Evaporative Cooler vs. Air Conditioner - Advantages and Disadvantages
What option makes sense for you? Air Conditioner. Evaporative Cooler.
Types, Advantages, Disadvantages, etc.
Introduction: Picking a Cooling Systems
There are two key things to look for when considering any cooling or heating system The first thing is square footage. How big is the space you are trying cool or heat? The second is BTUs (British Thermal Units). These determine the unit size needed to efficiently cool or heat the desired space.
Once you know those two things, you can narrow your options and be more selective about what features you want.
This article aims to distinguish and answer any questions you may have when comparing an A/C unit to an Evaporative Cooler. Decide which option is best for you.
Air Conditioning Cooling System
There are 7 types of air conditioning equipment designed for a specific purpose and space. Air conditioning is commonly used in commercial properties, from homeowners to small and large shops, offices, and public spaces.
1. Window Air Conditioner
A single window air conditioner works similarly to that of a centralized ac unit. The hot air is pushed outside the window while the fan blows cool air into the room.
These are best for cooling one room. If you are walking around the city, you’ll commonly see these in small apartments or in hotel rooms. Units are compact, lightweight, and can be moved from room to room. Units come in various sizes capable of cooling anywhere from 150 sq ft. to 650 sq ft.
A single window air conditioning unit can range anywhere from $100 - $1000. Professional installation is not required, just place it by the window and plug it in making this option relatively inexpensive compared to the ladder.
2. Portable Air Conditioner
Portable air conditioners operate similarly to window units. Only requiring a power source and ventilation by a window, portable units are good for those opting for a temporary need to cool the air. They are quick and simple to set up and move around, good for spot cooling, and don’t require installation.
There are various models to choose from all ranging in price and features. Some units come with a single hose or dual hose (which needs to be placed near a window), some produce a higher noise dB, etc.
The cost can be as low as $50 on up to $600.
3. Floor Mounted Air Conditioner
Floor-mounted units are a good option if window space is limited. They offer convenience and are compact to avoid taking up unnecessary space.
In order for floor units to function properly, they need to be clear from any obstruction to allow for equal cooling or heating throughout the room. They can be mounted on walls - up to 6 inches - and still, efficiently circulate air.
Whether you choose a wall-mounted or a floor-mounted air conditioner, costs can range from $400 to $3,000.
4. Ductless Mini-Split
If your home doesn’t have ductwork and you want to forego the installation costs, then this option might be for you. Ductless mini-split units differ from other units because it has multiple air handlers rather than a single air handler. This allows for the unit to target the rooms that need air movement to make them cooler.
There are options available to cool a single room or multiple rooms. Wall-mounted units are popular among consumers who want to cool more than one room at a time. Those who opt for cooling multiple rooms do require some installation and can be done without hiring an expert.
DIY can follow a 3-step process to install ductless mini-splits.
Step 1: Install Condenser Outside
Step 2: Run Refrigerant Lines Through a 3-inch Hole in the Exterior Wall
Step 3: Install the Air Handlers inside and Attach the Refrigerant Lines
The advantages of a ductless mini split are that it uses less energy than a central air conditioner unit, doesn’t require professional installation, and saves you money and energy.
The cost of a ductless unit can start at around $500. If your considering having multiple units throughout your home and hiring someone to do the installation it can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000 (the larger the space the more expensive it will be).
5. Central Air Conditioner
A central air conditioner or a ducted system uses a “split system.” 1 part indoors and 1 part outdoors. Air ducts comprised of evaporator coils and air handlers are installed inside the home while the outside unit is comprised of the condenser and compressor.
This system uses refrigerant to remove heat by pulling it outdoors and simultaneously pushing cool air inside through ducts. This system allows for multiple rooms to be cooled at once which can quickly reduce the level of humidity. The downfall of this however is that it consumes large amounts of energy.
The cost of the unit alone starts at around $1,000. The installation starts at around $2,000 so you can expect to spend at least $3,000 for this option.
6. Hybrid / Dual Fuel Air Conditioner
Similar to central air conditioners, a hybrid system uses coils but includes a heat pump. The efficiency of this technology aids in keeping your energy bill lower.
Hybrid systems are best for colder climates. When temperatures drop too low for the heat pump to run, the gas furnace acts as a backup to heat your home. Conversely, in hotter temperatures, the heat pump can cool your home.
Like the other options, prices vary depending on the size of the space that needs to be heated or cooled. For a hybrid system, costs can range from $4,000 to $8,000 for the unit and installation.
7. Geothermal Air Conditioning System
Geothermal systems control the temperature of the home through ground-source temperatures. Heat and cool air are transported through tubes buried underground into the compressor unit where coils heat or cool the air to the desired temperatures before pushing the air through the home by ducts and vents.
Geothermal systems are one of the most efficient methods of cooling and heating the air. These systems are more expensive but pay off in the long run by saving on electricity and gas expenses.
The average cost for geothermal systems ranges from $10,000 - $36,000.
There are 3 different types of evaporative coolers, direct, indirect, or mounted. Evaporative coolers (also called swamp or desert coolers) can be used inside or outside.
Direct Evaporative Cooler
Direct evaporative cooling increases the humidity to cool the air. Warm air is sucked into the machine where it passes through a filter followed by a wet pad that cools the air. Then a fan transports that cool air back into the room.
Direct cooling (also referred to as direct adiabatic cooling or wet bulb cooling) is the most energy-efficient cooling method and is used worldwide, especially in regions with low humidity.
Indirect Evaporative Cooler
Indirect evaporative cooling differs from direct in that it doesn’t come in contact with water. Instead, the air cooler uses the surrounding air to cool the inside temperature.
Indirect evaporative coolers are not portable, they require a duct system to ventilate the air. They are pricier than direct evaporative coolers but still a cheaper option than installing an air conditioner unit.
Mounted Evaporative Cooler
Draft coolers can be roof, window, or ground mounted.
- Easy to install
- Provide fresh air
- The window allows for ventilation, which helps control the room temperature
- Commonly seen in smaller spaces
- Requires air ducts
- Maintenance required more regularly
- Requires installation
- Less efficient than the other two options
- Requires installation
Overview: Air Conditioner System vs. Evaporative Heater
The main difference between these two cooling methods is that A/C systems use vapor compression or absorption while an evaporative cooler evaporates water to cool the air.
Evaporative cooling uses significantly less amount of energy to cool the air. It is also less expensive and doesn’t require installation unless you opt for a mounted evaporative cooler. This technique reduces the need for maintenance, service, and repairs.
The one main downfall of an evaporative cooler is location, living in an area that is very humid. Since an evaporative cooler adds moisture into the air, living in an area with high humidity can make the environment even more uncomfortable. Overall evaporative coolers are a great option.
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