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Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 9:38 AM

My goal is to optimize the design of a portable swamp cooler to my camping setup, for portability, cost, and efficiency.

Burning Man has been an accelerated testing ground for technology for a while. Even the military are rumored to send observers. (They supposedly discovered the Camelbak there.) Up to 50k+ imaginative burners come back every year fine tuning their designs for comfortable desert living. Swamp coolers is one great example of crowd sourced, internet accelerated engineering. Each year, the latest design tweaks show up, results are observed by their builders and others. Then the results are shared and discussed online, new tweaks are invented and the cycle repeats.

I'm starting with a fairly well tested design that's been used for several years, Figjam's 12 volt system, recapped on page 51 of the eplaya forum: https://eplaya.burningman.com/viewtopic.php?f=280&t=33842&sid=64402fca15c15b9e43b9eec3b88fceeb&start=1500

I'm adapting this design to my situation, which is a bit different.

- Instead of a full size cabin tent or hexayurt(700+ sq ft), I have been using a tent within a tent for several years, basically a large piece of housewrap suspended from the cabin tent, draped over an air mattress and tucked under at the edges. It has overlapping flaps on the sides for entry, or can be pulled completely out of the way to allow cross ventilation. It has an interior bamboo spreader pole over the head end, and I'm generously calling it an average height of 2 ft. (about 75 cu ft max, probably more like half of that). Figjam calls for a fan that will replace the air inside the space every 3 to 5 minutes. For my tent, that would be no more than 10 to 30 cfm. (He uses a 190CFM muffin fan) I'm happy to overkill design and loosen the fan to lower air output if needed.

My main question is fine tuning the efficiency. Typically this design is reported to give a 20 to 30 degree decrease over ambient incoming temp. I'd like to maximize that. My cooled space is very small, so a large volume of air is not needed, as in larger spaces. I'm thinking that the slower the air passes through the wet media, the more it is humidified and cooled. Too fast, not cool enough, and it passes through the tent too fast. Too slow, and not enough air passes through.

- I have access to 110VAC power in my camp, so am using AC components. My pump is a 132gph fountain pump. I'm putting a TEE and a valve at the outlet so I can dump extra flow. The drip ring only needs enough to keep the entire mat damp. I'll be carrying 12 volt backup pump and blower with a DC adapter also. The playa eats technology, redundancy is essential! This will also make it easier to convert to DC someday if I want to.

- I plan to have a float switch to prevent dry running in a second bucket reservoir and a siphon loop connecting them. This should give me twice the water capacity. (If I can remember to check the water daily, I might be able to forgo the switch.)

- My system will have a thermostat to narrow the range. No sense in overcooling. I have an old ductstat that should work. I have a digital Ranco controller I use for homebrewing, but that would be overkill.

- I travel from Florida so weight of cargo is critical. We now have a rental storage unit so can leave stuff out there, but there is no way we can store batteries effectively.

(Greywater disposal technology is another good example of this design process, but that's another story.)

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#1

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 9:48 AM

After reading the first entry on the site you posted, it became very clear to me that the whole affair is a vulgar waste of time.

I can't imagine why you would go to such lengths to "perfect" an evaporative cooler.

I guess it's better than a sharpstick in the eye.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 10:14 AM

Well, thank you for your helpful opinion. Maybe the guru "Lyn" can enlighten us as to what this forum is for?

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#3

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 10:29 AM

I'm still sitting here wondering why you wouldn't have a camper with a proper A/C....

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#4

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 10:31 AM

you're wasting tout time trying to reinvent evaporation

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#5

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 10:45 AM

I'm going to be patient before I get discouraged with this forum. I'm just going to wait until the knowledgable creative people wake up later in the afternoon. So far it seems like only cranky people with nothing to contribute get up this early.

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#6

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 10:55 AM
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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 10:59 AM

You must have been up very early then....? What makes you think anyone, in their right mind, would want to live in the desert on an inner tube, in a tent? What's wrong with a camper?? Are you anti technology?

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 11:07 AM

A usb fan and ice? I'm not even going to dignify that by hitting the play button.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 12:03 PM

I guess he went back to sleep....not ready to face reality just yet....

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 12:24 PM

An inner tube? What?

Most people at burning man are considered by many to not be in their right mind. They like to camp. Some people have a different idea of what "camping" is. Some like wilderness camping, naked in the woods. At the other end of the spectrum are people like my sister in law, who will not even consider setting foot in an air conditioned RV. Most of us choose some spot in between. If you look at the 86 pages of that forum link I posted, strictly on designing swamp coolers, you may also notice that most of them are doing it more for the challenge than practicality. From past experience, I thought that this forum was like that. So far, it looks like I was mistaken.

Anyone want to contribute anything actually constructive or useful to this discussion? Think of it as one of those silly academic puzzles that get posted here that everyone goes supernerd on. Otherwise, the negative comments this morning are not even creative enough to transcend boring and are just wasting my bandwidth.

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#11
In reply to #1

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 12:35 PM

I'll try to give a rational answer to what I will assume were serious questions.

Why a swamp cooler? To keep cool in a tent in the desert where afternoon temps may be 100+ degrees. Swamp coolers, aka evaporative cooling have been in use commercially for decades, actually centuries, in arid climates. People who live in Florida will find it hard to believe!

Why not an AC? AC, even a small unit, requires more power than the average camper has available. It takes a considerable amount of equipment and fuel to run even the smallest of window units. A swamp cooler powerful enough to cool a shaded tent or hexayurt fits in a 5 gallon plastic bucket and the fan and pump can be run with a small solar panel or battery pack.

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#12
In reply to #4

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 12:38 PM

I have lots of tout time to waste and sort of enjoy prodding trolls back.

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#13
In reply to #10

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 12:47 PM

I can appreciate an artistic endeavor, which is pretty much what burning man is about, I think....However, as a refrigeration engineer, I refuse to read 86 pages about swamp coolers....If you want low tech, spray yourself with a mister....

.....and fan yourself....

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#14
In reply to #10

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 1:07 PM
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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 1:20 PM

Now I understand what it takes to get "guru" status, thousands of worthless posts that contribute nothing to the conversation. Is there a grand prize for the highest post count?

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 1:24 PM

ask Lyn, thats his neighborhood, I just come here for the free popcorn

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#17
In reply to #13

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 1:29 PM

And yet, you have time to post over 8000 posts in this forum. Are they all this condescending? Curious.

You guys should put your keyboards down and go play with your star trek action figures until you can come back and play nice.

(I should apologize. I usually don't respond to random trollity but seeing it come from "gurus" just pushed my buttons. I thought this was a more civilized forum and expected a little more decorum here.)

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 1:37 PM

what your cheap ass expected was free work from knowledgeable people that you wanted to work for free. the only one disappointed here is you. evaporation and air movement have already been perfected through mist systems more than a decade ago regardless of how testy or rude you get

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#19
In reply to #17

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 1:46 PM

I was done wasting my time with you, but speaking of button pushing: "I thought this was a more civilized forum and expected a little more decorum here"

That's about the most asinine statement you could have made.

I quote from the first entry in your referenced site,

"F**k Im Good Just Ask Me" offered by FIGJAM

Now, there's a real civilized statement from a forum with decorum????

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 2:08 PM

At least he's not insulting anyone. It's a burner forum, not an engineering one. It doesn't pretend to have any professional attitude, but so far it's been more courteous than this one.

I posted a serious discussion with good faith. I think I stated the subject well, included most of the variable required for the discussion(many don't here).

Evaporative coolers are well known and tested technology. I am trying to adapt to to a non traditional situation. I'm consider myself knowledgeable and good at seat of tha pants design, but thought I could ask for advice from folks who might have more experience in this field.

Earlier today, I was told: "what your cheap ass expected was free work from knowledgeable people that you wanted to work for free. " Grammar aside, this statement toward me was not deserved. I read the forum mission and it says nothing about owing anyone for their expertise: "Conference Room 4® (CR4) is a forum for engineers, scientists, technical researchers, technical buyers, students and folks who just like technology to discuss engineering news, seek technical help and get answers to burning questions."

If you don't want to share your valuable knowledge for free, fine, but you don't have to act superior and insulting. Just ignore the posts that you don't like.

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#21

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 5:02 PM

I had a friend in the high desert of California who had a swamp cooler in her house. I was surprised at how efficient it was.

As you probably know, evaporative cooling works in humid environments like Florida, but must be addressed differently.

Our humidity is so high, a standard swamp cooler won't work well enough to make economic sense. We must therefore increase the efficiency to a point much beyond that of a swamp cooler.

Here (and other places as well) the water is atomized (misted) to increase the surface area, which increases evaporization, which causes more heat absorption.

Small nozzles to atomize water are cheap.

If you really want to design an efficient unit, atomize your water into an air flow.

Use the smallest micron droplet that you can, and adjust your air flow as required.

Maybe next year you will be the one showcasing a better mousetrap. Good luck.

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 5:45 PM

Misting does work well in the desert, but I don't want to spray my bed.

( BTW, I'll be using the swamp cooler in the Nevada desert, not Florida.)

Thanks.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 6:33 PM

I fully understood that you were to use your device in the desert.

The point of my reply was that if atomizing can work in Florida, it will be incredibly efficient in the desert.

Regarding "spraying your bed", that is part of the design process.

Can you divine what factors might allow you to pass atomized water droplets through an air stream such that dry cool air is exhausted?

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 6:42 PM

I've felt the effects of mist in the desert.

For the bed, I suppose it's just a matter of adjusting your spray to just the right amount so it evaporates before it lands. That might require some adjustment over time as the temp and humidity change while you're sleeping.

I don't now if my present pump has that much pressure, but it sounds intriguing. It will definitely use more water, though.

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#25

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/08/2014 8:24 PM

I don't see a question. Not even where you ask your "main question"?

As for the antagonists? It's some form of inferiority and/or/xor superiority complex? Not unique to CR4 in any way.

If you posted anonymously things could have really turned ugly.

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#26

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 12:13 AM

Maybe play around with a rheostat on the fan, to get the best balance between too little/too much air.

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#27

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 4:39 AM

This is the first time I have heard of anyone trying to cool a portable swamp...

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#28

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 8:29 AM

Don't waste the effort on lyn, Fredski and SolarEagle,

They seem to think they own this forum and I've called lyn out on behaviour like this before and I have complained to the Admin with no luck. Seems the admin of this forum is happy to let them tear into people they think don't meet their high standards. Phfft. Seems these three still get alot of good answers which I can only attest to being family members clicking on the good answer button for them.

Keep up your efforts and don't let people like lyn, Fredski and SolarEagle bog you down with their negativity. Burning Man is a shining example when like minded people work together and accomplish great things. Hope to be able to go someday. I'm sure lyn, Fredski and SolarEagle have never been and have never left the fortitude of their basements to even see the sun or go out in the desert.

Keep the tire side down.

UFG.

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 8:34 AM
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#30

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 8:38 AM

Typical Fredski/lyn/SolarEagle behaviour.

You're just proving my point.....FLAME AWAY FREDSKI.

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#31

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 8:45 AM

Aside from the unfriendly and unhelpful comments here, I am fascinated that such units actually work. The design on that link was easy to follow and if I go camping again in summer, I might just knock one up to take with me.....

A thought that came to mind with regard to the water level, is to use one of those Hydroculture units, they look like this and come in many sizes:-

Siliconed into the side of the bucket should work fine and no need to look in at the top......or even two connectors set in the side of the bucket with a length of clean see thru tubing, like a steam boiler water gauge for example....but liable to get knocked off I suspect...

Keep talking Guys.....

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#32

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 10:21 AM

Hi sharpstick, thanks for that link, v interesting.

Unfortunately I can't help you in any way.

You didn't deserve all this flak. If someone doesn't like what you post, they should just ignore it.

Just ignore it.

cnc jim

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#33
In reply to #18

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 11:15 AM

12 OT's, that's awesome man. I'm jealous now.

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#34
In reply to #28

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 11:47 AM

Great accomplishments!? Burning man is a bunch of clever artists that display their projects to others, mostly stoned out do nothing bums...It's an outgrowth of the "new age" airheads that grew up in privileged homes and chose to believe in astrology and pseudo science rather than get a real education....Now they make art out of dawn of the industrial age artifacts, because they finally realized they need to make a living....and bizarre sells really good on the west coast....Don't get me wrong, I love art, but let's not make any more out of it than it is....and making an evaporative cooler, is not rocket science...misting and airflow, as I suggested, is the most efficient way to go...

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 11:52 AM

Thank you oh Alien Overlord, all seeing, all knowing SolarEagle. Pffht.

Keep proving my point....lyn/SolarEagle/Fredski... discuss. Amongst yourselves please.

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#36
In reply to #32

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 12:10 PM

Thanks.

Note to mods: This forum might run a bit smoother if you restrict membership to 12 and over.

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#37
In reply to #33

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 12:13 PM

I aim to please

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#38
In reply to #36

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 12:48 PM

Hey sharpstick,

Is that their age or IQ? Please advise.

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#39
In reply to #25

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 12:58 PM

Good point on the question. I couldn't find it either. I went back and checked. Quite frankly, it sounds like the OP has it pretty well figured out. Not sure why it even was posted. At this point, it is time to go out to the desert and collect empirical data and come home to analyze the results with a set of steam tables. I believe some instrumentation will be in order. There are many examples of USB based temperature and humidity logging "memory sticks". A flow meter to log the water consumption and a solar incidence instrument would be useful as well as an IR meter or camera to find out how much Burning Man radiates into the OP's tent.

An 8 cu-ft/min counter-flow atomizer with serpentine baffling and condensate return sure sounds like it would do the job very nicely.

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#40
In reply to #38

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 12:59 PM

I should have expected that inevitable comeback.

(btw, am I in the running for a record OT ratio for this topic?)

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#41
In reply to #15

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 1:00 PM

You're up to 60 with this one.

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#42

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/09/2014 5:57 PM

"full size cabin tent or hexayurt(700+ sq ft)"

Oops, I meant 700+ cu ft. (average cabin tent is 10 x 12 x 6 ft)

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#43

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/11/2014 6:17 AM

You may be able to improve the performance significantly with only moderate changes. .

The largest improvement without switching to larger pumps and fans, is probably making changes to take advantage of the latent heat of vaporization for cooling without giving up the benefits of low humidity air.

.

Cooling the air by 10 or 20 degrees is great, but much of the heat regulation/comfort benefit is traded away if that cooler air is also much more humid, since higher humidity makes it more difficult for the body to regulate temperature.

.

There are many approaches you could take, but basically they all involve reducing the temperature of the abundant dry air just as before, but then transferring heat from the tent air and then dumping the moist warm air outside.

.

Using water as your heat transfer fluid pumped through copper tubing is an easy way to accomplish this. Basically your pump can send water through a copper coil through which cool humid air passes and then through a copper coil through which a fan circulated air inside the tent. Finally the water leaves the copper tubing in a spray through more dry outside air, to pre-cool it before returning to the pump.

.

Misting can be an effective way to create a lot of surface are for the evaporation to take place. It can also be used to drive airflow for heat transfer purposes. In sort of a reverse-chimney-effect, by directing a few mists of water downward lining the inside near the top of a vertical pipe, a downward airflow can be motivated, somewhat because the mist impinges air, but also in large part because cooler air laden with mist is much more dense that warm dry air. Your mesh material inside the bucket could still be used, and would still remain damp from the mist above, but it would serve mainly to catch any escaping mist instead of as the main water surface area.

.

Performance of the system can also be improved if you can maximize heat transfer out with the moist air, recuperating what would have been lost cooling effect.

.

Consider something like the following:

From the outside of the tent you notice two pipe openings reasonably separated, one low and one higher. The lower pipe is the exhaust and it is smaller in diameter and made of thin aluminum straight wall drier exhaust line. The intake pipe is vertical at the opening, it reaches a 90 degree elbow when it is at the height of the exhaust pipe. A whole has been cut in the elbow and the exhaust pipe penetrated the elbow to become coaxial with the intake pipe over the distance into the tent, and provides for some final heat transfer to the exiting moist air, precooling the warm dry outside air. Metal find and other heat transfer aids will allow shorter lengths to be more effective.

Once inside the tent, just prior to the paint bucket pump base, the intake pipe has another 90 degree elbow up, and the exhaust tube pierces the elbow the same way it did on the exterior, and seals to a hole in the bucket cut to the same diameter.

The intake pipe continues straight up for the height of the chimney then has two 90 degree elbows so that it is facing down, centered over the pump bucket. Numerous sprays are positioned in the second elbow and directing spray down through the remaining pipe to the pump bucket below. The spray orifices are at the end of the copper line. Water collecting in the bucket is pumped up through the easily coiled thin wall copper tubing (look in the refrigeration section of hardware store). This tubing makes a flat one layer pancake coil that occupies a cross section of the lower part of the chimney above the bucket.

The piping exits the bucket/chimney and makes another pancake coil, over which a small fan circulates air within the tent.

The copper tubing then takes the water now carrying heat from the room down the length of the exhaust piping (inside the intake pipe) and then back. Finally the coper pipe terminates with the spray nozzles at the top of the chimney.

Alternately a small blower pulling (as not to introduce the electric motor heat into the cooling process) warm moist air out of the exhaust tube could be used.

.

All portions outside the tent should be shielded from the sun. Additionally a decent radiant barrier would be useful for the cooler sections of the system. The double bubble, aluminized radiant barrier (available in rolls at the big DIY box stores) could be used. A radiant barrier and a little insulation would also provide great benefit lining the underside of the larger tent and those radiant barrier rolls would be a good choice.

.

.

I'm a little pressed for time, so if that is not clear, just hit me up for clarification and I'll see if I can provide a better explanation.

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#44
In reply to #43

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/11/2014 8:33 AM

I'll have to draw this out (after coffee)to visualize the whole thing. It's too complex for the playa, (at least this year) but it is just the kind of thing I was hoping to see on this forum. This should help efficiency of permanent home units and could save a few tons of carbon globally in the long run.

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#45
In reply to #25

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/11/2014 8:53 AM

My fault. The main question was about air flow. I can't experiment in Florida, but will vary the flow out there and measure temps.

The main reason I posted here was that the subject has bounced around over there for 4 years and 87 pages with a handful of posters. I wanted to give it to a new set of eyes and heads to play with. Think of it as a puzzle to solve.

(Why do I get "unable to process form" most of the time I try to post?)

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#46
In reply to #45

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/11/2014 12:13 PM

CR4 has had a bad problem with the editor for more than a year now. If you take too long to post it, it doesn't want to accept the post.

The simple way to get round it is to do a Cntl (A) to mark all your text, followed by a Cntl (C) to copy it, all wile still in the editor, before you click on Preview Comment.

Then if its "unacceptable", simply forget the saving, go back into the blog and open the editor again, paste all your saved text using Cntl (V) and click on Preview and save it again. It will now work as expected.

If you forget to save, go back in your browser and mark and save then.....all the browsers I use allow for this, you may have to set up your browser to allow this......

CR4 have been trying to fix the problems, but it appears to be that all the good Guys have left and the rest don't have a clue.....there is even a blog addressing the editor problems for a long time, also to no effect!!!!

Some other people write there text offline using a simple text editor, then copy the text and paste it into the editor and save it immediately.....both methods work....

I hope this helps....

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#47
In reply to #44

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/11/2014 2:40 PM

I'm glad I could provide something that might be useful.

.

Thanks for being persistent and putting up with some of the less pleasant aspects of CR4.

The text editor time-out problem use to be worse, and while it is still a little aggravating, the quick copy-paste work around isn't bad once you know it is coming.

I'm not sure exactly what to say about the less than friendly reception you received. This is actually the first time I've been on this side of the 'are we too mean' debate. Most of the time this comes up, it centers around posts that; are often anonymous, lack signs of any prior effort, are poorly and incompletely described, and are often guilty of initiating less than courteous interaction at the outset. In those cases, the 'rough' handling of the posters is warranted.

Your post does not exhibit those characteristics, and the treatment you received was not something I would would point to as a shining example of the strengths of CR4. You have obviously studied the problem, have clear goals, and are actually putting your ideas into testable format. The condescension over the level of technology and the choice of tent over trailer, would be amusing, if the tone weren't so serious.

You obviously have a tough skin and I suspect you will continue to benefit and bring benefit to CR4, in spite of the unpleasant beginning.

.

Almost forgot....here is a NREL document describing a similar approach (except with desiccants involved making use in even humid areas advantageous) to evaporation coolers.

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#48

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/11/2014 3:35 PM

I recall a device I saw many years ago; in fact I built one. It was a tee shaped device made from copper tubing. One end of the tee had a valve. With compressed air coming in the base of the tee, by adjusting the valve, you could get the tube to get very hot or very cold. Such a device might work for you. Does anyone know what this device was called?

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#49
In reply to #48

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/11/2014 4:31 PM

A Hilsch vortex tube. Several companies make them, for instance to cool electrical panels.

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#50
In reply to #48

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/11/2014 8:23 PM

Vortex tube cooling is a great idea if compressed air is already available. If compressed air isn't already available, then it probably makes more sense to invest in a small vapor compression AC unit (instead of an air compressor) if cooling is the main objective.

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#51
In reply to #49

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/12/2014 2:53 AM

Does it in any way resemble a mini Tornado in a tube??

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#52

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/13/2014 1:38 PM

Thanks to Truth is Not a Compromise the reputation of the forum is maintained.

Come back soon Sharpstick.

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#53
In reply to #35

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

05/16/2014 6:19 AM

I think this post has the most amount of GA for any thread in CR4 history (maybe?).

All totaled that is.

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#54

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

06/06/2015 12:54 AM

Have you made any progress on this? I am currently converting our full size swamp cooler over to 12 volts dc. In fact I'm converting many things over to dc to take advantage of our solar panels and battery bank that I've been building up for awhile now. Good luck!

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#55
In reply to #54

Re: Portable Swamp Cooler

06/06/2015 9:52 AM

I haven't had a chance to try it. I had the opportunity to sleep in a genuine AC environment last year(and this). It's all ready to go and sitting in storage.

But replacing an AC blower and pump with 12VDC should be pretty straightforward. If you have any more questions, the folks on the eplaya forum should be glad to help.

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