Air Cooler vs Air Conditioner:
Everything You Need to Know

DPAC10011 Image3

When choosing the best type of cooling system for your home there are many different options and it can sometimes be overwhelming. There are two types of cooling available: air cooler vs air conditioner. Air coolers are also known as evaporative coolers and swamp coolers. While an air cooler vs air conditioner basically do the same thing - create cool air - they can be very different in terms of the technology they use, how energy efficient they are, and where an air cooler vs air conditioner can be used.

You'll need to understand these differences if you're going to be able to select the right model of air cooler vs air conditioner for your specific cooling needs. In this article I will compare and contrast air cooler vs air conditioner explaining the differences and similarities of each. Then you'll be able to make an informed decision about what type of cooling system is right for you.

Background and History of Air Coolers vs Air Conditioners

Air coolers aren't a new technology compared to the more recent technology of air conditioners. For centuries civilizations have been coming up with their own clever versions of today's air cooler. In Persia a wind catcher was invented thousands of years ago that used the process of evaporative cooling. Shafts on the roof would catch wind and then it would pass through water, blowing cold air into a building.

The technology that is used for modern air conditioning didn't come till much later. In 1820 it was discovered that compressing and liquefying ammonia could chill air when it was allowed to evaporate. Then in 1902 the first modern electrical air conditioner was invented for the actual application of temperature cooling for a printing plant.

Air Cooler vs Air Conditioner: How They Work

KY-80 Image8The way an air cooler vs air conditioner works is very different. Air Coolers work by cooling air through the natural process of evaporation. Hot dry air is sucked into the unit through a special water-soaked pad. The air then evaporates, creating cooler air, and a fan then blows it throughout a room.

Air Conditioners work by using a common physical law - when a liquid turns into a gas, cooling occurs. A fan pulls warm air into the unit which then passes over refrigerant filled coils. The refrigerant absorbs the heat as it changes from a liquid to a gas. Then the resulting cold air is distributed into a room. Then the compressor puts the gas under pressure, which turns it into a liquid again. During this phase extra heat is created and it is expelled outdoors through a second set of condenser coils and a second fan. So the process for air coolers is much less complicated than air conditioners.


Air Cooler vs Air Conditioner: Humidity Levels

SF-610 Image5Humidity is a very important consideration when deciding between an air cooler vs an air conditioner. The ideal humidity range is between 30% and 50%. Having too much humidity in a home can be bad, causing various health issues, mold and mildew, and it can even compromise your home's structure. However, you can also have too little moisture in a room. This can cause dry or itching skin, sore throat, and other health issues.

Air coolers vs air conditioners work in opposite ways to control humidity. Because air coolers take the hot dry air from the room and then cools it through evaporation, they add moisture to a room in the same way that a humidifier does.

Air Conditioners can act as great dehumidifiers because they reduce the humidity in a room. They condense water vapor from the processed air, which then goes into a water bucket instead of back into the air. So the cold air that is dispersed back into the room is much dryer.

Air Cooler vs Air Conditioner: Energy Efficiency

Air coolers use a substantially lower amount of energy vs air conditioners, sometimes up to 75% less. That can equal a substantial amount of savings on your utility bill if you use an air cooler vs air conditioner. The reason so much energy is saved is because the cooling process is completely natural and so little extra energy is needed to create cool air. The only mechanical parts are the fan and water pump.

Because air conditioners have more mechanical parts than air coolers they require more energy to operate. As explained before in the process required to cool air, air conditioners require two fans, a compressor and two sets of coils. That's three less mechanical parts for an air cooler vs air conditioner.

Air Coolers vs Air Conditioners: Location

Air Coolers need hot, dry air to function properly. They don't work well in humid climates because it's harder for evaporation to occur when there is so much moisture already in the air. Even if some evaporation is able to occur it will just make a mildly humid room even worse. They are most efficient when humidity is below 20%. Air coolers are better suited for the western/mountain states like Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and parts of Texas. However, they can be used in areas with mild humidity too. They can be good for cooling industrial plants, commercial kitchens, construction sites, athletic events, and more.

Air conditioners can be used in places that an air cooler cannot. They cool air much more effectively but are more expensive to use and operate. So in areas with more than 20% humidity an air conditioner is the better choice.

Air Cooler vs Air Conditioner: Environmental Effects

KA50 Image7Because air coolers use water as a refrigerant, they don't contribute to any ozone depletion. Some utility companies will even offer rebates for installing an evaporative cooler in your home. Make sure you check with your utility company to find out. Also, your state may offer special tax incentives for installing an evaporative cooler. Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency to find information on state and federal incentives.

Prior to 1994 air conditioners used harmful CFCs as a refrigerant that were found to have ozone depleting properties. So the Montreal Protocol was put into place, which banned this type of refrigerant in most countries. Now the refrigerant used is R-410a, which has lower ozone depletion potential.

You don't necessarily have to choose between an air cooler vs air conditioner. They can actually work well together and you can use one to supplement the other for optimal cooling of your home. You can browse the different models of air cooler vs air conditioner and see which unit best suits your needs.

Best Portable Air Conditioners
10 Tips on How to Find the Best Portable Air Conditioner for You
Best Evaporative Coolers
10 Reasons to Use a Swamp Cooler