An evaporative cooler (also swamp cooler, swamp box, desert cooler and wet air cooler) is a device that cools air through the evaporation of water. Evaporative cooling differs from typical air conditioning systems, which use vapor-compression or absorption refrigeration cycles. Evaporative cooling uses the fact that water will absorb a relatively large amount of heat in order to evaporate (that is, it has a large enthalpy of vaporization). The temperature of dry air can be dropped significantly through the phase transition of liquid water to water vapor (evaporation). This can cool air using much less energy than refrigeration. In extremely dry climates, evaporative cooling of air has the added benefit of conditioning the air with more moisture for the comfort of building occupants.
The cooling potential for evaporative cooling is dependent on the wet-bulb depression, the difference between dry-bulb temperature and wet-bulb temperature (see relative humidity). In arid climates, evaporative cooling can reduce energy consumption and total equipment for conditioning as an alternative to compressor-based cooling. In climates not considered arid, indirect evaporative cooling can still take advantage of the evaporative cooling process without increasing humidity. Passive evaporative cooling strategies can offer the same benefits of mechanical evaporative cooling systems without the complexity of equipment and ductwork.