How Much Do Swamp Coolers Cost and Are They Right for My Home?

by Team HomeServe
Swamp Cooler Maintenance on Reddish Shingled Roof

Upgrading your home's climate control systems can be a good home improvement project in any environment. After all, there's value in being comfortable in your own home. Plus, during extreme temperature events, the ability to properly cool your home is a necessity.

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If you live in a warm, dry climate, an evaporative air cooler can be a worthwhile investment— and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. But is a swamp cooler suitable for you? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is an Evaporative Air Cooler?

Evaporating water is a natural and energy-efficient way of cooling in low-humidity areas. The process works by pumping cooler air through the house. Warmer air is pushed out through the windows. In evaporative coolers — also known as swamp coolers — the air passes over pads saturated with water, adding a bit of humidity and further cooling it down.

As warm air is replaced by cooled air, windows are partly opened to allow it to escape. The air supplied by evaporative coolers is fresh instead of recirculated air, which is what is used in central air conditioning.

Evaporative coolers are increasingly popular in regions like the Western U.S. that have a dry climate with milder summer weather. In a single room, they can reduce the temperature by 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, a swamp cooler may not be as efficient if you live in a warmer, more humid climate, such as the South. Opting to install small window air conditioners may be a better option for those in humid climates who don't have central air.

How Much Does It Cost to Install an Evaporative Cooler?

Swamp cooler installation is typically affordable, especially when compared to the costs of installing central air conditioning. Installing an evaporative cooler is usually cheaper than putting in a ductless air conditioner.

According to LawnStarter, you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $3,600 (CAD 2,000 and CAD 4,800) to install a swamp cooler, depending on where it’s mounted and how big of a space it’s meant to cool.

The installation of an evaporative cooler is minor compared to mini-split air conditioners, too, which are another option for homes without ductwork installed. The choice between the two often comes down to the most energy-efficient solution for the home and what works best budget-wise.

How Much Does a Portable Air Cooler Cost?

Based on an average model designed to cool 1,000 square feet, a portable air cooler costs about $329 (CAD 439), according to product pricing at The Home Depot. Costs may increase or decrease depending on the size of the space you need to cool and the type of swamp cooler purchased.

Is Evaporative Cooling Cheap to Run?

Based on kilowattage usage, a swamp cooler is generally more cost-efficient to run than traditional air conditioning units. That's because it requires less energy to operate. If you’re switching over from an air conditioner, your electricity bill may be lowered when using a swamp cooler in your home.

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How Long Does an Evaporative Cooler Last?

If you maintain your swamp cooler properly, it can last for several years. You should perform maintenance during fall, just after you have used the cooler extensively during summer.

The purpose of maintenance isn't just to keep the system running smoothly. Bacteria and fungi can grow in a swamp cooler if it is neglected. A buildup of bacteria and mold can occur, leading to spores spreading throughout the entire house. You can provide proper swamp cooler maintenance by:

  • Making sure it's cleaned and serviced annually.
  • Replacing the water pads. Check them every month that the unit is being used. Replace them when they become dirty. Cleaning the pads makes the cooler safer and more efficient.
  • Emptying the drip pan. Bacteria love stagnant water.

Be sure you have the power shut off when performing any kind of maintenance to your cooling system.

Different Types of Swamp Coolers

There are four types of swamp coolers to choose from, depending on the needs of your home:

  • Portable coolers: Lightweight and ideal for cooling one room. Some models can cool spaces up to 3,000 square feet in size.
  • Indoor evaporative coolers: Available in window and wall models, they're great for cooling a single room, garage or open-plan living area.
  • Outdoor evaporative coolers: Designed for installation on roofs and are capable of cooling whole houses.
  • Side discharge coolers: Designed to cool the whole house. Usually, they're installed on the side of a building, but they can also be installed on the roof.

All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.