Which evaporative cooler is best?

When temperatures rise, an air conditioner can appear to be a life essential. However, that is not the only way to get relief from the heat. An evaporative cooler, for example, is a viable solution in many situations. The drier the climate, the better.

The best evaporative cooler is the adequate size for the space. Meaning, the model that’s best for your bedroom will not be effective in your garage. Additionally, you’ll want an evaporative air cooler like the Honeywell Indoor Portable Evaporative Cooler with convenient features such as a timer and a low water alarm.

What to know before you buy an evaporative cooler

Evaporative cooling vs. air conditioning

  1. Evaporative coolers are energy efficient. Most models can save you 50% or more on your energy bill when compared to air conditioners.
  2. Evaporative coolers only require water and electricity to run, so they have a much smaller carbon footprint than air conditioners.
  3. Evaporative coolers add much-needed moisture to the air of homes in arid climates. If your home is too dry, you may have dry, itchy skin and trouble breathing. Additionally, too dry air can cause your home’s wood to crack or split.

The performance of an evaporative cooler depends on the climate

Since an evaporative cooler increases your home’s humidity level, it functions best in the drier regions of the country. If you live in an area with high humidity, it doesn’t mean an evaporative cooler won’t work. It means it won’t work very well. For example, in arid climates, an evaporative cooler can drop the temperature 25 degrees or more, while in a humid environment, the most you might see is a 10-degree temperature change.

There are two types of evaporative coolers

The two types of evaporative air coolers are direct and indirect.

Direct: A direct evaporative cooler forces air through a water-soaked pad, directly cooling and humidifying the air. This is the most cost-effective and easiest-to-use evaporative cooler.

Indirect: While more affordable than central air, indirect evaporative coolers require permanent installation with a duct system. In short, there are two separate air systems in indirect evaporative cooling. This allows the air in your home to cool without increasing humidity levels.

Evaporative coolers can be portable or permanently installed

The most affordable evaporative coolers are mobile models that easily move to any room in your home. You can mount larger models in a window, on the room or outside your home on the ground, like a central air conditioning unit.

Some evaporative coolers work outside

Unlike air conditioners, some evaporative coolers work outdoors. If you’d like a cool breeze while relaxing on the patio, an outdoor evaporative cooler is your best option.

What to look for in a quality evaporative cooler

Fan speed

The best portable evaporative cooler will feature three fan speeds, including low, medium and high. This allows you to choose the amount of cooling you desire.


A timer lets the user choose how long the unit will run, which comes in handy at night when you may need the evaporative cooler to help you fall asleep, but you don’t want it running all night.

Water level indicator

Without water, an evaporative cooler becomes a fan. The best models feature an indicator, so you always know exactly how much water is left. Some models even go so far as having an alert that sounds when you run out of water. This way, you will always be certain you are getting the maximum cooling effect from your unit.

Ice tray

If you’d like some quick spot cooling, look for an evaporative cooler with an ice tray. While this feature doesn’t increase the effectiveness of an evaporative cooler, it can provide some rapid heat relief for an individual located directly in front of the fan.

How much you can expect to spend on an evaporative cooler

You can buy a portable evaporative cooler for less than $200, but a mounted, whole-house model may cost as much as $3,000.

Evaporative cooler FAQ

Doesn’t humidity raise the temperature?

A. The body cools itself when sweat evaporates. Humid air cannot hold as much water, so the body’s natural cooling system doesn’t work as efficiently in high humidity. This is why hot, humid air feels more uncomfortable than hot, dry air. However, increasing the humidity doesn’t raise the temperature of the air.

How does an evaporative cooler cool the air in my home?

A. When hot, dry air travels through a wet medium, it evaporates the water in that medium. It takes energy to turn water into vapor. Heat is energy. Therefore, as the water evaporates, it removes heat from the air, effectively dropping the temperature of the air. The side effect is the humidity in that air increases. This is why an evaporative cooler functions best in drier climates. It is also why you need to keep a window or an outside door open when running an evaporative cooler. Efficient operation requires a fresh supply of less humid air. 

What’s the best evaporative cooler to buy?

Top evaporative cooler

Hessaire Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler

Hessaire Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler

What you need to know: This top-rated, compact evaporative cooler is powerful enough to be used outdoors.

What you’ll love: If you don’t like filling this evaporative cooler, you can attach a hose for continuous fill. The three-sided rigid, high-density cooling pads provides maximum cooling.

What you should consider: This is not the most attractive model, but it is very effective.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top evaporative cooler for the money

Hessaire Portable Evaporative Cooler

Hessaire Portable Evaporative Cooler

What you need to know: For individuals who want to get the most from their money, this potent unit can cool up to 500 square feet.

What you’ll love: With one dial and five operating modes, this model is easy to control. Each fill provides 3-4 hours worth of cooling, and you can check the water level with a glance.

What you should consider: Some users noted that the door you need to open to fill the water tank occasionally sticks.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Honeywell Portable Evaporative Cooler

Honeywell Portable Evaporative Cooler

What you need to know: Homeowners looking for a feature-packed model will want to consider this evaporative cooler.

What you’ll love: The sleek design and removable water tank make this model instantly appealing. The washable active carbon filter helps clean the air in your home as it cools, and you can control the unit with the included remote.

What you should consider: The fan on this model may be a bit louder than expected.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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