Thread Number: 24411
Swamp Coolers
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Post# 273223   3/24/2014 at 05:02 (1,242 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

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Am I the only one that has an interest in swamp coolers? I was lucky enough to save the one that I grew up with. It was my grandmothers, and when the windows were being upgraded, it was taken down with no plans on putting it back up. I brought it home, and with the help of my friend Dave, we sanded it down, patched up the leaks, replaced all that was needed, and then painted. I'm happy to say that this old swamp cooler was saved from the trash, and has been cooling us off for about 3 years now. I try to keep an eye out for the early ones, but they don't show up very often at all.

Post# 273224 , Reply# 1   3/24/2014 at 05:12 (1,242 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Before restoration

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This is an old picture with it in the background...

Post# 273225 , Reply# 2   3/24/2014 at 05:13 (1,242 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
And here it is now

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I went with blue

Post# 273226 , Reply# 3   3/24/2014 at 05:20 (1,242 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

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It's interesting, this is a single speed, but to change the amount of air it blows, the knob is turned, and a baffle is tilted as to block the flow of air. The two switches are for the blower, and pump.

Post# 273241 , Reply# 4   3/24/2014 at 09:18 (1,242 days old) by bvac6 (Fort Wayne, Indiana)        

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The Holiday Inn I worked at had two MASSIVE swamp coolers (paired with gas forced heating as well) that serviced the kitchen and ballroom areas. Unfortunately, they went out of use when new, more modern HVAC units were installed around them. They languished in the elements before the owner finally had them removed and scrapped.

Post# 273278 , Reply# 5   3/24/2014 at 14:37 (1,242 days old) by kenkart (Mocksville, NC)        
We never

saw them in the South, with the humidity here they are next to useless, the humidity here is 70 to 90 percent with 90 to over 100 degrees in July and August, not always that severe , but its not uncommon!

Post# 273382 , Reply# 6   3/25/2014 at 05:01 (1,241 days old) by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

Swamp cooler-Also called "Desert Coolers" remember one of those on the roof of our house on Holloman AFB in New Mexico-near Albequerkie,New Mexico.Worked well in the summer-You filled it with water in the spring-when the summer was over-drained and cleaned the thing out for the winter.My Dad wasgood at doing all of that.Of course in the South or even the East Coast of the US the swamp coolers would be useless.They are great in dry climates.

Post# 273454 , Reply# 7   3/25/2014 at 20:26 (1,241 days old) by paulg (my sweet home Chicago)        

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Would the term "swamp cooler" apply to a commercial device on top of a buildling that pumped water down wooden slats? With air rushing past those slats, the air was cooled... somewhat..
If so, I worked at a bank years and years ago that had such a cooling system. They also had a standard refrigeration airconditioner too. (The building was a combination of three buildings fused together).
What was amazing was that on hot days, the cool-humid air in the building was amazingly comfortable.

Post# 273481 , Reply# 8   3/25/2014 at 23:49 (1,241 days old) by dustin (Jackson, MI)        

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I have never seen such a thing! Cool! It would be pretty useless for us in Michigan too- our main problem in the summer is humidity. Not very often do we have hot, dry days. Usually very warm and humid, so traditional air conditioners are needed. At this point I'm just waiting for all of this nasty snow to melt!

Post# 273487 , Reply# 9   3/26/2014 at 04:05 (1,240 days old) by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

The "wood slat" coolers were usually cooling towers to cool refrigeration chiller units-these are high capacity units that chill water-the water removes the heat from the spaces-then the chiller's condenser coils were cooled by the water injected cooling tower unit on the buildings roof.The large "wood" units were called "cooling towers"Now these units may be made from cedar wood-that wood is most resistant to moisture-and has natural oils in it to kill bacteria that can grow in cooling tower water sumps at the base of the cooler.This is what contributed to the "Legionairtes Disease" that happened several years ago.Now cooler tower sumps are injected with bacteriacides to kill them.Uusually done by an automatic injector pump.And those sumps would be cleaned before and after the cooling season.And many of the coolers made today are made from aluminum or even plastic-fiberglass materials.When you are close to one of these units running-its amazing the amount of heat that is dumpted-stand over the discharge of the unit and you are sweating within a couple minutes!

Post# 273491 , Reply# 10   3/26/2014 at 04:52 (1,240 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
As my luck would have it...

bee-vac's profile picture
Shortly after I posted this thread, my motor bearings seized up... Haha, oh well, replacing a motor is an easy fix. At least this didn't happen during the heat of summer. It's too bad that it's so uncommon to find early models of these swamp coolers, but I do keep an eye out for them. Rounded corners on these units will usually date these to earlier models. Something tells me this one dates to the mid 1960's.

Post# 273496 , Reply# 11   3/26/2014 at 07:05 (1,240 days old) by kenkart (Mocksville, NC)        
Re Question..

The device on the roof you describe is not a swamp cooler, But rather a water tower, Air Conditioning uses to use water instead of the now common condenser or outdoor unit, the water condenser worked like this, when the ac compressor was running, the water circulated around the condenser coild, thus absorbing the heat from the freon, then the hot water was pumped to the roof, and sprayed over the wooden slats, thus cooling the water, it was then pumped back to the condenser in the basement, this system was very efficient, but much more complex, thus they went away in the 1960s, maintenence on them was expensive, and as some of the water evaporates, water must be added along and along, water costs rose so now about all you see is the regular fan condensers...the water ones are much more efficient and produce ice cold air because water is a much better medium to absorb heat!The antique mall in my hometown is in the building that was Shields Hardware for many years, they were a Carrier dealer, and their is still one of these units being used today! it was installed in the early 50s and has a cast iron compressor and uses I think Freon 502.." maybe 500??" in any event, if you stand in front of it, its so cold it will make your teeth hurt!!

Post# 273517 , Reply# 12   3/26/2014 at 10:07 (1,240 days old) by paulg (my sweet home Chicago)        
Similar stories

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That water tower I dealt with is described by y'all very well. I so believe the air-conditioner for the building was a Carrier unit as well.
The building was a fused series of building about 100 years old but the place was remodeled to state-of-the-art in about 1953. This all jives.
I do remember being tasked to run to the roof and occasionally dump an entire bottle of bleach in the water tower to stop it from becoming.. icky.
Old as it was, it did work well but the repairman was there all the time..
(And for you appliance fans, the kitchen appliances in the lunchroom were A.J. Lindeman and Hoverson and the fridge was a Philco)

Post# 273780 , Reply# 13   3/28/2014 at 06:15 (1,238 days old) by DaveTranter (Central England, U.K.)        
Dumb question from across the 'pond'

Why are these devices called 'Swamp Coolers', if a swamp is the one place they won't work??? :-S

All best

Dave T

Post# 273911 , Reply# 14   3/28/2014 at 21:11 (1,238 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

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My understanding is that the reason these are referred to as "Swamp Coolers" is due to the moist scent these will give off at times. The correct name would be Evaporative coolers, as this describes the actual way these function. Desert coolers are another name given to these as well. The information plate located on the fan housing in the last picture reads; "The Dearborn Air Cooler". So I guess depending on what area you are in, will determine the name for these.

Post# 274224 , Reply# 15   3/30/2014 at 17:24 (1,236 days old) by DaveTranter (Central England, U.K.)        
Thanks, Bee-Vac

I thought that may be the case having seen the photograph (Reply#10). I would imagine that the water tank/sump would resemble a swamp by the end of the season, too. Were/are there problems with mosquitos, etc. breeding in the water??

Thanks for the info.

All best

Dave T

Post# 274298 , Reply# 16   3/31/2014 at 06:43 (1,235 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

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Well the water in the pan will at times become dirty, especially if the surrounding area is dusty. Mosquitos will breed in the water if left to stagnate during the off season. But as mentioned in reply 6, the water should be drained and water supply shut off at the start of the cold season. Ideally the aspine pads should be replaced every season as well. During the summer, I have it connected to an automatic timer. I can't tell you how good it feels to be in bed still and for this cooler to kick on at 10:30 in the morning before it gets hot out!

Post# 274340 , Reply# 17   3/31/2014 at 14:31 (1,235 days old) by countryford (Phoenix, AZ)        

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We currently don't have one, but we are going to get one for our house. We will be getting one that is large enough to do the whole house. The house was built in 1949 and orignally was built with a swamp cooler.

I had a trailer that had a swamp cooler. One thing I learned to help keep the musty smell out is to pour a little fabric softner into the pan of water. Gives the place a nice scent.

Post# 274401 , Reply# 18   4/1/2014 at 02:04 (1,234 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

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That's neat! Would have been neat to see what it looked like. How did you come to find that the house was originally built with one? Was it a roof mount?

Post# 274492 , Reply# 19   4/2/2014 at 01:42 (1,233 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Just bought these on eBay

bee-vac's profile picture
Found these on eBay. These will be great for reference.

Post# 274494 , Reply# 20   4/2/2014 at 01:44 (1,233 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
This from 1954

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Never heard of this brand before...

Post# 274495 , Reply# 21   4/2/2014 at 02:47 (1,233 days old) by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

Sno-Breeze cooler-remember the large one at the daycare center at Holloman AFB!Some of the kids liked trying to throw stuff into the fan!So they put a grate over the fan opening.

Post# 274667 , Reply# 22   4/3/2014 at 18:13 (1,232 days old) by paulg (my sweet home Chicago)        
Palm-Aire obsolete references and imagery

paulg's profile picture
Notice the "Hotter than a Hottentot" reference on the Palm-Aire instruction book.
When I looked up Hottentot I found out that the reference is considered offensive nowadays. It is a good thing that such cavalier references are largely obsolete nowadays.
Regardless, the instruction manual is charming from a historical perspective as it is very period and now stands as a relic of a time long gone.

Post# 274927 , Reply# 23   4/5/2014 at 19:23 (1,230 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Saw this old one

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Saw this at a thrift store. Too bad it want for sale!

Post# 275244 , Reply# 24   4/8/2014 at 20:34 (1,227 days old) by countryford (Phoenix, AZ)        

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The swamp cooler was mounted on the side of the house. It was one that was hooked up to duct work throughout the house. When they went to ac they just closed off the end. I'll see if I can't get a picture taken of it.

Post# 275254 , Reply# 25   4/8/2014 at 21:25 (1,227 days old) by eurekastar (Big Spring, Texas)        

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In West Texas they are alternately called Swamp Coolers or Evaporative Coolers. I've never heard the term Desert Cooler, but it makes sense. I always assumed they were nick named Swamp Cooler because of the "swamp" (water pan) used to hold the water.

They are very effective in low humidity areas. When I lived in El Paso, virtually everyone had them. They are so much cheaper to run than refrigerated air conditioners.

They can be very loud sometimes. When the belt gets old, it can squeel. Sometimes the bearings on the squirl cage will go bad and create a racket. Plus, on larger units, the large volume of air that is moved can sometimes be distracting for some.

Most people don't use them where I currently live, which surprises me because our humidity is usually quite low.

Post# 275269 , Reply# 26   4/9/2014 at 03:34 (1,226 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

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I'm looking forward to the picture countryford. I bet it was two toned, having lighter colored panels.

Eurekastar, yes they are MUCH cheaper to run than refrigeration type air conditioners. I love the scent they have, especially with newly changed aspine pads.

Post# 275598 , Reply# 27   4/10/2014 at 22:09 (1,225 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Waiting for motor...

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So I found a motor for $20.00 on eBay, just gotta wait for it to come in the mail. I figured to get a head start and put new cooler pads.

Post# 275600 , Reply# 28   4/10/2014 at 22:15 (1,225 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
New pads

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Almost ready to go.

Post# 275650 , Reply# 29   4/11/2014 at 11:56 (1,224 days old) by suckolux (Yuba City, CA)        

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We had one in the early 60s, through the ducts of the house, every room, it was big. About drove ocd me nuts, draining and washing out the pan all the time, very sensitive nose. Corroded the contacts on the tv tuner often too. When we went central a/c the ductwork came in very handy

Post# 275740 , Reply# 30   4/11/2014 at 17:53 (1,224 days old) by super-sweeper (KSSRC Refurbishment Center)        
While not Swamp Conditioning units,

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I have a biscuit load of old magazines I need to get scanning, with ads for Fedders and Chrysler air-temp ads, plus Chrysler,Ford, Lincoln,GE, Frigidaire, and DESOTO ads.


Would any of you like me to scan in those AC ads?

Post# 275824 , Reply# 31   4/12/2014 at 06:26 (1,223 days old) by arh1953 ( River Park, in Port St. Lucie, Florida)        
Dear Super-sweeper

arh1953's profile picture

Yes please, we would all love it, when you're able!

Post# 275969 , Reply# 32   4/12/2014 at 22:52 (1,223 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
We're back in business

bee-vac's profile picture
Put the motor on today, and it works like a charm.

Post# 278140 , Reply# 33   4/25/2014 at 01:17 (1,210 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Another early one

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This one it two toned

Post# 278141 , Reply# 34   4/25/2014 at 01:21 (1,210 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Motor mounting

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Interesting where this manufacture chose to mount the motor. Check out the drip guard.

Post# 280309 , Reply# 35   5/13/2014 at 00:56 (1,192 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Came across this..

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I like the color, not sure if it's original. Brown "faux wood" face says late 60's early 70's maybe? Not entirely sure. Would have to see the inside.

Post# 280310 , Reply# 36   5/13/2014 at 00:59 (1,192 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Another view.

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Seems to be missing the knob on the left. Wonder if this is a two speed...

Post# 280817 , Reply# 37   5/17/2014 at 01:37 (1,188 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Vintage photo

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Taken in 1963

Post# 280926 , Reply# 38   5/18/2014 at 04:06 (1,187 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
New project

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I ended up getting this one I found on Craig's list. It's going to be tricky finding a close match of the bright green this was originally painted.

Post# 280927 , Reply# 39   5/18/2014 at 04:09 (1,187 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Pic #2

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Don't let it's rough exterior fool you, this will restor nicely.

Post# 281968 , Reply# 40   5/26/2014 at 21:52 (1,179 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

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Almost there...

Post# 281970 , Reply# 41   5/26/2014 at 21:57 (1,179 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
I'm going with..

bee-vac's profile picture
A two tone.

Post# 281975 , Reply# 42   5/26/2014 at 22:14 (1,179 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Another view

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Another view

Post# 282048 , Reply# 43   5/27/2014 at 16:17 (1,178 days old) by Gr8DaneDad (nowhere )        

Nice restoration job. I would be lost without evaporative cooling here in the wastelands of the Northern Nevada Desert

Post# 282222 , Reply# 44   5/29/2014 at 03:37 (1,176 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

bee-vac's profile picture
To keep up with the 1960's feel, I went with a cheerful copper tone.

Post# 282767 , Reply# 45   6/2/2014 at 14:50 (1,172 days old) by MikePdx (Portland, OR (USA))        
Swamp Cooler

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Nice old cooler. I love swamp coolers.

Two years ago, right before a hot spell, my living room window a/c decided to go *POP* and the control panel went dark. I was strapped for cash at the time, and didn't want to spend the hot spell in my bedroom.

I picked up some landscaping burlap at the Home Depot, folded it for several thicknesses, and made a window shade to go on the outside of the living room window. I had an old patio umbrella misting system laying around, so I clipped it to the shade on the opening part of the window. Turned on the water just enough to keep it wet, and put an old box fan on the inside sucking air through the wet burlap. It did stink the first couple of times, then the burlap aired and now it's working beautifully. It keeps my house in the low to mid 70s (upper 70s) on 100+ days, and I am in my third season. Took me an hour and about $20 to make.

Here's a pic from the inside (pardon the dirty fan).

  View Full Size
Post# 282931 , Reply# 46   6/3/2014 at 12:49 (1,171 days old) by super-sweeper (KSSRC Refurbishment Center)        
Hey Bee-Vac,

super-sweeper's profile picture

I just uploaded a Vintage FEDDERS air-conditioning ad in my vintage advertising super-scanning thread! Only 1 ad of MANY!wink

Post# 283556 , Reply# 47   6/7/2014 at 02:00 (1,167 days old) by DesertTortoise ()        

Go to this website and find out what the state of the art in evaporative coolers is now.

Instead of thin aspen pads, these use either 8 inch or 12 inch thick cellulose media. They aren't pads, but blocks made up of layers of corrugated hard cellulose that the water and air circulate through. The one depicted is like the one on my home. It sits on the ground and is updraft into the houses ductwork. Each room has a register. It has a single inlet on the side and 12 inch thick media behind the inlet screen. It uses a big squirrel cage fan like other evaporative coolers but it's very quiet if you pay attention to servicing it carefully at the beginning of the season

It has a purge pump that automatically drains the water every 8 hours of use to reduce calcium build up and clean out the crud (I drain it into a drain system in my back yard). Today it was 106 degrees F outside and 70 degrees F in my house. My electric bill is under $60 a month with the thing running 24/7 even when I'm not home so my sweet little doggily-woggilies have a cool refuge during the day. As mentioned earlier the only drawback is that the couple of weeks we have really humid weather they don't cool very well and inside your house is about 99.99% humidity.

We have to drain them completely in the winter where I live in the high desert because it hard freezes and water left in the cooler damages things. We drain them and button them up tight for the winter.

Post# 289435 , Reply# 48   7/18/2014 at 21:44 (1,126 days old) by lionkcommander (EP TX)        

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It's sad to see the evaporative cooler disappear here in El Paso I will never get rid of my Adobe air mastercool and my champion four sided A/C there much cheeper to run and much more reliable. My ultimate favorite cooler I have is my 45 cfm stainless steel Adobe air four sided cooler but it needs a new blower.

Post# 293050 , Reply# 49   8/11/2014 at 18:50 (1,102 days old) by Gr8DaneDad (nowhere )        

One of my neighbors was complaining today about his electric bill being over $400 and he only keeps the house at 80.... I nearly choked, my house never gets warmer than 75 and is usually between 68-70 and my biggest bill in the summer is around $70 and it's only that high because it includes the well and pumping enough water to keep the trees and garden going. Love my evaporative coolers.


Post# 293306 , Reply# 50   8/13/2014 at 12:13 (1,100 days old) by DesertTortoise ()        

The cooler had the inside of the house down to 66 degrees this morning. It will be triple digits by this afternoon but when I get home the house will be 70-71 degrees inside. It automatically adjusts blower speed depending on how far indoor temp is from the temp set on the thermostat. About every five or six weeks I have to go outside, shut it down, and snug up the screw holding the pulley on the fan shaft. It will sometimes work loose and start to talk to me. Other than the couple of weeks of high humidity they are pretty easy to live with and a darn sight cheaper than AC.

Post# 293311 , Reply# 51   8/13/2014 at 12:31 (1,100 days old) by marks_here (Crossville TN & Altoona PA WOO HOO )        

marks_here's profile picture
It is after 12:30pm here & it's still 69 out this morning it was 55

Post# 294311 , Reply# 52   8/18/2014 at 20:46 (1,095 days old) by vintagekitchen (columbia ky)        
oh I wish I wish..

vintagekitchen's profile picture
You guys are so lucky. You dont know how many times I have wished that swamp coolers were a viable option here in kentucky. But everything I have read says they only work in low to mid range humidity. The constant high humidity here is worse than the heat itself, lol.

A 70 dollar electric bill sounds amazing. 2 months straight mine has been just over 160 dollars to cool a 900 square foot home using air conditioners. I can dream though....

Post# 295360 , Reply# 53   8/25/2014 at 12:57 (1,088 days old) by DesertTortoise ()        

We get a few weeks a year when a high pressure system over Utah and low pressure system off the coast combine to suck moisture up from the Gulf of California and it makes it humid and miserable in the desert. Big afternoon thunderstorms and the cooler doesn't cool very much. Then you suffer, or you go someplace that's air conditioned and hang out. The rest of the year it's great.

Post# 295791 , Reply# 54   8/28/2014 at 06:35 (1,085 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
It's finally installed

bee-vac's profile picture
It's up, and working great!

Post# 295792 , Reply# 55   8/28/2014 at 06:38 (1,085 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

bee-vac's profile picture
I still need to find matching knobs though.

Post# 319692 , Reply# 56   3/29/2015 at 22:35 (872 days old) by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        
Portable cooler

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Hot temperatures are here once again. Picked up a portable cooler from the 50's.

Post# 331210 , Reply# 57   8/7/2015 at 21:23 (741 days old) by lionkcommander (EP TX)        

lionkcommander's profile picture
That is a good lookin portable cooler. I wish I had good luck finding great vintage swamp coolers. It's hard finding a 15 year old AdobeAir cooler in fair shape.

Post# 371774 , Reply# 58   5/4/2017 at 11:31 by Bee-Vac (Pomona, Calif)        

bee-vac's profile picture
Here we go again, and just lookie what I found, it's an ESSICK!

Post# 371827 , Reply# 59   5/6/2017 at 04:09 by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

That unit sort of looked like the roof mount desert coolers on the base homes at Holloman AFB when my dad was in the Air Force there.He had to climb up on the roof to fill the unit or clean it,then drain it when winter came.

Post# 371889 , Reply# 60   5/8/2017 at 15:42 by Real1shep (Walla Walla, WA)        
I was....

always fascinated by these low-tech air coolers. Mostly a southern fixture, but do see some up north where nobody has AC because of the short, hot season. Worked on quite a few as a plumber, but never lived with one. Most of the ones I worked on were big roof units, or up on top of trailers. Unless you use some sort of fungicide, they all seem to exude some sort of odor....offensive to some, negligible to others.


I've also seen a fair number of houses with house fans...those giant fans that suck up heat from the top of the living space and eject it up into the attic.



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