They are not as effective as air-conditioners, but much cheaper to run, so why aren’t they in the shops?
Stocks of air coolers in shops have run low this month and there are conflicting views why.
Employees at electrical appliances shops Andreas Charalambous and Poplife explained that they had imported them in the past but not this year because they didn’t think there was enough demand.
“It is a big risk when you are not sure. There is a minimum amount you have to order, and that’s a few hundred and you have to store them until you sell them,” a Poplife manager explained. “Nowadays,” she added, “a lot of people have air conditioners and they prefer them to the coolers.”
What happens is, an Andreas Charalambous employee said, that customers go for the cheaper options first, like fans and air coolers, but as the summer temperatures go up and up many end up buying air conditioners after all.
“This year we are selling a lot of air conditioners because the prices are down, and the price of electricity is down,” he explained.
But they may have made the wrong decision as it seems there is demand for the coolers after all.
Ioannis Marisa, responsible for cooling and heating at Merlin Leroy explained the company tried to anticipate the demand for small portable air coolers but failed.
“Last year we had 40 but they sold out quickly so this year we got 200,” he explained. “In May we sold 13 and in June 184, but none in July simply because by then we had ran out. So next year we will bring more and more.”
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of an air cooler?
“The small ones (air coolers) don’t really cool the whole room, you have to have them next to you so some cool air blows at you,” Marisa said. Whereas air conditioners have a thermostat and temperatures can be set, air coolers only lower temperature in the whole room by about three to four degrees.
However, an advantage is that they don’t use a lot of electricity. In the electrical appliance shops, air conditioners on sale cost 15 to 16 cents per hour to use according to the Andreas Charalambous employee. An air cooler can run for more than ten hours on 25 cents, he added.
They are also cheaper to buy. “An air conditioner costs €800 to 900,” Marisa said, “an air cooler for a small room that we had cost €60.” These are the small, portable ones. The bigger ones that can be found in restaurants and cafes can cost several hundred euros.
The difference between air coolers and air conditioners is that air conditioners have compressors, whereas air coolers operate by blowing air across a damp surface which causes the air to cool down as it absorbs moisture. As some of the moisture is released as part of the cooling effect and adds to humidity, the coolers operate better in hot and dry weather, whereas an air conditioner reduces humidity.
Air coolers, Marisa agreed, work best in hot, dry Nicosia, but he added there is no big problem using them in other more humid areas of Cyprus. In fact, he reports, people from everywhere in Cyprus have been buying them.
A café owner in Nicosia’s Onassagorou street explained why the coolers are especially popular in outdoor areas of cafes.
“An air conditioner wouldn’t do the job outside and it would be a huge waste. Inside people want to have air conditioning but outside these coolers combined with fans do a good job.”
Though they are ubiquitous in the outdoor areas of cafes in Cyprus, many people are not aware that they can be used to alleviate the heat in their homes. When asked what they do about the heat the choices most mention either using no appliances at all, fans or air conditioning.
“Fans are not cool enough, they maybe alright in more modest climate. I love air conditioning,” was one comment, and several added they know nothing about air coolers when asked.
Costis Yianni is one who eschews air-conditioning. “I close all shutters at 9.30 (am) and open them at five in the afternoon,” he said, “I have many fans and that is a lot healthier than air conditioning.” He would consider getting an air cooler, as this presents another healthier option since they don’t dry up the air but on the contrary add moisture to it. They are also better for the environment as they don’t use any chemicals.
So will we see more or less of them in future? It depends on how hot it is, on the prices – and the ability of shops to import the right amount.