It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)

It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Can a do-it-yourself swamp cooler beat the August heat?

Instead of spending $400 for an air conditioner, purchase $25 of simple parts and assemble one yourself.

Summer in the Pacific Northwest seems to last five minutes — but those five minutes are intense. When the days heat up, my normal course of action is to take my kids to an air-conditioned mall or movie theater. But that doesn’t work during a pandemic, so this summer I had to expand my options.

My first thought was to purchase a portable air conditioning unit. Unfortunately, they are expensive and cause storage issues. Enter YouTube. While I was searching for portable air conditioner reviews, I came across videos of do-it-yourself swamp coolers.

The promise was enticing. Instead of spending $400 for a real air conditioner, purchase $25 worth of simple parts and assemble one yourself. That price point sounded too good to be true, but I figured even if the cooler didn’t work well, it would be better than nothing, especially since we could afford to build more than one and spread them across the house.

The concept was simple. Take a five gallon bucket from a hardware store, line it with an insulated insert to hold ice, drill holes on the side and put a face-down fan on top. The fan blows cold air out the holes in the side of the bucket.

Acquiring all of the parts was tricky. Five gallon buckets were easy to find, but the insulated inserts was harder to come by. Here’s a hint, try searching for: “5-Gallon Bucket Companion Cooler” on Home Depot’s website.

The next step was buying a hole-dozer attachment for our drill, and that’s where I screwed up. The hole dozer dimensions needed to match the PVC fittings that stick into the side of the bucket. I thought I bought the right size hole-dozer attachment, but I didn’t. The final step was finding the small fans that would blow into the cooler.

Once all of the parts arrived, my husband took them to his work bench and realized my mistake buying the hole dozer. It created holes that were way too small. Instead of being able to build the coolers in 10 minutes, he and my son spent over an hour filing the openings to accommodate the PVC fittings.

Finally the coolers were ready, and just in time, too, because the weather was heating up. The first person to use a cooler was my son, who was cooped up in his sauna of a room taking online driver’s ed. I set up the bucket for him with high hopes. My teenager’s verdict? The cooler wasn’t that effective.

I agree with him. In a high-temperature room the cooler doesn’t do much because it can’t remove hot air. But in a warm room it does create a nice breeze.

Our DIY swamp coolers can’t compete with air conditioning, but they are certainly better than nothing.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Veteran Keith F. Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

Eggs Florentine
Baked Eggs Florentine: A brunch favorite inspired by a queen

The kitchen manager at Quil Ceda Creek Casino shares a dish that pays homage to a spinach-crazy 16th century monarch.

Jennifer Bardsley, author of her newest book Good Catch, at her home on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021 in Edmonds, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds author transitions from young adult novels to romance

Jennifer Bardsley’s “Good Catch” is set in an Edmonds-like town. Spoiler alert: There’s a happy ending.

Caption: They might be too old for lunch box notes, but teenagers benefit from TLC too.
Fun ways to show the teens in your life that you care

The teen years can be challenging but they don’t last long. A little bit of extra attention can go a long way.

This easy-to-make spinach and mushroom quiche is perfect for a light dinner or fancy brunch. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Gretchen’s table: A spinach-mushroom quiche with cheesy goodness

The savory egg custard baked in a pie crust is easy to make — especially if you use a refrigerated crust.

Nissan’s signature V-motion grille dominates the 2022 Pathfinder’s front. Look closely and you’ll see three slots at the top, a tribute to the original 1986 Pathfinder. (Manufacturer photo)
Nissan Pathfinder comes full circle with all-new 2022 version

The three-row mid-size SUV gains modern amenities but returns to the rugged impression of the original.

Jack Rice, left, gives his grandmother Carolyn Rice, a tutorial on her new tablet Saturday afternoon in Edmonds on November 20, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Need to Ring or Zoom? Edmonds teen comes to the rescue

Jack Rice, 17, started a free service to help seniors connect with tech. “He’s a hero around here.”

Herr Jung leads a group through Bacharach, Germany.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Lessons from a schoolmaster on the Rhine

Herr Jung dedicated his life to sharing Germany’s hard history so others can learn from it.

How to transform past shame into something positive and healthy

Tips on coping with the shame that we carry around in our hearts and on our sleeves.

Header, garden shovel or spade puts into soil, green meadow in the back, low angle shot
Regenerative gardening helps save the planet one garden at a time

Regenerative gardening is founded on the principle that if we take care of our soils then everything else will work out for the best.

She canceled her Iceland trip in time. Where’s her refund?

When Kim Josund cancels her trip to Iceland, she believes she’s entitled to a full refund. Why are her hotel and dive operator refusing?

GPP
Great Plant Pick: Acer tegmentosum “Joe Witt”

This Manchurian snakebark maple boasts beautiful highly striped white bark that brightens the shade garden.