What You Need to Know About Swamp Coolers

If you’ve been looking for an inexpensive and efficient way to cool your home or business, odds are you have probably come across information regarding swamp coolers, or evaporative coolers as they are also known. These systems often catch people’s attention due to their lower costs, easy maintenance, and effective ability to keep a space comfortable. However, what many people don’t realize is these systems depend on the right operating conditions in order to function to their fullest ability. Here is the information you need to know in order to determine if one of these systems is the ideal choice for you.

How Evaporative Cooling Works

Swamp coolers work by utilizing an effect known as “evaporative cooling,” which works exactly as its name implies. When water evaporates into the atmosphere, it absorbs heat in order to do so. By forcing air over cool water, you speed up the evaporation process while also removing heat from the air. This is the principle of how sweat keeps you cool, and how swamp coolers make cold air that they then push into your home.

Swamp coolers are remarkably simple devices, containing a fan, a water tank or connection to a water line, an air filter, and a permeable sponge-like grid. The device pumps in warm air from the outside and then pushes it through the air filter using the fan. Once the air passes through the filter, it moves past the permeable grid, which is kept damp by the water tank or the connection to the water line. As the air moves past the grid, it forces some of the water on it to evaporate, cooling the air and the grid itself. From there, the air then permeates throughout your home, cooling it down.

Downsides to Swamp Coolers

Swamp coolers sound like an ideal solution to home cooling for most people. In fact, the idea of only having to use the energy required to power a blower fan sounds absolutely wonderful to those sick of paying the immense energy costs they might already be dealing with. However, swamp coolers have a huge downside compared to regular central air conditioners that needs to be accounted for: contrary to their name, they don’t actually work all that well in high-humidity climates.

Air has a maximum concentration of water vapor that it can hold, based on several factors but notably its temperature. This concentration of water vapor is known as “humidity,” and it’s what can make the air feel sticky and muggy on warm days. When the air begins to approach its limit for the amount of water vapor it’s holding, water can’t evaporate, and that means evaporative cooling stops working. This is why high-humidity days often feel hotter than dry days that have hotter air temperatures: sweat isn’t keeping your body cool because it isn’t evaporating, and therefore your body can’t lose the heat.

As a result, high-humidity climates aren’t conducive to evaporative coolers either. When the humidity is high, the air can’t evaporate the water, and thus the cooler can’t get rid of the heat from the air, and you’ll be stuck with the same muggy air outside as you will inside.

Central air conditioning runs on the opposite principle: rather than humidifying the air by evaporating water in order to cool it, these systems remove humidity from the air through condensation, a process performed by passing humid air past a condenser coil, which cools the air and causes the vapor to condense into water, which is then drained away. As a result, a central air conditioning system works well in both humid and arid climates when a swamp cooler depends on a supply of dry air.

Any Texan can tell you just how strange our summer weather can be: hundred degree temperatures, thunderstorms, high humidity, and bone-dry days can all occur within what seems like just a few hours of each other on some days, and this fact alone can make a swamp cooler a somewhat questionable choice for a cooling solution for your home. While they’ll no doubt save you energy and keep you cool when the air is dry, they’ll be remarkably ineffective.

To find out more about whether a swamp cooler is the right choice for your home, speak with a Kerrville air conditioning expert by calling 72 Degrees Air Conditioning & Heating at (830) 302-3140!