Science Energy Swamp Thing By Matt Hickman Writer Emerson College The New School Matt Hickman is an associate editor at The Architect’s Newspaper. His writing has been featured in Curbed, Apartment Therapy, URBAN-X, and more. our editorial process Matt Hickman Updated February 03, 2020 Swamp coolers are only useful in certain environments. (Photo: avtk/Shutterstock) Share Twitter Pinterest Email Science Renewable Energy Fossil Fuels No, a swamp cooler isn’t a rum-based Mardi Gras libation served in a garish plastic to-go cup in the shape of an alligator (although that does sound tasty right about now). A swamp cooler, formally known as evaporative cooler, is an energy-efficient alternative to central air conditioning and window units in areas with relatively low or no humidity. They come in all shapes and sizes: portable floor units, windows units, or wall units. Climate is key to operating a swamp cooler — if you’re suffering through a sultry Florida summer, don’t bother with one. It will make the air more humid. But if you live in the arid southwest, a swamp cooler in the home will save you significant money while bringing chilly relief. How cool is that? In addition to requiring less juice to operate — according to the California Energy Commission, up to 75 percent less energy is needed than with refrigerated units — swamp coolers work by way of simple science: a fan + moistened evaporative cooling pads made from wood or cellulose = air-cooling evaporation. This is a significantly more earth-friendly air cooling/circulation process than refrigeration where ozone-depleting gases like chlorofluorocarbons and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons are involved. Also, the cooling pads in swamp coolers can double as highly effective air purifiers if well maintained. But take heed: swamp coolers do indeed require water, sometime multiple gallons of it a day, to run smoothly. If you live in a draught-prone area or are more keen on saving water over energy, take this into consideration.