5 Best Evaporative Coolers (Swamp Coolers) In 2021: Reviewed & Rated

“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 2021 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).

Hessaire MC61M: Best Evaporative Cooler In 2021 (Highest CFM, Biggest Tank, Most Powerful)
Big #1 Hessaire MC61M used to cool down a patio in the summer.

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 2021. 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. 
  • 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.
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. Hessaire MC61M: Best Evaporative Cooler In 2021 (Highest CFM, Biggest Tank, Most Powerful).
  2. Honeywell TC50PEU: Best Portable Evaporative Cooler By Honeywell.
  3. OEMTOOLS 23976: 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 Hessaire MC61M #2 Honeywell TC50PEU #3 OEMTOOLS 23976 #4 FRIGIDAIRE FEC1K7GA00 #5 BREEZEWELL Tower Cooler
Photo:
Max. Airflow: 5,300 CFM 647 CFM 3,100 CFM 1,650 CFM N/A
Coverage Area: Up to 1,600 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: 14.6 gallons 12.5 gallons 10.3 gallons 10.6 gallons 1 gallon
Power: 430 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. Hessaire MC61M: Best Evaporative Cooler In 2021 (Highest CFM, Biggest Tank, Most Powerful)

Hessaire MC61M: Best Evaporative Cooler In 2021 (Highest CFM, Biggest Tank, Most Powerful)
Max. Airflow: 5,300 CFM
Coverage Area: Up to 1,600 sq ft
Fan Speeds: 3 speeds (H/M/L)
Tank Capacity:  14.6 gallons
Power: 430 watts
Dimensions (HxWxD): 28 x 17 x 46 inches
Weight: 56 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars

Hessaire MC61M is the perfect portable evaporative cooler. It has all the right specs: very high CFM, the biggest water tank, and a large coverage area. Two models – the 5,300 CFM Hessaire MC61M and 3,100 CFM Hessaire MC37M – are available. These are the best evaporative coolers in the overall review.

The bigger model – Hessaire MC61M – can generate more cooling airflow than pretty much any other swamp cooler. The massive 5,300 CFM can generate as much cooling effect as a small-sized central air conditioning system. The key part here is the use of supercharged 3-sided high-density cooling pads that increase the overall surface area from which the water can evaporate; thereby lowering the temperature significantly.

It can be used both indoors and outdoors. With 5,300 CFM is has total coverage of up to 1,600 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 Hessaire MC61M 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 Hessaire MC61M can provide a very comfortable and cool breeze.

On top of that, the Hessaire MC61M has a very large tank capacity. It can hold 14.6 gallons and it is the biggest tank you will find in a residential swamp cooler.

The only drawback of the Hessaire MC61M is the 430W power draw. You can easily plug it into 110/120V outlet but it will draw about 4 amps when set in the high fan speed setting.

Overall, the Hessaire MC61M is a perfectly balanced portable evaporative cooler (4 sturdy wheels). It has the best specs for this price point, and you can choose between two impressive models:

Hessaire MC61M Review

Pros
  • Best overall specifications
  • Can generate massive 5,300 CFM cooling airflow (enough to lower temperatures by as much as 33°F)
  • Utilizes supercharged high-density cooling pads to maximize the evaporation surface area
  • Biggest tank; 14.6 gallons in total
  • Two models available – 5,300 CFM and 3,100 CFM – for a very reasonable price
Cons
  • It has a 430W power draw
  • It is portable but it does weight 56 lbs (strong hands needed)

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

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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. OEMTOOLS 23976: 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

OEMTOOLS 23976 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 OEMTOOLS 23976 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 OEMTOOLS 23976 can beat even the #1 Hessaire units. The smaller Hessaire MC37M can also generate 3,100 CFM but requires 250W to do so. That means that OEMTOOLS 23976 is 40% more energy and cost-effective than the best overall swamp cooler.

What is more, the OEMTOOLS 23976 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, OEMTOOLS 23976 is the most energy-efficient and cost-saving evaporative cooler. With its robust heavy-duty structure, it can be used pretty much anywhere:

OEMTOOLS 23976 Cooler Review

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • OEMTOOLS is primary a tools brand, not an HVAC brand
  • 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

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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

Pros
  • 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)
Cons
  • 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.

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