Hot Stuff!: Serving Temperature

 

ThermometerHow hot is too hot? How does “too hot” compare to “too cold?” We all have our own preferences and our own experiences, coloring the debate. Yet, it is worth noting that people, given their druthers in a modern society, with cost-efficient building and vehicle climate controls, choose warmer over colder climates. So “too hot” has meaning within the context of our ability to modify our experience of the local environment.

Back in the day, before the invention and wide availability of home and commercial property cooling systems, people who could escape the Desert Southwest heat did so by decamping for the summer to higher altitudes. Indeed, the wealthy citizens of Tucson, Arizona would trek up the nearest mountain to a seasonal community they named “Summerhaven.” They essentially closed up their primary residences, leaving a caretaker servant presence in the frying pan of the desert valley floor.

Because of the very low humidity, and the development of reliable municipal water systems, the denizens of the desert developed an energy efficient cooling system long before compressor-driven air conditioning became affordable. Informally, and sometimes derisively, called “swamp cooling,” evaporative cooling systems made dry summer heat into breathable and cool interior air.

The technology was very simple. Drip water over a fiber (straw then synthetic) pad, possibly with a small pump regulating the flow. Spin a fan to draw dry exterior air through the wet pad. The evaporation consumes heat energy. So, the fan blows cool moist air into the home or business.

The system depends on a significant difference between ambient humidity and the air being blown. So, you actually got a cooling advantage if your house was a bit leaky, rather than sealed air tight. Indeed, homes and apartments built to modern national specifications need to have a window cracked open for evaporative cooling to be its most effective.

A group of Arizona desert dwellers relocated to the Iraqi desert as summer approached in 2003. Unlike almost all other members of our merry band enjoying an all-expenses-paid Iraqi Vacation (hat tip National Lampoon), we knew exactly what those weird boxes on building roofs were. My supply officer quickly organized a run into the local economy and procured enough simple cooling units to make the days and nights bearable for the troops under my command.

http://www.mxcitycar.com/b/2017/03/swamp-cooler-home-depot-evaporative-coolers-home-depot-wall-mounted-evaporative-coolers-window-evaporative-cooler-swamp-cooler-parts-home-depot-evaporative-cooling-fans-reviews-shop-swamp-cool.jpgTake a simple galvanized metal box, with three slatted sides holding straw evaporative pads. Spin a drum fan in the middle of the box, with the thrust pointing towards a large round hole in the fourth side. Mount and seal it up against an open window. Place a 55 gallon water drum above the cooling unit so you get gravity feed. Now you have effective cooling well inside the energy budget of the unit’s standard issue generators.

Sadly, the powers that be used the excuse of “taking care of Joe” to justify an outrageous abuse of the public purse, with massive expenditures on regionally leased generators and air conditioning systems. All of this required additional fuel, maintenance, and transportation, increasing risk to “Joes.” But senior people from temperate climates eventually got the comforts of their homes in an alien desert.

Until the leased equipment was distributed, our small desert native contingent enjoyed the distinction of taming an increasingly scorching summer. We stored, issued, transported and tested fuel, to the tune of a million gallons a day through-put. Our truckers improvised cooling on the road, making water drinkable after hours in convoy.

Take a long boot sock. Slide a water bottle into it. Soak the sock and tie it to the exterior mirror. The wind generated by the truck racing through the desert evaporates the water in the sock, keeping the water bottle at a drinkable temperature. Repeat as needed.

Why not just keep the water in the crew cab? Because military trucks had no crew-cooling systems, just heaters. So, soak your shirt before you put on your body armor or soak it with sweat as the sun turns the cab into a solar oven. It certainly felt like an oven. Indeed, the air temperature eventually felt like someone had opened an oven door.

Over a decade earlier, I had the additional duty of mess (food service) officer. I had also worked food service summer jobs. So, I had “160° F” embedded in my memory. That is the standard rule-of-thumb safe serving temperature. Whip out your food thermometer, sheathed in your shirt pocket, and check the food on the serving line.

Understand, home and regular office thermometers are built for “normal” ranges. “Normal” would be the expected temperatures in the United States. They are not marked as such. So, the day came when I was standing outside my headquarters with several staff members and looked at a thermometer hung in the shade. It read 150° F.

“That’s almost serving temperature!” I exclaimed. Eventually, we found the true temperatures were “only” around 126° F. If you are a steak aficionado, you may recognize 126° F as one of the values for “medium rare.” It was a rare service experience, indeed!

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There are 27 comments.

  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    This post takes the other side of @arahant‘s position, “Is Too Hot Better than Too Cold?” in this month’s theme series: Hot Stuff!” We have a lot of open days as the summer season starts. Please stop by and sign up to share your own angle on the topic, however loosely construed.

    • #1
    • June 3, 2019, at 7:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Jon1979 Lincoln

    High humidity can play havoc with the evaporative coolers, which is why in Texas you don’t see too many of them east of San Angelo, and a rare humid day to the west of there means sticky indoor air for homes using the box units. And even with the standard AC unit, if you get a super-hot summer, those aren’t going to win the battle against 115-degree temperatures, especially in anyplace with a south- or west-facing window. Heading to the mountains then is back as the best option, even if it’s only for the weekend (but be prepared for the change — we took a trip at the start of August from the Permian Basin to Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, 225 miles over and 6,000 feet up. Left home when it was 109, froze the next day at Ruidoso Downs when it was 57 and drizzly).

    • #2
    • June 3, 2019, at 7:44 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  3. Doug Watt Member

    The Sonoran Desert in the summer is trying to kill you. It is a dry heat when it’s 108 it feels like a 106. The breeze doesn’t bring any relief, it becomes a convection oven. The hottest it has been at my place, at the 3300 foot level, was about 112. Summertime heat kills both tourists, locals, and border crossers. The Sonoran Desert is no respecter of persons.

    In the summer I set the AC at 78 to 80. When the sun down goes I set it at 76 to 75. Living in India before Monsoon broke it was around 106 during the day, and cooled off to 98 at night, it was high humidity heat. The Monsoon in the Sonoran Desert doesn’t bring much relief from the heat.

    In my part of Arizona you go to the grocery store either early in the day, or late in the evening. You bring insulated bags with an ice pack or two for perishables, and you don’t stop to run any other errands when you have perishables in the car.

    • #3
    • June 3, 2019, at 8:25 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Randy Webster Member

    Clifford A. Brown:

    Our truckers improvised cooling on the road, making water drinkable after hours in convoy.

    Take a long boot sock. Slide a water bottle into it. Soak the sock and tie it to the exterior mirror. The wind generated by the truck racing through the desert evaporates the water in the sock, keeping the water bottle at a drinkable temperature. Repeat as needed.

    Don’t they make those “Saturate Before Using” water bags anymore?

    • #4
    • June 3, 2019, at 8:35 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    The Sonoran Desert in the summer is trying to kill you. It is a dry heat when it’s 108 it feels like a 106. The breeze doesn’t bring any relief, it becomes a convection oven. The hottest it has been at my place, at the 3300 foot level, was about 112. Summertime heat kills both tourists, locals, and border crossers. The Sonoran Desert is no respecter of persons.

    In the summer I set the AC at 78 to 80. When the sun down goes I set it at 76 to 75. Living in India before Monsoon broke it was around 106 during the day, and cooled off to 98 at night, it was high humidity heat. The Monsoon in the Sonoran Desert doesn’t bring much relief from the heat.

    In my part of Arizona you go to the grocery store either early in the day, or late in the evening. You bring insulated bags with an ice pack or two for perishables, and you don’t stop to run any other errands when you have perishables in the car.

    Exactly so. Further, while the frozen north or extreme south will turn you into a corpsicle, the desert will slowly cook you like a sausage on a warmer for too long.

    • #5
    • June 3, 2019, at 9:53 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    High humidity can play havoc with the evaporative coolers, which is why in Texas you don’t see too many of them east of San Angelo, and a rare humid day to the west of there means sticky indoor air for homes using the box units. And even with the standard AC unit, if you get a super-hot summer, those aren’t going to win the battle against 115-degree temperatures, especially in anyplace with a south- or west-facing window. Heading to the mountains then is back as the best option, even if it’s only for the weekend (but be prepared for the change — we took a trip at the start of August from the Permian Basin to Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, 225 miles over and 6,000 feet up. Left home when it was 109, froze the next day at Ruidoso Downs when it was 57 and drizzly).

    I first was introduced to evaporative coolers when I took a new apartment in El Paso in 1990.

    • #6
    • June 3, 2019, at 10:53 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown:

    Our truckers improvised cooling on the road, making water drinkable after hours in convoy.

    Take a long boot sock. Slide a water bottle into it. Soak the sock and tie it to the exterior mirror. The wind generated by the truck racing through the desert evaporates the water in the sock, keeping the water bottle at a drinkable temperature. Repeat as needed.

    Don’t they make those “Saturate Before Using” water bags anymore?

    They were not U.S. military issue. Our entire system was really optimized on the Fulda Gap, secondarily on the fight south of the DMZ.

    • #7
    • June 3, 2019, at 10:56 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    I’ll have mine done “Soviet Nuclear Worker.”

    • #8
    • June 4, 2019, at 6:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. Tex929rr Coolidge

    Bill Paxton RIP.

    • #9
    • June 4, 2019, at 8:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Bishop Wash Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    The Sonoran Desert in the summer is trying to kill you. It is a dry heat when it’s 108 it feels like a 106. The breeze doesn’t bring any relief, it becomes a convection oven. The hottest it has been at my place, at the 3300 foot level, was about 112. Summertime heat kills both tourists, locals, and border crossers. The Sonoran Desert is no respecter of persons.

    The Air Force used to have an annual safety reminder for the 101 days of summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Headquarters would send out notices about how summer brings increased activity outside and to be careful boating, hiking, etc. When I was stationed at Davis-Monthan we joked that the days of the safety reminder needed to be inverted for us. Summer would drive people inside, but the other 264 days of the year were when we did outdoor activities.

    I had a chuckle that the community at the top of Mt. Lemmon is called Summerhaven and a neighborhood at the base is called Winterhaven.

    • #10
    • June 4, 2019, at 10:32 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  11. Bishop Wash Member

    Clifford A. Brown: Understand, home and regular office thermometers are built for “normal” ranges. “Normal” would be the expected temperatures in the United States. They are not marked as such. So, the day came when I was standing outside my headquarters with several staff members and looked at a thermometer hung in the shade. It read 150° F.

    Years ago I learned a general rule for understanding the Celsius thermometer. The teens are cold to cool, twenties are nice, and thirties are warm to hot. We moved to Tucson towards the end of June and drove by a bank whose clock cycled through the time, temperature in Celsius, and temperature in Fahrenheit. It was midafternoon and the display read 46 C. That wasn’t anywhere on my rule. I waited and the next number was 116 F. We wondered what we’d gotten ourselves into.

    • #11
    • June 4, 2019, at 10:44 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor

    The first and only time I was in a home with a swamp cooler was visiting friends in the California desert. It was awesome and was amazingly comfortable.

    • #12
    • June 4, 2019, at 1:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk) (View Comment):
    Soviet Nuclear Worker

    Super. I’m missing you from the list. Would you like to drop it in on the 4th?

    • #13
    • June 4, 2019, at 3:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Kozak Member

    My hottest day in Saudi…..

    It was a dry heat….

    Fortunately I was living in what amounted to an 800 sq foot trailer that had 5 window AC units, and free electricity…

    • #14
    • June 4, 2019, at 5:32 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Kozak (View Comment):

    My hottest day in Saudi…..

    It was a dry heat….

    Fortunately I was living in what amounted to an 800 sq foot trailer that had 5 window AC units, and free electricity…

    So, easily serving temperature for a nice steak.

    • #15
    • June 4, 2019, at 8:23 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Kozak Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    My hottest day in Saudi…..

    It was a dry heat….

    Fortunately I was living in what amounted to an 800 sq foot trailer that had 5 window AC units, and free electricity…

    So, easily serving temperature for a nice steak.

    But just a little low for lamb, the local specialty.

    • #16
    • June 5, 2019, at 3:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Seawriter Member

    In WWII British tank crews would soak a rag in gasoline (their tanks’ engines were fueled by gasoline) wrap a can of beer in the rag, put it in a shady spot where it could catch a breeze, and wait 5-10 minutes. They then rinsed off the can with water and enjoy a cool beer.

    The volatile gasoline evaporated in the breeze, robbing energy from the heated fluid in the can for the phase change (it takes energy to go from solid to liquid or liquid to gas) and cooling the contents in the process.

    • #17
    • June 5, 2019, at 9:28 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. Randy Webster Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    In WWII British tank crews would soak a rag in gasoline (their tanks’ engines were fueled by gasoline) wrap a can of beer in the rag, put it in a shady spot where it could catch a breeze, and wait 5-10 minutes. They then rinsed off the can with water and enjoy a cool beer.

    The volatile gasoline evaporated in the breeze, robbing energy from the heated fluid in the can for the phase change (it takes energy to go from solid to liquid or liquid to gas) and cooling the contents in the process.

    I thought we were the only ones stupid enough to put gasoline engines in tanks. The British didn’t call Shermans Tommy Cookers for nothing.

    • #18
    • June 5, 2019, at 11:43 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Seawriter Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    In WWII British tank crews would soak a rag in gasoline (their tanks’ engines were fueled by gasoline) wrap a can of beer in the rag, put it in a shady spot where it could catch a breeze, and wait 5-10 minutes. They then rinsed off the can with water and enjoy a cool beer.

    The volatile gasoline evaporated in the breeze, robbing energy from the heated fluid in the can for the phase change (it takes energy to go from solid to liquid or liquid to gas) and cooling the contents in the process.

    I thought we were the only ones stupid enough to put gasoline engines in tanks. The British didn’t call Shermans Tommy Cookers for nothing.

    Where do you think the Brits were getting their tanks from?

    • #19
    • June 5, 2019, at 12:02 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    In WWII British tank crews would soak a rag in gasoline (their tanks’ engines were fueled by gasoline) wrap a can of beer in the rag, put it in a shady spot where it could catch a breeze, and wait 5-10 minutes. They then rinsed off the can with water and enjoy a cool beer.

    The volatile gasoline evaporated in the breeze, robbing energy from the heated fluid in the can for the phase change (it takes energy to go from solid to liquid or liquid to gas) and cooling the contents in the process.

    I thought we were the only ones stupid enough to put gasoline engines in tanks. The British didn’t call Shermans Tommy Cookers for nothing.

    Where do you think the Brits were getting their tanks from?

    Arsenal of Democracy. G.I.s apparently called Shermans “Ronsons.” One of the popular lighter’s (unofficial?) tag lines was “one flick and it lights.” 

    • #20
    • June 5, 2019, at 2:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Randy Webster Member

    I looked up the Churchill before I commented. Made in Britain, gasoline powered.

    • #21
    • June 5, 2019, at 3:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    In Tucson, back in the 70s and 80s, we still used to joke about the 240 air conditioners in our cars. A “240 air conditioner” means you roll down 2 windows and go 40 mph.

    I’ve been familiar with swamp coolers since the 1970s, but never had to live in a house with one, thankfully. They don’t work well when the weather is humid. In Tucson, that means that they’re fine in June, but not very useful in July and August.

    I like your thermometer graphic. I couldn’t find my favorite, which is a new kind of home thermostat for the elderly. It has three settings — uncomfortably warm, unbearably hot, and “your adult children are passing out.”

    • #22
    • June 5, 2019, at 6:23 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. The Reticulator Member

    At about 6:25 on the first one: “You may listen to this network with assurance that all sources of news will be properly labelled.” 

    It’s a different standard from the Russia hoax.

    Also, I like how the radio voice sounds like a real person.

    • #23
    • June 5, 2019, at 6:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. Gary McVey Contributor

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I looked up the Churchill before I commented. Made in Britain, gasoline powered.

    Made in Britain by General Motors. It wasn’t a great tank, but it could be pressed into service quickly. Back home, the idea of steering a tank by using two Hydra-Matic transmissions was just this sort of fast, imperfect but expedient industrial choice. 

     

    • #24
    • June 6, 2019, at 2:25 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Kozak Member
    • #25
    • June 6, 2019, at 7:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. Randy Webster Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I looked up the Churchill before I commented. Made in Britain, gasoline powered.

    Made in Britain by General Motors. It wasn’t a great tank, but it could be pressed into service quickly. Back home, the idea of steering a tank by using two Hydra-Matic transmissions was just this sort of fast, imperfect but expedient industrial choice.

     

    The Wikipedia article I read said it mounted a howitzer, at least for a while. More of an assault gun than a tank.

    • #26
    • June 6, 2019, at 2:42 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    New at Ace Hardware. These are down draft: air is drawn in from 4 sides, blown down through ducting into home.

    • #27
    • June 7, 2019, at 6:59 PM PDT
    • Like