Best Air Cooler 2022: Get some relief with the top evaporative coolers


Want to take the edge off the summer heat? Get a blast of water-cooled air with these efficient, economical air coolers

Air coolers are growing increasingly popular, giving you a kind of halfway house between an expensive and bulky air conditioner and an ordinary fan. They can’t refrigerate the air like an air conditioner, but they can reduce the heat through a combination of airflow and evaporation, effectively using some of the thermal energy in the air to evaporate water, so lowering its temperature before it’s driven out through a fan.

Let’s be clear: these machines won’t cool your room like a proper air conditioner, but they can give you a colder blast of air than your average fan, especially when used at close range. And when things get really hot and you don’t want to spend a fortune, you might find that’s enough.

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Best air cooler: At a glance

How to find the best air cooler for you

What should I look for in an air cooler?

Air coolers come in two basic forms. The bigger ones look a little like dehumidifiers or compact portable air conditioners and are designed to cool one or more people from a few metres away. The smaller models are cubes designed for desktop or coffee table use, often powered by USB and designed as a personal cooler.

Both work in roughly the same way, with a fan blowing air through an absorbent pad or membrane structure. As the water on the pad or membrane evaporates it cools the air around it, and this cooler air is then blown outwards into the room by the fan. For a little extra cooling power, many coolers can also fit one or more freezer ice blocks inside to chill the water.

While some of the water is recirculated through the system, some will inevitably leave the cooler in the air blown out by the fan. Because of this – and the fact that the water in the absorbent pad or membrane can grow stale – you need to keep the air cooler filled and change the water in the tank daily. You should also wash the pad or membrane occasionally or you might get some pretty nasty smells.

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Is there anything worth looking out for?

Most air coolers are fairly basic, with a choice of fan speeds and an on/off switch. However, the larger models also have oscillation, moving the airflow left and right to chill a wider area, along with movable louvres to tilt the airflow up or down. Some models also feature built-in humidification, putting a little moisture back into a dry room, which can make it feel more comfortable (as long as it’s not hot and humid in there already).

Are there any downsides?

With some air coolers, there’s a risk of adding to the room’s humidity, which can be a problem if it already suffers from excess humidity. Plus, where water tanks are open inside the cooler, there’s also a risk of spillage – which can be a worry if you’re using a desktop model plugged into your laptop or PC.

Perhaps the biggest issue, however, is that not everyone finds air coolers all that effective. Just to repeat the point, these are not air conditioners, and they don’t have the cooling welly to turn a hot room into a cool one. What they can do is provide you with an airflow that’s cooler than room temperature, which might be enough to keep you going as the temperature spikes. What’s more, they’re a whole lot cheaper and more convenient than any air conditioner, using much less energy and with no need to expel air from a tube sticking out of a window. Don’t expect miracles, and you’ll be surprised at how effective a good air cooler can be.

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The best air coolers to buy in 2022

1. Beldray EH3193V2: The best budget desktop cooler

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

This cheap cube desktop cooler doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it’s a good way to stay slightly cooler while you’re plugging away at work. Its two removable 300ml tanks mean it doesn’t need constant refilling, and you can freeze them if you want some extra cooling. The three speed fan gives you options from a subtle breeze to a full-on gust of air, and on the lowest setting it's quiet enough not to disturb you while you work away.

We also like the fact that you can clean the filter under the tap or in the dishwasher, not to mention the illuminated side panels that glow with a choice of seven colours for a little mood lighting. It could be easier to remove the filter and get the water tanks in and out of place, but for sheer value and convenience, this little cooler takes some beating.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 600ml; Air circulation: Not stated; Speeds: 3; Oscillation: No; Freezer blocks: Yes; Extra features: Customisable LED lighting; Power consumption: 5W; Dimensions: 165 x 157 x 162mm (WDH); Weight: 1.06kg

2. Black+Decker Manual 3-in-1 Air Cooler: The best air cooler for speedy heat relief

Price: £87 | Buy now from Alliance Online

While no substitute for a proper air conditioner, this Black + Decker cooler does a good job of dishing out some cold air fast, especially if you augment the seven-litre water tank with the two freezer blocks provided. The inner vertical louvres oscillate left and right to give you a wider spread, and you can use the horizontal louvres to angle the airflow up or down. What’s more, this is one of the few coolers we’ve seen with a built-in timer, so you can set it to chill your bedroom before you think about going to sleep.

This cooler is designed to humidify as it cools, and it also has a fan-only function if you don’t need the extra chill. Its only significant drawbacks are that it’s awkward to remove the water tank and filter block for cleaning and that it puts out around 60dBA of noise at its highest speed. Still, these aren’t problems unique to this model, and it gives you good cooling at a reasonable price.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 7l; Air circulation: 234m³/hr; Speeds: 3; Oscillation: Yes; Freezer blocks: Yes; Extra features: No; Power consumption: 65W; Dimensions: 300 x 301 x 770mm (WDH); Weight: 6kg

Buy now from Alliance Online

3. Evapolar evaCHILL: The best USB desktop cooler

Price: £105 | Buy now from Amazon

It’s double the price of most other desktop air coolers, but the evaCHILL makes the premium seem worthwhile. It’s something of a pocket rocket, with more power than most rivals, and the cooling system, based on Evapolar’s own basalt-based filters, stays sterile over long-term use, so you won’t get the bacteria build-up – and unpleasant smells – that you’ll get with other desktop models if you don’t clean them daily. It works for around nine hours from a single tank of water.

Other good points include an easy-to-fill water tank, which you can fill from the top, and simple one-button controls, where you just tap to cycle through the speeds. It’s also much quieter than rivals, and you can power it from a USB socket or a 5V, 2A USB power bank. At this size it’s not going to cool any more than one person, but if you’re looking to reduce the heat levels at your desk or in your home office, then this cooler has you covered.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 800ml; Air circulation: 83.25m³/hr; Speeds: 3; Oscillation: Yes; Freezer blocks: No; Extra features: Humidification; Power consumption: 7.5W; Dimensions: 170x 170 x 172 (WDH); Weight: 750g

4. Honeywell TC09PM: The best no-frills air cooler

Price: £109 | Buy now from AirconCentre

Designed to cool rooms of up to 10m2, this Honeywell cooler has a generous 9l water tank, so you can leave it a few days without a refill. When the water gets low, it’s easy to refill through the pull-out door at the rear. This means there’s no space to add any freezer blocks, so it’s worth chilling your water before you add it.

As far as features go, the Honeywell keeps things simple. One dial switches between off and the three fan settings, while the other selects cooling, oscillation or cooling and oscillation. What matters more is that it dishes out a consistently good, cooling airflow, with the louvres shifting side to side to spread it over a wider area. You’ll still need to clean the honeycomb cooling membrane regularly to avoid unpleasant smells, but if you’re keener on keeping cool than faffing around with modes and features, this is the air cooler to buy.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 9l; Air circulation: 300m³/hr; Speeds: 3; Oscillation: Yes; Freezer blocks: No; Extra features: Humidification; Power consumption: 65W; Dimensions: 301x 280 x 660mm (WDH); Weight: 4.6kg

Buy now from AirconCentre

5. Princess Smart Air Cooler: The best air cooler for features

Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for a cooler with a few more features, then the Princess Smart Air Cooler has you covered. As well as the usual three fan speeds, it has the same Natural and Sleep modes as the brand’s tower fan, the former varying the fan speed for an outdoor breeze effect, the latter slowly ramping down the speed as you doze off. As the name suggests, it also has basic smart features. With the cooler connected to your Wi-Fi network, you can control it from your smartphone or even an Alexa or Google Assistant speaker, although the voice commands don’t cover much more than switching modes or turning the unit on and off.

None of this would matter if it wasn’t an effective cooler, but it’s actually something of a heatwave hero. It’s almost as powerful as its tower fan sibling – we measured airflow at 2.3 metres per second – and the combination of the water-logged membrane and a pair of ice packs in the tanks gives that breeze a little extra chill. It’s a little noisy, even at its quietest setting, and the 3.5l tank won’t last much more than a day, but for sweet relief from overheating it’s as good as coolers get.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 3.5l; Air circulation: 1188m³/hr; Speeds: 3; Oscillation: Yes; Freezer blocks: Yes; Extra features: Humidification, Fan, Smart App, Timer, Natural and Sleep modes; Power consumption: 70W; Dimensions: 280x 220 x 760mm (WDH); Weight: 4kg

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