Last Updated: Oct 18, 2021 @ 10:38 am.

What are the best evaporative coolers? To find out, we poured over test results for major brands. Then we surveyed our readership (2.1 million strong!) to find which brands are most reliable, durable and efficient. Here are the ones we'd recommend.

FYI: Since 1994, we've been rating and reviewing products for the home, families and kids. Good news: we don't take money or freebies from the brands we review. Our work is 100% reader-supported.

Best Indoor/Outdoor

Cools air 10-15 degrees; very reliable
Great for patios or garages—or inside areas up to 500 square feet. Very good quality and reliability. 5 speeds, 2 fan-only modes. Runs for 3-4 hours on one tank (4 gallons). Industrial look.

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Best Indoor/Outdoor: Hessaire MC18M Portable Evaporative Cooler

Before you buy an evaporative cooler, ask yourself a question: does the place I want to cool have humidity under 45%?

That’s because evaporative coolers work best in dry, arid climates—basically, the western third of the US. If that is you, good news: evaporative coolers use much less energy than air conditioning . . . as much as 85% less.

Here’s a map to show you where evaporative coolers are most effective:

where will an evaporative cooler work

Note that if you live in one of the grey shaded areas above, evaporative coolers just won’t cut it—no matter how well designed they are!

If you live in the right area, evaporative coolers are also good at cooling both indoors or outside, such as a patio or garage.

For the best indoor/outdoor evaporative cooler, we pick: Hessaire’s MC18M.

Hessaire is sort of like the Apple of evaporative air coolers—they consistently score at the top of consumer satisfaction, according to our readers.

With all evaporative coolers, you have two basic choices for operation: water or ice. Ice provides more cool air, but water works as well. You can fill up the tank with either.

Hessaire makes several evaporative coolers, varying most in the size of the area they can cool. The base model is MC18M holds 4 gallons of water and can cool up to 500 square feet. Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Cools the temperature 10 to 15 degrees for most folks. 

• Affordable.

• Continuous or manual fill. Yes, you can connect a garden hose and have this evaporative cooler continuously fill with water. Or you can do it manually. (Don’t use the continuous fill option when you use this cooler indoors—if the valve fails to stop the water filling, you could have a mess!).

• Portable. This unit has four casters with locks.

• Light weight: 16 lbs. (when empty).

• Front has water level display.

• Handle on top makes it easy to carry.

• Works for 3-4 hours on full tank (when filled manually).

• Insider tip: run the fan-only for 30 minutes to an hour to dry out the membrane after use. Also empty and clean the tank every few days to avoid mold/bacteria growth.

What Needs Work

• No auto-shutoff. That’s a problem because the tank can run dry if you aren’t paying attention!

• Ice compartment could be bigger.

• Noisy when on high fan speed.

• Not pretty to look at . . . but gets the job done!

Best Quiet Operation

8 hour timer great for sleeping
Loved this quiet "bladeless" model—great for a bedroom or baby nursery. Also nice: includes ice packs to help cool the air. Easy to move from room to room.

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Best Quiet Operation: BREEZEWELL 2-in-1 Evaporative Air Cooler

This evaporative cooler was much quieter than others we tested—we measured about 42 decibels on low speed, which is impressive. The BREEZEWELL accomplishes this thanks to a “bladeless” fan design. A bit pricey but worth it if you want to put this in a baby nursery or bedroom.

What We Liked

• Quiet! Good for bedrooms or home offices.

 Ice packs (two) are included to help cool off the water.

• 8 hour timer. 

• Easy to move from room to room.

• Weighs just 15 lbs. when empty.

• 3 fan speeds.

• Includes air filter.

What Needs Work

• The paper air filter must be cleaned with soap and water once a week, says the maker. It would be better if it could be replaced once a month.

Best Tried & True Brand

Remote control is handy
Well built swamp cooler—we loved the air direction controls that allow for either up/down or left/right focus. Narrow footprint is nice.

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Best Tried & True Brand: hOmeLabs Evaporative Cooler

This brand (hOmeLabs) is one of our readers’ favorites for their dehumidifiers and we’d agree: they have a good reputation for quality and durability. Likewise, their entry here in the evaporative cooler category is well-designed and works efficiently. This unit is sized to cool off a big room (not an entire house, however). We thought it worked well. Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Remote control makes it great for a bedroom.

• Small footprint.

• Three speed fan can move air left/right or up/down.

• Low water alarm. Plus you can visually see the water level, which is helpful.

• 2.6 gallon tank works for several hours.

What Needs Work

• Noisy on highest fan setting.

• Need to have window open to work efficiently. This is true for many evaporative coolers, however.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home, families and children since 1994.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported.

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