If you live in a dry, warm climate or simply want a cheaper yet equally effective alternative to air conditioning, then the best evaporative cooler – also referred to as a swamp cooler, may be a good option for you.
If you are 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 best evaporative cooler reviews below.
We also provide the rundown of what the best evaporative cooler is, how it works and how it compares to air conditioning and misting fans, as well as limitations, optimal climate, and maintenance.
Table of Contents
- Quick Picks: Best Evaporative Cooler Comparison
- #1 Hessaire Portable Evaporative Cooler
- #2 Honeywell Portable Evaporative Cooler
- #3 Luma Comfort Evaporative Cooler
- #4 Sunpentown Pint Heavy-Duty Evaporative Cooler
- #5 Portacool Cyclone Portable Evaporative Cooler
- #6 Honeywell Compact Portable Evaporative Cooler
- What is an Evaporative Cooler?
- How do Evaporative Coolers Work?
- What Makes the Best Evaporative Cooler?
- Which Cooler is Best for a Big Room?
- Which Cooler is Best for a Small Room?
- How Do Swamp Coolers Differ from Traditional Air Conditioning Systems?
- How Much do Evaporative Coolers Cost to Run?
- Final Thoughts
Quick Picks: Best Evaporative Cooler Comparison
*All links above will take you to the latest prices on Amazon.com, air-n-water.com or newair.com or you can read our best evaporative cooler reviews below.
The cooling performance of the Hessaire best evaporative cooler models, 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 the 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 utilize 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.
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.
Best Portable Swamp Cooler
Given that this cooler is light weight, it’s compact, it’s affordable and it does it’s job well it is the best portable swamp cooler that you can buy.
If you are looking for a swamp cooler that you can take in your RV, out camping, on vacation or into your summer cabin during the hot summer you should look no further as the quality of this Hessaire cooler is outstanding.
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.
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 utilizes patented cyclonic technology which is apparently designed to maximize airflow without being excessively loud or demanding in terms of size or energy requirements.
Design & Appearance
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.
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.
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.
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.
Design & Appearance
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 your 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, all features seen on the best evaporative coolers out there.
However, it’s worth remembering that Portacool’s main aim is in cooling and not any other features.
Design & Appearance
This is not the most powerful cooler on the market but that’s not what it’s aimed to be. It’s a great cooler for small rooms as its very compact in size and can be easily moved around due to the wheels it has.
Not that it’s very heavy, it only has a 1.8 gallon water tank and so may weight a bit when full but it’s nothing compared to the Portacool Cyclone with its 10 gallon tank.
With this compact and low power design comes energy efficiency. If put to use in a small room that it can effectively cool or used for cooling a local area such as on your desk or by the bedside it works well while consuming little power.
Interface and Features
The user interface is very minimalist, and this isn’t a bad thing. With different fan settings there’s plenty of option to control the comfort levels that you need. With a minimalist UI, it’s very clear and easy to do this.
It even comes with a handy remote control so you don’t have to keep approaching the cooler and bending down to press the buttons, you can alter the settings from the comfort of your chair!
One of the greatest but overlooked feature is the washable carbon filter contained within the back panel. The filer helps to trap particles, dust, microbes and other nasties preventing the cooler form becoming clogged and spreading these undesirable particles around the room.
What is an Evaporative Cooler?
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 the best evaporative coolers are 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 every day. 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 center 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 a 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 Makes the 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.
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.
Which Cooler is Best for a Big Room?
A big room requires some power to cool down, even if you are cooling a local area within the room. Usually the more powerful a cooler is at doing ti’s job, the bigger it is to fit all of the machinery on the inside to give such a high output. The point is, for a large room you might need to sacrifice some of that space.
It depends how large the room we’re talking about is, but if we are talking a room that’s up to 500 square foot, the best cooler for a big room is the Portacool Cyclone which is featured above(#5).
This cooler is powerful and has a 10 gallon tank so you’ll need to refill it less. Definitely worth your money and the space it takes up.
Which Cooler is Best for a Small Room?
Small rooms require much less power but on the other hand have a lot less space to give up to a powerful cooler. While the more powerful the cooler the better regardless of the amount of space you have to cool, because the most powerful coolers are too large for a small room we need to sacrifice some of the power we don’t need to save space.
This is why either the Honeywell Compact Portable Evaporative Cooler (#5) or the Honeywell Portable Evaporative Cooler (#2) are hgihly recommended for small spaces.
Even though both these coolers are quite small, they do a great job at cooling down very small rooms or for being used as local cooling methods, to give a cool breeze directly towards yourself.
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 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 is 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 than 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 at 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.
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 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.
About the Author
Dave Miller is a HVAC technician with over 10 years in the industry. Dave created HeatTalk with the ambition for it to become a resource for individuals looking for answers, whether they be a layman, student or a professional.