Does An Evaporative Cooler Really Work?

Evaporative cooling sounds like a great alternative to air conditioning. But does it really work?

Maybe you are looking for an alternative to the clucky air conditions or living in a low humidity area. Whatever the case may be, evaporative coolers are a great option.

An evaporative cooler does cool the air in your home. It works by pulling in warm air, which is then cooled by passing through a moistened pad. The moisture in the pad evaporates, which results in cooler and more humid air being expelled. That being said, evaporative coolers work best in dry climates. 

In this post, we will talk about the effectiveness of evaporative coolers and the science behind cooling. We will also discuss some pros and cons of evaporative cooling and some models to consider for your home.

How Effective Is An Evaporative Cooler?

An evaporative cooler can be a very effective cooling option for your home. But there are a few things you want to consider when assessing the effectiveness of an evaporative cooler.

Follow the guide below for deciding if an evaporative cooler is right for you.

The following is a list of questions you can use to determine if an evaporative cooler is the best decision for you:

  • Do you have easy access to water? – An evaporative cooler uses a steady supply of water to help cool the air down. If you live in an area with strict water usage guidelines or restrictions, you may not want an evaporative cooler.
  • Do you live in a humid or dry climate? – If you live in a humid climate, an evaporative cooler will not work effectively. It will increase the humidity in your home, and the air will not be cooled because there is already so much water in it.
  • Do you want to reduce your electric bill? – An evaporative cooler uses less electricity than the average air conditioner. By using an evaporative cooler, you may be able to reduce your energy bill. 

Effective evaporative coolers have a specific range of temperatures in which they work well. They also may only be effective in your area during a certain time of year. 

Here is how to make an evaporative cooler more effective in five steps:

  • “Warm-up” your evaporative cooler – Give the machine time to circulate some water through the moisture pad before turning on the fan. Allow about 15 minutes of warm-up time for maximum efficiency.
  • Be selective about when you use it – When humidity levels rise above 70 percent, the evaporative cooler does not work as well as it should. And it might actually add more humidity making the space more uncomfortable. 
  • Check the water reservoir – Make sure the water tank is full to avoid spreading around more hot air.
  • Create a cross breeze – Your house needs a cross breeze, which naturally draws in air from outdoors through your house; maximize your evaporative cooler’s efficiency by reducing the amount of work it is doing.
  • Perform maintenance as neededClean your unit at the beginning and end of a season by doing the following: vacuum fans, grills, and filters, wipe down the machine to remove stains, dirt and dust, replace cooling pads if cracked or mildewy, wash the water reservoir with soap and water. 

An evaporative cooler is most effective in dry climates or in areas where humidity is low. It is a great choice as an alternative to an air conditioner or fan. 

How Does An Evaporative Cooler Work?

An evaporative cooler works quite differently from an air conditioner. But all evaporative coolers use the same technology to keep your home cool.

Depending on your needs, you will consider if an evaporative cooler is built to function successfully in your home. 

An evaporative cooler generally has four main components:

  1. A fan or blower – The air must move from outside of your house by some means. Most evaporative coolers either have a fan or blower that can pull air into the system and blow it across the moisture pad.
  2. A moisture pad – This can be in the form of many types of media. It holds water and allows air to be passed through it.
  3. A water reservoir – The moisture pad must be moistened in some way. Many models have a pump that keeps the water in the reservoir moving, so the pad stays moistened.
  4. An air filter – This feature is not present on all models, but many evaporative coolers have an air filter that has to be maintained separately from the moisture pad.

These components work together to cool the air it is bringing into your home. The following steps are the basic aspects of a working evaporative cooler:

  1. Air is taken in through a rear vent or duct. Some ducts are connected to outdoor air. 
  2. This air passed through a moisture pad soaked with room temperature or ice-cold water. 
  3. The air collects water molecules that have been evaporated when passing over the moisture pad and results in air that has a cooler temperature by up to 20 to 30 degrees.
  4. The air is expelled out of the front of the evaporative cooler via fan or blower or into ductwork to travel throughout a larger home. 
Portable Evaporative Cooler

There are two different types of evaporative coolers, which can slightly alter how the air is taken in and expelled out of the machine:

  • Portable evaporative coolers
  • Whole-house evaporative coolers

With a whole-house evaporative cooler, it can be installed in various locations:

  • On the roof of your home 
  • On the ground, as a horizontal unit
  • In a window
  • On the wall

The Benefits And Drawbacks of Evaporative Cooling

An evaporative cooler has many benefits, but it can have a few drawbacks if you do not understand the evaporative cooler’s limits before buying one. 

The following chart shows the advantages and disadvantages of evaporative cooling:

ProsCons
Energy-efficient. Filter that reduces air pollution. Great for dry climates. Indoor and outdoor models. Available and inexpensive investment. Many models are portable. No installation is required for most models. Uses fresh air. Zero emissions.Can increase humidity by adding moisture to the air. Must be sized appropriately for the space you are trying to cool to be effective. Not good for humid climates. Requires access to water.

As you can see, the advantages of evaporative cooling outweigh the drawbacks.

An evaporative cooler can be very useful, as it is an environmentally friendly and economical purchase.  

How Do The Types of Evaporative Coolers Compare?

If you have been convinced to purchase an evaporative cooler, you may be wondering which option is best for you! Look no further than the helpful chart below, which has collated important information on the different types of evaporative coolers. 

The following chart compares four different types of evaporative coolers:

Type of Evaporative CoolerKey Features
Portable CoolersAn indoor evaporative cooler, generally not suited to be exposed to the weather. Offers a lightweight option. Only cools small spaces, like a single room in your home. Requires that you have control of the water flow.
Down Discharge CoolersBest for cooling a central location. Can be attached to ducts to cool larger areas. Can withstand the elements as it was designed to be installed outdoors. Installed on the roof. Pushes air down from the top of your house.
Window or Through-the-Wall CoolersAnother type of indoor evaporative cooler. Not designed to cool an entire house. Usually, these models can only cool one room. Window units can be attached to ductwork to cool larger homes.
Side Discharge CoolersGreat for cooling the whole house. If need installation can be on the roof of your house with some adjustments to the airflow direction. Usually installed on the side of your house through the attic.

If you are still confused about what evaporative cooler is the right choice for you, reach out to a local HVAC service or go to a home improvement store for guidance. 

Popular Features of Evaporative Coolers

Many evaporative coolers have the same features, but you can find a model that suits all your needs.

Many times, people will think an evaporative cooler will cool just as well as an air conditioner. This statement is only true in some regions and even then during specific times of the year. 

Evaporative Cooler

The following is a list of popular features you can find in an evaporative cooler:

  • Blower or fan for airflow
  • Detailed control panel
  • Drain valve
  • Hose connector for water tank
  • Ice compartments
  • Moisture or cooling pads made from various materials, like wood shavings or cellulose
  • Remote control
  • Timer
  • Water inlet
  • Water level indicator
  • A water tank or reservoir 

As you can see, there are quite a few features that you can choose from when shopping for an evaporative cooler.

If you want to buy an evaporative cooler, it may be helpful to read online reviews or go into a store to compare various models. 

In Summary Evaporative Coolers Really Do Work Well

Evaporative coolers really can cool your house. These coolers are very popular out in the Western United States, where dry heat is a major obstacle.

If you are not living in an area where dry heat is prevalent, you can still use an evaporative cooler. Try using an evaporative cooler in the transitions between spring and summer or summer and fall. 

However, an evaporative cooler is not for you if you need to reduce your home’s humidity. Evaporative coolers work specifically by adding water molecules to the air, which increases humidity.