With concerns about energy use, water consumption, and climate change, more and more people are looking for better and more efficient ways of cooling off during hot summer days. One option that’s gaining popularity is the outdoor misting system. If you’ve ever been to an amusement park during the summer or visited warmer climates, you’ve probably encountered a misting system at some point. In parks, open air shopping malls, and other crowded public locations, these usually take the form of large towers that spray mist across passing crowds. Restaurants and lounges with patio seating tend to use overhead misters that can be easily hidden among plants or behind structural elements.
This type of misting system is generally what homeowners choose when looking to install one on their patio or deck or in a greenhouse. While installing a misting system isn’t complicated and most experienced DIY’ers can complete it in a weekend, it does require a significant amount of planning to ensure you’re maximizing the efficiency of your system and getting the most benefit from the cooling effects. First, we really need to look at how evaporative cooling works.
How Misters Cool You Down
When water molecules evaporate into the air, the water changes from a liquid to a gas state. A certain amount of energy or heat is needed to assist this process of changing water from a liquid to a gas, which is automatically drawn from the surrounding air – thus, lowering the ambient temperature around the misted area.
This is essentially the same way your body cools itself off. You sweat, the sweat evaporates, and your body temperature lowers. When installed and used properly, mist cooling systems can reduce temperatures by as much as 30°F depending on the efficiency of the misting system, relative humidity, and outdoor temperature.
The Pros of Misting Systems
Evaporative cooling is remarkably energy and water efficient. How can that be, you ask, when it is basically just shooting water into the air? Isn’t that wasting water? Well, think of it this way – it takes approximately 25 gallons of water to create 1 kilowatt of electricity using natural gas. A typical central air conditioner uses 3-5 kilowatts of power every hour, so about 75 gallons of water has been used to run the air conditioner for one hour. In contrast, a small water pump uses around 250 WATTS (so only about 1/4 a kilowatt) of electricity per hour. If you have a 10ft x 10ft deck or patio, you’ll typically use around 10 nozzles (1 nozzle every 3 feet for 30ft of tubing around the perimeter of the area). The pump and 1 GPH nozzles will use roughly 16-1/4 gallons of water every hour. Significantly less than running your central air conditioner for an hour.
As previously mentioned, once you’ve got your system all planned out, most misters are easy to install and operate. If you are an experienced DIY’er you may not even need a kit to set up your own mister, and oftentimes the system can be run right from the hose bibb on the side of your house – ideal for those who will only be using the mister three or four months out of the year since you don’t have to invest in an expensive pump. The mister system can be winterized if needed, similarly to a drip irrigation or other garden watering system, and because the actual water lines are generally made from poly tubing or PVC the system can last you a long time with proper maintenance. Sometimes, depending on the types and placement of plants, your misting system can double as a watering system, helping to keep your plants lush and green. Of course, the most obvious and possibly most important benefit of a mister is that it allows you to enjoy your outdoor space regardless of how hot it is.
The Cons of Misting Systems
Depending on the size of your space and what kind of system you want, misters can get pricey very quickly. Usually, the most expensive part of the system is the pump. While low pressure mister systems operate off your home’s natural water pressure, most people will need a pump to make their misting system truly effective, as the small, fine water droplets required for quick evaporation cannot be achieved by low water pressure. Additionally, if you are NOT an experienced DIY’er or just aren’t into that kind of thing, installing or maintaining your misting system will need to be done by a professional plumber or contractor which can also be expensive. Some people’s homes aren’t very well suited to adding an outdoor mister, and you may need to have plumbing work done prior to installing your system.
In areas where there is high humidity (consistently over 80%) or where it just doesn’t get very hot, a misting system might not be the best investment since you won’t see as significant temperature drops as drier, hotter areas and the mist won’t evaporate as quickly – meaning you could possibly just get damp, not cool. Also, you may not get much use out of it if you have mild springs and short summers.
So, you see how much goes into choosing whether or not a patio misting system is right for your family, and what you need to take into consideration before purchasing one. There are a number of great tutorials online about installing misters that can be helpful if you decide to DIY it, and if you’re looking for mister nozzles and supplies to build your own misting system, check out PlumbingSupply.com!