How Swamp Coolers Work: Ultimate Guide

Whether you are in need of a cooling device for your home or you’re wanting to replace the one you already have, swamp coolers should be considered. In this guide, we will go over how swamp coolers work.

Swamp coolers work by using evaporation to cool the air. It works by drawing in hot, dry air and passing it over a wet pad. As the air passes over the pad, water evaporates from the surface, cooling the air. The cooled air is then circulated through the house or building using a fan.

how swamp cooler works

It’s hot outside. You’re sweating and uncomfortable, and you can’t seem to get cool no matter what you do. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to cool down without spending a fortune on air conditioning?

If you’re wondering how swamp coolers work, read on. You may find that this simple solution is just what you need to beat the heat.

But there are climates where an evaporative cooler is not recommended, so don’t toss out your standard air conditioner until you read this.

Switching to high-efficiency air conditioners and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning by 20% to 50%. 

US Department of Energy

Important to note is that swamp coolers and evaporative coolers are basically the same things, and those two terms may be used interchangeably throughout this article.

How Swamp Coolers Works

A swamp cooler, also known as an evaporative cooler, is a device that uses evaporation to cool air. It works by drawing in hot, dry air and passing it over a wet pad. As the air passes over the pad, water evaporates from the surface, cooling the air. The cooled air is then circulated through the house or building using a fan.

Evaporative coolers are relatively simple devices, but they can be very effective in achieving the desired ambient temperature, especially in dry climates.

And unlike central air conditioning systems that recirculate the same air, evaporative coolers provide a continued source of fresh air to a home.

Because they rely on evaporation to function, however, they will not work in humid conditions.

Additionally, evaporative coolers require a constant supply of water to work properly, so they are not well suited for areas with limited water resources.

Why Does Evaporation Lower Temperature?

Unlike a traditional air conditioner which circulates cool air, a swamp cooler relies on the evaporation of water to lower the temperature. The unit pulls in warm, dry air and passes it over a wet pad. As the water evaporates, it cools the air, which is then circulated throughout the room.

When water evaporates, it absorbs heat from its surroundings, which can help to cool us down. This is why we feel cooler when we are sweating – the evaporation of sweat from our skin helps to lower our body temperature.

Understanding how evaporation works can help us to stay cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.

Evaporative Coolers Lower the Temperature in a Room by How Much?

Evaporative coolers can lower the air temperature in a room by 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, making them an effective way to beat the heat. In addition, evaporative coolers do not use harmful chemicals like Freon, making them a more environmentally-friendly option.

What Is a Swamp Cooler Used For?

Swamp coolers are typically used in arid climates, as they require a constant source of water to operate. When used properly, swamp coolers can be an effective and efficient way to cool a home or office.

They are also relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate, making them a popular choice for many people living in hot, dry climates.

Do Swamp Coolers Work in High Humidity?

Swamp coolers work by evaporating water to create a cooling effect. However, in order for evaporation to occur, the air must be dry. In humid conditions, the air is already saturated with water vapor, so evaporation cannot take place. As a result, swamp coolers are much less effective in humid climates.

A more fitting alternative for those residing in high-humidity areas is to invest in both a dehumidifier and an energy-efficient AC.

Do Swamp Coolers Increase Humidity?

While swamp coolers can be an effective way to cool the air, they can also increase humidity levels. This is because the evaporation process adds water vapor to the air.

Swamp coolers are not very effective in climates with high humidity, because the humidity interferes with the evaporation process.

In addition, the cooled air can often feel damp and musty, which can be unpleasant for some people. As a result, evaporative coolers are best suited for dry climates.

Swamp Cooler vs. Air Conditioner

There are a few key differences between swamp coolers and air conditioners (AC). Swamp coolers use evaporation to cool the air, while air conditioners use refrigeration. Also, swamp coolers require a constant source of water in order to operate, while air conditioners do not.

AC units require a large amount of electricity as it runs the compressor to cool the air, the heat exchanger that works to draw the heat out of the air, as well as the fan that circulates the cooled air full of chemicals.

Swamp coolers can be less expensive to purchase and operate than air conditioners. As a result, swamp coolers are a popular choice for cooling homes in arid climates.

However, air conditioners are generally more effective at cooling than swamp coolers, making them a better choice for hot, humid climates.

Can Swamp Coolers Make You Sick?

There are some potential health risks associated with swamp coolers. The most common concern is that they can encourage the growth of mold and bacteria, which the CDC points out as the culprit for many health problems. If the air cooler is not properly maintained, these organisms can be released into the air, causing respiratory issues.

Swamp coolers can also circulate dust and other allergens. As a result, people with allergies or asthma may be at greater risk of experiencing symptoms when using this type of cooling system.

Despite these potential risks, swamp coolers can be safe and effective if they are properly maintained.

Regular cleaning and filter changes will help to reduce the presence of bacteria and mold, while also minimizing the circulation of dust and other allergens.

As long as these precautions are taken, swamp coolers can be an excellent way to stay cool and comfortable in dry climates.

Further, having more humidity in the air is actually beneficial to your health in several ways. Humid air helps to keep your skin hydrated and can reduce the amount of static electricity in your home.

Additionally, humid air can help to alleviate some respiratory problems, such as congestion and throat irritation.

So by keeping up on your swamp cooler maintenance to ensure it’s routinely cleaned and free from bacteria, you can have the comfort of a cooler temperature as well as some added health benefits.

Are Swamp Coolers Loud?

As you may imagine, the stronger more powerful swamp coolers tend to be louder, making talking on the phone while sitting next to it a bit of a challenge. Not everyone needs a monster powerhouse cooler, so not all swamp coolers are as noisy.

Many evaporative coolers are relatively quiet when compared to other types of air conditioners. The only noise you’re likely to hear is the sound of water flowing through the system and the fan blowing air over the wet wick.

While swamp coolers are not completely silent, they can be much quieter than traditional air conditioners.

How Long Do Swamp Coolers Last?

Swamp coolers require regular maintenance and typically only last for about 10 years. The most common cause of premature failure is corrosion, which can be caused by high humidity levels or exposure to chemicals such as chlorine.

To prolong the life of your evaporative cooler, be sure to regularly clean the unit and keep it free of debris. You should also have the unit serviced by a professional at least once a year.

By following these simple tips, you can help ensure that your swamp cooler will provide years of reliable service.

How Much Are Swamp Coolers?

The price of a swamp cooler can range widely depending on the size, brand, and features you want. A small, good-quality cooler can cost around $200 or more, while a larger one can range anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

Swamp coolers can fit practically any budget, making them a popular choice for many families.

People find that evaporative coolers are an economical way to keep their home or office cool during the summer months.

What Size of a Swamp Cooler Do I Need?

The output of evaporative coolers is rated by CFMs as opposed to air conditioners, which use BTUs to gauge cooling effectiveness. The formula to use for choosing the right size swamp cooler is pretty basic. 

This measurement simply refers to the cubic feet per minute of air that the evaporative air cooler can flow into your home.

Let me give you an example to hopefully make this really easy for you. Let’s say that your living room is 15′ x 9 ‘. Multiplied, that’s 135 square feet of living room space.

Now take the ceiling height of say, 8′ and multiply that by 135. The calculation is 1,080, which means your cubic footage for your living room is 1,080.

Now divide your cubic feet by 2, which gives you 540. This means that you will need a swap cooler that provides around 540 CFMs.

Knowing the CFMs you will need will help you determine the size of the swamp cooler that will be most beneficial for the area you wish to cool.

Pros and Cons of Swamp Coolers

As with everything else in life, swamp coolers have their pros and cons. Let’s take a look at a few of them here:

Pros of Swamp Coolers

One of the best ways to stay cool in a hot, dry climate is with a swamp cooler. Swamp coolers work by using evaporative cooling to lower the temperature of the air. As the name implies, swamp coolers use water to evaporate and cool the air.

Pros of using a swamp cooler are below:

  • They are much less expensive to operate than air conditioners.
  • Ideal for use in dry climates, since they rely on evaporation to cool the air.
  • Very effective at cooling a space.
  • They do not require Freon or other harmful chemicals, making them a more environmentally-friendly option.
  • Swamp coolers can actually improve the quality of the air, as they help to filter out dust and other pollutants.

Overall, evaporative coolers offer a number of advantages over traditional air conditioners.

Cons of Swamp Coolers

There are some potential cons that you should be aware of before purchasing a swamp cooler. Let’s take a look at a few here:

  • They require a constant source of water in order to function properly. If you live in an area with frequent droughts or water restrictions, this can be a major issue.
  • Swamp coolers can be less effective than air conditioners in very humid conditions. If the humidity level is high, the evaporative process will not work as well, and your home will not be cooled as effectively.
  • These coolers can be louder than air conditioners, making them less ideal for use in apartments or other buildings where noise levels are strictly regulated.
  • Periodic cleaning and maintenance are required, which can be time-consuming.

Despite these potential drawbacks, swamp coolers can still be a great option for cooling your home, as long as you understand their limitations.

Tips for Maintaining Your Swamp Cooler

Here are some tips for maintaining your swamp cooler:

  • Clean the cooling pads regularly – this will ensure that the cooler works at its best capacity. Replace the cooling pads yearly.
  • Make sure the water reservoir is full – if there isn’t enough water, the cooler won’t be able to function properly.
  • Clean the water tank with hot, soapy water and rinse with clean water.
  • To prevent mineral buildup and if recommended by the manufacturer, use water treatment tablets. This will prevent mineral buildup and corrosion.
  • Keep the area around the cooler clear – if there is too much clutter around it, the airflow will be disrupted and it won’t work as well.
  • Clean the exterior of your unit every few weeks to increase cooling efficiency.
  • Keep an eye on the thermostat – if the temperature in the room gets too low, you may need to adjust the thermostat setting on your cooler.
  • Unplug the unit when not in use and drain the water supply. Allow the unit to dry completely before storing it in a clean, dry place.

Are Air Conditioners Bad for the Environment?

In the United States, air conditioners are responsible for about 6% of all electricity used. That number might not seem like much, but it equals about 117 billion kilowatt hours annually, and it’s growing as the climate warms and more people install air conditioners.

The problem is that standard air conditioners run on refrigerants, which are greenhouse gases, so they contribute to climate change. And as the world warms, we’ll need more air conditioning, which will make the problem worse.

There are some things we can do to reduce the impact of air conditioners on the environment. For example, we can use more efficient refrigerants, which will leak less into the atmosphere.

We can also make sure our air conditioners are properly maintained so they don’t leak. And when it’s time to replace an old air conditioner, we can choose a model that’s more efficient.

But even with these steps, air conditioners will continue to be a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

So if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to find ways to cool our homes without using them.

If you live in a dry climate, you may want to consider switching to an evaporative air conditioner instead.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how swamp coolers work, you understand they are a great way to cool down without spending a fortune on air conditioning. They are less expensive to operate than air conditioners, are environmentally friendly, and work well in dry climates for a desired ambient temperature.

But in humid climates, they do not work as well as air conditioners and need to be cleaned and maintained from time to time.

Be sure to read the reviews before purchasing an evaporative cooler, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use.


Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.