AC vs Air Cooler: Which One To Choose?

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With summer fast approaching, you may be thinking of buying a new air cooler or air conditioner. Though they both serve the same purpose, their efficiency, effectiveness, and price are poles apart. Let us explore in detail how they work, the differences in energy consumption, comfort, environmental friendliness, portability, ease of installation, and other aspects.

How Do Air Coolers and Air Conditioners Work?

As you may already know, you need to add water to air coolers. Water acts as a coolant in air coolers, while air conditioners use refrigerants like R32, R22 ( freon) R410A (Puron) etc.

In an air cooler, water is passed through a cooling pad ( usually a honeycomb cooling pad) using a pump. Air is drawn from outside and passed through the cooling pad to cool it down. It is then blown outside using a fan/blower. Basically, an air cooler works on the principle of evaporative cooling. When you sweat, your body cools down. Water kept in an earthen pot cools down. Similarly, when hot air passes through cool water, the latent heat from the hot air is absorbed by water to evaporate. Thus the hot air cools down.

Air conditioners work on the principle of phase conversion, that is, when a liquid turns to gas, it absorbs heat. The refrigerants used have the ability to convert from liquid to gas at a low temperature. When hot air passes over evaporator coils, the refrigerant inside the coil absorbs the heat to make it cool. This air is then thrown outside using fans. As the refrigerant absorbs the heat, it changes from liquid to gaseous state. The compressor then “compresses” the refrigerant in gaseous state to a liquid form. And the cycle continues.

Price Comparison Between Air Coolers and Air Conditioners

Air conditioners, as you know, as more expensive than air coolers. Air coolers use a simpler mechanism with water, a cooling pad, a pump, and a blower. An air conditioner, on the other hand, uses a compressor, refrigerants, and evaporator coils and they often have sophisticated electronic components too. As a result, air conditioners cost a lot more than air coolers.

A personal air cooler costs around Rs. 3-8K, while a desert cooler costs around Rs. 10-18K. A window AC on the other hand costs Rs. 25-35K and a split AC costs anywhere between Rs. 25-70K or more.

Energy Consumption

Air conditioners use around 0.5 to 1.5 units of electricity per hour, depending on the external temperature, the temperature at which the AC is set, the number of people in the room, etc. An air cooler on the other hand uses quite less energy of around 0.2 units per hour.


An air conditioner can quickly cool down a large room. As many of the models have in-built dehumidifiers, it gets rid of that stickiness associated with coastal summers. An air cooler on the other hand blows humid air into the room. This could be a bit uncomfortable during coastal summers.

That being said, air coolers take in fresh air and cool it down, while air conditioners circulate the same air. Also, some people find it uncomfortable staying in an AC room for too long as the air gets too dry in the process of cooling.

ac vs air cooler

Inverter Friendliness

As mentioned earlier, air coolers consume just about 0.2 units of electricity per hour, while air conditioners use about 0.5 to 1.5 units per hour. This makes air coolers an inverter-friendly cooling solution.

Environmental Friendliness

Air coolers use water as a coolant, which doesn’t cause any damage to the environment. Air conditioners, on the other hand, use refrigerants which may contribute to global warming. R22 is a refrigerant that depletes the ozone layer. Its production has been stopped in 2020 and now only recycled or reclaimed R22 can be used as a refrigerant.

R410 too has an adverse environmental impact with a global warming potential score of 2088. R32 is one of the latest refrigerants used by brands like Samsung, Voltas, Whirlpool LG, etc, that is far more environmentally friendly with a global warming potential score of just 675. Even then, its environmental impact is much higher compared to air coolers.


Air coolers are portable and easy to use. They don’t require any installation. An air conditioner, on the other hand, requires professional installation which can cost anywhere between Rs. 3-7K or more depending on where the outdoor unit is kept.


Water in the air cooler evaporates. The tank needs to be refilled very often, sometimes on a daily basis. Some air coolers also have the option to take in ice cubes. So, you need to remember to keep water in the freezer too on a daily basis. An air conditioner, on the other hand, doesn’t require maintenance on a daily basis. You can switch it on at any time and as long as there is power, it will work. All you have to do is get it professionally cleaned every 1-2 years depending on the usage and level of pollution in your place.

Ease of Use

As mentioned, air coolers require a lot of preparation for proper working. Air conditioners, on the other hand, do not need any such prep work. They are also much more effective at cooling the room quickly. Hence, air conditioners fare better in this aspect.

Features & Functionalities

Air conditioners have a lot of sophisticated features which provide a better user experience. You can adjust the temperature, humidity, airflow, swing, and so on. Newer models come with wi-fi connectivity. So, you can cool your home even before you reach. Air coolers on the other hand, for a lack of a better word, are still primitive without any such advanced features.

Top-Selling Air Coolers In India

Bajaj PX 97 Torque New 36L Personal Air Cooler

Crompton Ozone Desert Air Cooler- 75L

Symphony Diet 12T Personal Tower Air Cooler

Top-Selling Air Conditioners

Lloyd 1.5 Ton 3 Star Inverter Split AC (5 in 1 Convertible

Voltas 1.5 Ton 3 Star, Adjustable Inverter Split AC

Carrier 1.5 Ton 3 Star Inverter Split AC

LG 1 Ton 4 Star AI DUAL Inverter Split AC

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