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Swamp Cooler Overview

Swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers , are effective, efficient devices used for cooling. As a direct replacement for traditional air conditioning units in arid climates, these coolers use the process of evaporation to lower the temperature in a room or area, thus making them extremely energy-efficient. Here's a general overview of how this air cooler works and the benefits one has to offer.

What's a swamp cooler and how is it different from an AC?

"Swamp cooler," "evaporative cooler," and "air cooler" are just some of the many names associated with this simple appliance, but don't get them confused with an air conditioner. Air conditioners (including portable ACs) produce a cooling effect by using the refrigeration cycle and a coolant such as Freon. The unit's components are usually housed in a box-like frame that includes both the hot and cold sides of the air conditioner, and an exhaust hose expels the air. Swamp air coolers work differently.


Both air coolers and air conditioners aim to cool spaces, but swamp style air coolers are definitely a low technology alternative because they use evaporative technology to cool the air. These coolers add humidity to the air while air conditioners remove it. Refrigerants aren't used, and while air conditioners operate best in a closed environment, these coolers provide a constant supply of fresh air. Furthermore, unlike standard refrigerating cooling which requires an enclosed space, an air cooler needs adequate airflow and ventilation in order to expel warm air and to achieve effective cooling.

During the scorching hot summers of the 1920s, people residing in the American Southwest would rest on screened-in "sleeping porches" which had water-soaked sheets or blankets hung on the outside and  electric fans pulling in this hot air through the moist clothes. Cooling comfort was the result, and this became the precursor to the modern swamp cooler.

Although modern evaporative air coolers are more sophisticated nowadays, they still use the same basic technology as noted above, and if you live in a hot, dry area, this cooler can be one of the most effective and affordable means to beat the heat. In optimal weather conditioners, an evaporative air cooler has the ability to reduce the ambient temperature by up to 20° F. Moreover, this cooler can be many times more cost-effective to use when compared to standard refrigerated cooling.

How does a swamp cooler work?

These coolers are simple, low-tech devices because they cool with evaporation, and at one point or another, we've all experienced evaporative cooling. In fact, the principle can be akin to wearing a wet t-shirt and standing in front of a fan. Assuming the climate is dry and the humidity levels are low, a cooling (and sometimes even chilling) effect will be felt instantaneously. However, on the other hand, in areas with high-humidity, this will only result in a feeling of dampness on the skin and in the air.

icon_bulb-blue-1 Swamp Cooler Buying Tip
Always remember that these coolers work best in arid climates; in other words, in temperatures above 80° F and with humidity levels below 30%. 

In terms of design, evaporative coolers can either include casters for portability, can be mounted on a building's roof, or even be placed on the exterior walls or windows of a building. In terms of technology, for the most part, two types of air coolers exist: direct and indirect. Direct coolers are more common, and these work by lowering the ambient temperature by changing water to vapor, and then transforming warm, dry air to cool, moist air.

Swamp Cooler OverviewOn the other hand, indirect coolers use some sort of heat exchanger. Again, swamp coolers used in residential settings tend to use direct evaporation in an enclosed box with vented sides and a centrifugal fan, as well as an electric pump and cooling pads. The cooling pads can be constructed of materials such as excelsior, plastic, or melamine paper, and its thickness is integral to a cooler's cooling efficiency. The pump then circulates water to keep these pads wet and the fan blows air through the pad. As a result, the damp and cool air is blown into the house while the hot air is driven outside via windows or vents.

In addition to being cost-effective and reliable, these coolers are also versatile. Portable coolers are perfect for home or office use, while industrial-sized coolers such as those manufactured by Port-A-Cool  are ideal for commercial applications like garages, warehouses, and agricultural areas. Also, because these evaporative coolers use very little electricity and have large-capacity water tanks, they are suitable for outdoor settings such as stadiums, athletic fields, and concerts.

What does a swamp cooler need to operate?

These air coolers have a few requirements: sufficient space for the unit, an electrical outlet, water to cool the cooling media, and adequate airflow and ventilation.

Top 5 reasons to buy a swamp cooler

  1. Energy-Efficient - These coolers use substantially less electricity when compared to an air conditioner with the same cooling capacity (up to ?? that of refrigerated air).
  2. Cleans the Air - The moist pads in an air cooler also act as air filters and keep dust and particles out of a house while also providing a constant source of fresh air.
  3. Versatile - As long as humidity levels are low enough, evaportative coolers can be used in a variety of settings such as homes, garages, and athletic stadiums.
  4. Humidifies the Air - In addition to providing cooling comfort, these coolers add moisture to the air and keeps furniture and fabrics from drying out.
  5. Inexpensive - Because they use simple technology, swamp coolers are cheaper to buy, maintain, and install than most air conditioners.

How Swamp Coolers Can Save You Money

How Evaporative Cooling Works

Portable Cooling Guide Main Page

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