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How the Desert Quickly Changed My Thinking on Air Conditioning

air conditionerI only lived in the Mojave Desert for 11 months, but it was enough to change my view on avoiding the heat and how I wanted to live in a home with central air conditioning for the rest of my life.

Before moving to the desert for my first job as a reporter after graduating from college, I never lived with full-time air conditioning, such as from ActronAir. I didn’t need it. I lived in a temperate climate in the San Francisco Bay Area my entire life, and the homes I lived in didn’t have central air and didn’t need it. A quiet fan or wall air conditioner that was about as loud as a truck and only cooled one room was good enough in the summer.

Other than my stint in the desert, I’ve since lived in the Bay Area my entire life. While jobs and housing prices have forced me to move inland where it’s hotter in the summer than it is by the bay, I thought I could live with only a wall AC unit.

Those 11 months in the desert, however, changed my mind.

A swamp cooler blowing dust

Living in 100-degree days in the dry desert heat will change how you think about a lot of things. Among them are the need to stay hydrated and constantly drink water, the downsides of only being able to afford a rental that has a swamp cooler, and how one day when you can afford it, you vow that you’ll never live in such hot conditions again and will spend every penny you have to have a home completely cooled by central air conditioning.

As a poor newspaper reporter, I could barely afford to rent a small home where the yard was dirt and gravel and the only cooling the home had was a swamp cooler. If you don’t know what a swamp cooler is, consider yourself lucky.

It’s a big metal box on the roof that spins a cylinder inside to blow cool air into a home. Where does the cool air come from on a hot day? From water that runs over the fan. The water isn’t cooled, so it doesn’t blow in much cool air, as advertised.

What it does blow in is dust, which is usually hot and well, dust. It’s not fun.

Sweating my fingertips off

After living in high heat for about nine months, I discovered that I woke up so thirsty in the middle of the night that I had to keep getting up and going to the fridge to get a cold drink of water. Eventually I shortened the trip by putting a cooler of Gatorade next to my bed and drinking from that.

No matter how much I drank during the day, I was still getting dehydrated. How much? Enough that the skin on the tips of my fingers started peeling away from sweating and drying out so much.

I went to a doctor and his advice was simple — leave town. I could take a salt pill to help solve the missing fingertips, he suggested, but essentially the best solution was to move to a cooler climate.

Movin’ on up with air conditioning

So I found a new job and moved back to the Bay Area. While it was cooler, the summers in Tracy, Fairfield, Walnut Creek and Concord — where I moved on to new jobs as a journalist who still couldn’t afford more than an apartment with a wall air conditioning unit — were still plenty hot.

The wall AC units tended to cool the room they were in and not much more. They practically turned the room into a freezer, which is better than blazing hot, but the coolness didn’t get to the back bedroom.

My vow to get central air conditioning wasn’t fulfilled yet. That would require moving to a better apartment or buying a home with central air. I’d done enough renting for a lifetime, so it seemed like it was the right time to buy a house. And only a house with central air conditioning.

That was my main requirement when my wife and I started searching for homes to buy. We found a condo and since it had central air, I agreed that it was a great place and worth the cost.

A year later we outgrew the condo and looked for a house in an older neighborhood. The small homes were built in the 1950s and it was hard to find one with central air. But we did, and that was all I needed to convince me it was the perfect home.

How the Desert Quickly Changed My Thinking on Air Conditioning is a post from: When Life Gives You Lemons. Did you like the post? Follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook, or hop on over to my blog and leave me your feedback.

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