How to Find the Best Swamp Cooler for Your Needs

kids in poolHave you ever felt the chill of wind hitting your skin after swimming on a hot summer day? If so, you've experienced the natural power of evaporative cooling.  Swamp coolers - also known as evaporative coolers - use this same technology to offer efficient, refreshing cooling. 

Although they work best in areas in areas with low relative humidity, swamp coolers are a great way to stay cool and comfortable without wasting a lot of electricity.  Read this short guide on how to choose the best swamp cooler for your needs. 

What's the difference between a swamp cooler and an air conditioner?

An air conditioner uses a compressor, dehumidifies the air, and is much more efficient at cooling than a swamp cooler. Air conditioning units can lower the temperature based on a thermostat, turning off and on automatically, rather than manually, or by remote control. AC units displace hot air to the outside and cool the inside air with refrigerant that is contained in the system. However, air conditioners need to be vented in order to remove hot air. If you live in a humid area, an air conditioner would best for you because it doubles as a dehumidifier and won't add unneeded moisture. 

On the other hand, if you're in a dry, arid climate with relative humidity below 50%, a swamp cooler may be a better choice for your cooling needs. Not only are swamp coolers more effective at cooling, but they'll humidify the air as well.

Will a swamp cooler work where I live?

This chart illustrates some examples of temperatures relating to wetbulb temperatures (accounts for moisture in the air) and drybulb temperatures (the temperature you see on your thermostat).  If you live near a city where the wetbulb range is well below the drybulb range, you're in an area where a swamp cooler will work great for you. 

evaporative cooling temperature chart

How do swamp coolers work?

Swamp coolers employ the same natural cooling process described in the scenario above. They basically blow air over water soaked cooling pads to reduce temperatures by as much as 15 degrees F. 

The construction is very simple: a box-like frame contains a fan that's walled in by water-soaked pads, usually made of cedar shavings or cellulose. The fan sends hot air through the dripping pads (continually soaked by a water pump) to cool the air as the air evaporates water molecules from the pads. The fan blows the water-cooled air throughout the room and back out through a vent (usually an open door or window) needed to create a balance of air pressure in the building.

What types of swamp coolers are available?

Swamp coolers vary in size from very large, roof-mounted units, to smaller, portable units. The best swamp cooler for your needs will depend on the amount of space you'd like to cool and the relative humidity in your area.

Portable swamp coolers are the most versatile systems for a home or small office and can be moved from one room to another for cooling smaller areas. This is much more cost effective when there are specific areas or rooms where people tend to congregate regularly. Portable swamp coolers can range in size from approximately 20 to 42 inches high. Don't be fooled by the size of the portable swamp cooler, though. Some of the smaller units can cool up to 600 square feet of area, while larger units may only cool smaller areas! 

For very large spaces such as office building, a roof-mounted swamp cooler is probably the best choice as it mimics central air conditioning. Using the same type of duct work as a central air conditioner, a swamp cooler can be used to cool a number of rooms in only one building.


window swamp cooler
Swamp Cooler
roof swamp cooler

Swamp Cooler
newair af-350 portable swamp cooler
NewAir AF-350 Portable Swamp Cooler

What size swamp cooler do I need?

The first step in choosing an evaporative air cooler is to find a correctly sized unit. Like air conditioners, the best swamp cooler for your needs will need to be the right size in order to adequately cool your room or space. A swamp cooler's power is rated by CFMs, or the cubic feet per minute of air a unit can blow into your home.  To determine how many CFMs your area will require, take the cubic feet of your room (multiply your ceiling height by square footage) and divide that number by 2.  For example, if you're trying to cool a 250 square foot room with 9 foot high ceilings, you'll need a swamp cooler with about 1125 CFM.  A good choice would be the Symphony Sumo-J , which offers 1100 CFM. 

Room Square Footage: 250 square feet

Ceiling Height: 9 feet

Cubic Feet = 2250 feet

CFM = Cubic Feet / 2

2250 / 2 = 1125

CFM = 1125

How much maintenance does an evaporative cooler require?

Larger window- and roof-mounted swamp coolers require maintenance at the beginning of the cooling season (usually around May or June) and at the end of the fall season, depending on the location. To maintain large swamp coolers, be sure to have all of the necessary tools at hand. A screwdriver will be needed to remove screws from the access panel, wrenches or pliers should be ready to hook up the water supply, and an oil can should be close-by for oiling the motor of the swamp cooler. Use your garden hose for cleaning up any debris, and a flashlight to help view the corners of the cooling unit for anything that may clog the air or water passage in the swamp cooler. If the swamp cooler is mounted on the roof, it means that you will have to climb to take proper care of your swamp cooler. Please be sure to take all of the necessary precautions when maintaining any type of outside cooling unit.

Maintaining a portable evaporative cooler is quite a bit easier than maintaining a larger one. In fact, most portable swamp coolers hardly require any maintenance at all, other than adding water to the tank when necessary. Depending on your needs and on whether you are able to climb or tolerate heights, a portable swamp cooler might be the winning choice when it comes to maintenance.

evaoporative cooling diagram

Learn more about evaporative cooling:
Swamp Cooler Features
Perfect Places for Your Evaporative Cooler
See Our Complete Selection of Swamp Coolers!