How much does it cost to install a swamp cooler?
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Evaporative Cooling Cost Guide
Updated: August 19, 2022
Swamp coolers, or evaporative coolers, make use of evaporation’s natural process to cool down the air in homes, offices, and even outdoor areas. They offer a more affordable alternative to air conditioners in many cases, making use of nothing but water, a fan, and a motor to cool down the air and humidify it.
The national average cost range is $1,500 to $3,500 to install a swamp cooler. Most homeowners pay $2,500 for a ground-mounted whole-home evaporative cooler. However, prices vary widely, from as low as $150 for a basic portable swamp cooler with DIY installation up to $7,000 or more for large roof-mounted units, professionally installed.
Evaporative Cooling Prices
|Swamp Cooler Installation Cost|
|National average cost||$2,500|
How Does a Swamp Cooler Work?
Swamp coolers take advantage of the natural process of evaporation. This process for home and room cooling goes back to the days of Ancient Egypt when people hung wet cloths over the doors of their homes. When hot, dry air passed over those cloths, it cooled the area down. The same basic idea is used in swamp coolers, which usually feature a fan that draws hot air from outside. That air then passes over a set of damp pads inside the cooler, where the evaporation occurs as the water absorbs the heat. The cooler, moister air is then blown out of the unit’s front into the room or space you are attempting to cool down. Swamp coolers can be used indoors, if they have access to a window or opening to suck in hot, dry air from outdoors, and semi-outdoor locations like garages with the doors open.
Evaporative Cooling Prices by Type
There are two main types of swamp cooler: indirect and direct. They work in slightly different ways and are installed differently. Indirect air coolers always need to be mounted, but direct air coolers may be mounted or used portably. The table below shows average price ranges for each type:
|Type of Evaporative Cooler||Average Cost|
|Direct||$200 - $5,000|
|Indirect||$1,500 - $6,000|
Direct Evaporative Cooler
Direct evaporative coolers cost anywhere from $200 to $5,000 on average, but prices are higher for larger models. A direct evaporative cooler is a more traditional variety, where a blower sucks in air, passing it over water-soaked pads and then blowing cooler and more humid air out into the space or room in front of it. Direct swamp coolers offer an affordable alternative to air conditioning units because they are cheaper and simple to operate. But they can only really be used in dry, low-humidity regions.
Indirect Evaporative Cooler
Indirect evaporative coolers are a little more expensive on average, costing between $1,500 and $6,000. In recent years, we have started to see more indirect swamp coolers on the market. These models are a little more advanced than direct units, featuring heat exchangers inside, which work to cool down the air without adding humidity. Indirect units can be used in a wider range of locations and are not limited to dry, low-humidity places.
Swamp Cooler Cost by Home Size
When choosing a cooler, it is important to find the right size to suit your space. Many people automatically assume that bigger is better, but this is not always true. Larger units are usually capable of cooling bigger spaces, but you do not always need your home’s biggest possible option.
Sometimes, choosing a model that is too big results in wasted energy and added maintenance costs. Similarly, units that are too small are only effective at cooling down one or two rooms, rather than offering whole-home cooling. It is important to choose a model that fits your space. Window and portable units tend to be more compact, while roof and ground-mounted units are often bigger.
If you only want to cool down individual rooms, a simple freestanding cooler should be fine. But, if you want to cool down an entire 2,000-square-foot home, you may need to opt for a roof or ground-mounted system. This takes up more space and needs to be connected to ductwork around your property. The table below shows average sizes and costs for a suitable cooler:
|Amount of Space to Be Cooled||Average Price|
|100 sq.ft.||$150 - $400|
|500 sq.ft.||$250 - $1,000|
|1,000 sq.ft.||$1,000 - $3,000|
|2,000 sq.ft.||$1,500 - $5,000|
Swamp Cooler Cost by Location
There are four main options when it comes to installing evaporative coolers. You can either place them in windows, on the roof, on the ground, or use freestanding portable units that sit in the middle of the room. The table below shows average prices for each type:
|Type of Cooler||Average Cost|
|Portable||$150 - $1,500|
|Window||$750 - $2,000|
|Ground-Mounted||$1,500 - $5,500|
|Roof-Mounted||$2,000 - $7,000|
Portable Swamp Cooler
One of the cheapest options when buying a swamp cooler is a portable, freestanding unit. They are affordable, costing between $150 and $1,500 on average. These swamp coolers offer the advantage of being compact, lightweight, and easy to move around from room to room. They are less powerful than whole-home ground or roof-mounted units and are only really useful for cooling down individual rooms or semi-outdoor spaces.
Window Swamp Cooler
A window swamp cooler is designed to be installed in windows. These swamp coolers cost anywhere from $750 to $2,000. They come in a range of different sizes and are usually easier and cheaper to buy and set-up than ground or roof-mounted units. They also vary wildly in terms of strength, with some cooling small spaces of 200-300 square feet and others offering much more power for big spaces of 1,500 square feet or more.
Ground-Mounted Evaporative Cooler
On average, ground-mounted swamp coolers cost between $1,500 to $5,500. Ground-mounted evaporative coolers are set up outside the home low to the ground, making them more accessible for maintenance and repairs. They are also simpler to install than roof-mounted units. These coolers are usually among the most powerful, able to cool down the entire home by connecting to new or existing ductwork.
Roof Swamp Cooler
Roof-mounted swamp coolers are more commonly seen in commercial or industrial buildings than residential homes. Prices for roof-mounted coolers range from $2,000 to $7,000. Although it is possible to install them in a regular house, there can be complications and added costs. Installation is much tricker, due to the difficulty of accessing the roof, and maintenance is also harder. Plus, roof-mounted units may increase the risk of roof leaks and need to be connected to ductwork, adding to the installation costs. On the plus side, they are very powerful and can rapidly cool down entire buildings.
Swamp Cooler Prices by Brand
Various brands sell swamp coolers, and prices vary from one to the next. Some brands specialize in certain types or sizes of coolers, while others offer a more varied range. The table below shows some common swamp cooler brands and average prices:
|Swamp Cooler Brand||Average Costs|
|Hessaire||$150 - $1,000|
|Aerocool||$250 - $2,500|
|MasterCool||$500 - $2,500|
|Bonaire||$500 - $3,000|
|Breezair||$1,000 - $3,000|
Hessaire Evaporative Cooler
Hessaire is one of the more affordable brands when it comes to swamp coolers. Average prices for Hessaire coolers range from $150 to $1,000. This brand offers a range of portable models, such as the MC18M, and larger units like the MC61V, designed for homes, patios, decks, garages, and workspaces. Hessaire evaporative coolers are automatically covered by a one-year minimum warranty that can be easily redeemed online with the product’s serial number.
Aerocool Evaporative Cooler
Aerocool is another leading brand in the evaporative cooler space, with prices that range from $250 to $2,500. Aerocool produces a wide selection of high-end, high-powered models and more affordable portable coolers. Aerocool offers a complimentary two-year warranty for repairs and exchanges caused by defects in material or workmanship. Aerocool’s warranty does not apply to evaporative coolers installed or operated outside of the continental United States.
MasterCool Swamp Cooler
MasterCool’s swamp coolers generally cost between $500 to $2,500. MasterCool has been one of America’s leading cooler brands for many years, using high-quality materials and smart designs to provide customers with a vast selection of efficient products. MasterCool offers a one-year warranty for all products that do not meet customers’ expectations due to defects in material and/or workmanship.
Bonaire Evaporative Cooling
Bonaire’s average prices for evaporative coolers range from $500 to $3,000. Bonaire is an Australian company, testing its products in some of the hottest and driest places on the planet before sending them to the U.S. From small portable models to window coolers and roof coolers, this company offers a wide range of options. Bonaire provides a seven-year parts, labor, and workmanship warranty on evaporative coolers for customers’ complete satisfaction.
Breezair Evaporative Swamp Cooler
The average cost for Breezair evaporative coolers ranges from $1,000 to $3,000. With models like the EXT 265 and Icon EXQ 170, Breezair stands out in the evaporative cooler industry. The company produces a wide range of compact yet powerful models while maintaining reasonable Breezair evaporative cooling prices. Customers can take advantage of a seven-year comprehensive warranty on Breezair evaporative coolers when they purchase directly from Seeley International. If the customer did not purchase the evaporative cooler from Seeley International, the warranty period is five years.
Swamp Cooler Installation Cost
The installation and labor costs for swamp coolers vary widely, depending on the type of model. Evaporative cooling installation cost for swamp coolers ranges from $150 to $2,000. A whole-home, ground-mounted swamp cooler can be installed for around $500. Simple portable units can be DIY, without help from a professional. More complicated and larger models like roof and ground-mounted units may need to be installed professionally. This involves mounting and securing the units in place and connecting any necessary ducting or even installing new ducting. The process varies in length, from an hour for a window unit to three or four hours for ground and roof-mounted coolers.
Swamp Cooler Replacement Cost
On average, customers can expect to pay an evaporative cooler replacement cost of around $2,000. This cost includes the cost of the replacement cooler itself in addition to technicians’ labor costs, which typically fall between $50 and $80 per hour. A few telltale signs indicate that it’s time to replace your swamp cooler. For example, if your cooler has large amounts of corrosion, water leaks, hasn’t been regularly serviced, or is not providing consistent, cool airflow, it’s most likely in need of a replacement or serious repairs.
The severity of the damage to your cooler determines whether a replacement makes more financial sense than repairs. However, even if the repairs do not cost thousands of dollars, your cooler may have suffered semi-permanent damage that will continue to create issues down the road. In that case, it may be best to consider a replacement. Of course, if the evaporative cooler is still under warranty and needs replacing because of defects in material or workmanship, customers can take advantage of that option.
Cost to Run a Swamp Cooler
Swamp coolers are appealing to homeowners because they are much cheaper to run than traditional air conditioners. A/C units feature compressors and refrigerants, which lead to high energy costs. Swamp coolers are much simpler overall and more energy-efficient. Several reports show that swamp coolers use about 25% as much energy as equivalent A/C units. So if you have an A/C unit that uses about $1 per hour in energy costs, you could find a swamp cooler that would cover a similar area for just $0.25 per hour. Some units run for just a few cents an hour, meaning that average monthly costs range from $10 to $25.
Swamp Cooler Efficiency
Efficiency is one of the main selling points of a swamp cooler over something like an air conditioner. A swamp cooler uses about 25% of the electrical energy needed to power an air conditioner of the same size. Plus, they do not require chemicals to run only a steady supply of water, and most units are only effective in dry areas. This means their efficiency rating varies depending on where you use them. Using a swamp cooler in a humid place is not very efficient because the cooler struggles to have any impact, but it is much more efficient than an A/C unit in a dry zone.
Evaporative Cooling Pads Price
Swamp coolers work by passing air over damp pads inside the cooler units. There are different types of pads, and they may need to be replaced over time.
Aspen pads, also known as fixed fiber pads, are among the most common. They cost around $25 to $50 per pad and are made from aspen wood fibers. These pads need to be changed yearly.
There are also Cellulose pads, which are more durable and usually last three to five years before requiring replacement. Cellulose or CelDek pads, which are essentially the same thing, cost around $50 to $80 on average.
Your unit may also have rotating pad, which gradually rotate inside the unit as they cool down. The benefit of these rotating systems is that they do not need a pump. The pads last around two years on average, costing about $50.
A good way to maximize your cooler pads’ lifespan is to use a quality water source that is low in minerals, like filtered rainwater. This reduces the risk of mineral deposits building up on your pads.
Consider shutting down the system when not needed. Also, follow all user instructions and clean the water tank when setting the cooler up each season. If the cooler manufacturer recommends it, you may want to use water treatment tablets.
Solar-Powered Swamp Cooler
One way to reduce the running costs of your swamp cooler is to make use of solar power. Solar-powered swamp coolers can be made DIY or by a professional, ranging from $100 to $500, depending on the unit’s size and amount of work required. You can also buy a pre-made, solar-powered evaporative cooler, with prices ranging from $1,000 to $4,000. It is easy to convert many standard swamp coolers from your main electric supply to solar panels if they provide sufficient power to meet the cooler’s needs. This can be done DIY or by a professional, ranging from $100 to $500, depending on the unit’s size and amount of work required. You can also buy pre-made solar-powered swamp coolers, with prices ranging from $1,000 to $4,000.
Swamp Cooler Repair Cost
Even though swamp coolers are simple, issues can arise with them over time, and they may need repairing. Certain parts might have to be replaced or fixed, such as the pump, valve, or motor. There are various swamp cooler repair jobs you might need to have done, from cleaning out mildew to remove a bad smell to dealing with an overheating motor. Costs of this vary widely, depending on the size and scale of the problem and the amount of work required to fix it. Costs range from $60 to $600 on average.
Smart Swamp Cooler
With the rise in popularity of smart homes and all kinds of smart devices, customers may be interested in purchasing a smart evaporative cooler. On average, smart evaporative coolers cost between $229 and $265. Some coolers come with a remote control, allowing you to quickly and easily adjust the settings or turn the unit on or off from a distance. Expect to pay an extra $25 to $50 for coolers with remotes. Like other smart devices, a smart evaporative cooler syncs up with users’ mobile devices for quick, easy adjustments. For example, users can modify cooling settings on the swamp cooler from the convenience of their phone or home voice assistant. A smart swamp cooler can be programmed to run at specific times of day to maximize cooling in your home. Abiding by your set times, a smart swamp cooler can automatically turn on and off to accommodate your schedule. Certain smart swamp coolers even allow users to wet the cooling pads by activating the water pump before turning on the blower motor, limiting electrical costs and maximizing overall efficiency.
Swamp Cooler Pros and Cons
Swamp coolers are a popular alternative to traditional home air conditioning units. Some of the most significant swamp cooler benefits are their low energy consumption, their ability to reduce your home’s temperature effectively, and their fairly straightforward maintenance requirements.
Swamp coolers are also known for their low annual cost, particularly compared to classic home AC units. Swamp coolers only use around ¼ of the electricity that a classic home AC unit uses to function, making it an economical choice with a comparatively low energy bill.
That being said, a few key drawbacks of swamp coolers are their lack of effectiveness in very humid climates or climates above 95 degrees, their tendency to leak, and their propensity to age a roof. Because swamp coolers are often installed in ducts on the roof of a home, the roof can be easily damaged or stained if water leaks from the swamp cooler. This tendency means that homeowners with swamp coolers are more likely to have to invest in roof repairs than those with traditional home AC units.
For homeowners who are looking to save money on cooling, swamp coolers are a terrific option. However, for homeowners in very hot or humid climates, they may not be the best choice. Swamp coolers work best when the outside air is dry and warm, which means that they do not work nearly as well in hot, humid climates, like those found in the southern United States. For best results, swamp coolers should be used in dry climates that rarely experience extreme temperatures and humidity, like the western United States. A swamp cooler is better-equipped in these climates to cool the outside air as it passes through the wet pads.
Cost to Convert an Evaporative Cooler to Refrigerated Air
One of the downsides of swamp coolers is that they are only really efficient in low-humidity, dry areas. So if the humidity levels rise, swamp coolers become nearly useless. Fortunately, there are ways to get around this issue, and one option is to convert your swamp cooler to refrigerated air. This turns it into an air conditioner unit, helping to keep your home cool even on the warmer, wetter days.
The costs for this process vary enormously, based on a range of factors. Experts usually need to come out to your home and investigate your ductwork to see if it can handle the switch to refrigerated air or needs to be adjusted. They also determine if your electrical system can cope with the added energy usage of an A/C unit. Your furnace or heating system may also need to be upgraded. On average, expect to pay between $3,000 and $7,000 for this conversion, but the price can go well beyond these amounts.
Swamp Cooler Maintenance Cost
For maintenance, swamp coolers are simple and affordable overall, with fewer parts and problems to worry about than a typical air conditioner. On average, the maintenance and cleaning cost of a swamp cooler falls between $75 and $120 per year, given that there are not any serious repairs needed. Because it’s best for a swamp cooler to be serviced and cleaned annually, costs include technicians’ hourly fees (typically one to two hours for a standard maintenance call). A technician’s fee falls between $50 and $80 per hour, plus the cost of any necessary repairs. One service visit per year is typically sufficient to ensure that your swamp cooler is fully functioning and in good condition.
Swamp coolers need to be cleaned regularly to prevent any mold or mildew build, and this cleaning should cover both the outside of the unit and the interior water tank. The outside should be wiped over a couple of times per month, while the tank should be cleaned a couple of times per year. You also need to clean or replace the cooling pads now and then. The rate at which the pads need to be replaced depends on the type of pads and how heavily you use the cooler.
Swamp Cooler vs Air Conditioner Cost
When it comes to cooling down homes and buildings, many people decide between swamp coolers and traditional air conditioners. On average, the price of installing a swamp cooler is around $2,500. On the other hand, the average cost of installing a classic air conditioning unit is around $5,377. The vast majority of people opt for air conditioners, with statistics showing that only a small percentage of American homes use swamp coolers. However, there are advantages to both that make each option worthy of consideration.
Swamp coolers have the advantage of being very effective in dry, low-humidity locations. They are simple to use and more affordable overall, in terms of installation and running costs. They are energy-efficient and eco-friendly, requiring the use of no chemicals. On the downside, they are limited in terms of where they can be used, and they become almost useless in humid conditions.
When it comes to air conditioners, they are more powerful overall and come in a wider range of options, from small portable models to high-powered units that can cool massive spaces. They require less maintenance in general than swamp coolers. However, repair costs are a little higher on average, and they usually give you more control with advanced features like auto modes, sleep timers, and variable temperature adjustments. On the downside, they are less eco-friendly, more expensive, and tend to dry out the air, causing problems for people with respiratory difficulties or sensitivity to dry air.
Swamp Cooler vs AC Cost to Run
When it comes to the cost to run swamp coolers and traditional AC units, cost comparisons depend on how often homeowners use their cooling systems. On average, the cost of running a swamp cooler 24/7 (which most homeowners don’t do) is between $50 and 65 per month. Conversely, the cost of running a traditional home AC unit 24/7 is between $150 and $300 per month, depending on your AC unit’s wattage. It’s important to know that while swamp coolers cost significantly less to run per month than typical AC units, they are likely to need regular maintenance related to water leaks.
Enhancements and Improvement Costs
If you want to have total control over your home’s heating and cooling, installing a thermostat is a smart idea. This costs between $145 and $230 on average. Not only will adding a thermostat to your home help you maintain the desired temperature at all times, but it will also keep you informed of when the heating or cooling is on in your home.
If your swamp cooler is situated outdoors, like a ground-mounted or roof-mounted unit, you may need to add a cover to protect it from cold temperatures and ice in the winter. Covers cost between $20 and $50, and you can find different sizes to suit various models.
One way to extend your cooler’s lifespan and improve its efficiency is to install an intake filter or pre-filter. They filter particles and debris, preventing them from entering the unit’s main body and helping keep the pads cleaner for longer. These filters vary in size and price depending on the unit, costing between $75 and $300.
A purge pump is another swamp cooler accessory you may consider. They help clear out minerals from your cleaner, preventing scale and deposits from forming. They work by flushing out old water from the cooler at specific time intervals. This extends your cooling pads’ lifespan and improves the general flow of cool air out of the unit. Costs range from $40 to $100.
Some evaporative coolers come with ice compartments or gel ice packs that increase the unit’s cooling power. This adds around $50 to $150 to the cost of a cooler. By adding an ice compartment or gel packs to their evaporative cooler, users can enjoy an enhanced feeling of cool air during the tough summer months.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Replacement pads. Replacement pads need to be purchased regularly for your cooler. This may need to be done annually or every few years, depending on the type of pad you have and how quickly they are used up. Always check the instruction manual to know what type and size of pad you need.
- Ice. Putting ice into your swamp cooler’s water reservoir helps increase its cooling potential but not by much. You will feel a slight increase in cold air, but the cooler does not suddenly start working faster, and the difference is not big.
- Open windows or doors. Evaporative coolers need open doors and windows to function properly because they aim to replace the warm air in your home with cooler air, and the warm air needs a way to flow out of the house. In each room you want to cool, open a window or door slightly.
- Decreased efficiency. In general, swamp coolers start being less efficient as the temperature approaches 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it goes under 75 degrees and especially below 70 degrees, your cooler does not have much of an effect. Humidity can have an impact on this because swamp coolers stop working sooner in more humid places.
- How much does it cost to run a swamp cooler all day?
This also depends on the size and scope of your model. Some coolers cost less than $0.50 for an entire 24-hour period, while others might cost over a dollar.
- How much water does a swamp cooler use?
This varies based on the size of the unit. Some use less than a gallon per hour, while others use over 10 gallons an hour.
- Can you leave a swamp cooler on all night?
Yes, this is possible, but the effectiveness varies depending on the outside temperature and humidity levels.
- How often should swamp cooler pads be replaced?
This depends on the type of pads. See the instruction manual for your model for exact details. In general, you need to replace pads every 1-5 years.
- How much does it cost to run a swamp cooler per month?
This depends on the cooler’s size and the amount you use it, but costs generally range from $10 to $25 per month.
- Do whole-house evaporative coolers work in all climates?
No, these coolers are only effective in dry locations with low humidity levels. They do not work well or at all in very humid places.
The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources. For more information, read our Methodology and sources.