Best air cooler 2022: Get some heat relief with these efficient evaporative coolers


Looking for the sweet spot between a fan and an air conditioner? Treat yourself to one of the best 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, and that takes the edge off the summer heat. Don’t expect miracles, especially if you’ve already invested in a decent floor or pedestal fan.

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The best air coolers to buy in 2022

1. Black + Decker Personal USB Mini: The best budget desktop cooler

Price: £28 | Buy now from Amazon

You might want to lower some expectations, but for £30 this is a surprisingly effective air cooler. Fill up the side-mounted tank with water and drop one of the bundled ice packs below the honeycomb block that soaks up the water, and you can get a nice, chilly gust of air coming through, particularly at the medium and high-speed settings. The fan is noisy, with an irritating whine at higher speeds, but that’s something you can live with when you need to beat the heat.

The biggest downside here is that changing the water is fiddly and changing the ice packs fiddlier still – you need to remove the honeycomb block to get them in and out. You also need to wait up to 30 minutes while the honeycomb block moistens up before it’s ready for use. Still, there are no serious dealbreakers, and it will run from a USB port on a PC or laptop or a spare USB charger if you have one hanging around. We couldn’t get it to work with a USB power bank, however.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 600ml; Air circulation: Not stated; Speeds: 3; Oscillation: Yes; Freezer blocks: Yes; Extra features: Humidification; Power consumption: 6W; Dimensions: 190 x 180 x 190mm (WDH); Weight: 1.7kg

2. Beldray EH3187: The best-value air cooler

Price: £75 | Buy now from Currys

This Beldray model has enough oomph to cool a small room, or you can whack it in front of the sofa, turn on the oscillation and enjoy a blast of cooler air. There are three speed settings, and even on the lowest, you get a noticeable airflow. Turn it up to the max and you’ll definitely feel the chill. What’s more, this cooler is particularly easy to use. You can fill it from the top as well as fill the slide-out tank directly, while the two bundled ice packs just fit neatly in the bottom of the tank.

As with any of the larger coolers, it can get pretty noisy when it’s running at full tilt, and you need to empty and refill the tank daily if you want to avoid any dodgy smells. Overall, though, this is a great cooler for the money, even winning in a poll of too-hot testers against some of our most highly recommended pedestal fans.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 6l; Air circulation: Not stated; Speeds: 3; Oscillation: Yes; Freezer blocks: Yes; Extra features: Humidification; Power consumption: 40W; Dimensions: 370 x 290 x 690mm (WDH); Weight: 5.86kg

Buy now from Currys

3. Black + Decker BXAC65002GB: The best air cooler for speedy heat relief

Price: £95 | Buy now from Amazon

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, it has slick touch-sensitive controls, and this is one of the few coolers we’ve seen with a built-in timer. 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

4. 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

5. Honeywell TC10PE: The best air cooler for a chilling breeze

Price: £95 | Buy now from AirConCentre

Honeywell’s air cooler has a bit more power than your average model, capable of moving 330m³ of air per hour at its highest settings, and with oscillation turned on it will cheerfully cool a sofa or small living room of hot and grumpy souls. The 10-litre tank means it’s good for a day of cooling without a refill, though you’ll still need to clean it regularly if you want to avoid a gruesome bacterial smell. Honeywell also recommends running the cooler without the cool function turned on for 15 minutes after use, so that the filter block gets a chance to dry out.

The TC10PE is easy to use, and Honeywell wins extra points for bundling a remote control, even if it’s a cheap credit card-style effort. It’s also quiet on its lower settings, at around 37dBA, although for sleeping we’d still recommend a good pedestal or desktop fan with a night-time mode, as these can be even quieter. Still, there are plenty of times when a fan doesn’t cut it and you need a little extra chilling power, and that’s where this beefy cooler really comes into its own.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 10l; Air circulation: 330m³/hr; Speeds: 3; Oscillation: Yes; Freezer blocks: No; Extra features: Humidification, remote control; Power consumption: 40W; Dimensions: 294 x 279 x 752mm (WDH); Weight: 4.9kg

Buy now from AirConCentre

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