The weather here for the last few days has been extremely wet. Multiple jungle downpours interspersed with sunny periods are often the order of the day. It has been wet enough to cause us to consider how we will handle the humidity in our new house.
This part of Panama suffers from extreme humidity at times during the wet season. Our neighbours report that humidity levels can reach the mid 90% range. Without some strategy and technology to help manage these spikes, we will end up with a house full of water, mould and mildew. We have friends who only live part-time here and they expect to have to wipe everything down on their arrival. Counters and floors are actually wet.
The obvious solution is air conditioning, because it dehumidifies as it cools but cooling is not necessary here so it seems a bit overkill. It is possible to avoid the problems of humidity if the situation and the house are properly managed. Ventilation is part of the solution but you can only ventilate when the humidity is at lower levels. You cannot just leave windows open to ventilate the house without filling it with highly humid air. This is a guarantee of mould and mildew problems. It is possible to beat the problem. We were in a house recently, which was closed up and was unoccupied for six plus months. There was not a hint of stale air, mould, or mildew.
Did you know that humid air is heavier than dry air? Well, it is! If you want the science behind this claim, check out http://whyfiles.org/2010/the-weather-guys-heavy-air/.
Dehumidifiers here are common. In addition, this is one of the few places in Panama where you will find fireplaces, which are used to remove humidity from the air more than provide heat. Our plan is to install a propane fireplace on the main level as well as use a dehumidifier. It would seem because the humid air is heavier than the dry air, we should be placing it on the lower level. We are still investigating options, including a whole house dehumidifier. It works like a central furnace (which we know so well from home). They simply put a pipe opening in the floor of each room and pipe it to the central unit that removes the humidity and dumps the associated water outside. If anyone out there has any experience with this problem, please let us know. We would love to talk to you.
Here in Panama, normal work hours are from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM Monday to Friday and 7:00 AM to Noon on Saturday. We had to get a little creative here because the trip up from the city takes an hour or an hour and a half, depending on the departure location. As they are paid for travel time, this means we would lose up to three hours of work each day per person and Saturday would be pretty much a write off.This is the end of our first partial week of site preparation.
Our workers have agreed to a modified workweek. They will work from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily and get Saturday and Sunday off. They will also live on site from Monday through Friday and go home on Friday night for the weekends. This gives us a full workweek.
In order to accomplish this, we had to provide them accommodation on site. Sounds expensive, but it was only a couple of days to prepare the old house on the lot. A few two by fours and several sheets of chicken coop roof was all that was required. This gives them a dry space to sleep and spend their evenings. There is also a full washroom and an onsite supervisor who will be responsible to keep everyone on the property as the park does not let them to leave the property unsupervised. We have completed the preparation of temporary living accommodations for the workers.
The two by fours were of interest. They are the cheapest studs and are the straightest most knot free wood you can imagine. They are quite dark in color and I am told they are “junk wood” because they break easily when you are working with them. The name of the wood is unpronounceable.
A front-end loader arrives on Monday morning to begin digging out for the foundation and footings. Bye for now.