Why we need to minimize our dependence on air conditioning
Imagine you are strolling along a nice sunny street in Southern California, enjoying warm weather. When you step into your hotel, you need to put on your jacket because the lobby is full blasting its air conditioning. Sounds familiar? This happens to me all the time. Recently, I was at a conference in Florida, it was hot and humid outside but every time I stepped into the hotel, I was shivering from cold. It was so cold at a conference room that some people brought blankets from their rooms. When I asked the hotel manager why it is so cold inside, he told me that people like it like that. That’s the thing, we “like” it without thinking what it does to our bodies and our environment.
I noticed that I start having a sore throat and sometimes even a cold when I spend too much time in an air conditioned room, restaurant, or a hotel. I tried to find some scientific explanation to that - I didn't find many, besides some circumstantial and anecdotal evidence. I found this interesting video on YouTube, which tells how ACs are making us sick. I encourage you to watch it:
How ACs are making us sick
I am not disputing that there are times and places when AC is very appropriate but we overdo it and very often have it on because we are simply addicted to it. Many of us are running ACs 24/7 creating artificial environments. The condition of our health and the health of our planet tells us that it is time to stop relying on non-renewable energy sources and to minimize our reliance on unnecessary and highly overused air conditioning.
It is undisputed that ACs use
massive amount of energy to
function and unless that energy
comes from a renewable source
we are depleting our natural
resources and contributing to global warning.
Most ACs are run by burning fuels such as coal, polluting water and land during the extracting process. Power plants burning that coal discharge clouds of soot and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Among these are mercury and carbon dioxide (CO2). According to a National Geographic study, air conditioning used in the U.S. results in an average of about 100 million tons of CO2 emissions from power plants every year!
Even if your AC is powered by a solar panel, it still presents problems for the environment: “all that hot air that seems to be magically disappearing from your home (or car) is just being pumped out into the local atmosphere, creating atmospheric 'heat bubbles' over your local area or even an entire city! These heat zones, known as urban heat islands where they occur above a large town or city, disrupt natural weather patterns and lead to abnormal rain showers, cloud formation and more.” Estelle Page, How Air Conditioning is Heating Things Up.
Stan Cox in his book, Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer) says that almost 20 percent of electricity consumption in U.S. homes goes to AC -- that's as much electricity as the entire continent of Africa uses for all purposes. Time to cut-back!
Further reading and sources used:
While I cannot find scientific research backing up my assertion that ACs weaken our immune systems and cause colds (at least that’s the case with me), there is a medical research asserting that ACs are contributing to our obesity rate increase. When our bodies don't have to work to either shed heat or generate heat, they burn much less energy. The study also states that people tend to eat more when in cooler conditions (so true!). And also, by making the indoors more attractive in the summertime, we've made it less likely that people are going to be outdoors where we're more physically active.
I also came across a very interesting idea that ACs are contributing to the erosion of the front-porch culture. People are more comfortable sitting in their AC-ed homes than enjoying the breeze (or sunshine) outside.
So, what can you do to start cutting back on your AC. Here are some tips:
Turn it down (preferably to 78 degrees).
Turn on your fans only. For example, ceiling fans work by pushing the warm air up, effectively trapping it against the ceiling - but inside the home rather than sending it out into the environment. They simply adjust the differentiation in temperature between the air you're breathing at ground level and the air that's up high, without actually changing the average temperature in the room.
Use the recirculate option instead of constantly cooling hot air from outdoors.
Turn the air conditioner off when you're out.
Clean the filter often, (biweekly or as needed), and where possible, hose down the back of the unit to remove debris that can clog cooling coils.
Seal leaks. Make sure window models are installed as tightly as possible to prevent hot air from seeping in around the unit's edges.