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EnjoyEP View Post
Having said all of that, admittedly, swamps are nice on the wallet book (although sometimes when I factor in the maintenance, I am not sure they are all that more cost-effective).
Enjoy you can pretty much replace everything in your cooler for around 100 bucks more or less. That includes running new cooper tubing to your water source. Just getting a service call on a refig unit will probably cost well over 200 plus parts and labor.


IMO swamps are far more cost effective. PNM would like all of us to switch over to refrig. That would sure help them get their nuke plant built here in NM.
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