A FIRE approach to air conditioning

One of the advantages of being an employee is that The Man usually air-conditions your cubicle. Well, for knowledge workers, anyway, rather than, say, brickies or landscape gardeners. And the heat is on in England at the moment.

Way back when, in the 2003 heatwave DxGF and I bought a standalone air conditioner and we thrashed that unit, but it used a horrific 3kW to sort of chill one room. It seems to take far more energy to cool something down through a certain temperature difference than it does to heat it up by the same difference, I guess these things are dreadfully inefficient, particularly standalone units that try and pump out the waste heat carried in air as opposed to dual systems with an inside and outside unit with the waste heat carried in a circulating liquid. So you get a 3kW heater in the room to add to the load. Not only that, you have to open the window a crack to get the exhaust hose out.

We were grateful for that in 2003, but it made an unconscionable noise and power was cheaper in those days.[ref]Americans will be tapping their heads, and go just get damn split system aircon, but I wonder how you have any hearing left. When I arrived in LA after a long flight and got to the motel the room aircon unit was on, and I thought I can’t hack this racket, so I turned it off. You don’t do that in LA in July – not getting any sleep was preferable to being fried 😉 Airconditioners I’ve come across in Europe are usually made by Japanese firms like Mitsubishi and are much quieter, but that thing was an all-American GE unit and made a terrible noise. Elsewhere in the city aircon seemed unwholesomely rowdy until you got to a Fortune 500 company offices or a bank. I guess people just get used to the noise.[/ref]

Dunwich beach

So it needs some lateral thinking. I need a large body of water, and the North Sea will do. Time to park myself down by the waterside and chill out to the waves –

and the peaceful sound[ref]the intermittent rumbling is sadly the wind, I only had a handheld rig as I wasn’t expecting to do any recording.[/ref]. There was a pleasant breeze off the sea – it was almost too cold.

I did look around and wonder why the other punters weren’t at work – some were retirees but half seemed to be families. I can’t really moan that the beach was teeming like Benidorm.

So the ermine air conditioning isn’t really that portable. But it does have some extra features, like the fine ruins of Greyfriars Friary

Greyfriars, Dunwich

and it seemed rude not to celebrate the moment with some fine dining

Local strawberries and cream from the Friday Street farm shop just off the A12

Londoners travelling up the A12 for a weekend break may want to note the  Friday Street farm shop, which is a few hundred yards detour off the A12 on the London-bound side. The strawberries and cream set me back £3.23 which I thought was a good deal for quality in both items, and they have a good range of foodie delectables. I paid roughly twice that in fuel. There are some that may carp that you can’t spend £10 for gratuitous decadence every day, but I have done my time of ultra-frugality now. No nightingales to be heard in Dunwich forest, where I’ve heard them in previous years, it’s probably too late in the season now

Dunwich is noted for mostly having disappeared into the sea. In 1250 it was a rich port town of 4000 souls. Since then the sea has gnawed away about 1.5km of the coastline, so most of the old town has fallen into the sea. It is now a village of about 100 people.

The last surviving gravestone from All Saints church, lost to the sea. This was Jacob Forster who departed this life March 12th 1796, age 38

The sound of the sea is not far from Jacob Forster’s grave. It’s coming for him after two centuries of undisturbed repose…

Mr Money Mustache will no doubt consider seeking air conditioning an act of pusillanimous weakness, but the trouble is that no part of Britain is very far from the sea, and in a maritime climate it always really wants to rain. Even on a hot day with blue sky – the inherent desire to rain results in high humidity. So things like swamp coolers work fine at the lower latitudes of LA, but are a waste of space and money here.

In LA at the same temperature this would be way down towards the 40% mark

So I am leveraging the fact that I own my own time, and summer is a good time to live like a king, reasonably cheaply. Strawberries and cream by the seaside is pretty good 😉

Incidental rant: why doesn’t Britain have proper cadastral records?

I came across this notice walking from the car park to the Friary:

No cadastral records, no bloody clue

Every other European country has a definitive land register of who owns what. But not in Britain. Because all the land was seized in 1066,  what the King didn’t keep for the Crown was handed out to the aristocracy, which hoards it and passes it down the generations, much of the land in the UK is not on the Land Registry, so you get situations like this.

In any French village you can ask to look at the cadastral records at the Mairie to know who holds a piece of land. Isn’t it about time that we sorted ourselves out and demanded of the aristocracy and anyone else that it bloody well registers every single claim to every piece of land it asserts that it owns, and if no claim is made after 10 years then tough shit, it belongs to us all? After all, if it isn’t registered then Lord Warburton-Smythe can simply make sure everyone looks the other way when his sprog Jimmy Warburton-Smythe-Pollock take over that part of the family estate when he pegs it because no bugger knows about that acreage, because it isn’t on the records. Decent cadastral records would help catch sneaky buggers avoiding inheritance tax and would be a prerequisite to introducing a land value tax. It smacks of dire incompetence not being able to find out who owns what of a scarce and finite resource, and one every other civilised country has solved. But since the lack of transparency serves the aristocracy perfectly well, they won’t let anything be done about out it, the piss taking bastards.

24 thoughts on “A FIRE approach to air conditioning”

  1. i’m working in the loft, which means working in my pants, currently 27.8, but topped out at about 34 the other day.

    Maybe I can tease out a little bit more performance by dropping the pants

    Interesting to see a shot of Dunwich. Its the Dunwich Dynamo in a couple of weeks. London to Dunwich bike ride overnight aim being to arrive at sunrise (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunwich_Dynamo)


    1. Time to drop the pants, I’d say 😉 I derigged a 2m aerial from the roof and waited till evening to get up the ladder. It was still pretty hot in the loft to pay out the cable so I could reuse it.

      That is the same beach car park where the Dunwich Dynamo ends – the caff there opens in night/early morning on the day to serve the cyclists with some much needed refreshment!


    2. I rode the DD four times before I finally took the plunge and went for a swim at the end.. and kicked myself for not doing it every year prior! Just wonderful.


  2. A completely different situation here in the colonies. We have had the wettest spring season in 100 years and only a few days so far where the temperature has reached the 30s. The next 10 days are forecasted to be low 20s which is below normal. And we are 2000 Km from the sea so no relief in that direction.
    And yes we do have split system A/C to keep the humidity low. Ours doesn’t run unless interior temps get up to 25 and it doesn’t make any more racket than the normal central heating fan. I spent the first 40 years of my life without any sort of climate control in the summer – aside from in the lab of course – and it is a relief in my old age.
    I didn’t find that any London hotel I stayed in had a very good A/C system though. Most were like the inside of a refrigerator and didn’t get the humidity down so it was pretty clammy inside the room. If a little bit of refrigeration is good, a LOT must be better, right? Right.


    1. I’d always thought of Canada as a cold place, but that’s because I come from a small country with not the sort of variation in climate that your massive span of latitude has, I have now learned something!


  3. So if someone were to squat on said land and there is no land registry to say who owns it, then how do the rich b*strads get them out?


    1. Most of that land is rural agricultural land. I’d imagine squatting on it is a tough thing to do without amenities. Getting unwanted folk off rural land is often done with a big delivery of manure, for urgent agricultural purposes, of course 😉

      This is the Country Life article on this issue, this New Statesman article is a good introduction into how this poor state of affairs arose and who benefits, and George Monbiot’s rant is a good one about how this is changing in Scotland, which has an even worse historical record of land rights iniquity 😉


  4. “It seems to take far more energy to cool something down through a certain temperature difference than it does to heat it up by the same difference”: I did laugh. I thought you claimed to have studied physics?

    “Every other European country has a definitive land register of who owns what. But not in Britain.” How parochial of you. “The 1617 Registration Act of the old Scots Parliament allows individuals to have their deeds recorded in official registers. The first land register in the world begins – the General Register of Sasines.” Here you are



    1. I did laugh. I thought you claimed to have studied physics?

      And engineering. The difference between theory and practice is always a bitch, huh?

      allows individuals to have their deeds recorded in official registers

      Yeah. But a land registry needs to be exhaustive, not allows, but must.Land is a common good because as Mark Twain observed, they ain’t making any more of it. The UK Land Registry deliberately obfuscates attempts to correlate who owns what, even given the corrupt and insufficient data it holds.


  5. (i) There is no UK Land Registry: it covers only England and Wales.

    (ii) The Scottish registry started off as voluntary, which seems pretty sensible to me though I can see it might not appeal to your dictatorial temperament. I admire your belief that the method of registration of land in Scotland must be unchanged since 1617.

    (iii) What on earth do you mean by “Land is a common good”?

    (iv) “The difference between theory and practice is always a bitch, huh?” I think you’ve misunderstood my sarcasm. It was making merry with your apparent innocence of thermodynamics (a field where, in my experience, theory and practice align pretty well).


    1. i – fair enough, I am always happy to learn. I first came across the iniquity of land registration in the UK when I first read bits of Andy Wightman’s who owns Scotland in a bookshop in Stornoway. There is variation in the nature of the iniquity between Scotland and rUK but it seems to come out in broadly similar pathologies, dynastic estates and extreme concentration of ownership. While it starts from a worse place Scotland seems to be taking more robust action to shift the balance.

      iii they ain’t making more of it, with rare exceptions like in Holland, it is a natural resource and it is rivalrous. As such it seems to me, a decent cadastral system or other definitive record is the way to record who owns what. Your exclusive claim on a piece of land affects everyone else who is excluded and therefore they should be able to inform themselves of the nature and extent of the claim. I have seen in two cases of people buying land where adjoining landholders/residents asserted spurious claims of ownership or adverse possession which could not be confirmed or disproved by the Land Registry because there are no definitive cadastral records.

      The opaqueness of the UK system serves those who are hidden by it, and to add insult to injury many of these unregistered dynastic estates collect millions in public subsides, and it appears that Brexit won’t even stop those particular snouts in the trough, it will be refilled by the UK taxpayer.

      The IHT exceptions for agricultural land are another iniquity – these massive estates aren’t yeoman farmers passing forty acres from father to son to feed their families, they are landlords of thousands of acres who get contract farmers to do the dirty work. They don’t need to turn a normal return on the land capital, because running costs are subsidised by on average about 50% by the rest of us and their win is being able to pass on dynastic wealth free of inheritance tax. The whole system reeks of vested interests and patronage IMO.


  6. Quiet air conditioners are available in the USA. Motel owners usually prefer noisy ones so customers are incentivized (I like that word) to turn the A/C off whenever possible.


    1. I hadn’t really thought of that – certainly the motel A/Cs I experienced were all rattletraps, it’s only when I raised my game to stay at the Mariott on a mixed business/pleasure trip that things got better 😉


  7. I’ve always wanted to go to Dunwich Beach since hearing the Brian Eno track. Just to see if it evokes a similar mood as it did in autumn 1960.

    I’ll probably be disappointed.


    1. It’s still quite an eerie place and unspoiled – you don’t often meet wnyone else on the walk from Dunwich to Walberswick. There’s hope 😉


  8. Interesting fact: Winston Churchill argued for land taxes early in his career, while associated with the Liberals. The arguments he made in favor (see his early speeches) were the usual ones, very strong, so I don’t think he ever changed his views, though for practical political reasons he had to give up pushing for land taxes later on. All of the 19th century British economists were trying to curb the power of feudal landowners in favor of manufacturing and trade, and thus would have been strongly in favor of land taxes, though again for practical political reasons they had to be careful what they said. It is remarkable that modern economists have banished the term “land” (which should also include telecom spectrum and other land-like factors of production) from the discussion. That is, the only conflicts acknowledged by modern economists are between capital and labor, or private and public sectors. Landowners presumably like it that their existence is no longer even acknowledged, since what doesn’t exist can’t be taxed.


  9. I’m still a desk rat, but after work I went for a dip in a river and it was quite refreshing. Got eaten alive but buzzy things, but better than melting indoors, eh?

    Now appreciating the relative misery of typical British weather…


  10. A couple of months have passed since your most recent blog. I’m hoping you’re enjoying the summer, watching migratory birds or otherwise living purposefully. But I’m missing your blog, and am sure many others are too. We’d love to hear from you again ere long.


    1. Thanks – I’ve been working shooting video round this-a-ways

      and, well, looking at stones

      The pay is crap, but you can’t knock the setting 😉 Unlike most normal folk who use their phones I’m too tight to pay on a contract so I have little data transmission. And WiFi sucks out here. Hence a drop in activity for the holidays 😉 Jeelabs described it well, but my HP Stream is no match for his iPad…


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