If you live in a hot and dry climate with good air quality, adding a window swamp or evaporative cooler can help make it more comfortable. Window evaporative coolers or mounted swamp coolers are a smaller version of a whole-house evaporative cooler. They add moisture while cooling the air, making the area more comfortable. They also use less energy because they do not compress air like a window air conditioner.
The national average cost to install a window evaporative cooler is $850 to $1,800, with most people paying around $1,000 for a 3-speed window-mounted cooler designed to cool up to 1,600 sq.ft. with professional installation and a permanent water attachment. This project’s low cost is $650 for a single-speed window-mounted cooler designed to cool 900 sq.ft. connected to a garden hose. The high cost is $2,500 for a variable-speed high-efficiency window-mounted cooler designed to cool 2,000 sq.ft. with professional installation and a permanent water attachment.
|Swamp Cooler Window Unit Cost|
|National average cost||$1,000|
Evaporative coolers cool a specifically sized space. This ranges from 500 to 2,000 sq.ft., depending on the unit size and efficiency. Typically, larger units cost more because they need higher output to cool the room. However, you can have a range of costs based on how many speeds the unit has, its efficiency, and its features, such as built-in thermostats or remote controls.
Many units may also be sized by CFM or cubic feet per minute of how much air they distribute. Typically, a higher CFM is needed for larger spaces but is not necessarily the only criteria. In most cases, you should consider the features and space size to determine the best size. Below are the average costs for varying sizes of window swamp coolers based on the room they are designed to cool.
|Room Size||Average Cost (Unit Only)|
|400 - 600 sq.ft.||$450 - $800|
|600 - 1,100 sq.ft.||$550 - $900|
|1,000 - 1,400 sq.ft.||$650 - $1,000|
|1,200 - 1,600 sq.ft.||$850 - $1,400|
|1,600 - 2,000 sq.ft.||$1,000 - $2,000|
Window swamp coolers can have motor sizes ranging from ⅛ HP up to ¾ HP, with most falling between ⅓ HP and ½ HP. The motor size can dictate several things about your cooler. Larger motors blow air harder, meaning they cool your home more effectively and rapidly than coolers with smaller motors. Larger motors also use more energy, so an oversized motor may raise your energy bills without adding benefits. Very large motors may also be noisier, depending on the casing and brand.
Motor size can also influence the unit cost. Generally, larger units have larger motors and higher costs, but there can be some overlap between the sizes when other factors, such as style, energy efficiency, and speeds, are considered. Below are the average costs for some of the most common motor sizes for window swamp coolers.
|Motor Size||Average Cost (Unit Only)|
|⅛ HP||$350 - $600|
|⅓ HP||$550 - $900|
|½ HP||$650 - $1,300|
|¾ HP||$1,200 - $1,800|
|1 HP||$1,600 - $2,200|
While some older and less expensive swamp coolers turn on and off, most units have different speed settings. This can be a two-speed, three-speed, or variable-speed setting. This refers to how fast the fan turns as it blows air over the water-soaked pad. The more speeds the unit has, the more options you have to control the temperature and the more energy-efficient the unit is.
The cooler can operate on high or low speed in a two-speed unit, and this generally requires you to switch from one to the other manually. Three-speed units usually have a third setting between high and low and may require you to manually adjust them, or they may adjust on their own, depending on the unit’s efficiency. Variable-speed units can move between multiple speeds, adjusting to the room’s temperature. As the room heats, the fan moves faster, and as the room cools, the fan slows. This gives you the most efficiency and the most comfortable experience.
The more speeds a unit has, the better the efficiency and the more control you have over your environment. Typically, the more speed options a unit has, the higher the costs. However, total size, motor, and CFM also influence the unit cost. There can be overlap in the costs between different speed settings on units. Below are the average costs for window swamp coolers with different speed settings.
|Speeds||Average Cost (Unit Only)|
|Single||$350 - $500|
|Two-Speed||$450 - $700|
|Three-Speed||$550 - $1,400|
|Variable||$800 - $2,200|
Many reputable brands are on the market for window evaporative coolers. Most of these brands make a range of sizes and options that make one a better fit than another. Most brands have costs ranging from $400 to $2,000, with most prices falling between $600 and $1,200.
When choosing options, consider the motor size. For example, Essick Air has a wide range of motor sizes from ⅛ HP to ½ HP. The motor size dictates several things, including the amount of CFM, the cooling power, and efficiency. A larger motor uses more energy but cools your home more effectively, so a larger motor may cost more to run if you are looking at two units with similar CFM. Brisa is one company that puts a bigger focus on the CFM, with higher airflow rates than some others of the same size and horsepower so that you get better cooling performance for the size. You may also want to consider the unit’s profile. Because the cooler is mounted in your window, it is highly visible. Some brands like MasterCool have a slim profile option for their units. This makes them a little nicer looking while using less space than traditionally sized units. Available speeds are another feature to consider. Bonaire makes several lines with multiple speeds. This can let you better control the air’s temperature rather than units with single or dual speeds.
Each of these companies makes a range of sizes and options for their units. When comparing, look at the features like motor size and speed controls to get the most out of the unit. Below are the average costs for some of the most popular brands.
|Brand||Cooler Cost (Unit Only)|
|Brisa||$400 - $1,200|
|Bonaire||$600 - $1,200|
|Mastercool||$600 - $2,000|
|Essick Air||$650 - $1,300|
Installing the cooler is fairly easy and similar to installing a window air conditioning unit. Most units mount on brackets 1 attached to the outside of your window’s sill. These can be installed DIY or by a handyman for usually under $100 if you cannot lift the unit.
Evaporative coolers need water to operate. Most units can be used in a few ways. You can fill the unit daily by adding water to its reservoir tank. If you choose this option, you can install the unit DIY or have a handyman install it, and no plumbing is necessary.
Some units can also be attached to a garden hose. This is another low-cost installation that only requires the brackets to be mounted, but it has the downside of requiring the hose to be located nearby. And the hose is visible from outside.
You can also install a dedicated waterline with your unit. This line feeds continuous water to your unit and includes a shut-off valve for draining when it is not operating. This requires the expertise of a journeyman or master plumber for the installation at a cost of $45 to $200 per hour, with usually 2 hours of work involved for a total cost of $90 to $400, plus additional costs for parts ($30 to $80 on average).
This last method is the most common because it allows for continuous usage without filling and means you can install the unit in any window. With bracket mounting, the cost of professional installation using a dedicated water line averages $250 to $400 in labor out of the $850 to $1,800 total.
Evaporative coolers work by blowing warm outside air over water-soaked pads. The air is cooled by the water, which evaporates, adding moisture to the air. This makes the space cooler and more comfortable in hot and dry climates. Most window evaporative coolers have a holding tank for water and a continuous water feed. Different window units can use different styles of pads to hold this water. In some cases, these can be interchangeable, provided that size is consistent. In others, you may need to stick with one style of pad, depending on the unit type and brand. The costs of the pads range from $25 to $80 per pad. You need to change them based on the schedule set by the manufacturer.
|Type||Pad Cost (Unit Only)|
|Aspen / Fixed||$25 - $50|
|Rotating||$50 - $70|
|Cellulose||$50 - $80|
|Rigid Sheet / Plastic||$50 - $80|
Aspen swamp cooler 2 pads cost between $25 and $50 each. These pads are designed to last between 1 and 2 years, depending on the usage. The pads are made of shredded aspen wood fibers that are woven and stitched together. They hold more water than synthetic materials and are designed to maximize airflow for superior cooling. Because of this and their costs, they are a popular option for many homeowners. They are usually available in 1” and 2” thick pads.
Rotating pads cost between $50 and $70 each. Rotating pads are less common and used by specific styles of cooler. A rotating pad can be made of synthetic or natural fibers sewn into a cylinder. The pad is designed to rotate and produce better airflow and cooling. These pads last roughly 2 to 3 years, depending on the material and usage. If your swamp cooler uses rotating pads, you cannot switch to fixed pads or vice versa.
Cellulose pads cost between $50 and $80 each. Cellulose pads are designed for extremely dry areas or when you want to add more water to the air. The material is very absorbent and can become highly saturated with water, so it can cool air efficiently and rapidly and add extra water. Because of the extra water, you need a cooler with a bigger motor - at least ⅓ HP - to make them effective. Cellulose pads last about 2 to 3 years.
Plastic evaporative cooling 2 pads cost between $50 and $80 each. Plastic or rigid sheet pads are made from corrugated or ribbed plastic. Rather than absorbing water, the ridges hold the water, allowing it to flow easily. This means a smaller motor can be used, but these pads are not as effective. The benefit is that the pads are long-lasting and easy to clean. They are not as impacted by hard water 3 and can be used for up to 6 years with proper maintenance.
Window evaporative coolers can help cool the air in your home and make it more comfortable. They work well in hot, dry, arid climates because they add water to the air while cooling it. This helps make the air feel fresher and allows continuous fresh air to be pulled in from the outdoors. Window units are smaller, less expensive, and easier to install than whole-house units.
Window units are visible from the outside of the house, however. This can be an issue for some properties because the units may detract from curb appeal. They may also not be large enough to cool the entire property, meaning you may need multiple window units when a single evaporative cooler sized for the entire house might be less expensive.
Evaporative coolers only work if you have good air quality. Because fresh air needs to enter the home for them to be effective, any area where the air quality is poor may not be the right place.
Swamp coolers are one method of cooling your home. Another method that can cool the space or part of a space is a window air conditioning unit. Window ACs and window evaporative coolers are smaller versions of whole-house cooling appliances designed for easy installation in a window. However, they work in different ways and are designed for different climates.
Evaporative coolers cool the air by blowing air over a water-soaked pad to add moisture. They require the windows in your home to be open slightly, so you need a dry climate and good air quality for them to work. Air conditioners condense the water in the air, removing it and cooling the air at the same time. They need the windows shut tightly to the outdoors to work and are designed for high humidity. This means you do not use these systems in the same place. Window air conditioners tend to be less expensive to purchase and install, but they cost more to run. They range from $350 to $1,150, while swamp coolers cost between $850 and $1,800. Because they are not meant to be used in the same areas, they are not considered comparable cooling units. Below are the average costs to install both units.
|Cooling System||Unit Cost (Installed)|
|Window Air Conditioner||$350 - $1,150|
|Window Swamp Cooler||$850 - $1,800|
Window evaporative coolers are localized versions of whole-house systems. Another smaller alternative to a whole-house system is the portable evaporative cooler. Portable swamp coolers are mobile units on wheels. Rather than sitting in one place like a window unit, you can wheel them around your home. They require no installation, so you can use them straight out of the box after plugging them in and filling them with water. Window units can be manually filled but are most commonly supplied by a continuous water feed. Portable units are most commonly used for shorter periods and require you to fill them to cool the air.
While both units can be used as supplemental cooling, portable units are more often used as supplemental systems, while window units are more likely to be a permanent fixture. Of the two, portable units are less expensive because they are often smaller and do not require professional setup. They cost between $150 and $1,500 compared to the $850 to $1,800 for window units. Below are the average costs for both units.
|Cooling System||Unit Cost (Installed)|
|Portable||$150 - $1,500|
|Window||$850 - $1,800|
Some window swamp coolers come with a built-in programmable thermostat 4. This can allow you to set the temperature for the room right at the unit. Depending on the number of speed settings, the unit shuts off or lowers speed when it approaches the temperature. Units with a built-in thermostat start at around $800 to $1,000.
To help keep your unit working well and avoid mineral buildup or mildew growth, you can install a purge pump 5 on the outside of the unit. Prices range from $60 to $150, depending on the pump’s brand and size. The pump operates from the cooler’s control panel, so you must use a pump that corresponds with the unit you purchase. The pump removes water from the system every 6 to 8 hours, allowing it to refill with clean water.
Swamp coolers work by circulating the air into your home. They need fresh air coming in at all times, which can be accomplished by opening a window. However, you can install a ceiling vent above the unit as a permanent addition that eliminates the safety risk of an open window. The cost to install this vent is $250 to $400, including labor and material.
Unplug the unit and disconnect the hose or water valve if one is installed. Drain the cooler and use a hose to rinse sediment that may have collected over the season. As an extra layer of protection, place a cover over the cooler.
Whole-house swamp coolers may be wired to your home’s circuit board. This requires a professional electrician to handle the work. Window units typically plug into a wall outlet and are not wired to the home.
The cost to run a swamp cooler varies based on the unit size and usage. On average, the cost to run swamp cooler models is between $0.20 and $0.30 an hour.
This depends on the unit size and placement. It may take 2 to 6 hours to install a whole-house unit, depending on the location. A window unit may be installed in just 1 to 2 hours.
Yes, swamp coolers are less expensive to install and run than central air conditioning. Central air costs $5,000 to $12,000 to install, while a whole-house swamp cooler costs $1,500 to $3,500. However, they work differently and are designed for different climates. Swamp coolers put moisture into the air and do not lower the temperature as much as air conditioners.
The cost to install a whole-house evaporative cooler averages $1,500 to $3,500.
This depends largely on your climate and objective. Indoor evaporative coolers lower the air’s temperature to make it more comfortable. They also add moisture to the air in dry climates. They do not lower the temperature as much as air conditioning, nor do they work well in humid climates.