Staying cool during the warmer parts of the year is a constant challenge. For those living in Phoenix, Arizona, the challenge is even greater, considering that the city gets an average of 91 days of 90+ degree temperatures in summer alone.
Fortunately, evaporative coolers can help keep your home or apartment cool all season (or year) long. But, how do they work and where do they work best? Let’s break them down.
What is an Evaporative Cooler?
The other term for this type of air conditioning is a “swamp cooler,” so named because it adds humidity to the air, much like a swamp. While regular air conditioners simply provide cool, dry air, evaporative coolers add moisture to the air.
These devices work by moving cold air over water-saturated pads. As the air moves, it collects evaporating water and brings it along. The more water on the pads, the higher the amount of water imparted on the air passing through.
These units cool the air in the same way that perspiration will cool a person’s body, where the sweat will accumulate on the individual’s body, and the moisture produced by their body will carry small amounts of their internal heat. As the sweat evaporates off of them, the heat will dissipate, cooling their overall internal temperature. In the same way, the small amounts of moisture that an evaporative cooler adds to the air will allow the heat present in the air to become trapped and then evaporate, cooling the air that these coolers disperse into a home or business.
Since certain levels of humidity can make it easier and more efficient to cool down, evaporative coolers use less electricity than standard air conditioning units. The other primary difference between the two systems is that evaporative coolers use fresh air from outside. Standard A/C machines recirculate the same air inside to help reduce wear and tear on the motor and compressor.
The Drawbacks of the Evaporative Cooler
The only drawbacks to the evaporative cooler are its reliance upon water and low humidity in order to function properly. In high-humidity environments, such as tropical and sub-tropical regions as seen in states like Florida, the ambient water present in the air will make it impossible for the evaporative cooler to function as it is meant to.
This reliance upon water to function also means that these units are not ideal for any living situation where water scarcity is of serious concern. In these situations where obtaining clean drinking water is a major priority for individuals, the amount of water that these units will consume will be untenable, and ultimately not worth the amount of cooling provided.
The other factor that many businesses and homeowners may need to consider with an evaporative cooler is the fact that they can require more general maintenance than a standard air conditioner in order to be kept in peak working condition.
Benefits of an Evaporative Cooler
Phoenix residents should invest in high-quality evaporative coolers for a few reasons, such as:
- Energy-Efficiency – Since the cooler only uses water to cool the air, it doesn’t require as much electricity as a regular air conditioner. If you’re trying to stay comfortable without increasing your utility bill, an evaporative cooler is the best option.
- Eco-Friendliness – Modern air conditioners use refrigerants and chemicals to chill the air. By comparison, evaporative coolers just use water, so there’s less of a chance of pollution or contamination. The only element to change regularly is the filter.
- Fresh Air – Since evaporative coolers bring filtered air indoors, you can get better air quality than you would with a standard air conditioner. Those who have allergies or breathing problems should benefit from an evaporative cooling system.
So Where Do Evaporative Coolers Work Best?
Since the primary function of these coolers is to increase the humidity, they work best in dry and arid environments. As a rule, the western United States (especially Arizona) is always dry, so residents should invest in these coolers. Those on the east coast can’t use these devices because the environment is already hot and humid.
Most evaporative coolers work best in areas with less than 50 percent humidity. The less water in the air already, the more efficient the cooler can be overall. So, desert states like:
- New Mexico
will benefit from these coolers the most, when compared to other states in the country.
These regions have exceedingly dry and hot summers, which the evaporative cooler functions best in, as it is able to add moisture to the airflow in the home or business, which will then evaporate off leading to cooler air.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Evaporative Coolers
You should know as much about your evaporative cooler as to get the most from your machine. Here are some commonly asked questions about these devices:
How Much Water Does an Evaporative Cooler Use?
The exact amount of water depends on usage. If you keep the cooler running all day long, you can use about 15 gallons or more. Some units are more efficient than others, so they use less water.
How Often Do You Need to Refill an Evaporative Cooler?
Again, the type of machine you have will dictate how often you need to refill the tank. Also, the ambient temperature and humidity will affect your water usage. On average, you should have to refill the water tank every four to six hours.
How Much Air Moves Through an Evaporative Cooler?
Most models will move between 3,000 and 25,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM). The Department of Energy recommends buying a unit that can change the air between 20 to 40 times per hour. So, you’ll have to do a bit of math to find the right-sized cooler. Measure your square footage and look at the model’s CFM. If it’s higher than your square footage, it will work more efficiently than a unit that doesn’t move as much air.