air cooler vs air con

Air Cooler vs. Air Con – The Sticky Difference

 In the Midwest where I live, the heat has been soaring this year.  We are all the way into September and the midday sun does not seem to want to let go of its power to make everyone miserable.

And what’s worse , the humidity has been extra high and thick. Which means the air conditioning is struggling and the mosquitoes are rampant.

I can tell you this , in this environment, evaporative cooling is useless. More about that later.

I long for the early days of spring when the air cooler made a difference.

But living through this season has given me a unique or at least a “fresh” viewpoint on air coolers and air conditioning. More like a “sticky” viewpoint.

Air Cooler vs. Air Con

  • Air conditioning – Refrigerated air.
    Air Cooler- Evaporated Water cooled 

 An air cooler usually refers to evaporative cooling. An air con or air conditioning typically refers to refrigerated air conditioning.

Evaporative cooling uses water to cool the air. Air conditioning uses a refrigerant.

difference between air cooler and air conditioningThe difference between an air conditioner and an air cooler,

comes down primarily to the humidity.

An air conditioner reduces the humidity whereas an air cooler increases the humidity.

It’s because of the method by which each cools off the temperature of a room.

An air conditioner uses a refrigerant to bring down the temperature while at the same time condensing and removing the humidity in the air.

This works great because humidity, when it is excessive, can make the temperature seem hotter than it actually is.

By reducing the humidity along with cooling off the air with a refrigerant, air conditioners are capable of bringing down the temperature of a room very efficiently.

Which translates to a more comfortable environment.

An air cooler on the other hand uses water to basically brush the air and cool it off as it is blowing past the water.

The ideal is more like a breeze that is blowing off of the ocean. The actuality is a fan that blows water-cooled air.

This method has a built-in problem.

What if the air is already humid?

Will not the air cooler just add more humidity to the air and eventually make the air more uncomfortable?

The answer is yes.

One of the main ways air coolers are referred to is as “swamp coolers”.

That’s because though evaporative air coolers can work great when the air outside is dry, combining them with air that is already humid can make the room feel swampy.

Which is another way of saying muggy or sticky.

  This is why I said in the beginning that evaporative cooling is useless in the climate that I’m living in right now.

Trying to cool down the air that is already wet doesn’t accomplish anything. The only thing it accomplishes is making the air feel more uncomfortable.

  The truth is that running a fan alone is more effective than using a air cooler when the humidity is too high.

But not all climates are humid and this has been an extra humid season.

Just be prepared for your evaporative air cooler to be less effective when the humidity rises.

Another disadvantage to evaporative air coolers is they require a source of water.

You will either have to hook it straight up to a water faucet or fill the basin up with water on a regular basis.

And also machines that require water have to be kept very clean and maintained often to avoid bacteria and mold from growing in them.

  What that means practically, is that the water will have to be emptied anytime that the machine is not in use.
That is to avoid any chance of standing water that can easily become a source of bacteria and a breeding ground for mosquitoes

air cooler vs. air conditioningBut air coolers do have their advantages
One advantage over a refrigerated air conditioner that air coolers possess is that they do not require any way to be exhausted.


Which makes them more of a portable option then an “air conditioner”, even what they call a portable air conditioner.

Because even though a portable air conditioner may be more “portable” than say a window air conditioner or a central heat and air unit, it still has to have a way to exhaust the heat outside.

Which means an exhaust hose that attaches to a window.

Portable Air “coolers” are actually portable and are not confined to having to have a window nearby to the exhaust from.

An air cooler is the only option for  vent-less air conditioning in a room that has no windows.

Most home garages do not have Windows which makes exhausting refrigerator air conditioning a challenge to.

So portable evaporative cooling is a good option for cooling off a garage.


What’s the difference between an air “cooler” and an “air conditioning”?

Air cooler refers to evaporative cooling that uses water to cool down fan blown air.Air conditioning refers to air that is conditioned with refrigerant and is condensed to reduce the humidity in a room.

  Refrigerator air conditioning is more efficient and can be dialed in much easier. But it’s design requires a way to exhaust heat. Which means you either having a separate compressor outside or a window to place the air conditioner or exhaust it from.

Evaporative air cooling is not nearly as efficient and cooling down a room to a specific temperature is not an option.

Air coolers also must be maintained regularly to avoid bacteria and mold growth.

But they do have one main advantage over refrigerated air conditioning, which is that they do not require a window nearby to vent any heat.

Which makes an air “cooler” truly portable compared to a portable air “conditioner “that requires a window nearby to vent and exhaust the heat created in the air conditioning process.


Air cooler – evaporative cooling
Air conditioning – refrigerated air.

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Dennis Reed

Dennis Reed Owner and Author @