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What are evaporative coolers—and where you can buy them

The simply engineered cooling systems are all the rage.

Evaporative air cooling fan placed in the living room Credit: Getty Images / undefined undefined

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Right now, it’s the middle of summer and it’s hot. Very, very hot—like record-breaking hot. These rising temperatures have people looking for the best solutions for a cool and comfortable space, especially if air conditioning isn’t an option. While there are plenty of ways to stay cool in the summertime, the best and most effective way is to employ a cooling unit to do the job. Window air conditioners are typically heavy and bulky, ceiling fans that don’t quite do the job, and standing fans that just blow the hot air right back at you. So, what else is there?

If you’re looking for a new cooling solution when nothing else has done the trick, try an evaporative cooler.

Evaporative coolers look like a cross between a fan and a portable air conditioner and are a great cooling alternative. They manage to make a room cooler without using as much energy as fans or air conditioners, making them a more environmentally friendly option. Plus, depending on their size and functionality, they can be quite affordable. If you’re looking for an evaporative cooler, we’ve rounded up the retailers where you can still find them before there’s potentially a short stock as people continue to struggle with the heat.

What are evaporative coolers?

To understand how an evaporative cooler works, we went to the Reviewed experts. Jonathan Chan, senior manager of lab operations, explains that these gadgets work similarly to the human body. “Evaporative or swamp coolers work on the same principle of how sweat cools you down,” he says. “Typically, these devices have two components: a water-soaked pad and a fan. The fan draws in hot air that passes through the pad. When that happens, some of the water evaporates, taking some of the heat with it. The result is that the air that passes through the evaporator is 15 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the ambient temperature on average.” He explains that is one of the major reasons why a breeze off of a lake or the ocean tends to be cool.

For these reasons, evaporative coolers are different and potentially more effective than your average air conditioning unit. “Standard air conditioners use the same cooling principles as refrigerators,” says David Ellerby, chief scientist at Reviewed. “They use a fan to pass air over cold refrigerant. This cools the air, and, in humid conditions, removes some of the water. These systems are pretty complicated, use chemical refrigerants, and have relatively high power usage.”

So what’s the benefit of an evaporative cooler, then? Ellerby believes they’re simpler than these other cooling devices. “The simplest [evaporative coolers] need water, a water pump, and a fan,” he says. “So they potentially need less energy, materials, and maintenance than a traditional air conditioner.”

There are also a few downsides to evaporative coolers, though. Ellerby says that they work much better in hot, dry conditions, so if you live in more humid areas, they might not be a good choice. That’s because evaporative coolers add more humidity to the air to achieve cooling, which is difficult to do if the incoming air is already humid. Because water can only hold so much moisture, the rest would be expelled back into the air.

Where can you buy evaporative coolers?

Evaporative air cooler front running blown flick.
Credit: Getty Images / Mumemories

Evaporative coolers help to keep your home or business cool in a simple, eco-friendly way.

Though most retailers don’t carry a large variety of evaporative coolers, you can still find a few models at retailers Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, and more. Plus, if you need your new device ASAP, you can also opt to order online and pick it up in stores, so you won’t have to wait for shipping.

Below are retailers that carry evaporative coolers both online and in-store.




The Home Depot

Ace Hardware


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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.