Air conditioning has become quite a necessity in a hot and humid country such as the Philippines. However, owing to its high upfront and operating costs, it may be out of reach for the budget-conscious types. Hence, a lot of people are still opting for the cheaper alternative — the air cooler.This brings us to this question: what is the pros and cons of an aircon vs. an air cooler?
To put it simply, an air cooler is easier to install, generally cheaper up front, and costs less to operate, however their cooling performance is found wanting, and the humidity they add to the indoor air can be quite uncomfortable. Meanwhile, air conditioners make the air cold and dehumidify it as well, but the high upfront cost and high operating cost make it unattractive for some.
In this article, we will flesh out our rationale on the aircon vs. air cooler debate to help you decide which model is better for your home.
The difference between an aircon vs. an air cooler
Both an aircon and an air cooler use the evaporation process to make the air cold. However, they use different methods to achieve this.
Air conditioner sucks in indoor air and passes it through the evaporator coils that contains a refrigerant gas (Freon). This gas cools the air while it evaporates. It then blows this cold air into your room, where the cycle starts over again.
Air coolers kind of do the same thing, except it doesn’t suck in air; it uses fans to force air through a water-soaked medium. As this water evaporates, it cools the air slightly.
Here are the implications of their difference in design:
An air cooler doesn’t have a complicated installation process compared to a split type or portable aircon. It is also easy to carry and position compared to a window type aircon.
You also don’t need to punch a hole through your wall to fit the unit or its piping through; an air cooler doesn’t even have pipes and compressor to begin with!
Meanwhile, the installation process for an air conditioner varies depending on the type that you get. Window types are easy to install but can be heavy to lug around. Split types are so complicated that they need to be installed by a professional HVAC technician. Portable types are easier to install than a split type, but it does not even compare to the ease of using an air cooler.
Winner: Air cooler. It’s plug-and-play, point-and-shoot “installation” is hard to beat.
In terms of cooling performance, an air cooler is found wanting. It’s evaporating water can reduce the temperature by only 5°C, which may not be enough in extremely hot days.
Moreover, the evaporating water 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.
In contrast, and air conditioner’s refrigerant gas can reduce the air’s temperature down until it reaches 14°C – way colder than an air cooler.
Also, it contrary to the air cooler, it dehumidifies the air during operation. When the evaporator coils (the coldest part of the AC) absorb heat from the moist air, the water vapors in the air condenses into water droplets. This, in effect, will reduce the humidity in the air being blown out of the air conditioner. This dehumidifying effect will result in a cold, crisp, and comfortable air.
Winner: Aircon. Aside from blowing out colder air compared to an air cooler, it also dehumidifies it, making us more comfortable in the process.
Air coolers are the more economical choice as the price range for residential models are typically in the below ₱10K range.
On the other hand, air conditioners range anywhere from ₱8K to ₱80K depending on the make and type.
Winner: Air cooler. It is significantly cheaper than an air conditioner.
An aircon uses far more energy vs. an air cooler, there is no doubt about that. Here is a comparison of their energy consumption:
|Appliance||Energy Consumption||Power Rate||Per Hour|
|Air Cooler||0.115 kWh||₱9.744/kWh||₱1.12|
|Air Conditioner||1.118 kWh||₱9.744/kWh||₱10.89|
As you can see, an air conditioner uses 10x as more energy in an hour than air cooler. This makes an air cooler more sensible for people who are conscious about their budget, or for those good souls who account for environment-friendly options when purchasing a product.
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 air conditioner before. Go check them out!
Winner: Air cooler. It’s not even a contest energy consumption-wise. But you should also take into account the different level of cooling performance that an aircon does that warrants the higher energy consumption.
Since an air cooler doesn’t need a compressor to work, it is quieter than a window type or a portable air conditioner.
If you want a quiet air conditioner, you should opt for a split type over a window AC as the compressor on a split type is located outside of your home, reducing the perceptible noise inside your room.
Winner: Air cooler. It’s lack of a noisy compressor gives it an edge noise-wise.
Owing to its simpler design, air coolers are easier to maintain compared to air conditioners. You can even do the cleaning yourself.
Don’t get me wrong; you can clean and maintain an air conditioner by yourself. But some maintenance procedures are complicated, and hence will require you to employ the help of an HVAC technician.
Winner: Air cooler. It’s simple design makes its maintenance cost lower.
If you want to remain comfortable during the hot Philippine summer, the best option is to buy an air conditioner. However, when your budget does not permit, you can opt for the cheaper air cooler.
Keep in mind though that the cooling performance of an air cooler vs. an aircon is lopsided in favor of the air conditioner, but an aircooler will do a better job at a cooling the air than a regular electric fan.
Also, you should check the average humidity levels in your area before buying an air cooler as the added moisture that an air cooler gives can make the problem worse for you.
- 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?null
- US 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