Sunday, July 17, 2011

Prairie Air Conditioning

When I moved to Saskatchewan in July 1985 , I hit a wall of heat .

This was a new experience for me : 42 degrees celsius and absolutely no humidity- unlike Ontario .  

I could feel the water literally being sucked out of my body . Sweat evaporated before it had time to collect into a drop on my forehead . Thus , there was no cooling effect of evaporation . The water dissipated too soon to reduce my body temperature. I felt sure the few clouds that did occasionally build in the sky were formed from evaporated human sweat.

How did these hearty prairie people manage to do it ?

Well, unique ( in my experience) to Saskatchewan is the one gallon Slurpee . These are cold drinks sold in a chain of corner confectionary stores .

 I knew of Slurpees, but never had I seen these supersized containers complete with a carrying handle and a three foot long straw . People on the street were actually walking around , casually enjoying the heat with a straw as a permanent fixture to their lips. Several hundred thousand gallons of this drink are sold annually during July alone , making the province the Slurpee Capital of North America .

Lesson #1: How to stay cool: Keep up a steady supply of water replacement.

In the restaurants , no matter what I ordered , my lips became burned/chapped . All cooked items were heartily salted conserve water in the body I was informed- although I wondered if the thirst for Slurpees was increased by the overly generous dosing of salt. I did discover in time that salt was a seasonal thing in restaurants . It was doubled in the hot months . Salt was good for you . It helped to retain water thus preventing looking like a prune.

Lesson#2: How to stay cool: Use more salt.

Wearing bandanas folded and tied around the forehead was most noticeable among pedestrians and outside workers . "Why are they wearing sweatbands? They never collect evaporates immediately," I observed critically.

Apparently, the purpose was to collect the water and delay the evaporation long enough to feel the natural cooling process before the air sucked it away . I was suffering so I tried it . And it worked . I was always cooler with the sweatband . I still to this day use one if I am going to be working outside in the heat .

Lesson#3: How to stay cool : Wear a sweatband.

Air conditioning in all public buildings is standard and Saskatchewan was no different . But most people at that time did not have air conditioners to alter the temperature inside the home . They were of frugal farm stock and people in general could not  justify the expenditure for only two months of intensely hot weather mid-summer .

 Homes were well insulated against extreme winter cold and this worked in their favour come July. Well insulated homes slowed down the heat build up as the sun beat down relentlessly . To further cool the house , when July approached the roll of Prairie Air Conditioning ( as it was affectionately called) was pulled from the kitchen cupboard . A drive anywhere showed that housewives across the province faithfully applied it to the windows that directly faced the sun at anytime during the day.

Aluminum foil stockprices jumped I'm sure with all the barbecuing outside and the installation of reflective window shields against the sun . The result : cool homes by as much as 10 or 15 degrees.

Lesson#4:How to keep cool : Install Prairie Air Conditioning.

Yesterday , in anticipation of a three week hot spell , I put up my PAC . And I thank the people of Saskatchewan for making my life a lot more bearable when the sun beats down .

It ain't pretty ...but it works.

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