Deciding between a whole house fan and a swamp cooler can be difficult when knowing very little about the details of both cooling systems. However, when learning more, the decision between the two is actually incredibly simple. Breaking it down into categories would be the easiest way to illustrate the major and important differences that make the decision easier than most surmise.
First, and most importantly for many who do not have the luxury to spend money frivolously, is the cost of each item. The average price of each item, taking into account the highest and lowest quality of each item, comes to about $900 for a decent swamp cooler and $600 for a well working whole house fan. Now, this is just the base price of each item. Taking into account the installation of each one, it may shift which is more expensive. Alas, it does not. Most installations costs will bring up the price of whole house fans to around $1,000 while it skyrockets the price for swamp coolers up to $3,000.
Second off, whole house fans have a much more efficient and wide-ranging way to cool a home. In the cool parts of the day, turning on a whole house fan will bring in that air from outside and flush it through the house, cooling a home in as quick as 10 minutes and keeping it cool for most of the day. Swamp coolers can only truly be used in dry areas, ironically, they are terrible for swamps and even worse in places with high humidity. The air needs to be incredibly dry for swamp coolers to work and moist areas could lead to a very swampy feeling home. How swamp coolers work has links to Ancient Egypt.
Egyptians used to hang wet blankets around their home and when hot air passed through it, it cooled down. Swamp coolers have a similar principle as they cool the air by evaporative cooling. Before the air passes through the home, it goes through a slew of damp pads, through these damp pads is where evaporation occurs. A small pump keeps the pads moist, so the water doesn’t just evaporate away completely. The air that then exists in the home is much cooler because the water has significantly cooled it down.
The problem with these machines is that they desperately need dry air. They also inherently make the home have slightly more humidity. They also require maintenance. The pads need to be changed regularly, the risk of a mildewy stench is very high as the pads can go bad quick, and they require water to be added constantly.
The problem with whole house fans is that they need outside to be moderately cool some time of the day. They do not, however, need the air to be too dry, they need essentially no maintenance, and they do not create constant waste like swamp coolers do. They are much better for the environment in this way and they also do not contain any sort of chemicals like a swamp cooler does.
At face value, swamp coolers and whole house fans seem remarkably similar and deciding between the two can be incredibly hard. When you recognize and understand the differences, however, whole house fans are the much smarter choice for any home.