This winter I am not able to live in my condo on the beach south of Jomtien, because my health insurance refuses to give me coverage, after I caused them last year to spend more than a million baht. They did it very gracefully. I did not need to leave
a single satang at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital. All payments were settled bilaterally between the hospital and my insurance company.
The day before Christmas Eve my youngest brother – he is only 71 – came to dine with me in a restaurant overlooking the Rhine River. In his professional life he was a construction engineer. He had worked a few years in Abu Dhabi at the Arabian / Persian gulf. So he knew everything about living in and with the heat.
I told him: On one of my first stopovers in Bangkok I had booked in advance a room in the Nana Hotel and after a long and tiring flight, I took a taxi directly from Don Meuang to the hotel. I was showed to my room, whose main attraction was the bed. The hotel boy left me without asking if I needed anything. As soon as I lay down to rest a little, a cold wind blew over my body. It came from the air conditioning which was strategically placed to cool heated bodies on the bed.
This air conditioning was an electric box in a hole in the wall. Its front side was accessible from the room and had a trellised opening through which the cold wind attacked. The backside protruded out of the outside wall of the house and dropped condensed water on the heads of the passers by on the street below.
This kind of air conditioning, my brother explained, took the air for cooling and blowing from the outside. In the Nana Hotel the air draft in my room was so strong that I hang an undershirt in front of the box to stop the draught. The next day when I took it off, my undershirt was black from soot. As I never returned, I cannot tell, if in the meantime the Nana has changed this method. Big buildings now usually have centralized air-conditioning which can be regulated individually in each room. Oxygen is added by big tubes collecting it out of the sky.
Years later, after retirement, I found my condo over the beach south of Jomtien. It was completely furnished, including air conditioning. While the pieces of furniture looked very valuable and as good as new, the air conditioning was 8 or 9 years old and gasped and rattled as if it had to climb the Kilimanjaro.
This air conditioning consisted of two boxes, connected through a hole in the wall that was smaller then a mouse hole. The one box inside, standing on its own feet or being nailed to the wall, distributed the cold evenly in the room. In the other box which was fixed to the balcony, a big ventilator turned and turned, blowing the heat of the room into the outer space.
“This kind of air conditioning”, my brother explained, “is named “split level.” I my condo I replaced one of the asthmatic old units with a brand new split level combo. It ran so noiselessly you did not notice it.
Usually I turned it on only when the room temperature rose above 29 degrees. I have learned that the great Mentor of Singapore can think best at 18.5 degrees, but I stem from a cold country where in winter you had to wade with fur boots through the rising snow, and I do not feel well at room temperatures below 25 degrees. That is the main reason why I decided to spend my last winters in Thailand.
The temperature in my rooms rose regularly in the afternoon, when the sun looked in to say hello before it went to bed in the sea. A very convenient side effect of the air conditioning was that it dehydrated the room air. Humidity sank fast from 80 to 50 percent. A less welcome outcome of cooling was that after a while the air in my room became stale.
I told my brother that I did not understand, how this system mixed oxygen from the seawind into the used air of my room. He said, “It does not. The used air in your room stays always the same used air, accumulating more and more CO. You can say that a split level system is a frowst blunger.”
“What is this!” I cried. “I choose a condo at the seaside to breathe the fresh air, the wind is bringing up all the way from Koh Samui, and you tell me, the air conditioning is cutting me off from the healthy oxygen.”
“Exactly,” he said. “That is the way split level units function. If you did not want to suffocate in your conditioned air delivered by split level machines, you have to install an extra room ventilator which shuffles oxygen from the outside into your room. This ventilator should automatically be connected to the split level unit, to feed you with the appropriate measure of oxygen.”
I have visited Thai homes with split level air conditioning, but in none of them I saw it combined with a fresh air ventilator. And the people living there did not look close to suffocating.
In my condo I do not really suffer, because I turn on the system only for three hours. The rest of the day – 21 hours – I open doors and window wide to have sanuk with the healthy seawind..
I am no engineer, but I do know that air-conditioning really isn't great for you. I wish I could survive without it but in Bangkok I simply find that irrespective of the time of year, I need the air-con turned on, at night at least to sleep. In the north where it's cooler it's a different story and for a few months it really isn't necessary.