Air Conditioning in Sydney
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Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning

By Victor /

It can get quite warm in Australia, so it’s important to have some kind of cooling system to ensure you’re staying comfortable. The two most common types of systems in this area are evaporative cooling and air conditioning. In this article, we’ll be comparing air conditioners that are mounted to the wall and evaporative cooling systems that are mounted on your roof.

Each of these do well in different situations and it’s important that you think about your needs when choosing your cooling method. With that said, take a look at our thorough guide to see which system will work best for your wants and needs!

What’s the Difference: Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning

While very similar, these two systems have a few big differences. The main difference is that air conditioning uses a chemical reaction to cool your home and evaporative cooling uses water. There are other differences between these systems that we’ll talk about more in-depth below, such as cost, temperature control, and overall performance.

What is Evaporative Cooling?

In short, this type of cooling uses pads that are filled with water to cool the hot air. The system sucks in the air and and filters it through the pads. This causes the water evaporate and leaves you with a cold vapor. This vapor is then pushed through the vents into your home via the system’s fan. These are mounted on your roof and are more eco-friendly than actual air conditioning units. They’re also sometimes referred to as a swamp cooler and it’s important to remember that it doesn’t do the best with large, humid area.

How Does Reverse Cycle Air Conditiong Work?

A reverse cycle air conditioner is a unit that can provide both cold air and hot heat, which means they can be used in all months. These systems use refrigerant gasses to efficiently cool both small and large areas.

Most air conditioning units will have two parts, one that’s inside and one that’s outside. They work together to pull out hot air and cool it down before pushing it back into the room. These systems working together means you can lower the temperature in most rooms in a very short period of time.

Head-to-Head Considerations

When considering which system is better, there are a few things you’ll want to consider about both of them. We talk about these in-depth below and show you who the overall winner is.

Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning – Overall Starting Price

Regardless of what kind of system you get, you’re going to have to pay an upfront price to get everything installed. There are a few things that will determine the price, such as the size of the system, what kind of performance you want, and how difficult the actual installation is. If you’re just looking at the cost of the system itself, you’ll see that the air conditioning unit comes in at a cheaper price.

If you have a wall-mounted system that runs at 7kW or 8kW, you should find that it can easily cool a large, open living room. You can expect to pay between $1,700 and $2,400. On the other hand, an evaporative unit that works the same could cost between $2,400 and $3,400.

In addition to the actual unit, you’ll also have to consider the installation cost of things like the ductwork, ventilation, and compressor system. The cost of these will differ from company to company, so it’s important to get those numbers included in your quote. You can get multiple quotes and compare them to see which system is within your budget and which companies offer a better deal for well-done, high-quality work.

Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning – Overall Running Costs

Up-Front Winner: Reverse-Cycle Air Conditioning Unit

You’ll also want to consider the running costs of the system. These costs are how much it’ll be to keep your cooling unit running throughout the year. It’s important to remember that the running costs might be high, even if the initial startup costs are low. Since evaporative systems use fans and water instead of refrigerants, they tend to have an overall cheaper running cost.

On average, a reverse-system air conditioner costs around $0.60 per hour to efficiently run, while an evaporative system only costs around $0.10 per hour plus about $0.02 for the required water.

When looking at the annual running costs of both systems, you’ll see that evaporative cooling units cost around $65, while a reverse-cycle system with an energy rating of 3.5 comes out to around $150. This is a relatively decent amount of savings. Keep in mind, though, your annual running cost will increase if you need to cool more than one room. Since heating and cooling is one of the biggest energy costs in a person’s home, you might find that you can decrease your overall costs by going with a unit that has a higher energy rating. It might not seem like much, but it can cut costs in the long run.

Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning – Overall Healthier

Up-Front Winner: Evaporative System

It’s important to consider which system is healthier, regardless of whether you have allergies or just want a healthier breathing environment. With a traditional air conditioning unit, the same air is being cycled through the system. This means that the air is of lower quality each time it’s pumped through and has a higher chance of dispersing things like dust or allergens. Those that use these types of cooling systems can experience various issues, such as difficulty breathing, skin irritation, fatigue, and recurring headaches. Keep in mind, though, these issues won’t happen to everyone and it’s important to look at your overall health.

On the other hand, an evaporative system filters air from the outside, which means you should have a steady supply of fresh and clean air. With that said, though, these systems aren’t great when there are outside pollutants like heavy smoke or a build-up of dust in your ventilation system. In addition, a high-quality system will drain any water that’s not needed or being used so there’s less chance of standing water developing mold or bacteria. Some of these systems even have features that can help clear the air and give you an overall better experience.

Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning – Eco-Friendliness

Up-Front Winner: Evaporative System

Another consideration when comparing the two systems is how eco-friendly they are. Evaporative systems tend to be more eco-friendly because they use air, water, and fans instead of gasses and refrigerants. They’re a great option for those that are worried about their carbon footprint and can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80 percent, which is a huge step in the right direction. While every new line of air conditioners produced is more and more eco-friendly, they still produce greenhouse gasses, which is one of the leading causes of breaking down the Earth’s atmosphere.

You’ll also want to consider the refrigerants and gasses that are used with traditional air conditioners. Not only do they produce harmful emissions each time they run, but there’s a chance of the unit actually leaking the refrigerant, which opens up even more issues. Over 198 countries have agreed to cut down on these emissions by 2047, but that doesn’t do much for the world today. Even if you don’t want to, or can’t, use evaporative systems after seeing the statistics, it’s still a good idea to have your system thoroughly checked every year to ensure there’s no leaks or other issues.

Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning – Performance

Up-Front Winner: Evaporative System

Both of these cooling systems can work great in certain situations. Traditional air conditioners are great for cooling larger rooms or spaces, while evaporative systems are best for smaller areas. Another thing to consider is that an evaporative system doesn’t do well in more humid conditions and you might find that it doesn’t work adequately or doesn’t feel like it’s working at all. These systems work by taking the moisture out of the hot, dry air, but this can’t work if the air is already filled with moisture. Some areas in Australia have perfect conditions for an evaporative system, but others will benefit from a traditional air conditioner.

On the other hand, a traditional air conditioner might not work in areas that have a high amount of heat, especially if you’re trying to cool multiple areas without an adequate system. To figure out which system is best and gives the performance you need, you’ll want to make sure you consider the area you live in and what type of weather you usually have. If you aren’t sure which system you need, it’s a good idea to reach out to professionals and get their input!

Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning – Temperature Control Options

Up-Front Winner: Reverse-Cycle Air Conditioning Unit

The final comparison between these two cooling systems is temperature control. With a reverse-cycle air conditioning unit, you can choose either cold air or hot air, depending on the weather. With an evaporative system, though, you don’t have the option of turning on the heat. It only produces cold air, so it’s not a great option for those that want both and there’s a good chance you’ll need to find some kind of heating system for the cooler months. With that said, though, an evaporative system does have some temperature control features, such as multiple fan strengths.

There’s also the fact that you’ll want to have doors and windows open when running an evaporative system to ensure the hot air can get out. If it’s a super hot day, you probably want to keep as much hot air out as you can. A traditional air conditioning unit allows you to keep your doors and windows closed, while also having the consistent temperature you want all year round. If you’re in an area that doesn’t get overly hot or too cold, though, you could probably easily cool your home with an evaporative system.

Evaporative Cooling Vs Air Conditioning: Final Verdict

After looking at the points we’ve outline above, you’ll see that both systems come out about even. With that being the case, the easiest way to figure out which one is best for you is to look at the advantages and disadvantages of both. You’ll also want to figure out which one will meet your needs the best.

Not only do you want to consider things like the size of your home or room, but you should also think about what other features you want, such as eco-friendliness. Remember, these systems aren’t one-size fits all and different people will have different needs. Reach out today and let us help you figure out which system is best for you and your needs!


Q: Is evaporative cooling as good as air conditioning?
A: An evaporative air conditioner can work just as well as a traditional air conditioner as long as the conditions are both dry and hot.

Q: Is evaporative cooling cheaper than air conditioning?
A: For the most part, a traditional air conditioner is going to cost less than evaporative cooling, but this isn’t always the case.

Q: What is the difference between an evaporative cooler and air conditioner?
A: The main difference is that an air conditioner uses refrigerant to cool the air while an evaporative cooler uses water. Evaporative coolers also don’t typically produce any mist, spray water, or fog.

Q: Do evaporative coolers cool a room?
A: While it depends on the size of the room, an evaporative cooler might not adequately cool a room if it’s super hot or humid outside.



Air Conditioning certified specialist in Sydney, Australia. Victor is a highly skilled and certified air conditioning specialist based in Sydney, Australia. With over 15 years of experience in the HVAC industry, John has become an expert in the installation, maintenance, and repair of various air conditioning systems, including split systems, ducted systems, and multi-head units. John began his journey in the HVAC field after completing a comprehensive apprenticeship program and obtaining his trade certificate. He then worked with several reputable air conditioning companies in Sydney, honing his skills and gaining valuable insights into the industry. In 2010, Victor received his Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Council (ARC) certification, further solidifying his status as a trusted professional in the field.