Portable evaporative coolers review 2008

In a hot dry climate, a portable evaporative cooler is a cheap way to cool down.
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 
  • Updated:15 Sep 2008
 

01 .Introduction

Portable evaporative cooler

Test results for seven portable evaporative coolers, priced from $159 to $449

If you live in a region where the summers are hot and dry, such as inland Australia, a portable evaporative cooler can be a cheap and effective way to keep you cool over those long sunny days. However, if you live in a humid area, they won’t be the most effective option. You may want to consider a portable air conditioner instead, or perhaps a ceiling fan to circulate the air.

Evaporative coolers work by drawing hot, dry air across a wetting medium, typically made from a shredded wood composite or foam which is saturated with water from the unit’s inbuilt water tank. The water evaporates, absorbing heat from the air, and the cooler but moister air is blown into the room.

They’re simple to operate; you just fill the water tank (and ice tray, if there is one) and turn it on. Because evaporative coolers need a constant source of hot dry air to work effectively, you need to leave a door or window open and position the unit near it. The open door or window also helps keep down the overall humidity in the room — the more humid the room, the less effective the cooler.

Evaporative coolers work best in low-humidity areas (around 30% humidity or less), but they also work fairly well in moderate humidity (around 40–50%). In more humid climates, standard refrigerative air conditioners are more effective as they dehumidify the air, though they’re also more expensive and bigger consumers of electricity.

We bought all readily available portable evaporative coolers on the market — four Convair and three IXL models — and put them to the test. Our results show there can be big differences in performance; the recommended models are much better coolers than some of the others.

Please note: this information was current as of September 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Brands tested

  • Convair Coolmaster 3000
  • Convair Magicool 004006
  • Convair Mastercool 850238-C
  • Convair Megacool 009438
  • IXL Blizzard 42056 (A)
  • IXL Compact 42055 (B)
  • IXL Icecap 2 42054

(A) Discontinued; replaced by model 42058.
(B) Exclusive to Betta Electrical; being discontinued but still available in some stores.

 
 

Sign up to our free
e-Newsletter

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

 

The following models scored the best results in our test.

What to buy
Brand Price
Convair Mastercool 850238-C $369
Convair Magicool 004006 $259

Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below.

  Performance
Brand / model (in rank order) Overall score (%) Evaporative efficiency score (%) Airflow score (%) Ease of use score (%) Price ($)
CONVAIR Mastercool 850238-C
www.seeleyinternational.com
72 81 70 50 369
CONVAIR Magicool 004006
www.seeleyinternational.com
72 79 56 70 259
CONVAIR Megacool 009438
www.seeleyinternational.com
69 72 76 50 399
CONVAIR Coolmaster 3000
www.seeleyinternational.com
64 43 98 80 449
IXL Blizzard 42056 (A)
www.sampfordixl.com.au
55 40 76 70 299
IXL Compact 42055 (B)
www.sampfordixl.com.au
41 39 30 60 159
IXL Icecap 2 42054
www.sampfordixl.com.au
20 10 25 40 169
 


  Features
Brand / model (in rank order) Water tank capacity (L) Number of fan speeds Remote control Dust filter Ice tray Louvres Off timer **
CONVAIR Mastercool 850238-C
www.seeleyinternational.com
14 3 Manual
CONVAIR Magicool 004006
www.seeleyinternational.com
13 3 Fixed
CONVAIR Megacool 009438
www.seeleyinternational.com
14 3 Oscillating
CONVAIR Coolmaster 3000
www.seeleyinternational.com
18 3 Manual
IXL Blizzard 42056 (A)
www.sampfordixl.com.au
20 4 (C) Oscillating • (D)
IXL Compact 42055 (B)
www.sampfordixl.com.au
6 3 Oscillating • (E)
IXL Icecap 2 42054
www.sampfordixl.com.au
9 3 Oscillating • (F)
 


  Specifictions
Brand / model (in rank order) Dimensions (mm, HxWxD) Weight (kg)
Length of cord
Power consumption (W) *
CONVAIR Mastercool 850238-C
www.seeleyinternational.com
815 x 550 x 255 10 1.95 66
CONVAIR Magicool 004006
www.seeleyinternational.com
715 x 400 x 275 (G) 7.5 2.23 58
CONVAIR Megacool 009438
www.seeleyinternational.com
1000 x 550 x 260 11 1.97 66
CONVAIR Coolmaster 3000
www.seeleyinternational.com
1055 x 635 x 470 18.4 2.52 206
IXL Blizzard 42056 (A)
www.sampfordixl.com.au
840 x 470 x 390 10.8 1.8 238
IXL Compact 42055 (B)
www.sampfordixl.com.au
615 x 395 x 295 6.7 1.9 56
IXL Icecap 2 42054
www.sampfordixl.com.au
640 x 400 x 305 7.3 1.95 56
 

 

Table notes

* Measured at high fan speed.
** A timer that can switch the unit off after a set period.
(A) Discontinued; replaced by model 42058.
(B) Exclusive to Betta Electrical; being discontinued but still available in some stores.
(C) Three fan speeds plus a 'sleep' mode, which cycles the fan through five seconds each on high, medium and low speeds then stops for four seconds before repeating.
(D) A range of one-hour intervals from one to eight hours.
(E) Four settings: one, two, four or eight hours.
(F) A range of 30-minute intervals from 30 minutes to 7.5 hours.
(G) Excluding handle.

Price Recommended retail, as of September 2008.

Scores

The overall score is made up of:

  • Evaporative efficiency (averaged across high and low fan speeds): 56%
  • Airflow at high fan speed: 24%
  • Ease of use: 20%

Ease of use consists of:

  • Filling: 60%
  • Controls: 20%
  • Access: 16%
  • Draining: 4%

How we tested

We put the coolers through a range of performance tests, based on the Australian Standard for evaporative coolers, AS2913-2000.

  • Evaporative efficiency When water evaporates, it absorbs heat from the surrounding air. High evaporation efficiency means the cooler gets a better cooling effect for the water it uses.
  • Airflow How much air the cooler can blow out in a given time. A strong airflow generally allows the unit to cool a larger area more effectively.
  • Noise Measured one metre from the cooler at high and low fan speeds.

We also scored them for ease of use, based on:

  • Filling the water tank An inlet spout that’s large enough and accessible, and a water level indicator that’s easy to read.
  • Controls Easy to operate and labels that are easy to read and understand.
  • Access for maintenance Easily removable panel, dust filter and wetting medium, preferably not requiring tools.
  • Draining the water tank A drainage cap that’s easy to access and remove. Whether the cooler can fit a bucket underneath while draining, so you don’t need to take it outside.

Profiles - what to buy

Convair Mastercool 850238-C

Convair Mastercool 850258-C Price: $369

Good points

  • Highest evaporative efficiency in the test.
  • Controls are very easy to use.

Bad points

  • Small water filling spout.

Convair Magicool 004006

Convair Magicool 004006 Price: $259

Good points

  • Good evaporative efficiency.
  • Easy to use and has very easy internal access for cleaning the wetting medium — tools are not required to remove the back panel.
  • Fold-out foot for extra stability.

Bad points

  • Can be difficult to drain residual water from the tank; the drainage outlet is too low to easily put a bucket or tray under without lifting the unit.

 

 

Profiles - the rest

Convair Megacool 009438

Convair Megacool 009438 Price: $399

Good points

  • Good evaporative efficiency, though not as good as the recommended models.
  • Good airflow.

Bad points

  • Water filling spout wouldn't stay open while filling the tank.

Convair Coolmaster 3000

Convair Coolmaster 3000 Price: $449

Good points

  • Excellent airflow.
  • Very easy to fill and drain the water tank, and to access the inside for maintenance.

Bad points

  • Poor evaporative efficiency (though the manufacturer disputed this).
  • Comparatively high power consumption (though still much less than an air conditioner).

IXL Blizzard 42056*

IXL Blizzard 42056 Price: $299

Good points

  • Good airflow.
  • Generally easy to use.
  • Remote control.
  • Off timer.

Bad points

  • Poor evaporative efficiency.
  • Controls aren't clear and simple.
  • Drainage outlet isn't easy to use.
  • Highest power consumption in the test (though still much less than an air conditioner).
  • *This model is discontinued and replaced by model 42058.

IXL Compact 42055*

IXL Compact 42055 Price: $159

Good points

  • Quiet, compared to other models.
  • Off timer.

Bad points

  • Poor evaporative efficiency.
  • Poor airflow.
  • Can be difficult to drain residual water from the tank; the drainage outlet is too low to easily put a bucket or tray under without lifting the unit.
  • *Exclusive to Betta Electrical: being discontinued but still available in some stores.

IXL Icecap 2 42054

IXL Icecap 2 42054 Price: $169

Good points

  • Remote control.
  • Off timer.

Bad points

  • Poor evaporative efficiency.
  • Poor airflow.
  • Not easy to fill with water as there's no lip or spout at the filling hole, and the water level indicator is hard to read.
  • Difficult to access the wetting medium for maintenance.
  • Can be difficult to drain residual water from the tank; the drainage outlet is too low to easily put a bucket or tray under without lifting the unit.

Evaporative cooler essentials

  • Good airflow but not so strong it’s uncomfortable. The Convair Coolmaster has a very high airflow score at high fan speed which makes it better at cooling a large room, but it might be uncomfortable to sit close to. Ask to try the cooler in the shop.
  • Louvres that adjust and/or oscillate.
  • Filling spout that’s large and accessible, so topping up the water tank is easy.
  • Fan and wetting medium The best performing models in our test have propeller fans and shredded wood wetting mediums. Other types include cylindrical fans and foam or fabric wetting mediums.
  • Dust filter helps keep the air clean as it enters the cooler. In the Convair models, the wetting medium also serves as the dust filter.
  • Low water consumption rate A large water tank combined with a low water consumption rate means the cooler runs longer between refills, which is useful if water’s scarce where you live. The IXL models claim to consume a low 0.5 litre per hour. Top up the tank before you turn the cooler on, and occasionally check the water level.
  • Easy access to the inside for maintenance. You should clean the dust filter and wetting medium a few times a year and replace them after a few seasons. The tank needs occasional cleaning to remove slime or mineral deposits. Dry the wetting medium occasionally by running the cooler in fan-only mode. Check the instructions.
  • Drain cap that’s secure but easy to undo; it helps if you can fit a bucket under the drain spout. You should drain the tank and clean and dry the wetting medium before storing the unit for a long period.
  • Controls that are clear and simple to operate.
  • Stability so it won’t easily tip over.
  • Castors so the unit is easy to move around.
  • Noise Most of the tested models are fairly noisy; some are about as noisy as a vacuum cleaner.

Other features

  • Ice tanks don’t necessarily make the air much colder, but because the ice melts slowly, you won’t need to fill the water tank so often. However, using energy to make the ice reduces the overall energy efficiency of using an evaporative cooler.
  • Off timer can be handy — it turns off the cooler after a set time. None of the tested models has an “on” timer to activate the unit at a set time.

Is bigger better?

Not necessarily. The larger the model, the more powerful its fan is likely to be, but it won’t always be the most efficient at cooling. Nevertheless, a bigger model will typically be able to cool a larger area than a smaller model. The biggest model in this test, the Convair Coolmaster, has a very high airflow but relatively poor evaporative efficiency, which means that while it can blow much more air around than the others, it doesn’t cool that air as efficiently.

Convair's manufacturer said they’d measured much better evaporative efficiency for this model and suggested our sample might be defective, but we couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with it. Both the Coolmaster and the next largest model, the IXL Blizzard, are also considerably bigger consumers of electricity than the other models (though still much less than an air conditioner).

Good things can come in small packages too. The Convair Magicool, one of the smallest models in the test, is one of our recommended models.

For people with a disability

  • Controls should be clearly labelled in contrasting colours and easy to operate. The Convair Mastercool rated best in this respect.
  • The water level indicator should be easy to read while filling the water tank. The Convair Coolmaster and Magicool have easy to read indicators. The IXL Blizzard’s indicator is also easy to read but is on the front of the unit, while the water inlet is on the side.
  • The drainage outlet on all the models is positioned quite low, so if you have trouble bending over you might find this difficult. Check the model in the store.
  • All the models have castors or wheels and are fairly easy to move.
  • Assembly is straightforward for the tested models, but some are quite heavy so you may need assistance while putting them together.

05.Cooling calculator

 

Use our calculator below as a guide to what you need.