The Best Evaporative Coolers 2018 – A Comprehensive Guide

best evaporative coolersIf you live in a dry, warm climate or simply want a cheaper yet equally effective alternative to air conditioning, then an evaporative cooler – also referred to as a swamp cooler may be a good option for you and your home.

So, if you’re wanting to know more about them and are you after the best evaporative cooler, we have all the answers right here!

After over 100 hours of research and testing we reviewed some of the most popular models out there, compiled the results and make our recommendations based on the evaporative cooler reviews below. We also provide the run down of what an evaporative cooler is, how it works and how it compares to air conditioning and misting fans, as well as limitations, optimal climate and maintenance.

The Best Evaporative Coolers  Reviewed

1. Hessaire 2,200 CFM Portable Evaporative Cooler

best evaporative coolers

Cooling Performance 

The cooling performance of the Hessaire evaporative coolers in general have a solid reputation. There are a few key reasons for their efficient performance, firstly it comes down to the high-density rigid media pads which provide superior cooling efficiency compared to brands that skimp on quality of their pads. Furthermore, their units feature proprietary prop designs that enable a huge amount of air to flow through them to provide a powerful output of fresh, cool air. The fans they utilise are also able to reach impressive speeds, which blow rival models out of the water. It’s these factors combined that provides a swamp cooler that can reduce indoor temperatures by 20 degrees Fahrenheit or more.


Design & Appearance 

The Hessaire cooler is portable and compact, perfect for small to medium sized spaces, while the sturdy and robust wheels allow you to easily move and position the unit wherever you happen to be located. This design in particular is probably best suited for residential properties, family homes and offices as opposed to large, industrial areas. 

User Interface 

This unit comes with user friendly interface and automatic controls for convenience and hassle free operation. It comes equipped with 3 different speeds to allow customization of your airflow. It also includes things such as float valves for garden hose adaptors, oscillating fan louvers, manual fill doors, heavy duty wheels, top tool trays, and much more.

2. Honeywell 1,540 CFM Portable Evaporative Cooler

best evaporative coolers

Cooling Performance 

Honeywell is of course a huge company, boasting a selection of home appliances and overall have a trusted reputation. For this reason, you have to expect to pay a little more. What we liked about Honeywell is their honesty – compared to other brands Honeywell don’t promise huge and exaggerated temperature drops and instead estimate an average temperature reduction of 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Our tests accurately reflected this statement, but it has the advantage of covering a much larger area than other units, being able to cover up to 100 more square foot than the Hessaire, hence the difference in price.


Design & Appearance 

For the extra price you are getting more for your money, with a selection of genuinely helpful addons. This includes extra larger water supply connectors, ice trays, washable dust filters, digital control panels, remote controls (for the majority of their models), wheels for mobility, and much more. In addition, the majority of their swamp coolers are very quiet (not including their industrial coolers of course, which feature much more powerful fans that are louder). This makes them ideal for indoor use, especially in the bedroom at night as they won’t cause any disturbances due to noise.

3. Luma Comfort EC220W High Power 1650 CFM Evaporative Cooler

best evaporative coolers

Cooling Performance  

Luma state that their swamp cooler provides temperature drops at as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit. We certainly feel that this promise is a bit of an exaggeration, yet it certainly does provide a substantial cooling effect. The Luma brand utilises patented cyclonic technology which is apparently designed to maximize air flow without being excessively loud or demanding in terms of size or energy requirements.


User Interface  

The positive aspect of the Luma swamp cooler is that the digital interface is isolated from the main buttons and controls, meaning there’s never any confusion about where to turn the unit on and off. Although, in comparison to other evaporative coolers out there, the Luma lacks the premium features you might expect. For instance there are no speed settings that are quite common in the majority of coolers, nor is there a timer, making this unit slightly less appealing. In terms of the overall design, it is a solid build that looks and feels great and is much more robust and sturdy than the cheaper units available on the market. There hasn’t been much negative feedback, but there have been some complaints in regards to hoses leaking water.

Design & Appearance  

If you are searching for a cooler suitable for reducing the temperature in small spaces, then the Luma is ideal. This unit is designed for smaller spaces, only covering up to 250 square feet. This option works well for bedrooms and family rooms. Luma offer three model, the EC45S, which is their smallest design, capable of cooling areas up to around 100 square feet. There are slightly larger models too, including the EC110S, which is designed for areas up to 250 square feet and their largest unit, the EC220W, can cool spaces up to 650 square feet.  

4. Sunpentown (SPT) SF-48LB 101 Pint Heavy-Duty Indoor/Outdoor Evaporative Cooler

best evaporative coolers

Cooling Performance 

The bottom line is that the cooling performance of the Sunpentown swamp cooler is pretty mediocre. It would do a good job of cooling smaller rooms but might have a difficult time in more open environments. In prime conditions, the SPT cooler can lead to a reduction in temperature of at least 15 degree Fahrenheit. The cooling pads used in the Sunpentown are of premium quality and feature a 3D weaving material ensuring optimum moisture retainment. Perhaps one of the most attractive features of the SPT units is that they are incredibly efficient, helping you to reduce your electricity bills while you enjoy the nice cooling effect.


Interface and Features 

Even though this unit is reasonably priced, it has a surprising number of features. These include the likes of a water out indicator, remote control, three fan speeds, three fan modes, oscillations, wheels for mobility, and more. The main drawback of this unit is how fast the water is used, meaning you will probably find yourself filling it back up way too often. There re some other parts of the unit that are also lacking, such as the remote control, which is feeble and difficult to use. In addition, the cooler itself has a tendency to leak after a while, which can be an issue.

5. Portacool Cyclone 3,000 CFM Portable Evaporative Cooler 

best evaporative coolers

Cooling Performance 

The Portacool range as a whole provides a substantial cooling effect, no matter which sized unit you opt for. The reason for this is due to the innovative fan technology that enables a unique tunnel pattern of airflow. As a result, you can expect a drop in temperature ranging from 10 degrees Fahrenheit to a substantial 30 degrees Fahrenheit in optimum conditions.


Appearance & Design 

One of the biggest selling points of the Portacool brand is the size range of their evaporative coolers. Their budget series is called the Cyclone series, which is designed for the areas ranging from 300 to 700 square feet and on the more premium end, they have the Hurricane series which can provide cooling for a huge 6,250 square feet. In addition, they have large industrial coolers for the most demanding of large spaces. Therefore, Portacool has the right cooler, regardless of the size or type of environment you require a swamp cooler for. It is important to note that the downside of these coolers is that they can be quite large and cumbersome, therefore, if you have a small space, these might not be appropriate.

Interface and Features 

Since these coolers are designed with maximum cooling in mind, they are quite large and industrial in design and structure with big fans and heavy innards. For this reason, they can be quite noisy, which may be a problem for some users. Despite their bulky design, they are portable and feature strong wheels, enabling you to easily transport them throughout you home or other spaces. Despite their powerful and efficient cooling, they aren’t fitted with as many features as other brands at this price point. It would be nice to have more options with regards to speed settings, oscillations and even a remote control would be welcome too. However, it’s worth remembering that Portacool’s main aim is in cooling and not any other features.

What are Evaporative Coolers?

For those days when the heat becomes unbearable and your ceiling fan makes little difference, the use of an evaporative cooler can be a cost effective and efficient solution. These coolers work as powerfully as air conditioning units without the requirement of any complicated installation or the worry of a large electricity bill.

Commercial evaporative coolers, or swamp coolers, use water evaporation to chill your room by as much as 20 degrees. These coolers are especially useful in warm climates that contain little humidity. The evaporative refrigeration of the water cools the room as well as adding moisture to it, ideal for humid and dry climates, such as desert areas like the southwestern United States.

To operate a unit, all you need is an available electrical outlet and water to fill the cooler with.They are normally used indoors in places where a small amount of fresh air flows in, but there are some outdoor swamp cooler units too. They come in a variety of sizes and most often are portable, making them more efficient than a traditional fan or air conditioning unit.

How do Evaporative Coolers Work?

The operation of an evaporative cooler is fairly simple and effective. Evaporative cooling is a natural phenomenon that happens everyday. For instance, you experience it when you exit a pool on a warm day and are instantly hit by a chill. This immediate cooling effect occurs when dry air passes by water, since the dry air absorbs some of the water. The true physics behind this is complicated, but the absorption results as the temperature and vapor pressure of the water try to equalize with the air. This results in water molecules turning into gas molecules and heat is transferred from the higher air temperature to the lower water temperature. This means that the air surrounding it is cooled.

In commercial swamp coolers, the water that you put into the cooler is evaporated into a cool mist and absorbed by a pad that is located in the centre of the unit. All of the stuffy, hot air inside of the room is pulled into the damp cooling pad with the help of a powerful fan that results in the warm air being transferred through the pad, cooled and released back into the room. The air output that you receive is a gentle, but cold breeze, perfect for hot days and dry climates. 


It’s worth noting that evaporative coolers or swamp coolers operate at their optimum in hot, dry regions. This is because they rely on humid conditions for the cooling process, and it will also result in an increase in air moisture levels, which can be good or bad depending on your location.

What Should you Look for in Best Evaporative Cooler?

When selecting a cooler that is going to perform best for you, space is something that you must take into consideration. The easiest way to determine this is by using the CFM formula (Cubic Feet per Minute). This equation allows you to figure out how much air is recycled through your space by the minute. Take the square footage of your room and multiply this by the height of your ceiling. Take that number and then divide it by 2.

For example:

600 sq ft X 8 ft = 4,800/2 = 2,400 CFM

According to the above example, you would need a cooler with 2,400 CFM which can be located on the product details. Evaporative coolers come in 2 main styles, window mounts (similar to ACs) and floor models. You must also consider the amount of maintenance required when choosing the best cooler. While both models do not need an excessive amount of upkeep, the care for each one is different. For standalone coolers, the filter must be regularly replaced and the unit should be wiped down with a damp cloth. To clean a window-mounted unit, consider that you are going to need to set it up in its designated window as well as regular clean it and change the filter. Most people only keep their window-mounts up in the Spring/Summer and then remove it as the weather cools down.

If you are looking for an option to cool down your entire home rather than one room at a time, there are also models that can accommodate this. These units are normally installed on the side of your wall or on your roof pointing downwards.

How Do Swamp Coolers Differ from Traditional Air Conditioning Systems?

The aim of both of swamp coolers and conventional ACs is to reduce the temperature of your living space. Although, swamp coolers offer reduced costs in every way, they also have increased energy efficiency, and are considerably more environmentally friendly than traditional air conditioning systems.

However, when it comes to selecting an evaporative cooler for your home, it is important to understand the difference between them and a traditional air conditioning unit. One of the main differences is that you must remember that an evaporative cooler does require you to keep filling it with water. In areas that are experiencing a severe drought, this would not be ideal. Ideally, you are also going to want to make sure that you have access to fresh air, even in small quantities, because that is partly what powers evaporative coolers.

Air conditioning units use a lot more electricity and can often contain toxic refrigerants, thus making an evaporative cooler more efficient in more ways than one. Also, if you have an AC, you must also have a vent for it. Whether it be a tube that leads to the outside or a window-mounted unit that has direct ventilation to the outside, this is how the unit is able to keep your space cool while expelling any warm air. Cost is also an important factor to consider. Traditional air conditioning units can cost you double the amount of what an evaporative cooler would to keep your room cool all Summer.

How Much do Evaporative Coolers Cost to Run?

If you have found a unit that seems to suit your needs, but are still unsure about just how much money that you can save. Consider the following tips on the cost of running an evaporative cooler. On average, the normal rate of electricity for a residence is $0.10/kwh. To run a unit that is meant to cool a small space, this will approximately cost less that 2 cents per hour ($0.02) to run. If you are interested in cooling down a larger, 3,000 square feet room, you will be looking on an estimated cost of $0.10 cents per hour. As you can gather, even the largest of evaporative cooling units can be very cost efficient, even when left running for hours at a time.

Wrap Up 

In review, you will find that an evaporative cooler is a useful investment for the efficient temperature control of your home. They work best in climates that are naturally warm and on the less humid spectrum, as the cooler itself is going to add humidity to the space. Consider how large your room is, and use the formula to determine your airflow in cubic feet per minute. Think about where you would ideally like to place the unit. Do you want to keep it out all year round, or would you rather use it during the warmest months and then place it into storage as it gets colder?

Window and roof mounted coolers are going to be harder to take down as installation is required in order to set them up in the first place. Portable swamp cooler units are often larger, but contain wheels on the bottom so you can move it from space to space, and even put it in a closet or garage when it is not in use. In general, the larger your room is, the more you are going to pay for a unit. If you are willing to invest in one of the best evaporative coolers, you should also consider that running the actual cooler is going to save you money in the long run as compared to your typical air conditioning unit. Given all of this, it is clear to see why many people opt for an evaporative cooler to chill their space.