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Can a Humidifier Be Used as an Air Cooler?

Mother and child with air conditioner remote

When it comes to creating a comfortable indoor environment, we often turn to appliances like humidifiers and air coolers. These devices play different roles in improving the air quality and overall comfort of our living spaces.

What are air coolers?

Air coolers, also known as evaporative coolers, are devices designed to cool the air in indoor and outdoor spaces. These cooling systems work on the principle of evaporation, where warm air passes through moistened pads, causing the water to evaporate and resulting in a drop in temperature. Unlike air conditioners that use refrigerants and compressors, air coolers rely on natural processes to provide cooling.

How do air coolers work?

Air coolers function by utilising the cooling effect of evaporation. They consist of a water tank, a pump, a fan, and cooling pads. The pump circulates water from the tank onto the cooling pads, which become saturated. The fan draws warm air from the environment and passes it through these damp pads. As the air crosses the moistened pads, evaporation occurs, reducing the air temperature before it is blown back into the room. This continuous cycle creates a cooling effect, making the space more comfortable.

Different types of air coolers

Air coolers come in various types to suit different needs and preferences. Let’s take a closer look at some common types:

  • Room Air Coolers: These compact coolers are designed for cooling small to medium-sized rooms. They are portable and easily movable, making them a convenient choice for residential spaces.
  • Desert Air Coolers: Ideal for hot and dry climates, desert air coolers have a higher cooling capacity and can effectively cool larger areas. They are suitable for commercial spaces, such as offices, shops, and restaurants.
  • Tower Air Coolers: Tower coolers are sleek, vertical units that save space while providing efficient cooling. They often come with additional features like remote controls, timers, and air purification systems.
  • Window Air Coolers: As the name suggests, these coolers are designed to fit in windows or through-wall openings. They are commonly used in rooms without adequate ventilation, providing direct cooling to the area.


Can air coolers lower the temperature effectively?

The effectiveness of air coolers in lowering the temperature depends on various factors, including the ambient humidity levels, room size, and cooler capacity. In dry climates, where humidity is low, air coolers can provide a significant reduction in temperature. As the air passes through the moist cooling pads, the water evaporates and absorbs heat from the air, resulting in a noticeable cooling effect.

However, in areas with high humidity, air coolers may not be as effective. Since evaporation is slower when the air is already saturated with moisture, the cooling effect is limited. In such cases, air coolers can still provide some relief by increasing the air circulation and creating a breeze, but the temperature drop may not be as significant.


Do air coolers work in humid climates?

Air coolers can work reasonably well in humid climates, although their cooling efficiency may be reduced compared to dry climates. While the cooling effect may not be as pronounced, air coolers can still provide relief by increasing the humidity slightly and creating a refreshing breeze. It’s important to note that air coolers do not dehumidify the air like air conditioners do. Instead, they add moisture to the air, which can be beneficial in dry climates but may not be ideal for already humid areas.


Air coolers vs. air conditioners

When comparing air coolers to air conditioners, it’s essential to understand the differences in their cooling mechanisms and their impact on energy consumption.

Air Cooler Advantages

  • Energy-efficient cooling solution
  • Lower electricity consumption compared to air conditioners
  • Environmentally friendly, as they don’t use refrigerants
  • Cost-effective option for cooling small to medium-sized spaces
  • Portable and easy to install


  • Less effective in high humidity areas
  • Cooling effectiveness depends on the ambient temperature
  • Require proper ventilation for optimal performance
  • Not suitable for cooling large spaces or multiple rooms simultaneously
  • Regular maintenance required to prevent mould and mineral build-up


Air Conditioner Advantages

  • Powerful cooling capability, regardless of humidity levels
  • Precise temperature control and customisable settings
  • Suitable for cooling large areas or multiple rooms
  • Can filter and dehumidify the air for improved comfort
  • Low noise levels, especially in newer models


  • Higher electricity consumption compared to air coolers
  • Initial installation cost can be significant
  • Refrigerants used may have environmental impact
  • Require professional installation and maintenance
  • Limited portability, typically fixed in a specific location


Both air coolers and air conditioners have their own advantages and limitations, and the choice between them depends on individual preferences, budget, and specific cooling requirements.


Factors Affecting Air Cooler Performance

The performance of air coolers can be influenced by several factors. Understanding these factors will help you maximise the effectiveness of your air cooler and create a comfortable indoor environment.


Room size and cooler capacity

The size of the room plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate cooler capacity. Air coolers are rated based on their air delivery in cubic feet per minute (CFM). A general rule of thumb is to choose an air cooler with a capacity of at least 20 CFM per square foot of the room. For example, if you have a 200 square foot room, a cooler with a minimum air delivery of 4000 CFM would be suitable.

Choosing an air cooler with an inadequate capacity for a large room will result in reduced cooling effectiveness, while an oversized cooler for a small room may lead to excessive humidity or discomfort.


Ventilation and air circulation

Proper ventilation and air circulation are crucial for optimal air cooler performance. Air coolers work best when placed near an open window or door to allow the exchange of fresh air. This ensures that the cool air produced by the cooler is not trapped inside, but instead, circulated throughout the room.

Additionally, using fans or ceiling fans in conjunction with the air cooler can enhance air circulation and distribute the cooled air more effectively. This can help create a more comfortable and uniform cooling experience, especially in larger spaces.


Ambient humidity levels

As mentioned earlier, the ambient humidity levels can significantly impact the effectiveness of air coolers. In dry climates, air coolers can provide a significant cooling effect due to the rapid evaporation of water. However, in areas with high humidity, the cooling effect may be less noticeable.

To improve the cooling efficiency in humid conditions, you can use techniques like cross-ventilation, ensuring proper airflow, and maintaining the cooling pads in good condition. These measures can help optimise the performance of the air cooler even in humid environments.


Pros and Cons of Using Air Coolers

Before investing in an air cooler, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it aligns with your cooling needs and preferences.

Advantages of air coolers

  • Energy-efficient cooling solution: Air coolers consume significantly less electricity compared to air conditioners, making them an energy-efficient option for cooling your space. This can result in lower utility bills, especially during hot summer months.
  • Environmentally friendly: Unlike air conditioners that use refrigerants, air coolers rely on the natural process of evaporation to provide cooling. They do not emit greenhouse gases or contribute to ozone depletion, making them an eco-friendly choice.
  • Cost-effective: Air coolers are generally more affordable than air conditioners, both in terms of initial purchase and long-term operational costs. They are a budget-friendly cooling solution, particularly for small to medium-sized spaces.
  • Portability and ease of installation: Air coolers are lightweight and portable, allowing you to move them from one room to another as needed. They also don’t require complex installation procedures, making them convenient for renters or those who frequently change their living arrangements.
  • Natural air circulation and ventilation: Air coolers work by pulling fresh air from outside and circulating it throughout the room. This constant flow of air helps maintain good indoor air quality by reducing odours and removing stagnant air.

Limitations of air coolers

  • Air coolers are most effective in dry climates, where humidity levels are low. In areas with high humidity, the cooling effect may be limited, and the overall comfort level may not be as satisfactory.
  • While air coolers can effectively cool small to medium-sized spaces, they may struggle to provide adequate cooling in larger areas. If you have a large room or multiple interconnected rooms, a single air cooler may not be sufficient to cool the entire space.
  • Maintenance requirements: Air coolers require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity. This includes cleaning the cooling pads, checking the water pump, and ensuring proper ventilation. Neglecting maintenance can lead to issues such as mould growth or mineral build up, impacting the cooling efficiency and air quality.
  • Water consumption: Air coolers rely on water for evaporation, and they can consume a significant amount of water during operation. This may be a concern in areas with water scarcity or where conservation is a priority. However, some modern air coolers come with features like water-level indicators and auto-shutoff to help manage water usage.
  • Noise levels: While air coolers are generally quieter than air conditioners, they do produce some noise due to the operation of the fan and water pump. The noise levels can vary depending on the model and fan speed, so it’s important to consider this factor if you are sensitive to noise.

Despite these limitations, air coolers can be a viable cooling solution for many households, offering a balance between cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, and environmental friendliness.


Energy efficiency and environmental impact

Air coolers are known for their energy efficiency, consuming significantly less electricity compared to air conditioners. This translates to lower carbon emissions and reduced strain on the power grid. By opting for air coolers, you can contribute to reducing your carbon footprint and mitigating the environmental impact associated with excessive energy consumption.


Water consumption and sustainability

The water consumption of air coolers can vary depending on factors such as climate, usage patterns, and the efficiency of the cooler itself. While air coolers do use water for evaporation, modern models are designed to be water-efficient and minimise wastage

To ensure sustainable water usage, it is important to consider the following:

  • Water management: Regularly monitor the water level in the cooler and refill it as needed. Some air coolers come with water-level indicators to help you manage water usage efficiently.
  • Proper maintenance: Clean the cooling pads regularly to prevent mineral build up, which can reduce their effectiveness and increase water consumption. Additionally, inspect the water pump and ensure it is functioning optimally to avoid any water leakage or wastage.
  • Recycling and reuse: Consider reusing the water from the air cooler for purposes like watering plants or cleaning. This can help reduce water wastage and make the most of the water used by the cooler.

By implementing these practices, you can enjoy the cooling benefits of air coolers while minimising water consumption and promoting sustainability.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Can air coolers replace air conditioners?

Air coolers and air conditioners serve different purposes and have their own strengths and limitations. While air coolers can provide effective cooling in dry climates and are more energy-efficient, they may not be as effective in high humidity areas. Additionally, air conditioners offer precise temperature control and can cool larger spaces. The choice between air coolers and air conditioners depends on individual preferences, specific cooling requirements, and budget considerations.


Are air coolers suitable for large rooms?

Air coolers are most effective in small to medium-sized rooms, as their cooling capacity may be limited. For larger spaces, it may be necessary to use multiple air coolers or consider alternative cooling solutions like air conditioners. Assessing the size of the room, the cooler’s capacity, and ensuring proper ventilation are crucial in determining the suitability of an air cooler for a particular space.


Do air coolers require a lot of maintenance?

Air coolers do require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity. This includes cleaning the cooling pads, checking and cleaning the water pump, and ensuring proper ventilation. It is recommended to clean the cooling pads every few weeks or as needed, depending on usage. Neglecting maintenance can lead to issues such as mould growth or mineral build up, which can impact cooling efficiency and air quality.


Can air coolers improve air quality?

Air coolers can help improve air quality to some extent. As they pull fresh air from outside, they contribute to better ventilation and circulation, reducing the presence of stale air and odours. However, air coolers do not have air purification features like air conditioners, which can filter out pollutants and allergens from the air. If improving air quality is a priority, additional measures like using air purifiers or maintaining good indoor hygiene practices may be necessary.


Are air coolers noisy?

While air coolers are generally quieter than air conditioners, they do produce some noise due to the operation of the fan and water pump. The noise levels can vary depending on the model and fan speed. If you are sensitive to noise, it is recommended to choose a cooler with lower noise levels or consider using the cooler in a separate room or at a lower fan speed during sensitive times, such as during sleep.


Can air coolers be used outdoors?

Yes, air coolers can be used outdoors in appropriate conditions. However, their effectiveness may be limited in open spaces due to the natural dispersion of cool air. To maximise the cooling effect, it is recommended to use air coolers in semi-enclosed outdoor areas or in spaces with good air circulation. Additionally, ensure that the cooler is designed for outdoor use and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe and optimal operation.