Does Putting Ice in A Swamp Cooler Really Works? (In-depth)

Last Updated on January 1, 2024

When summer sets in, it is time to turn on your swamp cooler to get cool breeze of fresh air. There are several hacks that you can use with your swamp cooler to provide you with the coolest air, indoors as well as outdoors. One of them is using ice with your swamp cooler. This article is all about that. Can you put ice in your swamp? Does it work? and what’s the downside?

Putting ice in swamp cooler will make air coming out of it relatively cooler due to contact with ice and cooled water by it. However, if used in large quantities compared to capacity of water tank, excessively low water temperature will prevent evaporation and reduce cooling instead of increasing it.

The amount of ice you use in your swamp cooler will impact the cooling that you achieve and the duration for which you are provided with relatively cooler air. The goal is to take the temperature of the water in your swamp cooler lower but not as low that evaporation is hindered.

Ice Cubes

Further using solid ice blocks is not a very good idea. Why? because pump of your swamp cooler is designed to suck water only and not solid chunks of ice. The grinding of ice with pump elements can damage it. But I have a hack for you that you can use to prevent that. I have also covered it in the article.

Why Using Ice in Your Swamp Cooler Gives Cooler Air?

Your swamp cooler functions to provide you with cool air by the process of evaporation. Air is sucked through the cooling pads, that are soaked in water. When evaporation of water occurs, heat energy is extracted from the air that carries it. So in return you get cool fresh air. It is humid too due to water vapors.

But here is a cool fact, water evaporates at all temperatures (even at very low temperatures). This means that no matter what the temperature of the water inside you swamp cooler, it will still cool the air.

But why adding ice makes air cooler? The reason primarily is that ice drops the temperature of water inside you swamp cooler. When air pushes through cooler pads with low temperature water running through it, it becomes cooler even before evaporation. Further, air sucked by the blower becomes cooler due to contact with ice inside the swamp cooler.

So, using water with ice in swamp cooler will cause three cooling phenomena:

First, it will come in contact with ambient air, that is passing through your swamp cooler. This will drop temperature of that air.

Second, ice will reduce temperature of water by contact and itself melt into cool water. Cooler water through pads will absorb a lot of heat from air that passes through it.

Third, water will evaporate and cool the air that carries it.

How Much Ice For Coolest Air?

Studies show optimal temperature for efficient swamp cooler operation is around 50 degree Celsius (what comes out of your home’s tap). Increasing or decreasing the temperature than that would cause cooler efficiency to drop too.

The hotter and drier the air, the more it will boost evaporation process. While the cooler and humid the air, the less will be evaporation.

No doubt, higher water temperature will cause evaporation to increase. However, this doesn’t mean that your swamp cooler performance will increase too.

Above about 50 degree Celsius, increase in temperature would deteriorate cooling operation of your swamp cooler. Thereby despite good rate of evaporation there are other factors that affect swamp cooler operation.

For ice to be effective, keep a balance between the amount of ice added and the evaporation. The goal is to get maximum cooling by combination of both: evaporation and cooling effect of ice.

Pro Tip: Start with relatively small quantities of ice, compared to water tank capacity. Increase this amount by a little daily and check cooling. In a couple of days, you will get the idea of right quantity of ice and when to put it to get the coolest air.

There are multiple reasons a fixed amount cannot be dictated. For starters, this is a hack, not a function included while designing most units, except few that have ice containers. Then there are too many factors: temperature, relative humidity, amount of water in the tank, water temperature, insulation etc.

In shade ice will last for longer than in the sun. With good insulation of your swamp cooler, it can last for a couple of hours in shade.

What Could Go Wrong?

When using ice, there are certain things that should be kept in mind. Previously, I said that ice should be slowly increased regularly, to get the idea of how much to use, to get the coolest air. Well, what happens if you use way more than that?

Using too much ice will prevent water to evaporate. When temperature of water is very low, evaporation will occur very slowly. As a result, water will pass through cooler pads of swamp cooler without converting to water vapors i.e. no evaporation when air moves through wet cooling pads.

The functionality of your swamp cooler is based on this principle. So, with inability to evaporate, cooling will not occur. The only cooling that will occur will be due to contact of cool water with air which is not sufficient.

Another problem could be damage to pump of your evaporative cooler. Pump plays the role of suction of water from swamp cooler water tank and providing it uphill to the distribution lines. The distribution lines then distribute water to cooling pads.

If you insert a lot of solid ice blocks in the tank of your swamp cooler, compared to tank capacity, then these ice blocks can be sucked by water pump. This can cause your pump to temporarily stop working or permanently damage it.

Normally, with the adequate amount of ice, the probability of this happening is very low. But still water tank of a swamp cooler is not designed to contain solid ice blocks. But there are simple solutions to these problems. Let’s give them a look.

Hack to Conveniently and Safely Use Ice In Your Swamp Cooler

There are two solutions to safely use ice in your swamp cooler to maximize cooling effect.

Either buy a swamp cooler that comes with ice packs. They can be filled with water and frozen in a normal home refrigerator. Once frozen, place them in your swamp cooler and enjoy the extra cooling effect of ice.

The second solution is to make your own ice packs. All you need is small water containers to store water, that are handy enough to be frozen in a refrigerator. A convenient example is using water bottles. Take multiple 2 L bottles, fill them with water and freeze them. After they have been frozen, place them in the water tank of your swamp cooler.

Frozen Water Bottles

It is a good idea to place them away from the pump, if you can, close to the sides. This is way convenient than using buckets of ice. All that needs to be done after ice in bottles have converted to water is to put the back in the refrigerator. Clean them externally though before reusing.

Other Ways to Boost Swamp Cooler Cooling

  • Turn your swamp cooler ON early in the morning, preferably at the lowest temperature in the day. This will cause better cooler operation close to highest temperature in the day.
  • Try to install or put your swamp cooler in shade for better cooling operation. If you put ice, it will go way longer in shade than direct sunlight.
  • Soak the cooler pads before turning on the blower. The best way to do this is to switch to pump only mode. This will allow pump to suck water and provide to distribution lines, soaking pads, without blower operation. You can also do this manually if you want by spraying water over cooler pads. Usually, they are easily accessible from outside.

Which Swamp Cooler I Recommend?

In case you decide to buy a swamp cooler, I have narrowed the process for you. I have researched and recommend the following, mainly based upon functioning and working, but also pricing. Here, have a look:

No need to manually insert ice in your water tank. This unit comes with 4 ice packs that you may use to boost its cooling effect.