Spring and Fall Maintenance
Just as your body needs regular exercise and physical checkups to continue operation at peak efficiency, your swamper needs regular checkups too! Because it is exposed to the weather, it will accumulate dust and debris throughout the year. If water in your area has a high mineral content, a significant deposit of these minerals will accumulate in the pads during evaporation throughout the year.
It's easy to perform regular maintenance, and you should prepare your swamper at the beginning of spring and at the end of fall. You probably have all the tools required:
You will probably not need everything for routine maintenance, but complete assembly, disassembly, and replacement, can be accomplished with the minimum tools listed above.
You may require cooling early in the year. Usually, dry operation (fan only) will be sufficient in early spring and will not require filling the sump. The water pump should not be used when no water is in the sump. Try to avoid connecting the water line and filling the sump until after the last date of an unexpected freeze. If your water line is exposed to freezing temperatures, it will probably burst and need to be replaced. Copper tubing is easy to install and will last many years longer than inexpensive plastic tubing.
Turn off the circuit breaker to the swamper, if not already off.
Remove all side panels and replace the cooler pads. I use aspen pads because they are less expensive and I install new pads in March and July. Synthetic pads don't appear to work any better, but they do cost more and the material is usually purchased in rolls which must be cut to size.
Clean any dust and debris from the water sump.
Lift out the sump pump and check the impeller for freedom of movement. Minerals or mud can accumulate in the impeller housing and prevent it from rotating. Eventually the motor will burn out. A replacement should cost about $15.
Check the drip-tubes at the top of the cabinet. Be sure they are firmly connected. A small, flexible "snake" (similar to a plumbers snake) can be used to be sure they are free flowing and clear of any obstructions. They are available for less than $3 at home improvement centers.
Check the V-belt connecting the fan motor to the blower fan. It should be replaced if excessive wear is visible.
Check for free rotation of the blower fan and fan motor. Excessive noise means the bearings have probably accumulated dirt or minerals. Oil the pillow-block bearings at each end of the blower fan. Most fan motors have sealed bearings and will not need lubrication, but if yours has oil fittings, be sure to oil the fan motor bearings also.
Connect the water line to the water source and allow the sump to fill. The float valve should close when the level is about ¾ inch below the level of the over-flow pipe. The cooler pads will hold a significant amount of water during operation. When the swamper shuts off, the water will drain into the sump. If your swamper continually over-flows onto the roof, bend the float-arm down about 1/8th inch at a time and check again. If the water level is too low and your sump pump is sucking air, bend the float arm up about 1/8th inch until the desired level is reached.
Install all side panels and you should be set for the coming season.
Shutting Down in Fall
Putting your swamper to bed for winter is basically the reverse of the above steps, except you will not need to replace the cooler pads. Simply drain the sump and clean out any debris. Disconnect the water line at the source before the first expected freeze, and let it hang free until time for the spring tune up. Some people like to place a cover over their swamper or securely wrap it with a plastic tarp to prevent drafts during winter. You can turn off the circuit breaker to the swamper for the winter, if you like.
Some problems are not so easily diagnosed, but the symptoms can help you isolate problems.
Extremely worn bearings are usually indicated by excessive grinding sounds. Replacement is the only solution.
In most residential swampers, the fan motor is a 2-speed, 1/3 HP unit. Because these motors are manufactured by the millions for a variety of purposes, they usually cost $40 or less at electrical supply stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers. Wiring is fairly simple, just follow the examples shown for thermostats. A larger motor will not necessarily provide better cooling as capacity is determined by the available size of the cooler pads and outside humidity.
Occasionally, you will experience excessive over-flow of water and just can't seem to find the "sweet spot" for the float-valve. Check to see if the plastic float has filled with water and fails to close the valve. A replacement is usually less than $7.00.
If your swamper speeds up and slows down for no apparent reason during operation, it could be wind on a windy day, or excessive water may be getting to the V-belt and pulleys during operation. Check the drip tubes at the top of the cabinet.
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