Customer Reviews: SPT SF-609 Portable Evaporative Air Cooler with Ionizer
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on June 12, 2011
I hate weeding through the reviews for evaporative coolers because it seems like the majority of bad reviews are from people who have no clue what they are and what they are supposed to do, a few are from people who can't follow basic instructions, and there are only a handful of legitimate negative reviews that are usually due to defective issues.

I live in Denver, CO. It's dry here and it's the perfect climate for evaporative coolers. I've had whole-house swamp coolers in previous homes I've lived and know many friends with them. In my home, I have no option for a portable or window A/C air conditioner as I spend most of my time in our finished basement and there's not a good option for exhaust. Last summer we got quotes for central A/C but it's a lot more money than I want to spend and I also don't want the electricity bill that goes along with it. We have a whole house fan (not to be confused with an attic fan) that we run in early morning before it reaches 70 degrees and that we run again at night, usually after 9pm, or whenever it gets cool enough outside. Sometimes with an afternoon rain shower we turn it on sooner.

I bought the evaporative cooler to supplement the whole house fan on those reallllly hot days and/or for the middle of the day when we we're not running it due to it being hotter outside than it is inside. The house fan cools the ground floor much better than our basement due to the lack of air flow from our basement windows because of the window well covers we have. Also, this summer I'm pregnant with a due date of August 15th and that doesn't help my comfort situation. Basically, an evaporative cooler is exactly what I wanted and what fit our situation.

Think of it as a fan on steroids. Cold air DOES come out of it. Today it is 88 degrees outside and humidity is 16%... a typical Colorado summer day. I have the cooler about 3 feet away from me and 8 feet away from my husband. I have it on high and I'm actually getting cold. I have it on the "swing" setting otherwise I would probably turn it down. It doesn't guzzle through water too quickly and filling it once a day is enough since I'm not running it 24/7. I use a gallon pitcher to fill it up faster since it holds 10 liters (2.5 gallons). I have an automatic ice maker in my fridge so I don't have any issues running out of ice. I can't think of any features it's missing. It's not too loud even on high - it's like a normal fan. There's no smell at all but I do actually change the water frequently and follow the cleaning instructions. Trust me on the smell thing, I can smell anything from very far away ever since I've been pregnant. You can wash the air filter on the back but DO NOT USE WATER to clean the wick. It is meant to be placed in direct sunlight to clean. I think that is why some other people had issues with smell or mold. Follow the directions, please. It has a remote, timers, sleep modes, swing function (just the fan blades inside swing, not the entire unit), warning beeps and visual indicators when it runs low on water (nice feature to avoid burning out the water pump), and an extra place to put ice on top in addition to putting ice in the water tank. You can adjust the blades on the front to direct the air flow whichever way you need to vertically. It also has an ionizer and you can run it as just a fan if you'd like, so no need for a second unit just to get some air circulating.

All in all... this thing does exactly what it says it will do. It's exactly what I wanted. It came assembled, which was a big bonus. It's only 17 lbs and has built in handles on the sides so I can actually carry it upstairs by myself if it's empty, even being super pregnant. It's on wheels to make it easier to push around when I don't have to take it to another floor. It was less than half what other similar units cost for the same tank size and air output.

I've only has this thing for a week. I will be sure to update my review once I've had it for awhile.

UPDATE 6/24 - I've found that when I run this thing on high for 8-10 hours per day, we do need to fill it every day or every other day at the very least (depending on if I fill it to the max level... usually I just add 1 gallon when I fill it). However, when I'm running it on medium or low and not using it as much (more like 5-6 hours per day), it can last about a week without needing a refill. I typically don't bother putting ice in anymore unless it's a day with over 95 degree temperatures and I want extra cold air. The only thing I wish it had was an easy way to drain it in case I want to move it upstairs when it's not empty. However, I don't think any model I looked at had this feature (or at least it wasn't mentioned). It has NEVER made the room feel muggy even with no open windows and honestly I don't feel any difference in the humidity in the room. Almost every day it's been less than 20% humidity outside, and I've never seen it get over 30% outside. I'm still happy with this purchase and stand by my 5 stars. I'm glad I got this instead of spending much more on a similar unit.

UPDATE 6/25/2012 - We didn't use this thing at all once it got cool out last fall. We drained it (easy to do while not pregnant) and put it in our basement storage closet. When we brought it back out a couple weeks ago, I vacuumed the screen on the back, filled it with water and drained it again to rinse it out. No musty smell or anything and it works just as well as last year. The room we normally are using this in stays pretty cool compared to the rest of the house, so now we're purchasing a wall-unit swamp cooler that is 5500 CFMs, hoping it will keep the entire house cool. The only thing I don't like about this cooler is that it's too short to feel it when laying in bed. You can tilt the blades up and down to direct airflow vertically, but it's not enough for a king size bed that's on a frame and box spring. For those of you wondering - the electricity cost is negligible. I don't see any difference in our electricity consumption when we are using it every day compared to when we aren't. However, my husband and I work work full time so we don't use it as much as someone that doesn't work or works from home. I'm still happy with this purchase and thing it's a great portable swamp cooler for the price!

Also, here's a chart that shows evaporative cooler effectiveness based off outside temperature and humidity. I will also post it to the pictures.[...]

UPDATE 4/2/2013 - We still use this thing as a fan and humidifier for our bedroom but have not used it for cooler in over a year. At our last house we got a 5500 CFM window-mounted swamp cooler (a really low profile nice-looking one!) and it cooled the entire house (1600 sqft, 780 above grade) no problem. We actually couldn't run it at night - it made the indoor temperature drop to 65! We had to leave the swamp cooler with the house when we sold it, so we bought another one for our new house. This house is 3100 sq ft (2100 above grade) so it may not cool the entire house, but now that we have A/C, it should supplement it well so we don't have to run it as often. Plus, I HATE A/C now because it's so dry. If anyone is interested, check on the Bonaire Durango Evap Cooler at the big orange home improvement store. This year's model is 5900 CFMs, cools 1900 sq ft, a remote control, and has adjustable louvers. Dang, now I want to upgrade for 300 more sq ft of cooling power!!!! Anyone who is happy with evaporative cooling should go check that thing out, it's absolutely great.
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on May 4, 2013
My wife and I currently live in one of the hottest, driest places in the U.S. -- Las Vegas, NV. Our apartment is mostly shaded and facing away from the direct sun, except for... the HOT room. Our office. "The hot room" faces the south-west side and gets beaten by the direct sun. This little unit is PERFECT for that room. It does a great job of turning the hot room (which is also the room we are in the most) into just another room in the apartment. Now I don't rely on this unit alone to single-handedly take on all 110 degree of Las Vegas heat, but I don't expect it to. It simply does what is intended. It brings the temperature down 10-15 degrees in the room that is generally 10-15 warmer than the rest of the apartment.

So, if you live in a region with hot DRY weather (most of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico), these can supplement your AC, put some moisture in the air and take a nice chunk out of your monthly Air Conditioning bill.

If you live on the East coast, the southern states, the Midwest or any place HUMID, DON'T BUY THIS. It wont do a thing and will probably just make the muggy, oppressive heat WORSE. You've been warned... I lived in Miami for 5 years and understand that 90 degrees in Florida is WORSE than 110 degrees in Las Vegas. This is because of the HUMIDITY, not the HEAT. You don't see "swamp coolers" in Florida because they just add humidity to the air, and that would just make matters worse.

For those who may still be a little puzzled by these and seem to think they're some kind of portable air conditioner... they're not. This is a smaller, updated version of the traditional "swamp cooler" that has been in use on the U.S. west coast & southwest for decades. These work great... IN DRY CLIMATES ONLY!

As a kid growing up in central California, the "swamp cooler" was our ONLY way of keeping cool during the hot, dry summers. Back then, everyone had the BIG, dish washer sized swamp coolers on their roofs or hanging out of their windows. Many people still use them to this day. So how exactly does this mini "swamp cooler" work?

Put a fan in a box. Have some little screens (cooler pads) built into the sides of the box. Pump water over the screens. When the fan blows through the wet pads, it creates a nice, cool breeze. Now, Instead of raking out big money to constantly keep the central AC blasting away, this will use the same amount of energy that a regular house fan uses... a mere 60 watts! That's about 1/5 of what an AC of the same size would use! If you have one of these running in the room were you spend most of your time... and turn the thermostat UP in the rooms that aren't being used, you can save yourself some serious money.

There are quite a few features on this version that I think are great. Remote control, timer, "swing" (shifts the air in the same manor that an oscillating fan does), as well as an emergency "BEEP!" that sounds when the water level is low. The sf-609 also has an ION air purifier feature (I honestly don't notice it one way or another). After checking out the manufacture's website, I believe the only difference between the SF-608 & SF-609 is that the 608 doesn't have the ION gizmo.

The added ice tray on top really is kind of nice too and helps to feed melted ice water over the pads. This will bring the temp down another few degrees, and every little bit helps. Having an automatic ice maker in your fridge will help keep the top tray fed. If you don't have one though, you can away make ice the old fashioned way with empty drink containers. Adding ice really isn't essential though, but it does help a little and can get you closer to AC-like coolness. Another trick I use is to put 2-1 gallon water jugs in the fridge and use them to keep my water nice and frosty.

About the only thing I don't like about this unit so far is that it's a little "plasticy" & seems kind of cheaply made. For $100, they could have made it a little more sturdy. But then, that's how it goes these days... It's pretty much (or in this case COMPLETELY) impossible to find products that are built to last. They just don't make 'em like they used to.

At any rate though, I'm happy with this purchase. I would recommend this to anyone in a dry climate who spends a lot of time in a small to medium sized bedroom.

Stay cool ;)

UPDATE: It's a year later and it's still chugging away as I speak ;) One VERY IMPORTANT thing I forgot to mention:


It's kind of a pain to do and a definite design flaw to have to unscrew everything and put it all back together again every month. But if you don't, it WILL NOT PRODUCE COOL AIR and will just be an oversized fan that recycles warm air.

Something else to note is that unless you're using purified water (which can get expensive), you're probably going to want to give it a good scrub with soap & bleach and hit it with "Lime away" every once in a while. They do get funky if you don't keep them clean.

So, if you don't have the time, are physically unable or just don't want to bother with it, buy a bigger fan or stick with AC. These DO take a little effort to keep clean. I'm OK with doing a little cleaning project every month and I still absolutely LOVE mine.
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on June 18, 2010
I live in California in the Bay Area. Not much humidity and the weather is typically pretty mild but it does get pretty hot in the summer (90+ degrees). I received the unit on a particularly hot day recently and I ran out and grabbed a bag of ice because i wanted to test this things cooling capability. I set it up next to my computer desk and turned on the cool air function. I was sitting about 5 feet from it and in 5 minutes my arm was freezing cold. I was perfectly comfortable the whole day but if i moved from the fan at all the heat was unbearable. This thing does not cool a room but it will cool the area directly in front of it. Once it cooled down a bit I emptied the water (which was made very easy due to the lightness of the unit) into my bathroom sink and used it that night as a normal fan. Its pretty quiet and the fan is powerful. Ive heard these swamp coolers can generate a musty smell so I make sure to empty it of water when I'm done using the cool air function. I only fill it with water when its extremely hot because the fan works fine for me most days. It's a very nice unit and it's exactly what I was looking for. Better than a fan and more efficient that an air conditioner.
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on June 23, 2011
I live in the Bay Area and just received my air cooler earlier this week. Just in time too! We had temperatures that hit 85+ degrees and this air cooler worked perfectly. Following the directions, I added 2/3 water and 1/3 ice in the water tank and added ice on top. Turning on the cool air function, my bedroom was 7-10 degrees cooler and it actually got pretty cold sitting in front of the air cooler. This is a great product that is quiet, energy efficient and does exactly what it was intended to do. THIS IS NOT AN A/C UNIT. Please be realistic with your expectations.
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on August 8, 2005
but not cool air. Doesn't really make much difference the temperature of the water or how much ice (yes, ice) you add, it doesn't do much to cool the air temperature. Dropped the temperature a whopping 1.3 degrees F in my first test (from 85.3 degrees to 84 degrees), and 0.9 degrees F in my second test. Don't bother.
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on June 13, 2015
Works well. About as well as all portable evaporatives.

A negative mentioned by others, the water/ice input on the side is small, about 3" x 4". It drops/swings down and out from the middle on the left side of the uint (right side when facing the front of the unit). So it will spill water when filling unless you are clever, this is very annoying and the biggest fault of this cooler.

We bought a 11" x 14" two inch deep aluminum foil baking pan at the supermarket. We tilt the pan and slide it under the side of the cooler body, under the fill port. The pan will stay cocked at about a 45 degree upwards angle. This will catch any spills as you fill. No funnel is needed with this method.

The unit takes 2-1/2 gallons water/ice. I would use lots of ice, and 1-1/2 gallons water.
The larger 2" ice cubes will take about 4 times longer to melt compared to 1" inch ice cubes,
So the larger cubes work much, much better.
We use six of these in the kitchen freezer : "Scotch Rocks: Large Ice Cube Trays, Set of 2 Ice Trays, Which Produce 2" Ice Cubes"

If you use the cooler all summer, 8 or 10 of these trays will be better, using half and keeping the other trays in reserve, so you don't have to wait for new cubes to freeze.

We don't use or need a funnel because using one is a hassle.
A funnel to fill will need a hose attached to the bottom of the funnel. Also due to the tilt of the opening to the fill port, the funnel will be tilted at an angle. So you would need a long strap around the unit to tuck around the funnel to move it back to level. Or an assistant to just hold the level level. Funnel needs to be wide enough, about 8" or more.

Hint: the water you use is better to be cold, that is pre refridgerated. A large stock pot in the fridge to keep a constant supply of cold water. This takes up a lot of room but makes for much better cooling, regardless of whether ice cubes are used. Ice plus refrigerated water is way to make the cooler work well.

The remote is in my opinion useless because the indicator lights are on the panel which is on top of the cooler. For many functions you need to see the lights to confirm what the controller is doing. The light panel is on top, not on the front where the lights could be seen from a distance. If you are close enough to see the lights, you could just use the panel instead of the remote. About the only functions that you can tell what the remote does from a distance is on/off and swing. Swing is the louvers cycling back and forth to make the air blow back and forth instead of straight ahead. For instance you cannot tell if the cool air is on or off (cool air ON starts the water pump to circulate the water to the top so that it drops down the back filter pad which is necessary for evaporative cooling.

I have no clue about the ION function. I would guess it is supposed to remove organics from the air which might cause mildew,

UPDATE: after using 24/7 for a week, I now do not mind the small water input because when using constantly, just adding ice will keep the water level up without ever having to pour in more water. Adding ice 3 times a day using 3 trays of the type I linked to above keeps the water level constant. The input is ideal for adding ice cubes, but not good for water. Only had to put in water one time (first use) all week.

Also the loud beep is a feature, not a problem: I forgot to add ice for half a day. The unit beeped about 5 beeps once every minute. I did not know what was beeping: dishwasher door not shut or fire alarm battery low? No, it was this cooler. After a half hour of this I realized it was the cooler and refilled it which stopped the beeps. Without that loud warning the water supply would have eventually went dry and the pump motor would have burned out! It started the warning beeps with maybe 15% of water level. Thankful for the very loud beep !!!
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on June 28, 2014
I have two of these in my home I do live in a very dry state, so that's a big help. I can generally count on the keeping my home between 15 and 20 degrees cooler than it is outside. The 15 degrees would be during our monsoon months where we have a higher dew point. I would heartily recommend these. I cool a 1200 sq ft. home with three portable evap coolers, two of these and one I've had for years. I have bought other brands that were much higher priced and had to return them because they just didn't work. All evap coolers are noisy but these aren't as noisy as most and they work. A very important maintenance chore is to be sure to wash the slide in screen filter at the back of the unit. That will keep the unit functioning very well and probably make it last longer. I just take this into my bathroom and wash it out with the hand held shower head. When and if my other older one dies I'll buy another one of these
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on June 27, 2014
I first got a portable evap cooler the first summer I was in AZ, and I've used it for years. When it finally conked out on me, I went looking at various sites to see what to replace it with.

This unit is small (about half the size of the first one I owned), but it works very well for its size. Mind you, it's not meant to be a replacement for the air conditioner, it merely alleviates some of the need for the AC. In fact, this week when the outside temp was 107, I had the unit by the south-facing front door (which was open approximately 8 -10 inches) and the AC did not kick on until almost noon --- 4 hours of temp. maintenance without the roof unit.

Of course, once the monsoon season kicks in, it will be useless ---- this is not an effective machine in higher levels of humidity, but in the dry climate, it helps a lot. Let me repeat for those who are not familiar with "Swamp coolers" --- this will NOT work like an air conditioner. It WILL help keep the temperature down in a small area of your house, in a dry climate. I don't find that it humidifies the space much, but it does help cut down on the random "static electric sparks" that you get in a very low-humidity space.

Hope that helps anyone with no experience in evaporative cooling.....
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on August 3, 2015
 Yes, I know what swamp coolers do and how they work. This one just happens to be junk and pees itself. DO NOT BUY THIS GARBAGE AND BUY ANOTHER UNIT. If I could rate this 0 stars I would
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on September 18, 2013
I used this camping for a week in the desert. I had it running inside of my 10x10 pop up tent and as long as I had some ventilation it kept things very cool and made for easy daytime napping in hot temps... Used less water than I had planned on and only runs on about 50W which is great on the generator.
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