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swamp cooler for home patio

Why Is It Called a Swamp Cooler?

We’ve all heard the term “swamp cooler.” But what is a swamp cooler? Why is it called that?

The truth is that swamp cooler is an outdated term for an evaporative cooler, and nobody is entirely sure where, when, or why the term started.

Outdated and Inaccurate Terms Are Common

The term swamp cooler is an old term, likely dating from soon after the technology was invented. Swamp coolers were first invented in the 1900s and became common by the 1930s. The nickname rose with them because the technical name, evaporative cooler, is a bit of a mouthful.

A lot of our nomenclature for common items comes from this time or earlier, and most of it is inaccurate. You might sometimes call aluminum foil “tin foil.” However, common household foil hasn’t been made of tin since WWII. Pencil “lead” is made of graphite and clay – it was never made of lead. Speaking of lead, plumbers get their name from the Latin for lead, “plumbum,” though hopefully most plumbers working today never have to touch a lead pipe. You might also talk about “dialing” a number, even though you’ve never used a rotary phone.

Nor is it just outdated and inaccurate language that we use. Many modern interfaces still use a 3.5” floppy disk as the symbol for “save,” even though an increasing number of users have never seen such an object.

Think of the term “swamp cooler” in a similar way.

Why Did They Call Them Swamp Coolers?

evaporative cooling media So-called swamp coolers are technically “evaporative coolers,” as we said, but the term is not only long, it doesn’t have much of a ring to it. “Swamp cooler” is more concise and to the point, definitely appealing to the slangy pop culture that flourished in the 1920s and 30s when swamp coolers were becoming popular. But in order for a slang term to take off, it usually has to be accurate in some way. So what did swamp coolers do to get their name?

The most popular speculation is that swamp coolers got their names because they could sometimes look and smell like a swamp. Swamp coolers use evaporative media to soak up water so they can evaporate it more effectively. The original evaporative media were made of natural fibers, most often aspen wool. This would degrade fairly quickly, filling the water reservoir with rotting wood. If the water wasn’t changed very often, the reservoir would be overgrown with algae and attract insects, making it look and smell like a swamp.

Since then, the name has largely stuck.

You’d Never Call a Portacool a Swamp Cooler

We’ve come a long way since those early swamp cooler designs. Nowadays, you’re more likely to compare a Portacool to a jet, sports car, or spaceship. The molded plastic cases give the units a smooth, streamlined look. They are clean, and don’t develop any kind of odor if you follow recommended maintenance by emptying and drying them once a week.

The modern Kuul Comfort evaporative media used in a Portacool is both more effective and more durable than outdated aspen wool, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking down to contaminate the reservoir. With a Portacool, you’ll enjoy efficient, effective, and clean cooling. We offer best-in-class warranties and customer service, so you can look forward to years of cooling with your Portacool. Plus, they’re made in the USA, and have been since 1990.

To get your Portacool evaporative cooler, please contact a local or online retailer.