Humidifier vs Evaporative Cooler

You can use humidifiers and evaporative coolers can be used interchangeably depending on what you wish to achieve for your indoor air.

The main difference between a humidifier and an evaporative cooler is their mechanism of functionality. Humidifiers work by releasing mist into the air with the help of a fan or ultrasonic vibrations while coolers work by evaporating water molecules with the aid of a fan.

Both humidifiers and evaporative coolers are great options for increasing the humidity levels in your home especially if you live in a dry area or if the air in your home is dry.

If you are wondering whether to get a humidifier or an evaporative cooler continue reading this article for more insights. The topics covered include:

Humidifier vs Evaporative Cooler: What is the Difference?


A humidifier is a device designed to add humidity to an indoor space. While a humidifier can still function in outdoor spaces, its usage might not be noticed unless you are using the humidifier close to your skin.

This of rain as the ultimate humidifier. When it rains, the air becomes damp and humid. Humidifiers kind of “makes it rain” in your home.

Most humidifiers have a water tank and a fan. The fan disperses water into the surrounding area in the form of mist.

Some humidifiers use ultrasonic vibrations to promote the dispersion of water molecules in the surrounding environment.

Regardless of their mechanisms or additional smart technologies, the main role of a humidifier is to disperse water molecules in the surrounding air.

Advantages of Humidifiers

  • Creates a comfortable living environment and makes the air breathable by adding moisture to it.
  • Energy efficient. Most portable humidifiers do not require a lot of electricity to operate.
  • Easy to operate
  • Most modern humidifiers have a hygrometer to help you track the changing humidity levels in your home and ensure that you maintain the humidity level at the recommended point.
  • Will not lower your indoor air temperature significantly when compared to the air released by an air conditioner that uses a refrigerant.
  • Prevents dry air damage on electronics.

Disadvantages of Humidifiers

  • High humidity levels can promote corrosion in electronics and increase the risks of respiratory illnesses, which is why you need to use a hygrometer to ensure that the humidity levels are within the recommended levels.
  • Risk of releasing harmful water minerals if the wrong type of water is used in a humidifier.

Evaporative Cooler

Evaporative coolers are devices that cool the air through the process of water evaporation. The evaporated water molecules will combine with the air around your home to reduce the room temperature.

Evaporative coolers rely on the fact that water absorbs heat during the evaporation process. This process is based on the concept of the enthalpy of vaporization, which is commonly referred to as the latent heat of evaporation or vaporization.

The latent heat of evaporation is the amount of enthalpy or energy that needs to be added to a substance that is in a liquid state to promote its transformation from its liquid state to gas.

Evaporative coolers work by utilizing the energy required during the evaporating process to cool the air surrounding the evaporative cooler.

The easiest way to think about an evaporative cooler is to imagine placing a cool piece of cloth on your skin during summer. The cool piece of cloth will help lower the temperature on your skin as the water on the piece of cloth evaporates.

During summer or when the air temperature in your home is high, using an evaporative cooler can help lower the room temperature significantly because the heat in the room will fuel the evaporation process.

Modern evaporative coolers automate the evaporation process to promote efficient cooling processes. An evaporative cooler will consist of a fan, a water reservoir, and a thick pad among other additional technologies.

The thick pads have numerous layers and absorb water from the water reservoir. The numerous layers increase the surface area to volume ratio, which ensures that the pads can absorb a lot of water.

The fan draws in dry hot air from the surrounding into the evaporative cooler. The dry hot air is then passed across the thick pads, which makes the water on the thick pads evaporate.

The dry air absorbs the moisture from the thick pads and the fan blows the humidified cold air into the surrounding environment.

In most cases, the evaporative coolers also have an air filter that ensures that the dry air drawn by the fan is filtered to remove dust particles and dirt. This feature makes an evaporative cooler useful even for people who have allergies.

Evaporative coolers can come in different sizes that can be used either in small rooms or the whole house. A portable evaporative cooler is a great option for a small room or for someone who is travelling to an area with hot weather.

On the other hand, a whole-house evaporative cooler, which is commonly referred to as a swamp cooler, is a great option for your entire home because it works similarly to an air conditioning unit.

Advantages of Evaporative Coolers

  • Energy sufficient as it mainly relies on latent heat of evaporation for its cooling effect
  • Does not consume as much energy as air conditioners, because it only requires energy to run the fan
  • Low installation and maintenance cost when compared to air conditioners
  • Ideal for dry areas
  • Does not use chemicals like refrigerants that are commonly used in air conditioners thereby reducing your carbon footprint
  • The fan in the evaporative cooler promotes air circulation, which reduces the overall “age” of the air in your room
  • Portable

Disadvantages of Evaporative Coolers

  • They do not work well in humid areas or when the temperatures are low, like during rainy periods.
  • Can increase the humidity levels in a room, especially when used in a place that already has high levels of humidity.
  • Risk of mold growth, if the water in the evaporative cooler is not changed frequently or as recommended by the manufacturers.

The table below shows the main differences between a Humidifier and an Evaporative Cooler

FactorHumidifierEvaporative Cooler
OperationReleasing mist in the air to increase the level of humidity in the airRelies on the latent heat of the evaporation theorem to cool the air
GoalIncrease humidity in the airPromote cooling, especially during hot seasons
TypePortable and whole house options are availablePortable and whole house options are available

Do I need a Humidifier or an Evaporative Cooler?

If your main goal is to reduce the air temperature in your home, you should invest in an evaporative cooler. Evaporative coolers as the name suggest function by cooling indoor air. As such, they are more effective in cooling air when compared to humidifiers.

If your main goal is to increase the humidity levels in your home, you can use an evaporative cooler or a humidifier. Evaporative coolers increase humidity in the air while cooling the air while humidifiers focus on humidifying indoor air.

If you are looking for a product that is all-weather, a humidifier could be a better option for you. Humidifiers can work effectively during cold and warm temperatures. You can easily use a warm-mist humidifier during winter to manage symptoms of nasal congestion or a cold.

Read the article below to learn more about the different types of humidifiers in the market based on the temperature of the mist that they release.

Check out: Warm vs Cool-Mist Humidifiers

In a Nutshell

Both humidifiers and evaporative coolers are great products for increasing the humidity levels in your home. Evaporative coolers have a higher likelihood of cooling the air in your home that humidifiers because they depend on hot air in your home to promote water evaporation.

It is also important to note that both humidifiers and evaporative coolers require constant maintenance in form of cleaning and effective use.

Clean your humidifier or evaporative cooler frequently to avoid the risks of bacterial or mold growth in the product’s water tank.

Meet the Author

The author is a blogger, interior design and home improvement enthusiast, and researcher, with a passion for helping people improve their homes by creating a calming and beautiful environment. Check out the about author page to learn more about her work