The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

These days, air conditioning hard to live without


September 8, 2019

I’ve become soft in my old age. I get reminded of how soft I am every August.

Each August I spend a good deal of time at the fairgrounds inside the only buildings I’m inside during the summer with evaporative cooling.

I grew up under a swamp cooler and didn’t know anything else. If the cooler was working right and the air wasn’t too humid it felt great. Sure, when you woke up in the morning it was just a bit damp in the house. But by 10 a.m. the temperature outside had turned that around.

I think the biggest secret to how well those swamp coolers cooled our houses back then was because we spent a lot more time outside in the sun working or playing. If you go out and cut a lawn in 100-degree temperatures later today, even a poorly functioning swamp cooler is going to feel great.

I got pretty good at working on evaporative coolers. Their design and parts were simple enough for even my brain to comprehend. You have a great big pan of water in the bottom of a box with vented sides with aspen twig pads inside them. A pump in the bottom of the pan sends the water through a hose to the top of the cooler where it is distributed through a spider-legged distributor that kept the pads wet. A big “squirrel cage” fan then pulled the hot, dry air through the pads, humidifying the air and giving the air at least a “cooler feel” as it was blown into the room or ducting of a building.

The main things you did to maintain the cooler was change the pads and the pumps. You also had to keep the distributor from getting clogged from hard water deposits and leaves and gunk that could blow into the pan and get sucked up. Often the hose could be disconnected from the pump and you could blow through the hose to get things flowing again.

The other thing that would happen would be the carrier bearings on the squirrel cage would get dry and you had to oil them or you would be changing them out soon. You also ran the risk of burning out a motor.

You also had to occasionally adjust the belt on the squirrel cage motor. Between bearings, belts and other factors each cooler had its own unique sound and sometimes vibration patterns.

The worst place I ever worked under a swamp cooler was in the press room at Tucumcari. Humidity and newsprint weren’t real compatible. Working in a really hot shop wasn’t much fun either.

Businesses seemed to switch first to “refrigerated” air conditioning then homes followed later. This past week I was in a couple of doctors offices cold enough to hang meat and one hot enough to make Satan pleased.

We don’t completely have air conditioning dialed in but it would be hard to live without — even if my last electric bill was a whopper.

I like it cool.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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