Should I Get a Swamp Cooler or Refrigerated Air?

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Should I get a swamp cooler or convert to refrigerated air?

There are a lot of factors to consider when you decide between a swamp cooler and refrigerated air. We suggest you talk to a professional HVAC technician who has had a chance to assess your home and learn about your cooling needs. In the meantime, our technicians provided a list of the pros and cons of each system to get you started.

Swamp Cooler Pros and Cons

Swamp coolers are an affordable option. They are less expensive to install and much less expensive to run. With New Mexico’s dry climate, they often perform well. Let’s look at the pros and cons that our techs shared with us:


  • Swamp Coolers Work Well Under 35% HumiditySwamp coolers use water evaporated into dry air to cool your home. In a dry climate like New Mexico’s, they often perform very well.
  • Swamp Coolers Are Less Expensive to Install and Operate – Swamp coolers use far less electricity than do refrigerated air systems. There is some cost for water, but this often balanced by lower energy bills.


  • Swamp Coolers Don’t Work Well Over 35% Humidity – On those days when the humidity rises, a swamp cooler has a harder time cooling your home. Since water evaporation is the core of the cooling process, the air that is already saturated with water (humid air) is difficult to cool.
  • You Must Open Windows and Doors – Our techs caution against installing a swamp cooler if you’re not able to keep windows and doors open. That’s because the outside air is cooled as it flows through the cooler and then returns to the outdoors through open windows and doors. If you’re concerned about leaving windows and doors open, you may want refrigerated air instead.

Air Quality Can be Poor
Because swamp coolers use the outside air to cool your home, they can be hard on allergy sufferers. Indoor Air Quality products aren’t compatible with swamp coolers. If you have bad allergies, you might want to look at a different option.

Hard Water Damages Swamp Coolers
About 95% of New Mexico homes have hard water. Hard water damages swamp coolers and lowers their lifespan. A water softener can help with this.

Refrigerated Air Pros and Cons

Refrigerated air is the most comfortable option. The temperature in your house stays the same, no matter what the heat index or the percent of humidity is outside. Let’s see what our technicians think about the pros and cons of refrigerated air:


  • Refrigerated Air is Consistently Comfortable – Refrigerated air cools the air already inside of your home instead of air brought in from outside. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside. You have full control of the temperature inside.
  • Refrigerated Air is Easier on Allergies – With refrigerated air, you don’t have as much pollen and dust coming in through the swamp cooler and open windows and doors. You also have the option to install an Indoor Air Quality system to help with allergies and respiratory conditions.


  • Refrigerated Air is More Expensive to Install and Operate – The initial cost of installing refrigerated air is much more than that of a swamp cooler. It also requires more electricity throughout the year.
  • The Indoor Air Can Feel Stuffy – With refrigerated air, you don’t get any airflow from the outside. This can sometimes make it feel stuffy inside

Additional Thoughts from HVAC Technicians

If you’re building a house, they strongly suggests you install refrigerated air. First, refrigerated air is the most comfortable. Second, it’s much easier to put in refrigerated air systems before the home is finished. Retrofitting a home to accommodate refrigerated air later is difficult and can be expensive. Third, it improves resell value.

All cooling systems need regular service regardless of what type it is. The average life span of a swamp cooler is 10 – 12 years and the average life span of a refrigerated air unit is 10 – 15 years. To make sure you get everything you can out of your system, get it professionally serviced at least once a year

There’s a good option for you, regardless of which cooling system you prefer. There is a wide range of efficiency and price options for both swamp coolers and refrigerated air systems. Make sure to ask your HVAC professional to show you multiple options that are tailored to your home and preferences.

The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a cooling system. Your comfort preferences and budget needs are different from everyone else’s, and that’s a good thing. TLC’s expert HVAC technicians can help you find the swamp cooler or refrigerated air unit that is perfect for your home. Get a free estimate or call us today at 505-761-9644.