Best Portable Evaporative Coolers of 2018

John Carlsen ·
Smart Home & HVAC Editor
Updated
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We've evaluated portable evaporative coolers since 2015, spending over 75 hours researching the top brands. During our research, we looked at several types of portable evaporative coolers from brands such as Luma Comfort, Honeywell and Hessaire. Of the models we considered, we liked the Luma Comfort EC110S the best because it’s affordable and performs well in medium-size rooms.    

Best Overall
Luma Comfort EC110S
The Luma Comfort EC110S is the best portable evaporative cooler for most bedrooms, and it doesn’t take up much space. It's also very affordable, costing around $150.
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Best Value
Luma Comfort EC45S
The Luma Comfort EC45S is a convenient, affordable portable evaporative cooler. It works well in small rooms, though you might want a more powerful unit for large rooms.
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Best for Large Spaces
Hessaire MC18M
The Hessaire MC18M is an excellent portable swamp cooler that can cool large areas outside your home, including garages and workshops.
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Product
Price
Overall Rating
Price
Performance
Efficiency
Design
Price Compared to Average
Max Room Size
Max Airflow
Power Consumption (Overall)
Power Consumption (Per CFM)
Estimated Summer Energy Cost
Water Tank Capacity
Weight
Warranty
Remote Control
Width (inches)
Depth (inches)
Height (inches)
$172.77 Amazon
9 9.5 9.3 8.6 8.1
Average
250 sq. ft.
500 CFM
110W
0.22W
$9.63
1.76 gallons
16.2 lbs.
1 Year
12.75
11.25
34.5
$175.00 Amazon
8.9 8.5 9.7 10 7.3
More Expensive
500 sq. ft.
1,300 CFM
82W
0.06W
$7.20
4.8 gallons
16 lbs.
1 Year
-
20
10
28
$128.44 Amazon
8.8 10 8 8.9 8.2
Less Expensive
100 sq. ft.
250 CFM
45W
0.18W
$3.93
1.6 gallons
12.8 lbs.
1 Year
11.7
11.7
37.2
$111.59 Viglink
8.8 10 8.3 8.3 8.1
Less Expensive
100 sq. ft.
320 CFM
80W
0.25W
$7.02
1 gallon
11.6 lbs.
1 Year
12.63
11.38
34.5
$189.00 CJ
8.6 8.5 8.7 8.9 8.3
More Expensive
175 sq. ft.
350 CFM
63W
0.18W
$5.52
3 gallons
17 lbs.
1 Year
18
18
34
$153.60 Amazon
8.5 9.5 8.3 7.5 8.1
Average
175 sq. ft.
300 CFM
63W
0.34W
$8.94
2.6 gallons
23 lbs.
1 Year
13.5
15.7
31.5
$319.98 Amazon
8.4 6.5 10 9.3 8.1
More Expensive
850 sq. ft.
1,540 CFM
220W
0.14W
$19.26
15.9 gallons
52 lbs.
1 Year
-
27.56
18.35
40.04
Best Overall
The Luma Comfort EC110S strikes a balance between affordability and power. This portable swamp cooler’s airflow rating is 500 cubic feet per minute (CFM), which is good enough to cool medium-size bedrooms up to 250 square feet.
However, it may not be powerful enough for large family rooms. At around $150, this isn’t the cheapest unit we looked at, but its price is still competitive with budget models. The EC110S’s water tank can hold 1.76 gallons, which is good but smaller than those that come with most units we evaluated. That said, the water tank weighs around 14 pounds when full, which is as heavy as the swamp cooler itself. Although the cooler is lightweight and only slightly larger than a tower fan, it helps that there are wheels on the bottom to move it around the house. As with most evaporative coolers, the EC110S doesn’t cool as well in humid environments or when the outside temperature gets too warm. You also have to occasionally clean it out, though using purified water can help prevent mineral deposit buildup inside the cooler and make it easier to care for over time. Because this is a fairly powerful machine, it uses more energy than smaller units, though the cost difference isn’t enough to affect your power bill that much.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Good for most small and medium rooms
  • Good airflow
Cons
  • Not powerful enough for large rooms
  • Uses more energy than smaller units
  • Water tank is smaller than most
$172.77Amazon
Read the full review
Best Value
The Luma Comfort EC45S indoor portable evaporative air cooler is one of the least expensive units we looked at.
We like that it's about the size a of a tower fan – it is more compact and easier to move than most other portable evaporative coolers. However, its size means the unit’s water tank is on the small side. This portable swamp cooler is ideal for small rooms up to 100 square feet, though we don't recommend it for medium or large rooms based on many of the online reviews we read. The EC45S is energy-efficient, using around 45 watts of power as it runs. As we researched this model, we found that many customers had trouble accessing the water tank on the bottom of the machine because it fits in the spot so tightly. Additionally, this unit's low airflow rating of 250 CFM means it doesn’t circulate air as well as our top pick, the Luma Comfort EC110S. However, the EC45S can sweep from side to side like a normal fan, which helps make up for its lower airflow. The Luma Comfort EC45S has other convenient features such as a shutoff timer, a digital control panel, a remote control and dust filters. While this unit may not be as effective as our top pick, it's a good evaporative cooler for the price.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Same size as a tower fan
  • Good for small rooms
Cons
  • Water tank access can be difficult
  • Not ideal for medium or large rooms
  • Relatively low airflow
$128.44Amazon
Read the full review
Best for Large Spaces
The Hessaire MC18M is a good evaporative cooler for large workshops and patios. It can cool areas up to 500 square feet, which is substantially more space than most portable evaporative coolers we looked at can handle.
This evaporative cooler has a large, 4.8-gallon water tank, which means you don't need to refill it very often. You can also hook it to a garden hose to keep it running, which is particularly helpful. This Hessaire model has an airflow rating of up to 1,300 CFM, which is another reason it cools large areas so well. While it can be used to cool your home’s interior, the MC18M is poorly suited to this purpose compared to a rooftop swamp cooler or a smaller unit that won't take up much space in your bedroom. However, the cooler has wheels to help you move it around. When you find the right spot, you can lock the wheels to keep the cooler from rolling on its own. The MC18M isn't the largest model Hessaire makes, but it's one of the more expensive evaporative coolers we reviewed, costing around $175. Even though it’s more expensive than average, it may be worth the price if you spend a lot of time working in a large workshop or garage. The warranty only lasts one year, like that of every other portable evaporative cooler we reviewed, and it's disappointing to see such short warranties.
Pros
  • High airflow
  • Large water tank
  • Can cool areas up to 500 square feet
Cons
  • More expensive than average
  • Too large for most bedrooms
  • Warranty is only one year
$175.00Amazon
Read the full review
Best for Small Spaces
At a little over two feet tall and with a six-foot-long power cord, the Honeywell CS10XE is the perfect size for dorm rooms and small apartments.
The maximum air flow is 300 cubic feet per minute (CFM) which will quickly cool a 175 square foot space by up to 30 degrees in optimal conditions. It’s also pretty inexpensive to run, costing about $9 over the course of the summer. The only real downside is that this unit can be heavy. The water tank holds 2.6 gallons and weighs almost 20 pounds when it’s full, making this harder to tote around from room to room than other options. Also, a quick search of Amazon reviews indicates that this swamp cooler is fairly loud. The air flow on the highest setting produces a lot of noise, and the water tank makes gulping noises as the water level drops. However, both of these issues are not uncommon for even standard swamp coolers. The Honeywell CS10XE’s features make it a nice choice for dorm rooms and office spaces. It has a small remote and a large LED screen that is easy to read even in low light. You can also pre-program the unit to turn off automatically after a certain amount of time, and. there’s a low-water alert and a reservoir for ice. The ice reservoir is kind of small and can only hold a handful of ice, but this little bit of extra cold gives the cooling a nice boost. You can use the CS10XE to spot cool when your current air conditioner doesn’t quite cut it or to cool a smaller office or bedroom space.
Pros
  • Can cool a room up to 175 square feet, or be used to spot cool larger rooms
Cons
  • Water tank is on the heavy side at almost 20 pounds when full
Amazon
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Most Versatile
When it comes to versatility, the NewAir AF-310 delivers. This unit works not only as a portable evaporative cooler, but also as a tower fan, a humidifier and an air purifier. This multi-faceted unit even comes with a slew of other convenient features such as a remote and a sleep mode.
One major complaint is that the water tank is smaller than normal, at only a gallon in size. However, it is easy to remove and fill. This also means that the AF-310 is lightweight and easy to move around a room to spot cool as needed. Additionally, the ice bin is unique in that it holds a reusable gel ice pack; most other portable swamp coolers require that you pour ice cubes into a reservoir. In optimal conditions, this unit can cool a 100-square foot space by about 20 degrees. That’s not a lot of space, but if your air conditioning is underperforming or you work in a small shed in the backyard, you can use this evaporative cooler to take the edge off. The remote works from up to 15 feet away and it also has a timer, so you can set it, forget it or adjust it. The unit will even let you know when it runs out of water.
Pros
  • This unit functions as a tower fan, cooler and air purifier
Cons
  • The water tank is on the small side
Amazon
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Why Trust Us

Since 2016, we've tested programmable thermostats and fans in-house at Top Ten Reviews. This experience has helped inform many of our conclusions about other HVAC equipment. We apply exacting standards to each pr­oduct we test, primarily focusing on performance and user-friendliness. We design our tests to simulate typical consumer experiences rather than focusing on numbers you need an engineering degree to understand.

When, as in the case of portable evaporative coolers, we aren't able to test the physical products, we apply the same due diligence to make sure our information and conclusions reflect the mission of Top Ten Reviews.

During our research, we found helpful guides on evaporative cooling from the U.S. Department of Energy as well as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. While these guides focus mainly on rooftop models, we recommend you take a look if you want more information on how evaporative cooling works.

How We Tested

While writing this guide, we researched eight portable evaporative cooler manufacturers and evaluated the specifications and energy efficiency of 10 models. Our research to date has taken over 75 hours.

We aren't able to test portable evaporative coolers in-house at Top Ten Reviews due to installation requirements and uncontrollable environmental conditions in our lab. Instead, we researched each product’s performance, features and warranties as reflected in manufacturer specifications and online customer reviews. Our final decisions and suggestions, as well as how we interpreted the coolers’ specifications, are informed by years of experience with general product testing and evaluations.

What to Expect: Price and Efficacy

The cost of a portable evaporative cooler varies depending on cooling needs. You can easily spend $70 on a small unit for a dorm room or office or drop up to $300 to $400 on a much larger one to cool garages, warehouses and even outdoor spaces. Keep in mind, though, that these are basically portable swamp coolers, so they are only effective in hot, dry climates. They also put out cooler, moist air, but they don’t cool like an air conditioner would.

Choosing a Portable Evaporative Cooler

Portable evaporative coolers cost significantly less to install and operate than central air systems, although they have much less cooling power. They’re lightweight and require only water and electricity to function, which means you can put them to use in your home or office. Since these units cool by adding moisture to the air, you should never use one alongside a traditional air conditioner, which cools by removing moisture. In shared spaces, these different types of coolers cancel each other out and waste energy.

Your Local Climate Affects Performance
Evaporative cooling technology is most effective in hot, dry environments such as the Western U.S., and it doesn’t effectively lower temperatures in places with high humidity.

Since evaporative coolers don’t have compressors, their power consumption is significantly lower than that of a central air conditioner. On average, evaporative coolers can make the ambient temperature anywhere from 20 to 30 degrees cooler than outside air. These limitations mean evaporative coolers don’t offer the same comfort as portable air conditioners.

Weight & Portability
Since portable swamp coolers are intended to cool one room at a time, you may need to purchase a unit that’s light enough to move around your house. More sizeable units cool larger areas, but they can be much harder to move than their lightweight cousins. The best-designed heavyweight units have caster wheels that make them easy to reposition. 

Size & Effectiveness
For portable evaporative coolers, bigger isn’t necessarily better. At the same time, choosing a unit that’s not big enough can leave you overheated. Evaporative coolers’ cooling efficiency is rated in cubic feet per minute (CFM). All portable swamp coolers have CFM ratings, which makes it easy to figure out if a unit is powerful enough to cool a given area.

To pick the right size cooler for your room, you must first determine how many cubic feet you need to cool. This is done by multiplying an area’s square footage by the ceiling height. For example, a 250-square-foot room with an 8-foot ceiling has a cubic area of 2,000 feet (250 x 8 = 2,000). You then simply divide the cubic area in half (2,000 / 2 = 1,000) to find out how many cubic feet your evaporative cooler needs to be able to cool per minute. So, in this example, you would need a unit with a CFM rating of 1,000.

Additional Features
The best portable swamp coolers often come with extra features that make them more convenient and easy to use. Some models have timers, remote controls and automatic thermostats that turn the unit on or off depending on the room’s temperature. Others include oscillating fans to evenly distribute air, alarms that notify you if the unit is running low on water, and adjustable speeds for gradual or rapid cooling. Some portable evaporative coolers also double as ionizers that remove pollutant particles from the air.