Indian Air Coolers / Water Coolers / Evaporative Coolers

. . .

Kinda Like Air Conditioning; More Like a Strong Fan 


India gets hot in the summer!

An air conditioner is converted into an air water cooler at the Shanti Lodge in Agra, India
An air conditioner is converted into an air water cooler at the Shanti Lodge in Agra, India

By the time Carrie, Lauren, Lulu and I checked into the Shanti Lodge in Agra, it was May and the barometer was topping 110 degrees.

But we’re backpackers, and the idea of paying $20 for a room with air conditioning seemed absurd. So instead, we opted for the $7 (350 rupee) room with a water cooler.

A “what?!,” you ask?

  1. Take a wire-framed box.
  2. Put a fan inside.
  3. Cover the wire with straw.
  4. Place the box in a trough of water.
  5. Run a hose from the water to the top.
  6. Let the water drain down the straw sides.
  7. Collect & recirculate the water at the bottom.
  8. Aim the fan into a room.
  9. Relax in front of cooling gale force winds.
  10. Refill with a hose every few hours.

/ / / / / / / / / / / /

What’s an Evaporative Cooler Actually Doing?

To start, Indian water coolers also are known as air coolers or evaporative coolers.

The Evaporative Cooler that kept our room livable at the Shanti Lodge in Agra, India
The Evaporative Cooler that kept our room livable at the Shanti Lodge in Agra, India

When dry, an air cooler acts like a normal fan: pumping out room-temperature wind. However, when “loaded” with water, the hot air is filtered through a membrane of wet straw and instantly cooled.

Constant movement keeps the actual water cool. When in use, water is continually being cycled from a tray at the cooler’s base, up a tube and down the straw outer membrane. The whole time, a fan is blowing already-cool air on the dripping water, further cooling it.

Tech Spec: Temperatures are reduced to 3 to 5 °C (6 to 10 °F) below ambient air temperature, while relative humidity is about 85%. (sources: FAO and Wikipedia)

/ / / / / / / / / / / /

Where to Find Indian Water Coolers

In India’s dryer regions, water coolers are a common alternative to air conditioning. One big reason is their lower electrical cost, as they essentially are a glorified fan.

Most markets in Rajasthan sell them alongside locks, plastic chairs, samosas and saris, while also using them to keep their shop cool. During a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra, India, we couldn’t help but laugh at how many shopkeepers were sitting or sleeping directly in front of their air cooler.

A shopkeeper using an air cooler to keep cool at an outdoor market in Fatehpur Sikri, India
A shopkeeper using an air cooler to keep cool at an outdoor market in Fatehpur Sikri, India

/ / / / / / / / / / / /

Jet Engine, Television or Air Cooler?

Evaporative coolers range in size from around one square foot to industrial versions that take up entire rooms. The one that cooled our room at Shanti Lodge in Agra, India, was roughly five feet tall, two feet wide, and as loud as a jet engine.

Meanwhile, this what we saw from inside the room:

The dirty fan that pumped cool air through the evaporative cooler in our hotel room at the Shanti Lodge in Agra, India
The dirty fan that pumped cool air through the evaporative cooler in our hotel room at the Shanti Lodge in Agra, India

Gross, huh?!

My question for you is, have you ever seen one of these?

If so, where, and how loud, was it?

 

Share the Journey

  • Amar98

    I have seen one! I was visiting Iraq, in 2010, and that was their second floor cooling units. It wasn’t particularly loud, and I was so grateful for the cooling off it enabled…LL