Air Conditioning vs. Swamp Coolers: What's the Difference?

Readying your home for the heat is always a crucial step Phoenix homeowners like yourself need to make to ensure your home is safe, comfortable, and inhabitable during the sweltering summer months. For many, this may mean replacing a worn-out air conditioner unit with something newer, more effective, or more efficient. This, in turn, means making the big decision of what type of cooling element will serve your home and your budget best.

The main options Arizona homeowners unearth when beginning their search are traditional AC units and swamp coolers. The debate of AC vs. swamp cooler models has been around for years and continues to be a roadblock for many looking to revamp their home’s cooling. Learning a bit more about both types of cooling systems can help you better understand what they have to offer and how it will impact both your long-term budget and your family’s overall comfort.

What Is the Difference Between an AC and a Swamp Cooler?

Though they both strive to accomplish the same goal of cooling your home, and both come in the form of small window units or large central units, there are actually quite a few distinct differences between air conditioners and swamp coolers. This becomes evident when you take a peek at how each works to accomplish the end goal of producing cool, clean air.

The standard air conditioning unit produces cool air by pulling air into its system and running it over a set of coils, which are filled with a refrigerant such as Freon. The refrigerant cools the air and then circulates throughout your home using a series of ducts or, in the case of ductless systems, through indoor units via a small tube. The air is circulated and then pulled back into the system to be cooled again. The hot air created by the machinery throughout the process is vented outside. This continued circulation of the air within your home marks AC units as closed systems.

Swamp coolers, on the other hand, are open systems. Also known as evaporative coolers, these systems use airflow through a building to create cool air. Instead of coils containing a refrigerant, swamp coolers pass air over a wet pad, evaporating the water in a process that simultaneously cools and adds moisture to the air. Opening doors or windows to direct the flow of cool air throughout your home is a must with these units, and the air produced by a swamp cooler will require a way to leave your home.

The Pros and Cons of AC Cooling

The different methods of cooling air produce a unique list of benefits and drawbacks for both AC units and swamp coolers. These are aspects homeowners should pay close attention to when choosing which cooling approach is right for them in the long run.

Air conditioners offer the modern homeowner a wide range of benefits, which is why central, window, and ductless AC systems are still among the most popular options for homes of all shapes and sizes. Some of the benefits you’ll enjoy when depending on an air conditioner for your home’s cooling needs include:

    • Better cooling in areas with high humidity
    • Removes excess moisture from the air
    • More control over indoor temperature
    • Low day to day maintenance requirements
    • Availability of newer technology for air quality control and temperature control

Of course, every home appliance has its drawbacks to consider in conjunction with the benefits. The average air conditioner, regardless of size or brand, has a number of these cons, including:

    • Dries out air inside, which can be uncomfortable in low-humidity environments
    • Uses chemicals and creates more pollution during operation
    • More expensive to run and maintain
    • Creates more noise than a swamp cooler

In short, a standard air conditioning unit may be more expensive to install, run and maintain over the years, but it offers more direct control over the air inside your home. When choosing an air conditioner for your cooling needs in Phoenix, you’ll have the option to choose from many additional technology features, such as air purifying systems, programmable thermostats, and even built-in humidifier systems that combat the dryness AC units sometimes cause.

The Pros and Cons of Swamp Coolers

Compared to air conditioning systems, swamp coolers are nearly unheard of in many corners of the United States. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a considerable number of benefits to offer the modern home. When you choose to install a swamp cooling system in your home, you’ll experience a list of pros in favor of this cooling system, such as:

    • Cheaper to build and install
    • Lower, more efficient operating costs
    • Less pollution created during use
    • Quieter than AC units
    • Can add humidity to your indoor space

Because they use your home’s natural airflow and a wet pad to cool the air that flows through it, swamp coolers are quiet, practically pollution-free, and a good option for the homeowner on a budget. However, these pros are paired with a number of cons that you should consider before making your final decision. Some of the drawbacks of installing a swamp cooler in your home include:

    • Limited temperature control
    • Decreased effectiveness in humid climates
    • Little air quality control
    • Large amount of day to day maintenance
    • Requires a large water supply to operate
    • Potential for water damage if a leak occurs

Overall, the swamp cooler system is far simpler than an air conditioner, which accounts for the overall lower installation and operation cost. However, this simpler construction means fewer bells and whistles, which translates to less control over the interior of your home. The lack of control over indoor temperature and the need for constant maintenance are the leading reasons why homeowners in Phoenix (and across the rest of the United States) tend to choose other, more up-to-date options over the swamp cooler.

Which Is Better?

So, which product wins in the battle of air conditioner vs. swamp cooler? While there’s rarely a concrete answer when it comes to home appliance solutions because no two homes or families are alike, popular preference offers a clear insight into the victor of this conflict. Far more homes throughout Arizona use air conditioners over evaporative coolers, and that’s for a good reason; an AC unit is generally more expensive to install and run, but it offers features that enhance comfort and that swamp coolers simply cannot replicate. Programmable thermostats allow owners to build an efficient, money-saving schedule while still maintaining optimal temperatures indoors both day and night. While swamp coolers typically only have a “high” or “low” setting, an Air conditioner allows you to choose a specific daytime and nighttime temperature, and even to control your home’s interior temperature while you’re away at work. Installing an AC unit is a bit more expensive but offers the comfort and luxury needed to make homes throughout the Phoenix area truly comfortable.

Explore Your Air Conditioning Options with Day & Night

There’s nothing like getting a professional opinion when looking at your heating and cooling options in Phoenix, AZ. Contact Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing to learn more about the cooling systems available for your home and how they’ll impact your budget, home, and comfort levels in the years to come. Our trained professionals are here with all the information you could need to make a smart, informed decision and walk you through the selection process. Contact us online today with any questions you might have about AC units, swamp coolers, and any other concerns you might have.