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The Portable Swamp Cooler

Updated on August 30, 2017

A Portable Swamp Cooler Can Help You Beat the Heat!

A portable swamp cooler is an economical and eco-friendly way to cool your bedroom, home office, living room, or other space--and you can move it from room to room if you wish. The evaporative cooling process that it uses works best in a dry climate, like the American west.

Here, I'll be explaining what to look for in one of these units. I'll also tell you how my husband and I chose one to deal with the unusual amount of heat this year, where we live in Colorado. The coolers listed on this page are ones that I have selected after reading descriptions and specs for many.

I chose the two most popular brands at Amazon to write about here: Sundentown and KuulAire. More about each of them further down. Image source:

Choosing a Swamp Cooler

In choosing a portable air cooler, here are some things to consider:

[1] How big is the unit? Will it fit where you want to put it? These units all should.

[2] How much water does it take at a time?

[3] Do you need to add ice cubes to make it work more effectively? (This matters less if you have an icemaker in your refrigerator.)

[4] How much does it cost?

[5] What do Amazon customer reviews say about it?

A word about the customer comments: Usually when I shop for myself or write informative pages about Amazon products, I look for products that have at least ten reviews and have an average of 4 stars or better. That isn't going to happen here. There are a lot of low scores, but I believe that many of them are because the people were in too wet a climate, or they didn't follow the instructions exactly enough, or their expectations were too high.

[6] How large an area will it cool, and how much drop in temperature can you expect?

[7] Does it need to be placed near a window that is slightly opened?

Sundentown Portable Evaporative Coolers

The Sundentown SPT SF-608R Portable Evaporative Air Cooler

This is a VERY popular unit, the most widely commented on portable evaporative air cooler that I saw at Amazon.

This unit uses a wicking method of cooling. It weighs 17 pounds and has a sleep mode. Replacement parts are available online, if needed.

Ice cubes can help cool the air even more.

More Supendon Models

These two are quite similar to the model featured above.

SPT SF-609 Portable Evaporative Air Cooler with Ionizer
SPT SF-609 Portable Evaporative Air Cooler with Ionizer

Has an ionizer, which the model I featured above does not.

There is a terrific user review for this item, the most popular review.

Holds 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water.

Weighs 17 pounds.

Has a sleep mode.

Sunpentown SPT SF-610 Portable Evaporative Air Cooler with Ionizer
Sunpentown SPT SF-610 Portable Evaporative Air Cooler with Ionizer

Also has an ionizer but no sleep mode.

Holds 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water.

Weighs 17 pounds.


KuulAire Portable Evaporative Cooling Units

I browsed around the manufacturer's website and was impressed with how well organized and detailed the information was. Being a librarian, I do like that!

The KuulAire site emphasizes that their products are very inexpensive to operate, and I believe them. All portable evaporative air coolers use very little electricity.

KuulAire PACKA45 Portable Evaporative Cooling Unit - With 200 Square Foot Cooling Capacity

Unlike the Sundentown models, this KuulAire portable air cooler doesn't call for adding ice cubes. This is because of the way the units are designed.

This one uses a fixed media filter instead of a wick, and this results in a larger surface where evaporation can take place.

If you want any details that Amazon doesn't supply, here is the page on the KuulAire website where more is available.

At roughly 22 pounds and with a water capacity of about 2.6 gallons, it holds the same amount of water as the featured Sundentown and it weighs 5 pounds more. Still with its casters, it is described as plenty easy to move around.

KuulAire PACKA45 Portable Evaporative Cooler with 200 Square Foot Cooling Capacity, 375 CFM, Black
KuulAire PACKA45 Portable Evaporative Cooler with 200 Square Foot Cooling Capacity, 375 CFM, Black

31-1/2 inches high by 13-1/2 inches wide by 15-4/5 inches deep.

Does need to be near a window that is open, at least slightly.


Another Top KuulAire Portable Swamp Cooler

This air cooler is also among the most popular. It is rated to cool a much larger space. Here is a page I found on the manufacturer's website where you can download specs and user manuals.

It can cool a larger area and thus costs more.

Kuulaire Product Videos for These Two Coolers

We went with the KuulAire PACKA45. We are happy with it, as it has cooled our living area nicely!

The Handy Cooler, A MUCH Smaller Device

The Handy Cooler serves as a miniature (very miniature) swamp cooler, or they even call one an air condtioner. In any case, it is designed to cool you off from a short distance away, indoors or out. For example, you could use one plugged into a USB port while you were working on your computer. If you are moving about, they can run on batteries or adapters for house current. You add water to the filter.

These are only seven inches tall, so they are not comparable to the ones listed above.

These seem to be a considerable improvement on plain fans in their ability to help you beat the heat. Both models have huge numbers of happy customer reviews. People use them in a wide variety of ways, including travel.

A Video About the Handy Cooler

This video is how I found out about the Handy Cooler. It makes it sound like the thing is quite noisy, but I suspect that is just the home video equipment picking up the sound.

More Info

A swamp cooler is the same thing as an evaporative cooler.

Manufacturers tend to call them "evaporative coolers" and people tend to say "swamp coolers."

How Does a Swamp Cooler Work? - It Changes Air Which is Warm and Dry to Cooler and Moister

A swamp cooler is a device which evaporates water, and that is why it is also called an evaporative cooler. These air coolers work best in relatively dry climates, like the American west. They come in many sizes; for the home, use the portables. Running on electricity and with a water container in the portable unit, the cooler uses the warmth of the air as its heat source for evaporation. If you think of how perspiration cools our bodies, it's essentially the same thing.

More Economical and Ecological than Air Conditioners

The process requires little electricity, just what it takes to run a fan and a water pump. It doesn't require a compressor, nor does it use chemical refrigerants which can be harmful. Because the main components are the fan and the water pump, many people can repair their own cooler if something wears out. If they can't, repairs should still be relatively inexpensive. (In fact, Youtube is full of videos on how to make your own swamp cooler. I didn't watch any of them. I am not that technical!)

Portable Swamp Coolers and Window Swamp Coolers

When I started researching air coolers, I assumed that we would have to buy a window swamp cooler, with the work of installing something in a window and taking it down before winter. I didn't realize that the portables existed. (Living under a rock, maybe.) But it turns out that the window swamp cooler is not very popular. I saw a few of them at $400 and up, and with no reviews or just one or two. So I am not featuring them here.

Please note that if you click through to from here and if you buy something, Squidoo and I may share a commission, at no cost to you. Clicking on some of the other links might also yield me some commission. I appreciate the income, as it enables me to spend time doing writing like this.

Your Thoughts Are Welcome!

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    • hartworks lm profile imageAUTHOR

      hartworks lm 

      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Not sure we are out of the woods yet, but we are using our swamp cooler less lately. It did turn out to be a good purchase for us.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A portable cooler is a great idea for keeping cool. Thank goodness it has cooled down around here, summer sure started out hot. :)

    • hartworks lm profile imageAUTHOR

      hartworks lm 

      6 years ago

      @Pam Irie: Nothing like a good wind! And keep in mind that swamp coolers work best when there is relatively low humidity. At higher humidity, they act more like a plain fan.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      We don't have a/c but if we needed it, the swamp cooler looks promising. Thank goodness for our tradewinds though.


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