A Troubleshooting And Maintenance Checklist

Keeping livestock cool and comfortable during hot weather is an important function for any farmer. The more comfortable your stock is, the more productive they are likely to be. In dry, arid climates, many facilities use evaporative cooling systems. Evaporative cooling has been practiced for thousands of years, and today’s cooling systems function on the same basic principle. These days, there are a few more mechanical issues to consider before the hot weather hits. Inspecting your system before you need it should give you plenty of time to identify and resolve any issues.

What Is Evaporative Cooling?

Evaporative cooling is a form of air conditioning often used in confinement farming (poultry, swine, dairy) that uses evaporation to cool air. In evaporative cooling, a pump circulates water from the sump on to an evaporative cooling pad, which is doused completely with water. A fan draws air through the wet pad and as the air passes through, it is cooled by evaporation. Optimal evaporative cooling is performed when the pad is consistently saturated with water and when the fan and motor are running efficiently to deliver correct airflow.

Common Problems with Evaporative Cooling

  • Mechanical components can rust and/or corrode due to the constant moisture and potential mineral buildup—especially if you have hard water.
  • The media (pad) must be replaced with some regularity to maintain optimal performance. Wood wool pads need frequent changing—every few months—but other high-efficiency hard media will last up to a couple years depending on water hardness.
  • If you live in an area that gets a cold winter, you could suffer from freeze-damage in the lines and cooler if you don’t drain and properly winterize the system.

An Evaporative Cooling Checklist

With the approaching warm weather, it will be wise to add your evaporative cooling system to your list of maintenance and troubleshooting projects. Here are some pointers to make sure your cooling system is running efficiently.

  • Pads—Blow the dry pad from inside the system to the dog house with a blower. This will push any debris into the dog house to be cleaned up later. If your pads are damaged, you’ll want to replace them. Dirty pads make it difficult for your fans to pull air, thereby reducing airflow and cooling efficiency. Dirty pads can reduce fan output from 20 to 50 percent! Thus creating a warmer environment than desired.
  • Dog House—Sweep out the debris you just removed from the pad.
  • Pad Rinse—After closing the inlet curtain or tunnel doors, carefully wash whatever remains from the pad. Be careful to not damage an otherwise functioning pad with a stream of high-pressure water—a finger over the end of a hose is all the pressure you need. Note—if your pad manufacturer requires any special cleaning procedures, like use of specific chemicals, be sure to follow their recommendations.
  • Drain System—Drain the recirculation trough and sump tank and clear out any debris. If you start the system without cleaning your tanks, you are likely to immediately foul the distribution nozzles, pad, pump, and filters.
  • Flush System—Flush the top header system and trough as best you can.
  • Filters—Remove and clean (or replace) filters. You should check your filters weekly. It will be smart to have a supply of filters on site.
  • Pumps, Floats, And Tanks—If necessary, clean off the pump intake screens. See that the floats are in place, adjusted, and that all tanks are clean. Remove any debris. Like your filter, pump screens need to be checked weekly. Filters and screens are key locations for buildup and any buildup will reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of your system.
  • Water Supply—Make sure your water supply system is saturating the pad, leaving absolutely no dry streaks, spots, or areas. Also, make sure your fill levels are correct and you have adequate water. If not, adjust.
  • Distribution Header—Open the union at the distribution head and gently clear all distribution holds in the header with a soft bristle brush. Be sure to not change the size of the distribution hole. Once you’ve done this, flush with water to remove any remaining loose debris and/or clogs.
  • Inlet Opening—Your inlet opening must be no less than 80% of the area of the cooling pad system. For example, 600 square feet of 6-in recirculating pad needs at least 480 square feet of unobstructed inlet opening. Bunched curtains or unopened tunnel doors should not restrict the opening of the tunnel inlet.
  • Dog House Tightness—The dog house on either side must be as airtight as you can make it. Spray foam or some carpentry to tighten any gaps will pay big dividends. All leaks, holes, and cracks must be sealed for the system to operate efficiently. Any air that can bypass the cooling pad will not be cooled and can actually work against the system.
  • Fogger Lines/ Pumps—Check that the fogger does not have cracked nipples. Test them and the pump before you need them. Make sure your system is set to turn on in case of extreme heat.

Once you check your system and fix any troubles, you’ll be ready to supply your livestock with all the fresh, cool air they’ll need to be comfortable and productive during the hot weather. Did we miss any important maintenance points? Tell us in the comments section and then check out our supply of evaporative cooling pads, pumps, fans, and parts!