Evaporative Swamp Cooler vs Air Conditioning Questions and Answers

By | April 23, 2023

Swamp Cooler vs. Air Conditioning
Evaporative swamp coolers and air conditioners work very differently in how they cool.

A swamp cooler uses evaporation, while air conditioners use pressure and refrigerant to cool the surrounding air.

Should you buy and use a swamp cooler or an air conditioner? Below are the differences and some things to think about.

What is an Evaporative Swamp Cooler? (Pros and Cons)

Swamp Cooler vs Air Conditioning
Swamp coolers work great in dry climates that don’t have any humidity.

The mechanics of how they work is the same as getting out of a swimming pool wet on a windy day.

When water evaporates from a surface, it cools the surrounding area, which is what makes a swamp cooler work.

There is not much to a swamp cooler, and they have been used for many years, long before air conditioning came along to cool homes.

A swamp cooler works by pumping water to the top of a cooler, which drips down on porous pads.

A blower fan blows air into a home; as the air passes the pads, the water evaporates and is cooled.

If you live in a dry climate such as the American South West, then you have probably seen or heard of evaporative coolers as they are used a lot in such climates.

Areas that have high humidity don’t allow such coolers to work and use standard air conditioning units instead.

The advantage of an evaporative cooler is mainly the cost.

They are cheaper to buy and use less electricity than an air conditioning unit.

Since they are simple machines, they are also much easier to work on, which many DIY-type people take advantage of.

For example, if a water pump goes bad, another can be bought and simply plugged into the power outlet and water line.

As stated above, the number one disadvantage of an evaporative cooler is they don’t work in high humidity.

What is an Air Conditioner? (Pros and Cons)

Swamp Cooler vs Air Conditioner
Air conditioners have the advantage of working in any climate, hot, dry, or humid.

Their main disadvantage is cost. They are much more costly to buy and install and also costlier to run.

The reason they cost more is they are more complicated and require more parts to operate.

An air conditioner works by cycling refrigerant in a closed cycle that pulls heat from home.

This requires a compressor to cycle the refrigerant, a blower motor to cycle air into a home, and a condensing fan motor to pull heat away from a unit.
Evaporaitive Cooler vs. Air Conditioning
All these parts are more expensive to buy and to operate compared to a swamp cooler.

Which Is Better Air Conditioner or Evaporative Cooler?

An air conditioner is better in humid climates, while an evaporative cooler is better in very dry climates.

Since evaporative coolers do not work when there is moisture in the air, conditioners are usually considered better.

While most will prefer an air conditioning unit, they do cost more to operate and to buy.

Does It Cost Less to Run a Swamp Cooler or AC Unit?

A swamp cooler costs much less to operate compared to an air conditioner.

AC units have a compressor which requires lots of power to cycle the refrigerant, condensing fan motor, and blower motor.

Swamp coolers only have a large fan and small water pump, which do not use much electricity.

Can You Use AC and Evaporative Cooler Together?

While they can be used together, it is not recommended to run them at the same time as it will drive up the electricity cost.

They use different types of technologies to cool a space that does not work well together.

Swamp coolers pull in outside air, add moisture and cool it before sending it into a home.

An AC unit will condition only the air inside a home and remove moisture.

It is best to use only one type of cooling system at a time so as to not run up the electricity bill.

Can I Leave a Swamp Cooler on All Day?

Yes, a swamp cooler can be used all day and often is left on constantly.

As long as the unit is working well with no problems, it can be run day and night.

Can You Put Ice in Evaporative Cooler?

Yes, ice can be put inside a cooler but will quickly melt and only need more.

While this may have a short burst of more cooling air, the unit should not need ice to cool.

If the unit is not cooling correctly, it likely needs maintenance, such as new pads and the water pathways cleaned.

How Cold Can a Swamp Cooler Get?

As long as the air is dry with no humidity swamp cooler can output very cool air.

With the right conditions, the air can be cooled down to 60-70 degrees.

It will not get as cold as air conditioning but can make a room very cool.

If you are trying to decide whether an air conditioner or a swamp cooler is the best option for your home, your location and spending budget will be the main concern.
Every scenario will be different.

An air conditioner will always cool the home even if it costs more.

Even areas that are usually hot and dry have rainy, humid days that will render a swamp cooler ineffective.

An ideal situation is to have both installed to take advantage of the best unit depending on the temperature and humidity levels.

Category: HVAC how to

About Aaron H. Benetti

Aaron H. Benetti an HVAC technician who has worked in the field since 1991. He began his career as an HVAC installer and later began doing troubleshooting and repairs. Around 2010, he began to write books on HVAC topics, mainly tutorials and how-to information. Currently, Aaron works as an HVAC tech and also writes many articles and posts for websites as well as books and videos on HVAC topics.

One thought on “Evaporative Swamp Cooler vs Air Conditioning Questions and Answers

  1. Gerry Finney

    This is very informative especially for people who don’t know the difference between swamp cooler and air conditioning systems, providing insights on the age-old debate.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.