What is the difference between portable evaporative cooling and air conditioning?

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Written by Craig Boyle on 27 Mar 2024

Cooling has become a summer necessity in Australia, especially as some parts, such as Western Sydney, see temperatures above 40°C. 

According to the NSW government’s AdaptNSW website, over 2.5 million people live in Western Sydney, which is about 6-10°C warmer than other parts of the city. Climate modelling predicts this area will get an additional 20 days over 35°C in a year by 2070. Unfortunately, the situation will only be exacerbated as more green spaces are cleared to develop houses and buildings that radiate and absorb heat.

Portable evaporative coolers draw in warm air through water-saturated pads to cool it down, dispensing cooler air into the surroundings. This is particularly effective in hot, dry climates but less in humid areas. Evaporative coolers are a great alternative to air conditioning units in hot and dry climates and areas where traditional air conditioners are not feasible. 

Air conditioners cool air through a refrigeration cycle and release it into the room. They are efficient and provide excellent cooling but may use more energy than an evaporative cooler. They may also be less effective in large rooms or outdoor spaces. 

While air conditioners have become the norm, breakdowns and inadequate cooling remain challenges, which is where portable air conditioners and evaporative coolers play a great supporting role. We’ll learn the difference between the two and environments where they are best suited. 

What is Portable Evaporative Cooling?

Portable evaporative cooling is an efficient method of lowering temperatures in various environments using the natural process of water evaporation. A fan draws warm air into water-saturated pads. The air passes through these pads, causing the water to evaporate and absorb heat. Cooler air is then dispersed into the surroundings to reduce the temperature. 

This technology is particularly effective in hot, dry climates, offering a cost-effective, eco-friendly alternative to traditional air conditioning systems. In humid climates, the air is filled with moisture, significantly reducing the system’s ability to evaporate water and, consequently, its cooling efficiency. Regions with low humidity levels benefit the most from evaporative cooling.

Evaporative cooling is commonly used in hot, dry factories and warehouses where traditional air conditioners are less effective. These vast, open spaces are often subject to heat generated by machinery and processes, making evaporative cooling hire in Sydney a highly effective and optimal solution for maintaining a comfortable working environment and preventing overheating.

What is Portable Air Conditioning?

Portable air conditioners are standalone, flexible units that can be placed in different spaces for your temporary cooling needs. They extract warm air from the environment, cool it through a refrigeration cycle, and release the cooled air back into the room. This process involves drawing hot air through a filter, which is then passed over cooling coils filled with refrigerant. Fans within the unit then dispel cool air into the room.

They serve a vital role in the workplace, especially in environments where central air conditioning is not feasible or inadequate or in areas where additional cooling is required. They are particularly beneficial for cooling computer server rooms, temporary office spaces, and areas where heat-generating equipment is used. These units help maintain a comfortable working temperature, enhancing employee comfort and productivity while protecting equipment from overheating.

Unlike fixed air conditioning systems, portable units do not require permanent installation and serve the temporary cooling needs of homes and workplaces. You can hire portable air conditioners in Sydney in various sizes and capacities to suit your space. But before you do, you may want to consider some factors to ensure you choose the right supplier. 

Differences Between Evaporative Cooling and Air Conditioning

evaporative cooler hire

Portable evaporative coolers and air conditioning systems differ primarily in their cooling methods, energy efficiency, maintenance requirements, and environmental impact.


Evaporative coolers use water-soaked pads and a fan to evaporate water into the air, thereby cooling it. Conversely, air conditioners use refrigerants to cool indoor air and dehumidify it, working effectively in various climates.

Climate Suitability 

Evaporative coolers are useful in dry, hot climates but struggle in humid areas. They also serve a better purpose in larger commercial factories and warehouses or outdoor areas where traditional air conditioners are less effective. 

how much does it cost to rent a portable air conditioner

Energy Efficiency 

Evaporative coolers are usually considered more energy efficient than air conditioners, so their running costs are usually more attractive price-wise. However, newer portable air conditioner models are more energy efficient than before. Often, they are the only solution where humidity plays a part. 


Evaporative coolers do not require installation. However, they are heavy and must be placed correctly to maximise efficiency. Portable air conditioners require venting through a window, door, wall or ceiling so the hot air has somewhere to go outside. This requires professional installation.  

Which is better?

Portable air conditioners are best for climates with higher humidity or smaller rooms, while evaporative coolers are best for open spaces and dry climates. 

Both portable evaporative coolers and air conditioners operate differently and serve different environments. Portable evaporative coolers use the natural evaporation process to cool the air, which can add a degree of moisture, potentially making them more comfortable in arid conditions. 

Air conditioning systems can work in any climate, including humid areas, by actively removing moisture from the air and providing consistent cooling regardless of external weather conditions. However, they consume more energy. 

The choice between the two ultimately depends on the local climate, budgetary constraints, and specific cooling needs. 


Maintaining cool temperatures in the workplace will ensure comfort during warmer months and protect against the adverse effects of extreme heat. Optimal temperatures can protect electronic devices from overheating, ensuring their longevity and reliability. Efficient cooling can also improve air quality by reducing humidity levels and filtering out pollutants and allergens, contributing to overall well-being. 

While there are other cooling options, industrial fans, portable evaporative coolers, and air conditioners are the most common. As an experienced air conditioning hire company in Sydney, Precision Air Rental can help you determine the best cooling option for your office or industrial facility. We often find a combination of different cooling solutions to be most effective. 

We deliver anywhere in Sydney,  provide fast installation and are available on call for any issues – giving you peace of mind knowing you’re in the hands of a professional and reliable air conditioning hire company. 

Craig Boyle

Craig Boyle

Craig is the owner of Precision Air Rental and has been in the air conditioning industry for nearly 10 years. When your building is stifling hot in the middle of summer and you need help cooling it down, Craig and his team will come to the rescue!


Precision Air Rental

Precision Air Rental

Precision Air Rental offers temporary air conditioning products that cater to residential, commercial and industrial properties, and events.
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