Ever since I started in this business some 25 years ago I have struggled with the definition of the water cooler or watercooler. The name itself is unfortunate because water coolers (or indeed watercoolers) are used in many different devices including cars, microprocessors, air conditioning systems, nuclear power stations and many others. Having managed a business in Spain I know that the problem is even worse elsewhere. We struggled to come up with wording that would be understood, and having started out selling “fuentes americanos” we ended up just using spanglish: “los coolers de agua bebida”.
The notion of using water as a cooling fluid to be drawn from the sea, a lake or a river is a very old one. The ancient Egyptians used water tickling down reeds as an evaporative cooling device. The Romans would run river water through the walls of a building to cool it down. Obviously they did not have electrical power which is now used to pump water or air or a refrigerant such as R134a to increase the cooling power of devices such as drinking water coolers.
So our humble water cooler as seen in most offices today has been derived from a very long history of cooling devices, or heat pumps which perform the magic of thermal energy transfer to provide us with our modern day comforts. Perhaps the Romans could teach us a thing or two about less environmentally damaging technology with regard to cooling. As I cycle through the Woolwich Foot Tunnel to work in summer I am always impressed by how cold it is down there under the Thames. I believe that there is a temperature differential of up to 15 degrees on a really hot day. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow tap into that naturally available cooling power as the Romans did rather than switching on our horribly power hungry electrical air conditioners?
Of course the easiest way to utilise water cooling if you are near a large body of water is to go and jump into it, but that’s a bit hazardous around our section of the Thames with constant boat and ferry traffic not to mention the mud and other obstacles. I think I’ll settle for a nice refreshing glass of chilled water from one of our wonderful water coolers, just the ticket for a nice summer as we are currently enjoying.