28 July 2022


After a mostly-mild early summer, my area is now in the middle of what looks to be a week-long heat wave.  The high on Tuesday reached 102 and Wednesday apparently 96, and the temperatures are expected to stay like that through Sunday.  I know this isn't as hot as some areas have been getting, but Portland is not geared for this kind of thing -- most housing doesn't have built-in air conditioning, for example.  And heat waves that get that high, besides being rare, almost never last a full week.  The governor has declared an "extreme heat emergency" for twenty-five counties.

As I write this, it's a little after midnight and the air outside has only just now become noticeably cooler than inside.  My normal method for dealing with heat waves is to open the windows in the early morning and let the cool air in for a few hours, then close everything up at sunrise.  It helps, but it only works if the air outside really does cool down in the early morning.  I do have a portable air conditioner, but the building management's rules for setting up such things are too onerous to bother with.

Others have it worse.  Despite a state law guaranteeing renters the right to use air conditioning, some landlords are threatening fines or eviction for doing so.  Usually the stated reason is that window air conditioners are unsightly and they want the building fa├žade to look nice, though I suspect that deep down it's just a matter of "assholes gonna asshole".  Either way, if a few elderly people die from heat stroke, screw them, apparently.


Blogger Mike said...

Google swamp coolers. There are all kinds of DIY cooler plans.

28 July, 2022 00:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mike: I've heard of those, but they seem to me to violate the laws of physics. Where does the heat go? There's no process that can make heat simply disappear. Regular air conditioners transfer heat to air which can then be dumped outside the building. Evaporation cools down the object from which liquid is being evaporated, but the heat energy doesn't disappear -- what's happening is that the fastest (warmest) molecules of liquid are being dispersed into the air, so that the liquid left behind is cooler, but the heat goes into the surrounding atmosphere.

I suspect that, if they do work, it's because people are filling them with cold water from refrigerators and it's just a rather complicated way of having the water absorb some heat from the air, nothing to do with evaporation.

28 July, 2022 00:51  
Blogger One Fly said...

They work real good Infidel but not if humidity is high. Something like a mister outside but you don't feel moister as such. There's a fan involved too. Plain water is used nothing cooled.

28 July, 2022 05:52  
Anonymous Cop Car said...

In Albuquerque (1983-1990), I had a swamp cooler that worked great at cooling down my house, except during the wet season of August. The downside was that I had to open doors or windows to let the air being pumped in, out, thus I couldn't leave it running when I was away from home. (I was on travel much of the time, usually having an apartment in California while on temporary assignment there. I sometimes came home for a weekend to find a burst can of food in the pantry.)

It is all relative. While it is (on average) the hotter molecules that leave the water, those molecules are cooler than the molecules of the hot air in the house and equilibrate with them, cooling the house. The source of the water for my swamp cooler was a water line that ran up to the roof-mounted cooler from the utility closet in my garage. I once got a panic call from a friend who was in our Albuquerque office when a neighbor had called to say that my (flat) roof was flooding. I asked my friend to retrieve my house key from my office, let himself into my house, and shut off the saddle valve of the water line to the cooler.

Come to think of it, Hunky Husband and I had a window-mounted swamp cooler in the first house that we rented here in our little berg in Kansas (1960). Not very effective since Kansas is, on the whole, more humid than Albuquerque.

28 July, 2022 06:55  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

I grew up in Nebraska, so I know heat and humidity. I spent almost a year in Houston, 'nuf said. I lived in Denver for a number of years and it got quite hot there during summer. When I partnered with Jerry, who is from New York, and we were looking for a house to buy here in Portland, OR, I had two requirements: Central air (window units are too noisy), and off-street parking. I feel bad for apartments dwellers, especially those with asshole landlords.

28 July, 2022 08:41  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

One Fly & Cop Car: Thanks for the tips, I'll give it a try.

While it is (on average) the hotter molecules that leave the water, those molecules are cooler than the molecules of the hot air in the house and equilibrate with them, cooling the house

That would explain it if the water in the cooler is colder than the air temperature in the room -- which it probably would be if it's ordinary tap water, since water at 80 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit would feel very warm. It seems to me the water would need to be a lot cooler than the air to have much of an effect, though. So what you're really doing is bringing cool water into the room and then using the cooler to disperse the coolness into the room -- or, to be more accurate physics-wise, the water is absorbing heat from the air moving through the cooler, and that air then lowers the average room temperature by absorbing heat from the ambient air.

I'd be curious if anyone has a definite answer, from a physics viewpoint, to where the heat is going as the room cools down -- is it as I described, or is there more to it. Because it's fundamentally impossible for heat to just disappear. Heat can only be rearranged, and most systems that do that produce additional heat by operating.

Ricko: Sounds like you had your priorities right. Installed air conditioning isn't common here because most of the year isn't hot -- but of course lately the summers have been getting worse and worse.

Landlords are always a crapshoot. Mine smothers you in nitpicking rules about everything -- if the annual lease agreement were printed out on paper it would be dozens and dozens of pages. On the other hand, they're pretty good about dealing with noisy neighbors, and it's a peaceful area, miles away from all the rioting and vandalism downtown. On the whole it's a good place.

28 July, 2022 11:16  
Blogger jenny_o said...

I have no advice about cooling off but I have loads of sympathy, not that that helps. Like your region, we never needed air cooling until recent years. The heat has gotten so much worse here in the summers that many homeowners and apartment owners are installing heat pumps, which also work to provide cool air when needed. I'm seriously looking at that as an alternative to window air conditioners because I have electric heat and it would help with that expense too. The cost of electricity may be one more reason landlords discourage air con units, too.

28 July, 2022 12:53  
Anonymous Cop Car said...

It's been a year or two since I took Thermo (1957?) I'm no longer competent to even think about this stuff - lol. I failed to mention the latent energy of phase transition. I recommend the "Evaporative Cooling" and "Enthalpy of vaporization" articles in Wikipedia. (I don't recall if you allow links, so I'll refrain.)

28 July, 2022 13:24  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jenny_o: I appreciate your sympathy. Right now it's 2:10 AM and still sweaty hot. I'm sorry to hear that your area (Nova Scotia?) is getting like this too. I guess it's happening everywhere.

Cop Car: Thanks, I'll see if those answer the question. I don't object to links in comments per se -- it depends what they link to.

29 July, 2022 02:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing about being under 40 is (besides the way certain people on Daily Kos see "under 60" as "diaper years"), thanks to the GFC, affording a house that's up to code is not an option.

29 July, 2022 03:59  
Blogger Infidel753 said...



Grain-Fed Cows?

Great Feast of Cthulhu?

God-Fearing Christians?

Global Farting Contest?

German-French Coalition?

Gay-Friendly Churches?

Glut of Families with Children?

Greasy Fried Chicken?

Galactic Federation of Cornholers?

Whoever they are, they have a lot to answer for.

29 July, 2022 05:31  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I heard about landlords not wanting the window AC's in the windows because it looks bad. I can't imagine being such a jerk when it's that hot.

30 July, 2022 15:07  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

They want it to look nice for people who are looking for apartments. It doesn't seem to occur to them that when prospective new renters look at the building and see no air conditioners in this kind of weather, they'll realize the management is probably assholing the tenants and look elsewhere.

30 July, 2022 21:18  

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