Who needs A/C? Bring the “swamp cooling” home with an evaporative cooler. Photo credit: The Aspen Times

Stay Cool and Save Energy with Evaporative Coolers

Even in our high and dry mountain climate, it gets hot. Aside from skipping work and floating the Roaring Fork, how can locals chill out without breaking the bank — or the environment? One option is an evaporative cooler, aka “swamp cooler,” which can help you keep cool at home while using less energy.

Costing significantly less than an air conditioner and using a quarter of the energy, evaporative coolers are a slam dunk.

How do they work? Think about when you hop out of the shower and get a chill. Or when you wear a damp t-shirt on a hot day, and still feel cool. The evaporative cooler operates on this same principle: evaporation, the process of water turning from liquid to gas form. In order to evaporate, water must have heat, which breaks the bonds that hold water molecules together. As liquid water turns into vapor, it removes the heat from the environment, which is why you feel a little chilly in those damp-hot circumstances. Evaporative coolers take this simple concept and turn it into an energy efficient way to cool a home.

An evaporative cooler uses a fan to pull in dry, hot outdoor air and move it over water-soaked pads. As the air moves through the pads, the water cools the air, and the fan circulates the cool, moist air through the room. The entire process consumes significantly less energy than your central air conditioning.

Evaporative coolers work best in hot climates with low humidity like Colorado’s, but they have some drawbacks:

  • Often require more maintenance than air conditioners (including keeping windows open and water reservoirs filled)
  • Increase water use, even as they decrease energy use

Whether (or not) evaporative coolers are your solution, there are plenty of options for keeping cool locally:

  • Take advantage of our natural air conditioning, the  cool mountain breezes: keep windows open at night and close them, and window coverings, in the morning. This can make a huge difference. In fact, 30% of unwanted heat enters the home through windows.
  • Splurge on quality insulated blinds, which can pay off in both summer and winter.
  • Insulate and air seal to keep your home more comfortable all year long. Adding insulation, and making sure your walls are properly sealed, can help keep the cool air in.

Whatever option you choose, just remember, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat without using too much energy — or too many inner tubes.

Cash-back rebates for evaporative coolers are available, depending on your electric utility. Holy Cross Energy, Glenwood Springs Electric, and Xcel Energy offer rebates for qualifying projects. Contact CORE’s Energy Advisors at 970.925.9775 to learn about custom rebates for energy efficient cooling.