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Evaporative Cooling vs. Air Conditioning: A True Comparison

While evaporative cooling is one of the oldest forms of climate control still found today, evaporative coolers remain a highly sought-after alternative to traditional air conditioning. While very effective and efficient when used properly, these cooling units are not for use everywhere. Due to the evaporative process used by these swamp coolers, these cooling units are best used in hot, dry climates, including the Southwestern United States. In these climates, however, an evaporative cooler can be your most effective and efficient means of climate control. There are many different benefits of evaporative cooling, but to truly understand them, you have to compare evaporative coolers to more traditional air conditioners.

The comparison below covers some of the biggest benefits of evaporative coolers:

Evaporative CoolingTraditional Cooling
 - Economical to operate  - Higher-cost to operate
 - Energy efficient - Higher energy usage
 - Best used in hot, dry climates - Effective in any climate
 - Fresh, clean air - Recirculated air
 - Inexpensive installation - More up front installation costs
 - Minimal maintenance required - Regular cleaning needed
 - Very low CO2 emissions  - Higher emissions comparatively 
 - Adds moisture to the air - Removes moisture from the air
 - Allows for open windows and doors - Effective in enclosed space
 - Quiet operation  - Some are noisy when running

Operational costs

Evaporative swamp coolers are highly efficient and economical cooling devices that, on-the-whole, will operate for less money than an air conditioner. Evaporative coolers cost less to both operate and maintain than their air conditioning counterparts. In addition to being inexpensive to install, evaporative coolers also do not require anything more than minimal seasonal maintenance. Traditional cooling devices, however, require regular cleaning of the air filter to ensure the unit is operating at maximum efficiency. Evaporative coolers also use less energy while operating when compared to typical a/c units.

It is important to remember that due to the evaporation process, an evaporative cooler is most efficient in an area that is both hot and dry, without a lot of moisture in the air.

Air Quality

Due to the cooling process utilized by evaporative coolers, these units work best by circulating outside air throughout your home or office. This ensures that your air is fresh and does not become stale. This also means you can operate your evaporative cooler with your windows and doors wide open. In contrast, air conditioners and other traditional coolers work best in enclosed areas, and typically will only work well when windows and doors are closed. Thus, these units are forced to constantly recirculate the same air within your room in an effort to keep cold air within your room.

Moisture Levels

Evaporative coolers use their simple cooling technology to inject moisture into the air, cooling your home or office through evaporation. This added moisture can keep your eyes and skin from drying out. Traditional air conditioners remove moisture from the air, which can be difficult on your eyes and can cause your skin to dry out and crack. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, an evaporative cooler can help with your symptoms. Dry air can aggravate allergies and asthma, especially in children and the elderly, so an evaporative cooler and the added moisture it provides can be particularly beneficial.

Environmental Concerns

While some traditional air conditioning units emit a particular level of carbon dioxide, evaporative coolers emit a much lower level of CO2. Evaporative swamp coolers also use less energy, which not only keeps costs down, but is better for the environment. If you're more worried about noise pollution, then an evaporative cooler also has you covered. Evaporative units operate much quieter than traditional air conditioners, making them a perfect cooling option for the bedroom, office, or any other area where you have to monitor noise levels. In contrast, air conditioners are typically much louder when operating. However, there are some portable air conditioners that run quietly and can still be used in bedrooms or offices.

For more information on evaporative swamp coolers, check out these resources:

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