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When it comes time to cool your home during warmer months, you may think your only options are an air conditioner or a box fan, but there’s a third choice: an evaporative cooler.
These coolers have a water tank in their base that you can fill up manually, or hook up to a garden hose. A pump circulates the water, speeding up the process of evaporation. As the water evaporates, the air inside the cooler drops by up to 15 degrees. The wet air gets absorbed into panels built into the sides of the cooler, and blown outward by a fan that sits on top.
Air conditioners can make your room colder, but require an artificial coolant (hazardous to the environment) and a compressor (energy hungry). Conversely, a regular fan just moves hot air around without cooling it down first. Evaporative coolers are a happy medium that balance energy efficacy, environmental impact, and more effective temperature control.
While they do need to be plugged into an outlet to work, the coolers in our guide are relatively portable. The bigger ones rest on wheels, so they can be rolled inside and outside without much fuss. Our smallest recommendation weighs under one and a half pounds, and can be carried around by a handle.
Evaporative coolers may not be the best-known way to reduce the temperature in a hot room, but the picks in our guide proves they deserve to be considered alongside more traditional appliances.
What You Need to Know Before Buying an Evaporative Air Cooler
There are many factors to think about when choosing the right evaporative air cooler for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Water Tank Capacity: A evaporative cooler’s water tank is the key to chilling your room. When it’s empty, the cooler turns into a regular fan. The full-sized evaporative coolers in our guide have multi-gallon tanks that can work continuously for several hours without a refill. The personal cooler we recommend has a smaller tank, but is meant to be used in smaller areas for shorter bursts of time.
Cooling Area: An evaporative cooler’s reach is measured in CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute). The higher the CFM, the larger the area it can cool down. Each cooler we chose works best in a different-sized environment to cover all the bases.
Size: All of our recommendations claim to be “portable,” but that’s because they’re set on wheels. These coolers can be up to 37 inches tall and weigh up to 41 pounds; yes, you can move all of them easily on a single floor, but don’t plan on carrying them up and down staircases too often.
Energy Usage: The evaporative coolers in our guide consume between 18W (watts) and 228W of electricity. For reference, the average medium-sized window air conditioner consumes 900W. You’ll be saving a lot of energy by switching to one of these coolers versus running the A/C.
1. Hessaire MC37M Portable Evaporative Cooler
If you need to reduce the temperature in a large area — think garage, master bedroom, or small patio — Hessaire’s evaporative cooler is the right choice.
It has a CFM of 3,100, which means it can cool a room up to 950 square feet, and its fans have three speed settings, so you can control the intensity of its airflow. There are additional settings for fan oscillation (movement back and forth), and the cooler’s water pump (when it’s on, water will evaporate more quickly).
This cooler has a 10.3 gallon water tank, which allows it to work for up to four hours before needing to be refilled. It also has a garden hose hookup, which will continually replenish the tank with fresh water as its used.
This level of power and capacity come at the cost of energy efficiency and size. Hesseaire’s cooler consumes 250W of electricity, weighs 41 pounds, and is 37 inches tall, 25 inches long, and 17 inches wide.
This makes it the largest cooler in this guide by far, and nearly the most power-hungry. It still requires less than one-third of the electricity of a mid-sized window air conditioner though.
2. Honeywell 525-790CFM Evaporative Cooler
If you need to cool down a mid-sized room, or want an experience that comes closer to using an air conditioner, Honeywell’s evaporative cooler is the right call.
It has a CFM of 525, which the manufacturer says can cool down rooms up to 320 square feet in size. It has three fan speeds, water pump controls, and oscillation settings, so you have pretty deep control over it. This evaporative cooler comes with a remote, which you can use to change any of these settings without touching it.
The water tank can hold 7.9 gallons of water, which the company says is enough for seven and a half hours of continuous use. It doesn’t have a valve for connecting a water hose, though, so you’ll always have to manually refill the tank.
This cooler stands out because of an ice compartment that sits above the water tank. When air flows through the compartment it’s cooled even further. This evaporative cooler still won’t produce the same results as an air conditioner, but this feature gets it closer.
In terms of power efficiency and size, this cooler is a mixed bag. It consumes 288W of electricity — the most out of any evaporative cooler we recommend. It only weighs 24.9 pounds, though, and is 33 inches tall, 18 inches wide, and 13.9 inches deep. That makes it more portable than the other full-sized cooler in our guide by a fair margin.
If cooling performance is more important to you than power efficiency, this is the best pick for you.
3. BREEZEWELL 2-in-1 Evaporative Air Cooler
“Eco-friendly” and “air conditioner” don’t normally go together, but this tower-style cooler from BREEZEWELL will be your secret weapon to getting powerful cooling in the warmer months, all while going easy on the environment.
This cooler is made from a lightweight aluminum alloy, and has no compressor, or chemical refrigerants sometimes present in evaporative air coolers. It’s also a big energy saver, and just by adding ice or cold water, you can easily enjoy extra chill without the extra cost. The removeable 1-gallon water tank is easy to fill and clean, and while the company doesn’t list how long it can go before a refill, compared to other models, you might need a refill after 5-6 hours.
What we do like: as far as the airflow is concerned, the unique bladeless design, combined with a powerful motor and “air amplifier technology”, creates a consistently smooth breeze of air. BREEZEWELL says that the bladeless design also allows for easier cleaning (bacteria and dust won’t build up the way they would in vents), and is safer for small children and pets.
The 2-in-1 cooler features 3 wind speeds, 4 adjustable cooling and humidifying settings, and it comes with a wireless remote control, so you don’t have to get up from the couch or bed. For its size, at 35.7 inches tall, 14.8 inches wide, and 10.7 inches deep, it’s also surprisingly lightweight without wheels—a manageable 15.45 pounds.
So if you don’t mind some more frequent refills, than this cooler is a great pick for the environmentally-conscious.
4. VOSAREA Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
The evaporative coolers we typically recommend are large and meant to cool down big spaces. VOSAREA’s is meant for small areas — your office desk, a coffee table next to your couch, or a nightstand.
The company doesn’t give a CFM, but its size — 8.9 inches tall, 5.12 inches wide, and 5.12 inches tall — implies it’s best used at a short distance to cool down a single person (two at most). You can choose between one of three fan speeds, but have no control over its oscillation, or the cooler’s water pump.
This cooler’s tank can only hold 0.11 gallons of water, but it can work for up to four hours without a refill. That’s competitive with the other coolers in our guide.
VOSAREA’s evaporative cooler can’t beat full-sized models in terms of power, but does have a couple of core strengths. At 1.3 pounds it’s truly portable, and it only consumes 18W of electricity; that’s less than a standard lightbulb. If you want a way to keep yourself a little cooler in different parts of your house without a spike in your electricity bill, this is your best bet. This evaporative cooler’s small size makes it more portable and energy-efficient.