The Frontal Cortex

Air-Conditioning the Outside

Can we get any more self-indulgent? These desert dwellers have decided that the best way to survive the summer heat is to install gigantic misters and air-conditioners in their backyard.

Not content to spend summers housebound, Berger and his wife, Eileen, decided to reclaim their backyard with a misting system, a device that cools outdoor areas through the evaporation of a super-fine mist.

As Berger and I settle into chaise lounges with a view of his pool and palms, we chill to the whoosh of 50 tiny nozzles shooting out 3-foot-long plumes of fog from the periphery of the patio roof. The spray vaporizes before it touches us, leaving behind cooling clouds. Peering through this billowing hydro curtain, I get the sudden sensation that I’m tucked behind a Hawaiian waterfall. It’s a tropical vacation moment in the middle of the desert.

This is ridiculous. It’s not enough that you have to play golf in the desert, or chill the inside of your home to a chilly 68 degrees when it’s 110 outside. Now you have to cool the backyard, too? If you wanted a “billowing hydro curtain,” then why did you move to the Sonoran desert? What idiots.

Comments

  1. #1 Benjamin Cohen
    August 17, 2006

    This is what I guess we used to think of as unbelievable. But my fear is that this increased energy use (from the “need” for cooler air, to preserve the “right” to enjoy a backyard) will further justify the need for more power generation — say, nuclear — since, well you know, we need more energy. To cool our backyards. In the desert.

  2. #2 Katherine Sharpe
    August 17, 2006

    Well, how much power (and water) do these misters use? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no big fan of air conditioning (and I find it especially depressing that so many places are air conditioned even to the point that they become uncomfortably cold). But can we judge this technology before we know what the damage is?

  3. #3 Jonah
    August 17, 2006

    They use 40-60 gallons of water per hour. That’s alot of water in the desert.

  4. #4 Geoff Wozniak
    August 17, 2006

    In principle, I don’t object to this. In practice, they are being irresponsible with resource usage. There’s no reason we can’t change our environment for comfort, but it’s usually not conducive to the common good. Using 300+ litres of water an hour (plus electrical costs) isn’t such a case, from where I sit.

    I wouldn’t call them idiots for wanting a cooler backyard; I’d call them idiots for thinking they have a “right” to such a thing and can use public resources to do so in the manner that they are.

  5. #5 RPM
    August 17, 2006

    These things are everywhere in Phoenix. And in the lines at Six Flags Magic Mountain (outside Los Angeles).

  6. #6 ryan
    August 17, 2006

    I’m a bit concerned with the attitudes expressed here. I think as we look towards the future we need to see the idea of consumption as a good thing. Anti-Nuclear bigotry and the admonition to conserve just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Maybe we need to consider some changes to how we deliver goods (it does seem silly to evaporate potable water for cooling, but it sounds like a GREAT use for rough filtered greywater) and what price we sell them at, but we’re never going to move on to the next level (post oil) without real sources of energy. That means in the short term nuclear and in the long term solar. And if we get enough power for cheap enough then water becomes a non-issue and we can just freakin’ get on with it.

  7. #7 DavidD
    August 17, 2006

    How much of the negativity relates to never experiencing a misting system? I was at a minor league baseball park in California where I’m sure it helped their attendance to have one. I’ve never been at someone’s home where they had one, but it’s not like having slaves fan you, you know.

    Human beings are adaptable or they never would have left Africa. Why not have some respect for that? To say that cultural evolution should go as you say it should go requires a heavy burden of proof, more than the imprecision and contempt involved in calling people idiots.

    Or is this just like when I was a kid and I was supposed to clean my plate because children in India were starving? As if the two are related.

    I spend the greatest part of my time now volunteering for the needy. I would be happy to see a consciousness develop throughout our society that makes their needs a high priority. Even if that happens, though, there could be resources left for misting systems. Do you want to be the great dictator and say no, resources are to be used as you say so, or do you want people to be able to choose? It’s a moot question, of course. People will want to choose whenever they can, shooting any dictator in the head if they have to. Cultural evolution – it’s a neglected concept. It’s neuroscience as well as social science. Maybe we could have functional MRI to show just how much people want their misters, and not to mess with them when the images are past a certain threshold. 21st century science will change everything.

  8. #8 Jonah
    August 17, 2006

    I’ll admit: I’m surprised by all the dissenting comments. But you all make excellent points, and I regret my use of “idiot”. In general, I’m all in favor of letting the market work its irrational course; if people want to buy misters and industrial AC units, then so be it. However, what annoys me about these individuals is that they get upset at hot summers but live in the desert. I mean, if the heat bothers you that much, then move somewhere else. I live in New England. I would love to heat my porch in January – I yearn for outside air in the winter – but I don’t do it. Why? Because it’s wasteful and unnecessary. I know I live in a cold continental climate. I just wish desert dwellers could realize that living in Phoenix, or Las Vegas, or Palm Desert, also entails a little climactic compromise. You shouldn’t have gloriously green lawns or huge fountains or inject 60 gallons of drinkable water into the afternoon air every hour. Of course, there is little the rest of us can do but condemn the plethora of golf courses in Arizona or hotel lakes in Vegas. The American Southwest has already been built; the Colorado river has already been destroyed.

  9. #9 Mark
    August 17, 2006

    Need I point out that water is not a limitless commodity in the desert, as Jonah noted? That is, after all, what makes it a desert. Depending on where they are, water used for this may be water that someone downstream needs for growing crops or even drinking. Or, if it comes from wells, it might be from a fossil water aquifer that cannot be replenished except over geological time scales. In the desert of Southern California, they take water from all sorts of basins that do not drain into that area. I don’t call them idiots. I call them selfish and irresponsible.

  10. #10 bigTom
    August 17, 2006

    Well using evaporation for cooling in dry climates, has been used for a very long time. Until recently most (indoor) space cooling was via evaporative cooling. You are probably using outdoor evaporative cooling via the use of grass. Some people are pushing for “green roofing” -planting grass gardens on urban rooftops, to reduce coolig demand, and reduce the urban heat island effect. Personally I think that money is mis-spent, a few gallons of white paint would provide more cooling at a fraction of the cost.
    In any case, it is true that the southwest is constrained by a limited supply of water- a little wastage here, simply means that the maximum sustainable population is a little bit lower- and it will be a lot easier to force people to shut off their misters, then to force the excess population out, come the next drought.

  11. #11 air conditioning perth
    April 12, 2010

    It is very excessive cooling your back yard but that is society for you, rather than solve the problem before it happen fix the problem no matter the cost is to the enviroment send the guys to iceland if they want to cool down lol