Evaporative Cooler vs. Air Conditioner: Which is Best For You?

Josh Miller

Josh is a contributing writer to the site and former HVAC specialist.

Last Updated on April 22, 2021

Do the unbearable heat and humidity constantly spoil your summers? If so, you’ll need to make sure you implement an effective cooling system in your home so you can withstand the heat. 

But when it comes to cooling your home, how can you be sure of the best methods for you? From cost-effective solutions to systems that suit your climate, sometimes you can be torn between evaporative cooler vs. air conditioner technologies. 

Each has its pros and cons, so it’s essential to do your research before purchasing one of these systems. Breaking down the differences between the two options can help you decide which cooling technology is best for you. 

Evaporative Cooler vs. Air Conditioner Which is Best For You
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Table of Contents

What is an Evaporative Cooler?

An evaporative cooler is a type of air conditioning system that uses the evaporation process to cool air temperatures. When water evaporates, it changes from a liquid to a gas. As this process unfolds, the particles with the highest energy depart the water first and work to lower temperatures. 

When an evaporative cooler is in action, its effectiveness all comes down to your environment’s air type. For example, drier climates work best for evaporative cooling, allowing air temperatures to lower more effectively than in humid conditions. This is because, in humid climates, the air is already moist, making it harder for the water to evaporate.

How Do Evaporative Coolers Work?

Evaporative cooling works by taking basic evaporation and automating it to lower your air temperature on a hot day. The system consists of a fan, a water reservoir, and a thick pad. When in action, the fan draws hot, dry air into the machine and through the cooler pads. The pads absorb the water from the reservoir, with the layers increasing the surface area. 

When hot air moves across the thick pad, water molecules on the surface evaporate, causing the air temperature inside the cooling system to reduce. Some evaporative coolers can reduce temperatures by as much as 20-30°F. The fan then distributes cold air throughout the room.

What Are the Pros of Evaporative Cooling?

Evaporative cooling systems have many advantages and are especially beneficial to those who live in drier climates.  They are extremely energy efficient. They use less electricity to operate and are also sustainable because they only use water. 

Evaporative cooling can decrease temperatures by up to 30°F and is more economical because it uses less energy. The limited components mean these systems don’t need to be repaired regularly, and they also don’t require ductwork.

Evaporative cooling systems filter the air and trap pollen and dust. They naturally add moisture to your home, which can stop furniture, wood, and fabric from drying out.

What Are the Cons of Evaporative Cooling?

If you live in humid environments, evaporative coolers are probably not the best option, as they can add even more moisture to the air. In conditions such as these, the systems don’t work as effectively. 

The pads need to remain moist; otherwise, the system won’t work as well. Evaporative cooling systems continually need water, which can be a concern for those who live in areas with limited/low water supplies. Moisture build-up in the system can also lead to corrosion and condensation, but this is more relevant to humid environments.

What is an Air Conditioner?

Air conditioners are cooling systems used to cool rooms. They remove heat from the space and move it into an outside area. Cool air is then freely allowed to move throughout the room through ventilation. 

Also called split-systems, because of the outdoor and indoor units, these two systems work together to cool the rooms inside while dehumidifying at the same time. Dehumidification occurs as the warm air from inside moves over the cold evaporator, which is the component where warm air condenses and loses moisture. 

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The air conditioning unit resides in the central heating and cooling system. Providing cool air through the ductwork in your home, the process involves drawing warm air out and removing the heat.

Split-systems involve a compressor that circulates and condenses the refrigerant air through your outdoor unit. It then changes it from a gas to a liquid, and the liquid is moved through an indoor evaporator coil.

Next, the indoor fan circulates the inside air and passes it on to the evaporator metal fins. These metal fins exchange thermal energy with the surrounding air. The refrigerant then turns to vapor from liquid and removes any excess heat from the air. During the heat removal process, the air is cooled down and distributed back throughout the rooms.

What Are the Pros of an Air Conditioner?

Air conditioning units have an abundance of benefits, with people living in humid environments often preferring to invest in these cooling systems. AC units improve air quality by utilizing air filters. They decrease airborne particles and bacteria that are breathed in.

Air conditioning also produces a consistent temperature, and some systems come with a programmable thermostat, which can be cost-effective. These systems require little maintenance, making them convenient and easy to use. 

What Are the Cons of Air Conditioning?

Despite its many appealing aspects, there are a few downsides to consider with air conditioning units. They can be expensive to install and can consume a lot of power to maintain the set temperature. For these reasons, they are not as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as evaporative cooling systems.

Evaporative Cooler vs. Air Conditioner: Which Cooling System Should You Choose?

When it comes to deciding which cooling system is best for you, examine all the information available to make an informed decision. 

With evaporative cooling being most effective in drier, hot climates, you can rest easy in your choice. In comparison, if you reside in an area with high humidity, these coolers may not work as effectively because moisture is already lingering in the air. For these conditions, air conditioning is usually the best solution. 

Once you’ve put your evaporative cooler vs. air conditioner queries to rest, all that’s left to do is invest in the best cooling system for you.

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