Swamp Cooler vs. Air Conditioner: Which One Is Best? - Backyard Boss
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Swamp Cooler vs. Air Conditioner: Which One Is Best?

Air conditioning isn’t the only way to cool your home. A/C and central air systems may be the most common cooling methods, but others can be equally as effective. One such alternative method for cooling your home is using a swamp cooler.

In this piece, we take a deep dive into the swamp cooler vs air conditioner debate. Read on to discover the differences between these two popular cooling options. You can be the judge as to which is the right one for you and your home.

How Swamp Coolers Work

A large white swamp cooler; the sort that mounts on a roof top.

Swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers, or evaporative air conditioners, rely on moisture to cool the air that enters your home. By doing so they are able to regulate the coolness of your home in a similar manner to a standard air conditioning window unit or central air system.

Normally located on the roof, the swamp cooler’s intake mechanism sucks in warm air from outside and channels it through a series of damp pads or quilts. As the air moves along, it is rapidly cooled off. In fact, a decent swamp cooler can lower the air temperature by a full 20 degrees. After the air has cooled off, it is blown out into your home through ducts and vents.

A downside to the way that swamp coolers operate is that mildew and mold are sometimes a by-product, due to the pads staying wet for months at a time. Once the mold is present, and the cooler is activated, the fans are likely to blow mold spores out into your home along with the fresh cool air it delivers.

Pros and Cons of Swamp Coolers

Before you go deciding on a swamp cooler or writing them off altogether, have a look at the most significant pros and cons below:


  • Very little energy use
  • Cost-efficient system
  • Hardly any noise while operating
  • Extremely low maintenance
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor use


  • Best for suitable climate zones with dry and arid air only
  • If not serviced correctly, mold and mildew can grow on cooling pads

How Standard Air Conditioners Work

The front cover of a window-mounting air conditioning unit.

If you live in the United States, you’re probably familiar with standard air conditioners and how they work. But just in case you need a refresher, standard air conditioners provide a steady source of cool air to your home by drawing air in from outside and directing it over a cold evaporator coil inside the unit. The leftover heat is then sent back outside and a refrigerant cools the fresh air down even more before venting it out and into your home.

Compared to swamp coolers, air conditioners work quicker and are much more widely available. There are also more professionals trained to install them and perform maintenance and repairs on them. That said, air conditioners cost more in general, including the monthly power bill that comes with using one.

Another point to be aware of with air conditioning units is that they rely on refrigerants like freon to cool the air, which are harmful chemicals. A damaged air conditioner may put out an unhealthy amount of these harmful vapors with the cool air it delivers.

Pros and Cons of Air Conditioners

Forget what you thought you knew about air conditioners until you go over these important advantages and disadvantages:


  • Easy to install and use
  • Widely available
  • Suitable for any climate zone


  • Cost more than swamp coolers
  • Some units make a lot of noise
  • Uses a considerable amount of energy
  • Expensive maintenance
  • Intended for indoor use only

Our Air Conditioning vs. Swamp Cooler Verdict

If you live somewhere with dry arid air, like New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, or parts of California and Colorado, a swamp cooler may be the best common-sense cooling method for your home. For those who live in other parts of the country, unless you are “going green” and trying to save money, a regular air conditioning unit is probably the better option simply due to convenience.

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