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Mon, Jan. 20

Evaporative coolers go high-tech

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Courtesy Photo

Last time I wrote about evaporative coolers. The second paragraph was shown as part of my answer; it was actually part of a question from Amanda. This is what it said:

"I'm glad you love evaporative coolers so much, and I'm for saving energy, but you need to be a little more objective. You forgot to point out that operating the evaporative cooler with one large vent 1) makes the house very dirty, 2) makes the house very humid, and 3) is so loud you can't hear the TV if the cooler blower is on high speed."

I did not address all these issues in that column. Amanda has one large supply vent in her home for the evaporative cooler, so it is louder than if you have multiple supply vents. I received this email from 'Ray in Longmeadow':

"Hello Randy, "I have been enjoying your articles, always informative, interesting and factual. I feel the need, however, to comment on your latest, Air conditioners vs evaporative coolers. I'm feeling that lots of the downsides of evaporative coolers are being mentioned with none of the downsides of air conditioners.

"Here are some of the downsides of air conditioners that people should be aware of. The big one that I see is that when the temperature is high and the humidity is low, air conditioning dries the air even further. Ideal humidity in the home is 30 to 50 per cent. I have friends that have had expensive wooden furniture ruined by too low of humidity inside the home. Another is of course, the high cost of operation; your electric bill and routine maintenance. And if you have an older system with R22 Freon and a major component fails, you will be replacing the entire system.

"Then I have to question your statement about how coolers are less effective at high temperatures. I have been using an Aerocool 6800 cfm model since 1998. As long as the ambient air is dry, my cooler gives the same temperature drop. So if it's 98 F outside, I'm getting 68 F out of the register, a 30 degree drop. Another point is noise. My cooler was sized so that I can run it on low blower speed most of the time. Another point is that it makes the house too humid. When the air outside is 7 percent humidity, the house may get up to 20 to 30 percent, ideal. As far as dirt is concerned, we don't notice that the house gets any dirtier when the cooler is on. The intake of the cooler is opposite of the prevailing wind, that probably helps.

"I have a feeling that there are still a large number of people around that think "swamp cooler" when someone mentions evaporative cooling. The days of the old, ugly three sided swamp cooler with straw pads that you have to replace every year is a vision from 50 years ago. The modern evaporative cooler such as the Aerocool ( is a vast improvement. There are no "pads", it's now a more highly engineered "cooling media" that has a long useful life. Modern coolers can be controlled with a thermostat, so that you can come home to a cool house.

"Through years of personal experience here in the Prescott area, I feel that modern evaporative cooling definitely has a place in our southwest region.

"Thank you for your time, I always look forward to reading your column!"

Me again. Before you email me, I did not say anything about ugly three sided swamp coolers. I checked out the website in Rays email, and it does appear evaporative coolers have gone 'high tech'. I replied to Ray:

"One question: Yours looks like a far superior unit to the older models. Does it work well in high humidity? Of course I realize that high humidity here is only a few days a year, but in case I print this (and people from wherever find/read it) let's give people an honest opinion."

Here was Ray's response:

"Randy, thanks for the response. Our worst case here in the Longmeadow area is when the rain storms are all around us but it's not raining here, the air temp is still high, the humidity is soaring. Does my evap cooler work well in these conditions? No, but it still gives us about a 10 degree drop, puts the air in the house in the high 80s, still an improvement over using ceiling fans alone. Humidity in the house goes up, of course. I admit that it would be nice to have A/C to turn on those days.

"When we got our cooler there was only one cooling media available. Aerocool now has three different cooling media choices. When it's time for me to replace the media, I will opt for the most efficient hybrid media, they call it "4x4", a blend of high density and standard density material. Evaporative cooling is getting more sophisticated all the time.

"Please feel free to print any or all of my comments, "Ray in Longmeadow"

Me again. I'm not supposed to get political in my columns. But the current administration has tripled the cost of my gasoline, doubled the cost of my health insurance, and they're working on electricity costs next. (Please send political emails to ""). For someone on a budget and/or someone who is 'green', a newer evaporative cooler may be a viable option for cooling a home in our dry climate. In my May 9 column, I explained self-closing (and self-opening) ceiling vents that can be used to help distribute the cool air from an evaporative cooler.

Next time I'll answer some emails on central air conditioners.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. He is state-certified and has performed more than 7,000 home inspections in the Prescott area. West serves on the Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration. Contact him at or visit

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