Both swamp coolers and air conditioners have a range of costs depending on the type of unit, where it is installed, and whether or not professional installation is necessary. Below are the most common types of units for both, as well as their average costs.

  • Window air conditioning units cost between $345and $1,190 and typically come with a DIY installation kit.
  • Ductless air conditioning units have a starting cost of around $1,800, with an installed unit costing on average $2,500 depending on the amount of work that needs to be done.
  • Central air conditioning units, large enough to cool a 1,400 to 1,800 sq.ft. home, cost an average of $1,245 for the unit and about $5,000 to $7,000installed.
  • Window swamp coolers cost between $400 and$1,000 and typically require no professional installation.
  • A direct air swamp cooler, which can be placed anywhere in the home, typically costs between $700 to $900 and has no associated installation costs.
  • A whole-house, roof-mounted swamp cooler, large enough to cool a 1,400 and 1,800 sq.ft. home, will cost around $1,750 to $1,850 for the unit and around $3,900 installed.

Energy Efficiency

Swamp coolers are a more energy-efficient means of cooling your home. They use roughly 15 - 25% percent of the electricity needed by an air conditioner of the same size and require no chemicals. They do, however, require a constant supply of water. In areas of drought or water restriction, they may be less efficient. They may also not cool the air as effectively as an air conditioner in all weather conditions.  The cost savings is best utilized in conditions where heat is created or windows or doors are required to be opened.   Common uses are garages, restaurants (return air), dry cleaners, warehouses, and dry cleaners or laundromats.  The energy costs of AC on all of these would lead business operations to go broke, but an evaporative cooler creates a sustainable energy cooling method.

Climate Considerations

Swamp coolers work best in very hot and dry climates, such as those found in the desert regions. This is because they add moisture to the air. In a humid climate, a swamp cooler could lead to excess humidity, along with mold and mildew growth.

Air conditioners work well in nearly all climates, but they also dry the air. This makes them more comfortable in humid climates. In an already dry climate, an air conditioner could make the air too dry, leading to skin and eye problems.  Air Conditioners are also extremely energy inefficient and have seen very limited cost savings in the last 30 years.


Swamp coolers require daily, monthly, and yearly maintenance to help them function at their best. This includes keeping them filled with water and changing the pad when needed. Most maintenance can be done by the homeowner, or a yearly service can be performed for about $100. If the cooler is located outdoors, a cover may be necessary during the cooler months. While the work is normally easy to do, swamp coolers do need more maintenance than air conditioners do.

Air conditioners require yearly maintenance, which may include cleaning, changing the filter, and charging the chemicals. This maintenance costs around $70 to $100 yearly. However, they have more parts that can fail, which may cost between $250 to $2,000 in yearly repairs, making them more expensive to maintain overall.

CO2 Emissions

Swamp coolers emit fewer levels ofgreenhouse gas or CO2 emissions than air conditioning units. This is because a swamp cooler uses only water to cool the air, while an air conditioning unit uses a refrigerant or cooling chemical. As the chemicals in the AC unit convert to liquid or gas, they give off greenhouse gasses, including CO2 emissions, which are bad for the environment and the air you breathe.