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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



Monday, July 11, 2016

It's not the heat, it's the humidity

I don’t intend to shock anyone but it’s been pretty hot around here these past few weeks. Including a day of record heat in June:

When we were redoing the barn to turn it into a workshop, one of the decisions was how to cool the space. We decided to spend the money on a mini-split system.

The other option was a unit that mounts in a wall. We have one in the side of the barn that works fantastically well, but it sounds like a plane engine when it’s running. One time when it was on I thought I saw someone in an orange vest waving his arms like he was guiding a plane into its parking slot.

The wall unit is 240 volts and is probably overpowered for the space, but really that just means it cools the space quickly.

I think mini-splits are common in Europe and becoming more of a thing over here. The advantage to them is that there are no air ducts to run through walls or around difficult spaces. They work by having a compressor outside and then two copper lines pass the cooled, or heated, freon (or whatever is used these day) to a unit that’s mounted inside the space.

They are great for older construction because of the small size of the copper lines, which are about 1 inch or so. For that reason they have been very popular in Europe, where they can have much older construction to deal with.

One other big advantage is that they are very quiet, which is good for general sanity but also for teaching. Some units only cool, ours heats as well for those five days a year when we need it.

Do you notice the tape in the photo?  The downside to them is that the mechanics think of them as pretty much disposable, not worth working on. Part of ours has broken. There was the ability to move the air in certain directions but that broke after a few years. But the cooling works just fine so no worries. It’s been installed for about four years now. Maybe five? Whatever, it should have lasted longer than that. I get the sense that some cheap plastic part broke.

But we have been told when it breaks just buy another one, which makes me wonder what it would take to buy a reparable one. Hopefully the compressor is more reliable and when the time comes we’ll just need the inside unit.

Still, it’s been amazing. On the hottest of days it stays in the mid-70s, which frankly is a bit too cool. But the main thing is how quiet it is. Sure it shouldn’t break after only a few years, but perhaps that’s just the world we live in. A less sweaty world than before, and that’s good enough for me.

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