Those of you playing the long game might recall that my little brother, who has wanted to be a high school football coach since he was in short pants, entered MTSU as a freshman in 2006. Now, here we are in 2016, and after one heck of a bumpy ride, we are finally celebrating the fact he’s earned his B.S.
My mom has been waiting a looooong time for an excuse to fete my brother. Because I didn’t give them the opportunity to plan my wedding (as I’m sure you’ll vividly recall), and because his wedding was entirely his wife’s affair, my mom’s been champing at the bit for at least 5 years for one last opportunity to make much of one of her spawn1.
Part of convincing my brother to let us throw him a party involved several conditions – a pony keg, a Publix sheet cake, and “no swamp-ass”. That last one is a favorite complaint of my brother’s about any situation in which sweat drips down his back to the point that… well, I’m sure you can extrapolate. And that condition was the toughest for my mom to promise, because my parents live in a pretty small house in Murfreesboro. It’s fine for family gatherings, but for a bigger party, not so much. We’d have to have it outside, and since she hasn’t figured out how to manipulate the weather2, she called me looking for answers.
“Does C’s work have any coolers they use backstage? Do you still know anyone at Vandy football who could let us borrow those fans they use on the sidelines?”
While I didn’t have anything quite that fancy (C and the rest of the crew just have to tolerate swamp-ass as a part of their glamorous gigs, and I’m long past knowing anyone in the athletic department these days), I did have an idea.
Last summer when we lived through weeks of no central air, we were saved from utter summer-heat misery by the CULER folks, and I thought it might help, at least a little, in this situation. At the very least, I’d really been wanting to see how it performed outside for multiple people who wanted to be cool; my previous experiment only involved me intentionally sitting in the sun.
However, it turns out that in the months since our airconditionless adventure, CULER has redesigned their basic machine. When I reached out to them for advice on using the unit outside, they offered to send us the newer model, the SOLO Flash-Evaporative Air Cooler, so that I was playing with the most up-to-date version of the tool3. While my web-developer’s heart leapt at the chance to upgrade to the latest hardware, my inner curmudgeon wasn’t so sure. I already knew how to romance the center dial on the AC100 model to optimize the mist, and I’d gotten the initial chlorine smell out of my existing unit (which was the result of foolishly using Nashville tap water)… but I agreed to give it a try because that meant two units for the graduation party.
Ultimately, it was a reeeeeally good thing I took them up on their offer. Last weekend was genuinely hot – over 80° and searingly sunny. Not as bad as it would have been if we were still in Georgia (thank you, little bro, for coming to Tennessee for college), but still rough, especially since it was the hottest it’s been all year. We packed up both units in the back of our Kia and headed south to my parents’ house.
While my brother was getting ready for the ceremony, my parents and I set up for the party. They had a canvas gazebo/tent thing in the driveway along with patio furniture for seating, and set the keg and picnic spread set up in front of the garage door, with the grill off to the side. We put the older cooling unit over by the grill (which C very much appreciated since he was on burger-flipping duty) and set the new model up on a wire rack underneath the gazebo. Cooling features aside, it was light enough to sit on top of the rack, which I grabbed from a corner of the garage on a whim.
We started the SOLO running at 4:30pm – 83° according to my Weather app – with the mist/fan nozzle tilted as far up as it would go to direct the cooled air up into the tent. This was about an hour before the party started, which gave me a chance to play with the new features (which you can see here), and ultimately helped cool down the area underneath the awning, which was in full sun, before anyone arrived.
My initial hesitancy about not having micro-control of the evaporation with the elimination of the center dial was completely gone after about 10 minutes of letting it run. Instead of a mist-volume control dial in the center, the new model just has three buttons on top – power on-off, fan speed option, and evaporation on-off. The older model made the air feel a little humid, which was totally okay since it was cooling things off, but to be able to have the cooling without the humidity was luxurious. I didn’t have to fiddle with it to get the flow just right – it just worked. We used distilled water in it for the first go, which avoided any chlorine smell entirely. And it’s definitely a lot prettier – the unit is a soft white that was much nicer in terms of its impression on our guests. I didn’t think about that with the old unit – no one but us and the dogs ever saw it – but for a party, it was nice to have it looking so sleek and modern.
It certainly was a conversation starter – everyone wanted to know about it – and once I explained it, there were plenty of people who went to stand in front of it and try it out for themselves. We left the fan on high the whole time, and I am happy to report that not only did I (who kind of knew what to expect, cooling-wise) feel a real difference, but so did my brother. He happily declared the party swamp-ass-free, even though he was making a pretty big dent in the keg. This kid is usually wiping his face every 5 minutes when it’s above 80° outside, but he sat under the gazebo, drinking (and eating cake! and dealing with our mom!) for a good 3 hours without dripping sweat.
The same can’t be said for C, since he was standing directly over the grill, but the old unit still did make a dent in the heat for him. When we finally get a grill for our back deck, the old CULER will take up residence right next to it. Meanwhile, I am not attending another outdoor party (or lounging in the sun on my own) without the SOLO in tow. It is too easy to grab and take it along, and it massively improves my comfort level.
My next experiment, hopefully, is for C to try this out at work. Last summer, I visited him on the road in Wheatland, CA. It was 103°, not a cloud in the sky, and the generator on his bus was on the fritz. I would have sold a kidney for any relief from the heat at all.
C likes to say (while gesturing at his own body with a sweeping motion from head to toe) “When all of this gets hot, all of this gets angry!” As thankful as I was for the help last summer, I’m even more delighted at how the SOLO made it possible for us – the sweatiest bunch of people I know – to have an outdoor family party where everyone was comfortable and happy!
1 I shudder to think what will happen when she has grandkids to spoil, but for now, my brother’s graduation was it for her.
2 The list of things my mom can’t manipulate is getting smaller and smaller, and include the weather, the stock market, and my uterus. That last one is probably the most troublesome for her, but I take great pride in that fact.
3 The CULER folks did offer us the use of a SOLO unit in exchange for a review, and you should take that into consideration. I can confidently say, though, that I did this review for the fun of it. I don’t have any dog in their hunt, really, other than the fact that I hate being sweaty and the fact I love their products. They’ve got industrial size air coolers, too, so maybe one day I’ll get to play with that version!