As the hot weather settles in, air conditioners are being wedged into windows everywhere. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly usually tries not to use one. But she finds as the temperatures rise, her concerns for the environment evaporate:
As the hot weather settles in, air conditioners are
being wedged into windows everywhere. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Karen Kelly usually tries not to use one. But
she finds as the temperatures rise, her concerns for the
Every year – late spring – I start my annual denial of the fact that I need air conditioning.
The problem is, I really relate to the people who wave it away and say, all you need is a ceiling fan and nice cold glass of water.
Like my friend Ross, who has no air conditioning on the job as a home renovator, and no air conditioner at home, either.
“Well, it’s not really anything ethical. I just find that recycled air, it sort of smells bad. And I would prefer breathing steamy but clean air to cooled but stale air.”
Ross is one of those people who thinks it’s silly to use air conditioning where we live, which is in Ottawa, Canada. I mean, come on, we might only have a couple of weeks of hot weather. And in the beginning, I try to do without.
I have fans. I drink iced lattes. I take cool baths.
But the truth is, I can’t take it. My brain just stops functioning properly. Like the time my husband came home to find me trying to work at the computer in tears, because I was so hot. Meanwhile, the air conditioner is in the window, but I was refusing to turn it on.
Part of it is that I’m worried about the impact on the environment. I talked to Corey Diamond at the Clean Air Foundation in Toronto and asked him how bad is air conditioning really?
He agreed it uses a lot of electricity, but even worse, he says we’re all using it at the same time.
“Everybody sort of comes home at five o’clock, turns on their air conditioning, and we get to a point where the electricity grid is at the peak demand that it can access. What ends up happening is when people are demanding more power, they have to use as much coal as they can to meet that demand.”
And that means more pollution, which leads to smog, health problems and maybe even climate change.
Despite that, I recently decided I had to have air conditioning in my car – both for my own comfort and the safety of other drivers.
I tend to get disoriented in the heat. I usually relied on a bottle of ice water between my knees and the windows wide open. About an hour later, I’d be taking the wrong exit off the highway.
So, I recently took my 1990 Honda Accord into the shop to find out if they could fix it. I was prepared to spend a few hundred dollars, maybe more. Then they call back with a quote of one thousand eight hundred dollars.
That’s probably more than my car is worth. The guy on the phone says at that price, he won’t let me get it fixed, even if I want to. So the car is out of the question. But at home, the heat creeps into my living room, and the temptation becomes too great.
Third day of plus 85 temperatures… What more do I have to say?
(Sound of air conditioning)
My 18 month old daughter stands in front of the air conditioner. She reaches her arms towards it. She basks in its coolness.
“How does that feel? Good… good…good!”
I’ve given in to my weaker self. But I’m still determined to use the air conditioner sparingly.
Corey Diamond at the Clean Air Foundation gave me a bunch of ideas on how to do that.
“Keep the blinds drawn during the day. You want to install some ceiling fans if you have some. And lastly, you can add a timer to your air conditioner. You sort of set it to come on at four o’clock and if you get home at five o’clock from work, your house is cool, but it hasn’t been cooled all day.”
At first, Diamond’s group tried to get people to stop using air conditioning. That didn’t work. So they switched gears. They started a program in Toronto where you can trade in your old, inefficient air conditioner for a rebate on a new one. Diamond says the newer ones use as much as 70 percent less electricity.
So as I sit here, telling you this story, I have a new air conditioner with an Energy Star sticker on it.
Which means either the Canadian or American government deemed it more efficient. I do kind of feel like I’m working in a wind tunnel. And I miss the sounds of the birds and squirrels outside my window. But yet, I feel comfortable.
Now I’m reluctant to turn the air conditioner off.
For the GLRC, I’m Karen Kelly.