cooling your tent or van

Swamp Coolers, Cooler Management, Dry Ice, Misting Systems, and just plain how to beat the heat.
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FIGJAM
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by FIGJAM » Tue Sep 08, 2015 9:42 am

Other than the dust it was a pretty mild year as far as temps were concerned.

So how did your cooler work, if you even had to use it?
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by Ano » Tue Sep 08, 2015 10:21 am

Only really needed it pre-event, otherwise it was actually cold enough to sleep under the carport.

As usual, it worked way too well. I needed more blankets in my tent because I was too damn cold when the cooler was running.

The magical WTF-cooler of pure voodoo continues to be the best investment I've ever made for BRC!

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by unjonharley » Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:20 am

With the cooler in the van, It smelled a little musty..Throw two Polident tablets in the water.. now it smells clean and minty..
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by spacetime » Tue Sep 08, 2015 12:03 pm

I plan to go more in depth on this but in short:

My swamp cooler worked quite well. With two people in a tent, it can get hot when sealed up in the morning, even if it is cool outside. So it worked to just get cold air in without having to leave flaps open to the dust.

As the temp outside did rise, it allowed sleeping and private time during the day that otherwise wouldn't have been possible without it.

Out there, you use basically any edge you can get against the challenging elements and a swamp cooler offers exactly that. I was very happy we had it.

Biggest issues I had were leaking when I didn't have it on blocks / level needing to actually seal the toilet flange to the top of the bucket using duct tape. Also, we never made a nice port and seal for the side of the tent so it was sometimes awkward to have zipper around it with the door but this still worked.

It was most cool when the air was directed straight toward us. Either because of the way the tent was vented or not enough CFM, it didn't seem like it was as effective as I had hoped at creating a cool room. Could have been a few reasons for this.

Sometimes dust would accumulate in the ducting and one time my partner hit the on button and blew playa dust into her face! As if we didn't have enough dust storms this year. :P

The solar power system I set up for the cooler was overkill. Pushing 2.6A+ in sunlight we didn't come remotely close to using the battery. It is probably more charged now than when we left. Next year i will probably focus on better 12V DC-based camp lighting. This was a major downfall in my prep as I was only able to focus on this cooling project.

I have some photos, which I'll post in due time.

Also, was cool to meet you briefly, figjam, at the M&G!

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by Papa_Legba » Tue Sep 08, 2015 4:58 pm

first off, THANK YOU to Fig Jam and everyone who has posted in this thread. i found an answer to all of my questions on here

i followed every direction closely, and only came across one issue...how the pad shrinks / slumps when wet. and continues to slightly slump over time. luckily, i read this beforehand (on here) and i brought extra strips left over from cutting the pads, which i put on the bottom and used to add height as needed to maintain a seal with the lid.

i recommend soaking the pads & letting them dry a few times before cutting them and putting them in the bucket. so they're more or less in their final form before being fabricated & used. also, i may use a chicken wire frame as also mentioned on here. the slumping contributed to the pad sometimes touching the sides and causing leaking.

once i fixed the seal at the top, it worked like a champ (combined with a 6ft stretch yurt). on the hot days, it was cool. on the cooler days, it was down right COLD in my yurt. i took a nap at 2pm friday and needed a blanked! thanks again everyone :D

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by FIGJAM » Tue Sep 08, 2015 5:55 pm

We've discovered the pads actually have a "grain", and when cut the right way, they don't slump.

The original cooler has the original pad from 6 years ago and has never slumped.

It was there again this year!!! 8)
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by LowePro » Wed Sep 09, 2015 12:03 pm

Set my swampie baby up on Day 1, but only ran it once or twice during emergency naps. Twas a very cool year compared to my previous years and didn't need the cool air. Only problem was one of my little pumps was dead. I replaced it with a 3-year old original pump ($6 from E-auction) and it worked fine. The power wires are a little short but I made it work with electrical tape. Replaced all the interior light bulbs in my trailer with 12V LED bulbs, which helped the battery last much longer. Now to unpack!

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by MFOB » Thu Sep 10, 2015 4:18 pm

Now after the last few nights we should start a new thread.

"Heating your tent or van"

Damn it was cold...... Barely used the swampie!
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by bearpie » Sat Sep 12, 2015 1:34 pm

I MET FIGJAM!!! And was so excited I had to run out, hug him, and take a photo! (Which I'd be happy to share unless FIGJAM is into keeping his superhero identity a secret, which I totally understand). Our swamp cooler worked great and silly as it sounds, I feel like in addition to giving me the gift of cool day-sleep, I also had the accomplishment of making something all on my own, doing things I've never done, with tools and devices I knew nothing about.

FIGJAM, it took much longer than anticipated to tear down camp and by the time we got to your non-camp :D after 5pm, it seemed you'd gone out to harass more Burners. :lol: It was such a pleasure meeting you and talking about everything from batteries to camping in a moving-truck (which we may try!). Thanks again for sharing your designs and advice and for giving me a reason to make my first post here!

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by rideincircles » Sat Sep 12, 2015 4:11 pm

The beericooler worked great.

I didn't end up setting up my hexayurt until Thursday after arriving Monday night around 8pm and having to deal with the dust on Tuesday and Wednesday. I set the beericooler to blow in the tent under the costco carport during the afternoon and that made sleeping on those dusty days work out as good as it could. Once the yurt was finally setup, the swamp cooler did a great job of keeping it nice inside, but maybe not as cold as possible. I think I may have had some issues with the pad not soaking completely. The 2nd setting definitely seemed best at cooling the place off in the yurt.

On the beer cooling functionality, it worked great to chill out a keg while running a few hours, but the cool nights did a good job of that also. As long as the kegs were kept out of the sun, they never got too warm. I usually had a keg in the swamp cooler to chill out whenever it was running though, and could serve out of it. Some bleach was used to keep it clean.

At some point the pump failed late in the week, I am not sure if it was the float switch that failed or the pump, but I had an extra pump and rewired it up and was good to go. The yurt was nice and cool during any white out and was worth all the trouble. I never ended up charging my deep cycle during the burn and will probably drop it off at o'reilly here in a few for a recharge. I did run it by the solar camp off 8th to have it charged, but no one was there at the time to answer any major questions or hook it up. I ran it mostly off cooler melt water, but never had any major issues with evaporation or funky smells.

Thanks again FIGJAM, all good ideas come from somewhere.

Also, Obie's dusty beer cart was a great idea. Kegs were chilled enough from the cooler or night temps to not need ice when hauled around on the cart on my bike.

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by SerendipityDSS » Mon Sep 14, 2015 11:25 pm

Hi SleepNoMore, curious about your experience with the Lotus Belle this year and which model you have? We took the Outback and the mesh strip where the walls meet the ceiling just let the dust pour in. When I contacted the company, I was surprised to learn that using their tents are BRC are actually called out as not covered in the Terms & Conditions (http://lotusbelle.com/pages/terms-conditions). We ended up stuffing the opening with plastic, taping the ceiling to the walls with drywall tape and then taping a strip of plastic over the whole thing. A lot of work given that when I contacted them with dust questions prior to purchasing, the company said the tent could be sealed to keep dust out and recommended the Outback. They are now saying that using the tent on the Playa involves extreme weather conditions and they don't recommend it or support it. Would love to hear your experience.

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by Ratty » Mon Sep 14, 2015 11:45 pm

Serendipity, The terms specifically mention BRC. I wonder how many other products void their warrantee with playa use. It a beautiful tent. I saw quite a few like that out there. $2,000 is a steep price to pay for something that isn't dust resistant. I hope you can figure out an alteration that works.
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by Captain Goddammit » Tue Sep 15, 2015 7:13 am

So FIGJAM... does it work to put boiling water in a bucket cooler to warm a tent?
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by FIGJAM » Tue Sep 15, 2015 9:30 am

For maybe 20 min., then the water will be 58 degrees!!!

Concerning dust clogging the coolers: I ran my cooler during the whiteouts to see what would happen.

The pad got dirtier, but not to the point of restricting the air flow.

The dust that washed out of the pad settled in the bottom of the cooler and the layer was not even close to 1/8" thick.

So it never affected the pump or the flow of water!!!! 8)
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by reggie13 » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:45 pm

well, i THOUGHT i had a pic of my successful swamp cooler, sitting pretty next to my yurt, but apparently i DON'T. suffice to say, thanks to all of you here that gave me advice and help, and to FIGJAM who shared everything with us........i kept cool on playa this year! not that it was a scorcher of a year, but it was great for the afternoon naps i ended up needing.

thank you all!

Reggie13

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by FIGJAM » Wed Feb 10, 2016 11:07 am

The latest re-cap is on page 112.

BUMP! 8)
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by mattcamp » Wed Feb 10, 2016 11:16 am

So some of you might remember my ambitious plan to build 11 box coolers (to go with the 10 yurts which we built in a single day!) for 2015...

Well things didn't really work out so great. We used the method using pieces of 8x1" wood for the side and bottom with 1/2" ply sides however we really struggled to get them watertight.

Primarily we used liquid nails + a few screws to hold them all together but even liberal application of silicon sealant afterwards still didn't ever get one properly watertight so we ended up running them all sitting in a shallow plastic tray - not ideal.

I'm keen to rebuild them this year into something simpler, probably using a plastic trash can.

I've been eyeing up the Genuine Joe bins off amazon, anyone actually used one of these and can confirm that they're sufficiently un-tapered to work ok?

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by FIGJAM » Thu Feb 11, 2016 8:07 am

If you have the wood boxes you've already built, try coating them inside and out with boat paint or epoxy paint.

After using the roof coating, I got some small leaks after the first year from the wood drying out, so I sprayed it inside and out with appliance paint.

No more leaks!!! 8)
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by Skuzzy61 » Thu Feb 11, 2016 10:16 am

FIGJAM wrote:If you have the wood boxes you've already built, try coating them inside and out with boat paint or epoxy paint.

After using the roof coating, I got some small leaks after the first year from the wood drying out, so I sprayed it inside and out with appliance paint.

No more leaks!!! 8)
Consider hitting the wood with a wood hardener first. It not only stops the wood from drying out, it makes a damn nice surface to apply epoxy paint to. Not affiliated with the product, but have used it.

If you use any wood hardener, make sure it is epoxy based, not acrylic based.
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by mattcamp » Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:46 am

FIGJAM wrote:If you have the wood boxes you've already built, try coating them inside and out with boat paint or epoxy paint.

After using the roof coating, I got some small leaks after the first year from the wood drying out, so I sprayed it inside and out with appliance paint.

No more leaks!!! 8)
We only had a single day to make them so this is almost certainly where we went wrong... we did one quick coat of roof paint but I don't think it was enough.

We also tried to make a couple out of OSB rather than plywood... those leaked even more. As usual if you cut corners it bites you in the ass (or leaks on your yurt) later.

I'm not sure I'll have more than about 48 hours this year to fix them either, hence the plan to replace the wooden boxes with some type of plastic bucket.

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by FIGJAM » Fri Feb 12, 2016 6:17 am

24 hours would be plenty of time for any paint to dry and would save you time and money.

I only retreated mine to the water line and it fixed the problem. 8)
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by unjonharley » Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:00 am

mattcamp wrote:
FIGJAM wrote:If you have the wood boxes you've already built, try coating them inside and out with boat paint or epoxy paint.

After using the roof coating, I got some small leaks after the first year from the wood drying out, so I sprayed it inside and out with appliance paint.

No more leaks!!! 8)
We only had a single day to make them so this is almost certainly where we went wrong... we did one quick coat of roof paint but I don't think it was enough.

We also tried to make a couple out of OSB rather than plywood... those leaked even more. As usual if you cut corners it bites you in the ass (or leaks on your yurt) later.

I'm not sure I'll have more than about 48 hours this year to fix them either, hence the plan to replace the wooden boxes with some type of plastic bucket.
Wont that flex paint (as seen on TV) work. It's in stores now..
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by worldjoe » Mon Mar 28, 2016 11:51 am

Second report.

This time I tested the swamp cooler at Agua Caliente in the Anza Borrego Desert. 0% Humidity.
Unfortunately my van was consistently HOTTER than the outside temperature.

I have some theories, but I'm hoping that if I post pictures of what I did, and what I tried, I can gain some expert advice.

Here is the Swamp cooler, attached to the van. I switched to a dryer vent duct because I sold the plastic duct (it was part of a portable A/C - unrelated to my van cooling attempts):
Image

Here is the same setup with a sheet over the swamp cooler - is this a good idea or bad?
Image

Here is what it looks like inside the van:
Image

Here is the insulation setup for the van. Each window has a 5 layer thermo mat attached with suction cups to the inside of the window. As well as the usual Eurovan curtains are closed. The front window has an extra external piece made from Reflectix bubble wrap. The roof/tent area is also wrapped in a single Reflectix bubble wrap cut to fit and secured in the rear with a bungee cord:
Image
Image

Here is the temperature of the van, taken at 4:48pm. 74 outside, 87 inside. The outside sensor is only off by 1 degree compared to inside. I placed the outside sensor on the floor on the shaded side of the van. You can see that the inside is significantly warmer - despite the temperature coming from the cooler easily being 10 degrees cooler than the outside temp.
Image

I have a couple of theories, but I welcome more. Or even validation or contradictions of my theories.

#1 My fridge is generating heat as a byproduct of keeping the inside cold.
Image

I actually have some validation of this. I checked some Engel faqs, and ran across this one:
Can I put my Engel 12-Volt Refrigerator Freezers in the trunk of my car?
NOT recommended. The Engel 12-Volt Refrigerator Freezers give off heat externally while cooling. If this heat is shed into a closed space like a trunk, it will eventually heat up that space. These 12-Volt freezers need good ventilation to cool properly.
#2 My top insulation wrap is preventing heat from escaping from the roof. Here is a picture of my roof without the insulation:
Image

On Sunday I tried moving the fridge out of the van. I opened up the van to air it out (since it was already hotter inside). And I unwrapped the top insulation and stored it away. I also placed my Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze fan in the roof area directing air out of one of the tent windows. Then I closed the van back up. Unfortunately I didn't keep a good eye on the Swamp Cooler timer and it shut off a couple of times. When I took a reading at noon the temperature outside was 71 and inside it was 80. But perhaps too much damage was already done since the fridge was generating heat in the van all night and late into the morning (I woke up around 8am).

Moving the fridge out of the van seems like a sure thing. I'm looking to buy a luggage strap or kayak strap that locks, since there are plenty of places where I won't want to leave the fridge accessible to passersby (like Coachella).

I'm not sure about the top insulation wrap. My wife suggested that I cup a flap into the wrap where the tent windows are, so they can be taped open. I'd hate to cut a flap and find out it wasn't a good idea, because there's no way for me to put it back together once cut.

Other ideas I'm considering:
#3 Building a bigger swamp cooler with my Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze - so it can move more air. In my last report I mentioned that I did some measurements, the van (with the tent popped open on top) is no more than 293 cubic feet. I bought the suggested Delta fan with 190.48CFM that means every two minutes all the air in the van should be cycled. But I'm still not sure where the air is leaving the van. I tried a smoke test but I obviously didn't use enough smoke because by the time it went through the cooler there was nothing to watch - to find out where the air leaves the van.

Anyone have any thoughts? I feel like, even without the swamp cooler the van should be cooler inside than outside. But that is obviously not happening - even with all the insulation I have.
Thanks,
Joseph Elwell.

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by Popeye » Mon Mar 28, 2016 12:26 pm

Insulation by itself does not make it hotter or colder, it just slows the transfer of heat.
Hard to say for sure but it looks like the dryer tube could be kinked both at the bottom of the loop and where it comees off the bucket cooler. Maybe shorten it?
How much water are you using? If water use is low it might indicate a problem with air circulation or the pump.
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by Skuzzy61 » Mon Mar 28, 2016 12:30 pm

Just a thought as there is a lot of information missing, but given the heat load, I think you should be looking at exchanging the air in the van about 10 to 14 times an hour in order to cool it.

Before getting into that. What was the temperature at the intake of the cooler, and then at the exhaust of the cooler? I think it is reasonable you should see about a 20 degree drop from the ambient, directly at the exhaust of the cooler.

Now, what is the CFM rating of the fan you are using in the cooler?
Can you provide an approximate cubic volume of space in the van?

Figure the air exchange rate using the following formula.

(Fan CFM * 60 minutes) / Van cubic volume See what that number is. It is the hourly exchange rate of the air in the van. I think it should be around 10 to 14 in order to handle the heat load.
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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by LowePro » Mon Mar 28, 2016 12:51 pm

Hi Joe,
your dryer duct is way too long. Cut it down to the minimum needed to get from the swamp cooler and merge into your styrofoam window panel.

Shade over the bucket is helpful but not required, but draping a sheet over the swamp bucket it a bad idea. You want fresh, unimpeded airflow into the bucket as much as possible. Park in such a way that the swampie is in the shaded side of your van during the time you want to be cool (late morning nap? Or after lunch siesta?).

Check your bucket itself--is the lid making a good seal with the blue pad? Did you use the recommended CPU fan? Substitutions to the fan model may not be as effective. It looks like you put the fan on the TOP side of the bucket. The beauty of the fan on the inside of the bucket lid is that it helps keep the blue pad in the correct shape when the lid goes on. If the blue pad and the lid are not making gentle but firm contact, you will have air leaks that rob your cold air.

Your van insulation looks great, but the van MUST have an exhaust portal for the swampie to work well (that's non-negotiable for the concept of evaporative cooling). Do you have a window cracked or another vent open somewhere in the van? If not, it won't cool down! Recommend cracking or unzipping a vent in the roof or attic of your camper and leave it open when swampie is running. Good luck!

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by worldjoe » Mon Mar 28, 2016 12:54 pm

Skuzzy61 wrote:Before getting into that. What was the temperature at the intake of the cooler, and then at the exhaust of the cooler? I think it is reasonable you should see about a 20 degree drop from the ambient, directly at the exhaust of the cooler.
Unfortunately I did not take a reading on the inputs and output of the swamp cooler temps. While there might be some inefficiencies in my swamp cooler, I know that it's putting out cold air. Maybe not cold enough though. I did notice that I moved the fan on top of the bucket (because it was jamming the pad before. Instead I have a short plastic tube exactly like the one on the outside attached with a toilet flange. But the fan was leaking a bit of air on the sides of bucket. Maybe I should put it back inside and just do a better job of carefully putting the lid on.
Skuzzy61 wrote: Now, what is the CFM rating of the fan you are using in the cooler?
Delta fan with 190.48CFM
Skuzzy61 wrote: Can you provide an approximate cubic volume of space in the van?
no more than 293 cubic feet. I measured the external space of the van (without taking into account internal fixtures, like the bed and seats.
Skuzzy61 wrote: Figure the air exchange rate using the following formula.

(Fan CFM * 60 minutes) / Van cubic volume See what that number is. It is the hourly exchange rate of the air in the van. I think it should be around 10 to 14 in order to handle the heat load.
39!

Thanks,
Joseph Elwell.

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by LowePro » Mon Mar 28, 2016 1:00 pm

Copied from an old post, but helpful for the current thread, re: How to test your bucket cooler:

Turn on the pump and fan, poke thru all the bucket holes w/ your finger (yep) to make sure the pad is getting wet evenly (yep) all the way around. If not, cooler won't work well. Adjust your drip hose loop to get an even distribution of water.

To test airflow, wave a lit cigarette or incense around the perimeter of the bucket and ensure that the smoke is getting sucked up evenly and getting sucked *thru* the cooler pad, not up and over the pad or thru any gaps in the lid.

Make sure, when you put the lid on the bucket, that cooler pad isn't getting kinked or squashing it down. The CPU fan should fit completely inside the cylinder of blue pad. I also had an issue w/ the drip line hoop slipping down in between the two rolls of cooler pad. (I made the drip line ring a bit too small). But easily fixed w/ a few zip ties to keep the drip line perched on top of the cooler pad.

After running it for a bit, touch the output duct on top of the bucket lid. If it's cold, that means its working, but also means you are losing some coldness thru the duct. Consider wrapping the duct in foil or bubblewrap to insulate and keep more of your cold air.

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Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by worldjoe » Mon Mar 28, 2016 1:00 pm

Ulisse wrote:Insulation by itself does not make it hotter or colder, it just slows the transfer of heat.
Interesting point. It's obvious, but I get overwhelmed with the heat and trying different things that I forgot the basics. Maybe I should be sleeping with the windows open to let the cool air in at night? Because as it is, I'm sealed up, which means the body heat is going to top off the van temperature into the high 80s or low 90s by morning.
Ulisse wrote:Hard to say for sure but it looks like the dryer tube could be kinked both at the bottom of the loop and where it comees off the bucket cooler. Maybe shorten it?
It is not kinked, but it is needlessly long. I will cut it down to a more meaningful size. Also the tubes that it is connected too are too big for the hose to fit over, and too small for the hose to insert into. So I jammed it in and bent one side a bit to get it to fit. Unfortunately the original design used a larger plastic/solid hose but I no longer own that hose.
Ulisse wrote:How much water are you using? If water use is low it might indicate a problem with air circulation or the pump.
There's enough water for the pump to work. BUT On Sunday I didn't refill the bucket, so it was operating with far less water in the bucket than it could have carried. Does that make a difference? Should I be attempting to top it off once or twice a day?

Thanks,
Joseph Elwell.

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Popeye
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Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:39 pm
Burning Since: 2013
Camp Name: Beaverton
Location: Where the east wind blows

Re: cooling your tent or van

Post by Popeye » Mon Mar 28, 2016 1:13 pm

There's enough water for the pump to work. BUT On Sunday I didn't refill the bucket, so it was operating with far less water in the bucket than it could have carried. Does that make a difference? Should I be attempting to top it off once or twice a day?
Thae amount of water in the bucket doesn't make a lot of difference (as long as the pump can suck). What I meant was how much water is being taken out of the bucket (used). If very little water is being used then there is something wrong with either the pump, the water distribution system or the air circulation. If you are using "enough" water then something else is wrong maybe the cooler is undersized or to much air is getting into the camper or... The first thread below "How many gallons...." will give you a pretty good idea what you should be using.
Last edited by Popeye on Mon Mar 28, 2016 1:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

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