A/C costs tend to increase dramatically during the hot summer months. As such, any homeowner will welcome the idea of using air conditioning device that will consume much less energy and cool the temperature effectively. The portable evaporative cooler, also called a swamp cooler, is one such device that relies on evaporation to reduce heat and achieve more effective cooling than regular air conditioning systems. The cooler is suitable for dry climates as they are less humid. It explains the need for buyers to check their location's temperature and relative humidity to determine if the cooling system can work in such regions. Here, you’ll find five different models of the best portable evaporative coolers from $30 up to $350.

How it Works

An evaporative cooler operates by releasing water vapor into the atmosphere to minimize the temperature. It is based on the concept of evaporative cooling, which states that water absorbs heat to cause evaporation. As such, the temperature of a less humid area is reduced through the transition of liquid water to vapor. The cooler comprises a water tank, which is refilled with cold water, a fan, and cooling pads. Once the cooler is switched on, the warm air in the atmosphere is pulled in and absorbed by the saturated pads to cool it down. The fans then release the cold air to the atmosphere thus, reducing the heat.

It explains why evaporative coolers use much less energy to cool the atmosphere compared to refrigeration cycles. The user should also open the vents or windows or provide 1-2 sq feet of opening for every 1000 cfm of cooling capacity. You can experiment to find out the ideal place to place the cooler; if the windows are too far, more hot air enters, and if they are too close, humidity builds up in the space. Regulate the temperature by opening windows in the areas you want to cool and close them in empty spaces. It also depends on the type of cooler you are using.

Portable Indoor Cooler

They are ideal for cooling small living spaces and are fitted with casters to enhance mobility. The coolers are lightweight and suitable for personal cooling. However, to cool larger areas, you should invest in a cooler with a higher CFM. The chart below should guide you when buying an indoor portable evaporative cooler.

Square Footage

Recommended CFM

Up to 250 sq. ft.

200 to 750 CFM

250 to 500 sq. ft.

750 to 2000 CFM

500 to 1,000 sq. ft.

2000 to 4000 CFM

1,000 to 2,000 sq. ft.

4,000 to 7,500 CFM

Over 2,000 sq. ft.

Over 7,500 CFM

Portable Outdoor Cooler

This kind has a rugged design to withstand harmful weather elements. Some models are connected to an outdoor supply of water to ensure continuous cooling for large spaces like the patio, pool, or deck.

Whole House Window Mounted Evaporative Coolers

They are the most effective residential coolers. Whole house evaporative coolers are fitted permanently to a window or roof and connected to a home's water supply for central air cooling.

What to Look for When Buying Evaporative Cooler

  • Size

Swamp coolers are rated based on the cfm (cubic feet per minute) of air they release to a room. Most models deliver a range of 3000-25000 cfm.

  • Installation

The coolers are installed in two ways; the first causes the cooler to blow air to a central location while the other connects the cooler to the ductwork for uniform distribution of cool air. Central installation is ideal for compact spaces open from one room to another. Ducted cooler systems, however, are more effective in larger houses that have multiple rooms and hallways.

Most homeowners fit down-flow evaporative coolers on the roof, but most experts recommend installing ground-mounted coolers as they are easier to maintain and are less likely to cause roof leaks. Smaller horizontal-flow coolers are mounted on windows to cool a section of a home and are ideal for moderately hot climates. Today, most homeowners opt for portable evaporative coolers on wheels as they are incredibly mobile and don't need the tedious installation process. However, their cooling ability is restricted by the humidity of a space hence, generate a slight cooling effect.

  • Mode of Operation

An evaporative cooler should have two speeds and a vent only option. The vent-only operation allows you to use the cooler as a whole-house fan when it is not too hot as the water pump does not operate and the outdoor air is not saturated.

Top 5 Best Portable Evaporative Coolers

YACHANCE Personal Space air Cooler Portable air

YACHANCE Personal Space air Cooler: photo

This evaporative swamp cooler is designed to cool, humidify, and purify a space. It is suitable for personal use given its lightweight nature. This cooler has a built-in water tank that provides up to 6 hours of fresh air. The fan fitted in the portable air conditioner is designed to adjust to three levels; high, medium, and low, reducing temperature by 6-14 degrees Fahrenheit. The LED light signals when the tank runs out of the water, and you can adjust up to 7 light colors. It comes with a USB cord that allows you to connect it to a power outlet wherever you are- the dining room, bedroom, living, garage, kitchen, and other indoor space.

NewAir AF-310 Portable Evaporative Tower Cooler

NewAir Portable Evaporative Tower Cooler: photo

The cooler is designed for hot and dry air climates, cooling rooms within a range of 100 sq. Feet. It has three functions- purifying, humidifying, and cooling temperatures in the surrounding environment by as low as 20 degrees. The cooler less than three feet tall and has a stylish compact design that does not take up much space. It comes with a remote control that allows you to manipulate all the features from the comfort of your seat. What's more, you can choose an ideal cooling mode using from the three fan speeds; the nature mode for a natural breeze, 60-degree cooling, and the sleep mode. It is also fitted with a timer that allows you to customize the cooling schedule.

Luma Comfort EC111B Portable Evaporative Air Swamp Cooler

Luma Comfort Portable Air Cooler: photo

This evaporative cooler cools, humidifies and purifies spaces as large as 250 square feet. It features two modes of operation and three fan speeds and is fitted with a display panel that shows the current cooling settings. The tank holds 1.76 gallons of water for prolonged cooling and can sometimes operate as a fan (without water). When used in arid areas, it can cool the temperature by as much as 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can add a few ice cubes in the ice tank for a more cooling breeze. The EC111B also features a programmable timer that allows users to set the cooler to operate continuously for 7.5 hours.

Honeywell MN10CESBB Portable Air Conditioner

Honeywel Portable Air Conditioner: photo

The cooler features a quiet and powerful purification, cooling, and humidifying process on spaces within 350-450 square feet. The Honeywell not only dampens a room but also de-humidifies 80.1 pints of moisture every 24 hours using its built-in de-humidifier. What's more, it has a washable filtration system that filters out dust and pet hair that enters the unit thus, reducing the impurities that may be in the room. This whole-house central air conditioning unit features a dual motor technology that provides a quiet operation even when set at the highest speed.

Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner, Dehumidifier and Fan

Whynter Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner: photo

The unit has three operational modes- the dehumidifier, fan, and air conditioner cooling areas of up to 500 square feet. It operates using cutting-edge self-evaporating technology that uses and recycles the moisture gathered during the cooling process to release cool air. The Whynter ARC is fitted with an auto-restart setting that restarts automatically after a power outage. Its 24-hour timer ensures it engages and shuts off at preset times.

Comparative Chart of Evaporative Coolers


Cooling Technology /
Cooling Space



YACHANCE Personal Space air Cooler min: photo

Fan /
Personal use

2 pounds


NewAir Portable Evaporative Tower Cooler min: photo

Rigid Cooling pad /
100 sq. feet

8 pounds


Luma Comfort Portable Air Cooler min: photo

Cooling pad /
250 sq. feet

2 pounds


Honeywel Portable Air Conditioner min: photo

Self-evaporating technology /
350-450 sq. feet

9 pounds


Whynter Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner min: photo

Self-evaporating technology /
500 sq. feet

80 pounds



How often should I Drain the Water?

If you are not planning to use the cooler for an extended period, you should drain the water after use to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Alternatively, you can treat the water using chlorine before switching it on.

How should I Maintain the Evaporative Cooling System?

The system should be serviced twice a year, i.e., before and after or midway through summer. However, in hot climates where the cooler runs for a long time, the filters, pads, pump, and reservoir should be cleaned every month. Routine maintenance prolongs its life and ensures optimal performance. Here's what you should do before and after summer:

Before Summer:

  • Disconnect it from the power outlet and remove the weatherproof cover
  • Remove the filter pad and clean them using a hose. You can also replace them if they are worn out
  • Close the drains and fill the cooler with cold water

After Summer:

  • Disconnect the cooler from the power source
  • Remove slime or other sediments using a brush
  • Empty the tank and the pipes
  • Clean the cooler tank with a damp cloth soaked in household detergent or bleach
  • Rinse using fresh water
  • Remove the hose and the filter pads and clean them.
  • Allow the component to dry and fit them back

Do I Live in a Region Where the Cooler is Effective?

Portable evaporative coolers are most effective in areas that have hot, dry air, e.g., in the desert regions of southwestern United States. They are most efficient during the most torrid time of the day and when the humidity level is less than 60 %. However, they are also operative in humid conditions when used in outdoor and semi-outdoor situations like docks, loading bays, and garages.

How effective are the Coolers concerning Cost?

Portable evaporative coolers cost up to 50% less compared to refrigerated systems. Additionally, they are more energy-efficient as they rely on water and electricity only to operate. For example, a 36-inch cooler running for eight hours costs less than a dollar, which is three times cheaper than traditional cooling systems.

Are Evaporative Coolers Environment-friendly?

Swamp coolers make an excellent alternative for eco-conscious users. They use a natural process to cool air, which does not emit pollutant to the environment. Additionally, the cooling process dampens dry air thus, reducing dry air symptoms like an itchy throat, eyes, or skin.