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Portacool Jetstream evaporative cooler

Evaporative Coolers vs. Swamp Coolers: What’s the Difference?

Are you looking for an efficient and affordable cooling solution? If so, you’ve probably come across references to both evaporative coolers and swamp coolers. You might be wondering what’s the difference.

There is no true difference between these two terms. “Evaporative cooler” is a technically accurate name that describes how the device functions. “Swamp cooler” is a somewhat derogative slang term that describes what can happen to an evaporative cooler if you don’t take proper care of it.

Evaporative Coolers: It’s How They Work

Evaporative cooler is a term that describes how this type of air conditioning (loosely defined) works. Evaporative coolers take advantage of the fact that evaporating a liquid requires considerable energy. When that energy comes from the air, the air cools down. It’s the same effect that lets your body cool down by sweating.

Evaporative coolers maximize this effect. They create a situation where hot air can evaporate a lot of water. They do this with what is called an evaporative medium. The evaporative medium soaks up water like a high-tech sponge, but it also lets air pass through. When a fan pushes or pulls air through the evaporative medium, a lot of this water evaporates, cooling the air.

With one pass through an evaporative cooler, the air temperature can drop by 30° F. This lets evaporative coolers provide effective climate control even when you can’t trap or concentrate cooled air for multiple passes.

Swamp Cooler: Where’d the Name Come From?

If evaporative cooler is a technical description of how the devices work, swamp cooler is an evocative one – and what it evokes isn’t always pleasant.

Where did this name come from? As with many slang terms, nobody knows for sure. The common assumption is that the name refers to what happened to old style evaporative coolers if they weren’t properly cared for.

Wherever there is standing water, there is potential for the growth of algae and mold. An evaporative cooler increases this potential by sucking in air that can be laden with additional resources for these microorganisms to feed on, including pollen, seeds, and other airborne debris.

To make matters worse, early evaporative coolers used evaporative media made of untreated wood wool, aspen wood fibers, also called excelsior. These fibers would degrade and break apart, falling into the reservoir, where they would mold and decay. This led to an evaporative cooler that looked and smelled like a swamp. So they were called swamp coolers.

How to Make Sure Your Evaporative Cooler Isn’t a Swamp Cooler

These days, there’s no reason why an evaporative cooler should fit the name “swamp cooler.” With modern materials and design, it takes only minimal maintenance to avoid odors and contamination of your evaporative cooler.

Kuul evaporative media for Portacool evaporative coolersModern evaporative media like Kuul Comfort® are cellulose pads – like a special form of paper. They are much better at absorbing water without breaking down into debris in your reservoir. In addition, they are treated to inhibit the growth of mold and algae.

To avoid odors in your evaporative cooler, take the time to clean the unit once a week. In most Portacool models, you can start by shutting off the water pump while running the fan. This dries out the evaporative media. Meanwhile, drain the reservoir. Take out the evaporative media and clean out the reservoir with soap and water. Rinse thoroughly and dry fully. Then replace the evaporative media, refill the reservoir, and you’re good to go.

Long-Lasting and Low-Maintenance Evaporative Coolers from Portacool

If you are looking for a way to keep cool in poorly insulated spaces, near heat sources, or outdoors, Portacool evaporative coolers are a great option. Well-designed to supply fresh air with only minimal maintenance, you will never have to describe them as “swamp coolers.”

To enjoy your own Portacool, please contact a local or online retailer.

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