What happens when you don't service your swamp cooler (evaporative cooler) for the fall/winter months here in New Mexico and the Albuquerque area? Chaos, Mayhem and possibly some major expenses. Here is a true account of what can happen with you don’t property winterized you're Albuquerque swamp cooler.
If you live in New Mexico or in the Southwest for that matter you are likely familiar with evaporative or (swamp coolers) some love em some hate them. Refrigerated A/C has gradually become the choice for air conditioning here in many Albuquerque homes, however a majority are still swamp coolers. The system works when cool tap water is delivered into a reservoir pan then pumped through delivery pipes called a spider to ultimately soak the cooler pads (assorted products/material serve this purpose). A large 1/2 to 3/4 HP motor with blower wheel then push the water evaporated and cooled air through the duct system of the home. This cooling setup has been a favored because of our dry climate, with this system you are actually adding a good bit of humidity to the interior of the home and subsequently a continued influx of fresh air unlike a refrigerated AC system. Most often this cooler is mounted on the roof and a small waterline is attached to the water heater, hose bib or other source sometime this line is running through the attic space or via the outside wall up to the cooler. Ok, so now you have a basic understanding of evaporative coolers or swamp coolers.
Now to the story!
Several years ago I had taken a very nice listing in NW Albuquerque. A beautiful two story brick home, nicely appointed and clean as a whistle. When the home was first listed is was occupied by the owners who were relocating to California. Shortly after the listing they packed up a moved on. The home was only on market for a few weeks when we received two competing offers, negotiations commenced and ultimately terms agreed upon. That very night in early December the temperatures had dropped into the teens. At about 10pm that evening, I get a call from one of the neighbors of this home. They wanted to know if I was the listing agent? Yes, I am, how can I help? The man explains that the alarm is blaring nonstop and when he investigated found water running underneath the threshold of the front door! Say that again, I said! He repeated and I said I would be there ASAP.
I arrive at the home on this bitter cold night, it was quite dark and indeed the alarm was sounding and the entire front porch was standing in water. I took a deep breath and opened the door to hear what sounded like a waterfall! I found a light switch but it wasn't working, I had a flashlight and turned it on. What I say horrified me, it looked like Niagara Falls. Most of the sheet rock from the first floor ceiling was hanging down or on the floor, water was running down through the rafters, the carpet was under at least an inch of water and debris. I began to frantically look for the main water shutoff of the home, I looked in all the typical places but could not find it. I started up the stairs which too was flowing with water only to find more chaos and mayhem A portion of the ceiling there had caved in as well from the weight of the rushing water which was coming directly from above. At that point I pretty much knew what had happened but I still could not find the main shut off. I stepped out to my truck, grabbed my tool bag then located the city water main. With my Channel Lock pliers and very wet and very cold hands was able to get the main turned off. The siren of the alarm finally quit and I was able to compose my whirling thoughts a bit. This was no doubt a disaster and the home was complete havoc.
So why did all this happen? The water line that feed the swamp cooler was a quite large 1/2 inch diameter copper line which was routed through the attic (not a good idea). The swamp cooler was never serviced and disconnected for the winter months. The pressurized water line froze and then split the copper line allowing a large volume of continuous water to flood the attic and both floors below.
Shutting down a swamp (evaporative) cooler is IMPERATIVE no later than October! Weather and temperatures in the high desert of Albuquerque New Mexico can swing dramatically.
In their haste to get the household moved the seller's overlooked this critical step and the unfortunate result was the story that unfolded. The next day we immediately went to work calling the insurance companies, water evacuation companies and clean up crews. I also called the buyer's broker to unveil the mayhem to the buyers. Recall we had just negotiated a contract. The buyers dropped by the next day for a look and immediately terminated. We knew the insurance company was going to rehab the entire home to include a stringent drying process to alleviate any mold issues. All new sheetrock, insulation, carpet, paint etc. I called the other buyer who happened to be a REALTOR® and described the situation to her. She came back out to the home, analyzed the damage and decided to resubmit her offer. Ultimately the home was completely repaired with her choice of carpet, paint etc and we closed on time.
The moral of the story is to make sure your evaporative (swamp) cooler is serviced in the fall before winter, this is NOT something you want to put off for a later day. The story also proves that even a disastrous situation can have a positive outcome. Be diligent with home maintenance and winterization.
When you are ready to purchase or sell a home in the Albuquerque New Mexico area call a pro that knows, call John McCormack Broker with Albuquerque Homes Realty and AlbuquerqueHomes.com
John McCormack direct cell 505.980.4576
Albuquerque Homes Realty
When should I winterize my Albuquerque swamp cooler?