Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Portable Air Conditioners Vs. Evaporative Coolers - Which One to Choose?

Many consumers often have trouble choosing a portable cooling system for their home, as the terms "portable air conditioner" and "evaporative cooler" can be mistakenly interchanged. However, there are a few significant differences between these two appliances, and choosing the right one will greatly depend on certain factors, such as the area in which you live.

Portable Air Conditioners:
Portable ACs are small, mobile air conditioners which do not need to be mounted through a wall (unlike a standard window AC). Permanent installation is not required, and these units are often compact and lightweight – ideal for apartments where window units cannot be installed. Because portable air conditioners lower temperatures by using a refrigeration cycle, this results in reduced humidity of the air processed by the system, and lowered relative humidity levels – something to consider if you live in a dry climate.

- Versatile and can be moved from room to room
- Ideal for areas that are not covered by central air conditioning or those which cannot accommodate permanent AC installation
- Can be up to 50% more energy efficient than some central air conditioning systems, as only certain rooms are cooled, as opposed to an entire home

- Need to be vented
- Can be slightly more expensive than a central air conditioning or mini-split system with similar cooling capacity

Evaporative Coolers (or "Swamp" Coolers)
Evaporative coolers are devices which use simple evaporation of water in the air. These units consist of a box-like frame containing a fan that is walled in by moistened pads. In order to cool the air, the fan takes in hot air from the room, sends it through the moist pads, and cools it up to 20 degrees. Evaporative coolers are generally only suited for dry climates where the air is hot and the humidity is low (such as the Western/Mountain states), as they add moisture to the air.

- Compact and portable
- Estimated cost of operation is ¼ of refrigerated air
- Ideal for climates with a relatively humidity level below 50%

- High temperature and high humidity outside conditions decrease the cooling capability of the unit
- Only suitable for dry climates; high humidity in the air accelerates corrosion and causes condensation


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