Stewardship of Life

Be Ye Neither Hot nor Cold—Just Air-Conditioned!

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on July 26, 2010
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s hot here in southeastern Tennessee, a triple digit kind of hot with a side of smothering humidity. I know, I know, it’s just as hot or hotter still in other places across the northern hemisphere. After all, it’s summer! It’s supposed to be hot. So why do we carp and moan about the heat? It’s not like most of us spend much time out in it anyway.

Oh, wait! I know why. The first reason is that complaining about the weather serves as an absentminded conversation starter, just something to say that will fill the already humid environment with even more hot air.  No, it’s the second reason that concerns me.

We have become a nation of climate-controlled lightweights. There I said it. Thanks to the advent of refrigerated cooling in our homes, places of business, and cars, we possess the illusion of climate control anywhere at any time of the night or day. Summer is no longer a time to sit on a shady sun porch in the heat of the early afternoon, the fans humming, glasses of tea and lemonade sweating onto coasters, while rocking slowly on a porch swing after dinner. No, now we can wear sweaters into 70 degree air-conditioned comfort of our favorite coffee shop to drink our choice of hot beverage and scarf down any number of pre-packaged sandwiches while working on our laptop in delightful isolation—all while the thermometer inches toward 100 degrees in the shade. Then, for just a few minutes we experience the real weather as we dash to our car and crank up the air, fretting and fuming the whole time.

Don’t get me wrong. Air-conditioning has done a lot of good in our world. It’s kept the most vulnerable of our population at least somewhat protected against the dangers of excessive heat. It’s made settling the desert possible. It’s made living on an island of concrete and asphalt tolerable. I wouldn’t want to live without it in my present location—a rather poorly insulated top floor apartment with no cross ventilation or ceiling fans.

There are problems associated with any good invention or innovation, and air-conditioning is no exception. The problems with AC revolve around the way in which we humans choose to use this invention.

  • We use air-conditioning thoughtlessly (for the most part).
  • We use too much of it.
  • We selfishly fail to see the bigger picture.

I have been guilty of contributing to all three problems in my 49 years of life. First of all, until my attempt to live justly in 2010, I really didn’t give much thought to how I used the good ‘ol AC. I’ve always liked open windows and fresh air better, but I also don’t like to sweat buckets and walk around with my derriere outline damply showing on the back of my skirt. So if the AC needed turning on, then by gum let no one stand in the way of Lucas family comfort.

Moving back down south was a real AC eye-opener. My teen likes to sweat even less than I do, so last month we had this running battle over the thermostat. I’d set it at 78, and she would covertly drop it to 65. I’d hear the unit running like a train to nowhere, and readjust it accordingly. “But, I’m sweaty! I can’t sleep, much less get dressed in this heat,” came the teenage lament. I caved and bought a tower fan for her room (which is considerably hotter than the rest of the house thanks to lousy ductwork and an old AC unit).

Our June bill was $115, way more than it should be considering that our other use of electricity is modest. We had a little heart-to-heart talk about consumption, waste, expense, and so on. With the fan and changing the six light bulbs above her bathroom vanity from heat-producing 60 watt monsters to greener CFLs, she has been somewhat placated.

The real clincher happened when I happened on a New York Times article (thank you, Compact friends) about scientist and author Stan Cox and his research and questions about the health and environmental effects of our “air-conditioned lives.” Cox and his spouse live in Salinas, Kansas, and do not use air-conditioning. His book, Losing our Cool, has spurred great controversy, and he has even received death threats for his take on the issue. I read the first chapter of the book on the ColdType Reader web site and was convinced that I could do better.

Yes, it is hot here, but what if adjusted my habits just a little bit more? Can we stand 80 degrees? It’s been almost two days since I upped the thermostat two degrees, and so far it’s been pretty tolerable. When it is 10-20 degrees cooler inside than it is outside, one does feel the difference. Plus, the trusty AC unit is not running nearly as much!

What about you? How are you coping with the summer heat? Do you use the AC? I’ll let you know how we’re faring down here in the dog days of August. I’m thinking about upping the themostat another two degrees on the first of August, but for now some cool water with a slice of lime is sounding pretty good.

Photo Credits: Sharron Lucas and Playingwithbrushes used under a Creative Commons License. Thank you!

5 Responses to 'Be Ye Neither Hot nor Cold—Just Air-Conditioned!'

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  1. sally said,

    just for the record i dont have ac

    • You guys seem to do quite well in managing the hotter days of the year, right? Do you think more of us could do without it, even in the southern states?

      • sally said,

        a little tougher down south. i think you just have to make up for what you use in the summer in the winter time. maybe you wont have to use as much heat.

    • So how do you survive the heat? Any advice for the rest of us?

  2. ceiling fans are great for cooling a warm room with large area. i prefer them over multiple desk fans:.,

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