If you live in the arid south or the western United States, you have heard of a swamp cooler. Evaporative coolers help maintain cooler temperatures both indoors and out. These coolers won’t replace your air conditioner, but they can be an economical way to humidify the air and cool a room or your patio.
In this article, we examine the best evaporative coolers, their uses, and advantages. We will also look at buying factors to consider and how to use and maintain your new swamp cooler.
Swamp Coolers vs. Air Conditioners vs. Mist Fans: Which Is Better?
The big three. How do swamp coolers, mist fans, and air conditioners stack up against each other? It isn’t hard to know which is the best, but each one has its strong points.
Air conditioners are the clear choice for cooling and maintaining a lower temperature inside. The use of refrigerants and evaporator coils means air can be cooled to extremely low temperatures. Evaporative coolers and mist fans can’t compete with that.
Not only that, but mist fans and swamp coolers both add humidity to the air, where air conditioners actually help remove it. However, air conditioners are power hogs and eat up your energy savings in no time. Mist fans are the most efficient because they have the smallest motors and need less energy to run.
When the air is dry and hot, nothing is better than a swamp cooler. Not only do they cool the air for a nice fresh breeze, but they also add humidity to the surrounding air. Mist fans help somewhat here but aren’t as effective. Air conditioners may make things cooler but can dry out the air even more, making the cooler air still feel miserable.
How Evaporative Cooling Works – Why Use It?
Evaporative cooling is a process of cooling air as it passes over water or ice. Swamp coolers use a fan to pull air into the machine and use water tanks, wet pads, or even ice to cool and moisturize that air before it is pushed out into the room.
The process requires a machine with a water supply or refillable tank, and many use evaporative cooler pads. These pads are soaked with water and retain the cooler temperature for a longer period. The swamp cooler motors also need to be robust as the fans can move a lot of air and need a strong motor to push them to the fullest.
Many evaporative coolers also employ filters. This helps remove particles from the air, so they aren’t blown around your home or patio. Of course, there are also cooler switches to turn the units on and off, and better models will use evaporative cooler thermostats to gauge the temperature and help control their functionality.
Known as swamp coolers because they add humidity to arid, stale air, the evaporation of the water is where the real name comes from.
Evaporative Coolers Compared
Choosing a Quality Evaporative Cooler for the Home
Type of Swamp Cooler
There are quite a few types of swamp coolers to browse through. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages based on your expected use time, location, and how you plan to moisturize the air.
Below the review section will be a detailed review of the various types of evaporative coolers. For now, the biggest concern should be indoor or outdoor usage. However, know that the different types include up, down, and side draft models, as well as direct and indirect cooling options.
Size & Coverage Area
You will need to know the CFM rating of the fan as well as the square footage of your space to find the right size for your coverage area. CFM, or cubic feet per minute, is the amount of air the fan pushes.
To get your square footage, you need only to multiply the length and width of the room or space you wish to cool. These two numbers will match up to give you the ideal size and capacity of your swamp cooler.
The cooling capacity will come into play based on the size of the water tanks or cooling pads—the larger the tanks, the more cooling that can take place. Of course, with tanks or pads, you will need to refill or re-saturate as the water evaporates. Smaller pads and tanks will need refills more often.
Ease of Use, Setup & Maintenance
For the most part, these machines are easy to use. However, because they add humidity and hold water, they need more cleaning and maintenance to avoid foul odors and mold growth. Make sure the model you choose is easy to clean and care for.
When you compare evaporative coolers vs. air conditioners, it is easy to tell that the coolers are far more energy efficient. A fan motor and water doesn’t take a lot of energy to use. Air conditioners have a lot of electrical draws and a lot of moving parts.
However, it is possible to have swamp coolers that use more energy than others. Check to see the wattage draw of your model to find out how efficient it is. The fewer watts needed to operate the fan, the better off your energy bill will be.
Some models try to gain your money by offering additional features. Some of the features are wanted, others needed. To save time and money, you should have an idea of which features you must have and which ones you can live without.
A secondary motor can move the fan back and forth to offer a wider cooling area. Oscillation doesn’t cost that much and is a nice feature. However, with a large enough unit, such as outdoor or commercial grade coolers, oscillation is redundant.
- Hose Hookups
The ability to connect a water hose to the cooler helps minimize the attention you need to give it. Models with hose connections will use a valve to open and shut, refilling the water tank or saturating the pads as needed. Once connected, you just need to turn the fan on and let the machine do its job.
Evaporative coolers can become quite heavy and difficult to move. The use of heavy-duty caster wheels makes portability a lot easier. When looking at the wheels, make sure they lock (at least half of them) and rotate 360 degrees to make stability and portability more realistic.
- Water Level Indicator
Water level indicators are a great way to know when to add water to the tank or pads without shutting down the machine. Not all models will have this feature, but it is nice when available. You can tell from across the room if you need to tend to the cooler or not.
- Remote Controllers
Remote control operation is a luxury on these machines. Since you already need to be near them to fill the tank or insert pads, it isn’t a stretch to use manual controls. However, remote operation lets you turn the machines on or off. Some even use RF communications to show you alerts such as tank level or even temperature right on the remote.
- Noise Level
Swamp coolers aren’t the loudest appliance you will own, but some models, particularly those designed for outdoor use, can get noisy. While you may not want to sleep with one running right next to your bed, some models allow it. Quiet operation or a low decibel hum can make all the difference when you are trying to sleep and stay cool.
Price & Warranty
The price will be one of the most significant decision factors of them all. You can easily go over budget by trying to go bigger or better than what you may actually need. Make sure you understand sizing and the available features and stay within your price range.
Finally, before you click that Buy Now button, take time to read the warranty. You should know what is covered and for how long, but also how to make a claim. Many warranties require registration of the product in a certain time after purchase or to pay all shipping costs to make a claim. Understand what is needed of you and be sure you agree to it before you buy it.
10 Best Evaporative Humidifiers Reviewed
1. Hessaire MC61V
Best Value Evaporative Cooler
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Portable, direct cooling|
|Coverage Area||1600 square feet|
|Noise Level||63 dBa|
The Hessaire cooler is a portable cooler with locking caster wheels and an innovative method of using the cooling media. What you get is a powerful fan that cools the air in a large space, or even outside.
This direct cooling evaporative cooler has a 14.6 gallon water tank that fills to three sides of the machine. The massive 5300 CFM fan draws air through the rear and pulls it over the water, creating a cooler airflow out the front.
It has three turn dial controls, which allow you to adjust the fan speed to three levels, use the continuous pump system and oscillate the louvers. With a brass hose connection, you can attach a garden hose to maintain tank fill level and keep the pad media wet at all times.
When you are done using the device, it has a bottom located quick drain that allows you to empty the tank. Before storage, you need to run the cooler in fan-only mode for at least 30 minutes to dry out the pads and prevent mold growth.
The Hessaire warranty is about the only weak spot for these units. All of their evaporative coolers are warrantied for 1-year only. It will be covered and fixed during that year, though, should anything go wrong due to workmanship, quality, or regular use.
- Large capacity 14.6 gallon tank
- Uses three sides cooling pads
- Continuous pump option to keep tank full
- Low maintenance
- Fan only mode option
- 1-year warranty
- Must run for 30 minutes to dry completely
2. Cool-Space AVALANCHE-36-VD
Top of the Range
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Direct cooling stand alone|
|Coverage Area||3600 square feet|
|Noise Level||61 dBa|
|Size||70 x 62 x 30 inches|
When you want the best and need a large outdoor area cooled quickly, there is nothing better than the top of the range Avalanche from Cool-Space. This huge fan will cool up to 3600 square feet and add humidity to the air while cooling your entire back yard.
The best part? For its size and capabilities (including the incredible 9700 CFM fan), it only produces 61dB of noise. It won’t drown out conversations during your barbecue or the music from your stereo.
With a 46 gallon water tank, you won’t run out of water any time soon. But if your party goes well into the night, you can always connect a hose and keep the tank full as long as you need to. The cooling pad media is the biggest feature here. At 8-inches thick, it is the largest media pad by far and stays wet for a long time.
The 3-foot fan maxes out at 9700 CFM, but the turn dial control allows for variable speed operation. Instead of a simple low or high setting, you can dial in just how much airflow you want or need at any time.
When it comes time to drain, you can connect a hose to the spigot or just open it where it sets. Just remember you will have up to 46 gallons draining, so be careful where you open the tap.
This model also features a 5-year warranty on all parts and a lifetime warranty on the housing. With this unit, you can cool any large, open space, including outside all day and night.
- 5-year parts, Lifetime housing warranty
- Variable-speed fan
- 46 gallon water tank
- 8-inch thick cooling pad media
- Quiet operation
- Challenging to move when full
- Pad replacement can get expensive
3. Luma Comfort EC110S Portable
Best Portable Swamp Cooler
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Portable direct cooling|
|Coverage Area||250 square feet|
|Noise Level||52 dBa|
|Size||12.75 x 11.25 x 34.5 inches|
Luma Comfort offers you an indoor portable swamp cooler that will exceed your expectations. Not only does this fan work well, but it also has a sleek, stylish design that won’t upset your home décor.
The relatively small unit will sit easily on the floor or a low table and produce quite a breeze. It is also quiet enough to leave on while you sleep or in the living room as you watch TV. The tank is pretty large and will last several hours, but even better is that your purchase comes with reusable ice packs.
Once frozen, you can place them in the bottom of the removable tank to keep your water colder longer. The cold water is absorbed into the 3D media, where the fan pulls the air through. With 500 CFM airflow, your small room will cool down in no time.
In arid climates, the indoor unit adds plenty of moisture to the air, helping you sleep better and more comfortably. The best part is that you can control the unit with the onboard pushbuttons and LED indicators or use the included remote control.
The only downside is the warranty. The warranty itself is 1-year but is only valid if purchased through Amazon. Any other purchase will void the warranty, so make sure you know where you are buying from.
- Three fan speeds with oscillation
- Fan only mode optional
- Remote control operation
- Ideal for bedrooms
- Includes ice packs for colder air
- 1-year warranty
- hard water can leave minerals to gum up pump
4. Portacool PACJS2601A1 Jetstream 260
Best Evaporative Cooler For Garages
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Direct cooling|
|Coverage Area||3125 square feet|
|Noise Level||63 dBa|
|Size||196 x 160 x 76 inches|
The Portacool Jetstream 260 is one of the biggest fans on the market and for good reason. It is designed to cool warehouses and garages that otherwise would be miserable to work in. If you have a shop, warehouse, or garage, you just found your cooling solution.
Aside from the size, the fan just works. Once you take it out of the box and add water, it starts cooling almost immediately. Unlike other large fan units, you don’t have to wait 30 minutes for the water to absorb into the cooling pad.
This fan also has one of the highest outputs with a max CFM rating of 12,500. You can even run it in fan-only mode if your humidity becomes too high, but in a working garage, it is best to leave water in the tank.
If you don’t want to refill the tank regularly, you can use the continuous pump mode and connect a garden hose to the inlet valve. This will keep the tank full without overflowing, giving you cooler air for as long as the fan is turned on.
The warranty isn’t bad, either. All parts and labor are covered for 3 years and the molded plastic housing is warrantied for life. Get your garage cooled and protected against the summer heat and never look back.
- 3-year parts and lifetime housing warranty
- Works right out of the box
- Variable speed fan
- High output
- Drain plug is pretty high on the tank
- May trip some smaller circuit breakers
5. Honeywell CO60PM
Best Outdoor Swamp Cooler
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Outdoor direct cooling|
|Coverage Area||850 square feet|
|Noise Level||55 dBa|
|Size||40 x 27 x 18 inches|
The Honeywell CO60PM is easily the best portable outdoor swamp cooler. This little guy packs a lot of power and has many little features that you are going to love. Whether you are entertaining on your patio or just trying to enjoy a nice beverage at the end of a long day, Honeywell has you covered and cool.
The swamp cooler was made for the outdoors. The housing has been treated with a special UV resistant coating to prevent sun damage and fading. It also has a powerful 1540 CFM fan that has an air throw distance of 36 feet.
One of the best features here though, is the tank fill options. You can fill the tank with a hose for continuous action, or use the special top load tray. If you use the top tray, you can add cold water or even ice, and as the ice melts, it will keep the water inside colder.
The oscillating louvers help spread the cold air around, and you can feel the effects almost immediately. While this portable unit can go anywhere, it isn’t made for indoor use. If you do decide to bring it inside, you may experience condensation on your walls or windows due to the air spray.
It does have a 1-year warranty, which is slightly disappointing, but with Honeywell, you probably won’t need it.
- UV protected housing
- Ice tray for added cooling
- 36 foot air throw
- Top compartment water inlet
- Continuous water fill valve
- 1-year warranty
- Not suitable for indoor use
6. Phoenix WH2906
Best Window Evaporative Cooler
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Window mount|
|Coverage Area||500 square feet|
|Noise Level||52 dBa|
|Size||22 x 31.25 x 27 inches|
The Phoenix rises again with a window mount swamp cooler that will impress you with its features. While it doesn’t offer a lot in the looks department, it cools off large rooms with ease and is quiet enough to use in the bedroom.
The polished fan turbine offers quiet operation at any speed, and even on high with 2800 CFM airflow, the unit tops out at 52dB. Your snoring will be louder than this fan. While it is rated for up to 500 square feet, placing in a central window with open space, you will feel the effects several rooms over.
If that isn’t enough for you, there are several other capacity models to choose from. Each one bigger than the last with ranges from 600 to 1800 square feet of coverage. The cooling pads soak up the water and cool the air as it passes through them, and they last quite a while.
Refilling can be a bit tricky, but after you have done it a few times, it will become second nature. The downside here is the warranty. It has a 1-year warranty on parts and labor and a 10-year warranty against rust damage.
Getting a hold of customer service and having them follow through takes a lot more effort than it should.
- Quiet operation
- High CFM for medium to large rooms
- Two speed fan
- Fits most standard windows
- 1-year parts/10-year rust protection warranty
7. Keystone KSTE9721001-WHT
Best Evaporative Cooler For Bedroom
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Indoor stand alone portable|
|Coverage Area||300 square feet|
|Noise Level||65 dBa|
|Size||15.86 x 13.58 x 36.6 inches|
Keystone is back on our list again, and this time they bring us the best swamp cooler for the bedroom. This highly affordable evaporative cooler has enough features to keep you excited and enough power to keep you cool while you sleep.
This portable indoor unit is lightweight (under 18 pounds empty) and features a 2-gallon water tank. The cooling pads are a bit small and can empty the tank pretty quickly. However, it has a safeguard against the empty tank damaging the pump and will sound an audible alert to let you know it is running dry.
You also have the ability to program the fan to make use of all it’s settings, from fan speed to airflow mode. Called adjustable wind mode, three settings change the airflow pattern for direct flow, natural breeze, or gentle sleep mode.
There is also a timer function that allows you to set the machine to automatically turn off up to 8 hours in advance, using 30-minute intervals. The best part, though, is that it remembers these settings, and in the event the power goes out, it will restore those settings when it comes back on.
The 1-year warranty isn’t much, but it is honored, and customer service is relatively easy to get in touch with and to deal with. If you have trouble sleeping because you are too hot or the air is too dry, the Keystone portable unit will solve those problems for you at an affordable price.
- Remote control operation
- Tank level viewing window
- Digital control panel
- Adjustable wind modes for various airflow patterns
- 1-year warranty
- 2 gallon tank empties fast
8. Champion MasterCool AD1C7112
Best Down Draft Evaporative Cooler
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Whole house downdraft|
|Coverage Area||2300 square feet|
|Noise Level||68 dBa|
|Size||52 x 42 x 34.58 inches|
If you are looking to keep your whole house cool in the summer and love how swamp coolers operate and save you money, the Champion MasterCool is the best rated evaporative cooler for whole house.
With this rooftop model, you can keep the entire home (up to 2300 square feet) cooler and more humid during those long hot and dry summer days. Any home with a relative humidity level of less than 50% will feel the cooling and moisturizing effects immediately.
DIY install is optional, and all instructions are included. However, because you may need specialized equipment to get the unit on the roof, as well as roof jacks for slanted roofs, professional install is still recommended.
The thermostat control board is easy to use and gives you fill, test, and purge tank options as well as temperature control. The only thing here is that the purge options limit you to 8 and 12-hour options only. For longer purge times, you need to disable the next purge, which can be a pain.
The warranty is a multi-tier warranty with protection on the pump and motor for 2 years, parts and labor for 5 years, and the housing for as long as you own the unit.
- 2/5/Lifetime warranty (pump, parts, housing)
- Thermostat control operation
- MasterCool rigid cooling media
- DIY install capable
- May need a roof jack for slanted roofs
- Can only purge tank in 8 or 12-hour intervals
Best Cheap Evaporative Cooler
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Portable direct cooling|
|Coverage Area||200 square feet|
|Noise Level||53 dBa|
|Size||14.7 x 13.1 x 34 inches|
If you want the best cheap swamp cooler, look no further. The hOmeLabs portable evaporative cooler brings you cold air and higher humidity to any room you like. The feature list is relatively long, and you will enjoy having your bedroom or living room cooler while you are in them.
This model offers remote control operation, or you can make your setting choices and adjustments on the digital control panel. It is a direct cooling fan with a 2-gallon tank, but it will need to be refilled often.
The cooling pads aren’t the largest, and they don’t hold water very long, so expect to refill the tank about every 6 to 8 hours. There is a viewing window to see how much water is in the tank and an audible alarm when it gets low.
This model is ideal for the bedroom and offers quiet operation that gives off a gentle and somewhat soothing hum that tops out at 53dB. If you prefer sleeping with white noise, hOmeLabs has you covered.
This unit does come with a 2-year warranty, and the team at hOmeLabs wants you satisfied. They are pretty easy to contact and deal with, and they seem to genuinely care, which is refreshing, just like their evaporative cooler.
- 2-year warranty
- Remote control operation
- 3 fan speeds and airflow modes
- Quiet operation
- Tank empties fast
10. AuLink Personal
Best Mini Evaporative Cooler
|Type of Swamp Cooler||Personal direct cooling|
|Coverage Area||10 square feet|
|Noise Level||47 dBa|
|Size||10.8 x 8.7 x 4 inches|
When you want a little extra cooling in your personal space, the AuLink Personal swamp cooler may be just what you need. Don’t expect to cool a room off, but with this little guy, you can stay cool, refreshed, and even enjoy a nice mist when you need it.
You will only feel the effects of this tiny cooler from about 4 or 5 feet away at most, and the fan isn’t that powerful. It isn’t designed to be, though, so match your expectations. What it does offer is a three speed fan and a 60-degree adjustable louver.
The water tank is top fill and can hold ice. You also get the option to use three mist settings to feel the spray as you watch TV or work on your computer. With this unit on your bedside table, you can also enjoy the night light feature. With 7 colors to choose from, you have no need to be afraid of the dark.
There is an option to add perfume to the center fan mount, but we would not recommend this. It does work but is very strong, and with the fan and mist already blowing at you, the perfume gets watered down quickly.
The 90-day warranty is highly disappointing, but for the cost and with the features it offers, it is a lot easier to forego the warranty and just buy a replacement should anything ever go wrong.
- Mist control
- USB power option
- 7 color LED night light
- Adjustable fan speed and airflow direction
- 90-day warranty
- 2 amp power supplies will make the unit shut off
Types of Evaporative Air Coolers Compared
As we mentioned earlier, there are several types of evaporative coolers. Here, we take a more detailed look at those types and what they mean to you.
Direct Vs. IndirectDirect Vs. Indirect
The two main types are known as direct and indirect cooling. Direct cooling uses water tanks and pads to cool the air as it is blown directly over it. The heat from the air is transferred to the colder water, resulting in cooler air upon exit.
Indirect cooling is done without the air and water touching. Instead, a tower is used to control where the air goes. As it passes through the cooling tower, the water inside causes a heat transfer through the material (usually copper or aluminum). This method is more expensive but doesn’t add humidity to the air.
Up-Draft, Down Draft, Side Draft
When you have a swamp cooler permanently installed, there are three methods to do so. They are aptly named, updraft, downdraft, or side draft. As their clever names indicate, the air is blown in the direction it is named for. Up draft systems, then use vents installed in the floor to blow the air, you guessed it, up.
Down draft systems are generally installed on the roof and blow the air downward through the ceiling. Finally, the side draft models are installed along the side of the house and blow the air sideways (you guessed that, too, didn’t you?).
Standalone Vs. Combined Systems
Keeping with the cryptic names, a stand alone system is a swamp cooler by itself. It stands alone and cools a home or a room using only itself and any vents or ducting installed into it.
Likewise, a combined system will integrate with other systems such as air conditioners or heaters and utilize their ducting, fans, and other parts to make the swamp cooler more efficient.
Portable (Mini Swamp Cooler)
Portable coolers are generally used for smaller spaces, which is why they are also known as mini swamp coolers. These are ideal for single rooms or patios while outside. Most of these are direct cooling systems that can be used both indoors or outdoors.
Swamp Cooler Installation Tips
Installing an evaporative cooler isn’t a difficult job. Most models can be portable, which means you can wheel them to where you need them and put them to use. For a more permanent solution, though, you need to install them properly. This means carving out a spot and using air ducting, vents, and even electrical wiring.
A professional installation may be required for down draft and side draft models, which are the most efficient. If the unit is stand alone and there aren’t any prior ducting or vents, you will need to install those, too. A professional may cost a bit more, but the work will get done faster and come with a parts and labor warranty.
You can install these units, depending on size, almost anywhere, including your patio, deck, bedroom, basement, or even on your roof.
Evaporative Cooler Care & Maintenance
Care for these machines isn’t a difficult task but can be time consuming. Along with ensuring the tank and cooling media stay full, you need to clean them regularly. Because of the surrounding temperatures and water content, they are susceptible to mold and mildew.
Regular cleaning (at least every 100 hours of operation) is recommended. This includes the media, tanks, base, controls, and fans. Filters also need to be washed or replaced as needed, and each model is different. Refer to your owner’s manual or online guide for the filter changing intervals recommended by the manufacturer.
People Also Ask (FAQ)
Can I use an air cooler in a room without a window?
Evaporative coolers are fans, and fans need air to pull and push. When using an evaporative cooler, you need a fresh supply of air for the fans to pull in. Windows or doors make this possible. In a room without a window, you need an open door and the cooler’s intake side facing the door to get air from another room.
What’s the best location for an indoor swamp cooler?
The best location is to place the fan near the initial source of heat. Summer sun beating down on a window, for example, is a great place to put the fan so it can cool the air warmed by the sun. In smaller homes, a central location will give the fans space to cool more areas.
Which swamp cooler pads work best?
If your particular cooler doesn’t have a specific type of pad to use, then you can choose the option that works best for your needs. Aspen pads are consistently rated as the best for holding water. Dial, Blue and MasterCool pads are also highly rated and experience a lot of time at the top of many best-of lists.
Is it possible to make a homemade swamp cooler?
It is possible to make a form of swamp cooler from homemade materials. One of the most popular designs is to fit a standard fan into a 5-gallon bucket lid. Cutting holes into the side of the bucket and using PVC pipes as air guides you can get a small, portable swamp cooler by filling the bucket with ice and putting the fan/lid in place.
How can I enhance the performance and make a swamp cooler colder?
One of the easiest and most cost effective solutions is to fill the water tank partly full with ice. The ice will be much colder than water, making the air even cooler. As the ice melts, it only becomes cold water, thus prolonging the cooler’s usefulness without having to refill the tank as often.
Are there drawbacks to using evaporative coolers?
The biggest drawback to a swamp cooler is the fact it adds so much humidity to the air. If you live in a humid area already and use a swamp cooler, you invite mold and mildew to grow and thrive in your home. It can also cause respiratory issues if you constantly live and breathe in high-humid environments.
Where is a good place to buy these units?
Almost anywhere that sells fans and air conditioners will also carry evaporative coolers. Most chain stores such as Target, Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot will be your best bet. If you prefer to shop online, Amazon will have the largest selection, best prices, and usually have deals and specials on older models and shipping fees.
Evaporative coolers may not be suitable in all regions. But if you live in an area with low humidity and hot summers, they may be the most cost-effective solution to keeping your home cool. Hopefully, this article helped you understand the various cooler types and the features that come with them.
If you still don’t know which model to go with, take a second look at the top pick. The Hessaire MC61V is one of the best all-around swamp coolers on the market. With multiple fan speeds, low maintenance, and the ability to cool up to 1600 square feet, you can’t go wrong.
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