Swamp coolers! What does that bring up in your mind? For me, it brings up a desert home of family friends I visited quite often as a child. The owners were artists and private pilots. A week at their place was always an adventure. I felt like I was immersed in a Young Adult novel’s plot or a Disney nature special.
Truth is, a swamp cooler, or an evaporative cooler, can be a very cost-effective and environmentally friendly way of cooling a home or office. What are the best evaporative coolers?
First, would an evaporative/swamp cooler work well where I live?
To begin with, it all depends on the location. If the location you live in stays humid most of the day throughout the year would not most likely not benefit from an evaporative cooler.
The South West is an area that is perfect for evaporative coolers. Much of any continent’s interior areas are likely to be dry for large parts of the year. The West Coast in general is going to be like the Mid West, hit or miss. Check your yearly climate online for a good breakdown. Same will hold true for whatever other country you may be in. Coastal, warmer areas, may not be a good choice. Inland, dryer climes, good choice.
If your home is only uncomfortably warm for a very short time period during the Summer season, even if in a more humid area, a swamp cooler might be the more cost-effective option for you.
How does an evaporative cooler work?
An evaporative cooler operates on the principle of phase transition of liquid water to water vapor. As dry, warm air passes over water, it picks up water vapor and a heat transfer occurs. The dry, warm air becomes cooler, less dry air. You’ve experienced this phenomenon at the beach or lakeside. Sea breezes feel cooler than the air over the sand because of this process. The air in a wind over a lake experiences the same effect.
Depending on the ambient humidity in a room to start with, the water-cooled air may be quite a bit cooler. An added benefit is adding some humidity to what may have been an uncomfortably dry room.
Why does a humid or a dry climate make a difference?
So, you can see why an area with more humidity to start with wouldn’t be able to have too much cooling from the evaporation. Conversely, areas with low humidity are ideal for evaporative cooling because of the increase in potential for cooling.
An added benefit where swamp coolers are usable is that an evaporative cooler works most efficiently where it can draw on the outside air. So, there is more real air exchange than with a tightly shut up area required for an air conditioner to be most effective. Thats pretty much the gist of evaporative coolers, so without further adieu, lets get stuck in
Top 5 Best Evaporative Coolers
1. Honeywell 470 CFM Indoor Evaporative Air Cooler
Kicking off this list is the multipurpose Honeywell 470 Evaporative cool. This unit for small to medium-sized rooms and garages is a nice size itself and has an attractive price, making it one of the best evaporative coolers available. You can use it in 3 different ways.
As a cooler, humidifier, or as a simple fan. Using it as a fan only seems a little overkill, since I can find fans with higher speeds for much less, but it is a nice option to have if you keep it in the same spot most of the time.
It has wheels, making it relatively easy to move around the room or workshop, unless you have a very plush carpet. Don’t complain to me if your shag carpeting gets stuck in the wheels, I told you to get rid of that stuff 20 years ago!
What is small to medium room coverage size for this brand? Honeywell is claiming 280 square feet, which might be a little generous. It did cool down my smallish bedroom very quickly, but moving it into the larger den area proved a bit of a stretch. Let me qualify that, however. My climate is not very dry. A low humidity will give better results. So will having fresh air to draw from, provided it’s low humidity.
The water system is a honeycomb that spreads out the water surface area for added efficiency. Both this and the tank should be cleaned periodically. If you wait until you can smell that odd, musty smell, you need to clean more often. Plain old distilled white vinegar works well, or there are specialty products available from a variety of brands.
Oh yeah, it has easy to use buttons for controlling the functions and includes a remote control. Overall this was my favourite model that I tested and easily deserves a number one spot on this list. A must have!
- Indoor evaporative air cooler or swamp cooler ideal for southwest and Midwest regions
- Low consumption for 230W & powerful 470 CFM airflow
- Activated carbon air filter
- Ideal for winter months as well
- 3 in 1 model
2. Honeywell CO30XE 525 CFM Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
Moving onto my number two pick is the Honeywell CO30XE. This portable unit is less expensive and rated higher than the first one, but I am taking that rating with a grain of salt. I don’t think it actually will cover more space than the one above, but it does have a really powerful fan. It is also substantially less expensive.
Along with the faster fan, you gain a bit more noise with this unit. Not an issue when used during the day, but trying to sleep with it nearby was problematic.
With those drawbacks in mind, tho, it works great. I could see it being well suited for a game room or even a small office. It’s a Honeywell, so you have the backing of one of the leaders in environmental control technology. Honeywell has been around for a long time and even has an aerospace division.
If you were to look at virtually any thermostat in a home with central air or heat, it’s a good chance that it will be a Honeywell. In other words, I have no problem at all recommending any Honeywell product. I even have an old 35mm camera from the 1960s that I found in an estate sale. I don’t use it. It sits on a shelf looking cool. Thanks to the swamp cool, it actually is cool.
This unit also has wheels and is easy to fill when the water level gets low. A remote also control adds to its convenience.
- Can cover up to 320 square feet
- Strong air flow at 525 CFM
- Compartment on top for ice
- Alarm for low water levels
- Designed to be waterproof for outdoor environments
3. Luma Comfort EC220W High Power 1650 CFM Evaporative Cooler
Moving onto my next pick is the mighty Luma Comfort EC220W. This unit is pretty big, and its cooling specs from the manufacturer are impressive. Before this series of tests, I had never heard of this brand, but after using it, I was impressed enough to include it on this list of best evaporative coolers.
First thing you will probably notice is the huge fan opening on the front. Next thing I noticed was the knob switches for control. All in all, that gives it a kind of retro look and feel. Not that I had any issue with that, but it does mean no remote control.
It has a claimed room size of up to 650 sq ft and uses a large 10 gallon tank. The fan can oscillate for increased room coverage of the cooled air. Others have reviewed that this cooler uses water very quickly, bit that is likely due to the faster fan speeds. Refilling 10 gallons can be a chore, but there is also the capability to attach a water hose to it.
It is large and it costs a good sight more, but I am adding it to my list of best evaporative coolers. It really does work well. If you need any help with setting up your swamp cooler, you can check out this helpful guide.
- Performs best in low humidity hot & dry climates
- 3 in 1 design
- 3 cooling speeds for even the hottest conditions
- Covers up to 650 sq. ft of great cooling
- Widespread oscillation design
4. Portacool PAC2KCYC01 Cyclone 3000 Portable Evaporative Cooler
Wow! What a beast of a cooler!
This rather expensive portable is also pretty large, but it still qualifies as being moveable. The first thing that came to my mind was the bad special effects of 1970s era TV sci-fi.
It is also decidedly more expensive than any other unit on this list. It claims to cool the air up to 30 degrees from ambient, but I had no way to test that. I could see this being very much at home in a small shop or garage, like a home based woodworker or auto mechanic.
It is really heavy, especially when full, but I don’t think you would really move it around much. It has hose hook ups for running water into it, so I would probably set it up and then park it.
- Can lower temperature to 30-degrees Fahrenheit
- Energy efficient design
- Designed with a single mould of polyethylene housing
- 3/4-inch water hose connection for longer running
- Ready to use out of the box
5. SPT SF-608R Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
The last product on my list of best evaporative coolers, this is the smallest one tested. It uses a wick to suck up the water from the 10 liter tank, so the fan and oscillation is all it really uses power for.
It rolls easily and I liked that it was pretty quiet. The remote control would make it easy to operate form a desk or an easy chair. I wasn’t expecting much cooling power from it, but the oscillating louvers really helped spread the cooler air. To me, it felt efficient for a small room.
One thing to watch out for, if it has water in the tank, it was easy to get the water to splash out when moving it. Move it gently, or without much water in the tank. The tank has an open top, so that allows water to slosh out.
- 3 in 1 design
- Oscillating louvers for even air distribution
- 10-liter water tank with 3 air speeds
- Nylon and photocatalystic filter with remote control
So, there we have a pretty well-rounded list of the Top 5 Best Evaporative Coolers or swamp coolers. One thing that many other reviewers have noted about running any swamp cooler, is that having a fan on the other end of the room or house, blowing out air from the inside to the outside, will prolong and increase the cooling power.
Makes sense. They operate best with a good supply of dry air, allowing the evaporation to really have an effect.
To be honest, if you live on the coast, you won’t like a swamp cooler compared to an air conditioner. If you need one, tho, these portable units are really good within their size limitations. Stay frosty!
If you want to ensure your swap cooler is performing at its best, check out this helpful videos below.