Should I Buy a Portable Air Conditioner or an Evaporative Air Cooler?

Should I Buy a Portable Air Conditioner or an Evaporative Air Cooler?

Portable air conditioners and evaporative air coolers (swamp coolers) are effective and affordable appliances to keep cool all summer long. They're also easy to install with no heavy lifting required. Both are excellent alternatives for apartments or rental homes that don't have central air conditioning or don't allow window units.

But portable ACs and swamp coolers aren't ideal for the same situations. Let's dive into a Q&A to help you determine which kind of unit is better for your home. 

Q: I don't have central AC. Should I get a portable air conditioner or an evaporative cooler?

A: Both can be effective options depending on the environment you live in.

Air coolers are ideal for hot and dry climates like the southwest and Midwest regions of the United States, where overall humidity levels are less than 50%. Temperature reduction from air coolers is greatest where the air is dryer. They use water evaporation to provide you with a cool, refreshing breeze, a process that adds moisture to the air as it cools it. This can be a welcome solution to the irritating symptoms of dry air caused by desert climates or over-air-conditioned rooms.

A portable AC can be used in areas with almost any humidity level, effectively cooling single rooms to help you save energy instead of cooling an entire home with central AC. Portable ACs do require a window for an exhaust hose, so this option is only feasible if you have an available window.

If you prefer air conditioning to evaporating cooling, a portable AC is a great option—plus, you can avoid the stress and potential safety hazards of installing a bulky window unit. Portable air conditioners can also be easily moved from room to room, so you can run yours in your home office during the day and in your bedroom at night.

Q: I already have central air conditioning. How can a portable AC or air cooler help me?

A: You can extend cooling and save energy by running a portable AC or air cooler in conjunction with central air.

A portable AC or air cooler can prevent waste and lower your energy bills. Rather than cooling the entire house, just cool the room you're using. By strategically using a portable unit, you can save big! 

An air cooler will also add moisture into air stripped dry by your central AC, keeping your body cool and preventing your sinuses from drying out.

Q: Which one will cool my basement?

A: We wouldn't recommend either option.

Air coolers and portable ACs are generally not recommended for basements as they both require window access to operate correctly. Air coolers need an open window for cross-ventilation, and portable ACs need a window to vent out hot air. 

Q: I want to stay cool on my patio. Which cooling solution is better?

A: An outdoor evaporative cooler is one of the best outdoor cooling solutions (and it won’t throw wet mist all over you and your furniture). 

An outdoor air cooler can turn your patio into an enjoyable space for your whole family. With effective outdoor cooling, the kids can have fun outside while you enjoy a sweat-free barbecue. Choose a brand like Honeywell for outdoor coolers as they have safe, outdoor-rated options for rugged weather conditions.  

Shopping pro tip: An air cooler needs to be outdoor rated for safety and longevity.

All Honeywell outdoor air coolers, like the Pro Tool Reviews’ recommended Honeywell CO610PM, are outdoor rated, which means:

  • They're ETL certified to meet strict UL outdoor appliance regulations.
  • They have a GFCI safety plug for extra protection against any potential electrical shocks.
  • They're made of rugged UV-resistant plastics to prevent fading or cracking.
  • They're waterproof, so they can withstand the elements.
  • They have aluminum heat-proof fan blades that withstand extreme temperatures, unlike cheaper, plastic blades.

Q: Which one is better for my garage or shed?

A: These can be difficult spaces to cool, but if you keep the doors or windows open, an air cooler would work well.

An evaporative air cooler isn't designed for enclosed spaces, but if you plan to run yours with the garage door open, this is the best option for staying comfortable in the middle of a heatwave. A standard fan just blows warm air around, but because swamp coolers work through evaporation, they reduce temperatures with refreshingly moistened air.

In theory, a portable AC can bring instant cooling to your garage as long as there's a window and your walls are well insulated from outside heat. For more information and inspiration, see how this customer set up his Honeywell portable AC in his garage.

While you're shopping, don't forget to buy from a trustworthy brand like Honeywell that has products that are safe and reliable.

Related Articles

Saving Energy with Portable ACs


How to Create a Safe and Comfortable Workspace


Top 5 Benefits of a Portable Air Conditioner


How Important is CFM/CMH When Choosing an Evaporative Air Cooler


Energy Efficient Cooling Options for Hot, Dry Summers


Swamp Cooler or Evaporative Cooler: Are They the Same?