Air Cooler: Should I buy one in Mumbai? NO!

Desert is a perfect place to use an air cooler

It is summer time again, and Mumbai started to get heated up. Sun has not been among the kind to have treated us this way, unfortunately. And many are thinking of buying an air cooler or desert coolers. I remember writing an article way back in 2009 when Mumbai overheated and my last article about hot summer was in 2016. It is common for my blog to see increased hits on this subject every year during the summer season. And it is still relevant in 2019, as the temperature has just started going up that I started using Air Con at home already.

One of the most common thing that people ask is – should I get an air cooler? Now, I have used an air cooler in Mumbai, and I can tell you based on my experience that you should avoid it. I have my reason to avoid it, and here they are;

How does an Air Cooler work?

Because of lower atmospheric humidity in many parts of India, air cooler (more appropriately called Desert Coolers) works well. The mesh behind the fan is wet (flowing water), the air sucks it and throws it outside into the room. The water droplets in the air then get evaporated thanks to the heat from the surroundings. The more the water evaporates, the more the room temperature comes down.

Desert or Air coolers are fixed into a window (like Window A.C. unit) for the best effect to maintain humidity levels inside the room. If humidity levels go up, you will be sweating and would feel the heat. Hence it is essential to place the air cooler into a window. In summary, Desert / Air Coolers are meant for dry weather.

Should I buy water-based Air Coolers or Desert Coolers in Mumbai?

NO! First of all, the coolers work best in dry conditions, which is why they are called “desert-coolers.” Do not listen to anyone who sells or services air-coolers for a living. You should know that they have a vested interest, pretty straightforward. Then you have those who already have bought an ‘air cooler,’ but just because they do not want to appear to be the only fools, would recommend you to buy (yeah, though rare, there exists such a breed of men and women) as well.

Kenstar Double Cool DX Air Cooler - Similar to cooler I own
Kenstar Double Cool DX Air Cooler – Similar to cooler I owned

Mumbai and surrounding areas are very hot and humid. If you add more humidity in a room, you will sweat even more. The expected cooling effect can last only for 10-15 minutes. The best use of a desert cooler in Mumbai and surrounding suburbs is as very costly fan! Do not use water cooling, whatsoever!

But I checked out the cooler at showroom and it works well!

Trust me, you totally ignored the fact that the Showroom already has A/C running to keep it cool. It is a common mistake that I have seen many make (including myself).

Showrooms which sell the coolers do have air conditioned their premises. Thus, whenever you ask for a demonstration, the cooler throws in the cooler air from the surroundings, thanks to the air conditioner in the show room.

You are inadvertently tricked into believing that its the cooler that is throwing in cool air.

How can I check humidity levels?

Well, sure there are scientific ways to measure Humidity, for us ‘aam aadmi’ common man it may not make sense to purchase a kit just for the sake of it. However, if you insist, here is a link to find the best and cheapest humidity meters.

There is a way to gauge whether you can use an air-cooler without measuring humidity.
If you are living about 20-40 kms away from sea shore, then chances are your humidity levels will remain higher than usual. If you live in 5-10 kms radius of a lake or a river, likewise, the levels may remain higher than normal.

If you live near a water body, the area will be humid during summers. Those who stay in 20-40 kms from the sea shore will be living in humid areas as well!

Are there any other reasons?

Yes of course. As I said earlier, any desert cooler works the best if it is installed correctly like a window a/c unit (since everyone is familiar with it). In Mumbai, if you own a flat, chances are that you do not want to dig that big a hole in the wall for an Air Cooler unit! You may still decide to go ahead, and it is your choice. However, I do not think it is worthwhile the cost.

Air Coolers also do not come in same sizes as A.C. units. But then, if you can do that why not go for an Air Conditioning unit instead? Primarily, it is only tenants who go after desert coolers to get respite from heat during harsh summers. Their flat owners care two cents to install an AC unit for the benefit of tenant.

What are desert cooler alternatives?

You only have two realistic options. One is to get yourself a window or split Air Conditioning unit and the other to get yourself a powerful fan. A.C. allows for consistent temperature in the room irrespective of climate changes outside. Though it is on the expensive side, it ensures pure comfort from heat.

Remember, that fans operating especially during summers feel different than in other seasons.

And you have any suggestions on how to reduce the heat?

If super Khan can convince you to use a talcum powder in this heat to make you cool, then can I do it as well? I am sure you and I can talk at length on many ideas to manage temperature naturally, though realistically, only a few things are viable.

You cannot redo a built building to include some innovative cooling solutions. You may or may not be in a financial position to add glass walls so that heat does not penetrate as much into the building. Still, there are a few things you can do:

  1. If there is one thing that is easy, it is planting many more trees. Plant more and more trees, and help nature get its balance back. Let’s try to be Bhutan, the only country in the world that is proudly carbon negative and promised to remain so forever.
  2. Go Solar: harness the power of sun-light (and heat) and stop burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. Not only solar, but any form of electricity derived from cleaner sources. Getting free electricity will help reduce the Air conditioning bill as well.
  3. Stop or aid in stopping pollution as much as you can. I know this is easier said than done, however doable.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

  1. Vinoth says

    There are number of reasons that cause the break of air conditioners. These problems are however, not recognized immediately. The problems are usually perceived only when the temperature of outside air is increased that result in the gradual increase of temperature of room as well. It’s quite normal for an air conditioner to operate, although it blows only the warm air.

    MD,Sree Service

  2. Vilas says

    Air ventilation system must be proper.we must fix exost fan on top of wall. Allow fresh air in ,don’t close windows .

    1. Hemal Shah says

      Good suggestion Vilas, however I don’t think this will really help as much given that moist air is heavier and hence tends to lie lower than warm air.

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