The Effect of Evaporative Coolers on Air Quality: Do Swamp Coolers Improve or Intensify Allergic Reactions in Homes?


Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, operate through the evaporation of water in a special cooling pad. The cooling pad is kept saturated with water, and water is blown across the pad to evaporate the water. The cool wet air is then blown through vents, to lower the ambient temperature in the home. The swamp cooler’s cooling pad and vent system requires a great deal of maintenance, and special filters to reduce allergens in the home.

Swamp Cooler Fans and Filters

Swamp cooler fans draw air from outside the home, before passing it over the cooling pad. By installing special air filters, the air brought into the home can be filtered to remove dust and other allergens. This improves the quality of air in the home, and can improve allergic symptoms of anyone in the home that suffers from outdoor allergies. These filters should be cleaned or replaced according to manufacturer instructions, but at least as often as the swamp cooler pads are changed, or twice per cooling season.

Evaporative Coolers and Mold Spores

Evaporative coolers, due to the wet environment in the cooling pad, are perfect breeding grounds for mold spores. The mold spores that grow on the cooling pad, or in the venting system, are blown into the home along with the cooled air. Many people are allergic to mold spores, and can experience severe allergic symptoms due to the mold in an evaporative cooling system. Asthma can also be affected by mold growth in a home. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, even people who are not allergic can experience irritation of the throat, eyes, skin, and nose due to mold growth.

In order to prevent mold overgrowth, swamp cooler pads must be changed frequently, and vents must be kept clean. Swamp coolers should be drained and refilled with fresh water periodically to reduce the opportunity for mold growth. Running the swamp cooler in fan-only mode occasionally, particularly on dry sunny days, can help to keep the venting system dry and mold-free as well.

Swamp Coolers and Air Quality

Although mold is frequently associated with the humid atmosphere that results from the use of a swamp cooler, it is possible to reduce mold growth through frequent maintenance. In addition, using air filters helps to purify the air in the home, removing dust and other allergens from the air before blowing it into the home. With careful attention, a swamp cooler’s cooling pad and vents can be kept clean and mold-free, and can even improve the air quality of the home.

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