Addicted to cool (?)

by Judith Curry

This post is motivated by predicted by a high temperature forecast of 105 F today in Reno, NV.

I came across this article in the Boston Globe, titled How to live without air conditioning.  Excerpts:

Today, almost 90 percent of American households have an air conditioner—as do the vast majority of restaurants, stores, museums, and office buildings. During weeks like the one we’ve just had, these places are sanctuaries: To walk into one after being outside is to be reminded how sweet life can be.

But all that magic chilling comes at a cost—something most people are aware of on a personal level, because their electricity bills are so high during the summer, but not so much on a global scale, which is really where the problem lies. In China and India, air conditioning sales have reportedly been growing by 20 percent per year; around the world, air conditioning energy demand is projected to increase vastly over the next decades. According to Stan Cox, author of the 2010 book “Losing Our Cool,” air conditioning in the United States already has a global-warming impact equivalent to every US household driving an extra 10,000 miles per year.

But although there are a handful of anti-A/C crusaders out there, the idea that we need to be using less of it hasn’t become a touchstone of environmental enlightenment, like recycling or hybrid cars. This may well be an indication of how deeply it has shaped our world: While we can imagine giving up plastic bags and Styrofoam, living without climate control seems unfathomable, especially during a heat wave.

The human body is surprisingly adaptable, and by weaving together techniques from the past, ideas from hot-weather countries, and new findings from building design experts about what people actually find comfortable, we can see a surprising portrait emerge of what life might look like if we decided we could no longer afford our addiction.

WHEN EXPERTS LOOK at A/C use in America, they immediately see a spot of illogic: We use vast amounts of energy just to let businesspeople do something they’d probably rather not do anyway. “We are probably overcooling our office buildings by 4 to 6 [degrees] F just so that office workers, particularly the males, can wear their business suits,” wrote Richard de Dear, who is head of architectural design science at the University of Sydney and a researcher on thermal comfort. “The current clothing behaviour is costing us a fortune in energy and greenhouse emissions!”

In Japan every summer, in an environmental initiative called “Cool Biz” that started in 2005, government officials encourage building managers to let temperatures climb to 82 degrees and advise employees to loosen their sartorial standards. In 2011, the government even put on a fashion show, with models catwalking in untucked polos, capri pants, and Kariyushis, a Japanese take on the Hawaiian shirt.

Here in America, it probably wouldn’t require such a hard sell. Many female workers already dress for summer weather, and would likely be delighted not to have to huddle in sweaters against the A/C. Among men, polos are already considered appropriate on casual Fridays, and it’s not hard to imagine that most would happily embrace a breezier style for the rest of the week. 

Already, some of us live in homes that can be effectively cooled by opening windows in the basement and on the top floor every morning, thus taking advantage of the so-called stack effect to pull cool air up through the house and allow hot air to vent into the street. People can also try “evaporative cooling,” a modest, low-tech form of air conditioning, by hanging wet towels in the window or setting them in front of a basic electric fan.

On a more structural level, we can also build houses to offer extra protection against the heat, using principles ignored by most modern architects. According to William Cooper, a professor at Louisiana State University and the coauthor of a two-volume history of the American South, people with the means to do so used to construct homes that stood several feet above the ground, in order to get air circulating under the floor: “They had long halls through the middle of the house, so if you opened a door at each end, you got a breeze coming through, and you’d have windows on the sides so you’d get cross-ventilation.”

Southerners had other tricks, too. In a paper published in 1984 in the Journal of Southern History, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg historian Ray Arsenault lamented the disappearance of architectural traditions that together added up to “an ingenious conspiracy of passive cooling.” Some of those traditions, Arsenault said, could make a comeback in a post-A/C future. “We’d be paying a lot more attention to where our shade trees are,” he said, noting that Southerners would always try to plant theirs on the east and west sides of their homes, to protect from the rays of the rising and setting sun. Those who could afford to built their homes with wide eaves, awnings, and high ceilings, so that hot air could rise and float far above their heads.

But in some parts of the world, cultures have simply engineered their days around the climate: think of the Southern European and Latin American custom of leaving work for a midday siesta, and then coming back until evening before eating a late supper. In a 2004 essay published in ID Magazine, design writer Barbara Flanagan described living in Barcelona, with hardly any A/C, and explained how this created not just a unique schedule but a livelier civic culture, with people congregating in the proverbial public square every evening and staying out as late as they could.

THERE ARE SOME PARTS of life, it must be said, for which air conditioning is not just a luxury but a necessity. The Internet depends on servers that require climate control in order to not go up in flames. Modern skyscrapers depend on it, as well. If we gave up air conditioning, New England would largely be fine, at least for now, but entire swaths of the country would become uninhabitable: Summers in the Sun Belt cities and in parts of the South would be so harsh that millions of people would simply move away. 

“If you have the ability to open or close a window, turn a fan on or off, change the blinds, modify your clothing—it just becomes a natural part of your day-to-day living, and you don’t build these expectations that conditions should be the same all day and all year round, which I would call ‘thermal monotony,’” said Gail Brager, an architecture professor at UC Berkeley who also worked on the study. “We not only accept—we actually prefer—a wider range of conditions that float with the natural rhythms of the outdoor climate.”

We’re not cartons of milk, after all; we will not spoil, even if we do sweat a little. In fact, by taking full advantage of the technology inside our own bodies—technology that makes it possible for us to adapt to a whole spectrum of temperatures—we might discover we’ve been missing out on a way of life that actually feels quite natural.

JC comments:   The motivation for  this article seems less about reducing emissions than about returning to a life style that is more congruent with your climate and better design of houses and other buildings for passive cooling.

Personally I’m not a big fan of home air conditioning.   I’m having a hard time believing that 90% of U.S. households have an air conditioner:  until I moved to Atlanta, none of my houses had air conditioning.  When we moved to Atlanta, the realtor laughed when I was concerned that windows didn’t open:  I was told that everyone had air conditioning and no one opened windows.  Not only the heat and humidity, but the bad air quality and the noise.  Wonderful.  After living in Atlanta for over 10 years, I fully understand why air conditioning is needed (the humidity wilts everything and everyone), but I still prefer using fans to minimize the use of air conditioning.

In drier climates where I have lived or other wise spent a lot of time (e.g. Boulder CO, Santa Fe NM, Reno NV),  I can get by without air conditioning by opening windows at night, pulling down shades during the day, planting shade trees,  and making use of overhangs and portals.  Today, where the temperature is already 103 F, I am compromising by having the air conditioning set at 84 F, with the fans turned on high.  Perfectly comfortable.

I suspect that Americans aren’t going to sacrifice their comfort as long as they can afford to pay for it, but better design of houses and other buildings  and following Japan’s CoolBiz initiative make a lot of sense.  And in some urban areas, it seems the tradition to keep store front doors open (presumably to invite the public in) while cool air is pouring out from store (or heat, in the case of winter).

Air conditioning is not common in European residences.  About 5 years ago we vacationed in Italy during a very hot spell; not only was there no air conditioners but no one seemed to have fans either.  I would be interested in hearing your assessment of trends on A/C use in other countries.

So I echo sentiments of the author of this article:  why haven’t environmentalists been pushing for less use of air conditioning?

181 responses to “Addicted to cool (?)

  1. Chief Hydrologist

    “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
    ― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

  2. Here in the UK we had a hot summer in 2006 and the shops were full of aircon units for use in private houses or small offices . they reappeared the following year but sales fell off a cliff due to a poor to average summer. This is the first year sine 2006 that we have had a prolonged hot spell (30c) and the units are back in the shops again.

    So 5 summers out of six aircon is a bit of an indulgence here. the sixth time its unlikely to be needed for more than a few weeks and even then pulling the curtains and opening windows to get a through draught is likely to suffice.

    Aircon in cars is however pretty standard these days. I wouldn’t buy a car without one as cars are like mobile greenhouses and get in the sun and a traffic jam and it can get pretty uncomfortable very quickly

    • “prolonged hot spell (30c).” ? 30 c for a high with 18 to 20 c for a nightly low must be brutal :) We are having a mild summer, 88f high (feels like 112f) with 77 low 82f was the SST yesterday.

  3. Unfortunately, there are some very basic architectural design tradeoffs to be made when deciding whether you want to employ “natural cooling” or AC. A house with great natural cooling features tends to be very expensive to cool with AC (and to heat in the winter) because it tends to have very poor net insulation (even if there is great insulation inside the walls.

    Conversely, a house designed to be cooled by AC at reasonable cost is tough to open up enough to the kind of passive cooling you mention.

    I’m not saying reasonable compromises cant’ be made, but there are difficult trade-offs, and I think a lot of architects aren’t technical enough to optimize these.

    • The trend by town planning regulators to force smaller high density residential building blocks (lots, sections, allotments, depending on your country) largely prevents good architecture as the land area is too small to correctly align the building and allow overhangs and the like for shading. Wendell Cox had the right idea.

    • David Springer

      I’m a big fan of window air conditioners, space heaters, dehumidifiers, and table fans. Central air makes it difficult to manage individual spaces within a single residence. In general you can add layers of clothing without limit as needed when it gets too cold for comfort but there’s a limit to how many you can remove before there’s none left to remove. That’s why heat waves in places in places where no one is prepared, like France in 2003, kills the elderly by the thousands. The official count for France that year was over 14,000. That’s nearly twice as many French died in one summer due to heat than Americans died in the 9/11 attack combined with losses in both Iraq and Afghanistan wars during the next 12 years. What a shame.

      • David Springer, July 22, 2013 at 8:22 am “Central air makes it difficult to manage individual spaces within a single residence.”

        A zoned system where a single AC unit is controlled by multiple thermostats is one way of overcoming those difficulties. More money up front but better management of the temperature in individual spaces with reduced recurring cost since you are only getting cooling to desired space.

  4. a/c units reduce vulnerability, iow they enrich people. by all means suggest alternatives but then they’ll succeed only when more convenient than a/c units.

  5. F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in part reflected how rich people would avoid the heat, particularly moving to the sea side. Mountain retreats and summer camps in the Berkshires also come to mind.

    For those who could not move to such enchanting places, “sweat shops” were an apt graphic of the work environment.

    We need the workplace to be productive and thermal regulation plays an important part. At home, we hope for a breeze, try to create one when there isn’t a breeze; sleep in the basement when things get really muggy; and turn on the A/C to dry out the place, which makes temperatures in the upper 70’s and low 80’s comfortable.

    Usually, it is the humidity that takes its toll on a body. A/C dries out the environment and makes life soooo much more pleasant, including, making conversations less chippy.

    • Usually, it is the humidity that takes its toll on a body.

      My personal observation is that 80F dry is much more comfortable than 68F humid. I’ve been in buildings where the temp was pretty low, but the humidity was high. Felt like a cool swamp.

      There actually is technology that can deal with this:

      One technology that addresses this problem is the dehumidifying heat pipe, a device that enables an air conditioner to dehumidify better and still efficiently cool the air. The heat pipe is ideal for hot, humid environments.

      A dehumidifying heat pipe resembles two heat exchangers, located on either side of the air conditioner’s evaporator coil. Several tubes connect the two sections. A refrigerant inside the tubes pre-cools the incoming supply air by absorbing the heat from it. This causes the refrigerant in the tube to evaporate. The air conditioner evaporator cools it further, extracting up to 91% more water vapor than a conventional evaporator would. After the refrigerant in the tubes changes into a vapor, it flows to the condensing section at the other end of the system. There, it releases its heat into the air stream and returns to its liquid state again. Gravity then causes the refrigerant to flow to the evaporator end of the pipe to begin the cycle again.

      Although the heat pipes don’t use any electricity directly, they cause the conditioned air to leave the system slightly warmer than it would have in the absence of the heat pipe, so it takes more energy to cool your home. The system also consumes more fan power to blow air past the heat pipe. However, the manufacturer claims that your thermostat can be set higher with the low humidity air, allowing a net energy savings.

      Several considerations: both heat and moisture diffuse into an air-conditioned building, but the warmer it is the less heat will diffuse, while the diffusion of moisture can often be reduced more easily than heat.

      Also, warm and dry is easier to adapt to the needs of different people: you have to take off less to become comfortable the lower the humidity, because the diffusion of water vapor from sweat away from your skin is driven by a higher gradient. Also, your body has natural adjustable temperature control, by varying the amount of sweat produced to maintain an appropriate body temperature. Under normal conditions this sweat never makes your skin wet, it evaporates and cools from a slight increase in the moisture content of your skin.

      IMO a good, cheap, technology to address this problem would be to replace thermostats with thermo-hygrostats, which could be set to maintain some optimal combination of temperature and humidity. If heat-pipe based dehumidifiers are too expensive, a similar system could be created using self-enclosed pumped water heat exchangers, which would have the added advantage that they could be turned off when the effect isn’t needed.

      • AK,

        Same with cold. I’d much rather experience a sunny 0 F winter day than a damp 35 F one.

  6. I worked for the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston Texas, starting as a freshman coop in 1963. I worked in the Spring and Fall and attended college at VPI (now Va Tech) in the summer and winter.
    My first summer in Houston was after I graduated in 1967. On one Saturday, I ran about two miles with a slight breeze in my face. I turned around and started running back with a slight breeze that kept up with me. I did not run far and walked the rest of the way back.
    I got married on August 31, 1968. Our first house in League City Texas did not have Air Conditioning. The previous owner had a business in League City. His business did have AC, but he had his own office that did not have AC. He did not like AC. I tolerate heat very well and still do my own yard work, but I like AC. We added AC to our house after one year. It was hot, but it was a very good year with windows open a large attic fan pulling hot, humid, air out.
    I vote that we really find out what really regulates the Temperature of Earth before we tell the environmentalists that they could save energy that way.
    You wrote: So I echo sentiments of the author of this article: why haven’t environmentalists been pushing for less use of air conditioning?
    I guess the environmentalists are like Al Gore, they want everyone else to lower their Carbon Footprint, but they want themselves to stay cool.
    Why does almost no one complain about smoke and CO2 from fireplaces? I love the CO2, but not the smoke.

  7. Joseph O'Sullivan

    Environmentalists are careful about suggesting things that are seen as too outside the norm. The author of the book cited in the article, Stan Cox, was called a “radical environmentalist” by conservative bloggers.

    If you go to environmental sites they typically suggest general ways to use less air conditioning, not going without it. For example Grist:

    Another example of an environmental group discussing the pros and cons of air conditioning is this article by Sierra Club:

    • Some claim that AC will increase global warming. The data shows that warming is not happening. If you increase nothing, you get nothing.
      Chicken Little needs to look for a different sky to fall

    • The Sierra Club should be careful. If people cut down on their use of AC, the gas companies may not be able to contribute another $26 million to them, due to lower revenues.

  8. Ah yes, the elitists once again telling everybody else how to live. If the folks want to spend their money on air conditioners, that is their business. I have had it up to my eyeballs with the environmental movement and their holier-than-thou, do-as-I-say attitude.

  9. About 40 years ago, our federal government in Canada subsidized heat pumps, which heated houses in the Fall, and acted as air conditioners in the Summer. I still have mine. I have not used it as heat pump for 20 years or more, but it still works as an air conditioner. I have no idea why the idea went out of favor.

    • Here in Finland heat pumps are very popular for heating as they reduce power consumption for heating to less than half in Southern Finland when compared to simpler electric heaters. Many people have, however, noticed that using them for cooling during the summer may add to the consumption a major part of that savings.

      We have had some exceptionally hot summers recently (2010 in particular as the Russian heat wave covered also most of Finland).

  10. I have to wear a sweater in the lab and office because the building is kept so damned cold. The highest I can set the thermostat is 74!

    • My former admin manager used a space heater in her office during summer, since air conditioning was set so cool

      • We are actually banned from bringing space heaters into the building; using them is a firing expense.
        In English and Scottish winters we used to light the Bunsen’s, have them on a yellow flame, and heat the labs.

      • If you have a minute…

        and are not a Mammoth.

      • Joseph O'Sullivan

        When I was a student in Austin, Texas the building was kept very cold in the summers. The law library was infamously cold. Students complained that it was uncomfortably cold, and we were told to bring sweaters with us even during the 95 degree summers.

      • RE: cold University libraries.

        You’ll never find a male undergrad complaining about it being too cold.

  11. One advantage of living in the part of L.A. we do is that A/C is rarely needed. But I’ve lived in Dallas, where I was one of the few humans willing to walk outside in the heat, and if you don’t have A/C there you may as well close up the city.

    I have problems with these kinds of articles because they are basically saying that a reversion in living standards isn’t a bad thing. What about indoor plumbing? You don’t really NEED it; an outhouse works just fine, I’m told, and there’s that wonderful romantic feeling of being under the stars. How about deodorant–foisted on us by evil businessmen making us feel ashamed of our natural funk. And so on.

    Learning how to adapt to economic downturns is a good thing. Promoting such downturns in the name of green ideology is not such a good thing.

    • Building houses as they have been built in recent past and adding powerful A/C is an easy approach. Improving the design of the houses and reducing greatly the need for A/C is more cumbersome, but not otherwise a reduction in living standards.

      Avoiding excessive A/C to temperatures that many dislike and that are not needed by anyone could be rather an improvement in well-being.

      I worked once at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. During hot summer days moisture was condensing on the outer surface of my office window due to A/C cooling the window. That’s really stupid, as stupid as the excessive heat consumption during the Chicago area winter due to that same large single glass window.

    • If people decide that it’s worth spending the extra amount to design and build houses that don’t use A/C while accepting the higher temperature and humidity, that’s fine. Consumer choice in action. Advice about how to do without A/C is also fine in that context. I’ve certainly been in plenty of buildings that were overchilled to the point of unpleasantness. (Tom Wolfe, in The Right Stuff, described Texas-style air conditioning as being cold enough to make your teeth feel loose.)

      What pollutes the context of these discussions is overbearing pressure from a variety of self-appointed lifestyle commissars to coerce or penalize or bribe people into adopting their preferred puritanical lifestyles. (And it may well be optimal, given all the costs involved, including the costs of design and materials and discomfort, to have some window condensation in hot and muggy places.) An otherwise innocent discussion of ways and means of dealing with everyday issues becomes contaminated by political threats.

      • +1
        But the politicization is the only thing that separates such an article from what it is – a USA today filler piece. Now just add an a cartoon air conditioner with icicles growing out of it to be used as a bar graph.

    • Outhouses in cities are wonderful, especially if you love cholera

  12. When I visited Durham NC a few years ago, I was surprised to see water running down the outside of some of the buildings, it turned out to be because the inside of the buildings were so over cooled that I was too cold and had to leave to go and get a jumper.

    It seemed ridiculous to have to carry a jumper in 40 degrees C (100F) heat.

    I have no need for air conditioning in the UK even if it gets up to 40C. I have experienced 47C (116F) in Avignon France, that certainly felt hot, but I still felt no need for air con.

    We were staying in an old French farmhouse with very thick stone walls and windows that had shutters. It kept the inside of the house at a very comfortable temperature.

    Air con is useful in cars, especially in traffic jams or if you have to transport kids. With good design and common sense, there should be almost no need for it in houses.

  13. jc said: “why haven’t environmentalists been pushing for less use of air conditioning?”

    If you wonder that you’re just not listening. They say all the time that we need to reduce “carbon pollution” to 50% or 80% of levels from some arbitrary year in the past, like 1990 or some such. But at the same time they utterly refuse to support technologies (nuclear, hydro) that could easily do that while producing huge amounts of energy. Instead, they support unreliable, inefficient, unworkable technologies like wind, solar, waves, whatever other stupid thing that comes into their empty heads. The obvious end-result of their fantasies will be to greatly reduce the amount of energy available for anything, resulting in less A/C in the summer and heat in the winter for those who won’t be able to afford the expense of it. I suffered through part of the first summer in my current house 14 years ago before I had central air conditioning installed. I tried every trick in the book to try to make it bearable in the house, to make it not feel like living in an oven. A/C was the only solution that worked. I’m with kellermfk. I’m sick and tired of idiot, modern-day, misanthropic Luddites telling everyone else how to live and pushing policies that will make life hellish, brutal and short for large segments of the population. It is truly sickening that because of all of those numb-nuts we may be facing, not the bright, exciting, comfortable future that recent generations envisioned for their descendants, but one of shortages, misery and despair. If they get their way the “developed” nations will become second- or third-world nations where power will be intermittent every day, basic services (water, sewer) will be substandard, food will spoil, malnutrition will be widespread — well I guess that’s one way to tackle the obesity epidemic — diseases that are rare will make a comeback and probably many other adverse consequences we can’t anticipate. Only when everyone in the world is equally miserable will the luddites be content. Maybe. But I’m not holding my breath.

    And by the way, I installed whole-house swamp (evaporative) coolers in the three previous houses I owned. Anyone who’s had one knows that they in no way compare to the effectiveness of an A/C unit. Even in relatively dry Colorado or Utah there are times when they just don’t work at all and forget it in areas of high humidity. I’ll take a central A/C system over a whole-house swamp cooler every time.

  14. A heat pump with its heat exchanger line buried ~ 3 ft underground costs a bit more to buy and install, but is much more efficient than a conventional heat pump. C foot print essentially equivalent to just a fan, and useful in a much wider range of climates than regular heat pumps.

  15. Mark Abbott

    But nothing is said about the bigger power issue, which is heating in those long New England (and other locales) winters. The temperature difference between indoors and outdoors is often 40 deg F and more in winter vs. 20 deg F in the hottest days of summer. Maybe it is a “red state/blue state” thing…

    • ” …But nothing is said about the bigger power issue, which is heating …”

      Agreed – and I’m not about to tear down my house and rebuild it to suit some heat pump fantasy (we built with insulation in ceilings. walls, floors, windows and now it still costs a fortune to stay alive in winter)

      Anyway, how do “heat pumps” work, exactly, for high-rise buildings in a Beijing winter ? I bet I get no sensible answers to this question

  16. Jeffrey Eric Grant

    Now I get to talk about my childhood in Seattle. No air conditioning anywhere back then. Even the cars had no A/C. I slept outside on the veranda every night from March to November, got up with the birds! Summer days would be pleasant and the nightime temps were somewhere in the 50’s.
    I now live in Connecticut and this past week was very hot, but also very,very humid. We live in a log home, which is very tight, so the A/C is minimal. We pull the shades down. We have ceiling fans to move the air around.

    • Jeff,

      Two things I still don’t get after 25 years in the Pacific NW.

      1) People who install in ground sprinkler systems.

      2) People who install AC.

      In those 25 years there have been maybe 1/2 a dozen occasions where it got hot enough in the evening to impact sleeping. Those events rarely lasted more than a week. A room or ceiling fan took care of that. After growing up back east, with 90 degree / 90% humidity summers, one of the many things I love about the NW is its moderate weather.

  17. … why haven’t environmentalists been pushing for less use of air conditioning?
    Because environmentalists know it would be a very unpopular thing to suggest. Buying a Prius is not sacrifice, it’s a badge of honor. Complaining about coal, oil pipelines, fracking and carbon emissions is not painful – especially in a room full of like-minded friends. But telling people to turn off the A/C and sweat a little wouldn’t attract many followers.

    Scene one:
    “Honey, I think we should buy a hybrid to fight climate change.”
    “OK, dear. You can have a Prius but I’m keeping the pickup.”

    Scene two:
    “Honey, I think we should turn off the A/C and open a window tonight.”
    “Forget that. I’m not going to sweat up the sheets just because you think the temperature is going to go up a couple of degrees in fifty or a hundred years.”

  18. It takes less energy to cool houses in the south and southwest than to heat the ones in the northern states. we could reduce energy use if everyone moved south and used air conditioning.

  19. I would be interested in hearing your assessment of trends on A/C use in other countries.

    In Spain, you have quite a difference in summer temps between north and south. And you have AC in the south in about any home, but in the north basically only in some offices and some shops.

    Curiously, there was an old medieval saying in Spain: For summers, Seville. Seville is probably the warmest city in Spain. But they had quite a lot of “tricks” for hot weather. Trees, strategically placed and selected, very thick walls, roof openings, and many little fountains and “patios”. You would perfectly survive without AC the occasional 107 F (42 C) day you have every summer. Well, occasional = some 10 – 15 days a year, or so. And, at an outside temp around 95 F, which is quite common, you would be very comfortable in these old buildings.

    Expensive solutions, though. So, they don’t build anymore like this, and you wouldn’t dream to survive a Seville’s summer on a modern building without AC.

    • Exactly right. The problem is poor modern building design.

      • Not sure if poor is the correct description.

        Just because there are design & building practices available does not mean they will or should become standard. As plazaeme points out, there are often higher costs associated with doing so. Affordable housing is just as much a need as affordable energy.

  20. Energy transitions – economic, imposed, forced, tolerated, or sought?
    Re: ” . . .pushing for less use of air conditioning?”

    Passive cooling method and energy efficiency make imminent sense.

    However, when economic survival is at stake for lack of electricity, who is going to push for less air conditioning?
    See Pakistan’s energy crisis. e.g.,
    Sometimes there’s no electricity at all for 24 hours and sometimes for 48 hours, as well.”

    Three billion people live on less than $2.50/day. Cheap coal fired electricity has been the major driver in boosting the economies of developing countries to where the majority of the population can afford electricity for business, obtain health care and schooling.
    Tad Patzek documents how US oil consumption grew 9%/year for 80 years fro 1880 to 1960 as it transitioned from a developing country to a superpower.
    Radical greens now seek to force the developed world to reduce fossil fuels by 80% – without an economic market driver, or technological method, and without significant benefit.
    Depletion of crude oil and coal will naturally force the transition. Our challenge is to make it economically tolerable, and preferably beneficial.

  21. What’s so high about 105 F? I was in Las Vegas and it was 108 F

  22. Here in Canberra (SE Australia) where I live, my electricity bills are greatest in winter, when the air conditioner runs every every day, but rarely runs in the summer. In Australia you can get almost any climate you like by moving your residence. but other factors are usually more important than climate. In western Australia where I grew up, temps over 100F were common and domestic air conditioners very uncommon, we attached canvas water bags to the front of our cars to get a cool drink – evaporative cooling..

    • Alexander Biggs | July 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm said: ”we attached canvas water bags to the front of our cars to get a cool drink – evaporative cooling”

      yes evaporation is cooling; farmers irrigate when is hot and dry evaporation cools the land and supply moisture for the surrounding vegetation – the biggest Australian shame is permitting Bob Brown to impose Water Embargo on Australia since 82.

      New dams improve the climate – Australia is the driest continent surrounded by the biggest mass of water on the planet – and is the driest; because topography didn’t make lakes and swamps – dams are same as lake and swamps .. shame, shame, blaming CO2 for bad climate instead of lack of water on the land SHAME!!!

      • Yes, Bob Brown who led the Greens in Australia liked to impose their version of science on Australia. Eventually they succeded when they were able to control the Labor minority government. But that has collapsed from its internal divisions.

  23. I live in Bulgaria and AC units are still quite rare in private homes. Further, the ones that do exist are the higher-efficiency non-window mounted 2-piece systems.

    The vast majority of locals have a strong dislike for air conditioning in general – they complain that the air feels metallic and it causes headaches.

    You’ll see it in restaurants which tend to get very overheated due to ventilation issues, and in offices, but even then the temperature is kept at about 26-28 C.

  24. Talk about “first world” problems.

    Those engaging in this “white whine” should congratulate themselves on living a life so pampered that they actually have time to worry about other people’s use of air conditioning.

    Next up…Cell phones? Why do so many people have call phones?

  25. “To walk into one after being outside is to be reminded how sweet life can be.”

    When I lived in Atlanta, walking into a building in summer was a heart-attack-inducing shock to the system. I used to keep a sweat shirt in my office for summer. Certainly air-conditioning is good, but there should be a difference between a room and the interior of a refrigerator.

    Here in Brisbane I use AC a bit in summer, but a lot of the time I leave it to open windows and passing breezes. But then, I grew up in Adelaide without air conditioning.

    • Once in Washington DC it was 95F, I went into a cinema which proudly displayed the temperature – 47F! I left with a cold.

      Coming from NE England, I tend to wilt when the Brisbane temp hits 28C (we get a lot of 35+ days here), but restrict a/c to three small rooms – I have it on in the computer etc room or a bed-room for short periods, set for about 26.5-27C (80-81 F). Otherwise depend on air-flow, we have a traditional high-set house with air-flow below, and a large tree to block afternoon summer sun. A reasonable compromise IMHO. My wife is a heat-lover, so only localised cooling is required.

      Alexander, I found in Canberra that even on the hottest days, the house temp fell to 13C overnight, so one could always sleep comfortably. A bit different when it stays at a humid 26-30 in Brisbane summers.

  26. The trouble with office airconditioning is that there is no temperature setting that keeps everyone happy. No matter where you set it, some people will experience discomfort. I am very sensitive to heat – I feel awful, can’t sleep and my brain turns to mush if it is hot, and especially if it is also humid. Other people don’t seem to be bothered by it, but can’t stand the cold (which doesn’t affect me much).

    Re Judith’s question, I read somewhere recently that about 40% (and rising) of residences here in Canberra have aircon or evaporative cooling systems. Our summers are short but very hot – maxima in the 35 – 40C range are not uncommon. The winters are cold, with plenty of sub-zero nights, so reverse cycle aircon makes sense for a lot of people.

    A lot of house design features which make sense in a less extreme climate would not work here – because of the need to heat your home for six months of the year, as well as cool it for 2 or 3. It is actually hotter here in summer than it is in Brisbane, almost 1000 kilometers to the north (because we are inland), as well as being much colder in winter.

    Having worked and lived in un-airconditioned buildings, they will have to pry mine from my cold, dead hands. I think the fact that a lot of people install it if they can afford it trumps the bleating of those who want to badger us into reversing the improvement of living standards.

    • johanna,

      The problem is much bigger than that. HVAC engineering, particularly for big buildings, is more of an art than a science.

  27. Fossil fuels detach us from nature. It’s that simple. It’s expedient to ignore nature when building–and much, much cheaper when you’re in the cookie-cutter residential development business. Find a green field, rip out the trees, bulldoze the land, throw in the utility lines, pave up some streets, put up the stick houses using mass production techniques.

    Having to specifically site each house and maintain foliage around it cuts into profit margins. The building codes need to be revised. Then, of course, builders will complain it will jack the cost of homes beyond the reach of the average consumer. So democracy is used as a perverse cudgel to beat back the right thing to do for all.

    • It is not really the spec homes (cookie cutters) in the US. The general building codes produce energy efficient homes and apartments. Air conditioning efficiency has increased quite a bit in the past 20 years, but the average square footage of homes have increased faster than the energy efficiency.

    • We just need to have less people. Less people means we can more easily concentrate on the details of being more in tume with our environment.

      We probably need to get rid of poor people first, since they are the ones most likely to want affordable housing and energy.

  28. Chief Hydrologist

    I was watching a TV program on global warming with my wife some decade or so ago in the then new house . A very practical woman as they mostly are.

    “Looks like we will have to get air conditioning “, she said.

  29. The Skeptical Warmist

    The ecological minded have embraced both paasive solar and passive cooling in building design for many years, but it seems the trendy fair weather green love their electronic toys and comfy air conditioned homes and condos. The McMansions that dot the suburban landscape are the absolute worst for being green anthing. There are ways to build homes that are easy to heat snd cool, but they don’t fit the current notion of suburban bliss.

    • Actually, a lot of the McMansions have kick butt insulation and high efficiency zoned HVAC, with a Jacuzzi, heated pool, several on demand hot water heaters, monster washer/driers, two ovens with an island cook top, dishwasher, air conditioned two car garage and compact fluorescent light bulbs :)

      • We had one built just next door. The old house would have almost fit in the garage of the new one. It is also happens to be one of the legacies of the Vietnam War that people don’t seem to think about.

    • The Skeptical Warmist | July 21, 2013 at 9:44 pm said: ”The McMansions that dot the suburban landscape are the absolute worst for being green anthing”

      Gates, for ”green” needs CO2 & H2O = the more H2O &CO2 = the greener; so don’t feel guilty in your ”McMansion” be happy and enjoy life The ”phony GLOBAL warming” is the second biggest lie since Homo-Erectus invented language Cheers!!!

  30. I have been surprised that ground source heat pumps (aka geothermal) are not the standard for new construction in most areas. The savings in utility bills would more than offset the increase in the mortgage, and once the pipes are installed they are more or less permanent. I did a retrofit on my house, but only because I needed to replace both the furnace and A/C, and because of the generous tax subsidy. Even with all that, it still has a 5-8 year ROI. Also, you can hook up a water heater to the system and get basically free hot water in the summer since it takes all the waste heat from the house. Guilt free A/C :-)

    • Evan, “I have been surprised that ground source heat pumps (aka geothermal) are not the standard for new construction in most areas. ”

      The least expensive geothermal heat pump is a simple water source that requires a shallow well and some place to get rid of the water. Once you add some fancy ground loop system the cost versus savings compared to air to air is not much worth it until you get up north. Then the ground loop installation costs more in a lot of locations.

      What is funny is that most newer subdivisions require storm water retention ponds which could be used for a geothermal sink. But, codes don’t allow for use of the ponds even though they are artificial bodies of water. Codes also don’t allow for gray water use. Silly regulations tend to get in the way of progress.

      • David Springer

        re; gray water

        The nerve of some people not wanting whatever detergents you happen to use getting into the groundwater.

      • David, “The nerve of some people not wanting whatever detergents you happen to use getting into the groundwater.”

        Right, in a rural situation with a septic tank and drain field it is better to shoot it straight into the ground water rather than water the lawn first. I got ya.

      • David Springer

        You should learn a little about the stuff before you talk about it. Soaps and detergents along with other solids are trapped by design in septic tanks then the clear fluid goes to the leach field.

        The problem with gray water systems is people don’t water their lawns with it they simply let it run off in a stream to wherever. Clothes washers are the main culprit and people simply run the pump hose to the nearest out of the way spot outside the laundry room. That practice waterlogs the soil in a small area creating a conduit straight down.

        In Texas residential graywater disposal spread over a lawn is generally legal but it’s in the categroy of an engineered system and must be continuously monitored and maintained by a company licensed for it.

        I happen to know because I engineered my own septic system, had the plan approved by the local authorities, and then installed it myself. It’s calledan “owner install” and can only be done for conventional (gravity fed leach field). The reason I did it was because the ideal location for my leach field was very close to the grade limit of 25% and I couldn’t find a commercial installer that would do it and I really, really wanted to avoid an engineered system with pumps, evaporative drain field, chemicals, and 24/7 monitoring via telephone land line. I’m in a particularly strict location being just a few hundred feet uphill from a man-made lake the city of Austin uses for drinking water.

        Next time you might want to ask before blurting out fallacies.

      • David Springer

        By the way, I also used leaching chambers instead of pipe & gravel in the leach field. You get to reduce the linear feet of trench by 25% if you use them. They’re a bit more expensive but I had space limitations. They also never clog by tree roots so you can have trees in your drain field. Properly installed they can take a 6000 pound axle too. They’re basically 3 foot wide half-pipes and create an underground air space. All you do is dig your trench 3 foot wide, 3 foot deep, and lay these puppies on the bottom. They’re each 6 feet long and link together like legos or if you need to drop down to a lower level trench on a hillside or move laterally by a tree without destroying roots or some other blockage you can pipe the sections together. Because roots don’t grow upward into open air spaces you can have deep rooted trees in your drain field. Which I do. You can’t tell I have a drain field because its got the same native plants and trees growing on it as anywhere else on the hillside including a number of tall spreading oaks. The oaks were already growing. I lost a few because I unavoidably had to cut some roots but the survivors took up the slack. That was 13 years ago. Maintenance free. It’s tits. I also draw and purify my own water from the lake which is another home-made success story. Interestingly there’s no laws at all about conditioning domestic water before use. In their great wisdom the water authority doesn’t care what goes into your body only what comes out of it. :-)

      • David I did not blurt out any fallacy, that is in your head. Gray water for reuse needs to be separated with a simple septic tank/grease trap or segregated by use, then it can be treated if desired with chlorine and reused for a variety of purposes. It ain’t nothing but simple engineering. Has to be, you did it.

        In areas where storm water retention ponds are required, gray water and rain harvesting can produce a nifty isolated hydrology system for irrigation and geothermal energy use You can build yer own natural treat storm water runoff and gray water with artificial wetlands. Some make fine additions to golf courses.

      • Dave,

        RE your clear fluid.

        I should get you a copy of the analysis report for the goop found in a wireless vault which happens to be down slope from a septic field. They still haven’t figured out what it is.

        FYI – the above comment in no way implies I know anything about septic systems beyond the fact my dad’s home has one.

    • You have to love, freedom of choice.

      • Some people don’t think so.

        On the other hand, they strongly believe in their freedom to choose for others.

  31. caveman here we come; caves are stonewalls cool and practical. What about winter warming in the western civilizations… hot showers and supermarket refrigerators?

    to build a building, needs lots of cement / limestone … releasing carbon that has being into the limestone for millions of years… what about black paved bitumen streets and roads- touch it on a sunny days, feel the heat… gumboots and muddy streets can easily solve that negative effect.

  32. sandy mcclintock

    Its dangerous to generalise :)
    Local conditions differ greatly from place to place so one solution does not suit all. One of the characteristics of our summers (at 500 metres) is very hot days (35 to 40 oC) and cool dry nights (12 to 16 oC). Clearly the sensible thing to do is open the house at night. When that is insufficient, a 5 Kw solar PV system provides more than enough energy to drive the A/C; often in response to higher humidity.

  33. David Springer

    Heat kills older people. They aren’t uncomfortable. They die. This article really brought morons out in force. Why don’t you idiots give up refrigeration and sewers too. Nothing wrong with chamber pots, properly managed of course. Dipschits.

  34. I think this is pretty much a lost battle. I’m currently living in Shanghai and have lived in a number of very hot climates prior to this. Today it’s a relatively cool 37C. It’s expected to hit the perennial 39C tomorrow (If it officially hits 40C, all manual laborers must quit working–China has an incredible number of 39C days….).

    Hans Rosling can do another Ted video on the miracle of air conditioning and its beneficial effects on mortality and quality of life. Trying to convince the developing world (which not quite coincidentally is concentrated in the part of the world that most needs a/c) is a lost cause–I think if you offered them a trade for washing machines, it’d be a real struggle.

    Which is not to say that in America nothing succeeds like excess. We don’t need as much a/c as we use and we could build better and make adjustments that would dramatically lower our usage of it. Many good ideas mentioned here that would advance a saner use of energy in that regard.

    But many people here apparently forget that what made Hollywood popular was not the wonderful quality of movies they were putting out–they were just as bad then as they are today. It was air conditioning in the theaters that made movies scripture and the theaters themselves the new churches.

    • Tom,

      There will be no problem powering air conditioning when we get cheap, low emissions electricity.

      All that would take is the US president to boot out his ‘Progressive’ advisers, get some who understand, and remove the impediments that are blocking the world from having low cost nuclear power.

      Along with cheap power for their airconditioners, washing machines, cooking stoves, washing machines, lights, computers, phones, hospitals, etc., they’d also get:

      – near zero emissions electricity (like France has had for the past 30 years)

      – no black carbon

      – no toxic emissions from burning fossil fuels (mercury, benzenes, long chain hydro carbons < 2 micron dust, etc)

      – and avoid over 1 million fatalities per year now and over 2 million per year in 2050 (based on replacing coal with nuclear for electricity generation).

      Not bad, eh? Everyone happy, except the anti-nuke extremists.

      • Hi Peter, Well, I have to defend Obama–I do seem to recall that resistance to nuclear power predated his administration ;), but your point is well taken. I doubt if Kuwait would manage to consume 66% of its energy total on air conditioning if they didn’t have cheap oil on hand. But they do have it and they do consume it.

        You also neglect another benefit France enjoys from its use of nuclear power–because they have so much electricity on hand, they could afford to build an extensive high speed rail network.

      • Tom,

        Re France, yes. Furthermore, it is pretty clear the market likes the cheap reliable power they provide. France is exporting the equivalent of ten nuclear power stations running at full capacity to England, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

        That certainly suggest there must something about nuclear power that the market likes :)
        (scroll mouse across chart; go to the ‘Exports’ in left margin to see where the power is being exported to; go to the emissions to see France’s CO2 CO2 emissions per kWh from electricity)

      • Tom,

        Obama wants to cutg US GHG emisisons and want China and other countries to do so to. He could use his orator skills to lead the population to give up wasting money on renewables (they’ve gone no where in 25 years and there is n ext to no chance of them achieving anything in the future either) and instead release his countries capacity to bring the cost of nuclear down so it is clearly the least cost way to generate electricity.

        Unfortunately, he is getting bad advice. He has surrounded himself with advisers who are long time anti-nuke protesters and renewable energy advocates. John Holdren is a classic example. he’s bee a prominent ant-nuke activists since the early 1980s and probably earlier.

        If the USA removed its blocks to low cost nuclear power, we’d have the global GHG emissions problem well on the way to being solved.

      • Peter,

        Looking at the trade may be quite misleading, or what do think of the fact that the net trade between Germany and France in 2012 was 8.7 TWh net import from Germany to France. When the power plants have been built solar and wind win over nuclear, and nuclear wins over fossil. I’m sure you wouldn’t conclude from that that solar and wind are the lowest cost and preferred sources.

        On annual basis the total net exports of France in 2012 were 44 TWh or 5000 MW as average net export power. That’s quite respectable, and certainly based on nuclear generation (in 2012 74.8% of French generation was nuclear, 8.8% fossil, and 16.4% renewable, mostly hydro, wind generated 2.8% and solar 0.7% of the total).

        (The above numbers can be found from the rte-france pages you linked to.)

      • Pekka Pirila,

        Thank you for your comment.

        When the power plants have been built solar and wind win over nuclear

        What is the basis for this statement?

        Are you aware that there are taxes on nuclear in Germany because it is judged to be too efficient and too cheap so it is taxed to subsidise coal and renewables?

        Are you aware of the enormous subsidies for renewables?

        Are you aware of the fact that regulations make renewables effectively ‘must take’? That is whatever they generate must be bought b y the grid no matter what the cost, and it is the commercial viable power plants that must cut back on their generation.

      • JCH

        Thanks for pointing out this video of John Holdren answering two questions; one about nuclear and one about renewables. His answers, his tone, his enthusiasm certainly reinforces what I said. John Holdren is an anti-nuke, and pro renewables but too smart, given his position, to come out and blatantly say it.

        Nice if we had a nuclear industry building nuclear power plants in this country. … But nuclear is no panacea

        A ‘down beat’ answer. What an example of ‘dead batting’, and ‘damning with faint praise’. Notice the lack of enthusiasm when talking about nuclear and the notice the change when he’s asked about renewables. He has been an anti-nuke activist since the 1980’s.

        Notice his response, when asked about Renewables

        Absolutely. …

        … we need everything …

        All excited. Enthusiasm for all these totally useless renewables, etc.

        “We’ve go to do it all”. That’s the argument the renewable energy advocates have been using for 30 years. Translation: Focus on renewables and waste massive amounts of money on dreams while maintaining all the blocks that prevent nuclear being economically viable.

        What a joke the Obama administration is.

      • Pekka Pirila,

        You never cease to amaze mew how you mange to continually use FUD to confuse, and obscure what is important.

        I made the point that France is exporting a great deal of electricity to its neighbouring countries. The total is about 90 TWh per year for the years 2002 to 2007 (the last published here) I used this to show that Frances. Electricity, of which about 75% is generated by nuclear power, is low cost and low emissions and therefore a model for low emissions electricity generation world wide. I made the point that the large amount of exports demonstrates the market likes France’s electricity. That is the product suits the market – i.e. it is cheap and reliable.

        So what did you do? You picked out Germany and made the point France has net imports from Germany. Do you think that negates the point I made, or are you just trying to confuse other readers, while continuing to try to advocate for renewable energy?

    • My house in Dallas was built in 1939 with 4 wall-mount air conditioners. Can’t call it central air, but it was also not window-unit AC. The openings for the units were laid in the stone at ceiling height, and there were 4 of them.

      They are window units and they are still there.

      There were not many houses built with AC before WW2.

      • JCH,

        Can you send me a link to Holdren’s lecture at MIT on nuclear energy and give the date of that lecture?

        That is an intriguing about face.

        Oliver K. Manuel

  35. people in Africa can be without air conditioners; but in America and Europe they need them… why? take your cloths off – you will save on air-conditioners and fabric also.

    • David Springer

      You can’t be a proper super-power if you have to run around nearly naked. Of course you wouldn’t know the first thing about what it takes to be a super-power. You’ll have to trust me in that regard and remember to never argue with success.

  36. “why haven’t environmentalists been pushing for less use of air conditioning?” – JC

    Haven’t they??

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Did it work – or was it just more sanctimonious posturing? Don’t worry – it’s a rhetorical question.

    • Because Washington is hot.

      Hansen, knowing full well that there was no temperature increase going on, fully exploited this by arriving early to open all the windows. Poor luvs sweltering in the global warming scare where too heat stroked to think straight through the con.

      “PlanetGore: Senator Admits Hot Day and AC Failure during Hansen’s 1988 Testimony was ‘Stagecraft’ – June 23, 2008

      Excerpt: Specifically, the PBS series Frontline aired a special in April 2007 that lifted the curtain on the sort of illusions that politicians and their abettors employed to kick off the campaign. Frontline interviewed key players in the June 1988 Senate hearing at which then-Senator Al Gore rolled out the official conversion from panic over “global cooling” to global warming alarmism. Frontline interviewed Gore’s colleague, then-Sen. Tim Wirth (now running Ted Turner’s UN Foundation). Comforted by the friendly nature of the PBS program, Wirth freely admitted the clever scheming that went into getting the dramatic shot of scientist James Hansen mopping his brow amid a sweaty press corps. An admiring Frontline termed this “Stagecraft.” Sen. TIMOTHY WIRTH (D-CO), 1987-1993: We knew there was this scientist at NASA, you know, who had really identified the human impact before anybody else had done so and was very certain about it. So we called him up and asked him if he would testify. DEBORAH AMOS: On Capitol Hill, Sen. Timothy Wirth was one of the few politicians already concerned about global warming, and he was not above using a little stagecraft for Hansen’s testimony. TIMOTHY WIRTH: We called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. Well, it was June 6th or June 9th or whatever it was. So we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it. DEBORAH AMOS: [on camera] Did you also alter the temperature in the hearing room that day? TIMOTHY WIRTH: What we did is that we went in the night before and opened all the windows, I will admit, right, so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room. And so when the- when the hearing occurred, there was not only bliss, which is television cameras and double figures, but it was really hot.[Shot of witnesses at hearing] WIRTH: Dr. Hansen, if you’d start us off, we’d appreciate it. The wonderful Jim Hansen was wiping his brow at the table at the hearing, at the witness table, and giving this remarkable testimony.[nice shot of a sweaty Hansen] JAMES HANSEN: [June 1988 Senate hearing] Number one, the earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements. Number two, the global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe, with a high degree of confidence, a cause-and-effect relationship to the greenhouse effect.”

  37. Willis Eschenbach

    Energy use for residential air conditioning has been skyrocketing all right. In 1993 it was 4.6% of domestic energy use. Twenty years later, it is now a walloping 6.2% of total residential energy use according to the EIA.

    This means that a minor change in aircon use, say setting the thermostat a few degrees higher, is pretty meaningless in terms of total residential energy use.

    I mean, if you could cut aircon use by a quarter, that would be a huge change in people’s lives and habits of energy use … and that would change total residential energy use by what, a percent and a half?

    Be still my beating heart …


    • Hiya Willis

      What do you think US consumption of energy for air con will be when our population hits 425 million with an ever-growing number of us living in the hotter parts of the country?

      • David Springer

        When is US population projected to reach 425 million? Two thousand never I believe is the correct answer.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        No clue, Tom. That may never happen, and by the time it does, we may be using power derived from unobtainium.

      • “When is US population projected to reach 425 million?”

        Within months of the passage of the Senate Immigration “Reform” Act (intended to annex the Mexican population as a whole into the Democrat Party).

        US: 316,668,567
        Mexico: 116,220,947

        You do the math.

        (And this is assuming Mexico keeps its southern borders as hermetically sealed as it currently is.)

      • Tom,

        Why do you think ever increasing numbers of us will be residing in the warmer parts of the country?

        Because people like the warmth?

    • tempterrain

      You’ve overlooked the effect they have on peak power supply requirements.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Thanlks, tempterrain, but the lack of power generation thanks to lots of greens and NIMBYs is a separate question, and is totally unrelated to what the power is being used for.

        We don’t have enough power at peak? Build more generators no matter whether the load is from heaters, air conditioners, or factories, duh …


      • tempterrain

        The problem with supplying the peak is, of course, that it is only needed for a short period of time and therefore works out to be rather expensive. Air conditioners, in particular, have contributed to the sharp rise in peak requirements.
        It is estimated that 25% of retail electricity costs is accounted for by peak demand that occurs for less than 40 hours per year (less than 0.5% of the year). So effectively, users of air conditioners are being subsidised by other users.

        Incidentally, the region where I grew up was much colder than where I now live. I remember wondering what an air conditioner might be when, as a child, I first heard the term. I couldn’t imagine the need to cool the air. Why would anyone want to do that? I decided it was probably some sort of device to remove odours!

  38. We live in Darwin, Australia without air conditioning. However, we work in air conditioned offices all day. Our house is designed for this -all louvres and ceiling fans , but what makes the difference is the tropical garden and huge trees shading the house. To keep the garden green we have huge water bills. And with the shaded roof, the solar hot water is pretty pathetic.

    The balance between water use and power use has been discussed here and there but maybe needs more attention. In our house we do save power, but only at the expense of water!

  39. tempterrain

    Its quite possible to live in a tropical/semi tropical state like Queensland without an air conditioner. In fact people have managed to live here for thousands of years without one. An over reliance can lead to people becoming prisoners of their air-conditioning and indulge in silly practices like wearing suits and ties in high outside temperatures.

    Their overuse also leads to poor architectural practices. Regardless of CO2 emission considerations, it would be better to do an energy cost / benefit analysis at the design stage of anynew building. European regulations do largely require this but I’d say Australians are well behind in this regard.

    Willis, above, has overlooked the effect they have on the peak power required to be supplied by the electricity grid. Consequently they do have an effect much greater than a simple analysis of their percentage usage would indicate.

    • Of course it’s possible,tempterrain. The point is that the people who currently live there would rather have air conditioning. Without any doubt at all. And they don’t really want to wear suits and ties–except in the nightclubs, of course. Singapore is the example of what people in these latitudes want–air conditioned taxis, air conditioned subways, air conditioned buildings and the major form of exercise is the controlled dash from one to the other. This is what they want throughout the developed world. If you want to spend millions on engineering buildings, feel free. They’ll take the air conditioning at 2% of the cost, thank you very much.

      • Tom,

        Some people will never understand this simple truth. Their own “truths” won’t allow them.

        If someone is fine without A/C, good for them. If someone can come up with more efficient ways to utilize A/C, good for them. If someone thinks everyone can do without A/C and should be made to do so, give them a swift kick in the crotch to get their head straight.

    • I agree TT. Air cons and heaters are not necessary in the average Aussie home. We have lived for 25 years in our current home without air con or heating. Overhead fans are quite helpful in getting your body to cool itself in summer and sweaters are quite useful in helping your body to keep warm in winter!

      • Mr. Davies, what is the average humidity during hot spells in Australia?

      • Tom,

        Mr. Davies, what is the average humidity during hot spells in Australia?

        What is the answer to that question for the USA?

        USA and Australia have similar land areas, so you will see that answering that question is about as applicable for USA as it is for Australia.

      • What a silly post, Peter Davies. I invite you to come an live at my place without heating. The maximum today hit 10C at noon, and currently it is 5C and falling.

        As Peter Lang said, there is no such thing as “the average Aussie home”.

      • tonybclimatereason


        What area do you live in?


      • Tony – Canberra. It is inland and elevated, hence the climate has extremes of heat and cold.

      • David Springer

        johanna | July 22, 2013 at 7:38 am |

        You think Canberra is extreme? Seriously? Record low evah is like 14F in Canberra and record high is 108F. Where I grew up record low temp is minus 36F and record high evah is 97F. And annual rainfall in Canberra is 24″ where precipitation in my hometown is 48″ (counting 10 inches of snow as one inch of rain) so our heat was much more humid. Canberras’ weather is dull & mild in comparison.

      • David Springer, did I say that it is most extreme climate where humans live anywhere in the world? Sheesh, why does every statement have to turn into a p***ing contest with some of you guys?

        My point was simply that Mr Davies’ statement is absurd.

      • I have lived in Canberra for 8 years Johanna but the “average Aussie home” is to be found around in the cities and towns around the coastline, where the vast majority of our people live.

        Peter L is quite correct about humidity but he said nothing about “the average Aussie home”. I have lived in rural areas as a farmer for twenty years and yes there are frosts but a slow combustion stove was all the heating we needed.

        I am often described as silly, especially by my children and grandchildren, so join the crowd Johanna. Your posts, however, IMO are usually a pleasure to read.

      • This link is indicative of the average climate being experienced in 12 cities around Australia and where one could find the “average Aussie home”.

      • johanna,

        Springer’s wide range of extremes may explain his personality.

  40. Oops. Developing, not developed…

  41. michael hart

    In six months it will be January.

  42. Claude Harvey

    Having grown up in the Deep South before air conditioning and when ““an ingenious conspiracy of passive cooling” was the norm, I can tell you that summer life was miserable. Utterly and relentlessly miserable! When a new department store opened in my town with the first air conditioning we’d ever experienced, folks packed it to the rafters and refused to leave. Thought we’d died and gone to Heaven.

    • When I was in Cairns (north Queensland), I found that on particularly hot days, the main shopping mall was crowded with those just hanging out in the air-con. (Cairns tends to pass 30C on most days, “particularly hot” is just that, e.g. 32 and rising at breakfast time. And high humidity. Nice place otherwise.)

  43. We have a lot of cheep and chilled water in the deep ocean. It temperature is good enough for all practical use . It is readily available. If we can run natural gas from north Africa across the Mediterranean and into each house in Europe, the same can be done for chilled water. Ultimately, considerable amount of the transported gas is used for air conditioning. Why not tap into this chilled water gold that can supply 60%, if not more, of the world population that live in costal areas?

    • David Springer

      Maybe close to shore where elevation isn’t much higher. Otherwise you need pumps, well insulated pipe, and you’ll still not have much reach because pipe friction will heat the water as it moves.

      I almost forgot to mention corrosion. Everything seawater touches has to be non-corrosive in saltwater which adds considerable expense.

    • Nabil,

      But for how long will it be chilled with all that missing heat going there?

      • There is plenty of chilled water. As of the missing heat, climatologists have to balance the heat on paper first, which is not balanced yet.

  44. If I did not have a day job with a fixed schedule and a fairly firm requirement that I show up rested and alert, my need for air conditioning might be negotiable.

    One nice thing about the residential AC “issue” is the areas needing it are also the areas most suited for solar. My smallish solar system offsets all of my AC use and more. So, combined with almost no energy use in the winter, AZ ends up being a pretty green place to live.

  45. We had people complaining about our addiction to oil (President Bush also joined in).
    Now it is our addiction to cool…

    What about our addiction to food? Is that ok?

  46. I wonder how much of such fuss as people *do* make about A/C is merely a generational thing. After all, I get the idea from literature that once upon a time, some of the chattering classes likewise held central heating to be the domain of wimps. But with time, it became so much taken for granted that overheating to 75F or even more is now fairly common (I once encountered a hotel room in Japan heated in late fall to a stifling 80F “as a sign of luxury”.) On the whole heating seems a good thing despite some overuse, since winter in Europe was traditionally written up as the domain of the Grim Reaper (“En hiver”, i.e. “In winter”, by Rainer Wilke comes to mind.) Apparently it was never practical to stay truly healthy with just blankets.

    A/C was new to people in my parents’ generation. That seems to have promoted the same “wimp” meme, at least when it came to talking about spending money on home A/C. Of course such talk didn’t stop them from passing stifling afternoons – with, say, Wisconsin being on the latitude of central and northern Italy, wholly contrary to what most people intuit – at movie theaters boasting prominent “REFRIGERATED AIR” signs done up in ice-cube-ish lettering. The alternative was to sit around lethargically and miserably, talking intermittently about nothing, in the steaming humidity.

    Fortunately, in the USA, A/C seems to be becoming less the domain of wimps and more of something verging on a given. So there’s less and less need for someone here to write a poem depicting the Grim Reaper roaming wide and harvesting abundantly “En été”, i.e. in summer.

    Maybe if A/C became common enough at least to provide everyone in northwestern Europe and the UK a quickly accessible refuge, there wouldn’t be so many deaths every time it gets to 85F for a few days, and their summer would cease to be the season of the Grim Reaper.

    (It might also be beneficial where it’s still missing in the USA – particularly among old folks clinging to the “wimp” meme. It’s notorious that with age, some folks become dangerously poor at self-evaluating whether they’re overheating. By the time they finally figure it out – if they ever do – driving in a boiling-hot car to a “cooling center” may not be an ideal response.)

  47. Today it was 32 centigrade in The Netherlands.
    I wish I had an airconditioner in my house.

  48. Having spent the last ten years in the Caribbean, living on our boat with no A/C (alright…I admit that we actually have air conditioning equipment installed by a previous owner, but we have never run it….for a variety of reasons, mostly that it requires running the diesel generator to produce 120 AC current. There is a temperature point beyond which no amount of moving air helps.

    The issue for large buildings isn’t air conditioning…the correct term is Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). All these functions must be performed or the air in any building of size becomes unbreathable.

    The energy savings in HVAC comes from upgrading equipment or, preferably, building more efficient systems into all new construction.

    Adjusting the thermostat UPWARD to maintain more comfortable (not too cool) temperatures does bring about substantial savings in energy usage.

    I agree, most modern buildings are kept too cool — I like the observation that the tendency to these cool temperatures is to allow men to wear suit coats that they’d rather take off.

    In the US — a campaign to raise thermostats in office buildings to a comfortable 74° F — similar to the “Drive 55” (mph) might result in s unsubstantial drop in summertime energy use.

  49. Berényi Péter

    Don’t even dream about a “post-A/C future”, an abomination, that is. The human body may be “surprisingly adaptable”, but that comes at a cost. In a hot, humid environment work efficiency drops below the frog’s ass (because the body has other work to do).

    The only point I can agree with is to dispose of business suits. Who the hell needs them anyway?

    I can vividly remember a time when we did not have A/C at the workplace, those long lazy summer hours, when everything grinded next to a halt. The extra productivity gained is well worth the energy expenditure for sure.

    That said, I would never set the A/C controller below 77F. In the US I had to suffer offices where it was 66F in the summer and 81F during the winter. That’s plain crazy, of course. But setting the A/C to 84F is definitely too high. It may be comfortable only if one has nothing, but absolutely nothing to do.

  50. Not just cool, but cold. The Australian has reprinted the following Times article:

    Politicians go cold as global warming debate loses spark
    Tim Montgomerie, The Times, July 23, 2013 12:00AM

    I’ve posted the whole article on the Open Thread stream.

  51. Two comments.

    First, my children (7 & 12) returned on 7/14 from a 2 month stay in Wuhan China, which is called one of the four furnaces of China. Their aunt and uncle had one room air conditioner, which was rarely used. (typical for Wuhan) The aunt and uncle had a superstition that if you kept a fan on all night, it would cause a cold, so they would turn fans off after about 2 hours. In this circumstance, the heat in Wuhan barely bothered my children. (Will say that it is getting a bit hotter now than it was in the early part of July.)

    Second, I grew up caddying on golf courses. Most heat doesn’t bother me at all, and I have no problem with the house at 85 degrees. Am in Cincinnati now, and have only used the air conditioning one day this summer. When it gots hot, I simply turn a fan on. (If I think it will get cooler as the night goes on, I will attach a timer to turn the fan off) Until you get very hot (levels causing heat exhaustion), hot weather should be manageable with very little air conditioning by most people. Also, I think it would be great if men didn’t have to wear suits in the summer.

  52. ACs are a great boon in the tropics for humidity control, which in itself contributes greatly to human comfort.

    So, less sweating, but more importantly, no more mouldy shoes, mouldy books etc…. (It is interesting to read of the plantation owners of the past having to lay the books of their libraries out in the sun with the covers open every few weeks).

    That said, most homes I visit are set far too cool, and almost all shopping centres and office buildings even more so.

    I set mine to 27C (80.6F).

    • No, Mark, they are set too cool FOR YOU. As I said way upthread, there are significant differences between individuals in their reactions to ambient temperature and humidity. A lot of the anti-airconditioning crowd are people who clearly are not much bothered by hot weather – who then assume that those who are bothered by it are just being wimps.

      My physical and mental functioning drops dramatically when it is more than about 25C, and I can’t sleep. It has been like that since I was a child. OTOH, being cold doesn’t really worry me. It’s just a difference in metabolism, and it’s a reason that I choose to live in a cool climate.

      It is true that the body adjusts a bit when you move to a different climate. But having grown up in a place where it is far too hot and humid for me, I moved as soon as I could. OTOH, lots of people move from cool climates to warm ones for the same reason. There is no virtue or sin involved, whichever way your personal preferences happen to go.

  53. By far the largest amount of air conditioning is business use. How do I know this? Because the power company often lowers the voltage during business hours so that my fluorescents either don’t work or are difficult to start. There is probably economics behind it because it is cheaper to lower the voltage and not tell anyone than add extra capacity for part time use only. As to personal use, I don’t want anyone telling me what to do with my appliances nor do I want a smart grid monkeying with my bills. It is not news that AC hikes your electric bills. Economics enters the equation as it should. And we absolutely don’t need an ideology adjusting our life style. Their ultimate purpose in lowering electricity use is to lower the amount of fossil fuels burnt at the power station because they still think that CO2 from furnaces causes global warming. There is no global warming now because the greenhouse effect alleged to cause it does not exist as Ferenc Miskolczi has proved. But if you distrust his theory, consider the fact that there has been no warming for the last 15 years. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air is highest ever but it is completely unable to cause that greenhouse warming that it is alleged to produce. That is experimental proof that greenhouse effect does not exist. And yet Nature magazine has said that the temperature standstill “is one of the biggest mysteries in climate science.” First, they know very well that the predicted greenhouse warming is absent but choose to babble about a a nebulous mystery. Second, there is no way they can be ignorant of Miskolczi theory but they refuse to even admit that he exists.That shows you how rotten the scientific publishing apparatus has become.

    • Arno

      If I remember correctly Ferenc Miskolczi turned up here a few months ago at the tail end of an old thread.

      It would be most interesting to have an article from him with all his updated equations. I think it would be a very commented on piece.


      • .. and as I remember he failed totally to respond to the explicit criticism presented and told that he stops wasting his time here.

        His paper presents correctly the first part of the basic analysis of radiative heat transfer, but he stops short of calculating the final result and presents his claims based on that. If he would have finished the calculation he couldn’t continue to present his conclusions.

        The full calculation is very well known and understood, and his failure to include the second part is not defensible. He didn’t even try.

      • Pekka

        That’s precisely why I said we needed an article with ALL his updated equations. Some people felt he fell somewhat short of a proper explanation. He says he didn’t.

        Therefore if he could present ALL the equations that have been updated in the light of comments from various people it would be a very interesting thread.


      • I cannot see, how he could improve on that. One version of the more complete calculation is presented in full detail and with full discussion at Science of Doom.

        Miskolczi calculated in full agreement with SoD the radiative energy transfer for a fixed amount of CO2. What he didn’t do is to repeat the same calculation with another CO2 concentration and compare the results. Doing this trivial addition would have unavoidably given the same result that everybody else has got from that calculation. That’s essentially the calculation of radiative forcing. The rest of his theory cannot be accommodated with those results, it contradicts explicitly these results that are most certainly correct.

      • tonyb | July 23, 2013 at 9:44 am | has suggested that:

        “….If I remember correctly Ferenc Miskolczi turned up here a few months ago at the tail end of an old thread. It would be most interesting to have an article from him with all his updated equations. I think it would be a very commented on piece….”

        I agree with you. Perhaps he will agree to address this blog again. I have personally tried to translate his work into concepts that are understood without having to know the math and will summarize it below. He is of course welcome to correct me if I fail to do it accurately enough to satisfy him. His theory is called the saturated greenhouse theory and it applies in a general case where more than one greenhouse gas simultaneously absorb OLR (Outgoing Longwave Radiation). It accounts for the interactions among these greenhouse gases that the Arrhenius theory neglects. Arrhenius measured the IR absorption of carbon dioxide and concluded that addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere must warm it. This warming is called greenhouse warming. The strength of this warming used is measured by sensitivity, the amount of warming observed when CO2 in the air is doubled. It.can be calculated if you know such physical parameters as the albedo etc that have an influence on the absorption of IR by a GHG. The Arrhenius sensitivity we get when all these factors are taken into account is about 1.1 degrees Celsius. This is not in the danger zone which for IPCC means a sensitivity of two or more degrees Celsius. To get all those high warming predictions they give us they have an ad hoc hypothesis that water vapor will augment Arrhenius warming. This is called positive water vapor feedback and it works like this. First, carbon dioxide absorbs OLR and warms the atmosphere. Warm air can hold more water vapor than cool air and this extra water vapor will also absorb some OLR. This warming is added to the original warming from CO2 and may double or even triple the original Arrhenius warming. There is no experimental proof that this is happening, only a hypothesis that is taken at faith value. The usual calculations of predicted warming based on this concept involve dozens of supercomputers, each costing fifty million plus. Each group can vary the parameters influencing absorption so that we end up with a duster graph of a bunch of divergent predictions. As far as I go that is doing it ass backwards. In Miskolczi theory, on the other hand, water vapor is not an ad hoc addition to raise predicted warming but is an integral part of the theory from the beginning. The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere include carbon dioxide, water vapor and several minor absorbers. According to Miskolczi, when several greenhouse gases simultaneously. absorb OLR, there exists an optimum absorption window for the atmosphere. These GHGs constantly interact to maintain its value. For the earth atmosphere the IR optical thickness of this absorption window is 1.87. The most important gases are carbon dioxide and water vapor. For practical purposes, their interaction controls the outcome of the greenhouse effect. If, for example, we add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere absorption of OLR increases as expected and the optical thickness rises above 1.87. But as soon as this happens, water vapor begins to diminish and the optimum optical thickness is restored. This is equivalent to negative water vapor feedback, the exact opposite of what IPCC uses to jack up their warming predictions. Miskolczi published his theory [1] in 2007. In 2010 he followed it up with experimental observations [2]. Using NOAA database of weather balloon observations that goes back to 1948 he studied the absorption of infrared radiation by the atmosphere over time. And discovered that absorption had been constant for 61 years while carbon dioxide at the same time went up by 21.6 percent. This means that addition of this substantial amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere had no effect upon the absorption of IR by the atmosphere. And no absorption means no greenhouse effect, case closed.
        [1] Ferenc M. Miskolczi, “Greenhouse effect in semi-transparent planetary atmospheres” Quarterly Journal of Hungarian Meteorological Service 111(1) 1-40 January-March 2007)
        [2] Ferenc M. Miskolczi, “The stable stationary value of the Earth’s global average atmospheric greenhouse-gas optical thickness” E&E 21(4):243 (2010)

      • Jeffrey Eric Grant

        Arno, the theory that states the atmospheric window is a constant…thereby the atmospheric temperature is held constant doesn’t agree with the slight warming being experienced since the LIA. We seem to be at a plateau currently. Does the theory you refer to contain any prediciton for, say, the year 2050?

  54. johanna | July 22, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Reply

    “…No, Mark, they are set too cool FOR YOU….”

    I take your point Jo, I do like it a bit warmer after 20 years in tropical areas, but I really do mean they are often set too cool for anyone.

    I have been in cold offices (mainly in Singapore, but sometimes as bad in Bangkok or Manila) where every single person is wearing a pullover or jacket. By the end of a one hour meeting I’m uncomfortably cold (usually jacket-less of course). Nice to get out into the sun again (for the first few minutes).

    Likewise shopping centers, same are actually quite chilly – I imagine those extra 3 or 4 degrees cooler add a lot to the cost.

    • Mark, given the cost of energy, why would they be spending more on cooling than they have to? And, it is not surprising that people who live in warm climates wear sweaters where I might still be feeling a bit warm. We have tradies here in Canberra who wear shorts and T shirts all year round, including when it is below zero. They tend to be from the local area, cold-hardy folks who have chosen to stay. The ones who are like you migrate to Queensland! :)

      I agree that shopping malls are often cooler than most people (not me!) would like. Since it costs money, there must be a reason for it.

      I would love to hear from some engineers or mall managers about this.

      • On further consideration, regarding offices, someone explained to me once that they are kept cooler than people who enjoy the tropics would like is because of all the office equipment (computers, printers, photocopiers etc) blowing out hot air. To stop the machines from overheating during peak periods, the default setting is based on the effect of all of them going full bore at the same time.

  55. I designed my home to be earth-sheltered on the lower floor and well-insulated on the upper floor. Window placement and number as well as tree-shading were planned. All this saves on both heating and cooling. Two small A/C units keep the whole structure comfortable even on the hottest days. The costs at the beginning were not bad and have a permanent payoff. I also designed the roof to photovoltaics, but that technology hasn’t turned out as hoped for. Win some, lose some…

  56. Paul Milligan

    “WHEN EXPERTS LOOK at A/C use in America…“We are probably overcooling our office buildings by 4 to 6 [degrees] F just so that office workers, particularly the males, can wear their business suits,” … Among men, polos are already considered appropriate on casual Fridays”
    Sheesh! I knew some academics are out of touch with typical ‘off-campus behavior’, but this is beyond ignorance. I have been working in office buildings since ’98, and I haven’t seen coworkers wearing ties to the office: EVER. I have not seen anyone wearing a suit to the office in months. On RARE occasions (presentations and award ceremonies) a select number of employees MIGHT wear suits. Most days have become a struggle to get laboratory workers to wear closed toed shoes! ‘Causal Fridays’ has usually come to mean Jeans and t-shirts. Before you criticize: get your facts straight.

    • I’ll second this Paul.

      I have a closet full of suits I never wear any longer. I wore one to work on my birthday this year – both my mom and my wife think I look good in one – and I couldn’t have stood out more if I’d worn a clown wig and big red shoes.

      Even our corporate officers (those who are male – our CEO is female) rarely wear a suit. Some industries are moving even further from that old norm. Walk into the offices of a wireless carrier or say Google and it is not unusual to see people in shorts.

  57. R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

    Here’s a great example of a home that is totally energy efficient, is cool in the summer and warm in the winter, at very low energy cost, and can be built at many latitudes.

    It’s just time to think outside the literal box known as McMansions.

    • R Gates

      Ok, beat this one for eco friendliness

      • R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

        That’s an awesome house. Very cosy, energy efficient, and makes me want to invite my next door neighbor, Bilbo Baggins, over for a tall glass of ale and have a few laughs. When can I move in?

      • R. Gates the Skeptical Warmist

        Here you go Tony. Maybe take a few days and go down and visit these guys:

        Could change your life…

      • R gates

        Apparently Bilbo Baggins has left on a very long journey but I am sure his descendants will welcome you.

        Liked the lammas project-there are a lot of people in Wales into living on the land. Prices there tend to be the cheapest in the country so its possible to buy small holdings,

        mind you, the welsh rain can REALLY get on your nerves in winter.


    • RG,

      does it come with a goat or do you have to purchase one separately?

  58. People have different temperature needs, sometimes with no overlap. I have a friend who is decidedly obese, one day we went to an exhibition together and thought it would be a good idea to share a car and thus halve the fuel and parking bill.

    But his idea of a comfortable temperature in the car was far too cold for me. Indeed, the warmest he could stand was still too cold for me. So I guess people who are carrying some excess fat will suffer more in the heat and need more air con than others. I have always found it easy to adjust to hot weather. I can’t stand cold weather at all.

    I once saw a test on TV of some blond Nordic types and they were compared to some dark haired Southern Europeans. The test involved them holding a hand in a bucket of water kept a t a steady cold temperature and then a heat sensitive camera was used to revealed the results. The Nordic types recovered far more quickly.

    • As my user name (which is one of my birth names) indicates, I am of northern European stock. While I am not quite as slim as I was in my young days, I am far from obese. The intolerance of heat and tolerance of cold does go back to childhood – it’s just part of my personal genetic makeup.

      That’s why busybodies who want to lecture us about our individual temperature comfort zones in the name of saving the planet get right up my nose.

      • johanna,

        Not to nit pick, but you seem to contradict yourself. I agree with your conclusion about one’s tolerance for heat or cold mostly being attributable to genetics. Which means your childhood environment really wouldn’t matter. It was already hardwired into you and where you grew up would have been irrelevant.

        I grew up in DC. Hot humid summers. Didn’t bother me. After 25 years in Oregon and Washington, anything over 80 F seems too hot. Since I’m Scottish and Slovene I most likely have a genetic makeup selected by cooler climes. But being human, I am also able to adapt. These days it takes me about a week, but when I go back to hot and humid, it is like I never left.

  59. “Saudi Arabia alone accounts for more than one-third of all Middle East oil consumption, and if the weather were to turn out warmer, additional direct crude burning would be required to cover the necessary increase in air conditioning usage,” said Opec, which accounts for 40 per cent of global oil supply.

    “Saudi Arabia burns its own crude to keep cool, limiting the amount of oil it can export” —

    Climate deniers do not pay attention to the global fossil fuel energy crisis

    • I think that Saudi Arabia has far more justication to use air conditioners than most parts of Australia. In response to Johanna above in this thread I provided this link:

      The average temperatures being experienced by the large majority of Australians is rather mild by comparison.

      Hence, air conditioning use is more habitual than necessary in most Australian cities. Canberra, for example needs more heating, that is for sure, but better building design and the use of more sensible clothing would seem indicated.

      • “Necessary” is a very personal decision, as I have said in many ways above. Why the Puritan view that using energy-powered climate control is a bad thing? You might think that Sydney has a “mild” climate, but for me, Sydney in February is hell on earth – hot and sticky, little sleep and feeling like crap during the day absent air conditioning.

        What is it with people who claim that genuine discomfort to do with temperature and humidity (in either direction) is just a sign of personal weakness?

      • Sorry Johanna, nothing personal was ever intended and your own preferences are understood and respected. In this case you have made some statements about my original post which you have described as silly and absurd and you have chosen not to respond directly to my rebuttal but again, that is your call.

        I usually find your posts of interest and generally getting to the nub of things in a most cogent and penetrating way. In this thread however, you have chosen to take everything that has been said as a personal affront to your right to have as much heating and cooling as you want and this posture IMO is indeed silly and absurd.

    • WebHubTelescope,

      Have a nice day! Peak oil got a bit more retarded.

    • Web,

      no problem. they already have plans to build nuke plants.

  60. ” In this thread however, you have chosen to take everything that has been said as a personal affront to your right to have as much heating and cooling as you want and this posture IMO is indeed silly and absurd.”

    Why? You keep saying that I don’t have a legitimate claim to the heating and cooling that I want, because most people on this vast continent (in your opinion) don’t “need” it.

    • This thread isn’t about you Johanna and please refrain from putting words into my mouth. You are framing the debate in terms that Judith never intended when she posted the head article.

      The head post suggests that there is an overuse of air conditioners and heating in modern societies and I was merely agreeing from my own perspective in my original post. I am not implying that modern society consists of wimps, only that habits may be contributing to more power use than would otherwise be the case.

      You then describe this post as silly and absurd and implying that I was being macho in some way and that I thought that everyone else were wimps. You do not have anything to say about the average Aussie home except that Peter Lang had said that it was an impossibility. Sorry, but Peter Lang did not say this.

      The average monthly temps of the 12 Australian cities is interesting and when you consider where most of our people live, the ambient temperatures there do not seem to support the extent of air conditioning that we use. Sure there may be engineering and other considerations that make this necessary.

      You may disagree with all of this, but lets just disagree without being disagreeable. Good afternoon.

  61. Having lived in the tropics (Dar-es-Salaam) I must agree that hotels put their thermostats far to chilly. At work I would set the airconditioner thermostat at 25C, and on dehumidify. Dry heat is much more bearable than humid heat. Also, when you go out in the heat the blow is not that big.

    Therefore I do not think that airconditioning is a luxury, Nobody (well, almost nobody) thinks that in winter a heater is a luxury.

  62. My Aunt lived in Irving, Texas from the early 1960s until her death in 2008. She was very well off. When they first moved there they did not have air conditioning. In the early 1970s she had central air installed. After the first month of operation she got the bill, and the unit was never turned on again.

    That’s how she got rich. Watched every penny. In 2007 Texas Adult Protective Services was called about her living conditions. A church lady from her Highland Park church was horrified when she found out my Aunt had no air conditioning. Social Services offered to get her a window unit. She asked if they were going to pay the power bill. Told them she would unplug it if they made her pay the bill.

    She ended up in a nursing home and complained bitterly they were freezing her to death. Texas tough. Old style.

    • Rob Starkey

      I have a home in TX today and I certainly wouldn’t if it were not for AC. It is good to have been born when we were.

  63. I would be interested in hearing your assessment of trends on A/C use in other countries.

    Like in most of central Europe, AGW is not a problem for Switzerland; nor is AC.

    Almost no homes in Switzerland have AC. Essentially all have central heating. Some stores, offices, etc. are air-conditioned.

    While there are occasional “heat waves” with maximum temperatures exceeding 30°C (we are just having one), it usually cools off to below 20°C at night. Humidity is not excessive.

    Winters are cold and wet or snowy.

    As in most of Europe, far more people die from the effects of cold weather than from warm weather.

    But I’ve lived in Southern and Southeast Asia plus the US South, East Coast and Gulf Coast and I’d agree that AC is no luxury in these regions.


  64. Two points:
    1) In a business context, A/C is first about humidity control and next about temperature. Without humidity control, copiers don’t work well, machines corrode and break down prematurely. For temperature, modern office machines put out a lot of heat. (It sounds like the author is encouraging a return to the sweatshop environment that labor activists spent generations erasing in the west. )

    2) The modern discussion of ‘electricity shortage’ is eerily reminiscent of the looming gas and oil shortage of 20 years ago. Remember when our supplies of natural gas were running out? It comes out to supply and demand — the government in its wisdom has decided to make it difficult and expensive to build gas-fueled power plants but is heavily subsidizing wind and solar, technologies that don’t have a hope of meeting the increase in demand.

    Willis Eschenbach has written some entertaining stuff on the cost of electricity state by state (