Indian Air Coolers
aka, Water Coolers … aka, Evaporative Coolers
They’re kinda like air conditioning … but really, they’re more like a strong and deafening fan that needs constant attention.
It was a balmy 110 degree May day in Agra when we checked into the Shanti Lodge in Agra.
As a backpacker, the idea of paying $20 for a room with air conditioning seemed absurd.
Instead, we opted for the $7 (350 rupee) room with a water cooler.
. . .
A “what?!,” you ask?
- Take a wire-framed box.
- Put a fan inside.
- Cover the wire with straw.
- Place the box in a trough of water.
- Run a hose from the water to the top.
- Let the water drain down the straw sides.
- Collect & recirculate the water at the bottom.
- Aim the fan into a room.
- Relax in front of cooling gale force winds.
- Refill with a hose every few hours.
To start, Indian water coolers also are known as air coolers or evaporative coolers.
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)
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.
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:
My question for you is, have you ever seen one of these?
If so, where, and how loud, was it?