Best Affordable Evaporative Cooler: Top Picks, Reviews & Buying Guide

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Shopping for an affordable evaporative cooler?

You’ve come to the right place!

If you live in an area where the weather is warm and dry, keeping your home cool can be challenging.

You might think your only options for cooling your house area box fan or some form of compressor-based air conditioner.

But there’s a third option that is not only cheaper to run but is more eco-friendly and more energy-efficient.

Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, are most cost- and energy-efficient way to keep cool in dry climates.

Although they sound complex, these devices are actually simple in how they work. Typically, you just need to fill them with water, and they are good to go.

Air conditioners can also keep your room cool, but they often rely on artificial coolants that can harm the environment. The cost of running an air conditioner can also be quite high.

And tower fans just move hot air around without actually cooling it down. Not much help outside or when the temperature exceeds 85 F.

Evaporative coolers offer a good mix of affordability,temperature control, energy efficiency, and low environmental impact.

The only downside is that evaporative coolers don’t work well in an environment where the relative humidity regularly exceeds 70-80%.  If this describes your situation, then check out our roundups of the best condenser-based air conditioners sold today:

Our Top 3 Picks

What's in This Buying Guide

Table of Contents

If you live in a drier climate, an evaporative cooler might bethe best air coolingoption for you.

In this guide, we review the best evaporative air coolers sold in the US (in our opinion). 

We provide top picks for a few common situations some features you should keep in mind when shopping for a quality evaporative cooler and some commonly asked questions so that you purchase the best evaporative air cooler.

Best Affordable evaporative coolers

Disclaimer: All links below go to Amazon.com

evaporative cooler reviews
  • Honeywell CO30XE

  • Best Overall

  • 525 CFM

  • 320 sq.ft.

  • 7.9gals

  • Power
    288W

best portable evaporative cooler reviews
  • Hessaire MC37M

  • Best for an Apartment

  • 3100 CFM

  • 950 sq. ft.

  • 10.3gals

  • Power
    250W

best evaporative coolers
  • homeLabs Evaporative coolers

  • Most Energy-Efficient

  • 200 sq. ft.

  • 10liters

  • Power
    130W

best portable evaporative air cooler
  • Luma Comfort EC110S

  • Best for SmallerRooms

  • 500 CFM

  • 250 sq. ft.

  • 1.76gals

  • Power
    110W

#1

Best overall

This powerful cooler is designed with air vents that blow the cool air at your body level, helping you beat the heat and enjoy the summers.

PROS

CONS

Features

Our Review

The Honeywell CO30XE is one of the best evaporative air coolers that you can use both indoors and outdoors.

It may not be the most stylish model, but it delivers alot bang for your money.

This unit is even weather-resistant, which makes it ideal for outdoor use.

The C030XE cooler has four castor wheels and two handles on the side, making it easy to move this unit around.

It comes with a large water tank that is easy to refill.

Other notable features of this cooler include a low water alarm, oscillating louvers, three speed settings, and a programmable 7.5-hour timer.

What we love most about this Honeywell evaporative cooler is the ice bin located at the top, making it especially easy to load.

Editor's Rating
3.9/5

#2

Best for an Apartment

With an airflow of 3,100 CFM, the Hessaire MC37M is the best evaporative cooler for larger rooms and small apartments up to effective cooling area of 950 sq. ft. 

PROS

CONS

Features

Our Review

The Hessaire MC37M boasts high-quality Chillcel high-density cooling pads that can last for almost eight years without needing replacement.

The MC37M’s 10.3 gallon water tank can cool a large room or small apartment for up to four hours continuously.

This unit’s excellent build quality ensures it will serve you for a long time.

Although the Hessaire MC37M weighs 40 pounds, you won’t have trouble moving it around because of its high-quality caster wheels.

The MC37M is constructed with sturdy polypropylene UV-resistant housing, thus making it useful for outdoor use. It is also equipped with a direct connect hose with a float valve that eliminates the need to fill the tank manually.

This evaporative cooler is very easy to use due to its customer-friendly interface. The speed dial and a handful of buttons simplify adjusting the power, pump, and oscillation.

The energy-efficient Hessaire MC37M cooler is ideal for the outdoors or any other area with sufficient ventilation.

In addition, its many features and top-notch build quality gives it an edge over other coolers in this class.

Editor's Rating
4.4/5

#3

Most Energy-Efficient

Designed with three-in-one functionality, the compact hOmeLabs evaporative cooler provides fan function, evaporative cooling, and humidification for spot-cooling a bedroom, home office, or personal space.

PROS

CONS

Features

Our Review

Packed with a number of smart features, this cooler provides effortless cooling and comfort. It offers three wind options (Normal, Natural, and Sleep), and it keeps alternating between three different wind options to give you a feel of the natural wind.

This hOmeLabs cooler is designed with an LED display control panel that shows all the necessary information, including operating mode, speed, swing direction, and temperature.

The hOmeLabs evaporative cooler comes with a remote control that allows you to turn the cooler on or off and adjust the fan speed from the comfort of your chair or sofa.

Another energy-saving feature of this cooler is the 24-hour programmable timer. If you don’t want the hOmeLabs to run when you are asleep, you can program the timer to turn off automatically – which also helps save energy.

Cleaning and maintaining the hOmeLabs cooler is simple. Simply slide out the water tank, filtration mesh, and evaporator and clean it using a mild detergent and water.

Editor's Rating
3.7/5

#4

Best for Smaller Rooms

The Luma Comfort EC110S ensures your health and comfort by releasing fresh and cool air without using any freon or other chemicals – it also decreases your carbon footprint.

PROS

CONS

Features

Our Review

The compact and modern design of the EC110S is packed with features that you typically find on more expensive models. Whether you keep it in the bedroom or the living room, it will complement the decor and not become an eyesore.

Its design resembles a small tower fan, but it weighs only 16 pounds.

It is very easy to move around due to the free-rolling wheels at the bottom. The digital display designed in the middle of the fan makes it easy to change the settings according to your preference.

The EC100S is designed with cyclonic cooling technology that maximizes its power. It has automatic louvers, oscillation, and three speeds that ensure an efficient and even cool air distribution throughout the room.

Although the fill gauge makes it easier to keep an eye on the water level, you can also set the timer and forget all about it.

Editor's Rating
3.7/5

Affordable Evaporative Cooler Buying Guide

Types of Evaporative Coolers

There are two main types of evaporative coolers – indoor and outdoor.

Indoor Coolers

Coolers designed for indoor use are typically smaller and highly portable. Although they do not weigh much, most of the best portable evaporative coolers are equipped with caster wheels, making it a lot easier and convenient to move them from one room to another.

These units are perfect for cooling small and medium-sized rooms as well as spaces like garages. They are designed with remotes, consumer-friendly settings, and features like oscillation.

Personal evaporative coolers with ratings under 100 CFM also fall in this category.

Outdoor Coolers

Outdoor coolers encompass a wide range of models, and the only limitation is your budget. Most outdoor coolers are designed with large water reservoirs and are capable of dealing with UV rays.

These units are also equipped with connections for a water hose, which ensures that the tank never runs dry.

Whether you need to cool off your workshop, a large patio or just want your family to enjoy some cool air while you fire up the grill, these outdoor coolers are your best bet.

Why buy an Affordable evaporative cooler over other kinds?

Nothing beats an affordable evaporative cooler when it comes to cooling dry climates. These devices are less expensive to not only purchase but operate as well compared to traditional air conditioning systems.

These environmentally friendly devices ensure cooling comfort without putting a burden on your wallet.

In fact, research has proven that when compared with an air conditioner, an evaporative cooler uses between one-third and one-tenth less energy than an AC.

Affordable evaporative coolers work naturally, similar to a cool breeze blowing on a hot summer day. Plus, there are no compressors or coolants to deal with, making maintaining these units much easier.

What to Look for When Buying an Affordable Evaporative Cooler

Some essential features that you should compare between different models to purchase the best evaporative air cooler for your requirements include:

Cooling Pads

An evaporative cooler uses the process of evaporation to cool a room. It pulls in dry, stale air, which is passed through water-moistened cooling pads. These cooling pads readily absorb heat from the air to deliver a cool breeze.

There are two types of cooling pads: Honeycomb cooling pads and aspen/wool.

Honeycomb cooling pads: Designed from cellulose, these high-density cooling pads have a honeycomb structure. They are durable, highly efficient, and provide more cooling than the other type.

The only drawback of these types of cooling pads is that they are quite expensive.

Aspen or Wood/Wool cooling pad:Similar to grass in structure, these cooling pads have a less efficient cooling effect. Although they are affordable, they do not have a long service life.

In addition, you should also consider how often you will need to replace these cooling pads as some options are pricier than others.

Water Tank Capacity

If you find it tiring to constantly refill the water tank of your evaporative cooler, you need to look for a unit with adequate water tank capacity.

A 5-gallon water tank is enough for the cooler to run all day without needing a refill. Whereas a cooler with a smaller tank with a capacity of 1-3 gallons will run for 5-7 hours. 

Most outdoor coolers come with water hose attachments that automatically refill themselves, eliminating the need to refill the tank manually.

On the other hand, you will need to manually refill indoor models once the water in the tank runs out.

Decibel Level

best evaporative cooler reviews

Decibels (dBA) measure the noise level of any item. If you are running an outdoor cooler, you don’t need to concern yourself with this rating. However, if you are running an indoor cooler or looking for a smaller unit, then it is vital to consider the dBA level.

You need to find out how loud a cooler will sound while operating before purchasing it so that you can be sure that it will not disturb your sleep. For example, a fridge is around 50dBA, and a vacuum cleaner makes around 70dBA of noise.

Warranty & Maintenance

Most evaporative coolers come with shorter guarantees as they do not have many moving parts. However, they are designed with parts that may break, leak, or rust. That is why it is advisable to look for the best evaporative cooler that comes with an adequate warranty period.

Pros and Cons

best evaporative cooler

Evaporative coolers release cool moisturized air into a room or space, effectively cooling the air up to 33 degrees Fahrenheit. These amazing devices can instantly cool up the air without using much energy or time. However, they have some limitations, too.

Pros

Cost-effective cooling: Evaporative coolers do not just circulate the air like fans but truly cool it down. Traditional air conditioners use refrigerants and compressors, which can increase your energy costs. Evaporative coolers use only a fan, pump, and water to cool your space while costing very little to run for hours.

Portable and Heavy-Duty Design: Evaporative coolers are designed with durable, heavy-duty wheels that make it easy to move them from one place to another. They are designed for use in challenging places such as garages, warehouses, patios, and more. 

Adds moisture to the air: The cooling process of these units humidifies dry air naturally, thus reducing dry air symptoms like itchy throat, skin, or eyes. As a result, they provide a comfortable environment or dry climates.

Removes dust particles from the air: Evaporative coolers are designed with filter pads that act as air filters capable of removing airborne dust particles, dirt, and debris. 

Can be used as a commercial-grade fan: You can use an evaporative cooler as a heavy-duty fan by using it without water. You can use it both indoors and outdoors.

Eco-friendly units: Evaporative coolers lower the temperature naturally without using any harmful or ozone-depleting chemicals.

Brings in the fresh air: Unlike traditional air conditioners that recirculate the air, evaporative units are open systems that bring in fresh air to an area or room constantly.

Cons

Maintenance costs: The motors and fans in evaporative coolers are prone to damage and rust, which is why they need proper maintenance regularly.

Noise: Some units make quite a lot of noise which may be disturbing.

Requires regular tank refills: These units are designed with a water tank that you need to refill regularly. This can be quite tiring.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Evaporative coolers require regular but minor maintenance to ensure their optimal performance. Generally speaking, the best time to start maintaining your cooler is just before summer so that your device is ready for use in the warmer months.

However, you can extend it into summer when you are actually using it.

Maintenance of an evaporative cooler involves cleaning the exterior and interior of your appliance, checking the belts, and changing the cooling pads.

The following tips will help you maintain your evaporative cooler properly to ensure its maximum cooling efficiency:

Clean the exterior thoroughly

By keeping your evaporative cooler clean, you can not only increase its cooling efficiency but also prolong its service life. You should use a soft, damp cloth to wipe down the exterior every few weeks. When you are cleaning the unit, make sure it is not plugged in. 

Do not use abrasive detergents or chemicals to clean your device, as they may cause damage to the unit. Moreover, keep your cooler away from direct sunlight to prevent any color change to the surface of the unit.

Change the cooling pads regularly

evaporative cooler reviews

Make sure that the cooling pads of your evaporative cooler are in good condition. If you did not remove them before end-of-season storage, then it is best to replace them at the beginning of the warmer months or during mid-season maintenance.   

The frequency of inspection of your cooler’s cooling pads also depends on the quality of water supplied to your area.  

Remove the old pads and wash the retainer and frame. Once they are free of dirt and scale, put new pads in and reinstall the retainer and frame. Also, make sure that the frame, retainer, and pads are correctly installed with no gaps.

It is also a good idea to soak the cooler pads before using the unit to ensure better cooling.

Make sure the water tank is clean

Before using your cooler, make sure the tank is clean. Wash the tank with mild, soapy water and then rinse it with clean water. Use the drain plug to drain the water.

Maintain proper water levels

While running the unit, be sure to regularly check the water levels. Some models are not designed with an indicator that tells you when the water in the tank is low. Running the unit on low or no water can damage it.  

Use water treatment tablets

If your cooler’s manufacturer recommends that you use water treatment tablets, then do so regularly to control corrosion, prevent mineral build-up, and freshen the air.

Seasonal shutdown

When you shut down your unit for storage, make sure to turn off and drain the water supply after unplugging the cooler. Run the unit on a fan-only feature so that the cooler’s interior and the cooling pads are completely dry.  

Also, remember that your evaporative cooler will need periodic maintenance even in summer. This will require making sure that the cooling pads are clean and in great working order.

Check the water level of your unit regularly and also check the pump and motor for odd noises. Unexplained water leakage or noises will need service.

Furthermore, make sure that your cooler is in good working condition before operating it.

Frequently Asked Questions

evaporative cooler review

How much water is used by an evaporative cooler in an hour?

The amount of water that an evaporative cooler uses in an hour depends on the fan speed that the unit operates on and the humidity of the day. Typically, a portable unit can use up to four liters in an hour, while a central system could use almost 25 liters in an hour.

Are evaporative coolers harmful to your health?

Evaporative coolers are a healthier option as they do not use recycled air like air conditioners but provide fresh and healthy cool air. Plus, unlike air conditioning, the air is not dry, which might irritate some people’s eyes.

However, there is a chance of mold growth when you use evaporative coolers. As a result, people with mold allergies may experience nasal congestion, skin or eye irritation, wheezing, or fevers. 

What can I do to make my evaporative cooler colder?

You can effectively make your cooler colder with the following tips:

Open the window: Evaporative coolers work by pulling fresh air into the room. So, it is best to open the windows about two inches to allow better airflow control and cross-ventilation.

Keep the tank full and the cooling pads wet: Evaporative coolers use evaporation to cool the air; therefore, they need a sufficient amount of water. Or else the system will release only hot air.

Run the cooler on fan mode for some time before turning on the blower: This helps warm up the system, prime the pump and get the water circulating before the blower is turned on.

Clean the cooler regularly: In most systems, dust, dirt, and environmental pollutants build-up can cause the motor to work harder or not work at all. To prevent a system malfunction, it is best to follow a regular cooler cleaning schedule.    

Is it okay to put ice in my evaporative cooler?

A lot of homeowners add ice to their evaporative coolers to increase their cooling capacity. Although you might feel a burst of cold air if you are right in front of your cooler, it will not remove heat from the air or improve evaporation rate. In fact, putting ice in your cooler can actually hamper its performance.

Water has to be heated for evaporation. The colder the water, the longer it will take to warm up. If the water is really cold, it could just drip out of the cooling pads before any evaporation can even take place. 

Final Verdict: What is the most affordable evaporative cooler?

Although most affordable evaporative coolers work in the same way, they differ in reliability, coverage area, and power, making it difficult to choose the best evaporative air cooler.

We were pleasantly surprised by the outstanding performance of the Hessaire MC37M evaporative cooler.

Its spacious tank, superior build quality, large coverage area, and long life make it one of the best evaporative coolers available.

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