AC installation, Panamanian style

We were seriously thinking of buying a lot in our neighborhood and building a house, but the more we thought about it the more we thought it will be better to have some money in the bank for emergencies.

So, we are staying in our rental which is fine. Life is simple and we’re very happy here. But, there are a couple things that would make us more comfortable. First, Joel is painting the roof white so it will reflect the heat. The tin roof gets hot, and it’s newest, darkest, hottest part is right over the terrace where we like to eat and hang out. What a difference now that it’s white! It’s so much cooler. The attic which used to be 120+ degrees on a sunny day is now below 100.

The other decision was to buy an air conditioning unit. It’s a nice one – quiet, energy efficient, and it will make the hot summer season more comfortable.

Joel and our neighbor Lucio went shopping last Thursday (actually the Thursday before last, by now). They were told that the installers would call and come over on Friday or Saturday, and they had both my phone number and Lucio’s. On Saturday there was still no word. Lucio hadn’t heard anything either so he called, found out he needed an order number and a different phone number from the one we had been given. He was told that everything was set for Monday.

Monday, nothing, so Tuesday I went back to the store and explained the problem. The salesgirl there made a couple phone calls, one which took quite a while on hold and numerous conversations. She told me they would call that afternoon and gave me the number to call if I didn’t hear anything.

I didn’t hear anything. Lucio’s wife Haydeé volunteered to call for me. She knows that talking on the phone in Spanish is often difficult for me, especially on a subject and with vocabulary that may be new to me. So, 40 min later, numerous phone conversations later, and a new order number and phone number later, she was told that they will come tomorrow (Wednesday). (THANK YOU Haydeé! I’m sure if I had tried to do all that I would have torn out all my hair!)

Wednesday – the guy calls me! Conversation is a disaster. He talks too fast and can’t seem to understand a thing I am saying. Haydeé’s mother is in, so I put her on the phone to explain where we live. They are coming this afternoon sometime. Haydeé comes home later and explains that she also called them this morning and was told he has the work order, but I am one of a bunch of orders. No one knows exactly when it will be my turn, but it will be today.

So, early afternoon he calls again.
Do you know where Villa del Carmen is? (our neighborhood)
OK, do you know where the big shopping center is with Panafoto, DoIt Center, El Rey?
OK, do you know where KFC is?
No. I am in Villa del Carmen. Where are you?
What? You are IN Villa del Carmen now?
Did you go under the arch by the sign?
OK, go through the arch, go one block and turn left at the next corner.
I don’t understand. I can’t hear you. I go to Villa Del Carmen?
YES! Go IN Villa del Carmen, at the arch. Turn left at the next street. Go to the end of that street.
What? Turn left? Then what?
Yes, turn left, and go to the end of that street.
Turn left? Where?
At the first street that goes left!
OK, I turn left. Then what? 
*sigh* I will be IN the street. Go to the end of the street and I am standing there! (as I walk to meet him)

I was standing in the street as the truck made it’s way towards me, and we finally got him to our house! (he and his two assistants) I know I’m not that bad. I have directed other people to the house without problems, even people who don’t live in David and don’t know the area like someone who runs around town all day installing air conditioners.

So, we discuss the installation, where the unit will go, etc. Oh, you want it up there? That’s extra. The free installation that came with the unit, we put it on the ground (or on the terrace floor, in our case). OK fine, we don’t want it on the floor. Thank goodness Joel and Lucio were on the ball and bought the brackets and everything needed to mount it on the wall.

Do you want a pipe to take the water away? Well yes, we don’t want it dripping down the window and on the terrace floor. OK, that’s $3-4 for pipe, and I need to go to the store and buy the pipe. (So, an AC installer doesn’t have some basic supplies, like PVC pipe in the truck??) OK, fine.

So, he takes off with one assistant and leaves the other at the house. The guy immediately gets to work. He looks like he knows what he’s doing and has done this a hundred times. Before long everything is in place, and he’s testing it to be sure everything works right.

He calls the boss who left in the truck. He tells me that everything is done except the pipe to carry off the condensation water. I give him some ice water, he sits, we chat a while. I leave him at the table on the terrace. He waits and calls a couple more times. I go back to working in the yard. He falls asleep at the table.  An hour and a half passes. I’m hot and sweaty and really want a shower. Sure enough, as soon as I’m half way though my shower, the guy with the truck and the other assistant show up!

They install the PVC pipe, a piece of pipe put on one end of the outlet hose, running horizontally and fastened to the bathroom window at the other end where it can drip 6-7 feet down to the ground. The guy says his assistant will stop by tomorrow with an elbow joint and more pipe. They leave. We realize all the water is running down the window and on to the terrace floor, and nothing is going down the pipe (it was just placed on, and not sealed in any way)

This was last Wednesday. It is now Monday night. No one has called or showed up with more pipe.

It’s Panama! The main guy did tell us that he’s just swamped with orders and he’s running from morning to night. I asked him what happens in summer when it’s hot. He said it’s totally crazy, and he does nothing but work all the time and he still can’t keep up.

In the end though have a very good air conditioner that we can turn on anytime we want. It’s in the bedroom but we can easily blow cooler air into the office, and even into the rest of the house of we need to. Joel put a string on the outlet hose to direct the water down into a bucket, and now we have another source of water. At some point we will arrange PVC pipe in a configuration we like, but I think we are going to leave the option there to collect the water when we wish.

The only downside of the cooler roof – I use to hang wet clothes on the roof rafters under the roof, and the heat up there would dry them quite quickly. Now that doesn’t work nearly as well. It’s amazing what a difference a coat of reflective white paint will do to the temperature of a roof!

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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15 Responses to AC installation, Panamanian style

  1. hollyranker says:

    So I should get an AC certificate as a back up for my accounting degree if I want to head to Central America? Lol!


  2. Jerry says:

    As we read your post we kept remembering one of you bloggers, (Holly), telling us that in order to live in Panama one had to be familiar with the word “Tranquillo” — otherwise, an American would go insane trying to deal with the prevailing mindset and attitudes of the Panamanians. I distinctly remember Joel saying “Manana does not mean ‘tomorrow’ — it just means ‘not today..'” We are sorry to find such humor in your post, (no, we really aren’t) but we were almost rolling on the floor we laughed so hard at your description of events. We were having our morning (Panamanian) coffee in bed and trying to read your post, but we were laughing so hard the bed shook and almost spilled the coffee. Thanks for such an entertaining post. All the best; JM


    • Kris says:

      Well it IS funny! especially now looking back on it. Yes, traquillo, very very important. Everything seems to take longer than you would expect, and is more complicated that you think it should be, but if you expect that it doesn’t make you so crazy. Sorry about any spilled coffee. I know where you can get some more on your next visit 😀


  3. Robert & Helen Berding says:

    In Venezuela they will reply if you ask when they can deliver or install something “Ahorita mismo”. Right now. Which means we still do not know when.


  4. oldsalt1942 says:

    One more indication that you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.


    • Kris says:

      Thanks for the wonderful reminder! I actually lived in Kansas for many years and I am very thankful that I am not still there. I will deal with these things every day rather than go back to KS.


  5. indacampo says:

    Your experience is one of the reasons that Eric does everything that he is capable of doing around the house himself instead of hiring someone. When we first moved here we got so tired of waiting for workers to show up to fix deficiencies we gave up! 🙂


    • Kris says:

      That’s also very true in the US. My husband used to be a realtor and got so tired of waiting for people that he started doing work himself, and that’s how he got going in the home repair and remodeling business. I imagine there’s even more waiting here, so I’m glad my husband can do pretty much everything that needs to be done. This install was free with the AC unit though (maybe the installers didn’t get paid enough and put us at the bottom of the list? or maybe it’s just Panama)


  6. AnneliseD says:

    Sounds like Michael’s AC background may come on handy in Panama! He is dying to go down and retire there!


    • Kris says:

      Oh no, he’s NOT going back to work! He’s only allowed to install your own AC if needed. I’m sure he wouldn’t want to work for Panamanian wages anyway. Much better to just enjoy life here. When you get to where you can make some time to travel you’ll have to visit! I have a feeling it might be a place you both would love.


  7. I suggest split types are more quieter. You will surely be satisfied than a window type.


  8. Pingback: Paint the Roof! | The Panama Adventure

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