Southern California may be known for a pleasant climate that’s warm almost all year round, but the scorching summer days can be brutal. Having no cooling solution for your home can be particularly awful, especially when the thermometer climbs up well into triple digits, sending you on a search to find a cooling solution that will provide you with some much-needed heat relief. While air conditioning can get the job done, you may also have run across information about evaporative cooling machines, or as they’re also commonly known, “swamp coolers.” The idea of being able to cool your home while also saving energy may seem great, but there are some things to know before you make your purchase.

How Do Swamp Coolers Work?

Compared to air conditioners, swamp coolers are remarkably simple machines that rely on an extremely basic principle that almost everybody is familiar with evaporative cooling. This is the same principle that causes sweat to keep you cool, or why getting out of the swimming pool makes you feel so cold: air moving over water causes it to evaporate, and evaporation is a process that removes heat.

Let’s explain it a little further: a swamp cooler is composed of a few basic components: a fan, a water supply (sometimes a tank, but permanent units will be tapped into your home’s water lines), an air filter, and a sponge-like permeable grid. The grid itself is kept constantly damp by the water supply, and the fan pulls air through the air filter and then past the grid where it causes the water to evaporate. This cools the air as it passes through and gets disbursed into your home, cooling the inside temperature and keeping you comfortable.

Downsides Of Swamp Coolers

Evaporative cooling has a downside, however: it requires dry air to work. Air has a maximum amount of water vapor it can carry: a measurement known as humidity. The more humidity in the air, the less water it can evaporate. When water can’t evaporate, it can’t cool the air, and thus evaporative coolers stop working. This is why high-humidity days always feel hotter than those that may be warmer but have drier air: when sweat can’t evaporate, your body has no natural cooling method.

Therefore, contrary to their name, swamp coolers are not an ideal choice unless you live in a climate that’s almost completely arid all year round, particularly during the warm summer season. Humid days, the ones where you need relief the most, are the times when your swamp cooler won’t be able to properly keep your home cool because the humidity inside will prevent it from working properly.

Now, in certain spots in Southern California, these are a great solution: the high deserts and inland empire areas, which are frequently dry, hot, and have very low humidity, are all great areas that could benefit tremendously from a swamp cooler. Residents of areas like Hemet, Palm Springs, Indio, and much of Riverside and San Bernardino counties could utilize these cooling solutions effectively. However, coastal areas such as Santa Monica, Orange County, San Diego, Malibu, and other lower-lying areas that are within a stone’s throw of the ocean probably should avoid them. The warm air will constantly have a higher level of humidity, and this is only going to hinder a swamp cooler when you need the cooling relief the most.

Swamp Cooler Or Air Conditioner?

While swamp coolers are dependent on the conditions outside and in your home to work properly, an air conditioner is capable of cooling your home in just about any environment. Air conditioners function on more or less the opposite principle of swamp coolers—instead of humidifying the air to cool it, air conditioners dry the air out by causing water to condense, putting cool, dry air into your home and giving you relief from the humidity. While there’s no questioning that a swamp cooler will save you money on your energy bills, the fact that they may not work when you need them to may outweigh the cost savings they can provide.

For more information about installing air conditioning in your home, speak with the skilled Los Angeles air conditioning team from JW Plumbing, Heating and Air! Call us today at (213) 444-2115 to learn more about the options we have for central, mini-split, and even ductless mini-split systems!

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