How Much Does It Cost to Install a Swamp Cooler?

Typical Range:

$1,558 - $3,754

Find out how much your project will cost.

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 507 HomeAdvisor members. Embed this data

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  • Homeowners use HomeAdvisor to find pros for home projects.
  • When their projects are done, they fill out a short cost survey.
  • We compile the data and report costs back to you.

Updated September 21, 2022

Written by HomeAdvisor.

A swamp cooler—also called an evaporative cooler—pulls hot, dry air from outside into the home. A pad inside the unit cools and moisturizes the air, making the room more comfortable. The average cost of a swamp cooler installation ranges between $1,558 and $3,754, with an average swamp cooler cost of $2,537, fully installed. Project totals can increase if you factor in the duct installation cost.

Evaporative coolers are an affordable, energy-efficient, and humidifying method for cooling your home compared to central air conditioners. Use our swamp cooler cost guide to determine the type of unit that makes sense for your home.

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National Average $2,537
Typical Range $1,558 - $3,754
Low End - High End $400 - $5,600

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 507 HomeAdvisor members.

Swamp Cooler Costs by Type

How much is a swamp cooler? The type of unit you purchase will have the largest impact on your overall evaporative cooler installation cost, from around $40 for a small portable unit to $4,500 for an industrial-size portable unit. Not only are larger models more expensive, but they’re also more challenging to install, which can lead to higher labor costs.

Swamp Cooler Unit Type Average Price Range
Portable $40 – $4,500
Window unit $400 – $1,280
Ground-mounted $550 – $1,130
Roof-mounted $400 – $1,300

Portable

A portable swamp cooler can vary in size and range in price from around $40 to $4,500, though most portable evaporative coolers fall below $2,300. You can plug in smaller units much like a portable air conditioner unit (no professional installation required), while larger models may attach to ductwork.

Window Unit

Window evaporative cooler prices are around $400 to $1,280, depending on the unit's power. This is slightly more expensive than the cost of a window air conditioner. Most homeowners find they can hook up a window swamp cooler without professional installation.

Ground-Mounted

Ground-mounted swamp coolers cost between $550 and $1,130, but they also require ductwork to operate. If your home doesn’t have existing ductwork for an HVAC system, you’ll need to budget for the cost of duct installation, about $10 to $20 per linear foot or $1,180 for the average home.

You’ll also likely need to hire an air conditioning contractor to install the ground-mounted unit. They generally charge about $70 per hour for this work.

Roof-Mounted 

The typical roof-mounted swamp cooler costs around $400 to $1,300. A roof-mounted swamp cooler is more common for a larger commercial building, but if you own a large home, you can still consider a roof-mounted unit over a ground-mounted unit. 

As with a ground-mounted unit, you’ll need to factor in air duct installation if your home isn’t yet outfitted with ducts. Because the roof is more difficult to access, the project will likely take longer and thus fetch a higher labor cost, so you’ll need to budget for labor.

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Swamp Cooler Costs by Area Served

Larger homes generally require larger swamp coolers for appropriate cooling. Unlike ACs, which are measured in British thermal units (BTUs), an evaporative cooler’s output is represented by cubic feet per minute (CFM).

To calculate the CFM, multiply your home’s square footage by the ceiling height, then divide by two. For example, for a 1,000-square-foot home with an 8-foot ceiling, you’d calculate:

1,000 x 8 / 2 = 4,000 CFM.

Sq. Ft. Covered Required CFMs Average Cost Range
100 400 $40 – $280
500 2,000 $150 – $600
1,000 4,000 $400 – $1,000
1,500 6,000 $700 – $1,500
2,000 8,000 $1,000 – $2,300

Evaporative Cooling Installation Cost Factors

Additional factors can affect the overall cost of a swamp cooler, including the brand, whether you need to contact a pro, and special enhancements.

Brand

The brand plays a role in your overall swamp cooler price. Frigidaire has the most affordable units, starting as low as $100, while Breezair’s units can cost as much as $2,500. This table doesn’t include prices for industrial-level swamp coolers, which can reach up to $4,500.

Swamp Cooler Brand Average Price Range
Bonaire Durango $200 – $950
Breezair $1,000 – $2,500
Frigidaire $100 – $550
Hessaire $150 – $1,350
Honeywell $130 – $480
MasterCool $600 – $1,300
Phoenix Manufacturing $300 – $2,500

Labor

On average, an HVAC technician near you will charge about $70 per hour for swamp cooler installation. For portable and window units, you likely don’t need to hire a contractor, but ground- and roof-mounted units require specialized skills and tools. Assume an average of five to 10 hours for installation, or approximately $350 to $700. If your project requires duct installation, labor costs will increase.

Existing Conditions and Accessibility

If you’re installing a ground- or roof-mounted evaporative cooler, you’ll need to tie it into the ductwork. If your home doesn’t have existing ductwork, a pro will need to install it at a cost of approximately $10 to $20 per linear foot.

The evaporative cooler installation cost can also increase depending on the location. Roofs are generally less accessible to a contractor; the added height and danger could mean slower work and a higher overall labor cost.

Removal and Disposal

Removing an existing swamp cooler will cost between $70 and $150. You'll need to factor in this cost when installing a new unit if you have an outdated system in place. If you convert a roof-mounted model to a non-swamp system, you'll need to patch or convert the roof hole the system will leave. You can find a roofing company to complete this work.

The cost to replace an evaporative cooler is slightly less than the cost to install one, as you should already have all the ducts in place. Expect to spend between $1,200 and $2,300 for the unit and labor to replace it.

Direct vs. Indirect Evaporative Cooling

Direct swamp coolers are ideal for dry, low-humidity climates, as they suck in outside air, move it over water-soaked pads, and release it into a home as cooler, more humid air. Indirect units instead rely on a heat exchanger and don't introduce humidity into the environment, making them more versatile and expensive.

Direct evaporative coolers can cost as little as $200 and typically max out at $5,000 installed, while an indirect evaporative cooler installation might range from $1,500 to $6,000.

Add-Ons and Enhancements

Your swamp cooler installation will likely come with some smaller additional costs. For example, you may need to budget for the price of installing a thermostat (around $130 to $250) or a cover to protect your outdoor evaporative cooler during the winter months (around $20 to $50). Investments like pre-filters (around $75 to $300) and purge pumps (around $40 to $100) can extend the life span of your swamp cooler.

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Swamp Cooler Operating Costs

Swamp coolers generally use only 15% to 35%as much energy as a traditional air conditioning unit. Most homeowners should budget about $20 a month—roughly $15 in electrical costs and $5 on the water bill. These totals are for a 500-watt swamp cooler that uses80 gallons of water and operates eight hours per day.

Operation costs can vary greatly depending on the following:

  • Size of cooling unit and house

  • Climate/humidity

  • Utility provider rates in your area

  • Age/efficiency of the system

Evaporative Pad Costs

In addition to the monthly operating cost of a swamp cooler, you’ll need to budget for evaporative cooling pad costs. You can buy different types of pads, each with its own life span:

Pad Type Average Life Span Average Pad Cost
Aspen 1 year $40
Rotating 2 years $50
Cellulose 3 years $65

These pads have a few key differences in how they work:

  • Aspen pads: Sometimes called fixed fiber pads, these are among the most common and are made from the actual wood fibers of aspen trees. Air passes over these damp pads, cooling the room. Aspen pads last about a year and cost roughly $40.

  • Rotating pads: Rather than remain stationary, rotating pads rotate inside the swamp cooler as they cool. While the pads are more expensive than aspens at around $50, they last longer and don’t require a pump.

  • Cellulose pads: These pads have a longer life span of three years and cost roughly $65. Cellulose pads, also known as CELdek pads, work similarly to aspen pads.

Swamp Coolers vs. AC

The cost to install central air conditioning is $5,720 on average, which is more than double the cost of a swamp cooler installation, which is $2,540. Central air is also more expensive to run, resulting in much higher electric bills. Swamp coolers do, however, use more water.

Despite being more expensive to install and operate, air conditioners continue to be the more popular choice for homeowners. That’s because air conditioners are generally more powerful, and swamp coolers are most viable in dry, low-humidity climates—meaning they don’t make sense in many places throughout the country.

DIY vs. Hiring an Evaporative Cooler Installation Pro

If your swamp cooler involves ductwork or electrical work or isn't a window installation, you should have a swamp cooler installer near you to do the work for you. While you can save money installing a system yourself, some costly complications can arise if you do the work incorrectly. Such difficulties could include costly leaks, faulty wiring, or inefficiencies impacting your utility bills.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are swamp coolers energy efficient?

Generally, a swamp cooler only uses 15% to 35% of the energy that a traditional central air conditioning unit utilizes. However, swamp coolers also require water to operate and may not cool a home as effectively as an AC unit. They’re more efficient in terms of electricity usage, but when you factor in effectiveness and water usage, it's tougher to argue which unit is more efficient.

Do whole-house evaporative coolers work in all climates?

Evaporative coolers only work in dry climates because they cool by moistening the air. If the air is already moist, this won't have much, if any, cooling effect. Central AC is a better choice if you live in a humid climate such as the Midwest or eastern or western coastal regions.

How do you install a swamp cooler on a roof?

A local HVAC specialist will take these steps to install a swamp cooler on a roof:

  1. Find and cut a spot in your roof/attic free of wiring and obstructions.

  2. Install metal bracing, legs, and brackets.

  3. Install ceiling duct register, ductwork, power, and thermostat wires.

  4. Seal all openings and attach duct connections.

  5. Install a thermostat and its electrical connections.

  6. Run cool water piping to the unit.

  7. Inspect all the connections.

The unit will affect multiple systems of your house, including structural, electrical, and plumbing, so DIY imperfections could cause serious leaks or electrical problems.

How much does it cost to service a swamp cooler?

The cost to repair your swamp cooler is between $100 and $300, depending on what’s wrong with it, if you need new parts, and who you choose to do the repairs. Depending on the type of pad your system utilizes, you’ll need to change out pads every one to three years for proper operation.

How much can a swamp cooler cool a room?

The U.S. Department of Energy says swamp coolers may cool a single room by 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this largely depends on the size and installation method of the evaporative cooler. You can only achieve these results in a dry climate, like in the American South. It's easier to cool rooms in humid environments with central air.

How much water does a swamp cooler use?

Swamp cooler water usage will vary depending on the size of a unit. Smaller evaporative units may go through 1 gallon per hour, while much larger units could exceed 15 gallons of water per hour. Most homeowners should expect their unit to use between 7 and 10 gallons of water for each hour of usage.