When it’s summertime, the living gets anything but easy in this business. Kids are running through sprinklers in the park, and teenagers are lounging on the couch, but you’re hard at work, sweating it out in a lube shop only partially protected from the sun and heat. No one in his or her right mind is going to blast A/C at a high enough rate to make a difference in these sweltering conditions — the resulting bill would devastate your savings and probably be ineffective anyway. You could close the doors, but the whole reason your quick lube is quick is because the doors stay open. There’s no such thing as a drive-through that you can’t actually drive through.
So, if not for air conditioning, how can a modern tech stay cool when both business and the weather are heating up? A simple overhead fan is just going to push hot air around, doing little to keep you cool. Air conditioning is too expensive and too unreliable for automotive workspaces. Is there an option that will provide adequate cooling, a minimal electrical bill and the versatility to be anywhere you need it, when you need it? Yes! The answer comes in the form of portable evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers.
If you’ve never heard of swamp coolers, these amazing tools are must-have cooling equipment in modern quick-lube facilities. They can be transported anywhere, begin cooling almost immediately and are so cheap that they’ll more than pay for themselves in a single season of heavy use. Here’s what you need to know about using swamp coolers during the sweltering heat.
Hotter the Air, Cooler the Breeze
One of the main concerns people have when they first hear about portable coolers is that the cooler simply won’t be able to lower shop temperatures that spike as high as 90-100 F. This could not be further from the truth. The hotter and drier the air, the better an evaporative cooler will work. In hot conditions, these coolers can reduce air temperatures by as much as 26 F, blasting chilled air across your shop. Multiple coolers will amplify this cooling effect.
How Do Swamp Coolers Work?
There’s no gimmick or wizardry involved here. A swamp cooler is sort of like a mechanical sweat factory. Sounds gross, right? But it’s true. When you sweat, salty water evaporates off your hot skin. The process of evaporation cools the air around your skin, thereby cooling you off.
When you activate your swamp cooler, a pump will draw water from the reservoir tank, up and over the top of an evaporative media. This media may look like simple cardboard, but it’s actually a specialized material that maintains its shape and durability when it gets wet. Water drips down, and perforations in the media let hot air pass through. A large, front-facing fan pulls hot air from the outside, and when that hot air hits the water, the water evaporates and immediately chills the surrounding air. All that cool air gets blown directly into your face. It’s very refreshing!
It may sound kind of complicated and technical at first, but if you think about it, this entire process is very simple. Water drips down the media, evaporates when it meets hot air and then gets blown all over your shop. The simplicity of the design greatly reduces the chance of anything breaking in the unit, so you get a reliable, cool breeze all summer long.
And here’s the truly mind-blowing part: Swamp coolers should only cost a dollar or two a day to operate. Check the rated square footage of the cooler that interests you, and get at least one more unit than you think you need. They don’t take up much space, but everyone who’s ever invested in one will tell you they’re lifesavers.
Stay OSHA Compliant
Keeping cool is more than a productivity concern: It’s an ethical and legal duty to your employees. OSHA mandates that employers provide shaded and chilled rest spaces for workers. Furthermore, workers need to have access to these spaces as often as necessary. You don’t have to sweat it, though (sorry about the pun). A swamp cooler ensures you and your staff can be cool, productive and compliant with government regulations. That’s a win-win-win in anyone’s book.
What to Look For in a Swamp Cooler
Before we wrap things up, let’s take one last look at what you should ensure you get from your chosen cooler. One, it should be appropriately sized for your space. There are two ways to get more cooling power in larger spaces: get a bigger unit or buy multiple units. It’s not always the best idea to get the biggest, most expensive unit. It’s often better to pick up multiple units that you can move around the shop as you see fit. Versatility is always key when it’s hot outside.
Additionally, every cooler should have oscillating swing-louvers. These louvers will help cool significantly more space than non-oscillating units. To help manage your cooler, be sure your unit has remote control capability. It’s really annoying and unproductive to have to walk across a room to make adjustments to your swamp cooler, so make sure you have that remote on-hand at all times. Last, some coolers pull double-duty as ionizers. An ionizer releases negatively charged particles into the air. These particles cling to dust and other particulates that clutter your shop’s air. This literally weighs down all the dirt, forcing it against walls or onto the floor. Ionizers make for cleaner shops that are easier to sweep and healthier to work in.
This summer, help the techs in your quick-lube shop beat the heat with a good swamp cooler. These nifty devices are simple, cheap, healthy and really good at chilling hot air. They’re pretty much no-brainers.