How much do evaporative coolers cost to run?

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At some point, we’ve all experienced ‘end of summer’ power bill shock, making reaching for the air con remote less and less appealing as the years go by. But when the temperature reaches sweltering and your pedestal fan struggles to do much of anything, you’re left with one less-obvious choice: evaporative cooling.

It’s the halfway point between air conditioning and a fan, using what’s essentially cool humidity to bring the temperature down in your house. But how much will it affect your power bill? This guide will break down the running costs and anything else you need to know about evaporative coolers.

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Portable Evaporative Cooler Running Costs

The table below reveals how much a small portable evaporative cooler will cost you to run for various hours a day, and over the three months (90 days) of summer. Estimates assume using one unit in a single room, using 65 watts per hour.

Time used Electricity usage cost
1 hour 1.7c
4 hours 6.8c
6 hours 10.1c
8 hours 13.5c
Summer (8 hours/day, 90 days) $12.15

Source: www.canstarblue.com.au – 16/12/2020. Average energy consumption figures based on a selection of five 10L portable coolers. Usage cost estimates based on average electricity usage cost of 26.0 c/kWh and assume cooler is run at full capacity. Average usage cost based on single-rate plans on Canstar’s database, available for an annual usage of 4,200 kWh. Table presents estimated costs only, your situation will differ based on the unit’s specifications, required cooling capacity and how much the unit is used.

If you’re running an evaporative cooler in more than one room, you can add up the figures above to better reflect how much it will cost you. Keep in mind that these are just estimates and your actual costs will vary based on factors such as your individual energy rates.

portable evaporative cooler in room

Ducted Evaporative Cooler Running Costs

Ducted evaporative coolers are the energy-efficient alternative to regular air conditioning, but just how much do they cost to run? In this table we assume a 5-10kW system uses 413 watts an hour, a 10-15kWh system 734 watts, and a 15-20kW system 1,064 watts an hour. For a small unit, 5-10kW system may suffice, but a medium sized house is more likely to need 15-20kW.

Time used 5-10kW Capacity Ducted 10-15kW Capacity Ducted 15-20kW Capacity Ducted
1 hour 10.8c 19.1c 27.7c
4 hours 43c 76.3c 110.7c
6 hours 64.4c 114.5c 166c
8 hours 85.9c 152.7c 221.3c
Summer (8 hours/day, 90 days) $77.31 $137.43 $199.17

Source: www.canstarblue.com.au – 16/12/2020. Average energy consumption figures based on a selection of 36 ducted evaporative air conditioners. Usage cost estimates based on average electricity usage cost of 26.0 c/kWh and assume cooler is run at full capacity. Average usage cost based on single-rate plans on Canstar’s database, available for an annual usage of 4,200 kWh. Table presents estimated costs only, your situation will differ based on the unit’s specifications, required cooling capacity and how much the unit is used.

As you can see, using a ducted evaporative cooler system continuously over the summer will add up – but not nearly as much as air conditioning. Keep in mind that if where you are is hot and humid, a ducted evaporative cooler may not work as well as it would in a dry climate.

evaporative cooler vent

Electricity Deals

If saving money on power is important to you, it could be time for you to shine a bright light on your current deal to make sure it’s still price competitive. Check out some of the cheapest plans in your area to get a good idea of what you should be paying.

How much does it cost to run an evaporative cooler per day?

Depending on your system size, an evaporative cooler could cost you anywhere from just a few cents to a couple of dollars per day. Here are a few things that may affect how much you’ll need to pay for cooling.

  • External environment: In particularly environments, your evaporative cooler may need more grunt to work. Keep in mind that in humid areas, this cooling method may be ineffective.
  • Number of rooms: It’s not rocket science, but the more rooms you have to cool, the more money you’ll need to pay. Keep costs down by only running your system in rooms you’re presently using.
  • Your evaporative cooling system: A portable system will cost significantly less to purchase and run than ducted, but with lower costs comes reduced effectiveness.
  • Your energy rates: It may not be directly linked with your system, but someone paying cheaper rates for their power will naturally pay less to run their evaporative cooler than someone on higher rates.

Evaporative Cooler FAQs

Still unsure about evaporative coolers? See if your concerns are answered in these frequently asked questions.

How effective are evaporative coolers?

Unlike air conditioning, evaporative coolers depend on the external environment to be rather dry in order to work most effectively. In humid environments, this system isn’t recommended, although some people report cracking a window can help the machine run.

Is it cheaper to run the evaporative cooler depending on the time of day?

This will depend on what tariff you’re on. If you’re on a single rate tariff, your electricity will be charged the same no matter the time of day. On a time of use tariff, you’ll typically pay more for your power in general at night.

Can you put ice in an evaporative cooler?

It isn’t recommended that you put ice in your evaporative cooler. It may sound contradictory, but in order for the water in your system to evaporate, it will need to heat up. The mist won’t be hot, as the fans will create a cooling effect.

Do evaporative coolers need to be vented?

Some systems do but some don’t. For the most part, portable coolers won’t require venting, but the air might need a way to exit, such as an open door, to work most effectively. Ducted systems will have a part outside to collect fresh air.

How to maintain an evaporative cooler

Maintenance for evaporative coolers is rather simple. You’ll need to wipe down the outside of the machine and make sure the cooling pads aren’t showing signs of moulding or damage. If they are, they will need to be replaced.

Is evaporative cooling as good as air conditioning?

For some people, the choice between evaporative cooling systems and air conditioning is simple, but for others, it may be more complicated. On one hand, there’s money to consider, but on the other, how well you deal (or don’t deal) with the heat is another. Here are some main features of both evaporative coolers and air conditioners compared.

Evaporative Cooler Air Conditioner
Does not work well in humid climates Works regardless of weather
Relatively affordable to run Expensive to run
Cheaper upfront Unit is typically more expensive
Limited temperature control Settings for cooling/heating
Easy to clean at home Requires maintenance and filter cleaning

General guide only

How to save on evaporative cooler running costs

The key to saving on cooling is understanding how much it will cost you to run your machine. There’s no shortcut to saving on running costs, but by knowing that anything from the size of your room to the capacity of your system can contribute to how expensive your system will be, you’ll be less likely to fall into any traps.

While giving your system a good clean will no doubt keep it performing to its max energy efficiency, it’s how much you pay in electricity rates that will contribute the most in this case. Now’s a good of a time as any to refresh your power plan to ensure you’re on the best possible deal.

Image credits: alexandre zveiger/shutterstock.com, yangtak/shutterstock.com, Michael Ronin/shutterstock.com

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