Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

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gboehm
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Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:50 pm

Hi - Geoff here, going to my first burn. I am building one of the modified versions of the Figjam type swamp cooler that uses the large fantastic fan, to be used in an Econoline camping van. After hours spent poring over a lot of discussions, trying to piece together various bits of info, my take on airflow issues with swamp coolers is as follows - will someone please correct me where I'm mistaken:

1) You can't run the cooler in a completely sealed small space because the humidity will get too high. (this is my shakiest assumption)

2) The ideal flow path is for outside air to be input as directly as possible into the cooler, then the cooled air is blown into the space to be cooled, then hot air exhausted out through another opening that is as far as possible from the cooler, and also ideally high up - like a roof vent on the ceiling.

3) The above creates a nice breeze of cool air flowing from one end to the other. More important, it creates a constant exchange of hot interior air for cool post-swamp air, eliminating humidity buildup.

4) The output vent enhances flow rate through the cooler - otherwise exhaust air has to squeeze through cracks (that should have been sealed anyway).

OK - assuming the above to be true (or true enough to make the following questions meaningful):

a) Has anyone published a method for FUNNELING OUTSIDE AIR INTO THE COOLER? I have seen no pictures like this for an RV or van, though I have seen in pictures for a building or tent where the cooler sits outside but up against an opening in the structure - which is functionally the same thing. But what about for a van, where the cooler will be inside? (I haven't even seen anything for an RV) My only real option for intake is an adapter using the front door windows - which is a bit of a task, though very close to where the cooler will sit. But mainly my question is whether or not this is necessary (or even desirable) - I can figure out a solution, but I'd like to feel certain that there is an actual problem here, because this one seems a bit tricky. (remember I am using the large fantastic fan for the cooler, not the 4" one in the original design)

b) Any recommendations for a DUST FILTER on the INTAKE to the cooler? I'm mainly thinking a type of MATERIAL, not necessarily a design for mounting it.

c) I saw a post that seemed to imply that the blue foam evaporation layer itself filtered out the dust - is this true? If so, no filter would be necessary. But it would also seem that the evaporation foam would then be susceptible to becoming clogged with dust.

d) And likewise, recommendations for a dust filter on the exhaust, as there are scenarios where the air flow could reverse (like a dust storm arising while I'm asleep). I was planning on using my ceiling fan vent (fan not turned on). It has a screen that I'm sure would stop at least .01% of any dust that might try to sneak in - I was hoping for something a little more efficient. This is actually a big question for me for another project - WHAT KIND OF MATERIAL IS AVAILABLE TO FILTER OUT MOST OF THE DUST BUT STILL ALLOW DECENT AIRFLOW? (This is basically the same question that applies to dust masks.) I'd only need a few square feet. I suppose I COULD turn on the exhaust fan (also a fantastic, which BTW is aptly named) to enhance the impeded flow through the exhaust vent (but not enough to generate negative pressure). I have seen where someone suggested a standard home furnace filter, but this seems way too coarse to me - home furnaces don't deal with dust this fine.

Well - I know it's a pain in the ass to read such a long post, but I would sure appreciate any answers.

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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby EGAZ » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:58 am

1. correct
2. correct
3. correct
4. I wouldn't say enhance, Evap cooling is a air in/air out type of cooling. the vent allows this to happen.

What are you using for the basin? A bucket or a box like FigJam's latest box unit? (if you don't know about this then I know you did not read the last dozen pages of this thread.) If bucket, loose the fantastic fan and go with the 200cfm fan specified.

Why are you putting the cooler in the van? Makes no sense to me as you need to duct in hot air in the conditioned space. Given you chose a large diameter fan you now need a large diameter duct which adds cost to the build. You haven't seen it because it the wrong way to do it. Put the unit outside.

I saw a post that seemed to imply that the blue foam evaporation layer itself filtered out the dust - is this true?

You missed my post in the link above about this. Water does the filtering of dust. No need for a filter on either intake or exhaust. It won't get clogged with dust but you may have some sludge in the bottom of the bucket at the end of the week. Unless you're in a constant dust storm, it is not an issue. Don't run the pads dry, then you will have some dust inside.

The air flow 'could' backflow 'if' the vent is too big/open too much. But conditions need to be just right. Generally this to is not an issue.


Now go back and build the cooler as described. The 200CFM fan should take care of a van. Meaning a real van with doors on the passenger side and back, not a box truck or RV. Get some 5" semi rigid dryer duct to duct the 'cooled' air into the van window. Wrap with a towel or foil bubble wrap to insulate. Make a panel that can be sealed into the window with a 5" hole. Maybe grab a wall flange for dryers to fasten the duct to on the panel. :coffee: :mrgreen:
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby FIGJAM » Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:09 am

The only cooler designed to be inside is the unicooler.

You just push the intake side against any opening in the space.

With an RV, a shelf mounted by one of the sliding widows does the trick, as long as you get a good seal around the intake.

With a van, you MAY be able to set something like that up by the passenger window, but it will be trickier to seal around the intake.
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:28 pm

First - wow, thanks to both EGAZ and FIGJAM for replying so quickly. I love the interaction - it's almost like being back at work (long retired now). You have answered my most pressing questions, which involve the theory of operation (questions 1-3) - the main thing being that the intake to the cooler must be dry air from the outside.

I am building the unicooler, except using wood since I do a lot of woodworking and am more comfortable with wood. I already own a fantastic endless breeze stand alone unit, which is almost half the cost, plus I know it works like a champ and draws only 1 amp (at 12v) on low. Thanks for the idea of putting the cooler outside the driver's window (better for me than the passenger) - I had not thought of that (though now it seems obvious) - it will definitely save space inside the van (Econoline 250). I will make a plywood insert for the driver side window with a large cutout for the air to pass through - I don't anticipate getting the insert to seal against the window opening being a problem. The obvious choice for getting the cool air from the cooler to the window insert is 12" flexible ducting and adapters to duct tape it to, though these are a bit pricey (maybe I can buy a scrap of ducting from an HVAC place).

OTOH, I may still opt to place the cooler inside on the drivers seat, which is kinda wasted space anyway, and suck outside air through the window cutout. The fan noise is actually a positive, as both I and my wife suffer from tinnitus, which is masked by the hum of the fan. In this case, connecting the cooler to the cutout would be more of a challenge, as the adapters and flex tubing might well take up too much space. I have some alternative ideas using wood but they are hard to describe.

QUESTION #1: Other than space issues, is there any reason not to put the cooler inside like this?

QUESTION #2: The original design shows the fan on the intake side, and the foam on the output side. Is it just as good to reverse these (as I have seen on one image) - putting the fan on the output side so it sucks air through the foam, rather than pushing it through? If I put the cooler inside the van, this would make the ducting connections easier. (If I put it outside, I would use the original configuration)


EGAZ - I'm actually glad you think this is overkill for something as small as a van. I'd rather go over than under, and I can also use the unit in my house during heat waves where it will be undersized, but still very useful. And thanks for the tip of not allowing the thing to run dry - I hadn't realized the consequences of that. I suppose it would be pretty hard on the pump too.


I must say that the thread EGAZ refers to is incredibly useful, but with 130 pages it's virtually impossible to read it all - I get headaches if I spend too much time at the computer. I've probably already spent more time doing this than it will take to build the damned thing.

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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:59 pm

Just took a closer look at the driver's seat in the van, and realized it will be far better to put the cooler outside, so neither of my questions is relevant (to me) anymore. Also found cheaper 12" ducting adapters and realized this is clearly the way to go. Now just need to find a place that will sell me 4 feet of ducting so I don't have to buy a whole 25 foot section.

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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby FIGJAM » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:24 pm

QUESTION #2: The original design shows the fan on the intake side, and the foam on the output side. Is it just as good to reverse these (as I have seen on one image) - putting the fan on the output side so it sucks air through the foam, rather than pushing it through? If I put the cooler inside the van, this would make the ducting connections easier. (If I put it outside, I would use the original configuration)

I have NEVER designed a cooler that pushes air through a pad!!!

My coolers SUCK!!!

If you can rig a stand on the drivers seat, the seal between the cutout and the intake can be done with scrap foam rubber.

People have done this when they didn't want to build a box, so they bought narrow recycle bins that are slightly tapered.

Hence the foam rubber to fill the gap caused by the taper.

This one is made of wood.

Holds 6 gallons which lasts 8 hours.

Just make sure it doesn't leak!!! 8)

409069199.jpg
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby asr9754 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:58 pm

I use the swampie outside a window of a trailer. I popped out the glass window pane and inserted a custom cut piece of Rmax foam to wedge into the window frame. It seals up nicely with a little tape. I cut a hole in the Rmax panel to fit the duct and with some careful duct taping it's sealed up fine. I like the Rmax better than plywood b/c it's cutable with a knife and just flexible enough to wedge into the window and hold itself up, and the foil liner keeps it cool.

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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby EGAZ » Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:52 pm

Now just need to find a place that will sell me 4 feet of ducting so I don't have to buy a whole 25 foot section.

Stalk an HVAC guy or drop by a house/building that is being built or stop by a shop. A 4ft chunk of flex dust is scrap for them. Most likely get it for free.

I can also use the unit in my house during heat waves where it will be undersized,

That makes sense. And yea that thread is getting too long and needs to be archived with a new one started. Everyone I point to it does not read it due to its length.

One could 'push' air through the media, but every evap unit I have seen (residential to industrial) pulls air through. I'm guessing it has to do with turbulence on the discharge side of the fan. Pulling air through is more linear allowing for more even air fow.
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:35 pm

Thanks so much - you guys have been blessedly patient with my ineptitude. I had seen the picture FIGJAM posted here where it was clear the fan was sucking - it still amazes me that I missed the fact that ALL the coolers suck (I will admit that I didn't pay that much attention to the details of the original bucket cooler once I saw the box cooler). I guess that's what happens when you're trying so hard to look at everything and just skim through stuff assuming you understand. Also, the remax looks like it might be a better material for the driver's window insert than plywood.

I've pretty much settled on putting the thing outside - I just measured and there really isn't even enough room to set it on the driver's seat, and refilling would be a serious pain. As to the 12" flexible ducting, I just had all the skunk infested heating ducts (about 250 feet) under my house replaced in January - I'm guessing the guy who did it would probably have a piece he could spare me.

Looking forward to getting this done and posting pics, though the only thing new would be details of the connection between the cooler and the van window.

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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby Canoe » Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:09 am

gboehm wrote:...
d) And likewise, recommendations for a dust filter on the exhaust, as there are scenarios where the air flow could reverse (like a dust storm arising while I'm asleep). ...I have seen where someone suggested a standard home furnace filter, but this seems way too coarse to me - home furnaces don't deal with dust this fine.

Exactly this.
You don't want a high wind free to blow dust into your van. (If you're away from your van, any exhaust vents should be closed. Turn the swamp cooler on when you return and you've got immediately cooled air blowing in and things will quickly cool down.)

Inside the RV, I taped a home furnace filter over the roof vent for when I was sleeping. This was to stop the majority of dust that could blow in should a high wind come up while I was IN the RV, before I closed or reduced the opening. I installed the filter with the wire supports on the inside, to provide support for the filter media from strong outside winds. Worked great for me. I used green painter's tape (not the light green weak stuff). If you need more exhaust area than your roof vent, then tape a filter over an openable window (frame) on the inside; when the window is down some, its an exhaust.

Different filters provide varying filtering of fine particles. But the dust you bring in on your feet and cloths will exceed the token fine particles that may get past the exhaust filter. And as dust gets into the air inside, it is exhausted by the incoming swamp cooler air.

gboehm wrote:...
I suppose I COULD turn on the exhaust fan (also a fantastic, which BTW is aptly named) to enhance the impeded flow through the exhaust vent (but not enough to generate negative pressure)...

No.
Just No.
Let the swampcooler fan run and create its normal positive pressure inside the van (exhausts through the intentional exhaust vent and leaks through all the little unintentional cracks, helping prevent hot air & dust coming in those).
Don't risk messing up the negative pressure the swampcooler fan is creating to suck air through its wetted filter.


Another thing to consider for heat, is taping Reflectix (spelling) over the windows (and their frames) on the outside. Reflects sun & heat away. Insulates against the heat. If you may want to open a particular window, then install its Reflectix on the inside. If your window frames are black on the outside (transfers in a huge amount of heat), if they're not covered over with the Reflectix, then tape over them with painters tape, then over the painters tape with aluminum tape (no Al tape directly on windows, frames or painted surfaces; but great for taping pieces of Reflectix together). Google eplaya for specifics, including which tapes have (and haven't) been used successfully. If you have a lot of little air vents, consider taping them over with painters tape for the duration, to prevent hot air & dust.
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:34 am

Well, I finally finished the swamp cooler, which turned out to be way more of a project than anticipated - I wouldn't recommend others doing it like mine, but I tend to go overboard, and anyway, it was fun.

So - the attached images show how I hooked it up to the van from outside, which was my original question. Making the insert for the front window was the trickiest, but actually not bad. I made a template from cardboard, then used it to cut the piece of 3/16" luan. It is held in by 7/8" sheet rock screws screwed into the rubber (plastic?) that seals the window - held remarkably well, though it will leave holes that I could care less about. Attaching at the bottom was trickier, as there is nothing to screw into, so I placed a piece of 2x2 on the inside along the bottom, which pushed against some molding, then screwed the screws into that. There is a piece of weatherstripping between the wood and the window frame which makes the whole thing airtight.

For the cooler, as you can see, I enclosed the fantastic endless breeze fan in a box to which I attached the 8" duct connector (that matches the one in the window). This is caulked in a lot of places to make sure it also is airtight - as it stands, the only way air can get into the cooler is through the blue pad, and the only way out is through the duct. If it turns out that 8" is too small for the ducting, it would be pretty easy to swap out the 8" connectors for 12" - the part on the cooler that has the connector can be unscrewed and a larger hole cut for a bigger connector. Going to test it today (it's going to be in the mid 90's), but last night I could feel plenty of breeze through the opening even with the fan on low.

MOOP QUESTION:
For the duct, I used a piece of 8" that was left over from replacing ducts in my house. This has an inner layer of plastic supported by wire, an outer layer of foil, and PINK FIBERGLASS insulation in between. I have taped the foil to the inner layer to enclose the pink fiberglass - as it stands NOW, there is no way for fiberglass to leak out (even if I disconnect the duct on either end). However, I have my doubts that this thing will hold up if there is a serious windstorm, which could rip it apart and allow the insulation to go flying off with the wind. So the question is - is this a serious enough potential MOOP issue that I need to use different ducting? The insulation is nice, but probably doesn't help all that much. I already have a 25' piece of accordion metal/foil duct that I could use instead, so switching is no big deal. What do people think?
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:35 am

More pics
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:41 am

For Mr. Canoe - yeah, I know all about reflectix. Here is a pic from High Sierra. Attaching it is a bitch, and it needs continuous re-attaching. I'm thinking of getting some strong magnets to hold it on. In any case, I don't think there is a way to really make it stay on in BM conditions. I have pieces to cover all the windows which I WILL bring - the rear ones go inside, the one for the windshield goes outside and is partly held on by the wipers, and also clamps.
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby Joeln » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:53 am

Looking good!
Collapse first and avoid the rush

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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:00 pm

A few design details of interest:

1) The pad is held in place by screwed in redwood strips that sandwich the pad between the strip and the box. So, even though the pad billows a bit, there is no path that air can take to enter the box that doesn't go through the pad. The strip holding the top of the pad isn't screwed tight like the others - it just compresses it from about 1" to 1/2" so there is room for the water to drip.

2) I made a 3/16" luan cover for the back, to cover the pad when not in use in case of severe dust storms. It slides from the top into dado's cut into the redwood strips that you can see if you enlarge the picture showing the back of the cooler.

3) You might notice that there are handles on either side for carrying the cooler. You might also notice it is sitting on a creeper. All because it is damned heavy (holds 12 gallons when full).

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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby Canoe » Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:57 pm

gboehm wrote:For Mr. Canoe - yeah, I know all about reflectix. Here is a pic from High Sierra. Attaching it is a bitch, and it needs continuous re-attaching. I'm thinking of getting some strong magnets to hold it on. In any case, I don't think there is a way to really make it stay on in BM conditions. I have pieces to cover all the windows which I WILL bring - the rear ones go inside, the one for the windshield goes outside and is partly held on by the wipers, and also clamps.

omg
full points for determination
It's been made to stay in BM conditions, many many times.From covering windows to whole RVs. Basically, smaller pieces and the correct tape and taping technique. In short, as the wind forms/flows over objects, smaller pieces can't get sucked off. Gaffer's Tape was the golden tape, with Stucco Tape reported to be just as good at a fraction of the price. It's stayed for me with the older good-hold green painter's tape, but given the cost of the Stucco Tape, go with the Stucco Tape. (never put the Aluminum tape directly onto any part of the van...) Google eplaya.
Windows and window frames are your biggest bang for the buck, as you're bringing that white van. Those that have done the sides and roof seem to be glad they did that too, but you've got the cooling nuke with the swamp cooler, so the big thing will be windows. If you cover one of the windows on the North side on the inside (extend past the frames), you can cut a tiny hole (2"x 2" is plenty) in it to ensure there's always some natural light available during the day.

Cooler

Well you've certainly had fun!

I'm just doing a quick 'drive-by', so I assume you've got everything well sealed so no hot-air/dust can get sucked into the box other than through the filter.

Make sure your duct is very well attached. Looks like it would want to try to be a wind-sock in heavy winds. Consider a piece of wood into the ground to tape it to? Two 1x1 pieces of wood or two broom sticks going from the cooler to the window assembly? Something else?

If you haven't already, make sure you have a sturdy closing/sealing cover put over the incoming vent inside the van; if the duct becomes detached, the wind can't blow the van full of playa dust. EVERY TIME you're away from the van, shut the cooler off and close that vent.

NOTE: as the fan is encased, you can get slightly better fan flow, with reduced noise by removing the fan's grill. Already reasonably quiet goes very quiet.
Watch out for optimum fan direction: test in free air to make sure they wired it correctly (some have come wired in reverse); test with reverse DC polarity to ensure you're getting the most blow.
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Tue Aug 01, 2017 1:56 pm

Thanks for the tips. For BM, I'll probably have the van parked inside a costco carport, so the reflectix wouldn't be necessary (though I'd still put it on the windows). I did buy stucco tape - at High Sierra, I used duct tape the first year and spent several hours removing the damned residue with some special cleaner. Didn't hold that well anyway.

It's not easy to close off the window from the inside - I bought the kind of 8" duct connector that has a bunch of tabs you fold back to keep it attached (with tons of caulk which is what really holds it), so it's not flat. Wish I had gotten the kind that just has a flat surface to bolt on. I could probably stuff a towel into it to seal it fairly well.

The thing that really caught my attention was securing the ducting - hadn't thought about how the wind could just rip it off (it will be held with hose type clamps). Well - actually I had thought of that, but only because of the MOOP issue. Maybe I'll tie it at multiple points to a piece of rebar pounded into the ground.

As to removing the fan grill - I had thought of that at one point. It's needed for the side that is caulked to the cooler because it gives a lot more surface area to caulk to. But the other side - unfortunately, the way it is built, it would be a lot of work to remove the grill. I can't hear the noise anyway from inside.

Thanks again.

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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby EGAZ » Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:02 pm

At least you can stand on it if you need something of the roof of the van. LOL :D That's a hell of a case for a swamp cooler!

My two cents are to remove the intake cover completely. Throw in a filter rack if you like but you don't need to. Change the discharge to 12", add two, 12 in. 90 Degree Round Adjustable Elbows to get rid of the 'duct pinch'. They can be 'swiveled' around to any degree you like, 45s in this case. Get some big tie wraps or hose clamps like you mentioned to secure. Cut the duct length short to give it some tension to reduce it flopping around in the wind.

Overall, it should work for ya.
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Re: Air intake & filter issues for RV/van swamp cooler

Postby gboehm » Wed Aug 02, 2017 10:08 am

thanks - maybe next year. I am so over it now, and time to move on to the next project. Actually, there is essentially no restriction from the ducting - the length is only about 6" more than absolutely necessary, and the air flow into the van is very strong. And I realized that the duct can be quite easily secured to the van door with stucco tape since almost the entire length of it is vertical and can be placed against the door.

As with all projects, the lessons learned can be applied to the next iteration. As to overbuilding the box - well, that's just what amateur builders do.


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