At a tenth of the energy bill of air conditioning, evaporative coolers are the cheapest and most efficient way of cooling your home all through summer. The added bonus of humidifying the air makes them absolutely essential for homes in arid climates.
We love a sunburnt country, but in our arid desert Aussie summers, we know how tough it can be to relax when you are just not cool or comfy. Sitting directly in front of the fan as it blasts hot air at your face can just make matters even worse, because running the fan contributes to the heat in the room from the electrical outlet.
Dry heat can be less sticky than humid heat, but the effects are definitely worse. Your skin is dry and sensitive, your eyes and throat are itchy, and your lips crack. Worse, you can dehydrate much faster without realising, putting you and your family at higher risk of heatstroke and contracting viruses.
When cooler air is at a better humidity, lungs breathe more easily, the whole household sleeps better, and feels less of that Christmas-time irritable tension. Your skin, babies, pets and indoor plants will also greatly benefit. Water is the essence of life!
Evaporative coolers work by using a fan to draw warm air from outside through wet filtration pads. The hot air evaporates that water, which moistens and cools the air significantly, and is then blown through your house.
Essentially, the technology is exactly the same as how your own sweat works to cool you down, but you don’t exhaust yourself creating that sweat, or dealing with the sticky discomfort!
Evaporative air coolers make up only a tiny portion of the market for fans and cooling, so their niche demand creates wide variability in both price and efficacy. We have investigated the options for you, and picked out the top 8 best evaporative coolers for this dry Australian heat.
1. Anko 10L Evaporative Cooler
An extremely energy efficient air cooling device with premium features
Anko’s 10L evaporative cooler is easily the best portable evaporative cooler available on the market, due to modest footprint, ease of use, inclusion of all the premium features, and a huge 10 litre water tank capacity, on a shoestring budget.
For such a large capacity, this evaporative cooler takes a decently convenient floor space of only about 28x38cm. Also impressive is its eco friendly wattage, as low as 35 watts on the eco setting, drastically dropping your energy bill and the heat emanating from the power source.
There is a simple whitegoods style to this design. It would definitely feel very at home in a kitchen or office, but the wheels glide easily across hard floors and carpet to anywhere in the house. These sturdy castor wheels also feature locks to avoid unwanted sliding, a rare bonus feature that we wish was more common in these coolers.
Controls for the machine are intuitive and blessedly simple to use, considering the wide array of features: 3 speeds of fan, 60 degrees of optional automatic oscillation, timer for anywhere between 0.5 and 7.5 hours, an option to turn off cooling for fan only, and settings for normal, natural breeze, and the gradually quieting sleep mode.
The remote control included is attractive enough with simple controls, but will not be the easiest to use in low light, unless you are prepared to learn to count bumps in the dark. A marked viewing window easily shows how much water is left in the reservoir, and when it gets low, the entire tank slides out for refilling without ever bumping the pump.
On top of all this, Anko lives up to the principles of parent brand Kmart by offering a sturdy product that is one of cheapest we’ve seen, despite great specs and positive reviews. This one is definitely a great value purchase for most people’s needs and situations.
Best For Garage
2. DeLonghi EV250
A robust portable machine to keep you cool for those summer projects in the workshop
Not just a pretty face, this evaporative cooler from DeLonghi provides functional and directed cooling capacity, designed to take allergens out of the air with negative ion technology. Tough materials and splash resistant protection makes the DeLonghi EV250 the best portable evaporative cooler for the garage.
The real value of the EV250 is in the innovative air ioniser, that releases electrically charged negative ions into the air that attract and trap positively charged ions carrying bacteria and allergens. This is great for circulating outdoor air into the shed, because it keeps you cool while you work without blowing dust and pollen around your workspace.
The decently sized 4.5 litre tank should last up to about 6 hours without needing to refill the water. When do you spot the water level is low through the tank window, refilling is as easy as pulling out the tray and refilling with cold water from a jug.
Three wind modes provide the option of normal, natural breeze, and sleep mode, but the robust design and splash resistant protection will make this model a top pick for areas that might take more of a beating, like the garage, or on the deck by the barbeque.
It does come with only one ice brick, which seems a bit stingy, considering you won’t have the benefit of it while it refreezes. You will definitely want to buy a couple of extras.
3. DeLonghi EV290
The bigger brother of the EV250 with longer cooling for bigger areas
Together with the stronger air flow, this model is one that will outperform others in outdoor settings, such as covered decks, patios, and verandahs. The larger 5.5 litre tank will last about 7.5 hours.
This slightly more expensive DeLonghi evaporative cooler has all the benefits of the EV250 but an extra litre of capacity for an extra 90 minutes of autonomy, and is three kilograms heavier.
There are a couple of key superficial differences, which will make the difference for some. The included remote is higher contrast and more clearly labelled, and the central LED panel is dimmer and less distracting, but still shows all settings at a glance. Settings include the standard 3 fan speeds, normal, natural breeze, and sleep modes, and oscillation of vertical swing louvres.
The taller and sleeker look is a nicer addition to the outdoor seating setting over summer, but it’s not all about looks; the same ioniser and filtration system featured in the EV250 can help avoid stirring up all the pollen and allergens that fly around as the weather warms up.
Best For Bedroom
4. Dimplex 7L Evaporative Cooler
A sleek and versatile cooler for sleeping soundly
This model from Dimplex is our pick for the best evaporative cooler for the bedroom and overnight use. Versatile and attractive, with a variety of features and modes that will suit all types of sleepers, this cooler is the one that will make that dry air easier to breathe, so you can sleep soundly through the night.
There are four cooling modes to choose from: normal, natural breeze, sleep mode, and an innovative “smart” mode that adjusts air speed based on the room’s current temperature, gently adjusting the fan as you sleep to avoid waking you up with sudden speed changes.
The 7 litre tank including two ice bricks is sure to last well through the night, especially on smart mode where cooling will be saved for the hours when it's needed. Even blasting the air on turbo mode at a whopping 10 metres per second, you can still expect 8 hours of autonomous cooling from this tank.
The control panel is dimly lit for night time adjustments with simple and intuitive controls spaced generously across the top panel. The remote is well designed to be simple enough to use from your bed with the lights off, docking at the back of the machine when not needed.
However, the 34x31cm footprint is a little on the larger side, the cord is a tad short, and the wheels are a little too small to run smoothly over carpets. While it is still portable, it doesn’t come without some hassle, so we would recommend it for a bedroom or study where it can live undisturbed through the summer.
5. Devanti Evaporative Air Cooler
A powerful unit with a huge tank
With a super large 45 litre tank, this evaporative cooler is perfect for large areas, great for people that don't have time for refills. This is a 3-in-1 model that functions as an evaporative cooler, a humidifier and and a fan. The price is honest and the specs are more than enough for most people, so if you're looking for an all-in-one solution to cool down and humidify a large area all summer long, this is one of our top picks.
This model comes with 2,000 m3/h maximum airflow, a 3 sided water filter that is very effective pushing cool clean air out in the room, a 3-speed settings, and quiet operation, making this great for office/home work environment too.
For a room up to 30 square meters, the Devanti Evaporative Air Cooler is an option that doesn't break the bank, and at the same time delivers good performance, with rapid cooling and almost instant relief.
The dust filter is easily removable and washable, making this evaporative cooler a great option also in a larger home and for kids' small lungs that are so much more sensitive to dust and allergens than ours.
6. Honeywell CS10XE
Personal evaporative cooler with a powerful fan and a large water tank
If you really need that icy blast directly on you, this powerhorse is perfect for office workers sitting around hot electronics and computers all day. The shape and design of this evaporative cooler fan is clearly aiming to cool the individual, rather than the room.
The design is chic and professional, with an attractive LED panel above intuitive controls, replicated less intuitively on a remote that is nevertheless handy for adjusting from your office chair.
Refilling the tray is also made easier with the option of either removing the whole bucket to fill at the tap, or else opening an easy tray to pour water in using a jug.
You have to laugh at their marketing strategy that insists that “only” 102 watts of power is an “83% saving on energy costs (compared to air conditioners)”. 102 watts is by far the least eco friendly choice on our list, but that energy draw is needed to push a whopping 510m³/h of air directed into a narrow 16m² space, just the personal cooler to keep that delicious crisp air on you and only you.
Although that energy draw does somewhat miss the point of efficient natural cooling, this cooler will be a very appealing option to office workers that work in drying air con surrounded by machines emanating heat all day.
7. Devanti EAC 01
A small cooler with decent power and good filtration
This air cooler and humidifier combo is an antibacterial saviour for those that often find pedestal fans a little on the sneezy side.
An auto swing function gently sways the vertical louvres in a 120 degree arc, covering quite a wide space, making this a great choice for living rooms or other places where the unit will be backed against a wall. The included remote control also works from a decent distance, setting you up well for that situation.
The castor wheels roll smoothly, but the 26x28cm footprint machine is a little on the large side, considering it only has a 2 litre water tank. While still quite portable, we’d like to see Devanti make better use of the space with a little extra water capacity.
However, this model includes two ice bricks with ice crystals, which help compensate for that smaller tank. This is a great way to guarantee the water stays icy cold on those crazy 40 degree days: put one brick in the cooler while the other refreezes in your freezer, swapping them every few hours as you need it.
This Devanti is a top pick because of the higher power and filters, which will be a huge benefit for those that need it, but it’s a model that will need you to attend to it every few hours on those true blue summer scorchers.
8. Pronti 3.5L Evaporative Cooler
An affordable, basic, easy peasy cooler that works well
This is a simple and affordable entry point into evaporative coolers that anyone can use without any manual or fiddly setting up.
A honeycomb cooling pad provides efficient filtration to keep dust out of the fan blades and keep pollution out of the air. The modest 3.5 litre water tank won’t last you all day, but two ice crystal bottles are included, to help you keep the water tray icy fresh.
The stand out feature of this cooler is that it is extremely user friendly. The controls are high contrast and spaced thoughtfully across the top panel. These buttons are the old school click-on-and-off variety, that are so much easier to see and manipulate for people with affected vision or dexterity.
These simple controls operate the standard features: 3 speeds of fan, an option to oscillate the vertical louvres, and the option to turn off cooling and humidifying for using the fan only.
This evaporative cooler has a pretty standard 28x29cm footprint, but is super light, weighing in at only 5 kilograms. With a handle built into the frame, this cooler rolls extra smoothly over hard floors or carpets all around the home.
How to choose an evaporative air cooler
When choosing an evaporative air cooler, you need to consider the humidity of your home, where you want to use it the most often, and how frequently you’re prepared to refill water and refreeze the ice bricks to keep the water tray cool.
Something to note when trawling reviews for an evaporative cooler is that many customers misunderstand the purpose of evaporative coolers, and are expecting something like a portable air conditioner that does not need installation into a wall or window. This is impossible, so many reviews are made by irate customers complaining that their evaporative air cooler is “just a fan with water”.
Check the humidity where you live
The real purpose of evaporative air coolers is to significantly cool and humidify dry hot air, at the same energy cost of a pedestal fan. If you live in a tropical or subtropical environment, such as Darwin or around Northern Queensland, the air is already very humid and adding moisture to the air will only build up the stickiness and discomfort. Sydneysiders will find evaporative coolers a blessing when it first gets warm from October to December, but won’t be so happy once that swampy January and February humidity hits.
Consider the area you need to cover
Just like a pedestal fan, larger rooms need larger blades. Unlike a pedestal fan, evaporative coolers are using water to evaporate dry air to push into your room, and will always be less effective at dropping the temperature of larger areas.
If you want to cool a larger room, you want a larger body of water to keep its temperature cooler for longer, so the evaporation process will happen more dramatically, creating chillier air. For extra cooling, you need colder water, which means keeping ice and ice bricks ready in the freezer to put into the water tank as needed. Look for large water tanks and models that come with multiple refreezable ice bricks.
Outdoors, indoors, or bedrooms?
Evaporative coolers draw hot dry air and produce cool moist air, so their BEST placement is outdoor areas like covered patios, verandahs, and decks. The next best strategy is to place them near an open window, where they can draw outside air and circulate chilled humidified air through the room. This is where the strongest blow and largest water tank count, and energy hogs are not such a bad compromise.
For bedrooms however, evaporative coolers have the unfortunate drawback of being twice as noisy as a fan, due to the motor powering both the fan blades and the water pump that keeps the filtration pads wet. A humidifier and fan on you at night will keep you cool and provide wetter molecules for easier breathing and better quality sleep, but you’ll want to be sure to find one with a “sleep” mode that decreases noise levels to under 40 decibels.