5 Best Evaporative Coolers (Swamp Coolers): With Ice Packs

“Evaporative coolers can be a cost-effective cooling option.” (Energy Saver 101, Department Of Energy)

Summers can be crazy hot. If you have a patio picnic, or just want the cool 15°F to 40°F breeze indoors, the best option is to choose an evaporative cooler. That’s why we have compiled a list of the best evaporative coolers in 2023 for cost-effective indoor and outdoor cooling.

Swamp coolers, otherwise known as swamp coolers, decrease the air temperature by using the process of natural water evaporation. These devices can generate 1000+ CFM of cool air during sweaty summers. You can even use them to cool down larger spaces like larger rooms, outdoor patios, garages, and so on (we’ll look into how to adequately size a swamp cooler later on).

best high velocity evaporative cooler with ice
Big #1 TaoTronics PE-TF015 can be used to cool down a patio in the summer. That’s because it can generate 2943 CFM and is the only big swamp cooler with 4 ice packs (included in the package) for extra cooling.

Evaporative coolers offer quite a lot of advantages. These include:

  • The best evaporative coolers can provide a full temperature drop of up to 33°F.
  • They don’t need to be vented as portable air conditioners.
  • Swamp coolers can completely replace hot indoor air with cool air. You keep your windows open in order for the hot air to be pushed out and replaced with cooler air.
  • Evaporative coolers are portable. They can as easily be used indoor (cooling a room) as outdoors (perfect for picnics).

On top of that, according to the US Department Of Energy, “evaporative coolers cost about one-half as much to install as central air conditioners and use about one-quarter as much energy.”

In this all-in-one guide about how to choose the best swamp cooler, we will explain how evaporative coolers work, how to properly size a cooler (CFM to square footage), why tank capacity matters, and so on.

Considering all the metrics, LearnMetrics has complied a list of the best swamp coolers in 2023. Further on, you will also find a spec-by-spec comparison of top portable evaporative coolers, followed by reviews of the best units/models. If you’re in a hurry to get some much-needed cooling, you can skip to the complied list here:

Skip To List Of Best Swamp Coolers Here

If you do have time, it makes sense to educate yourself about evaporative coolers before you buy one. We will start this ‘How do I choose a swamp cooler?’ with an introduction to how swamp coolers actually work:

How Do Evaporative Coolers Work?

The basic premise of cooling devices like air conditioners is that they use the thermodynamics principle to lower the output air temperature. This is usually facilitated by the use of refrigerants, compressed/expanded by a compressor.

Evaporative coolers don’t follow the standard cooling principles. In fact, the evaporative coolers work by taking advantage of a natural process of water evaporation. In short, water absorbs the heat from indoor air, thereby effectively cooling it

Here is the step-by-step process of how evaporative or swamp coolers work:

  1. Hot air is sucked into the evaporative cooler via an inflow fan.
  2. This air is passed over water-saturated pads.
  3. This water is evaporated; the energy needed to evaporate water is provided by the hot inflow air.
  4. Hot inflow air is thereby cooled; the air temperature decreases from over 100°F to as low as 15-40°F.
  5. Outflow fan pushes the cold air out of the evaporative cooler and thereby cools its surroundings.

As you can see, this water evaporation process involves quite a few moving parts. The difference between good and bad swamp coolers is more apparent in:

  • The amount of airflow generated (measured in CFM). More CFM means more cooling.
  • Water tank capacity. The bigger the tank, the more water it will hold, and the more cooling effect can be generated. A bigger tank also means that you don’t have to refill the tank as frequently as with smaller tanks.

Based on the CFM generated, we can cool down big or small rooms. Let’s look at how much CFM an evaporative cooler has to generate to cool down certain square footage:

How To Properly Size A Swamp Cooler?

Every good portable evaporative cooler will blow cool 15°F to 40°F air. Figuring out how many CFM should a swamp cooler have is very important. Here are two examples that explain why properly sizing an evaporative cooler is important:

  • Example of a too-small cooler: If you put a 500 CFM evaporative cooler in a 1,000 sq ft space, you won’t be able to reduce the air temperature by 40°F. Rather, the temperature drop would be much smaller (about 6°F).
  • Example of a too-big cooler: If you put a 3,000 CFM cooler in a 250 sq ft space, you have basically bought an oversized (unnecessarily big) swamp cooler which reduces the space, costs more and can create an uncomfortable wind in your room.

Sizing an evaporative cooler works in much the same way as sizing an air conditioner (by BTU). In the case of evaporative coolers, we use CFM or Cubic Feet Per Minute instead of BTU.

CFM is a measure of cooling airflow. Here is the full table of how big an evaporative cooler you need to cool down certain square footage:

Coverage (In Sq Ft): Estimated Airflow (In CFM)
250 sq ft and below 300-750 CFM
250-500 sq ft 750-2,000 CFM
500-750 sq ft 2,000-3,000 CFM
750-1,000 sq ft 3,000-4,000 CFM
1,000-2,000 sq ft 4,000-7,500 CFM
Over 2,000 sq ft More than 7,500 CFM

In general, it’s better to have a too big swamp cooler than a too little one. Bigger coolers can be overkill but will provide adequate cooling. On the other hand, smaller coolers can not be enough to properly cool the space you’re in.

For example, if you’re looking to cool down 750 sq ft, you have two choices:

You can always reduce the fan speed (CFM output) on the bigger cooler; you can never increase the fan speed on the smaller cooler.

On top of the estimated evaporative cooler CFM requirements, you should add 15-20% to the total CFM output if:

  • You have high ceilings (over 8 ft).
  • Room you’re looking to cool down is exposed to the sun (heavy sun exposure).
  • If the room is a kitchen (many heat-generating kitchen appliances present).
  • Space is frequently occupied by more than 2 people (patio picnics are a good example).

Now that we know how big an evaporative cooler we need, let’s look at the importance of the tank capacity:

Why Big Tank Capacity Is Better Than Below 10 Gallon Capacity?

Evaporative coolers use a water evaporation process to generate a cold breeze. The water is stored in a tank within the cooler. The more water you have, the better cooler you have.

Tank capacity indicated the maximum amount of water an evaporative cooler can hold. Given how big the tank is, we distinguish between:

  • Big tank coolers (tank capacity over 10 gallons). These are the real deal; through-and-through HVAC devices that can generate 1000+ CFM airflow and can lower indoor room temperatures up to 33°F.
    tank size for an evaporative cooler
    Example of big tank size on TaoTronics evaporative cooler.
  • Small tank coolers (tank capacity below 5 gallons). These units generate less than 1000 CFM and have little effect on room temperature per se. Small tank portable evaporative coolers are usually just used to create a cold breeze in its immediate surroundings. #5 BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler is the best small portable evaporative cooler.
BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler: Popular Small Evaporative Cooler 2-in-1 Tower.
#5 BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler: Popular Small Evaporative Cooler 2-in-1 Tower.

Big tanks also have to be refilled less than the smaller tanks. If you’re looking for a 3000+ CFM air cooler, you should check that it has at least a 10-gallon tank.

Indoor And Outdoor Use (No Venting)

If you compare air conditioners vs evaporative coolers, you will notice that air conditioners can only work indoors. On the other hand, evaporative coolers do not condition the existing air; they merely generate a big wave of cool air. As such, they are not limited by insulation, cold air leakage, and so forth.

Here’s the deal:

Everybody loves swamp coolers when they are installed outdoors. There is no other HVAC device that can cool down a patio or even a picnic place than a big swamp cooler.

Indoor use is another deal altogether. Here’s why:

Evaporative coolers generate cold AND humid air. That cool breeze has a high relative water concentration. That means that if you use it in an already +60% indoor relative air humidity room, you will unnecessarily add more moisture. Excessive moisture can cause mold growth (you’ll need to inspect and test for mold), and you may need a ducted or big whole-house dehumidifier to reduce it.

Even the Department Of Energy states that the drawback of evaporative coolers is this: “Evaporative coolers should not be used in humid climates because they add humidity to the air in your home.”

On top of that, Sylvane suggests that evaporative coolers should only be used indoors on the West Coast (California, Nevada, etc.). Here is a handy map – mind you, this is only for indoor use:

should swamp coolers be used indoors
Photo credit: Sylvane

On the West Coast, the indoor humidity levels in the summer are usually below 50%. Adding moisture might even be helpful. On the East Coast, removing air moisture might be helpful. That’s why Sylvane suggests portable and window air conditioners be used; they also work as dehumidifiers and remove air moisture.

This is, for example, why evaporative coolers are so popular primarily on the West Coast. They have versatile use; you can use them:

  • Outdoors.
  • Indoors.

Because they are portable, you can easily move them from the living room to your picnic area and enjoy a cool breeze.

Considering everything here, let’s use these parameters to pinpoint which evaporative air coolers are the best on the market:

List Of Best Swamp Coolers (By CFM, Tank Size, Price)

  1. TaoTronics PE-TF015: Best Evaporative Cooler With Ice In 2023.
  2. Honeywell TC50PEU: Best Portable Evaporative Cooler By Honeywell.
  3. Hessaire MC37M: Most Energy-Efficient Swamp Cooler With 3,100 CFM Airflow.
  4. FRIGIDAIRE FEC1K7GA00: Best Frigidaire Evaporative Cooler For Indoor Or Outdoor Use.
  5. BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler: Popular Small Evaporative Cooler 2-in-1 Tower.
Evaporative Cooler: #1 TaoTronics PE-TF015 #2 Honeywell TC50PEU #3 Hessaire MC37M #4 FRIGIDAIRE FEC1K7GA00 #5 BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler
Photo: best swamp cooler with ice
Max. Airflow: 2,943 CFM 647 CFM 3,100 CFM 1,650 CFM N/A
Coverage Area: Up to 900 sq ft Up to 365 sq ft Up to 950 sq ft Up to 650 sq ft Up to 650 sq ft
Fan Speeds: 3 speeds (H/M/L) 3 speeds (H/M/L) 3 speeds (H/M/L) 3 speeds (H/M/L) 3 speeds (H/M/L)
Tank Capacity: 11.9 gallons + 4 ice packs 12.5 gallons 10.3 gallons 10.6 gallons 1 gallon
Power: 220 watts 145 watts 150 watts 220 watts 60 watts
Price: $$$$ $$$$ $$$$ $$$$ $$$$
Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars 4.6 out of 5 stars 4.6 out of 5 stars 4.6 out of 5 stars 4.3 out of 5 stars
Availability: Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price

1. TaoTronics PE-TF015: Best Evaporative Cooler In 2023 (With Ice Packs)

TaoTronics PE-TF015: Best Evaporative Cooler In 2023 (With Ice Packs)
Max. Airflow: 2,943 CFM
Coverage Area: Up to 900 sq ft
Fan Speeds: 3 speeds (H/M/L)
Tank Capacity: 11.9 gallons + 4 ice packs
Power: 220 watts
Dimensions (HxWxD): 23 x 15 x 41 inches
Weight: 43 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars

TaoTronics PE-TF015 is the perfect portable evaporative cooler. It has all the right specs: very high CFM, the biggest water tank, and a large coverage area. On top of that, it has one thing no other big evaporative cooler has – 4 ice packs to produce truly cool output. Given all the specs, this is the best evaporative cooler currently on the market.

TaoTronics PE-TF015 can generate more cooling airflow than pretty much any other swamp cooler. The massive 2,943 CFM can generate as much cooling effect as a small-sized central air conditioning system. The key part here is the use of 4 ice packs that decrease the overall temperature of the air significantly.

It can be used both indoors and outdoors. With 2,943 CFM it has total coverage of up to 9000 sq ft. That means that it can provide a cooling breeze to more than 1 large room. In fact, it can be used as a ventless cooling solution for a small-to-medium-sized house.

People love using TaoTronics PE-TF015 outdoors. This is your go-to patio cooler; if you have a picnic or just a get-together in the middle of a hot summer, the TaoTronics PE-TF015 can provide a very comfortable and cool breeze.

On top of that, the TaoTronics PE-TF015 has a very large tank capacity. It can hold 11.9 gallons in addition to the 4 ice packs on the sides.

The only drawback of the TaoTronics PE-TF015 is the 220W power draw. You can easily plug it into a 110/120V outlet but it will draw about 2 amps when set in the high fan speed setting.

Overall, the TaoTronics PE-TF015 is a perfectly balanced portable evaporative cooler that can generate a lower-than-average temperature of output air due to ice packs. It has the best specs for this price point as well:

TaoTronics PE-TF015 Review

  • Best overall specifications
  • Can generate massive 2,943 CFM cooling airflow (enough to lower temperatures by as much as 33°F)
  • Utilizes 4 ice packs to decrease the temperature like no other swamp cooler can
  • Very big tank; 11.9 gallons in total
  • Very high 29.5 ft/s maximum airflow velocity
  • It has a 220W power draw
  • Can be out of stock in high season

2. Honeywell TC50PEU: Best Indoor Evaporative Cooler By Honeywell

Honeywell TC50PEU: Best Indoor Evaporative Cooler By Honeywell
Max. Airflow: 647 CFM
Coverage Area: Up to 365 sq ft
Fan Speeds: 3 speeds (H/M/L)
Tank Capacity: 12.5 gallons
Power: 145 watts
Dimensions (HxWxD): 15.9 x 15.9 x 53.6 inches
Weight: 30 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Good indoor evaporative coolers are hard to find. The best one of the top units is the Honeywell TC50PEU. This is the flagship Honeywell evaporative cooler that can be used indoors; do keep in mind that it works best in places where relative air humidity is below 60%.

Honeywell promises a ‘cool lake breeze’ coming from the Honeywell TC50PEU, and that’s actually pretty accurate. This cooler can generate up to 647 CFM of cooling airflow; that’s a too-low airflow for outdoor use. However, it’s perfect for indoor use and you will feel that cool lake breeze.

The Honeywell TC50PEU is most predominantly used in homes and home offices. It has a tower structure; this was specifically designed so that you will use as little space as possible. It has only a 16×16 inch cross-section, and it towers to 53+ inches. That enabled the unit to provide a vertically-adjusted cooling airflow; the cool air comes from the whole length of the cooler.

Based on the 647 CFM, it has a coverage area of up to 365 sq ft. The outstanding metric is that the Honeywell TC50PEU has a 12.5-gallon tank capacity. That’s just outstanding; the ratio of CFM to tank capacity is the best in the industry.

What is more, with a 145W power draw, the Honeywell TC50PEU has high energy efficiency. Even if you have it on at full speed for 8 hours, it will spend only 1 kWh of electricity (about $0.13 electricity cost).

All in all, Honeywell TC50PEU is the best indoor evaporative cooler that can be used at home or at the home office. It has a very large tank for its size, has a vertical tower structure, and a very cost-effective operation:

Honeywell TC50PEU Cooler Review

  • Best Honeywell portable evaporative cooler (indoor use; humidity levels below 60%)
  • Super tank capacity to CFM output ratio (12.5-gallon tank with 647 CFM top speed airflow)
  • Truly provides the ‘cool lake breeze’
  • Honeywell is a reliable company that offers lower-than-average costs for superb HVAC units
  • Can’t be used as an outdoors swamp cooler
  • The maximum square footage is 365 sq ft; not appropriate as a whole-house evaporative cooler

3. Hessaire MC37M: Most Energy-Efficient Swamp Cooler With 3,100 CFM Airflow

OEMTOOLS 23976: Most Energy-Efficient Swamp Cooler With 3,100 CFM Airflow
Max. Airflow: 3,100 CFM
Coverage Area: Up to 650 sq ft
Fan Speeds: 3 speeds (H/M/L)
Tank Capacity: 10.3 gallons
Power: 150 watts
Dimensions (HxWxD): 25.8 x 16.9 x 35.8 inches
Weight: 41 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Hessaire MC37M is a robust swamp cooler that can be used is frequently used in commercial settings. You can put this unit on the construction site or an outdoor event venue, and it will work smoothly. Its prime quality is that is the most energy-efficient evaporative cooler by far.

With 3,100 CFM of cooling airflow, the Hessaire MC37M is one of the most powerful outdoor swamp coolers. It can provide a cooling effect to spaces up to 950 sq ft.

The best part about this is that it only draws incredibly low 150 watts to run at full speed. That means that you’re getting a grand total of 3,100 CFM for 150W. By energy efficiency, the Hessaire MC37M can beat even the #1 TaoTronics unit.

What is more, the Hessaire MC37M has a 10+ gallon tank capacity (10.3-gallon, to be exact). It can also oscillate and thereby provide the maximum possible coverage and the consequent air circulation.

All in all, Hessaire MC37M is the most energy-efficient and cost-saving evaporative cooler. With its robust heavy-duty structure, it can be used pretty much anywhere:

Hessaire MC37M Cooler Review

  • Most energy-efficient unit (3,100 CFM airflow at only 150W)
  • Can cover up to 950 sq ft
  • Perfect for commercial use; construction sites, outdoor venues (it’s robust and can handle anything)
  • Big 10+ gallon tank
  • Doesn’t have ice packs for lower temperatures
  • The robust look is not that great at outdoor parties (not really a fancy unit)

4. FRIGIDAIRE FEC1K7GA00: Best Frigidaire Evaporative Cooler For Indoor Or Outdoor Use

FRIGIDAIRE FEC1K7GA00: Best Frigidaire Evaporative Cooler For Indoor Or Outdoor Use
Max. Airflow: 1,650 CFM
Coverage Area: Up to 650 sq ft
Fan Speeds: 3 speeds (H/M/L)
Tank Capacity: 10.6 gallons
Power: 220 watts
Dimensions (HxWxD): 41.1 x 27.25 x 17.5 inches
Weight: 42 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Frigidaire is one of the best-known and reliable brands in HVAC. They make everything from air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and, fortunately, they also make one of the best Frigidaire evaporative air coolers – the Frigidaire FEC1K7GA00.

This is the perfect unit for dual indoor and outdoor use. The Frigidaire FEC1K7GA00 generates 1,650 CFM of chilling airflow. That’s just enough to put it in the patio and cool it down during the hot summer afternoons, and it has enough cooling output to cool down up to 650 sq ft indoor spaces.

You have 3 speed settings – low, medium, and high – and you can freely adjust the cooling airflow to your exact needs.

Frigidaire specifically says that the Frigidaire FEC1K7GA00 has ‘an oversized’ tank. That’s a great thing! The 10.6-gallon water reservoir for a 1,650 CFM max. cooling airflow makes all the difference. You don’t have to constantly add water; pretty much eliminates the refills when used outside.

The easy-glide casters are also useful when you have to move the Frigidaire evaporator from indoor to outdoor.

All in all, Frigidaire has done a remarkable job with its dual-use (indoor + outdoor) portable evaporative air cooler. This is hands down the best Frigidaire cooler you can buy:

FRIGIDAIRE Cooler Review

  • Dual indoor and outdoor use (with smooth rolling easy-glide wheels and 42 lbs weight)
  • Can generate up to 1,650 CFM cooling airflow that cools down spaces up to 650 sq ft
  • ‘Oversized’ tank is the best part; Frigidaire FEC1K7GA00 has a 10.6-gallon water reservoir
  • Frigidaire is one of the best HVAC companies overall
  • It’s not the most energy-efficient unit (draws 220W for 1,650 CFM output)
  • Oscillation is good but not perfect

5. BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler: Popular Small Evaporative Cooler 2-in-1 Tower.

BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler: Popular Small Evaporative Cooler 2-in-1 Tower.
Max. Airflow: N/A
Coverage Area: Up to 650 sq ft
Fan Speeds: 3 speeds (H/M/L)
Tank Capacity: 1 gallon
Power: 60 watts
Dimensions (HxWxD): 45.4 x 11.8 x 11.6 inches
Weight: 15.4 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars

Breezewell is probably the most popular brand of indoor portable evaporative air coolers. Granted, they have beautiful designs and very nice photos; you can see Breezewell on Instagram quite a lot. But it’s not all about the looks; the Breezewell tower cooler is actually one of the best and most inexpensive evaporative coolers you can buy.

The Breezewell tower offers quite a lot, including:

  • 2-in-1 tower cooling and humidification function.
  • 70-degree oscillation for maximum cooling coverage.
  • 15 h timer.
  • Ever a remote control.
  • Less than 55 dB noise levels.

All that for about $200. These are quite outstanding features for such a cheap evaporative cooler. On top of that, you have up to 650 sq ft coverage and a minimal 60W power draw.

The key drawback of Breezewell evaporative coolers is the small 1-gallon water tanks. Those need to be refilled quite frequently. On the pro side, however, you can put ice in them instead of water for a truly chilly breeze.

All in all, it’s not a wonder why the Breezewell tower cooler is so massively popular. It offers quite a lot of features for a $200 portable evaporative air cooler:

BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler Review

  • Breezewell is the most popular small evaporative cooler brand (people really love these units)
  • Can be used indoor for home office or room cooling (with up to 650 sq ft coverage)
  • Has 70-degree oscillation for maximum coverage and air circulation
  • Requires minimal energy input; it runs on 60W (as much as a standard laptop)
  • Only 1-gallon tank (you can fill it with ice, however)
  • Materials used are not exactly sturdy

These were the best evaporative cooler or swamp coolers currently on the market. If you have any question regarding the coolers, you can use the comment section below.

4 thoughts on “5 Best Evaporative Coolers (Swamp Coolers): With Ice Packs”

  1. Like all the other reviews I have read, your reviews do not state whether the evaporative coolers have multiple speeds that really matter. Often the difference between low speed and high speed on fans and evaporative coolers is too small to matter. Sometimes one wants a quiet and gentle air flow and it is not available.

    I suggest that in the future when you test fans and evaporative coolers you state whether they have a low speed which is actually low. By doing so you might motivate manufactures to provide speed controls with a useful range of speeds.

    • Hello Frank, that’s a very useful suggestion. Most evaporative coolers (AC units as well) have 3 speeds; Low/Mid/High, and for each speed, some manufacturers specify the overall airflow (measured in CFM). So, a 100 CFM / 200 CFM / 300 CFM evaporative cooler might be better than 200 CFM / 250 CFM / 300 CFM evaporative cooler since the airflow on Low is lower? That’s great feedback! Will keep it in mind when we analyze evaporative coolers.

  2. Sadly there are all inside, not window mount — or you fail to mention window mount models. I am looking for either a reasonably large (>10 gal/~4500+ CFM, float regulated reservoir using external water line. Needing to replace one my Great Uncle built in the 1990’s. late 1980’s — over kill – 25 gal reservoir, best I can tell 3 speed ~6.5K CFM, dual layer pads, float valve water level, looks to be 1/3 HP — but a family member did not follow instructions to maintain it – and now it leaks, and needs all internal parts. Now that I live in the house, but am not a Civil/Mechanical
    Engineer it’s easier for me to purchase one with a better motor, and perhaps a tad less air volume. Thank you for the page, but it seems to do me no good in my search.

    • Hello Doc, thank you for mentioning window mount evaporative coolers. These are quite a niche HVAC products that are not used as frequently as stand-alone evaporative coolers. Hope you find the best window mount evaporative cooler replacement. If you need some advice, this MCP44 4000 CFM unit seems quite good, hope it helps a bit.


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