Are Air Coolers Effective?

Now that the intense Philippine summer is just around the corner, more people are rushing to buy a new aircon for their home. 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 — and air coolers may be the answer. However, are they really effective?

It’s true that air coolers have a low operational cost. But aside from cooling the air, evaporative air coolers also add humidity in to the room. And for hot and humid countries such as the Philippines, adding more humidity may not be the best move as the additional water vapor in the air absorbs more heat. This makes the air feel hotter than it actually is, and you will feel clammy to boot.

While an air cooler does have its uses, it may not be the best option for everyone. Read on for a fuller discussion on this topic.

How does an air cooler work?

Air coolers and air conditioners use the same working principle to cool the air: the evaporation process. Both of them work by passing air through a medium that contains an evaporating substance. This substance, while it is evaporating, cools the air (akin to the cooling effects of sweat as it evaporates).

For air conditioners, this evaporating substance is in the form of a refrigerant gas called Freon. For air coolers, it’s water. However, unlike an aircon’s Freon, which circulates in a closed system, an air cooler’s water reservoir is an open, which have big implications as we shall see.

Are air coolers effective in humid areas?

As we’ve seen before, an air conditioner can reduce the humidity inside your room. In contrast, an air cooler will increase the humidity levels in the air. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on where you live.

In dry areas (below 40% relative humidity) this is a good thing, as the added moisture will create a soothing cooling effect on the skin as it evaporates.

For humid areas (above 70% relative humidity) this could be a bad thing. To start with, the Philippines sit at an average of 75% humidity all-year round, and adding to it can make you uncomfortable.

As we’ve discuss earlier, the function of our sweat is to cool us down as it evaporates in to the air. However, this bodily function is impaired when the humidity is too high.

Basically, when the air is too humid, it cannot accommodate any more water vapor; Your sweat will not evaporate as it should, and you’ll end up feeling sticky and clammy. This is why you air coolers are not effective on humid days.

Does an air cooler use a lot of power?

An air cooler uses more energy than a standard electric fan, but far fewer energy than an air conditioner. Here is how they stack up:

Appliance Energy Consumption Power Rate Per Hour
Air Cooler 0.115 kWh ₱9.744/kWh ₱1.12
Electric Fan 0.064 kWh ₱9.744/kWh ₱0.63
Air Conditioner 1.118 kWh ₱9.744/kWh ₱10.89

As you can see, an electric fan will use twice as much energy than an electric fan, but will use far fewer energy than an air conditioner per hour.

We’ve written about the average energy consumption of electric fans and air conditioner before. Go check them out!

The benefits of getting an air cooler

Here are the advantages of an air cooler versus other cooling appliances:

Easy set-up

Unlike a split type or a portable air conditioner, air coolers are very easy to set up. It is plug-and-play, and you can wheel it into any room that needs to be cooled.


Aside from using a fraction of the energy that an air conditioner uses, it also does not use a chemical refrigerant that harms the environment.

Uses fresh air

You can use an air cooler with the windows open, so that the air inside your room is not constantly recycled until it becomes stale.

The drawbacks of an air cooler

An air cooler has significant downsides as well. You better consider these before making a purchase:

Weak cooling performance

Air coolers are not as effective at cooling a room compared to an air conditioner.

While air conditioners can reduce the temperature of the room until 14°C, an air coolers can only reduce 5°C from the temperature of the room. That may not be enough on extremely hot days.

Should not be used in high-humidity areas

As mentioned earlier, air coolers are not effective in humid areas as adding more humidity to the room can make you more uncomfortable. It can also cause molds and mildew to grow at a rapid rate.

Needs to be constantly filled with water

If you’re as tamad as me, constantly filling the water tank can be annoying. And you can’t NOT do it, as if the air cooler runs without water, it will be nothing but a glorified electric fan.


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.


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