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Misting Fan vs. Evaporative Cooler – Differences and Advantages

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U sing a fan to keep yourself comfortable during a heatwave implies a series of strategies, as these devices do not have any real means to cool the air. At the opposite pole, an AC is the easiest solution, but the prices are high and their run can easily make your energy bill spike up.

Fortunately, a compromise solution exists. Misting fans and evaporative coolers are a combination of fans and ACs. They manage to bring coolness to the space they work in while keeping the power consumption low. They do sound amazing. Nevertheless, we should mention from the start that these devices would work better in areas with dry climates, as their working method implies evaporation.

Now, if you were to pick between one of these technologies, you would need all the information you can get, and this is precisely what we have our mind set on: we will compare all the aspects regarding these two coolers and underline their advantages and drawbacks, so stay with us for a complete analysis.

If you live in an area with high moisture, the alternative could be a device that will take dampness from the air. Check out our best quiet window ACs and get excellent cooling and dehumidification for your bedroom.

Misting fans Image

What Is the Technology Behind These Systems? Presenting the Candidates

Although they seem to do the same thing, namely use a fan and water to create the sensation of coolness on the skin, some differences do exist, and they are found in the way each system operates.

How Do Misting Fans Work?

The two main components of a mister are the fan and the pump. The unit requires to be linked both to an energy source and a water source. Usually, a garden hose can do the trick, making installation simpler and maintenance almost inexistent. However, if this isn’t possible, it is good to know that you can pick a unit with a water bucket. Thus, the unit becomes more portable but sort of uncomfortable, as you will need to refill it, probably several times a day.

Once you’ve installed it, the process goes the subsequent way: the pump draws the water and pressurizes it, turning it into droplets. The fan draws the hot air and mixes it with the fine cool mist, then blows it around the perimeter. During this action, three processes occur: the cool air reaches your skin and swipes away the heat (this is called convection), the water droplets transfer coolness to your skin, lowering the temperature (this is called conduction), and in its way to you, the mist manages to preserve its coolness as the droplets that get too warm turn to vapors before reaching your skin (this is called evaporation).

For garden or patio air cooling, see our outdoor misting fan selection. Analyze complete specs and features and compare prices, to find the best model for your summer parties.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Misting units are highly popular, despite the fact that they, just like any appliance, have their good and bad sides. Here is what they can do for you and assess if the drawbacks are of no importance or a deal-breaker for you:

Pros Cons
  • The installation is relatively easy and quick
  • Can be utilized both indoors and outdoors
  • They are cost-effective
  • They can work as humidifiers
  • Most models have strong fans that enable them to cover large surfaces
  • They need minimal maintenance
  • They require a water source that may not always be at hand
  • If the environment is already humid, they can make humidity even higher, causing allergy-like symptoms and favoring the emergence of mold
  • They are pretty bulky and some of them oscillate, so you will need to reserve some space for them
  • The water nozzle tends to get filled with minerals, which, in time, wreck it, so you will need to substitute it periodically. Luckily, it isn’t expensive

How Do Evaporative (Swamp) Coolers Work? Image

How Do Evaporative (Swamp) Coolers Work?

Unlike misting models, swamp coolers are not reliant on a pump and will not release any fine mist. They come with a water recipient, a fan, and a series of pads, and this is all they need to work their magic. The process goes this way: you fill the water recipient and start the unit. At this point, the pads will soak part of the water, becoming ready for the evaporation process. When the fan starts spinning, it draws in the hot air and passes it through the wet pads. Since the air is hot, the water will begin to evaporate and make the air moister. The air charged with water vapors is blown back, reaching your skin and making you feel cooler.

More than misters, swamp coolers require to be used in environments with low humidity and high temperatures. They require heat for the evaporation process to take place and they necessitate the RH to be low, as evaporation cannot happen if the air is saturated with water. This is actually a good thing, and you will find it at evaporative humidifiers as well, because it means that over humidification can be easily avoided and the risk of mold growing on the walls dodged, but, in this case, this will also mean a pause in cooling and an inefficient run of the machine.

For excellent spot cooling, check out our portable evaporative air coolers. Some models come with filters and can guarantee that the vapors released will be free of contaminants.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Pros Cons
  • Portable units command no installation. In some cases, some easy assembly may be required
  • Can be utilized both indoors and outdoors
  • They are energy-effective
  • They use the same principle as evaporative humidifiers, so they will add just the right amount of humidity and stop when the air cannot hold more water
  • Most models are super quiet
  • They are highly portable
  • Window units are difficult to install
  • Portable models offer mostly spot cooling, so they cannot cover large spaces, while window units require often refills
  • Although they recycle water, they don’t always filter it, so the risk of bacteria growth is present, but only in situations when maintenance isn’t performed on time
  • If the RH is high, the water will stop evaporating, so you will only get air circulation without cooling of any sort
  • They require both daily and weekly maintenance, just like a humidifier, otherwise, they can easily develop bacteria and mold colonies.

Misting fan Image

Misting Fan vs. Swamp Cooler

It is only when we put them side by side and perform a thorough analysis of their performance according to various criteria, that these devices reveal their qualities and differences, allowing you to assess which technology could serve you best. So, let’s start from installation and go through the most important aspects, in an attempt to see what sets these units apart.

Installation

When it comes to installing a swamp model, you will only need to get it from the box, fill the tank with water, and plug it in. But this will happen only if you have purchased a portable model. For window units, things are a bit different, and you should take your time and prepare for some effort, as you will need to lift a pretty bulky unit at window level, ensure it using chains and hooks, cover the space around it so insects don’t invade the house, and only after all this work, fill the reservoir.

Regarding misters, if the water source is at hand, then things couldn’t be easier. You just use a garden hose to connect it to the water supply. But this is the best-case scenario. In the worst-case scenario, the water source is far from the location where you wish to place it and you must make arrangements to get the water to it. This can imply plumbing work and even the services of a specialist. Plus, if it doesn’t include a pump and relies only on the local water pressure, a lot of this pressure will be lost on the way, so the cooling will be less effective.

Cooling Capacity

If we are talking portability, then a misting fan is usually more effective than its counter candidate for the simple reason that it doesn’t need to wait for the water to evaporate to provide coolness. Nevertheless, a window swamp model is the best you can get for complete room cooling. These units can have airflows that reach over 7,000 CFM and get installed into the window, so they won’t come in your way. The alternative may prove too space-consuming for a small room.

Take a look at our best vertical window ACs and find a method to clear floor space and still keep one side of the window free. Although more expensive than fans, these ACs will cool a room in no time, while reducing humidity as well.

Energy Consumption

Although both options are cost-effective, one totally wins in this section. A swamp cooler will draw from 400 to 700 watts, which is still under the power consumption rate of a small AC. But when compared to a misting fan, which doesn’t consume more than 300 watts, the dissimilarity is impossible to be ignored.

Window evaporative air cooler Image

Water Consumption

They both require a certain quantity of water but, although they are known to recycle the non-used water, swamp units tend to swallow more. If a mister and a swamp unit of the same capacity are utilized concomitantly, the water in the evaporative unit’s reservoir will be the first to end.

If the water is a problem in your area, then you may want to think of other cooling methods. Check out our best dual hose portable ACs and get excellent coolness with no water consumption at all.

Maintenance

The single fact that evaporators require a reservoir to work makes them more difficult to maintain. This would imply daily maintenance, namely, you will need to fill the water recipient several times a day and make sure to dust the unit to keep as much dust as possible away from the blades. Periodical upkeep is the second portion of the process, and this will consist of a thorough cleansing of the water recipient by using vinegar and a chlorine-based solution to disinfect it. A window unit will require professional cleaning for the best results. Plus, you will need to invest in water pads once or twice a year.

Misting units require almost no daily maintenance, assuming that they are connected to a water source. If they use a bucket, then the same process of filling it several times a day will be followed. The good news is that you won’t need expert assistance to clean your unit. Every three months, you can find the time to open the head of the unit, clean the grilles, the blades, and the water nozzle, dry them and set them back together.

Price

The swamp unit comes at a lower price than a mister, but the installation costs can be considerable if you let a specialist do it, ranging from 700 dollars to the impressive sum of 2,000 dollars. If we consider that an evaporative unit costs between $100 and $600, it is easy to see that the installation can cost you more than the product. Conversely, if you pick a portable unit, you can skip all these extra expenses and start enjoying the benefits within minutes from the unit’s arrival.

Misting fans usually start at $400 and can reach a few thousand dollars. However, they don’t need to be installed and are known to be more durable than swamp units.

Portable evaporative air cooler Image

Conclusion

You shouldn’t buy any of these devices if high moisture is a problem where you live. The only thing you will want is a machine that can make it even harder for the sweat on your skin to evaporate. Plus, as we have explained, high levels of moisture mean high chances of mold and bacteria thriving in your house. In this situation, you need something to wick away excess moisture too. You can use either a tower fan to withdraw moisture by circulating the air, an air conditioner (all these units include dehumidification), or a proper dehumidifier, which is the most effective method.

Lillian Davies
Lillian Davies
Lillian is a fresh college graduate who has lived in Tucson for most of her life, battling the torrid heat ever since she was a child. She is quite versed in the topic of thermal comfort and what solutions work to make conditions more bearable when the temperatures go haywire, which makes her quite versed in the topics she writes about here. Since she is quite the perfectionist, Lilian always takes time to polish her articles before release, which makes her an irreplaceable part of the team.