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5 Things to Consider When Buying an Evaporative Cooler

5 Things to Consider When Buying an Evaporative Air Cooler

Keeping your indoor environment cool and comfortable during warm summer months can be a frustrating and often expensive task, to say the least. Evaporative coolers - also known as swamp coolers - offer an eco-friendly, healthy, and cost-effective alternative to traditional air conditioning systems.

However, there are some things to take into consideration before purchasing an evaporative cooler.

1. Do I live in a climate where an evaporative cooler would be effective?

Evaporative cooling is a simple, cost-effective method for cooling indoor spaces. However, depending on the climate where you live, evaporative cooling might not be the most effective cooling option for you. Thus, understanding how evaporative air coolers work will help you decide if this is the right cooling solution for you.

Evaporative cooling is fairly simple and occurs naturally each day in the world around us. For example, perspiring in hot weather is a form of evaporative cooling, whereby your body produces sweat, which evaporates and allows the body to cool. You can also feel the effects of evaporative cooling when you step out of a pool on a hot day and immediately feel a chill. These cooling effects occur because as dry air passes over water, the dry air will absorb some of the water. This absorption occurs when the temperature and vapor pressure of the water attempt to equalize with the air. As a result, water molecules turn into gas molecules and heat switches from the higher air temperature to the lower water temperature. Since the air circulates naturally, the area around it is cooled.

To consistently cool your home, residential evaporative air coolers build on this natural phenomenon, using a fan to draw warm, stale air inside the unit, where it passes over water-moistened pads to be cooled. During this process, the air is cooled up to 20 degrees. Then, the cool, rejuvenated air is circulated throughout your environment. Since the cool air is continually circulating and creating a breeze, your ambient temperature can feel four to six degrees lower than the actual temperature.

The key to effectively cooling your home with an evaporative cooler is hot, dry air such as what is found in desert areas like the southwestern United States. In fact, evaporative coolers are most effective during the hottest times of the day and when humidity levels are below 50 percent. Although the name "swamp cooler" sounds like it would cool muggy, swamp-like conditions, these machines would actually be ineffective in warm, humid areas like the southeastern United States because the air is so heavily saturated with moisture. For people living in more humid climates who are searching for a cost-effective alternative to traditional central air conditioning systems, consider portable air conditioners or window air conditioners.

2. How do swamp coolers compare with traditional air conditioning systems in terms of cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, and environmental impact?

The goal of both of swamp coolers and traditional ACs is to cool your space. However, swamp coolers are available at a lower overall price point, are more energy efficient, and are much more environmentally friendly than traditional air conditioning systems. Evaporative air coolers come in a variety of designs and capacities - from the portable swamp cooler design that can easily be moved from room to room to the convenient window mount evaporative cooler design that saves valuable floor space and covers larger areas. More importantly, many swamp coolers require only minor to moderate setup, such as placement of air filters or window mounting.

The use of simple technology to cool your indoor air helps portable air coolers excel at energy efficiency. When compared to air conditioners that use refrigerated cooling systems, operating swamp coolers costs up to 50 percent less. In fact, a 36-inch evaporative air cooler operating for eight hours typically costs less than one dollar because the only costs associated with operating it are water and electricity. This is almost three times cheaper than traditional cooling costs.

For environmentally conscious consumers, swamp coolers are an ideal solution for keeping cool without harming the environment. Unlike traditional air conditioners that use refrigerants to cool your home, swamp coolers use a natural process that cools the air using motion and water. This process won't add ozone-harming pollutants or other chemicals to the environment. Furthermore, swamp coolers actually work best when fresh air is available, such as from an open window or door. This constant circulation ensures that your indoor air is fresher than it would be with traditional air conditioners that require an airtight space to operate. Plus, the evaporative cooling process naturally humidifies dry air - reducing dry air symptoms such as itchy eyes, throat, or skin.

3. What size evaporative swamp cooler will be most effective for my space?

To get the best results from your evaporative water cooler, make sure it is the correct size for your space. For example, an evaporative water cooler that is too small for your area will have to work extra hard to keep the space cool, wasting energy.

To find the swamp cooler best suited for your needs, calculate your ideal CFM. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute. This is the amount of fresh air cycled through your environment each minute. To find the necessary CFM for effectively cooling your room, divide the cubic feet of space to be cooled by two. For example, if your room is 450 square feet with 8-foot ceilings, use the following equation:

450 X 8 / 2 = 1,800 CFM

According to the equation, you would need a swamp cooler with a CFM of at least 1,800.

4. Are there different types of swamp coolers?

Sylvane offers 2 types of residential swamp coolers - portable and window mounted. Both types of evaporative air coolers are designed to cool small to large spaces but not entire houses. A portable evaporative cooler is a great cooling solution when mobility is a factor. These swamp coolers typically come with casters to make moving your evaporative air cooler from space to space simple. Many models, such as the 17-pound Sunpentown SF-610 Evaporative Air Cooler, are lightweight and even easier to transport. Oftentimes, however, lightweight swamp coolers are better suited for personal cooling, operating much like a personal heater. For heartier jobs such as cooling patios, decks, garages, workshops, and other large areas, consider investing in a portable swamp cooler with a higher CFM, such as the Champion UltraCool M201A Portable Evaporative Cooler.

If your cooling problems are localized to a particular room or area, a window swamp cooler is a great energy-efficient alternative to window ACs. These window-mounted swamp coolers often come ready to install and include the necessary installation hardware. Many models, such as the Essick Air N37W Window Evaporative Cooler, can be easily installed in vertical or horizontal windows.

In addition to versatile placement options, these evaporative air coolers come with a variety of extras including remote controls, fan-only operation, humidifier-only operation, LCD control panels, programmable timers, ionizer options, and much more. With this many options, the task isn't finding a swamp cooler - it's choosing the one best suited for your needs.

5. How much maintenance does a swamp cooler require?

Although caring for portable swamp coolers and window-mounted swamp coolers is slightly different, both require very little maintenance overall. Basic cleanings and proper storage/shut down of the appliance are the primary factors in determining the performance and life of your evaporative air cooler.

The filter and water curtains of the portable evaporative cooler should be cleaned once every two weeks with lukewarm water and a mild detergent to avoid dust, dirt, mold, and mildew build-up, especially if the device has been used for long periods of time. The outer housing of the portable swamp cooler should also be cleaned periodically with a damp cloth. When you have finished using your portable swamp cooler for the season, simply wipe it clean, drain the water tank, clean the filter and water curtain, and operate the fan-only function (if available) for 30 to 60 minutes to completely dry the device before storing.

For window-mounted evaporative coolers, the primary maintenance tasks involve preparing the swamp cooler for spring start-up and shutting it down for the season when it is no longer necessary. To prepare your window-mounted swamp cooler for use during the warm months, change the moisture pads, clean the pump, and oil the motor (if necessary). To shut it down during the winter, drain any excess water from the cooler and water supply line, disconnect the water line, cover the cooler, and unplug it from the power supply, especially if it will not be used for an extended amount of time.

Still Have Questions?

For more information on specific evaporative coolers and other products that can improve your indoor air, review our extensive product listings and visit our Evaporative Cooling Knowledge Center. Not sure what's best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Contact our product experts toll-free at 1-800-934-9194. We want to help make your indoor environment healthy and comfortable.

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