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What is an evaporative cooler? Should I get one?

(Public Domain Photo)

If you’re fairly new to Arizona, you may have heard a lot about evaporative coolers and you may be wondering what they’re used for.

At one time, the coolers were the way that most of the state’s homeowners cooled their houses. They’re still being used here, but most houses have air conditioners now.

However, some residents still like them because they use less electricity than air conditioners require. They’re basically a “greener” choice as well.

How do they work and what makes them different from air conditioners? They both look like big metal boxes from the outside, but they work differently.

  • Air conditioners work by taking humidity out of the air by using refrigerant to produce cold dry air. They work best in an airtight house where cooled air is recirculated again and again.
  • Evaporative coolers, however, constantly take fresh air and move used air out. They run the hot air through a specially designed pad made of paper or shredded wood. The pad has been saturated by regular tap water. In the process, the air absorbs moisture that can be as cool as 70 degrees on a super-hot day. That cool air is what helps cool the house.

One difficulty with evap coolers is that they don’t work well during our monsoon season. The outdoor air may already be very sticky and hot in July and August, and adding the cooled, moist air from an evaporative cooler to a home’s environment doesn’t work very well.

But the coolers are still being sold for whole house cooling. They’re not as expensive as traditional air conditioners and they’re easier to install and maintain.

They can be very useful in places you might not have thought of using them. Some of the latest models of the coolers can be good for using in a garage or workshop so that you can keep doing woodworking or car repairs even in the height of summer. Some people use them to cool off horses or dogs or even chickens.

And the latest portable patio evaporative coolers can help when you’re grilling a big dinner outside. Partygoers seem to love them when they’re dining outdoors.

For more homeowner advice, DIY tips and videos, and information about all the projects around your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you know you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at – Arizona’s most-trusted referral network.

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