An air cooler is a good and low-cost alternative home cooling option when an air conditioner is just out of the budget. However, some people think that spending a few thousand pesos on an air cooler is not worth it as they think that they are just glorified electric fans. Which is brings us to this question: what are the pros and cons of an air cooler vs. an electric fan?
For starters, most electric fans are priced below ₱3,000, while air coolers typically sit at the ₱5,000 – ₱10,000+ range. However, an electric fan’s cooling performance is lacking – in fact, it doesn’t even cool the air at all, it merely moves hot air from your body and helps evaporate your sweat that cools your body.
In contrast, an air cooler works by passing air through a water-soaked pad. This provides the evaporative cooling effect that brings the room’s air temperature down. However, it may not be the best choice during very humid days as the air cooler also increases the humidity in the room which will make the air feel hotter and clammier than it actually is.
In this article, we will discuss the differences of an air cooler vs. an electric fan in-depth to help you in your buying decision.
What are the differences between an air cooler vs. an electric fan?
Air coolers and an electric fans come in different shapes and sizes, but their function is very similar; they use wind to cool our bodies down. The primary difference between that two is that there is an additional step that an air cooler does that an electric fan does not do.
An electric fan uses its motor and fan blade to push out wind over an area. This wind dissipates the heat from our bodies and helps our sweat evaporate. Moreover, the evaporation process adds a cooling effect over our bodies.
An air cooler also has a motor and a fan blade (sometimes a blower wheel, but it has the same function) to push out wind over an area. The difference is that this wind passes through a water-soaked pad first. As the water evaporates, it cools down the wind coming out of the air cooler.
Note: This is the same process that air conditioners use to cool our bodies down; except the cooling agent used is not sweat or water, but Freon.
Here are the implications of their difference in design:
Because of its simpler construction, electric fans are generally more affordable compared to air coolers.
On average, 16″ and 18″ electric stand fans cost around ₱2,273.5, while air coolers typically hang around the ₱5,000 – ₱10,000 range.
While they do have similar main components, the air cooler has a housing around the motor and the fan that makes it look more upscale and well put together compared to the simple and utilitarian electric fan. This, along with the water tank and the water-soaked honeycomb pad, makes the air cooler more expensive than an electric fan.
Winner: Electric Fan. Its simple design makes it more affordable for the masses. If you want an upscale version of the electric fan, you should consider tower fan models.
An air cooler uses almost twice as much energy compared to a standard electric fan. We’ve done the computation here to show you the estimated operating cost between the two:
These energy consumption figures were taken from datasets from Meralco and the DOE. We’ve written about the average energy consumption of an air cooler and an electric fan before. Go check them out!
Winner: Electric Fan. It uses just about half as much energy that an air cooler needs. However you should also take into account the different level of cooling performance that an air cooler does that warrants the higher energy consumption. More on this later.
Both of these two are easy to maintain, it just so happens that parts for electric fans are easier to come by compared to air cooler parts.
Also, electric fans are easier to fix up by yourself as the design is straightforward and most of the parts are exposed; this is in contrast to the air cooler whose parts are tucked inside of its housing. With that said though, maintaining an air cooler is still quite an easy thing to do.
Winner: We’ll give this to both of them.
While an electric fan is certainly more affordable vs. an air cooler, what we can’t deny is that the air cooler is much more effective at cooling the room than an electric fan.
An electric fan does not reduce the room temperature at all. In fact, you should not use an electric fan in very hot and dry conditions.
See, an electric fan does not actually cool down the air, it merely passes air over your body to move the hot air from your body. It also evaporates the sweat on your skin – this evaporation process is what is giving your body a cooling sensation.
But keep this in mind: the wind coming from the fan quickens the rate of evaporation of our sweat (and the humidity in the air); In times of low humidity, our sweat evaporates quickly. No sweat, plus the absence of moisture in the air means that the wind has nothing to evaporate. Instead, the fan is simply blowing warm air over your body. This effectively makes the cooling performance of an electric fan as null.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) advices that you should not use an electric fan when the heat index is above 37.2°C as it “actually increases the heat stress the body must respond to.”
Meanwhile, the air cooler can make the air cooler by 5°C even in dry conditions as it has its own source moisture (i.e. the water tank). This makes its cooling performance much better than an electric fan.
However, do keep in mind that the evaporating water from the air cooler will contribute to the humidity in the air, and in an already extremely humid country such as the Philippines, adding more moisture in the air will make us sticky and sweaty. Worse, the water vapors will absorb even more heat, making us hotter than we actually are.
Winner: Air cooler. It’s water-soaked pads make the air actually cooler. In contrast, the electric fan does not cool the air at all.
Buying an electric fan is the most affordable way to stay comfortable during the summer months. However, its cooling performance is lacking.
An air conditioner is the still the gold standard when it comes to home cooling. However, an air cooler can be a good mid-point between an electric fan and an air conditioner. However, keep in mind that it is not truly an alternative as it only cools the air slightly compared to the cold comfort of an air conditioner.
Air coolers can be effective as long as the temperature is not too hot, and the relative humidity is low enough. You should figure out if your area is dry or humid before buying on of these. It could save you from a hot and clammy summer.
- Meralco. (2020, June). Category: Fans, blowers, & air coolers (Tested units as of June 2020) [Dataset]. Manila Electric Company. https://meralcomain.s3.ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/images/ckeditor-documents/Fans%2C%20Blowers%20%26
- %20Air%20Coolers%20June%202020.pdf?nullUS Department of Energy. (n.d.). Evaporative Coolers. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved January 31, 2021, from https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/home-cooling-systems/evaporative-coolers
- World Weather & Climate Information. (n.d.). Average monthly humidity in Manila (Luzon), Philippines. Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Humidity-perc,Manila,Philippines
Miguel Mores worked for 5 years as a member of the product management team for a home appliance company in the Philippines. He started 101appliance to answer the most common customer questions that he has encountered during his time in the industry. He now works in the digital marketing field and manages a small online bookstore on the side.