Save Money With an Evaporative Cooler

An Evaporative Cooler can be a great money saver for your home cooling needs. These units, some times known as Swamp Coolers or Poor Man’s Air Conditioning, use air flow over water to cool the air. They can save you up to 75% of the cost of running an air conditioner. Plus they’re a green option since they don’t use freon or CFC’s and use 1/4 of the electricity of a regular AC. Let’s take a look at Evaporative Coolers and see if they’re an option for you.

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There are several types of Evaporative Coolers available. Portable or rolling Evaporative Coolers are small, portable, units capable of cooling a smaller room. There are window units which are bigger and more expensive and even bigger roof mounted external units. However, we’ll restrict our discussion here to the portable Evaporative Coolers.

Evaporative coolers operate by moving fresh air across pads soaked with cold water. As the air is chilled due to the evaporation process it’s like a cool ocean breeze passing through the room. You will need some type of ventilation, either an open window or door or a duct to allow hot air to escape. Some newer Evaporative coolers use dual stage processing, pre-cooling and other techniques to improve their overall cooling performance.

How effective are portable Evaporative Coolers? It depends a lot on your climate. They are only effective at cooling when the relative humidity is below 50% and the lower the better. This means that you are unlikely to get much out of them in the eastern United States but they are an effective way to cool a room in the western US. On average, they’ll cool the temperature in an average sized bedroom about 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, if it’s 100 degrees outside that’s not a whole lot cooler. Most air conditioners can achieve 20 to 30 degrees lower than the ambient outdoor temperature.

Is it a good money saving idea to buy an evaporative cooler? Well, that will depend a lot on your location, both from the standpoint of humidity and electricity costs, and how efficient the existing cooling system you’re currently using performs. The portable Evaporative cooler units can be hard to find once the weather heats up so you may need to look online for a good deal on one.  An Evaporative cooler can save you money and help the environment if you can use them effectively.


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Comment by trade show booths
2008-06-23 16:05:55

Hi Frank, My dad lives in Reno, Nevada and has a swamp cooler (evaporative cooler). He swears by it. The key as you point out is you must live in a climate with LOW HUMIDITY. If you qualify, it’s a great way to save a lot on electricity, and by doing such, be GREEN. Otherwise, you can move to coastal California, though lately we’ve been having a killer heat wave. Anyway, great article and well timed! ~ Steve, the guy with a lot of trade show booths, but no swamp coolers…

Comment by jfc
2008-06-23 16:32:31

Hi Steve,

Here is Georgia we have the saying, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” so evaporative coolers aren’t a useful option here, at least for room cooling. However, I may try out one of those mini desktop evaporative coolers just to see if it outperforms the desktop fan I use at the office. We have big windows with a southern exposure that makes things hot in here sometimes. Of course, the other end of the building is ice cold.

The other long term low cost method of house cooling that works well in the southern US is an attic fan. We had one of these in a house we were renting and it really saved money on the AC. Unfortunately, these aren’t cheap to install post construction and won’t work as well with some of the common architectural flourishes that you see in newer homes.

Comment by lissie
2008-06-23 22:38:51

The original evaporative cooler was the wet tea towel in front of the fan: or for us when the 4WD’s air condiitoning gave up in 40C+ wet towel in a 1/2 open window: only problem: it doesn’t last long before it drys. If desparate take a shower with your clothes on and stand in front of a fan!

Comment by jfc
2008-06-24 00:34:41

Hi Lissie,

I did the shower with clothes on thing when I lived in Florida in a cheap apartment where the AC didn’t work well.

Comment by trade show booths
2008-06-24 08:34:33

Hi Frank, good suggestion on the attic fan, and good analysis! My dad put in one of those a few years before he got the swamp cooler. From what he said, it was a bit of work to get it in, and it didn’t make a huge difference, but it helped. If one questions the amount of heat that builds up in an attic, one just needs to go up in the attic during a hot summer day. In my dad’s house I think you could have baked cookies up there. Taking that heat load off can only help. But as you point out, it helps, but doesn’t really solve the entire problem. You wrote a very good post here for anyone looking to cool off a house during the summer without spending an arm and a leg and contributing to global warming. ~ Steve (aka “the guy with the big trade show booths”)

Comment by Dennis Anderton
2008-06-29 09:37:15

We tried one in the office in hopes of finding a better alternative to adding another air conditioning unit. It seems that it really is effective on personal uses only.

Comment by jfc
2008-06-29 11:02:13

Hi Dennis,

It apparently has to be really dry outside for the evaporative coolers to be effective on a large scale. Even then, it can’t compete cooling wise with a central AC unit. But the cost savings can be substantial.

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