The 9 Best Evaporative Coolers of 2023

An efficient cooling solution for hot, dry conditions

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Best Evaporative Coolers

The Spruce / Amelia Manley

An evaporative cooler is one option for making your immediate surroundings more cool and comfortable. Also sometimes referred to as a swamp cooler, these appliances use moisture to cool incoming hot air before forcing it out through a blower to ventilate a room or other area. They’re most effective in areas with low humidity—less than 30 percent is ideal, but they still work when humidity levels are between 30 and 60 percent. Beyond that, you’re unlikely to feel any benefit. 

If you live in a hot, dry climate, then an evaporative cooler may be an efficient way to regulate the temperature of a well-ventilated indoor space or to make an outdoor area, like your patio or workshop, more comfortable. When comparing models, Glenn Wiseman of Top Hat Home Comfort Services recommends that shoppers consider size and portability. “A cooler you can easily pick up and move throughout the home or work space will prove much more convenient during sweltering summer months.” He also recommends handy features like a timer or remote control to make it more convenient to operate the evaporative cooler. 

With this advice in mind, we spent hours researching the best evaporative coolers to buy, including portable, indoor models and whole-house swamp coolers. We evaluated popular picks from a variety of brands and retailers, comparing options based on factors like ease of use, water tank capacity, and overall value. We also considered the airflow for each unit—measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), and what size cooling area you can realistically expect.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

Hessaire MC61V Portable Evaporative Cooler

Hessaire MC61V Portable Evaporative Cooler


What We Like
  • 3 media panels for more evaporation surface

  • 5,300 CFM

  • 3 fan speed settings

  • Wheels for better mobility

What We Don't Like
  • Not intended for use in fully enclosed spaces

  • No GFCI plug

The Hessaire MC61V Portable Evaporative Cooler offers plenty of air movement, more evaporation surface, and a portable design. In combination, these features make this a great option as an evaporative cooler for most spaces, including porches, patios, garages, and some ventilated indoor living areas.

One of the key features to consider in an evaporative cooler is its CFM. This model is rated to move air at a peak rate of 5,300 CFM. With that in mind, it can cool spaces up to 1,600 square feet, especially if you take advantage of the swinging louvers to move air in more directions. At the same time, it’s very efficient and only uses a few cents of electricity for each hour of use. Compared to a portable air conditioner, you’ll find the Hessaire MC61V to be a more economical option for cooling off your workshop or warehouse. With a retail price of around $650, the mid-range price point adds to the value of this reliable and long-lasting model. 

Part of this model’s success is due to the fact that it includes three media panels. While some swamp coolers may only include one or two media panels, the Hessaire MC61V houses a trio of high-density XeL50 media, which increase the evaporation surface compared to conventional media. More panels and evaporation surface means that there is more wet surface area to cool the air passing through the evaporative cooler and it also lowers static pressure inside the unit, which improves efficiency. The 14.6-gallon water tank is large enough to keep the unit running for up to 4 hours, but it also includes a continuous fill feature if you’re using this evaporative cooler outside with access to a garden hose. 

The biggest downside to this model is the lack of a GFCI plug. That’s an important safety consideration to keep in mind if you’re using the unit outdoors where it may be exposed to water or precipitation. At the same time, it’s not designed for use in fully enclosed areas, so if you do use it inside, you’ll want to prop open a door or window to ensure you have enough ventilation to prevent a buildup of humidity. 

Dimensions: 46 x 17 x 28 inches | Air Volume: 5,300 CFM | Cooling Area: 1,600 square feet 

Price at time of publish: $593

Best Budget

Hessaire MC18V Portable Evaporative Cooler

Hessaire MC18V Portable Evaporative Cooler


What We Like
  • Folding handle and wheels

  • High-density evaporation media 

  • Easy to set-up

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Only 2 fan speeds

  • Small opening for water tank

If you are looking for the efficient operation of an evaporative cooler at a budget price, the Hessaire MC18V Portable Evaporative Cooler is a great value. For about $200, this model distributes a cooling breeze in spaces up to 500 square feet and uses three high-density media panels. It’s easy to assemble and use since it has few parts and simple dial controls. A two-speed fan only gives you high and low settings to pick from, but most people find it to be powerful enough, if not a little noisy. 

This budget evaporative cooler is portable and easy to move around, thanks to the folding handle on top of the unit and the four rolling wheels at the base of the housing. In real-world use, you can set it up in different areas throughout the day or evening without too much hassle. It has a 4.8-gallon water tank that will allow it to run for at least 3 to 4 hours, but it can also be connected to a hose and it has a float valve to ensure that it won’t overflow when set up for the continuous fill option. 

That being said, complaints about the water tank are the most common issue with this model. The opening to manually add water to the tank (rather than using a hose) is small and makes it awkward to fill without spilling water. It’s also harder to add ice in bulk, which is something that many people do to enhance the cooling effect of an evaporative cooler. Most people are happy to work around those shortcomings, though, because of this model’s reputation for reliable, efficient cooling power. 

Dimensions: 28 x 10 x 20 inches | Air Volume: 1,300 CFM | Cooling Area: 500 square feet 

Price at time of publish: $185

Best Splurge

Big Ass Fans Cool Space 300 Swamp Cooler

Big Ass Fans Cool Space 300 Swamp Cooler

Big Ass Fans

What We Like
  • 16-gallon water tank with continuous fill option

  • Variable fan speeds 

  • Cools spaces up to 1,200 square feet

  • Reliable and efficient

What We Don't Like
  • Water tank needs refilling about every 4 hours

Big Ass Fans is known for producing high-power fans for commercial spaces and the brand brings its reputation for reliability and efficiency to its evaporative coolers. The Cool Space 300 Swamp Cooler from Big Ass Fans is a highly-rated model with a hefty price tag but impressive performance. 

The 300 model is rated for space up to 1,200 square feet, although the largest model in the series can cool up to 6,500 square feet. It’s equipped with a 1/2-horsepower motor and an 18-inch fan that moves air at speeds up to 2,800 CFM. In contrast to other evaporative coolers on our list, this model has a variable speed control knob for the fan, rather than pre-set fan speeds of low, medium, and high. The product specifications indicate that there are 11 fan speeds in total, providing a wider range of settings to choose from.

A 16-gallon water tank provides saturation for the cooling pads inside the unit’s housing. The evaporative media is GreenGuard certified and treated to reduce the growth of mold and algae, important factors to consider whether you’re using this evaporative cooler in a shop, warehouse, or residential setting. 

It’s a challenge to find shortcomings of the Big Ass Fans Cool Space Swamp Cooler, which receives such high marks for performance and reliability. Perhaps the biggest downside is the fact that despite such a large water tank, this model only runs for about 4 hours before needing a refill, depending on climate conditions. But if you have a hose connection available, a continuous fill option can keep the tank full, eliminating the majority of worry over this limitation.

Dimensions: 47.5 x 24 x 25.5 inches | Air Volume: 2,800 CFM | Cooling Area: 1,200 square feet

Price at time of publish: $1,899

Best Indoor

Honeywell CL25AE Portable Evaporative Cooler

Honeywell CL25AE Portable Evaporative Cooler


What We Like
  • Large water tank

  • 3-speed fan with sleep mode

  • Includes remote control

  • Cools spaces up to 300 square feet

What We Don't Like
  • Noisier than expected

  • Some reliability issues

Indoor evaporative coolers have a less utilitarian design than portable models or those designed for use in garages, warehouses, or workshops. Instead, this type of evaporative cooler looks similar to a portable air conditioner but it doesn’t require a hose for venting. In hot, dry climates, the Honeywell CL25AE is able to effectively cool spaces up to 300 square feet in size. It has a 6.6-gallon water tank (with space to add ice), which translates into less frequent refilling when compared with other indoor evaporative coolers outfitted with a 2- or 3-gallon water tank.

User-friendly features really make this model stand out for indoor use. Compared to more basic models that only have high and low fan speeds, this model includes a three-speed fan with an option for sleep mode (which gradually reduces fan speed as you drift off to sleep). Swinging louvers help to better distribute the cool, moist air throughout the room where you set up this unit. This model also includes a fan-only function, along with a timer option that can be set for up to 7.5 hours before automatically shutting off. A remote control gives you control over all these features from the comfort of your couch or chair. 

Of course, there are some drawbacks to be aware of. Many people find that the Honeywell CL25AE is noisier than expected, especially when using the fan speed on high. It’s not surprising for a unit that can move air at speeds up to 780 CFM, but it’s something to keep in mind if you plan to use this unit while reading, watching TV, or holding a conversation since it can be a distraction. In addition, some reports of water pump failure or a defective needle for the water tank level window mean you should inspect the unit thoroughly when it arrives and you may want to keep a close eye on it during operation. 

Dimensions: 33.3 x 18.9 x 14.6 inches | Air Volume: 780 CFM | Cooling Area: 300 square feet 

Price at time of publish: $330

Best Portable

Honeywell CO48PM Outdoor-Rated Portable Evaporative Cooler

Honeywell CO48PM Outdoor-Rated Portable Evaporative Cooler


What We Like
  • GFCI plug

  • Equipped with a continuous water supply connection

  • Maneuvers easily with four caster wheels

  • 3-speed fan with air speeds up to 1,700 CFM

What We Don't Like
  • No remote control 

A portable evaporative cooler gives you a boost of cool air wherever you need it most, without the need to install a more permanent cooling solution. The Honeywell CO48PM Outdoor-Rated Portable Evaporative Cooler includes the most important features for this type of air cooler, like a GFCI plug for safety, an easy-to-fill water tank plus a continuous fill option, and air speeds up to 1,700 CFM.

At first glance, the design and appearance of this model is rather bulky and utilitarian but it only weighs about 30 pounds, so it’s not especially heavy to move in combination with the four caster wheels mounted at the base. It has a 6-foot power cord with a GFCI-protected plug, an important safety feature if you use the continuous fill feature of this evaporative cooler. If you’d rather fill up the water tank yourself, it’s easy to do thanks to the wide opening that gives you access to the 10.6-gallon water tank. If the water tank is close to being depleted, an audible low-water alarm will give you a heads-up that it’s time to refill the tank. 

When used indoors, expect the Honeywell CO48PM Evaporative Cooler to cool areas up to 610 square feet. Remember that you’ll need to position the unit near an open door or window and the room should have good cross-ventilation to avoid high humidity levels. If you use this model outdoors, it has an air throw of up to 9.4 yards. Indoors or outdoors, swinging louvers help to widen the airflow path while three fan speeds give you the choice of low, medium, or high operation. Despite being so well-equipped and user-friendly, there is no remote control for this portable evaporative cooler. Instead, all functions are controlled using the simple dials on the top of the unit. 

Dimensions: 34.8 x 24.4 x 14.8 inches | Air Volume: 1,700 CFM | Cooling Area: 610 square feet 

Price at time of publish: $349

Best Window

Champion Cooler RWC35 2-Speed Window Evaporative Cooler

Champion Cooler RWC35 2-Speed Window Evaporative Cooler


What We Like
  • Vertical or horizontal mounting

  • Includes 1/3 HP motor

  • Remote control included

What We Don't Like
  • No thermostat

A window evaporative cooler offers the benefit of a securely installed unit and is an alternative to a roof-mounted model. If that’s what you’re looking for, we recommend the Champion Cooler RWC35. Although it’s not the slimmest or most compact window evaporative cooler, this pick offers vertical or horizontal mounting options to fit the configuration of your window. Out of the box, it includes a 1/3 horsepower motor so there’s no need to purchase the motor separately.  

The Champion Cooler RWC35 offers circulation speeds up to 3,300 CFM, with a high and low fan speed option. It’s most effective at generating a cool breeze in spaces between 500 and 900 square feet. While it looks similar in form to a window air conditioner, keep in mind the limitations of an evaporative cooler. It’s designed to be used in dry, arid conditions. It also doesn't have a built-in thermostat, so you’ll have to manually adjust the unit’s settings to keep your space comfortable. However, an included remote control means that you can turn this evaporative cooler on or off from across the room or adjust the fan speed with the push of a button. 

Dimensions:  30.5 x 31.5 x 33.75 inches | Air Volume: 3,300 CFM | Cooling Area: 900 square feet

Price at time of publish: $764

Best Rooftop

Bonaire 6070019 Roof Top Evaporative Cooler

Bonaire 6070019 Roof Top Evaporative Cooler

Home De Pot

What We Like
  • Lifetime warranty against cabinet corrosion

  • Low profile housing unit

  • Side or down discharge installation

  • Includes 1/3-horsepower motor

What We Don't Like
  • Axial fan sounds different than other models

  • Roof jack may need to be modified to fit this unit

A rooftop evaporative cooler is often used to provide cooling for the entire house. If you’re looking for a model with a record of reliability and efficiency, we recommend the Bonaire Durango Roof Top Evaporative Cooler. It cools up to 2,000 square feet and can be installed for side or down discharge, although you may need to adjust an existing roof jack to fit the legs of this unit. Despite being exposed to the elements, you won’t have to worry about rust since the housing of this outdoor-mounted evaporative cooler is made of a sturdy but lightweight composite material—a big plus in comparison to evaporative coolers with a steel enclosure. Just don't forget that a permanently installed evaporative cooler will need winterization if you live in a climate with below-freezing temperatures.

As you compare rooftop evaporative coolers, you’ll see that some models don’t include a motor. That’s not the case with this Bonaire model. It ships to you with a 1/3 horsepower motor with two speeds for low and high fan speeds. On low, this evaporative cooler circulates air at a rate of 2,825 CFM and it peaks at 5,300 CFM on high. 

On the subject of the fan, it should be noted that Bonaire uses an axial fan rather than the more typical belt-driven squirrel cage blower, also known as a centrifugal fan. Depending on the type of ductwork you have, the Bonaire Durango Roof Top Evaporative Cooler will produce a different or louder noise than an evaporative cooler with a centrifugal fan. There are mixed opinions on which one is better, but it’s worth noting that many people do find Bonaire’s axial fan to be less noticeable and it’s rated to operate at 64 decibels. Most importantly, the majority of users in high-heat, low-humidity conditions find that this model is more than capable of maintaining cool temperatures on hot summer days. 

Dimensions: 31.5 x 37 x 37 inches | Air Volume: 5,300 CFM | Cooling Area: 2,000 square feet 

Price at time of publish: $828

Best for Bedroom

NewAir 3-speed Portable Evaporative Cooler and Fan

NewAir 3-speed Portable Evaporative Cooler and Fan

Best Buy

What We Like
  • Aesthetic design

  • Oscillates for more effective circulation

  • Detachable water tank

  • Remote control and timer for easier operation

What We Don't Like
  • Small water tank capacity

  • Noisy on high fan speeds

For an evaporative cooler in your bedroom, this model from NewAir is a great option. It functions as an evaporative cooler or a fan and has a design aesthetic similar to a tower fan, with the addition of four caster wheels for better mobility. Swinging louvers provide more distribution of the cool air, which can help to keep the room more comfortable for sleeping. It’s the right size for rooms up to 250 square feet and at about $150, it costs less than most window or portable air conditioners. So if you deal with dry, hot heat, this model is an economical option for a bedroom evaporative cooler.

The NewAir 3-speed Portable Evaporative Cooler has three fan speeds and moves air at up to 470 CFM. To provide a cool breeze, there is a removable water tank that you can fill up at the closest sink. NewAir includes two ice packs that you can add to the water tank for a greater chill. The biggest shortcoming of this evaporative cooler is the limited size of the tank. At 1.45 gallons, the tank is smaller than other models on the list. In especially dry conditions, the tank will need to be filled more frequently. It also can be somewhat noisy on the highest fan speed setting, but that’s to be expected if you want substantial air movement.

Dimensions: 35 x 16.1 x 11.1 inches | Air Volume: 470 CFM | Cooling Area: 250 square feet 

Price at time of publish: $157

Best Tower

Honeywell TC10PEU Portable Evaporative Cooler with Fan

Honeywell TC10PEU Portable Evaporative Cooler with Fan


What We Like
  • Compact dimensions

  • Lightweight

  • 3-in-1 functionality

  • Low water alarm

What We Don't Like
  • Limited airflow

A tower-style evaporative cooler saves floor space and can fit in even small areas of your home or garage. The Honeywell TC10PEU Portable Evaporative Cooler is effective in spaces up to 120 square feet and has a 2-gallon water tank, accessed via a water fill door at the back of the unit. For $150 or less, this model is your best bet if you need a compact model for personal cooling. 

The Honeywell TC10PEU is a popular and affordable model that is sized right for use in a bedroom, office, or tiny house where space is at a premium but comfort is important. It moves air at speeds up to 194 CFM, which isn’t especially impressive when compared to other larger, indoor portable evaporative coolers. For instance, the Honeywell CL25AE offers air movement up to 780 CFM. However, this tower evaporative cooler is smaller—it measures just 23 inches tall and only needs about 12 square inches of floor space. It only weighs 11.2 pounds, making it easy to pick up and move as needed. 

In addition to evaporative cooling, this 3-in-1 model can also be used as a conventional fan or as a humidifier. Regardless of the function you select, a washable carbon dust filter is included, which captures large particles from the air exiting the unit. 

Dimensions: 29.6 x 11.6 x 11.5 inches | Air Volume: 190 CFM | Cooling Area: 120 square feet

Price at time of publish: $156

Final Verdict

We recommend the Hessaire MC61V Portable Evaporative Cooler as the best evaporative cooler for ventilated indoor or outdoor use. It moves air at rates up to 5,300 CFM and uses three high-density evaporative cooling pads to deliver a consistent, cool breeze. However, if you’re looking for an evaporative cooler exclusively for indoor use, the best option is the Honeywell CL25AE Portable Evaporative Cooler. It looks similar to other household appliances, like a dehumidifier or portable air conditioner. With a 6.6-gallon water tank, you won’t have to refill it as frequently as other evaporative coolers for indoor use that have small water tanks that only hold a few gallons.

What to Look for in an Evaporative Cooler


The three main types of evaporative coolers are portable, window, and whole-house (sometimes also referred to as rooftop coolers). Glenn Wiseman, RASDT of Top Hat Home Comfort Services says that portable models are a convenient choice for many people since they “use natural cooling properties and require zero installation.” But window and whole-house evaporative coolers may be the better long-term solution if you live in a climate where you’ll contend with hot, dry heat for the majority of the year and want to cool your entire house.

Portable evaporative coolers range from compact models suitable for use in a bedroom or office, like the Newair 3-speed Portable Evaporative Cooler and Fan, to larger models that can be used for cooling off a workshop or guests at a backyard barbeque. Indoor-outdoor portable evaporative coolers typically have a more utilitarian look and often include a connection for a garden hose to the water tank so you won’t need to frequently refill it. The popular Hessaire MC61V Portable Evaporative Cooler is an example of how versatile this type of evaporative cooler can be—it cools up to 1,600 square feet in a well-ventilated indoor or outdoor area.

Window evaporative coolers require mounting in a window. Hot air is drawn into the unit and passes through the evaporative cooling media before being passed into the room. This type of evaporative cooler is similar in design to a window air conditioner but is typically more quiet due to the lack of a compressor. Although they mount in a single window, they’re designed to cool a fairly large space. For example, the Champion Cooler RWC35 2-Speed Window Evaporative Cooler can cool things down in an area up to 900 square feet in size. 

Whole-house evaporative coolers come in two types and relate to how the unit forces out cool air. The most common type is a down discharge unit, which is also often referred to as a rooftop evaporative cooler. But it’s worth noting that some rooftop models, like the Bonaire Roof Top Evaporative Cooler, can be configured for either down or side discharge, depending on your existing ductwork. Side discharge whole-house evaporative coolers are meant to be installed on an exterior wall of the home but include mounting options for the rooftop, as well.  

CFM Rating and Cooling Area

The output of the fan inside of an evaporative cooler is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). “The higher the CFM rating, the larger the area that can be cooled,” says Wiseman. And while you want to ensure that the CFM is suitable for the size of the space you’re trying to cool, a higher CFM isn’t always necessary or better. “If the CFM is too high, you may drive up energy costs for no reason.” 

When shopping for an evaporative cooler, always use the square footage of the area as the guide to how much CFM you need. The CFM rating for evaporative coolers ranges from less than 150 CFM for small, indoor evaporative coolers to 5,000 CFM or more for large portable models or whole-house evaporative coolers. 

Installation Requirements

The installation requirements for an evaporative cooler depend on the type of unit you choose. Portable models are the simplest to set up and require no installation. After filling up the water tank or connecting it to a garden hose for outdoor use, all you need to do is plug the unit into a standard electrical outlet. On the other hand, a whole-house evaporative cooler must be installed on the roof or side of the house and connected to your home’s ductwork. “The roof's foundation will need to be sturdy, with access to a water supply nearby,” adds Wiseman. Even still, whole-house evaporative coolers are generally considered to have minimal installation requirements when compared to a central air system

Care and Maintenance

Routine maintenance is simple but important for an evaporative cooler. Because of the moist, warm environment inside of the unit, it’s important to keep the water tank and evaporative pads clean and in good condition. 

Follow any cleaning or maintenance schedules provided by the manufacturer. Generally speaking, this will mean wiping the exterior of the unit with a soft, damp cloth every few weeks to remove surface dust or dirt. On a weekly basis, you should empty the water tank, clean it with mild soap and water, and then refill it. Inspect the cooling pads for damage and replace them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations or if you see excessive build-up due to water conditions. The frames that hold the cooling pads can be wiped clean with a damp, soft cloth. If you have hard water or poor water quality, water treatment tablets may be necessary in the tank to reduce mineral build-up and lessen the likelihood of corrosion.

  • Do evaporative coolers reduce humidity?

    Because evaporative coolers rely on media saturated with water to produce a moist breeze, they generally increase humidity levels rather than decrease them. For this reason, manufacturers of evaporative coolers recommend that you use them in well-ventilated indoor areas or in open-air spaces, like a warehouse or garage with large, open doors.

  • How do you size an evaporative cooler?

    Finding the right size evaporative cooler begins by measuring your space. Start with the square footage of the area you want to cool and then multiply that number by the height from the floor to the ceiling. Take this total and divide it by 2—the result is the CFM rating you should look for in an evaporative cooler. 

    As an example of how the calculation works, suppose that you measure your bedroom and find that it’s 10 feet by 12 feet, for a total of 120 square feet. If you have 9-foot ceilings, you would multiply 120 by 9, totaling 1,080. Dividing that number by 2 leaves you with a result of 540. So, to adequately cool that room, you should shop for a swamp cooler with a 540 CFM rating.

  • Do evaporative coolers use a lot of electricity?

    Evaporative coolers are known for being conservative in regard to energy usage. “In fact, some newer designs are taking up evaporative cooling technology to create machines that do not use any electricity at all,” says Wiseman. He adds that even evaporative coolers that do use electricity “cost around 50 percent less [to operate] than traditional air conditioners.” 

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 three smallest models included for indoor use in a single space, like a living room, bedroom, or home office.

For additional insight, Puisis interviewed Glenn Wiseman, RASDT of Top Hat Home Comfort Services. Wiseman is a designated Residential Air System Design Technician (RASDT) by the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada. He spoke about the benefits and limitations of evaporative coolers, as well as the differences between portable and rooftop models. 

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