Swamp Coolers vs. Central A/C: Which One Is Right for You?

When it comes to installing a cooling system for your home, the different considerations can be overwhelming. The two main types of air conditioning systems are central air and swamp coolers (also known as evaporative coolers). Each are highly effective, but not necessarily suitable for every home. Deciding on which of these two cooling systems to install will depend on the climate you live in, your financial situation, and your overall preferences.

The fact of the matter is, no matter where you live in the United States, you need an efficient air conditioning system at one point or another. There are benefits and drawbacks to each of the kind we mentioned above, but the key is to familiarize yourself with them.

Swamp Coolers

Swamp coolers are the ideal option for dryer climates. They pass air over a wet pad, causing the water in the pad to evaporate into the air therefore adding humidity to your home. For individuals living in humid areas, this may not be a viable option. Swamp coolers direct the cooler air from the evaporated water into the home and push the warm air out through the windows (which are left slightly open as to allow it to escape).

The beauty of swamp coolers is that they consistently push fresh air through the house, unlike central air conditioners which recycle the air. In addition to the improved air quality and humidity they provide, they are also more environmentally friendly, emitting significantly less CO2 than central air conditioners.

Cost-effectiveness is likely a factor for you in selecting a cooling system. Swamp coolers are the more budget-friendly option for two reasons. The first is that they are generally more affordable. For a 1500 square foot home, a swamp cooler will cost approximately $3900 to install versus $5000 for a central air conditioning system. The second is that they are relatively DIY-friendly, meaning professional installation may not necessarily be required. For handy individuals who opt to install the swamp coolers themselves, this $3900 could drop to just $1850 for the unit itself.

In order to install a swamp cooler, you’ll need to cut a hole in your roof. This would likely be the most difficult part to do yourself, but fortunately an alternative is to mount one in a window. There will need to be steady access to a water source and the cooler should be placed in an area with generous amounts of sunlight to encourage the evaporation process.

Despite its affordability and easy installation, swamp coolers are not recommended for all. Those living in humid climates would not fare well with this type of an air conditioner. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the increased amount of moisture in the air could spur on the growth of mold and mildew.

Central A/C

Unlike swamp coolers, central air conditioning pretty much always requires expert installation. These units are installed into your home and run the air through vents from a central hub so as to equally cool each room in the house. For those living where the summers are hot and humid, this system is a must-have. They remove moisture from the air and typically take just minutes to cool down your home (unlike swamp coolers, which can take longer).

Central air is also easy to regulate, allowing you to set an ideal temperature from a thermostat. Thermostats have become so advanced in the recent years that many can be controlled remotely from a mobile device and even be set on schedules, allowing you to set different target temperatures for morning, afternoon, and night.

As a trade-off to the efficiency of central air, it is quite costly, raking in higher costs for the unit, the installation, and electricity.

A Final Word

Maintaining an ideal temperature and level of humidity in your home can be a feat, and there is no one air conditioner that covers all of the bases. The fact of the matter is that central air conditioning is increasing in popularity for its easier maintenance/upkeep and more customized cooling abilities.

Regardless of what kind of air conditioning you install, however, your home will benefit from a separate device to control the humidity. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers can be purchased at a nominal cost and will balance the humidity levels in your home (particularly if they’re being negatively impacted by the cooling system you have in place. A comfortable level of humidity in a home with wood floors is between 30-50 percent.

Ultimately, however, selecting the right cooling system for your home comes down to preference. It will all depend on whether your priority is saving money, cooling your home quickly, or even cooling it quietly. Each system has a variety of pros and cons that can further be consulted on by an HVAC specialist.

Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for Plumber’s Stock, a leading online retailer for plumbing/HVAC supplies and parts.

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