Over the Hill

Air conditioner replacement recalls simpler — and cheaper — days

One morning two weeks ago, I was in my backyard watching something rising over our house like the moon rises. I don’t mean it looked like the moon; it just rose like the moon. It looked like a big, dark gray, shiny, metal trunk.

It was our new rooftop, heating-and-cooling air conditioner. It dangled from a big crane parked in front of our house. The crane had already removed our old heating-and-cooling unit from the roof.

The old unit had been disconnected by two technicians. They were now standing by to attach the new unit to the roof, and to connect it. The whole job was done, tidied up and successfully tested that afternoon. It’s still working fine.

The old rooftop unit was installed in 1980, two years before we bought the house. That original heating-and-cooling unit had served us well until the last few years when it started needing repairs. I finally decided to retire it.

It had provided us with year-round comfort for 33 years, but I never felt attached to it like I did to the evaporative cooler and two wall heaters in our previous home.

For one thing the rooftop heater/cooler was, after all, on the roof. It didn’t mingle. It was aloof. But the wall heaters and swamp cooler on our previous house had lived on the same level we did. On cold mornings we stood close to the front of the wall heaters, basking in their quick warmth.

And the swamp cooler stuck its big neck right through the window of my little office at one end of our previous house. That cooler powerfully blew its refreshing breath all the way to the bedrooms at the other end of our small house.

Also, everything I needed to know about my swamp cooler and wall-heaters, I could learn from neighbors and hardware store guys and gals. A swamp cooler, after all, is just a big steel box containing a squirrel-cage-shaped air-mover that pulls in air through pads of wet, wood shavings.

And with our two wall heaters, I could occasionally just remove their metal protective covers and clean them or install new metal baffles.

The company that supplied our new rooftop unit and its skilled workers who installed it treated us fine and fairly. I have no complaints. That unit is what our present house needed.

But during our family’s 20 years in our previous house, I myself did once replace our old swamp cooler with a new one, with the help of family or friends. And it didn’t cost anywhere near the thousands of dollars our latest new rooftop unit cost. Houses have changed and times have changed, but are we really better off?

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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