Swamp cooler vs air conditioner
What is a swamp cooler?
Swamp coolers are indoor evaporative cooling devices that consist of a motorized fan, a water spray system, and some method of air filtration.
How does a swamp cooler work?
The swamp cooler works by passing hot dry outside air through its moist pads or filters. As the dry air passes over the wet filter pad, some of the water in the pad is wicked into the air stream. This process works to lower both humidity and temperature simultaneously.
A small mist may also be emitted into the incoming airstream to further enhance evaporation and coolness. When the air has passed through these mechanisms, it is circulated throughout your home by way of sheet metal channels with plastic grills attached to them called diffusers. These diffusers lead to the rooms throughout your home that need cooling.
Three types of swamp coolers
- Whole house swamp cooler (also known as the “one-size fits all” unit) – This is the most common type of swamp cooler and it’s meant to cool your entire home.
- Portable evaporative air cooler – These units are more portable than their whole house counterparts because they only require a window aperture for air discharge instead of ducting throughout your home. They can also be moved from one room to another as needed. Most portable models don’t use water but rather “dry” pads that look like cloths and which do not need to be rinsed after use, although some newer models spew mist into the incoming airstream (see below) and thus may require more maintenance than those that do not wet the pads or filters.
- Window mounted evaporative cooler – This type of swamp cooler hangs out on your window sill or attaches itself to your window pane with suction cups. It doesn’t require ducting throughout your home and is great for apartments where there isn’t a lot of space available to play around with. Some people also use them in conjunction with traditional air conditioning to save on electricity costs since they can chill just one room instead of the whole house.
What is an air conditioner?
An air conditioning system (often referred to as AC) is a refrigeration cycle machine that uses a device called a compressor to compress and expand a refrigerant fluid in order to cool air being circulated by way of metal ductwork.
The cooled air is then passed over a heat exchanger where the heat from the cooled air is transferred to a hot fluid on one side of the exchanger, while also releasing some of the heat into the atmosphere via evaporator coils. This condenser coil may be located outside or inside your home depending on various factors such as size, type, etc.
Then once it has been through this process, it is pushed back through the metal ductwork to a diffuser where it is circulated throughout your home.
How does the air conditioner work?
The process of cooling air using an air conditioner happens in four separate stages. These are:
1 . The compressor pumps the refrigerant fluid through the device until it reaches its saturation point. This is where heat transfer occurs and heat is pushed out into either your home or outside depending on whether or not you have an evaporative coil inside your home.
Because this is a closed system, there’s no way for this refrigerant to escape once it has been compressed so it must be vented out via a duct known as the “condensate drain”.
2 . As the now-superheated and low-pressure refrigerant passes through the condenser coils, some of the heat from that fluid is passed into your home and then into the atmosphere.
3 . The cooled refrigerant then passes through an expansion valve where it “un-compresses” and reverts back to its original state. It’s now at high pressure but low temperature which means that some of that heat that was once pushing out into your home must be pushed out yet again into your outdoor unit (known as the evaporator coil), while also releasing hot air right back inside your home.
This process is repeated over and over until you adjust the thermostat down, at which point there will be no more demand for cooling (you’ve reached comfort level).
4 . Finally, when all of this superheated fluid has been pushed out of the indoor evaporator coil, it flows in one direction back through the condenser coils and then rises to the top of your outdoor unit where it is vented out into the atmosphere. The whole process takes about 30-90 seconds (depending on how much you’ve cranked up your thermostat), at which point the entire four-step cycle begins again.
Types of air conditioners
- Air conditioner – This type of air conditioner is a much larger piece of equipment that requires you to have an even greater amount of space. In most cases, it attaches itself to the side or back wall of your home and pushes cool air into your home from large metal ductwork.
You can then attach window units or other pieces of equipment that have been specifically made for cooling just one room.
These devices are great if you live in a house with few walls and a lot of windows since they push cold air through the metal ductwork but also let a good deal out through these very same windows as well as any other, smaller gaps around doors and baseboards. It’s important to note that this type of system costs more to run and is less efficient than others.
- Ductless air conditioning systems – These air conditioning systems use individual air conditioners (sometimes referred to as split units) which are connected to metal, flexible tubing rather than bulky copper piping.
They can be used in any number of ways such as with window units (which require a hole at least ¾ of an inch wide), or wall-mounted mini-splits that simply sit flush against your wall and vent cool air into your home without requiring you to cut a single hole. This is also great for basement conversions since they can be placed anywhere and don’t require a ton of installation work. You’ll probably need more than one but the cost is offset by the money saved on installation costs.
- Evaporative coolers – These are the most cost-effective and best option for hot, dry climates. In fact, these aren’t true air conditioners at all because they don’t actually remove heat from a space but rather blow cooler outdoor air over a water source (known as wet pads or evaporating media) which then absorbs heat from the room before pushing it outside through your home’s metal ductwork.
Although this type of system can be used in places that get both extremely hot and humid weather, you’re going to have more success with them if you live somewhere that has long periods of dryness. If there’s too much humidity in the air then the moisture will quickly cause mold growth inside your own home.
One potential drawback is that you’ll need to replace the media every few months which means more cost. It’s important to note that this type of system uses significantly less electricity to run, but requires a lot more maintenance overall.
- Ceiling fans – These are self-explanatory since they’re merely portable versions of traditional ceiling fans. They can be used alone or combined with central air systems to boost efficiency. Just make sure you take the time to properly clean your blades and coils each month so as not to create an environment for any mold growth.
How much do they cost to install?
Swamp coolers cost anywhere from $300 -$1500 to install on average. Air conditioners can start at around $350 on the low end but may run up to more than $7000 for a large unit depending on various factors such as size, type, etc. However, on the high end, some energy-efficient air conditioner models are capable of cooling your home for less than what it would cost to operate a traditional swamp cooler ($0.08/hr vs $0.12/hr).
What are the greenhouse gas emissions of an AC compared to that of a swamp cooler?
Swamp coolers produce more greenhouse gas emissions due to the amount of energy that it takes to create refrigerants. In fact, they produce up to 4-5 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions than a traditional air conditioner would.
Difference in efficiency
Air conditioners are typically more efficient than swamp coolers. Swamp coolers provide adequate cooling for approximately 300 square feet of space whereas an air conditioner can easily cool about 500-1000 square feet of space.
Swamp cooler pads need to be cleaned or replaced every once in a while, and it is recommended that you do this at least twice a year for best results. Air filters will need to be changed out on your air conditioner once per season as well.
However, the average clean-up time for a swamp cooler pad is 1 hour compared with 10 minutes for an air filter change out on an air conditioning unit.
Difference in size
Air conditioners come in a variety of sizes to fit all needs and budgets. There are small air conditioner units that can be installed in an office or extra bedroom, as well as large air conditioning systems capable of cooling the entire home. In contrast, swamp coolers tend to be either very big or very small, but not much in-between.
For example, there aren’t many different models of 1000 square foot rated swamp coolers like there are with some smaller and larger ACs.
One benefit that swamp coolers have over some traditional ACs is their ability to operate on alternative energy sources such as solar panels. Air conditioners do not function this way; they require electricity from the grid in order to run properly.
However, if you are considering installing a solar-powered air conditioner, you should keep in mind that their efficiency is highly dependent on the weather.
Difference in economy
As is the case with most home appliances, air conditioners tend to cost more initially but provide a better return on your investment. If you calculate the total amount of money that it would take for a swamp cooler to cool your entire property and then compare it to how much it would cost for an air conditioner (the initial investment as well as monthly electricity expense), you will find that an AC unit typically is cheaper per month.
Swamp coolers require less maintenance than air conditioning systems; however, they can be slightly more costly in terms of monthly energy expenses. The only routine cleaning required by a swamp cooler is replacing its pads and filters every once in a while. Air conditioners require routine filter changes and inspection/cleaning of the condenser coils.
Which one is better – swamp cooler or air conditioner?
The choice between a swamp cooler and an air conditioner is completely up to the homeowner. Both cooling appliances are capable of providing you with adequate cooling for your home; it will ultimately be your personal preference that determines which one to choose.
Swamp coolers, in general, tend to cost less to install than air conditioners do; however in terms of operating costs, air conditioners typically win when it comes to their efficiency and energy savings.
Air quality also plays an important role in this decision because depending on where you live (i.e. by/in a river), the air quality may not always be the best. If this is something you are concerned about or if there are other environmental factors about your location that could affect how long your swamp cooler pads last, you may want to opt for an air conditioner over a swamp cooler.
Swamp coolers work best in places where summers are hot and dry. Air conditioners can provide cooling comfort in nearly any location, even those that experience all sorts of different weather conditions throughout the year.
For example, if you live somewhere with more humidity than Phoenix (the city known to be one of the hottest and driest in America), then you might stand to benefit from an air conditioning system over a swamp cooler. However, if your region is typically hot and dry like Arizona’s climate, you will get better value out of a swamp cooler rather than an air conditioner.
In conclusion: both appliances serve their purpose well but it is ultimately up to the homeowner to weigh in the many different factors. When considering a swamp cooler vs air conditioner, think about how hot and/or dry your location typically gets in the summertime, who will be using it, and whether or not you have access to alternative energy sources.
After taking these things into consideration then you should be able to come to a decision that will result in maximum cooling comfort for everyone in your family.