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Evaporative Cooler
Evaporative Cooler
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Evaporative Cooler Benefits and Costs

The costs and benefits of owning and operating an evaporative cooler must be weighed by prospective users. Some of the pros and cons are listed below.


  • Provides cool, comfortable indoor environment for dry, hot climates.
  • Uses between one-tenth and one-third of the energy that air conditioners (AC) use.
  • Uses no ozone-depleting chemicals.
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to AC units.
  • Bleed water can often be reused for on-site irrigation.
  • Repairs and maintenance are fairly simple.
  • Operates as an open system that brings in fresh air, rather than re-circulating air.
  • Maintains natural humidity levels inside that help to keep furniture and fabrics from drying out.
  • Evaporative cooler pads filter incoming air.
  • Less noisy than AC units.


  • Require frequent maintenance.
  • Only work under dry conditions.

As far as hard costs, evaporative coolers are less expensive than air conditioners. For example, a 4500 CFM evaporative cooler costs about $700 to purchase and install. A similarly sized AC unit would cost about $2,500. In addition, repair parts are often more expensive for AC units than evaporative coolers. Below is a cost sheet that estimates annual utility costs for evaporative coolers and AC units.

Table 1: Estimated annual utility costs for evaporative coolers and air conditioners.

Water Usage (kgal.)
Cost per kgal†
Annual Water Cost
Electric usage (kWh)
Cost per kWh
Annual Electric Cost
Total Annual Cost
Evaporative Cooler
Air Conditioner

† Based on the national average water and sewer costs.
Source: “Evaporative cooler water use” by Martin Karpiscak of Arizona Cooperative Extension. Accessed April 11, 2003.


“Evaporative cooler water use” by Martin Karpiscak of Arizona Cooperative Extension. Accessed April 11, 2003.

“Evaporative Coolers” ToolBase Services. Accessed May 13, 2003.

“Installing and Maintaining Evaporative Coolers” Home Energy Magazine Online May/June 1996. Accessed May 1, 2003.

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