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There is a float in the evaporative cooler that will let water in when the trough is low and then when it fills, should shut the water off. I would check to make sure that the float arm is not corroded or misaligned.
Is it a side draft or downdraft cooler? My instructions simply say to cover the unit, disconnect the power and drain the water for winter. They don't suggest removing or cleaning the pads until spring. If you're ductwork also is connected to your furnace, and you don't have a cookie sheet(piece of sheet metal that fits in a slot beneath mastercool unit or along the inside if it's a side draft cooler) then besides covering the entire unit you cn probably cover the blower, also called the squirrel cage, with a canvas cover.
The previous answer is wrong. He describes an overflow line not a bleeder line. An overflow line is not optional for the reason previous answer describes except that if you go away for vacation or other reason the water to the cooler should be shut off.
On the other hand a bleeder line is optional but highly suggested.
The purpose of a bleeder line in any application like brake systems and evpaorative coolers is to get rid of some unwanted elements. In brake lines air is the unwanted element. In evaporative coolers it is particles, scale and mineral build up. This happens because the constant evaporation ( the whole principle of water coolers) leaves behind particles, scale and mineral. without a bleeder line these things build up in the water reservoir. You flush your system manualy with a bleeder line or with the right control box and a separate pump it can be done automatically. If you do it manually, let it run long enuff to discharge at least as much water as your reservoir holds. direct this flow to plants so a not to waste the water.
The pads you need are at least 8 inches thick. If you have the contractor model, then the pads will be 12 inches thick.
Find a distributor in your town that sells cooler parts, if they dont have them, some of the big home improvement stores carry the pads for your cooler.
Make sure you are using a bleedoff or a dump pump to eliminate the hard water out of the cooler. If you keep those pads clean, they wiil last for many years.