I live in the desert southwest where swamp coolers are prevalent. Lately,
more and more homes are being built with
refrigerated air (due to water concerns, efficiency, etc...) and I'm
wondering just how hard would it be to retrofit
my house with a refrigerated air unit? There are probably a million
details to be understood but I'm really looking
for any advice on this. Most companies are charging a fortune for the unit
and install labor so I was thinking that maybe
I could do the install myself and save some $$. I assume it would tie into
the existing ductwork but I'm wondering if these
things require return air or do they just pull from their location outdoors?
Any other gotcha's with this project?
The gotchas start with you thinking that you can do it yourself. Do you
have the training, equipment, and appropriate licenses? Most repuptable
wholesalers will not sell to an non CFC-EPA client.
Assuming that your swamp in on the roof.
A new drop into the duct work will need to be fabricated. Then a new stand
designed for the pitch of the roof. New electric circuit for the compressor,
usually requires a permit from the local authority. Probably a new t-stat
wires and for sure a new t-stat.
I have not even touched sizing of the unit and the return air grill.
Lastly the duct work may have to be replaced as you do not mention how old
your home is. I live in Phoenix and I have not seen a home built with just
swamp cooling in 20 years.
In your situation it MIGHT be better to get window units for the rooms you
want to cool. My old girl friends home was that way. She just closed the
door and a/c'd the bedroom when it was necessary.
The house where I grew up in Las Vegas was built this way (1963) and my dad
put an Amana heat pump on it. The existing ductwork was fine to the rooms
(he built the ductwork for the builder) so the unit was hoisted up on the
roof, with appopriate mounting stand, ductwork dropped thru the roof,
connected to the original plenum, return vent put in the ceiling of the
hallway, wiring installed for the unit and new Tstat wire dropped..Worked
great and was still pumping away when my mom and I sold the house in '79.
He also moved the old swamper over and dropped it down into the garage..Made
a neat workshop!
(note: He managed a mechanical shop so knew what he was doing, I would not
recommend DIY here)
This is Turtle.
Well Cubby , I did not read what i would normally read from a person that would
or may have the ability to do it yourself. If you was near any of the way to do
it yourself. The tie in's would not be a problem at all and you would be asking
about the your thoughts on the ducting to be laid out and wiring of the system.
The 3 Most important things that would be need attention on installing this
system was not addressed. Manual J , Manual D , and Then the type system you
would want in that part of the country. With these three things resolved you
could move to installing the system. Until then you just guessing at the
installation. Check on these three thing and then come back to get started.
So here's a little more detail. The current swamp cooler is not on the
It's on a pad on the side of the house and is a downflow model.
unit would be simple.
I didn't ask about wiring because quite frankly, that should be pretty
simple as well. My panel box
and subpanel is just down the wall on the other side in the garage and
permits are not an issue.
I suppose where I'm a bit curious is my recollection of refrigerated air
was they had a return air from the interior of the house. I'm seeing units
up here that are retrofits for swamp coolers and it doesn't appear they are
any sort of return air. Otherwise, they'd probably be putting in new
which doesn't seem to be happening. Hence I was wondering if the newer
units for this
climate are designed to use outdoor air only (which doesn't seem all that
efficient to me but
I'm not sure what Manual J and Manual D are but I'll look around.
I think I'm more than capable to install such a beast providing I didn't
have to get into
too much ductwork. I installed my own forced air heater and ductwork
issues (that wasn't much fun as it was in a crawl space of a cabin at about
As for sizing, I've got a friend in the business of design that would be
able to tell me what size
I'd need quite easily. I was really just trying to understand the return
air situation on the
newer units. The fact that I don't have a CFC-EPA cert may be the
On Thu, 10 Mar 2005 20:47:33 -0700, "James \"Cubby\" Culbertson"
What you are seeing when you say you aren't seeing any return is a
LARGE duct that is carrying both the return air AND the cooled/heated
air. The most typical retrofit in Arizona was to remove a roof
mounted cooler and install a roof mounted AC unit. The main
difference was that a return duct had to be provided so the duct
opening in the roof that was already there was simply enlarged to
accommodate the large double duct.
Keep in mind two things. The swamp cooler blows a LOT of air and the
ducts were sized for that air volume. When you retrofit you don't
need to use as large a connection between the actual blower in the AC
and the existing ductwork in the house compared to what was needed for
the swamp cooler. So the space taken by the original swamp cooler
cooled air duct is already oversized. That allows the AC connecting
duct for the out air to be reduced to something smaller then what the
swamp cooler had and helps make space for the return duct the AC will
need and that the cooler didn't have.
The setup you have is obviously different since the swamp cooler is
slab mounted. You'll still need a return duct but without knowing
your exact setup now there's no way to say what options you might
have. Ideally the return duct will be ceiling height and in the
hallway. You could accomplish that by simply running an entire new
duct up the side of your house, thru the upper side of the house/roof,
and over to where your hall ceiling is.
In some ways your setup would be easier for a DIYer as you would not
need to hoist the AC up on the roof and make a stand for it nor patch
a new double duct into the roof and connect it to the existing duct in
the attic along with the new return.
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