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In 1908, Oscar Palmer of Phoenix devised an innovative system for coooling rooms in his home. It consisted of an electric fan, fiber pads that absorbed water, and tubing that allowed water to drip over the pads. That simple gadget would transform life in the desert, and by the 1930s make almost inhabitable places such as the Colorado River Valley tolerable even during the months of summer.

Building evaporative coolers soon became a cottage industry. Martin Thornburg and Paul Thornburg of the University of Arizona devised an easy to build unit and in 1933 began mimeographing instructions for construction and use.

Even though the effectiveness of the “swamp” cooler was limited by humidity levels, it represented a dramatic advancement for people living in the desert southwest. By 1936, Phoenix, Arizona was the primary manufacturing center for units as well as parts and companies such as Palmer Manufacturing, International Metal Products, Polaraire Cooler, Wright Manufacturing and Mountainaire Manufacturing were thriving even in the midst of the Great Depression.

Aside from humidity that rendered the evaporative cooler useless, water, a precious commodity in the desert, even in the Colorado River Valley, could make the cooler impractical. Data pertaining to evaporative cooler water use are scarce as until recently there was little research. And, of course, location of the cooler, size of the unit and building being cooled and other factors all influence cooler water use.

Several years ago Jeffrey Cook, a Phoenix based architect, estimated that a 4500 CFM (cubic foot per minute) evaporative cooler operating under ideal weather conditions used 200 gallons of water per day. A more scientific study was conducted in 1990 by the Tucson Water Company. The estimate was that cooling a 1,500 square foot home on average used approximately four gallons of water per hour or 96 gallons per day.

Still, during the past WWII years the evaporative cooler was a key component in fueling a wave of immigration to the desert southwest and southern Califronia that transformed towns and cities. Then as air conditioning became widely available for a relatively reasonable price, that wave became a tsunami. The next evolutionary stage of beating the desert heat in home or officce came near the dawn of the new century as HVAC systems began replacing air conditioning units.

Contractor’s, real estate agents, and home builders often toss out the term air conditioning system and HVAC system as though they were interchangeable. Occasionally it is a slip of the tongue. But, as odd as it may seem, sometimes it is because there is an assumption that the two terms are describing the same thing.

There is a definitive difference between the two units. All HVAC systems include air conditioning. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. So, an HVAC unit will heat as well as cool a home or office. And it will also provide ventilation needed for the escape of moisture. A complete HVAC system includes ducts specifically to allow for proper ventilation.

AC or air conditioning is simply a unit that cools the air using heat exchange. It is far more effective than an evaporative cooler. But it only has seasonal applicability, a long season in Bullhead City.

Regardles of how you cool your home, repair, maintenance and even installation is as easy as one phone to the professionals at Airzona Comfort Solutions, the Colorado River Valleys leading heating and cooling solutions company.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America


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