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How Much Does a Swamp Cooler Cost?

Last Updated: January 19, 2022

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Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, utilize water evaporation to cool the air. Popular in desert climates and other areas that don't experience high humidity, a swamp cooler can lower indoor temperatures by as much as 40 degrees while costing less and using up to 75 percent less electricity than an air conditioner.

How Swamp Coolers Work #

You experience the cooling effect of evaporation when sweating or standing by a waterfall on a hot summer day. When water evaporates, or turns from a liquid to a gas, it removes heat from the air. A swamp cooler takes advantage of this process through the use of moist pads and a powerful fan. The fan sucks warm outdoor air through the pads. As it does, water evaporation cools the air. The cooled air is then distributed throughout the home by the fan.

In addition to lowering indoor temperatures by 15 to 40 degrees, a swamp cooler creates a breeze (from the fan) that has a cooling effect similar to a box or ceiling fan. Swamp coolers, however, add humidity to the air, and are therefore best suited to relatively dry climates. In areas that are already muggy, the cooling ability of an evaporative cooler is compromised. So in spite of its name, if you live in a swampy area, a swamp cooler isn't the best climate control solution.

Evaporative Cooler Considerations #

In order to select the right type of swamp cooler for your home, keep the following points in mind:

  • Sizing: A swamp cooler that's used as a whole house cooling system, much like a central air conditioner, must be appropriately-sized. But while central air output is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), swamp cooler output is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). To size a whole house swamp cooler, simply multiply the square footage of your home by the ceiling height and divide that number by two. For example, a home with 2,000 square feet and 8 foot ceilings requires an 8,000 CFM swamp cooler (2,000 x 8 = 16,000; 16,000/2 = 8,000).
  • Installation: Whole house swamp coolers are often installed on the roof, in the basement, or in the attic and connected to the rest of the home via ductwork. If your home has a forced air system, the existing ducts should be compatible with a swamp cooler. If you need to install ductwork, a single duct that connects the cooler to a central location in the home should be sufficient. Opening and closing windows and doors, rather than ductwork throughout the home, can then be used to direct cooled air to individual areas of the home. It's also possible to use smaller, portable evaporative cooler units that simply plug in. A series of portable coolers can be used in lieu of a whole house cooler.

Swamp Cooler Average Costs #

  • A whole house swamp cooler might cost $1,500 to $4,500 installed.
  • Two-stage evaporative coolers, which produce less in-home humidity by cooling the air before it passes through the moist pads, are quite a bit costlier than the one-stage coolers described above. Expect to pay $2,500 to $5,000 for a two-stage unit, plus another $1,000 or so for installation.
  • Portable evaporative coolers cost around $100 to $500 apiece (no installation required).
  • Replacement pads cost $25 to $50 per set and should be replaced every (or every other) cooling season.

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