There are several different types of air cooling device ranging from air conditioners to basic fans and swamp coolers come somewhere in between. Where a portable aircon unit uses a gas refrigerant and heat exchanger to produce cold air, a swamp cooler only uses plain water which it cools by evaporation.
This makes the swamp cooler much more economical to buy and to run than its power hungry alternative, although using evaporation does have its limitations. But first, lets look at the benefits.
As long as you live in a climate that has predominantly dry heat, or a low humidity level, then a swamp cooler can effectively reduce the temperature in a room by as much as thirty degrees Fahrenheit. It does it by passing air through a damp membrane that is simply an absorbent, loose knit material that has been stretched over an open frame.
The material is kept damp thanks to the lower part being immersed in a small reservoir of plain water. This water can be chilled by adding ice cubes to help lower the air temperature further. A simple fan forces the air through the material and into the room.
There are no other moving parts to the swamp cooler (except for models that include a timer mechanism) which means that power consumption is kept very low. It also means there are fewer things that can go wrong with the device, making for better longevity and useful service.
However, if you live in a damp climate, or one with high average humidity, the swamp cooler is far less effective at cooling the air. This is because for evaporative cooling to work, the air must not contain too much moisture already.
In dry climates, this is not a problem, because the swamp cooler performs two important functions. They are:
1. Cooling the air to make it more comfortable, and
2. Humidifying it, helping you to breathe easier
But when the ambient humidity is high, the air is already heavy with moisture and adding more to it will not lower its temperature by much. In fact the effectiveness of the swamp cooler in cooling the air goes down the high the humidity level is.
For people who live in hot climates with high humidity, using an air conditioning unit is really the only viable way to chill the air effectively. Please read our articles and reviews on portable air conditioners to find one that suits your needs.
Are You Lucky?
If you do happen to live in a hot, dry climate then you are one of the lucky ones who will benefit greatly from using a swamp cooler to keep you cool in preference to an air conditioner.
You will get a high level of cooling for far less cost in terms of power usage. Also, the purchase price of evaporative coolers is far lower than comparable portable aircon units, so you win in both departments!