Some of my readers have been recently contacting me about air coolers. Most of them are hesitant between ACs and evaporative coolers.
If this applies to you, I can confidently recommend the latter. Evaporative coolers are cheaper, more sustainable, and way lighter than ACs.
However, they might not work properly in all the US states. Why? Continue reading to find out! We’ll explore the principle behind these coolers before moving to the 5 best evaporative coolers currently on the market. Let’s see!
What Is an Evaporative Cooler?
An evaporative cooler, aka swamp cooler, is a device that can cool air by the means of evaporating water.
To understand its principle, we can use a simple analogy. Whenever you have the seasonal flu with accompanying fever, you often put a moist cloth over your forehead, right?
Heat always flows from hot to cold bodies. The water inside the cloth absorbs a big part of your body heat. In other words, your temperature lowers as the water heats.
In a similar way, evaporative coolers lower the air temperature by built-in moist pads. As water temperature increases, it starts to evaporate into a gas, hence the name.
How Do Evaporative Coolers Work?
Now that you know the basic principle, we can see how the actual machine operates.
A typical evaporative cooler should have 4 main parts: a fan, moisture pad, water reservoir, and water feed lines.
First, hot dry air gets pulled into the machine by the fan. It passes through the moist pads, which lower its temperature. As moisture evaporates by hot air, the water feed lines replenish them with water from the reservoir.
Evaporative Coolers vs. Air Conditioners
To understand the difference between the two, we need to take a brief look at how ACs work.
How ACs Work
Air conditioners have two sets of coils, one in the indoor unit and another in the outdoor unit. Inside these coils, there’s a substance called a refrigerant. It’s called likewise because it’s actually inside your refrigerator, too!
Back to air conditioners. Without getting into complex physics, ACs have built-in devices that aim to do one job, keeping the refrigerant cold.
When the refrigerant flows inside the indoor coils, a fan pulls the air through them. As a result, the air temperature drops, while the refrigerant heats into a gas.
Afterward, the hot refrigerant is sent to the outdoor coils to lose its temperature to the outside air.
Why Do ACs Use That Much Power?
Until now, ACs and evaporative coolers work similarly. Yes, they use a different material to cool air, but it’s the same physical principle of heat exchange.
In evaporative coolers, electricity is only needed to power the fan and the water feed. In ACs, however, there’s a giant compressor that needs a lot of power to move the refrigerant back and forth through the coils. This is the main culprit behind your fat July power bill!
Evaporative Coolers Are Much More Sustainable
Back when I was a child, I had a hard time with seasonal allergies and summertime asthma. I know that a lot of you suffer from similar respiratory ailments.
As I was searching for ways to improve my indoor environment, I was always keen on protecting the planet. That’s why I chose evaporative coolers over ACs.
The first harmful impact of ACs lies in their high power usage. This will indirectly raise the CO2 emissions if you’re living in an area with no access to renewable energy.
But even if you do, they’ll have another direct effect. If the refrigerant was leaked from the AC, it’ll contribute to ozone depletion and, consequently, worsen global warming.
Evaporative Coolers Can Add Some Humidity
As I said earlier, evaporative coolers release water vapor as they cool the air. If you’re using a compact indoor unit, it’ll make your house a bit more humid.
ACs, on the other hand, can actually increase dryness. How? Well, as the indoor coils try to cool the air, some of the atmospheric water will indirectly condense.
That’s why every AC unit should have a draining pipe. Otherwise, the condensed water will drip from the indoor unit and flood your home.
Therefore, if dry weather gives you itchy eyes and dry skin like me, you should definitely go for an evaporative cooler.
Considerations When Buying an Evaporative Cooler
If you made up your mind and decided to buy a unit, don’t go shopping just yet. There are some points you should bear in mind beforehand.
First and Foremost, Evaporative Coolers Might Not Work Everywhere
Despite their great value, evaporative coolers need a dry climate to properly work. If you recall their working principle, you’ll find that this actually makes sense.
To understand the concept, we need to define what humidity is. Simply put, humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. Despite being a gas, water vapor has a mass. So, if the air is already saturated with water vapor, it won’t easily accept more.
Therefore, when an evaporative cooler starts working in humid areas, its moist pads will retain hot water rather than evaporating it. Instead of cooling the air, the cooler would just aerate your place with the hot, outdoor air.
Even if they successfully cooled your place to some extent, they’ll inevitably increase the humidity. As you might already know, high humidity raises our perception of heat. In other words, you won’t feel much different even though the device is working.
In the United States, evaporative coolers work best in any of the southwest states. This includes Arizona, Utah, New Mexico plus some parts of California, Texas, and Colorado.
Pick the Right CFM
Unlike ACs, evaporative coolers have only one important technical parameter, the air output. This is typically measured by cubic feet per minute (CFM).
For an indoor evaporative cooler, look for a capacity between 500 and 1500 CFM. This range is capable of supporting areas between 150 and 400 square feet.
You should consider a 20% larger capacity if:
- You have a ceiling higher than 8 feet.
- Your area is exposed to the sun most of the day.
- More than 2 people will often stay in the area.
Think about the Water Feed
In some models, you might have to refill the reservoir manually in order for the cooler to work.
However, other models can be directly connected to a household hose for a continuous supply of water. In this case, they should have a float valve to automatically shut off the water supply when the tank is filled.
Personally, I prefer the latter design. This way, you can completely forget about the cooler and focus on your daily activities.
The 5 Best Evaporative Coolers
How does every cooler perform? How much space can it support? And what might ruin your experience? I’ll answer these questions, and more, in each of the following reviews.
1. Hessaire MC18M Portable Evaporative Cooler – Best Overall
With a capacity of 1300 CFM, this device is capable of cooling spaces as big as 500 square feet. The main reason why I picked this as my top pick is its versatility.
Hessaire equipped the ABS body of this cooler with UV-resistant additives. An Amazon buyer said that this feature allowed him to use this cooler outdoors.
Moreover, since this cooler has a garden hose adaptor, you don’t need to manually fill its tank. Simply, plug it into your household water supply, then set back and relax the cool, refreshing air!
To control the air output, this cooler has a rotary switch installed on the front side. You can run its fan on high or low modes. If you want to just aerate your place, you can turn off the water pump to enjoy the cooler as a regular fan.
- Equipped with 4 casters for easy movement
- Lightweight (16 pounds)
- Has adjustable fan louvers.
- Might be louder than other models
If you’re living in an area with pollutants that worsen your respiratory ailments, consider this cooler from Honeywell.
Thanks to its washable, active carbon filter, you can enjoy a peaceful, coughless summer.
To promote comfort, this cooler can be controlled by a remote. Through its buttons, you can adjust the temperature, the fan speed, and even set a timer up to 7 hours.
Moreover, Honeywell placed a small holster on the side to store the remote when not in use. An Amazon customer greatly praised this small detail because it was so easy to lose the remote in other models.
Here’s my favorite feature. If you’re not satisfied with how it cools the air, you give it a boost with ice! Just add a bunch of ice cubes to the top compartment and enjoy the added breeze.
I only wish it had a constant water feed like the Hessaire’s. Right now, you have to manually fill it with water every once in a while.
- Comes with a remote controller
- Accepts ice to give colder air
- Shuts off automatically with a 7-hour timer
- Doesn’t have a constant water feed
- Gives 470 CFM only
With a capacity of 470 CFM, the previous model isn’t capable of cooling areas bigger than 150 square feet. If you liked its features but you have larger rooms, you can opt for this model. Since it can give 780 CFM, it can support areas up to 300 square feet.
The second difference between the two models lies in the design. This model has a small digital display to show the current temperature, timer, etc.
Since it’s bigger by around 4 inches, this model can store more water and ice. This way, it can maintain the same refreshing temperature with the higher airflow, as explained by an Amazon customer.
Aside from those points, this model is pretty identical to the other. It can be controlled with a remote, it shuts off with a timer, and it has a built-in active carbon filter.
- Gives higher CFM
- Equipped with a digital display
- Stores more water and ice
- Doesn’t have a constant water feed
This evaporative cooler would be perfect for people looking for the most features.
First and foremost, you can adjust it to work on 3 modes: normal, natural, and sleeping. The sleeping mode operates with the lowest fan speed. This way, your sleep won’t be disrupted with its noise.
On the natural mode, it evaporates more water to increase humidity. This can be helpful if your climate overly dries during summer.
Instead of physical filters, this cooler purifies the air with a built-in ionizer. One of the Amazon customers said that he prefers an ionizer since it doesn’t need regular maintenance like filters.
You can add ice to its water tank if you want colder air. You don’t need to use ice cubes like the Honeywell models. This cooler comes with 2 ice bottles that you can directly dip inside the water tank.
However, I wish it had a separate ice compartment. Putting the ice bottles in the water tank would decrease its water capacity. As a result, you’ll have to fill it more often, which can get annoying over time.
- It filters air with an ionizer
- Comes with 2 ice bottles
- Has a specially-designed mode for sleeping
- Doesn’t have a separate ice compartment
The best thing about this color is the large fan size. With this feature, it can spread cool air over a wider area, as described by a lot of customers
With a power of 600 CFM, this cooler can support areas as large as 250 square feet. You can adjust the fan speed and temperature either by the remote or the built-in control panel.
Since it weighs only 17 pounds, you can move it anywhere you like with ease. The 4 sturdy wheels make this even easier.
Just like the other models, you can turn the cooling altogether to use it as a normal tower fan.
On the downside, several customers said that it broke after 3-4 months of use. I also don’t like its high price, especially that it misses other important features.
- Large fan size
- It comes with a remote controller.
- A bit expensive regarding its somewhat-limited features
If you’re considering an evaporative cooler, I’d definitely recommend the Hessaire MC18M. I like it mainly because it can support areas larger than the other models. Moreover, you can connect it to your house water supply and enjoy continuous, cold air.
Remember, evaporative coolers don’t work everywhere. You need a dry climate, like in the southwest states, to get the most out of them.
If you can’t make up your mind between them and ACs, just remember how much damage ACs can cause to our precious planet.
Now go on and enjoy the cool breeze!