One of the most economical ways of staying cool in summer is with portable ductless or unvented air conditioning units placed in each occupied room in the home. This is a highly effective way to stay cool as long as the atmosphere is relatively dry (with low humidity).
If you have never tried one of these low energy consuming devices before, the concept can be a little unfamiliar, but once you try one and see it in action for yourself, you are sure to be a convert to the ways of low energy cooling! So why should you consider this method of climate control over traditional air conditioning?
When the Climate is Right
Humidity is the most important metric you need to consider when deciding on which kind of climate controlling device(s) you intend to buy for your home. In areas of low humidity (below 40% on average) evaporative coolers can work extremely well and rival the capability of a similar AC for keeping you cool.
However, if the humidity in your area is above 50%, you may not get such effective cooling from an evaporative unit as their effectiveness is greatly reduced the higher the level of humidity is. This is explained in my article on what a ventless air conditioner is.
Evaporative Coolers vs Air Conditioners
- The first huge difference you will notice between these two very different types of indoor climate control is the initial purchase price. Portable swamp coolers have a much lower price ticket than comparable (in terms of air chilling capability) AC units. This is simply because there is far less mechanical hardware inside an evap when compared to an AC.
Evaps typically contain a regular high output fan, a water reservoir and the all-important evaporative membrane through which the air is forced by the fan to produce cooling by evaporation.
On the other hand, AC’s contain a full refrigeration system, compressor motor and coolant gas which it uses to chill the air passing through it via its internal fans. All this extra hardware is expensive to produce and assemble, which causes the higher purchase price of these devices.
Most modern units of both types also contain a timer circuit and remote controlling hardware.
- Of course the most obvious visual difference is the addition or lack of a corrugated plastic vent pipe, which has a big bearing on the actual portability of the unit.
AC’s are limited to being placed close to an exterior wall opening to enable the hot exhaust air to be vented to the outside (or the unit would not cool a room).
Swampies don’t have this vent because they simply do not need it. That’s because they do not produce any hot exhaust, just a nice cold breeze wherever they are placed.
However, they tend to work best when there is a window cracked open to allow the rising humidity to escape to the outside. This is to help maintain a relatively dry atmosphere in the room for the unit to work at its most effective.
- The next difference you’ll notice between the two is the size and weight of the respective devices. Evaps are relatively lightweight thanks to having little in the way of internal hardware, whereas Aircon units are much heavier thanks to all the internal hardware and mechanics.
This has an effect on their respective levels of portability as it is much easier to push around a light unit on wheels than a heavy one!
- Lastly and most importantly is the running cost difference between the two types. Since an evap only needs power to run the internal fan, which is typically 50-80watts
Sometimes It’s Just Not Fair
Of course, not everyone will be able to enjoy the low cost benefits of keeping themselves cool with a low energy evaporative unit. Most notably are those living in areas that have high average humidity levels.
It can be something of a zip code lottery as to whether you get to enjoy those low cost benefits or not, which may seem a little unfair. If cost is a major factor for you and you live in an area of high humidity, you may have little option other than figure out how to stay cool without air conditioning.
Life can be a little unfair like that at times. But until someone can come up with a cheaper way to make cold air in terms of the energy used to produce it, we are stuck with what our local climate dictates we can use to stay comfortable indoors when the summer is making things hot and sweaty outdoors!