Portable evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, are effective, efficient, and eco-friendly alternatives to the traditional air conditioner. These appliances are popular for cooling indoor areas if you live in a drier climate, and they're available in a variety of sizes, cooling capacities, and designs. If you're considering purchasing an indoor swamp cooler, but don't know a lot about them, we can help. Get answers to our most frequently asked questions about using a portable evaporative air cooler below.
How do portable evaporative coolers work?
Portable evaporative coolers cool a space by evaporating water into the air as a fine cool mist. The system pulls in dry hot air and passes the air through a moist cooling pad. This pad, or "cooling media" as it's sometimes called, absorbs water from an onboard water reservoir or pan that you'll fill periodically. The hot dry air is propelled through the cooling pad with the help of a high-powered fan where it is infused with tiny water droplets that bring the overall air temperature down by as much as 20 degrees. The cooled air is then released into your space with a gentle breeze. This process continues for as long as you use your swamp cooler. With regular use, you can maintain a comfortable cool room without the use of an air conditioner.
Why do I hear that indoor evaporative coolers are only effective in dry climates?
Swamp coolers add moisture to the air as they cool. If you live in a typically humid and hot climate, adding more humidity can actually make your space feel hotter despite the cool air you're adding as well. This is why evaporative cooler manufacturers and we at Sylvane recommend you use these appliances in dry hot climates, like what you would find in the southwestern United States.
Would a swamp cooler be effective at all in a humid climate?
Swamp coolers may cool spaces in humid climates well at certain times of the day; for instance, when humidity is at its lowest point during the day—the hottest part of the afternoon. Keeping this tip in mind, you could vary your use of your cooler to save money on your power bill. For example, use your air conditioner to cool your home in the mornings and evenings and switch to an evaporative cooler in the afternoons. It all depends on your specific climate.
Will an indoor swamp cooler cool as well as an air conditioner?
Evaporative coolers do cool as well as air conditioners provided you take certain steps to ensure effective cooling. Follow the 3 steps below to achieve optimal cooling.
- Use the Right Size Cooler - First, you'll want to make sure you use the right size swamp cooler for the area you want cooled (see the next question for more on this). Remember, residential swamp coolers are room cooling solutions, which means they generate enough cooling power to cool a single room, but not multiple rooms.
- Have a Fresh Air Supply- You'll also want to ensure you have a fresh air supply in your room. This means leaving a window or a door open in the cooling space to provide adequate fresh airflow. If you don't do this, humidity will build up in the space and eventually raise the temperature. A continuous fresh air source prevents this.
- Keep Up with Maintenance - You'll need to replace your swamp cooler's cooling media periodically to maintain optimal cooling. You'll also need to stay on top of refills and clean the water reservoir or pan as needed. All of these steps help keep your unit running in top cooling shape.
How do I determine what size swamp cooler I need?
When choosing a size, it's helpful to calculate the ideal CFM, or cubic feet of airflow per minute, a swamp cooler should have in order to optimally cool your room. CFM is essentially the amount of fresh air that is cycled through and cooled by the cooler each minute. To find this figure, use this simple equation. Divide the cubic feet of your space to be cooled by 2 (you can assume 8 foot ceilings for a quick estimate). The result is the ideal CFM an evaporative cooler should have in order to cool your room effectively.
Why are swamp coolers considered more efficient and eco-friendly than air conditioners?
While indoor swamp coolers do run on electricity like ACs, they don't use energy-heavy compressors and harmful toxic refrigerants to facilitate the cooling process. Often, an AC's compressor, not the fan, is the major energy user and the main reason for your high cooling bill. Evaporative coolers use only a fan, cooling media, and water to produce cooler air. In certain scenarios, cooling with a swamp cooler can cost up to 50% less than a traditional air conditioner because you're using less energy.
Will a swamp cooler make everything in my room damp?
Many people think that because an evaporative cooler cools by evaporating water into the air, the people and items in the room will feel damp. This isn't true. The keyword here is evaporation. As dry air moves through the swamp cooler, it absorbs moisture from the water-dampened cooling pad before being released. This process humidifies the air, evaporating the tiniest of water droplets into the air, so it is invisibly moisturized and cooled. This process will not make the contents of your room wet or leave you feeling damp.
How often will I need to refill my swamp cooler?
The frequency of refilling your swamp cooler really depends on how often you use it and at what speed. Running your cooler all day at the highest speed, for example, will use more water. You may have to fill it a few times a day in this scenario. Running your cooler periodically throughout the day and at lower speeds will lengthen the time between fillings. Experiment with cooling speeds and running times to find the best rate of refill for your routine.
How do I clean my swamp cooler?
Like humidifiers, it's very important to clean your swamp cooler's water reservoir or water pan regularly. It left to sit stale for too long, the water inside could become a breeding ground for mold, mildew, waterborne microorganisms, and other germs. When you run your cooler again, harmful pathogens could be transferred to the cooling media and be released into the air. As a rule of thumb, drain your swamp cooler once a week to prevent fungus growth. Clean the reservoir and let it dry before putting it back in the swamp cooler. You should also clean and/or replace cooling media based on the manufacturer's recommended timeline for hygienic and efficient operation.
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Still Have Questions?
We know choosing an evaporative cooler isn't an easy decision. To learn more about evaporative coolers, visit our Swamp Cooler Knowledge Center. Not sure what's best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Call us at 800-934-9194. We want to help make your indoors healthy and comfortable.