Swamp Cooler Review: Bonaire Durango 5500

Swamp Cooler Review: Bonaire Durango 5500

This weekend we installed a new swamp cooler.  For months we have been on the hunt for an effective way to cool our house.  Central air was not an option for us because we are getting rid of the central ducting throughout the house so that we can finish the basement. I’ll catch you up if you aren’t already familiar with what our house is like. We live in a 1939 brick tudor with poor insulation and very inefficient windows. Since we work at home, we can’t afford to have the upstairs hovering around 85F degrees. Our productivity goes down ten fold.

As luck would have it, on a whim on Friday Eric stumbled across the Bonaire Durango 5500 on the web. Thank the good lord. It is a swamp cooler, but it doesn’t look like the humongous sqaure metal ones (that eventually rust). I have to admit I was  skeptical at first, since it only came in at $534 including tax. The quotes I was getting for the giant Saudi Arabian swamp cooler that a local heating and air could install for us on the roof were up towards 5k. We are die-hard DIY-ers. The only thing we would ever spend 5k on would be geothermal. Too bad it isn’t only 5k.  And since our windows are very old, tall, and narrow our options were very limited in the window unit department.

In the end we decided to cut a hole in the wall and through the brick instead of forcing anything with our already fragile windows.  Thankfully the introverted boys in the family were willing to do it while the extroverted girls got to go to a birthday and a BBQ. It took them all day, sadly. But it was oh so worth it. We cracked the windows upstairs and the air goes right up the stairs and cools both the top and bottom floors.  In fact, we only have to run it at level 1 (there are three levels) to keep the house 15 degrees cooler than outside. It’s almost over-the-top how efficient this swamp cooler is.

Adding a Thermostat by Eric Jennings

While the Durango cools the air amazingly, it’s a little lacking in the electrical feature department.  That’s not to say it’s not well-built–it really is, the wiring and design is very professional and solid.  It’s just that there is no thermostat to automate the temperature.

Before installing the cooler, I wanted to take a look at the wiring to see how difficult it would be to add a few relays and an circuit to make a thermostat.  Shouldn’t be hard, but I wanted to make sure it was possible.  Well, the good news is that it’s totally possible.  There are four main wires for the circuit; a low, medium, and high speed for the fan, and an off/on for the water pump.  When running in fan-only mode, the three speeds spin the fan accordingly.  In cool mode, the three speeds are still available, along with the pump turned on.

So to automate this sucker, you’d need two relays for the fan speeds–an SPDT and a DPDT relay.  These, I *believe* need to support 15A and 240v (at least that’s what the switch says, which we’ll be replacing with relays).  You’ll also need a relay for the pump.  This one I believe would require a lower amp/voltage rating.

The good news is that there is a ton of room in the sealed switch/capacitor area, so three relays should definitely fit in there.  Furthermore, once we have our Bean sensor network up and running, we can get this device controlled wirelessly, as well as turning on and off on its own.  Woo!


  1. protoplazm
    Jun 3, 2012

    Great work! We had installed a whole house evaporative cooler in Palm Springs a few years ago and it was amazing. However, we tied it into our existing central duct work, which distributed the air nicely. If you have the unit in one corner of the house and open a window in the other side of the house (or upstairs), like you mentioned, you’ll have an excellent breeze. Keep in mind, your screens will get dirty a lot faster as they accumulate dust from the inside. Also, be weary of skunks walking around your cooler. No faster way to distribute a stench throughout the house!

    This is what we had installed, and it did come with a basic thermostat. http://www.globalindustrial.com/g/hvac/cooling/residential-evaporative-cooler/champion-cooler-mastercool-side-dishcarge-coolers

    • ashley
      Jun 3, 2012

      Thanks, Mike! It was all Eric and Ben, I just had to pick it up at Home Depot and clean up the mess that cutting a hole outta the wall can make. Oh yes, Palm Springs and the arid climate is like Reno in that it makes the swamp cooler’s humidity a major plus! That would have been cool if we could hook into the ducts. Our plants and hang nails are loving it too! We’re still getting used to having a cool house. For the past two summers we have been doing the whole, “open windows in the evening and close them in the morning before it warms up.”

      Thanks for stopping by our blog! I hope you had fun with your arduino today!

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