Best Evaporative Cooler 2020 – A Comprehensive Guide

If 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.

If you want to know if an evaporative cooler will work in your area, check out our evaporative cooler humidity chart.

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 rundown of what the most efficient evaporative cooler is, how it works and how it compares to air conditioning and misting fans, as well as limitations, optimal climate, and maintenance.

Quick Picks: Best Evaporative Cooler Comparison

Our Pick
Hessaire MC37M portable Evaporative Air Cooler for 950 sq. ft.
Air Flow:
3100 CFM
Speed Settings:
2
Tank Size:
10.3 Gallons
Cooling Area Capacity:
up to 950 square feet
Honeywell 1540-2471 CFM Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler with Triple-Sided Honeycomb Cooling Pad, CO60PM, Gray
Air Flow:
1540 CFM
Speed Settings:
3
Tank Size:
15.9 Gallons
Cooling Area Capacity:
up to 400 square feet
Luma Comfort EC220W High Power 1650 CFM Evaporative Cooler with 650 Square Foot Cooling
Air Flow:
1650 CFM
Speed Settings:
2
Tank Size:
10.6 Gallons
Cooling Area Capacity:
up to 600 square feet
Portacool PACJS2401A1 Jetstream 240 Portable Evaporative Cooler
Air Flow:
4500 CFM
Speed Settings:
2
Tank Size:
50 Gallons
Cooling Area Capacity:
up to 1125 square feet

#1 Hessaire Portable Evaporative Cooler

Hessaire MC37M portable Evaporative Air Cooler for 950 sq. ft.
  • Evaporative cooler with 2 fan speeds and ASDS (air swing delivery system)
  • Injection molded with UV protection and a 10.3 Gallon water reservoir. 2200 cfm cools up to 950 sf
  • Note : The water level needs to be at lease 3 inches for the pump to prime and at the initial startup; it will...
  • Air Flow: 3100 CFM
  • Speed settings: 2
  • Tank Capacity: 10.3 Gallons of Water
  • Fan Oscillation Controls!

Cooling Performance

The cooling performance of the Hessaire evaporative air 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 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 liquid. It’s these factors combined that provides a cooling unit that can reduce indoor temperatures by 20 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

Design & Appearance

The Hessaire model 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.

Best Portable Swamp Cooler

Given that this unit is light weight, it’s compact, it’s affordable and it does it’s job well it is the best portable evaporative air cooler that you can buy.

If you are looking for a swamp air 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 model is outstanding.

#2 Honeywell Portable Evaporative Air Cooler

Honeywell 1540-2471 CFM Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler with Triple-Sided Honeycomb Cooling Pad, CO60PM, Gray
  • Outdoor Evaporative Cooler or Swamp Cooler with powerful 1540-2471 CFM airflow is Ideal for large open rooms,...
  • Best used in typically hot and dry climates where humidity levels are
  • NOT an Air Conditioner & NOT a Mist Fan Environmentally Friendly Evaporative Air cooler reduces temperature...
  • Air Flow: 1540 CFM
  • Speed settings: 3
  • Tank Capacity: 15.9 Gallons of Water
  • 16″ Fan Blades!

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, a remote (for the majority of their models), wheels for mobility, and much more.

In addition, the majority of their evaporative coolers are very quiet, even more so than some of the quietest portable air conditioners (not including their industrial units 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 Evaporative Cooler

Luma Comfort EC220W High Power 1650 CFM Evaporative Cooler with 650 Square Foot Cooling
  • Best for hot & dry climates, where the air humidity is low
  • Works as an air cooler, tower fan and humidifier in one. Noise Level - 68 dB
  • 3 cooling speeds & wind modes which blows a fresh breeze in even the hottest conditions
  • Air Flow: 1650 CFM
  • Speed settings: 3
  • Tank Capacity: 10.6 Gallons
  • Oscillation Controls!

Cooling Performance

Luma state that their swamp cooling unit 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 air 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 units, 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 model 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 Pint Heavy-Duty Evaporative Cooler

SPT SF-48LB Heavy Duty Evaporative Air Cooler with 3D Cooling Pad
  • This unit is NOT an air conditioner and does not have a compressor inside
  • 3D honeycomb cooling pad for enhanced cooling performance
  • Energy saving - only 140W of power
  • Air Flow: 1062 CFM
  • Speed settings: 3

Cooling Performance

The bottom line is that the cooling performance of the Sunpentown air 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 compared to

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 want to know if an evaporative cooler will work in your area, check out our evaporative cooler humidity chart.

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 ACs and misting fans, as well as limitations, optimal climate, and maintenance.

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 appliances work as powerfully as AC 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 units are especially useful in warm climates that contain little humidity.

The evaporative coolers 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 evaporative coolers, 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 finest evaporative coolers are most often are portable, making them more efficient than a traditional fan or AC 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. It employs a type of refrigeration cycle called the vapor-compression cycle.

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 cooling units, the water that you put into the appliance 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 air 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 Air Cooler?

There are quite a few factors to take into consideration whens hopping for the best swamp cooler, just browsing the different products is not as simple as you may think. Hence why we have compiled all the data int he above reviews for you to directly compare the coolers and judge which would be more suited to your needs vs the cost.

In order to help consumers like yourself determine which appliance you like, we take these following characteristics of the highest rated evaporator cooler to make up a standard for you to follow.

When selecting a unit that is going to perform best for you, space is something that you must take into consideration.

Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)

You may have noticed that we mentioned the metric “CFM” quite a lot in our evaporative cooler reviews. It is an extremely important metric concerning evaporative coolers and it basically comes down to how much power the evaporative cooler has.

The least powerful models can range from a meagre 300 CFM and then the most powerful showing a whopping 22,500 CFM.

CFM is an expression of air flow and it describes the rate at which air moves between the device and the room. The higher the CFM the more air that flows through the device.

This then shows us it’s overall ability to cool and relates to how well it can cool a room depending on the size of the room.

Do you actually need a 22,500 CFM cooler? Is a 300 CFM cooler enough for you? You need to have a look at the size of the room you want to cool in square foot to gauge what you actually need.

Room Size (Coverage)

When selecting a cooling unit 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 cooling unit with 2,400 CFM which can be located on the product details.

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.

Tank Capacity and Continuous Water Input

The tank capacity of an evaporative cooler is usually presented to us in Gallons and it’s important because it tells us how long the cooler can run for before needing to have the water tank refilled.

Tank capacity is directly correlated with the size of the evaporative cooler, and so if you want a larger tank capacity for the appliance to run continuously, you will need to sacrifice more available space.

Most swamp cooling appliances however, have a water input for you to fit a hose to. This then uses the faucet to fill up the tank whenever is gets too low for the cooler to work efficiently. This is great as it stops you form needing to manually refill the tank yourself.

The highest quality and best swamp cooler models will have built in automatic shut offs for their internal water pumps to protect it from pressure damage, therefor protecting your investment.

Oscillation, Ice Compartments and Other Features

The can be a variation between swamp cooler models in the features that they offer. It’s only a small variation with only a small range of different features between the models but these features do make a difference to your experience with the product.

Fan Oscillation of Evaporative Coolers

Having control over the oscillation of the fan lets you directly control how the cool air is delivered to you. It also gives the unit the ability to direct the cool air throughout the room more evenly.

This is great for low powered (low CFM) evaporative coolers that are being used in larger rooms than they have the capacity to cool or outside as the device is just used a personal cooling in these situations. The oscillation allows you to share the cool air with others or direct the fan away form you so you are not getting a constant stream of super cold air blasted right at you all of the time.

Ice Compartment in Evaporative Coolers

The ice compartment is a really simple feature. It basically allows you to add ice to the device giving an extra chill tot he cool air output.

This feature makes it really nice on those unbearably hot days where you can barely move. It’s like the feeling of holding an ice cold soda can on your head to have some relief from the heat and humidity.

Remote Control

Having a remote control is nice, especially when the unit has several settings that you can adjust. It just gives you a better experience with the device and the ability to control it form a distance instead of having to approach it and crouch next tot it in order to adjust the fan speed or oscillation.

Power Cord Length

Power cord length is another factor to consider if you are looking for portability. And let’s face it, the more portability you have, the better the swamp cooler is overall as you can then move its position to your liking, even if the need only arises every once in a while.

Refreshing Ice Cold Can

Evaporative Air Cooler Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Which Evaporative 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 a huge 1,124 square foot, the best cooler for a big room is the Portacool Jetstream 240 which is featured above (#5).

If you want or need more cooling power, the range goes up to the Jetsream 270, which has a CFM of 22,500 and a coverage of 5,625 square feet.

This model is powerful and has a 50 gallon tank so you’ll need to refill it less. Definitely worth your money and the space it takes up.

Most efficient evaporative coolers 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 units 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.

2. 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 AC 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, unless you have it connected to a water input via a hose connected to as faucet. 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.

3. Evaporotive Coolers and Local Climates

It’s also key to remember that evaporative coolers aren’t always the best choice of cooling compared to traditional air conditioners. The reason why? They have limitations depending on the climate and humidity levels of your geographical location.

The best way to determine if getting a swamp cooler is the best option for you, check out our Evaporative Cooler Humidity Chart here.

4. 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 fact, evaporative coolers are extremely energy efficient when compared to their AC counterparts because they use considerably less energy. This is because where air conditioners use energy to drive a compressor which results in air being forced the air to become cooler, an evaporative cooler uses a passive process to cool the air.

An evaporative cooler only uses electricity to power the fan which is used to disperse the cool air that’s produced form it’s passive mechanism for cooling.

Final Thoughts on Evaporative Coolers

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 unit 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 models 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 finest evaporative coolers, you should also consider that running the actual cooler fan 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.

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