Portable Air Conditioners vs. Swamp Coolers
Which Should You Choose?

Certain situations and climates can make installing standard air conditioning units impractical, cost-prohibitive, or difficult, and many consumers often turn to portable cooling solutions such as portable air conditioners and swamp coolers. While both products perform the same function - cooling our homes - the two use very different types of cooling technologies, and the terms "portable air conditioner" and "swamp cooler" are often mistakenly interchanged.

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Air conditioners:
  • remove humidity from the air
  • operate best in closed environments
  • recirculate the same air over and over
  • usually have better cooling capacities
Swamp coolers:
  • add humidity to the air
  • provide a constant supply of fresh air
  • only provide an incremental cooling effect

Because of these significant differences, choosing the right one depends on important factors, such as the area in which you live, your cooling needs, and how much you can afford to pay on energy costs.

Portable Air Conditioners

CV-2P13SX Image2Portable air conditioners are great alternatives to window or wall air conditioners, and can even supplement existing central air conditioning systems. They're also great for apartment buildings that do not permit window units, or homes with windows that cannot properly accommodate permanently installed window air conditioning units.

They are usually mounted on casters, and since permanent installation isn't required they can be moved from room to room as needed. However, since an exhaust hose must be run outside, these units must be placed near a window.

Portable AC's lower temperatures by using a refrigeration cycle, drawing air from the room over a condenser coil where it is cooled and dehumidified. Water condensate pulled from the air is collected in a bucket, while an exhaust hose expels heat outdoors. Many portable air conditioners feature auto or self-evaporative technology, which is able to expel most moisture through the exhaust hose, so the bucket rarely needs to be drained.

  • Versatile and can be moved from room to room
  • Ideal for areas that are not covered by central air conditioning or those which cannot accommodate permanent AC installation
  • Can be up to 50% more energy efficient than some central air conditioning systems because only certain rooms are cooled, as opposed to entire homes
  • Help dehumidify the air
  • Need to be vented
  • Can be slightly more expensive than a central air conditioning or mini-split system with similar cooling capacity


Swamp Coolers

Energy consumption for home air conditioning accounts for almost 5 percent of all electricity produced in the United States - at a cost to homeowners of over 15 billion dollars. These costs may leave many people sweltering in the summer months. However, for those living in dry climates and/or small spaces, swamp coolers (also called evaporative coolers) may be just the solution.

AF-351 Image10Throughout the ages, civilizations have utilized the natural process of evaporation as an ingenious method to combat the heat. The windcatcher was invented in Iran thousands of years ago. Wind shafts strategically placed on rooftops caught the wind, passed it through water, and transferred cooled air into a home. Even today, Iranians still use modified windcatchers, which are actually modern evaporative coolers.

Swamp coolers are relatively simple devices: a box-like frame contains a fan that is walled in by moistened pads. In order to cool the air, the fan takes in hot air from the room, sends it through the moist pads, and cools it up to 20 degrees. Essentially, this process can be likened to splashing water on your face on a hot day and feeling the coolness on your skin as it dries.

They are also quite versatile. There are models designed for cooling individual rooms in your home while larger units are built for industrial applications, athletic fields, and even stadiums. Keep in mind that evaporative coolers are generally only suited for dry climates where the air is hot and the humidity is low (such as the Western/Mountain states), as they add moisture to the air.

  • Compact and portable
  • Use substantially less electricity than an air conditioner for the same sized home (sometimes up to 75 percent less)
  • Relatively inexpensive to buy, install, and maintain
  • Add moisture to the air in dry climates and prevents furniture and fabrics from drying out
  • Only suitable for dry climates; high humidity in the air accelerates corrosion and causes condensation
  • Can use a substantial amount of water to provide cooling effects

Still not sure which sure is the right product for you? Call today to talk to one of our home cooling experts - we'll be happy to talk you through the process of choosing just the right portable cooling product to meet your needs.

Portable Cooling Guide
Best Portable Air Conditioners
Best Evaporative Coolers