The Best Portable Evaporative Air Cooler for Your Home

The Best Portable Evaporative Air Cooler for Your Home

A portable evaporative air cooler might be the perfect ‘tweener’ appliance. Have you ever struggled with whether or not you should have your home air conditioner on? It’s not quite warm enough that you want to break down and turn that AC on, but it’s uncomfortably warm in your home and the fan is just not cutting it! Or maybe the sweltering heat outside is affecting your AC’s ability to keep up. But what options do you have?

evaporative air cooler example

What about an evaporative air cooler? We know your first reaction to that question was, “What is that?”. Don’t worry; we’re here to help! Follow us as we discuss the details of portable evaporative air coolers, explaining what they are and what they do. We will also offer a guide on how to select your portable air cooler and the top 4 on the market. As always, we use the Mentor Methodology to make sure the products are tested and verified, and - just as important - you’re choosing the right device for your situation.

Summary & Comparison Table

Before we get started, here is a reference table that you can quickly and easily refer to. This table provides a simple summary of each portable evaporative air cooler that this article will cover, with its basic specifications and a quick link to purchase.

​Evaporative Air Cooler

​Our Ranking

​Weight of Unit

​Water Tank Capacity

Square Foot Coverage

Square Foot Coverage

​​Purchase

#1​

Editor's Choice

​16 lbs

​1.76 gallons

​250 sq. ft.

#2

​29 lbs

​12.6 gallons

​600 sq. ft.

#3

​16 lbs

​4.8 gallons

​500 sq. ft.

#4

23 lbs

7.9 gallons

300 sq. ft.

#5

18 lbs

2.6 gallons

175 sq. ft.

#​6

17 lbs

2.64 gallons

​250 sq. ft.

​Evaporative Air Cooler

​Our Ranking

​Weight of Unit

​Water Tank Capacity

​Square Foot Coverage

​Purchase

#1​

Editor's Choice

​16 lbs

​1.76 gallons

​250 sq. ft.

#2

​29 lbs

​12.6 gallons

​600 sq. ft.

#3

​16 lbs

​4.8 gallons

​500 sq. ft.

#4

23 lbs

7.9 gallons

300 sq. ft.

#5

18 lbs

2.6 gallons

175 sq. ft.

#​6

17 lbs

2.64 gallons

​250 sq. ft.

​What is an Evaporative Air Cooler and How Does it Work?

swamp cooler aka evaporative air cooler

Evaporative air coolers utilize the process of evaporation to lower temperatures and in turn effectively cool an area. These coolers produce more air and cool more efficiently than a typical fan might. The energy consumption of an evaporative air cooler is relatively low.

Evaporative air coolers work very similarly to the function of a fan, but they are not fans. In the same manner, they are also not air conditioners. These coolers are designed with a system that uses a fan, a pump, and water circulation. The fan pulls warm air into the unit, where water has been circulated and cooled. The water evaporates into a vapor and the unit blows that vapor out as cool air.

While fans circulate air, they are not designed to lower the temperature of the room. The circulation of air can certainly make a room feel more comfortable but as previously stated the temperature may not decrease with just a fan. Air conditioners are designed to lower the temperature of a room, but let’s face it, energy costs continue to rise. There are also times where an air conditioner just may not be able to keep up when the temperatures are soaring.

Evaporative air coolers are not meant to be used as air conditioners; however, they do offer a cooling solution to a room. They produce cool air, rather than just circulating the room temperature air as a fan does. Portable evaporative air coolers are basically a fan that cools like an air conditioner.

What is the Difference Between a Portable Air Conditioner and an Evaporative Air Cooler?

You’re absorbing this information, and the wheels are turning. Why should you buy an evaporative air cooler rather than just purchasing a portable air conditioner? Don’t they both cool the room? They’re both a portable unit mean to cool a room, but they also both serve their own purpose.

Portable Air Conditioners release cool air into a room by circulating air through the cooling elements in the system and blowing the cold air into the room, the warm air is pulled into the system and released through a ventilation hose attachment to the outdoors. So how do you know which is the most suitable for your needs? Here is a breakdown of which you should look for, with certain identifying factors.

Portable Air Conditioners are ideal for:

  • ​Humid conditions – if your area or location tends to be humid more than 50% of the time, a portable air conditioner will be more effective.
  • ​Ability to install the exhaust hose to a window area. The warm air has to be vented outdoors in some manner, this is done with a hose that attaches to the unit and a nearby window
  • ​You need a unit that dehumidifies and cools
  • ​Opening the windows is not a suitable option
  • ​You need to cool or add more cool air to a specific area

If you think a portable air conditioner might be right for you, check out the best portable air conditioners. We’ve researched all of those for you too, of course!

portable evaporative air cooler

Portable Evaporative Air Coolers are ideal for:

  • ​Mostly dry climates with low humidity levels
  • ​Maintain or lower summer energy bills
  • ​An air conditioner is not needed, but you need something more than a fan to cool your area
  • ​You need moisture pushed into the air due to the dry climate
  • ​You are able to open at least one window

One other evaporative air cooler alternative to consider

If after reading this, you’re still not sure if an air cooler is the right thing for you, don’t fret. You have options. One other possibility is to consider a cool mist humidifier. Why? Your issue is likely come combination of heat and humidity. While a portable evaporative air cooler will focus on cooling your home and adding a little bit of humidity, a cool mist humidifier will have the flipped impact - it will add moisture to your home and cool it a little bit. The end result might be what you need, as the ideal humidity might significantly improve the comfort level of your home.

Reviews – The Best Evaporative Air Coolers

So, now you understand what an evaporative air cooler does and its purpose. You know whether it might be the right solution for your needs, but how do you choose one? Don’t worry, we are here to help! We will share the 6 best portable air cooler options we tested and give you all the details you need to know to make an informed decision.

Luma Comfort EC110S

The Luma Comfort portable air cooler has a sleek design. It looks much like a fan but works as an evaporative air cooler. This air cooler is relatively lightweight and has wheels for easy portability. The unit can cool an area of about 250 square feet.

PROS

  • ​Lightweight design with wheels to easily port where needed
  • ​The fan head of the cooler oscillates, spreading cool area out over an area
  • ​Great for cooling a single room area
  • ​Remote control and a digital display
  • ​Energy-efficient design that may cool your temperature by up to 30 degrees

CONS

  • ​Designed to cool a relatively small area of only about 250 square feet
  • ​The water tank capacity is low at only 1.76 gallons, which could mean frequent refills or shortage usage times
Honeywell C048PM

The Honeywell C048PM evaporative air cooler is an average size unit complete with wheels for portability. The unit weight a surprising almost 30 pounds, considering its size. This portable air cooler cools large areas and can be used indoors or outdoors effectively. The Honeywell portable cooler works best in locations with humidity levels less than 60%.

PROS

  • ​This unit can cool an area of approximately 600 square feet
  • ​Created with a honeycomb design that flows air 3 different ways from the unit
  • ​The unit has an ice compartment, allowing you to add ice or ice packs for even cooler air
  • ​The unit can be connected to a hose for continuous water flow
  • ​This unit can be used outdoors
  • ​10-gallon tank capacity

CONS

  • ​Unit does not come with a remote or timer capabilities
  • ​The unit is a bit on the heavy side at nearly 30 pounds
  • ​The unit is a bit loud, comparable to a box fan
  • ​This unit is on the more expensive side of the spectrum
Hessaire MC18M

The Hessaire portable evaporative air cooler is a small unit with measurements of 20x10x28 inches. The unit is lightweight and easily portable with a modern design. This portable air cooler has both a handle and wheels for ultimate portability. The water tank capacity allows the unit to operate for about 3-4 hours at a time.

PROS

  • ​Relatively low cost for the value of the unit
  • ​Cools an approximately 500 square foot area
  • ​Unit has a hose attachment for continuous water flow if desired
  • ​Design is great for outdoor use
  • ​Handle, wheels, and light weight of the unit makes it easily portable

CONS

  • ​The fan does not oscillate or emit cool area from more than one angle
  • ​The door for the water tank is hard to latch shut
  • ​There is no timer setting or accompanying remote control
NewAir AF-1000W

This NewAir model portable evaporative air cooler is very similar in size and shape to a portable air conditioner unit. The unit is lightweight and is a tall build with wheels. This portable air cooler is available in a white model, a black model, or even a red model.

PROS

  • ​The water tank has a 5.3-gallon capacity, which allows you to “fill it and forget it”
  • ​Unit cools approximately 300 square foot area
  • ​Digital display and remote control
  • ​Oscillating feature with multiple settings
  • ​Timer feature so you can set the air cooler to operate on your schedule
  • ​Lightweight, easily portable design

CONS

  • ​The design of this unit is a larger design that could be considered bulky
  • ​Cools well, but most likely will not cool an area more than 6 degrees
  • ​This unit does run loudly, much like a box fan
Honeywell CS10XE

This Honeywell model is a sleek and modern portable design. It has wheels and is very simple to move from place to place. The design is made to look nice wherever you may need it. The water tank will alert you when the water is low and there is a designated area for ice. This unit is great for small area cooling and has a limited cooling range. The unit is very energy efficient.

PROS

  • ​Sleek, modern design appealing to the eye
  • ​Easily portable design with back wheels and a handle, you can tote the unit like a small luggage
  • ​Comes with a digital display and remote control, as well as various settings options.
  • ​Uses only 102 watts of energy at a maximum rate of consumption
  • ​Great for spot cooling small areas – desk, small room, bedroom, countertop

CONS

  • ​Cools a small area, with a 175-square foot coverage
  • ​This unit is pricy for the square foot coverage in comparison to other units
  • ​Water tank capacity allows only about 5 hours of cooling, so you can not leave it on through a full night.

​6

SPT SF-612R

The SPT SF-612R evaporative cooling unit has a boxy design on wheels. It is very lightweight and easy to move around. This unit has a honeycomb design that cools from a 3-dimensional angle. The SPT is a low-wattage unit that covers a small to medium sized area. This unit works well with ice for extra cooling power. Add ice to the tray for an even cooler air supply.

PROS

  • ​This unit is quite affordable, you can add on an extended warranty for a fair price as well
  • ​Extremely low wattage, making it energy efficient.
  • ​Recommended for spot cooling, but does cool well in small areas
  • ​Lightweight and fully portable with a honeycomb design that transmits cool air three ways
  • ​Includes wheels, remote control, and 3 fan settings

CONS

  • ​Not a stylish unit. The unit is an average size but is somewhat plain.
  • ​Cools a relatively small area of only 250 square feet but is affordable in comparison to other units that cool the same area or less.
  • ​The drip tray is hard to manage. The drip tray must be clean and free of any debris to prevent leaks. 

Can You Make Your Own Evaporative Air Cooler?

swamp cooler

 Do you like the perks and benefits of the evaporative air cooler, but want to test it out and see how it would work prior to purchasing? Maybe you’re just not ready to invest the dollars to add that little extra cool air or maybe you’re not yet convinced that a portable air cooler may be better than that fan. You can make your own DIY air cooler and give it a shot.

There are many options for making your own air cooler that you could try out. These are not units specifically designed for the purpose, so they will not provide the same efficiency and quality of cooling as a portable evaporative air cooler, but they will provide some cooling relief.

There are multiple resources for building your own DIY air cooler. We would highly recommend that you find a tutorial and follow step-by-step instructions if you choose to make your own air cooler. An average homemade portable air cooler is typically made by using a Styrofoam cooler or a 5-gallon bucket. A fan is installed into the lid of whichever is used, and a ventilation system is also created. The ventilation may be holes in specific areas or an elbow pipe attached to a hole. The cooler or bucket is then filled with water to a safe level.

These homemade air coolers will not be as effective or cool as large of an area as purchasing a unit, but they make a simple affordable fix when needed.

​Recap & Conclusion

Whether your fan just isn’t cutting it, or you just don’t want to utilize your home air conditioning system, an evaporative air cooler could be right for you. There are many different units, with different styles, builds, and capacities. Which unit will work best for you could vary based on the area you want to cool and the specific design type you prefer.


Portable evaporative air coolers are energy efficient and can operate in various capacities based on the water tank size, fan settings, and overall build. Some of the portable air coolers even offer settings that allow you to run the unit in fan mode if that is what is suitable at a certain time. Look for units that will fit well into the space you anticipate using them the most. Remember these units can even be ideal for outdoors if you purchase the right unit.


It is important to keep in mind that evaporative air coolers are designed to work in dry climates. In climates that tend to be humid – such as the Midwest or southern areas of the US, the air cooler may not be effective for your needs. The portable evaporative air cooler allows cool air to flow into dry climates without the high costs of running an air conditioner and much better than fan circulation.


There are plenty of options to choose from if your need is right for a portable air cooler. Be sure to consider all the options and compare them with your needs so you can make a positive, informed decision. With a range of prices, you can certainly find the right fit for your needs and the right fit for your budget and you will be well on your way to a comfortably cooler home for less.

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