Swamp Cooler vs Central Air

swamp vs central air ground install

Anyone who lives in a warm climate needs an air conditioner. It's something that your home just can't go without in the warm summer months. There are two different types of air conditioning units you can place in your home to keep it cool: the swamp cooler and central air. There are pros and cons to each of these units, and depending on your regional climate and your home's configuration, one of the two will be the better choice for you. Here are some of the main differences in a swamp cooler and central air.

What Is a Swamp Cooler?

A swamp cooler makes cold air through the evaporation of water. A swamp cooler can easily be installed on your roof by a "do-it-yourselfer". The trickiest and scariest part would be cutting the hole in your roof.

You will need to install a roof jack before setting your swamp cooler so be sure you know how to do this to properly ensure a leak-proof installation. Because swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers, work best while water is actually evaporating, placing them where they catch the most sun is much more important than putting them in the shade hoping to keep the water cool.

If the idea of cutting a hole in your roof makes you nervous they make a swamp cooler called a window mount, that you can actually install on the outside of your house and blow cool air in through a side window. Either of these options will need a water source so you will need to consider how far or how close you are to that. Typically people run a copper or polyline from their hose bib to the swamp cooler. This is the easiest solution and the hose bib attachment to make this possible is very common and easy to find at your local hardware store. Window -mount swamp coolers have a cord already attached so once installed just plug it in and you're ready to go. A roof mount on the other hand will need power to both the swamp cooler and a control switch. I recommend hiring an electrician for this part, it can be a little tricky.

Benefits to Evaporative Cooler Systems:

  • Cheap to Build and Install - Swamp Coolers are rather inexpensive to install. You can buy all the cooler parts you need for a swamp cooler for a lot less than central air parts. All the parts are simple and easy to find as well.
  • Monthly Operating Costs are Much Lower - When you use a swamp cooler to cool your home your monthly operating costs are going to be much lower than if you were to use central air


swamp vs central air roof install
  • Only Work in Certain Climates - A swamp cooler can only work in certain climates. It will work well in a climate that is not only hot, but it needs to be dry as well. For instance, if you live in Philadelphia a swamp cooler will not perform as well because of the climate there.
  • The Air Gets Saturated with Water - When you use a swamp cooler it's easy to cause humidity levels in your home to rise. This can cause mold and mildew on the walls. It can also cause the metal to rust, and damage furniture.

These are essential considerations to make when choosing a swamp cooler vs central air. You just have to decide whether the good out ways the bad, then go from there. A swamp cooler is cheaper to install and run but could cause damage with mildew. You just have to decide if it is worth the risk.

Central Air Conditioning

A central air conditioning unit is installed into your home. It runs through your vents to cool off every room in the house. There are a lot of great perks to having a central air unit in your home, but there are also some downsides. Here are some of the specifics.

Benefits to Central Air:

  • Cools House Quickly - One of the main complaints about a swamp cooler is how long it takes to cool down a house. When you use central air to cool your house you can go from hot to cold in pretty much no time at all.
  • Easy to Regulate - With most central air units you can regulate the temperature on a thermostat. You can easily type in what temperature you would like your house to stay at, and keep it there for a comfortable feel.


  • More Expensive - One of the major downsides to having central air is the expense. It's expensive to have installed in your home, and it's more expensive to run monthly than a swamp cooler. You get what you pay for.
  • More Difficult to Install - Unlike a swamp cooler, central air is rather difficult to install. In most cases, an individual will need the help of a service technician to help them install central air in their home.

There are also a lot of benefits and drawbacks to having central air in your home. One of the major downsides to central air is the cost. If the cost for central air was lower, probably every individual in the world would have central air in their home.

Swamp Cooler vs. Central Air - What's Right For You?

There is no right or wrong when it comes to swamp coolers and central air. It all depends on your lifestyle, where you live, and how you would like your house to stay cool. There are definitely perks to both, it just depends on what you want for your home.

One Last Tip About Humidifiers

If you have wood floors in your home we recommend the use of a humidifier or dehumidifier. Regardless of which option you choose you will be affecting the amount of moisture in the air. Swamp coolers add moisture and A/C Units remove it. Maintaining a comfort zone between 30% and 50% relative humidity and between 68 and 72 degrees is recommended for wood floor owners.

Luckily these are conditions that we as humans also find comfortable. However, you need to understand that this is why you cannot go on vacation and turn off the heat or air conditioning and assume your wood floor will be fine. Installation of humidifiers or dehumidifiers will help to keep your floor looking better longer without those unsightly gaps or sock snagging ridges. Don't forget to save on AC accessories at PlumbersStock.

Related resources:
AC Maintenance Tips
Benefits of a Heat Pump

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