Air Conditioning versus Evaporative (Swamp)

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Some common questions we might get is what the major difference is when choosing a way to cool your home, especially when it comes to certain climates like Tucson, Arizona. We hope to shed some light on some major differences, drawbacks, advantages and some information you previously may not have known.

When it comes to home comfort, the name of the game in the Southwest is getting the air cold. Tucson winters are fairly mild and rarely do temperaturs drop below freezing, so heating typically isn’t the number one consideration when desert climates are concerned.

We’ll try not to bore you with the a bunch of facts and introduce some basic concepts instead.

Evaporative (Swamp) Coolers
On the surface, swamp coolers sound like they might work really well for desert climates. They work by using a blower – a fan at one end of the box – to bring in air from the outside and push it into the structure at the other end. Before the air goes inside, it passes through a series of damp pads, where evaporation takes place, and a small pump keeps the pads moist so the water doesn’t just evaporate away. This essentially creates a flow of air that is cooler than when it first entered the box.

Swamp coolers are considered an an open system and rely on the flow of air throughout the structure to direct cool air. Air from the swamp cooler needs a way out and opening and closing windows and doors controls the air flow from the swamp cooler to different parts of the structure while central air conditioners use ducts to direct the flow. Swamp coolers can also use ducts in some cases, but they need to be larger than traditional air conditioner ducts to account for a greater flow of air from the swamp cooler.

Too much humidity can prevent perspiration, which is how we cool ourselves naturally. Since swamp coolers work by putting water into the dry air, they act as humidifiers. This is great in dryer climates, because humidity can also be too low for comfort. Under the right conditions the water-laden breeze also can have a secondary effect of helping the skin’s perspiration, resulting in an even cooler feel than the swamp cooler would give on its own.

Air Conditioners
Standard air conditioners also dry the air, condensing water vapor from the cooled room as it passes over the cold coils. The water drains outside, which is what the distinctive drip you feel if you stand under a window air conditioning unit long enough comes from. The result is a dryer room, and in humid climates, that can be a good thing. Under the right conditions the water-laden breeze also can have a secondary effect of helping the skin’s perspiration, resulting in an even cooler feel than the swamp cooler would give on its own.

Standard air conditioners also dry the air, condensing water vapor from the cooled room as it passes over the cold coils. The water drains outside, which is what generates that distinctive drip you’ll feel if you stand under a window air conditioning unit long enough. The result is a room that is more dry. In humid climates, or in Tucson during the entire monsoon season, this is a huge advantage in comfort.

Air conditioning units have also become amazingly energy efficient over the years. When comparing systems, make sure you are using data from newer systems that have much higher energy ratings than older legacy systems that use much more energy. This has also caused AC systems to become more affordable and smaller as well.

Our Conclusion
At the end of the day, our recommendation for the comfort of your home for you and your family is an air conditioning unit. Despite the lure of purchasing a less expensive evaporative cooling system, it is true you get what you pay for. You will likely never meet a home owner that has gone from Air Conditioning to a Swamp Cooler and was satisfied with the change.

You also can’t really combine the best of both worlds – the way each system works would cancel each other out, similar to running a dehumidifier and a humidifier in the same room.

Don’t completely keep evaporative coolers completely off the table however. In cases where you have a small workshop, they can work pretty effectively. Because workshops typically have large openings like a garage door, these provide an effective source of airflow that basic cooling needs can be met. If the area does not need to be closed completely off like a detached office where a ductless air conditioning system, a swamp system might make sense.

If you currently have a swamp cooler and are looking to significantly improve the interior climate of your home, give us a call at 1-844-550-5300 today and we would love to talk to you about your options. AC systems are far more affordable than people give them credit for, so don’t believe it’s out of your budget!