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Evaporative coolers provide cool, moist air that can make indoor and outdoor spaces feel more comfortable. Also known as swamp coolers, these machines propel air through pads saturated with water to provide a cooling effect using minimal energy and no refrigerant. Since they produce moist air, you’ll need to keep a window or door cracked for ventilation, and they’re only effective in dry climates with low humidity levels.
Key factors to consider when shopping for an evaporative cooler include whether you want an indoor or outdoor-rated unit and how large the water tank is, or if it’s equipped for continuous fill. It’s also important to consider how many square feet you’re looking to cool and if your environment is dry enough to benefit from a swamp cooler.
Produce a cool breeze in your home, garage, or outdoor space with the help of the best evaporative coolers.
Best Overall: Hessaire MC37M Portable Evaporative Cooler
Dimensions: 25 x 17 x 37 inches | Weight: 40 pounds | Air Volume: 3,100 CFM | Cooling Area: 950 square feet | Discharge Direction: Not applicable
Large water reservoir
Air speeds up to 3,100 CFM
Indoor or outdoor use
Heavier than other models
Keep cool easier with this functional and well-equipped evaporative cooler from Hessaire. The MC37M is sized to cool down spaces up to 950 square feet and has powerful airflow—up to 3,100 CFM. Cooling media surrounds three sides of the unit, while an automatic oscillation feature better distributes the air. This model can be used for both indoor and outdoor areas, adding to its versatility. Keep in mind that when operated in enclosed areas, like your living room, you’ll need to have an open door or window to prevent rising humidity levels.
While the Hessaire MC37M is larger and heavier than some other indoor or portable evaporative coolers, the four heavy-duty caster wheels make it easier to move the unit from one location to another. The larger size also allows for an increased water tank capacity of 10.3 gallons, which translates into about 4 hours of runtime. Another option is to use a garden hose and the included float valve for continuous fill. Keep in mind that you might need to perform periodic maintenance for your swamp cooler, such as using a de-scaler to keep cooling pads free of mineral build-up that can impair performance.
Best Indoor: NewAir 3-speed Portable Evaporative Cooler and Fan
Dimensions: 11.1 x 16.1 x 35 inches | Weight: 16.1 pounds | Air Volume: 470 CFM | Cooling Area: 250 square feet | Discharge Direction: Not applicable
Oscillates for more effective circulation
Detachable water tank
Limited water tank capacity
An evaporative cooler can do much to cool indoor spaces, provided you can have a window open for ventilation and humidity levels are below about 50 percent. Some models have a rugged appearance that makes them versatile enough for outdoor use, but if you want an evaporative cooler specifically for indoor use, then check out the NewAir 3-Speed Portable Evaporative Cooler and Fan.
Resembling an oscillating fan, this model is equipped with cyclone circulation to efficiently propel chilled air around rooms up to 250 square feet in size. The water tank has a limited capacity of 1.45 gallons, but it’s detachable for easier fill-ups. Use the two included icepacks to improve the unit’s cooling ability.
Best Portable: Hessaire MC18V Portable Evaporative Cooler
Dimensions: 12 x 28 x 22 inches | Weight: 16 pounds | Air Volume: 1,300 CFM | Cooling Area: 500 square feet | Discharge Direction: Not applicable
Continuous fill option
Outdoor cooling up to 500 square feet
No GFCI plug
Put the cooling power of an evaporative cooler to work anywhere you need it with a portable model, like the popular Hessaire MC18V. This version is designed for durability and sits on four locking caster wheels. Weighing just 16 pounds, it’s easy to transport inside or outside and has a 4.8-gallon water reservoir. The MC18V also comes equipped for continuous fill using a household hose and the included brass float adaptor and valve.
Capable of producing air movement up to 1,300 CFM, you can use adjust the louvered opening on the front of the unit to direct air where you need it most. The ABS plastic housing gives this model a durable finish that will stand up to light outdoor use or garage duty.
Best Whole-House: Bonaire 6070019 Roof Top Evaporative Cooler
Dimensions: 37 x 31.5 x 37 inches | Weight: 119 pounds | Air Volume: 5,000 CFM | Cooling Area: 2,000 square feet | Discharge Direction: Side or downdraft
All plastic enclosure prevents rust
Low profile housing unit
Side or down discharge installation
Doesn’t fit all roof jack kits
A rooftop swamp cooler can provide cooling airflow for your entire house. Instead of using window-mounted or portable units in separate rooms, these whole-house evaporative coolers send a powerful flow of cool, moist air through your home’s duct system. If you’re looking for a unit that is quiet, resistant to corrosion and offers both side or down discharge installation, consider the Bonaire Durango Roof Top Evaporative Cooler.
The Bonaire Durango has a 2-speed motor and provides air movement up to 5,000 CFM—enough to cool houses up to 2,000 square feet in size. This model also stands out for being constructed using an all-plastic enclosure. Whole-house evaporative coolers are typically made of steel and often plagued by rust, but that’s not a concern with the Bonaire Durango. In addition, the housing disassembles into 6 sections, making it easier to hoist up to your roof for assembly. An axial fan instead of a standard centrifugal fan lowers the height of the housing, giving this model a shorter vertical height than other whole-house evaporative coolers. Take note that existing roof jacks may require some modification to fit the legs of the Bonaire Durango.
Remember that permanently installed swamp coolers will need winterization if you live in a climate where temperatures dip below freezing. Failing to do so can lead to damage from condensation and rust.
Best Outdoor: Honeywell CO48PM Outdoor-Rated Portable Evaporative Cooler
Dimensions: 14.76 x 24.4 x 34.17 inches | Weight: 30.9 pounds | Air Volume: 1,700 CFM | Cooling Area: 610 square feet | Discharge Direction: Not applicable
Equipped with a continuous water supply connection
Maneuvers easily with four caster wheels
Air speeds up to 1,700 CFM
62 decibel noise operation
No remote control
While you can’t change the weather, you can be more comfortable on your deck, patio, or porch with the help of an outdoor evaporative cooler. The Honeywell CO48PM is a portable evaporative cooler rated for outdoor use. It’s equipped with replaceable cellulose cooler pads, a GFCI cord for safety, and the housing is made of UV-resistant material for durability. Fill the 10.4-gallon water tank with water (and ice for an extra chill) or use the continuous water supply connection to keep the cool air coming.
Unlike outdoor misting fans that spritz your patio furniture and party guests with water, an outdoor evaporative cooler like this Honeywell model distributes cool, dry air up to 9.4 yards from the unit. Adjustable louvers help you aim the cool air where you need it most, while a three-speed fan lets you choose the level of airflow that is comfortable for your environment.
Best Budget: Honeywell TC10PEU Portable Evaporative Cooler with Fan
Dimensions: 11.5 x 11.6 x 29.6 inches | Weight: 14 pounds | Air Volume: 194 CFM | Cooling Area: 120 square feet | Discharge Direction: Not applicable
Oscillates for more effective circulation
Remote control operation
No detachable water tank
Upgrade from a simple fan and use a budget evaporative cooler for added climate control. Ideal for small rooms or personal cooling, the Honeywell TC10PEU has a 2.6-gallon water tank and moves air at a modest 194 CFM. This tower-style evaporative cooler stands just 23.6 inches tall but provides cool airflow that will easily be felt if you’re seated at a desk, table, or on the couch. You can use the included remote to adjust operation, including changing the unit to fan-only mode. While more powerful evaporative coolers are a better option for larger living spaces, this model is priced right for personal cooling.
Best Window: Champion Cooler RWC35 2-Speed Window Evaporative Cooler
Dimensions: 33.75 x 30.5 x 31.5 inches | Weight: 126 pounds | Air Volume: 3,300 CFM | Cooling Area: 900 square feet | Discharge Direction: Side draft
Vertical or horizontal mounting
Includes 1/3 HP motor
Remote control included
A window-mounted evaporative cooler is similar in form and function to an air conditioner but doesn’t rely on refrigerant to cool your space and uses a fraction of the energy. Instead, an evaporative cooler for your window uses a blower to push air through water-saturated cooling pads. The result is a cool, moist breeze for your living space.
The RWC35 model from Champion Cooler is equipped to cool up to 900 square feet in the driest and arid of climates, but will realistically cool 500 to 700 square feet in more moderately dry conditions. It has 2 fan speed settings and provides air movement up to 3,300 CFM. There is an 8-gallon water tank that you’ll need to keep filled for operation. If you leave the unit in the window all year long, remember to winterize and de-winterize your swamp cooler as you transition between seasons.
Best for Garage: Hessaire MC61V Portable Evaporative Cooler
Dimensions: 28 x 17 x 46 inches | Weight: 51 pounds | Air Volume: 5,300 CFM | Cooling Area: 1,600 square feet | Discharge Direction: Not applicable
Large water tank
Air speeds up to 5,300 CFM
Small fill door for water tank
An evaporative cooler is a great way to make a garage or workshop more comfortable. In comparison to air conditioners, you’ll save on energy costs while benefitting from a portable, easy-to-maneuver design. The Hessaire MC61V is our top choice as a garage evaporative cooler, thanks to its sturdy design and large water tank. The water tank holds 14.6 gallons but also has a continuous fill option.
Position the MC61V anywhere in your workspace to enjoy cool air moving at speeds up to 5,300 CFM. An axial fan blade and oscillating louvers pair together to distribute the air in spaces as large as 1,600 square feet. Keep in mind that you’ll need ventilation for the evaporative cooler to work properly in your garage or shop, so crack a door or window.
The Hessaire MC37M Portable Evaporative Cooler (view at Amazon) is our top pick for an evaporative cooler because it offers powerful airflow with 3,100 CFM and can be used inside or outside to cool areas up to 950 square feet. If you’re specifically looking for an indoor evaporative cooler that is portable and easy to use, then consider the NewAir 3-speed Portable Evaporative Cooler and Fan (view at Home Depot). It uses cyclonic circulation to move air at speeds up to 470 CFM and comes with two icepacks for an extra chill factor.
What to Look for in an Evaporative Cooler
An evaporative cooler is best suited for use in dry climates with humidity levels between 30 and 60 percent. According to most manufacturers, humidity levels under 30 percent are ideal for an evaporative cooler, but they can still produce cooling effects indoors and outdoors in climates with humidity levels up to 60 percent.
Consider whether you want to cool an area inside or outside. Most evaporative coolers can be used indoors with ventilation, but for an outdoor evaporative cooler, you should look for one equipped with a GFCI plug and a continuous fill option that can be used with a garden hose.
Another consideration is the square footage of the room or space you want to cool. Swamp coolers are recommended for square footage areas based on their ability to move air, measured in CFM. If you choose a unit that is too small for the space you want to cool, you’re less likely to feel the benefit of the evaporative cooler.
Every evaporative cooler has a water tank ranging in size from under 2 gallons to 10 gallons or more. This tank must have water in it for the cooling media to stay saturated and effective. While you can manually fill the tank, many evaporative coolers are equipped with a continuous fill option. This allows you to connect a garden hose to the tank. An internal float ensures that the tank stops filling when full. However, you shouldn’t use the continuous fill option for indoor evaporative coolers to eliminate any possibility of flooding due to an overflow.
What is evaporative cooling?
If you’ve ever felt the refreshment of a cool lake breeze, you know the power of evaporative cooling. These machines, often called swamp coolers, propel moist, cool air into the surrounding air to lower the ambient air temperature.
How do evaporative coolers work?
Evaporative coolers use water to saturate cooling media, which are typically pads made of cellulose. A fan or blower draws in warm air and pushes it through the wet, cool media resulting in a cool, moist breeze. Since they produce moist air, evaporative coolers are only recommended for arid environments. When used indoors, a window or door must be opened to prevent too much condensation from building up in the room.
What are the advantages of evaporative coolers?
In the right environment, evaporative coolers are an economical and efficient choice for climate control. They require minimal electricity to run since they don’t have a compressor. The lack of a compressor also translates into quieter operating noise levels; even high-capacity units measure at about 65 decibels or so.
Portable evaporative coolers require no installation—just plug them into your living space, garage, or shed to enjoy a cool, refreshing breeze. Rooftop or whole-house evaporative coolers do require more installation, but the requirements are usually minimal compared to the installation of a central air system.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Erica Puisis, a freelance home writer who has been contributing to The Spruce since 2017. She specializes in home appliances and products that are innovative and essential. When researching the best evaporative coolers on the market, she evaluated each model based on the type of cooler, how many square feet it can cool, and its air volume (measured in CFM). Other functional features that were considered were water tank size, a continuous fill option, and whether or not a model was portable. Every model included in our recommendations moves air at 1,300 CFM or more, except for the two smallest models included for indoor use.