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Evaporative Cooling Versus Air Conditioning: What You Need To Know

Air conditioning is no longer your only cooling option in the summers. Evaporative cooling is a concept that many people are preferring these days for various reasons. However, we can’t write off air conditioning systems because both systems have their pros and cons.

You will have to choose what works for you depending on your needs. We hope to make the choice easier for you by laying out the differences between the two types of cooling systems.

What Is Evaporative Cooling?

Obviously, this type of cooling relies on water evaporating. When water evaporates, it removes heat from the air. It then dispels air that is much cooler. Air from outside the unit is taken in by evaporative coolers, cooled down with evaporation, and then shot back into the room.

The air is usually filtered using wet pads or quilts. This leads to evaporation and also helps to increase the humidity of the alignment. This makes evaporative cooling great in dry weather like in Melbourne.

Air-conditioning in split systems works differently. Air is sucked into the unit, run through a fan coil, cool, and then straight back into the room. In the cooling process, the compressor switches the phase of the refrigerant back and forth between gas and liquid to cause energy transfer with the air blowing on it. It takes a little time and repeated cycles to cool up the air in your room to the desired temperature.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the two cooling systems. Which one will save you more money? Which one is more eco-friendly? Which one has lower running costs? Which one gives you better air quality? Let’s find out.

Energy Efficiency

Refrigerated air-conditioning systems need a lot of energy to maintain the cooler. On the other hand evaporative coolers simply use a water pump and a fan. This setup needs a lot less power than most traditional cooling systems. Note that you can technically use solar power to bring down the power drawn by your air-conditioning system. But if that’s not feasible, we recommend evaporative cooling for energy efficiency.

Weather Performance

If evaporative coolers raise the humidity, do they work in the humid Sydney weather, for instance? The short answer is: Sydney residents will be better off using split system air-conditioners. Evaporative cooler relies on the air outside, which means it can be easily affected by the weather. It’s not suitable for humid climates.

However, the dry Melbourne climate does very well with evaporative cooling. But note in rainy weather or extreme heat, your cooler may not work as efficiently as usual.

This is where the benefits of split systems are glaring. They work regardless of the weather. No matter how the weather fluctuates outside, you enjoy the same level of comfort in your home.

Air Quality

When it comes to bringing fresh clean air into your home, the evaporative cooler wins. The air that it draws in is passed through filters to remove allergens and dust. You can use HEPA filters for air-conditioning units. However, these units circulate the air that’s already inside your house. If the HEPA filter is old or inefficient, you’ll be breathing in stale, dirty air.

Running Costs

Running costs tie in with the energy that’s used for your cooling system. You need a continuous source of water for an evaporative cooler to work. But if not hard to come by, you’ll find that most evaporative cooling systems turn out to be more cost-effective than air-conditioning systems.

Maintenance is also important, which is another kind of cost. You have to clean the fan parts and wet pads routinely to prevent them from becoming breeding grounds for bacteria and mould. Air-conditioning units need routine maintenance as well, to clean up filters, to make sure the refrigerant is not leaking, etc.

Carbon Footprint

If you’re careful about keeping your carbon footprint small, you might prefer the evaporative unit. It keeps down carbon dioxide emissions, unlike air-conditioners that add to it.

Is there a potential to water waste with evaporative air coolers? Yes, there is. Sometimes units may bleed or dump water to drain throughout the time that the unit is on. This means the water being used is too much and not necessary. It’s adding to your operating costs.

To prevent this problem, when you buy a new system, make sure the cooling capacity suits your space. Look for units with advanced water management systems, ideally with conductivity sensors. Avoid systems with frequent dumping, unless you can get a reputable contractor to install and set them up for you.

Controlling The Temperature

Air-conditioning systems give you greater control over the temperature. You can adjust the fan speeds in evaporative coolers. But you don’t get the kind of temperature range that you can get from an air-conditioner.

You will find some evaporative unit models advertise greater airflow or optimal airflow technology. These models will operate cooler than others.


Of course, many air-conditioning systems these days operate with barely any noise. But manufacturers are constantly working to make evaporative cooling systems run quieter. These days fan and motor technology have advanced far and evaporative coolers are a lot quieter than they used to be. A good installer will also look for a place to install the unit with the least amount of noise reaching you in your home.

Which Should You Choose?

There are a few reasons to choose an evaporative cooling system over an air-conditioning unit. For one, you will enjoy fresher, healthier air in your home. Instead of recirculating stale indoor air, the unit will bring in fresh air from outside, cool it, and release it back into your home. This means you can and must leave your windows open when the cooler does its job. For most people, this will be a good thing. Not everyone likes the closed-in feeling of an air-conditioned room.

Then there is the fact that air-conditioners release hot air into the environment. This is not a good thing for global warming. The overall running cost of coolers can turn out to be much lower than air-conditioning units.

But it’s important that you know not just how to use the controls of the unit you buy, but also the best way to use it under different weather conditions. For instance, if it’s cool outside but you still need some cooling indoors, you can operate the system in ventilation-only mode. In this mode, the fan will blow air without passing it through the water.

The ventilation-only mode is also recommended when it’s humid outside. And don’t forget that the hot air needs to get out in order for cool air to get in. Always leave your windows cracked open or wide-open depending on your preference when your cooler is running.

If you take care of your unit and it is correctly operated and installed, you can expect it to last over 20 years. Get in touch with an evaporative cooling service to find the best unit for your space. If you think evaporative cooling is not for you, your best option is to find reputable air-conditioning services that carry split systems with high energy efficiency and advanced technology.