Evaporative coolers – also known as swamp coolers – are budget-friendly and eco-conscious alternatives to air conditioners in warm climates with low humidity. Using the natural process of water evaporation, an evaporative cooler delivers the same refreshing feeling you get from stepping out of a swimming pool or being near a waterfall on a hot day. During operation, the fan within an evaporative air cooler draws outside air through the cooling pads, not only is the air chilled, it is also filtered from impurities and pollens.
The most significant benefit of evaporative air cooling is that the running cost is far lower than the air conditioning options. The best evaporative cooler can save you up to 80% on energy bills compared to an air conditioner.
However, the fact that there are still many questions surrounds swamp coolers. Many folks even don’t know what exactly an evaporative cooler is. This article walks you through everything you need to know before purchasing an evaporative cooler – what evaporative cooling is, how it works, what its advantages are, and how it can impact your budget.
In this article, we will also discuss some of the best evaporative coolers, best portable evaporative coolers on the market today that we think are worth your consideration.
The Best Evaporative Coolers to Buy
What’s an Evaporative Air Cooler?
Remember the chill after swimming on a hot, dry day, then getting out of the water and feeling the wind hitting your wet skin? Or simply try dipping your finger in a glass of water, then blowing air across your finger and feeling the cool sensation as the water evaporates. That’s what you get when using an evaporative cooler.
The early evaporative coolers were referred to as “swamp coolers” because of the high moisture content released into the air from the primitive technology. While today’s generation of evaporative coolers is engineered to achieve maximum cooling in exchange for minimal moisture content in the air, the term “swamp coolers” is still commonly used to describe any kind of evaporative cooler.
In the first half of the last century when signs advertising “refrigerated air” at hotels and restaurants heralded the arrival of traditional air conditioners, evaporative coolers had already been in use for many years.
How Do Evaporative Coolers Work?
Air coolers, or evaporative coolers, reduce temperatures in a different way. They pull in dry air and move it over water-moistened cooling pads or rigid cooling media where water is evaporated into the air.
During this process, the air is cooled up to 20 degrees. Then, the cool, rejuvenated air is circulated throughout your environment. Since the cool air is continually circulating and creating a breeze, your ambient temperature can feel four to six degrees lower than the actual temperature.
In an evaporative cooling unit, a control system operates the water pump and the fan distributes the cool air. The relative humidity is lowest in the afternoon when the temperature is at its highest. And the lower the humidity, the better the evaporative cooling effect. In other words, the cooling effect is best when you need it the most.
Video: How does an evaporative cooler work
Best Climates for Evaporative Coolers
The key to effectively cooling your home with an evaporative cooler is hot, dry air.
In fact, evaporative coolers are most effective during the hottest times of the day and when humidity levels are below 60 percent. However, evaporative coolers can work in humid conditions when they are used in outdoor conditions. Because of the potential for moisture build-up indoors, an open window or door is required for use and not recommended for indoor use in humid climates.
- Area A – Less than 30% Humidity: Optimum for all applications – both indoor and outdoor
- Area B – 31-60% Humidity: Portable evaporative coolers recommended for outdoor and indoor use.
- Area C – Greater than 60% Humidity: Evaporative coolers not recommended for indoor residential use, but very effective for all outdoor use and indoor commercial areas such as jobsites, warehouses, barns, and manufacturing facilities.
If you’re living in humid areas, consider these quiet portable air conditioners or quiet window air conditioners. If you’re looking for an air conditioner that is virtually silent, consider ductless mini-split air conditioners.
Evaporative Coolers VS. Air Conditioners
Evaporative coolers and air conditioners both serve the same important purpose: keeping us cool. But these two types of air conditioning operate very differently. Understanding the difference can help get the most out of any system and minimize energy.
Air conditioners work by taking humidity out of the air. These systems produce cold, dry air and work best in an airtight environment. Air conditioners are easy to move and great for spot cooling in single rooms like bedrooms. They need to be vented to get rid of warm air created during the cooling process.
Evaporative coolers, on the other hand, cools air through the evaporation of water. They work best in warm, dry areas with a small amount of outside air circulates into space. They don’t need to be vented outside.
The major advantage of an evaporative cooler is that its operating costs are typically much less than those of an air conditioner. As being said, the best evaporative coolers can save you up to 80% on energy bills. Along with lower unit costs and lower operating, evaporative cooling can also be a perfect, ozone-friendly alternative to traditional air conditioning. However, traditional air conditioners tend to have more features (like heat modes, digital thermostats, and programmable timers) and will circulate cold air continuously irrespective of the outdoor temperature and humidity level.
Air conditioning is unaffected by outdoor conditions, while many evaporative coolers can be used indoors or outdoors. For example, the Honeywell 525 CFM Indoor Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler (this is also our pick as the best portable evaporative cooler for most people.)
Air conditioners are best suited to cooling small to medium sealed spaces; because it works by continually recirculating and cooling the air inside the room, doors and windows must be kept closed.
Evaporative coolers are best suited to medium to large open space areas with good ventilation and air movement. It can be used in small rooms and offices but adequate ventilation must be provided, either by opening doors and windows, or fitting mechanical supply fans.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Evaporative Coolers
Advantages of Evaporative Coolers
- Cheaper price and more energy efficiency: A typical evaporative cooler costs up to 50% less to purchase than an equivalent window air conditioner and up to 70% -90% less to run.
- Constant supply of fresh moist air: Evaporative cooling does not dry out the air like refrigerated air conditioning. Maintaining natural humidity levels prevents flowers, furniture, fabrics, and foodstuffs from drying out. Static electricity from building up. Complaints from workers about sore throats, dry eyes and running noses.
- Cheaper installation and maintenance costs: The simplicity of an evaporative cooler or swamp cooler when compared to an air conditioner also translates to cheaper installation and maintenance costs. It does not have a compressor and operation revolves chiefly around a fan and a water pump. There are also no special working fluids, especially refrigerants.
- Environment-friendly: swamp coolers are an ideal solution for keeping cool without harming the environment. Unlike air conditioners that use refrigerants to cool your home, swamp coolers use a natural process that cools the air using motion and water. This process won’t add ozone-harming pollutants or other chemicals to the environment.
Disadvantages of Evaporative Coolers
- Need to open windows or vents to outside: The single biggest disadvantage of evaporative coolers is their dependence on a constant supply of fresh air. Without it, the air in the room will become damp, the cooling effect will be reduced and eventually stop completely, and condensation will form.
- Unsuitable for high humidity: Typical evaporative coolers can create too much humidification. The result is increasing thermal discomfort. That’s why an evaporative cooler or swamp cooler for indoor uses should come with the humidifier feature. Or if your home has installed a whole house humidifier, then turn it on.
- Requires more maintenance than an air conditioner: The filter and water curtains of the portable evaporative cooler should be cleaned once every 2 weeks with lukewarm water and a mild detergent to avoid dust, dirt, mold, and mildew build-up, especially if the device has been used for long periods of time.
- Another drawback to evaporative coolers is they use a substantial amount of water to provide their cooling effect. In dry areas, this consumption can put a real strain on water supplies.
In spite of the fact that evaporative coolers may not be the best cooling option for all of us, there is no doubt that they do provide energy savings and reduce the risk of damage to the environment. So even if we all can’t use an evaporative cooler, we all do benefit from the energy conservation and environmental protection they provide
Best Evaporative Coolers Reviews
1. Honeywell CO30XE Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler Review
Best Evaporative Cooler All-Round
Enjoy a cool and refreshing space indoors or out with the Honeywell CO30XE Indoor/Outdoor Evaporative Cooler! This portable swamp cooler is ideal for cooling small to medium-sized areas up to 320 square feet.
With features such as a high-capacity 8-gallon water tank, powerful yet efficient motor, ice compartment for refreshingly cool air, adjustable humidity control, and an all-weather design, the Honeywell CO30XE is the best evaporative cooler for the bedroom, living area, den, porch, or patio. This is also one of the most popular indoor swamp coolers on the market.
Designed with user-friendly features, the Honeywell CO30XE has a powerful airflow at 525 CFM. A user-friendly LED control panel with angled viewing as well as a full-featured remote control makes operating the CO30XE a breeze.
You can easily set the fan speed to one of 3 desired speeds – high, medium or low by pressing the Speed button on the remote or the control panel. The Swing button controls the movement of the vertical louvers for optimum air circulation across a wider radius. Plus, a side handle and locking casters make it easy to move the cooler from spot to spot. There is also an adjustable humidification knob & ice compartment for faster cooling.
2. Luma Comfort EC110S Portable Evaporative Cooler Review
Best Portable Evaporative Cooler
The Luma Comfort EC110S Portable Evaporative Cooler is a great alternative to using a portable air conditioner. This indoor portable swamp cooler is light, easy to use, easy to move around, and does a very good job at cooling smaller spaces up to 250 sq.ft.
Much like a standalone fan, but it seems to be much more efficient than a regular fan. Using the water and ice packs adds an even cooler punch that is very noticeable. This evaporative cooler can lower the indoor temperature by as much as 30 degrees F.
Using as much electricity as a standard ceiling fan, the Luma Comfort EC110S adds a refreshing breeze wherever you need it while also helping to control peak-season energy costs. If you run it eight hours a day for three months a year, you can expect to pay only about $10 annually for the electricity it uses – that’s even less than it costs to run a smallest window air conditioner available.
This model comes with a 1.76 gallons water tank, which isn’t particularly large. However, its size makes it easy to carry when you refill it. We like that the cooler has a water level detector that senses when the tank is low and alerts you when it’s time to refill the reservoir. The cooler automatically turns itself off if the water dips below the minimum level so the unit doesn’t malfunction.
3. Honeywell CS071AE Evaporative Air Cooler Review
Most Energy-Efficient Evaporative Cooler
If you’re looking for a portable model that has super low energy consumption, then look no further, this is the best evaporative cooler for you. The Honeywell CS071AE Evaporative Air Cooler consumes only 32-watts of power at highest speed (uses about 1/10th the energy of a 5000 BTU window air conditioner) and offers an automatic shutoff timer for additional energy savings.
With Patented Brushless motor technology that offers 5 speeds with Low Energy-Quiet Mode that minimizes energy consumption, with energy consumption ranging between 7.4W and 32W from its lowest to highest setting, the Honeywell CS071AE is one of the most efficient evaporative coolers money can buy.
The Honeywell CS071AE Evaporative Air Cooler features a 3-in-1 design that provides cooling, humidification, fan. It delivers 176 CFM maximum airflow which is ideal for cooling small indoor spaces up to 100 square feet with a 1.85-gallon tank. Designed for simplicity and quick cooling, this evaporative cooler features easy to use controls and modes, including sleep timer, shut-off timer, adjustable swing, three-fan speed setting. You can make changes from across the room using its included remote.
4. Honeywell CO60PM Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler Review
Best Outdoor Evaporative Cooler
The Honeywell CO60PM Portable Evaporative Cooler is ideal for cooling large semi-outdoor or outdoor spaces. With a powerful motor that produces 1540 CFM airflow plus a large 15.9-gallon tank, and a weather-resistant coating, this is one of the best evaporative coolers for cooling a variety of large outdoor spaces (up to 850 square feet) such as patios, decks, outdoor BBQ areas, and backyards or large indoor space such as restaurants, warehouses, and large dining rooms.
With a powerful fan, this unit can blow cool air up to 12 yards away. The CO60PM’s 16-inch automatic oscillating louvers distribute that powerful airflow evenly. These louvers can be set to swing left and right automatically for even distribution of cool air.
Not just a fan – this swamp cooler reduces temperature through water evaporation provided by a large 15.9-gallon water tank. You may also choose to use a continuous water supply connection. This connection has a built-in overflow protection system, so you can connect any standard water hose and feel comfortable with unattended operation. This feature is perfect for more demanding commercial and outdoor applications because operation requires less maintenance.
While this swamp outdoor air cooler has a waterproof and weather resistant exterior, it also comes equipped with wheels to easily move it indoors or outdoors. It will hold up during extreme outdoor conditions like heavy rain or strong sunlight—so wheel it wherever you need it! Also, there is a control panel on the front you can use to adjust the fan speed and the direction of the airflow.
Note: This swamp cooler requires 220 watts of power to run.
5. Hessaire MC18M Mobile Evaporative Cooler Review
Best Evaporative Cooler for Large Rooms
Alabama-based Hessaire provides some of the best portable evaporative coolers on the market that are known for durability. The Hessaire’s MC18M Evaporative Cooler is compact in size, pleasing in aesthetics and the performance exceeds coolers of a much larger size. This product is made in the USA and it is an excellent, surprisingly energy efficient option for cooling large indoor rooms and covered areas.
As the smallest swamp cooler from Hessaire, the MC18M Evaporative Cooler can efficiently cool off any area up to 500 square feet. Despite it has a high airflow rating of 1,300 CFM, it’s surprisingly energy efficient, using only 82 watts of power. For comparison, the Luma Comfort EC110S can only cool half as much space as the MC18M and uses 110 watts.
This performance is achieved through expanding air-intake areas to the hi-density XeL50 rigid media. The hi-density XeL50 media provides 80% more evaporation surface compared to regular density media. This means higher evaporation efficiency and cooler temperatures. Patented axial prop is energy efficient and throws cool air farther.
The Hessaire MC18M Evaporative Cooler is easy to use with a manual water fill compartment or continuous fill with hose hookup. With 2 different water filling options, you’ll enjoy your evaporative cooler just got easier. Manually fill the swamp cooler for indoor use by accessing the water reservoir through the front spring-loaded water fill door. Fill until you reached your desired level or until full using the water level display. Get refreshing air up to 3 – 4 hours.
Automatically pump water through a direct water source or a standard hose by attaching the hose to the back of the unit. Secure the included hose adaptor to any standard household hose and fasten to the protruding float valve on the back of the cooler, and you’re ready for hours of continuous use.
6. Keystone 30 Liter Indoor/Outdoor Evaporative Cooler w/ Wifi Review
Best Small Evaporative Cooler
Looks exactly like one of Keystone’s small portable air conditioning units, this Keystone 30 Liter Evaporative Cooler is actually a compact portable evaporative cooler that is designed for space up to 600 square feet indoors and outdoors. This is perfect for those who are looking for a strong evaporative air cooler without taking up too much space.
This indoor evaporative cooler offers ideal cooling through 4 different fan speeds and 3 wind modes for personalized comfort. As this air cooler is WiFi capable, you can control all functions and modes of the cooler via your phone, or multiple phones with a shared password. You can set the timer to shut-off the cooler up to 7.5 hours in advance, or set the preprogrammed breezes – natural, normal, or sleep.
This small swamp cooler features dual water fill options. Designed with a rear garden hose hook-up, this cooler features an internal water float to regulate the flow of water into the 7.9-gallon water tank. If used indoors, the side opening door allows you to use a watering can or cup to fill the water tank. Other features include low water protection indicator, clean filter indicator, prefilter, and wheels.
7. Evapolar evaLIGHT Personal Evaporative Air Cooler Review
Best Mini Evaporative Cooler
The Evapolar evaLIGHT Personal Evaporative Air Cooler is one of the smallest evaporative coolers you can get, making it the best evaporative cooler option for the office or small workspace. With modest power requirements and an impressive cooling ability, it helps keep you comfortable without costing as much as larger portable air coolers. But the Evapolar is designed for personal use only, so if you want to climate control an entire room, you’ll want to look into other bigger models
Measuring 6.7 by 6.7 by 6.9 inches (HWD) and weighing 2.9 pounds, the Evapolar evaLIGHT no bigger than a desk fan. It is truly portable and can be powered by a power bank or a laptop, consumes only 10W of electricity. It has a 750mL water tank and colorful LED lighting. Using the display and the control wheel, you can choose between different shades of blue, green, red, and white.
With noise level varies between 28 to 40dB, this mini evaporative cooler is extremely quiet – actually the quietest evaporative cooler we’ve ever seen. So if you want to add an evaporative cooler into your small bedroom or home office, this is an ideal choice.
8. MasterCool MMBT14 Portable Evaporative Cooler Review
Best Evaporative Cooler for Garages & Shops
If you’re looking for a portable air cooling solution for heavy-duty jobs such as cooling garages, workshops, and other large spaces, try an American-made MasterCool MMBT14 Portable Evaporative Cooler. Durable and superbly engineered, this Champion air cooler is effective even in the most rugged conditions.
This powerful evaporative cooler comes with a 1/2 HP motor and cools areas up to 800 square feet at 1600 CFM. It works both indoors and outdoors and even functions as a fan by adjusting a simple control. In fan mode, it has a high setting and a low setting. It also has a 2-speed fan with a 4-way directional air grille, giving you more control over airflow direction for wider coverage.
9. Portacool PAC2K482S Portable Evaporative Cooler Review
Best Industrial Evaporative Cooler
Keep temperatures comfortable in commercial, industrial, and outdoor settings with the Portacool PAC2K482S Portable Evaporative Cooler. Designed to withstand extreme and rugged environments, this industrial air cooler is designed with powerful airflow, large tanks, and dual fill options while keeping spaces such as outdoor events, job sites, warehouses, workshops, kennels, and stables cool.
Delivers 20000 CFM of cooling comfort, the Portacool PAC2K482S can easily cool up to 4000 square feet – enough for job sites with up to 30 workers. This unit has a 40-gallon capacity with a convenient garden hose connection. Heavy-duty casters make it portable and easy to move.
How to Choose The Best Evaporative Cooler
Types of Evaporative Coolers
When buying an evaporative cooler, it’s important to note that there are two main types of evaporative coolers. They are as follows:
Portable Evaporative Coolers (Outdoor & Indoor):
Portable evaporative coolers are better designed for smaller rooms or spaces in a home, and can effectively cool up to 1000 square feet of living space. Portable evaporative coolers are typically equipped with casters that make moving from space to space simple and easy. If you need something with more mobility, this is the best evaporative cooler type to get.
Window Evaporative Coolers:
Commonly referred to as “Through-The-Wall” units, these are designed to cool either single rooms, whole houses, or even garages. They are permanently installed into the window or mounted onto the roof, are hooked up to the home’s water supply, and essentially become a complete alternative to central air.
Most window-mounted evaporative swamp coolers come ready to install and include the necessary installation hardware. Many models can be easily installed in horizontal or vertical slider windows. If you’re looking for a window evaporative cooler, Champion offers some of the best window evaporative coolers on the market that are known for quality and durability, such as the Essick Air RN50W Window Evaporative Cooler.
How to Choose the Right Size
An evaporative cooler will be rated based on the amount of airflow that it’s able to provide over a given space. And the measurements are done in cubic feet per minute (CFM). A high CFM is best for large spaces. The chart below matches CFM with room size.
Manufacturers recommend that a properly sized unit should be able to change the air in a house 20 to 40 times in an hour. You can determine the proper size unit for your home by calculating the cubic feet in your home (i.e., 1500 square foot house with 8-foot ceilings is 12,000 cubic feet) and dividing that number by 2. So in this case, the 12,000 cubic foot house will require a 6000 CFM evaporative cooler.
Manufacturers such as Honeywell have a wide selection of portable evaporative coolers that are feature-rich, with models in a range of CFM to satisfy a full range of room sizes.