In low-humidity areas, evaporative cooling provides a natural and energy-efficient means of air conditioning. Also known as whole house swamp coolers, evaporative air coolers don’t need the environment-degrading refrigerants that characterize conventional air conditioners. They also consume very little electricity.
Better still, these coolers now come in extra-large sizes for whole-house cooling, with some designed for spaces as large as 1,600 square feet. For context, the average American home measures around 2,600 square feet. It means that you just need two extra-large swamp coolers to serve your entire home.
We’ll discuss how to pick these (two) coolers shortly. However, let’s begin with a review of some of the best whole house portable evaporative coolers.
The following six products stand out as some of the best whole-house swamp coolers at the moment. They are not only very powerful (some are rated up to 5,000 CFM) but also boast incredible durability thanks to metal constructions. All these products are also backed by reliable warranties.
What’s an Evaporative Cooler?
An evaporative cooler is a type of home cooling appliance that works by harnessing the power of natural evaporation. When water evaporates, it transforms from liquid to gas. As it does so, the highest-energy particles leave the water first, leading to a drop in temperature.
This is why a moist cloth on your forehead on a warm day feels relaxing. As the highest energy-water particles evaporate, the temperature of the moisture left behind in the cloth drops, creating a cold feeling on the forehead. Best evaporative coolers employ the same principle.
How Do Best Evaporative Coolers Work?
The evaporative cooler primarily comprises a fan, thick pad(s), and water reservoir. The water reservoir must be filled with water before the evaporation process can begin.
Some coolers require manual refilling with a small container, while others allow for continuous refilling with a hose attached to the reservoir tank on one end and the home’s water supply on the other. Some coolers allow both options.
The thick cooling pads are designed to absorb and retain a lot of water, often comprising multiple layers to increase the surface area. They are also positioned such that all air coming into the cooler passes through the pads. The fan helps draw dry, hot air into the cooler, forcing it through the pads.
As the hot air crosses the pads, the water molecules on the surface evaporate, causing the air temperature inside the swamp cooler to drop, often by as much as 15-20 degrees. The fan then blows the cool air inside the cooler out of the unit and disperses it throughout the room.
Evaporative swamp coolers can have several other features built into the unit to add value. For instance, nearly all whole house swamp coolers utilize an air filter and media pads designed to improve air quality.
These filters and media pads eliminate airborne particles and allergens. They also minimize the growth of mold. Some also add ice packs to further cool their air coming into the home.
Relative Humidity – The Deal Breaker
If everything you’ve read up to this point sounds great, there’s one more very important thing you need to know before you make the final decision on evaporative coolers – relative humidity is at the heart of it all.
Swamp coolers are going to help you a lot more if you’re using them in a dry, hot climate compared to humid climates. Why? Because water particles separate and float more easily in dry climates than humid conditions, which are already saturated with water.
This makes evaporative swamp coolers a more valuable investment in the Southwest of the US. Including the states of California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Texas. Water evaporates a lot faster in these locations, making swamp coolers very effective.
Swamp Coolers vs. Air Conditioners
Swamp coolers are often compared to conventional air conditioners. While they both aim to lower indoor temperatures during the hot summer months, they employ entirely different approaches to cooling.
As we’ve seen, evaporative coolers leverage natural water evaporation to cool the air inside the unit. A specialized fan blows incoming warm air over water-soaked pads, resulting in evaporation at the surface of the pads. This causes a drop in temperature inside the swamp cooler. The cool air is then blown out of the portable evaporative cooler into the home thanks to an in-built fan.
Central air conditioners also intake cold air, cool it, and blow out cold air into the home. But how the air is cooled differs slightly. The appliances comprise a condenser coil with refrigerant. Refrigerants are chemicals specially formulated to extract heat from the air. The extracted heat is then dumped out of the house via a separate exhaust system while the now-cool air enters the house.
Whole House Swamp Cooler Pros and Cons
The evaporative cooling process comes with multiple advantages and several drawbacks over traditional air conditioning.
- Energy-saving potential: Swamp coolers are incredibly energy efficient. They draw as little as 15% to 35% of the energy you’d need to power a similar-sized air conditioner. Essentially, the evaporative fan only needs electricity to turn the built-in fan.
- Environment friendly: Evaporative coolers are very eco-friendly. Unlike air conditioners that rely on toxic refrigerants, the swamp cooler relies on 100% natural evaporation. Refrigerants are twice as hazardous to the environment as carbon dioxide.
- Lower upfront costs: The evaporative cooler is less complicated than the average air conditioner while also using simpler parts. This is often reflected in the upfront evaporative coolers cost. The evaporative swamp cooler will be more affordable for the same output, often by hundreds of dollars.
- Easier maintenance: Finally, whole house swamp coolers are also far easier to maintain. The most important things are maintaining the supply of water and changing the filters and pads as necessary. Anyone can do that without the help of a professional. Meanwhile, for traditional air conditioners, it’s strongly advised to hire a professional for the maintenance, with even regular checks costing $100+.
The two main drawbacks of evaporative air coolers are the need to refill the tank and the limited range of applications.
- Filling the tank can be a chore: In models that require manual refilling, it can be a tiring task. Many models now allow for continuous hose refilling. But this presents a new challenge – the risk of overfilling and potential water damage.
- Swamp coolers are only practical in deserts: The approach is almost impractical in humid areas where there’s already lots of moisture in the air.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Whole House Evaporative Cooler
Price, durability, and the quality of the build/construction are obviously two of the most important considerations when shopping for an evaporative whole-house cooler. However, the following seven factors are just as vital.
Size in CFM
This is the first thing to check when shopping for a whole-house portable evaporative coole. To determine the CFM value you need, determine the square footage of your home, multiply the figure by eight, and divide the result by two. Therefore, for a 2,500 square foot home, you need 2,500 x 8/2 = 10,000 CFM or thereabouts.
The next most important factor is the size of the tank. You want 7-12 water tank capacity for whole-home cooling, though some models come with tanks as large as 16 gallons.
Single or Two-Stage?
Two-stage coolers are a new breed of evaporative coolers that use a pre-cooler, more effective pads, and more efficient motors. They also don’t add as much humidity to the home as single-stage coolers.
Some coolers have an ice compartment where you can place some ice to further lower the temperature of the air destined for your home. The good news is that the presence of the ice compartment rarely affects the final price.
The best whole-home evaporative coolers include an air filtration mechanism to remove airborne particles, including dust and allergens, from inbound air. More importantly, scrutinize the quality of the filter and whether it’s washable/reusable.
Convenience features are functions and controls that make it easier to use the appliance. For evaporative air coolers, these include digital controls, remote control, and timers. Oscillating louvers and multiple cooling speeds are other features to consider.
Since whole-house swamp coolers can be expensive, it’s imperative to have a few manufacturer guarantees. A comprehensive warranty that covers common mechanical issues would go a long way.
- Which brand of evaporative coolers is the best? Essick Air, Champion, OEM Tools, Mastercool, and Hair are the best whole-house evaporative cooler brands. Beezeair and Braemar are other worthy options.
- How do I choose an evaporative cooler? Look at two main things – the CFM rating and tank size. The CFM rating, which ranges from 3,000 to 25,000, determines how well the evaporative cooler replaces warm air, while tank size determines how long it can work on a single refill.
- What size EVAP cooler do I need? To calculate the EVAP size you need, determine your home’s square footage, multiply the result by eight, and divide the final figure by two.
- How do I get the best results from evaporative cooling? Open your windows a little to help the air movement, use the cooler seasonally, make sure the pads are wet, and service the evaporative cooler regularly.
- Can you add ice to an evaporative cooler? Yes. However, this is only recommendable if the evaporative cooler comprises a special ice compartment. Otherwise, adding ice directly into the reservoir tank can hamper the cooling process.
Best Whole House Evaporative Cooler Reviews
1. OEM Tools 23976 3-Speed Evaporative Cooler
- COOL DOWN YOUR WORKSPACE: One OEMTOOLS 23976 Evaporative Cooler can cool an area up to 950 square feet, and provides 3,100 CFM of air delivery. With its built in oscillating louvers with swing function, this portable cooler provides MAXIMUM coverage and air circulation.
- SAVE MONEY: Evaporative air coolers are more energy efficient than air conditioners—especially in uninsulated spaces—and more effective than fans alone. They provide the most cooling power for the lowest electrical cost.
- WORK COOLER, WORK BETTER: When a workspace is too hot, it creates problems with safety, production accuracy, and employee morale. OEMTOOLS Evaporative Cooling Systems keep your workspace at a pleasant temperature, improving your workers’ experience and the quality of your work.
- POWER AND PORTABILITY: The Evap Cooler energy efficient cooling system comes with large casters for ultra-portability. OEMTOOLS Evaporative Coolers use 3 high-density media panels, which provide 80% more evaporation surface the average competitor’s solution.
- FULL SPECIFICATIONS: 1/5 HP 3-speed motor; Cools 950 sq. ft.; Oscillating design; Patented axial propeller is more efficient and provides better coverage; Molded with UV-resistant polypropylene resin, suitable for outdoor use; Direct-connect-to-hose feature enables constant water supply option; Large casters for mobility
- Evaporative coolers work best in areas that are dry and hot, and do not perform as well in humid areas.
- 3100 CFM
The model 23976 OEM Tools evaporative cooler is a compact, quiet, and energy-efficient large-space cooling solution that can easily serve a small home.
It features three XeL50 media panels (most portable evaporative coolers feature only one panel), which provides a larger air intake area while reducing the pre-rotation of the air to the propeller.
The result is lower static pressure and greater energy efficiency in air delivery to the propeller. The high-density media panels also provide an 80% larger evaporation surface, ensuring greater evaporation efficiency and longer appliance life.
The unit can cool an extensive area. It’s designed for up to 950 square feet. Remember that evaporative coolers aren’t the same as air conditioners. They use up much less energy.
The model 23976 is made with UV-resistant polypropylene resin, creating a robust and lightweight design that’s excellent for outdoor use. The patented axial propeller design is quiet, energy-efficient, and can throw air to every corner of the home – the oscillating design ensures even greater coverage.
It connects easily to the water supply thanks to a direct-connect-to-hose feature and features large castor wheels for effortless mobility. Looking for powerful units, get the portable evaporative coolers.
- Powerful 3,100 CFM cooler
- Ideal for up to 950 square feet
- Boasts a 10.3-gallon water capacity
- GFCI plug for outdoor safety
- Energy efficiency
- 1-year limited manufacturer warranty
- It’s a little bulky at 40 lbs
- It comes in a plastic cabinet
2. Mastercool 5,000 CFM Belt-Driven Ducted Evaporative Cooler with Motor
The MasterCool #AD1C51 is a ducted evaporative cooler that quickly pulls hot, dry air through wet pads to release a cool, evaporative breeze at the other end.
It uses tap water with no added chemicals and operates on less energy than condenser air conditioners. Though mostly used indoors, the rugged, rust and corrosion-free design means it works just as well outdoors.
This single-inlet residential cooler holds thicker media than multiple-inlet evaporative coolers, increasing contact time with the warm input air for more thorough evaporation while using less cooling power.
It can be used in new installations or as a replacement for existing single-inlet evaporative coolers. Remember that the portable evaporative cooler connects to your ductwork to distribute cool air throughout the home.
The MasterCool #AD1C51 is ducted on the side and comes with 8-inch thick pads, engineered for maximum airflow and superior durability. The unit can accommodate a 1/3, ½, or ¾ HP motor (sold separately) depending on your cooling needs.
Once set up, the evaporative cooler circulates air at up to 5,000 CFM depending on the motor selection and can cool spaces up to 1,650 square feet. It’s easy to connect to the water supply and comes in a galvanized steel cabinet with a tough polyester coating for extended durability.
- Delivers up to 5,000 CFM
- Ideal for up to 1,600+ square feet
- Galvanized steel cabinet for prolonged use
- Easily removable louvers
- 1-year parts, 5-year media warranty
- Weighs a massive 227 lbs
- It’s a single-speed cooler
3. Champion Cooler 6,600 CFM Ductdown Cooler N56/66D Evaporative (Swamp) Cooler
- Evapcool 6500 CFM down draft duct cooler cools 1400-2400 sq ft motor choice 1/2 HP
- Evapcool 6500 CFM down draft duct cooler cools 1400-2400 sq ft motor choice 1/2 HP not included
- The country of origin is United States
The Champion Cooler Model 5000DD is the natural, economical way to add a cool breeze to your entire home during the hot months. It’s designed for high-performance, easy installation, and low maintenance.
Moreover, the cooler is designed and made in the US of heavy-gauge galvanized steel that’s powder-coated for weather resistance and extreme durability.
The downdraft powerful evaporative cooler uses ½ or ¾ HP motor (sold separately) and can operate at up to 6,600 CFM, depending on the motor. It can also serve a 1,400-2,400 square foot area based on the chosen motor.
It’s a very quiet cooler, which makes it an excellent choice for indoor use. However, the durable housing means it’s usable outdoor too. The 19 ¾ x 19 ¾ x 9 5/8 duct opening allows you to connect the cooler to your home conveniently.
You’ll also love the bolted construction. It makes the unit easy to install and provides effortless access to the internal components during maintenance. A single-piece bottom pan for leak-proof operation keeps maintenance low, while a high-performance pump inside the unit ensures efficient water delivery. The evaporative cooler comes with an 8-year limited warranty on the housing.
- Enjoy up to 6,600 CFM
- Cools up to 2,400 square feet
- Features a 2-speed motor
- Air swing delivery system
- UV-stabilized, polyester powder finish
- 8-year limited warranty on the housing
- Not very portable
- It’s rather expensive
4. Essick Air Window Evaporative Cooler, RN50W
- Cools up to 1,600 sq. ft.
- Includes 2 speed, 1/2 HP, 120V motor, remote control, installation kit & leveling leg
- Adjustable air vents, machine balanced blower wheel & permanently lubricated pump
- Manufactured using a heavy-gauge galvanized steel with a polyester powder-coated finish for durability
- UL Listed & built in USA of domestic and imported parts
Another Made in the US evaporative whole-house cooler, the Essick Air Model RN50W, is a window cooler designed for homes up to 1,600 square feet.
It’s engineered for maximum airflow and superior durability and saves energy while guaranteeing many years of worry-free comfort for you and your family.
It circulates air at up to 4,700 CFM for powerful cooling and comes in a bolted construction for easy installation and quick access to replacement parts.
A machine-balanced blower wheel ensures smooth, quiet operation and maximum air delivery. Remote control means you can adjust the cooling levels from your seat’s comfort up to 20 feet away.
The cabinet is made from heavy, galvanized steel to resist weather elements. More importantly, all the metal parts are treated for corrosion resistance with an electrostatically applied UV-stabilized polyester powder finish and permanently lubricated for minimal maintenance and many years of worry-free use.
The ½ HP, 2-speed portable evaporative cooler plugs into the standard 110V power outlet. All the necessary installation components are included, including a leveling leg.
For your peace of mind, it’s backed by an 8-year warranty that replaces the base assembly if water leakage occurs due to rust. A 1-year warranty replaces all the other original parts.
- Cools up to 1,600 square feet
- Convenient remote control
- Heavy-gauge, weather/rust-resistant cabinet
- Adjustable air vents and machine balanced blower
- UL Listed in the USA
- Requires professional installation
- Not exactly portable
5. Phoenix Manufacturing BW4002 Evaporative Window Cooling Unit
- Cool up to 1,000 square feet of space, powerful 1/3 HP, 115 Volts and 2 speed motor
- Easy plug in to 120 V outlets
- Easy plug-in connections to junction box
- Durable low sump pump MIRROSCOPIC polished blower shaft finishing process give longer bearing and shaft life
- 10 year warranty against leakage due to rust out; 1 yr. parts
A member of the Brisa line of evaporative coolers from Phoenix, the Model BW4002 delivers more cubic feet of cooled air per minute than most best evaporative coolers in its class.
This means faster cooling and more significant savings. Quick research shows that it consumes 15% to 28% less energy than comparable models to achieve the same cooling results.
The cooler’s key features include a microscopic blower shaft finish process that yields a 90% improvement on industry-standard “ground finish” and a convenient drain pipe assembly that allows connection to a water hose to drain the unit.
This unique finish also enables quieter operation, longer bearing, and extended shaft life. The portable evaporative cooler also comes with oversized balanced blower wheels that generate maximum cooler air while ensuring quiet operation.
At just 120 lb., it’s one of the lighter evaporative coolers on this list. It’s also straightforward to set up. The junction box allows effortless plug-in connections of the pump and motor (it’s a very reliable 2-speed motor) while the grille and duct assembly are pre-assembled.
As such, you just need to mount the appliance to the window, connect to a water supply, connect it to a power outlet, and you’re ready to begin cooling. All the metal surfaces are coated with an electrostatically applied, UV-stabilized polyester powder finish for a beautiful, durable finish.
- Ideal for up to 1,000 square feet
- Easy-access gravity-held doors
- Afloat valve controls the water level
- Durable, polyester powder coated finish
- 10-year leakage, 1-year parts warranty
- Fixed installation; no mobility
- Requires professional installation
6. Hessaire MC61M Evaporative Cooler, 5,300 CFM
- PORTABLE - 4 heavy duty locking casters for cooling home, patio or workshop spaces up to 1,600 square feet
- COMPACT YET POWERFUL – 46x17x28 inches; 5,300 Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM); 3 fan speeds and oscillating louvers to ensure even distribution, wide coverage and comfort
- EASY TO OPERATE & SIMPLE TO MAINTAIN – 3 simple rotary controls allow the fan (Off, Hi, Med, Low), pump (On, Off) and oscillation motor (On, Off) to be controlled independently
- MANUAL & CONTINUOUS FILL – Utilize the Continuous Fill option by attaching a household hose with the included float adapter, eliminating the need to manually watch and fill the water tank
- SUPERCHARGED, ECONOMICAL COOLING – 3-sided rigid high-density cooling pads for increased evaporative surface area generating cooler air
Finally, if you’re looking for a more portable whole-house evaporative cooler, another great option would be the Hessaire MC61M. It’s easy to operate thanks to the three simple rotary controls (Off, Hi, Med, and Low). Meanwhile, the pump and oscillation motor are either on or off but are both controlled independently.
The continuous fill swamp cooler connects to a manual household hose. A unique float adapter is included, eliminating the need to watch as the tank refills. Three-sided, rigid high-density cooling pads increase the surface area generating the cool air.
The swamp cooler can generate up to 5,300 cubic feet of cool air per minute and is fitted with oscillating louvers for comprehensive coverage and optimal comfort.
The 14.6-gallon removable water tank can last up to four hours on a single refill. Better still, it’s a lightweight 84-pound unit, perfect for indoor use. You can even take it on camping trips, cookouts, and tailgating. Four castor wheels, and two non-locking ensure mobility and safe use.
The cooler plugs into the standard 115-volt power outlet and draws 430 watts when running. It runs at 0.2 HP or 1/3 HP and comes with an 84-inch cord and overheating protection features. Buyers get a one-year limited manufacturer warranty.
- Ideal for up to 1,600 square feet
- Manual rotary controls allow easy operation
- Three fan speeds and oscillating louvers
- Castor wheels ensure mobility
- Backed by a 1-year warranty
- No remote control
The portable evaporative cooler you eventually choose to take home will depend on multiple factors, including personal preferences. However, there are a few basics every swamp cooler shopper must keep in mind.
As you plan for the sunny weather ahead, investing in a swamp cooler would be a wise idea. Incredibly energy-efficient and just as effective as traditional air conditioners, the swamp cooler effortlessly removes hot, stale from your spaces, replacing it with cool, refreshing air for relaxing afternoons and stress-free evenings – and they’re also more affordable