Saturday, July 10, 2004

Heating and Air-conditioning in Iraq

Since I wrote about Sara’s burns, I need to talk about heating, cooling and air-conditioning appliances in Iraq.

Iraqi homes don’t have heating or air conditioning systems like the American homes. The new government buildings like the Department of Education, where I worked, had these systems installed by foreign construction companies as they were built.

Iraq has long summers and short winters. Iraqi summers are very hot. Degrees go above 40°C ( 110°'F ) as early as April. July and August are the worst with even higher temperatures. Iraqi winters are very cold in Baghdad. They get warmer as you move south. It doesn’t snow except for the North, which also has a less hot summer than rest of the country. I believe it’s due to the many mountains. Think Colorado and Texas weathers, you’ll get the picture of the difference between the weather between Iraq’s north and south.

Baghdad’s summers are dry. People who could afford high electricity bills would usually have at least two window-unit air-conditioners in their homes. No homes have central air conditioners. Other people manage with air-coolers (swamp coolers), which is not a bad choice when you have at least two in your home. Even though electricity in Iraq is cheap by American standards, it is still expensive for most Iraqis.

Basra’s summers are humid. Humidity goes up to 99 percent during July and August. We call it “sharji” season. You don’t want to live in Basra if you don’t have at least one air-conditioner unit in your home. Air coolers work like water sprinklers during sharji season. When electricity goes down during this season, you could experience HELL in reality. One difference, you’re with your friends and family in hell. So, it’s not so bad.

Baghdad’s winters are very cold compared to Basra’s winters. Without central heating systems in Iraqi homes, the only option is to either use oil-filled heaters or kerosene heaters. Most people would rather use kerosene heaters because it cost less. Remember, oil-filled heaters are electrical. Kerosene is cheap in Iraq. So, families could have more than one heater working at the same time. It also keeps most of the house warm.

Because of the unstable electricity situation in Iraq, people use these kerosene heaters to heat water in bathrooms. Well, it’s the only option when it’s cold and you need a shower. It also keeps our large bathrooms warm. You still need a heater in the bathroom even when electricity is up and the family could boil water with a water boiler.

During summer, you don’t need to heat water for showers. Every house has a water tank. The tank is usually installed on the houses’ flat roof. Because of the hot summer in Iraq, tank water is hot by midday and you can take the best shower without wasting any electricity. BUT, due to the unstable water supply situation in Iraq for many years now. Most houses have water motors to fill these tanks with water when empty. Now, when electricity is down, you’re left with fewer options to fill the tanks.

Home swimming pools are rare in Iraq. Hey, people don’t have enough water for a shower. Do you think they’ll have a swimming pool? We still have few public pools around Baghdad and in hotels. But, most Iraqis don’t know how to swim for lack of swimming pools. Probably that’s the reason. I’m not really sure.

So, if you ask me what improvement people want to see in Iraq, I would say improve the electricity situation. It’s very important as you can see.

Arabic Word of The Post :

summer : صيف - / SAIf /
winter : شتاء - / shee-ta'a /

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