No one wants a nutty hypothalamus
July 10, 2015 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Coining brr-geoisie, Daniel Engber suggests in Slate that "the case against AC has always been more a moral judgment than a scientific one", responding to the idea that America is "over air-conditioned" as argued in this article by Kate Murphy in the NY Times.
posted by numaner (178 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Air conditioning has to be in the top 5 human inventions. I love it unconditionally. You can have my air conditioner out of my cold pleasantly cool dead hands.
posted by graymouser at 7:30 AM on July 10, 2015 [48 favorites]


As Todd Barry said, "Some of my friends are against air conditioning. They say it's not natural. And I understand that, because what is air conditioning, really? Just a definite solution to a problem. You know--that shitty satisfied feeling!"
posted by Navelgazer at 7:34 AM on July 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


I feel like the Slate writer read a different NY Times article. I didn't see any moralizing at all and I certainly didn't feel like the writer was crusading against AC. People are objectively cold in office buildings! It's totally ridiculous that I need to wear wool socks and use a space heater in my cubicle when it's 85 degrees out. I appreciated her explanation of why that is. But I love AC! I am certain I would die without it.
posted by desjardins at 7:35 AM on July 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


I am a Southerner born and bred, so the only time in my entire childhood that I didn't experience A/C within my family was when we would go to my grandparents' farm. They built their house but since they had never grown up with A/C, they didn't have it (they still don't). There are massive ceiling fans throughout the house and they would cool the house down at night with an attic fan. I have just realized though I haven't heard that sound in years, I can easily conjure it up now.

I have always had some form of A/C in the various apartments I've had as an adult. Having experienced Georgia summers firsthand when he would come down to court me, my husband was a sweetie pie and had a thermal pump installed in his Quebec house when I moved up so I could be comfortable in the summer. (Canadian heatwaves don't feel like Southern summer days but they still get sticky enough!) Our first apartment together in Kingston that we lived in last summer didn't have A/C and that July was one of the shittiest times in my life due to the fact I cannot sleep in the heat. I am not conditioned for it. Our new house has A/C but we haven't had to turn it on yet.

TL;DR -- I LOVE YOU AIR-CONDITIONING
posted by Kitteh at 7:38 AM on July 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I also love air conditioning. However, I prefer to set mine at 79 F during the summertime. Fans are the true essential item. Can't sleep without a fan.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:40 AM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is why you see brownouts and power failures on the hottest summer days, right? Because of the moral judgments.

How about we all agree that wasting less electricity is good and use A/C in moderation? The government is not coming for your gunsclimate control, dude. Chill.
posted by phooky at 7:40 AM on July 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


I feel like the Slate writer read a different NY Times article.

Yeah, that particular nyt piece was complaining about how cold office buildings and such often are. And they are way too cold! But it's difficult to find the right temperature, much less control temperatures well in large structures. But the Times does seem to argue from time to time that we should use less AC, and by "we" they mean the developing world, like India, China, Brazil. As they get weatlhy, they demand AC, and the thought is that this will push global warming off the edge and we'll all burn up for trying to keep ourselves cool. I think they like the kind of dialectical irony to that. Trying to stay cool, we got too hot! But it does seem like a got-mine-fuck-you move common with the north with respect to the global south. AC is utterly amazing stuff and transformative of quality of life. We should make it more energy efficient, not tell some poor family in Bangalore that they just have to suck it up in their sweatbox of a flat.
posted by dis_integration at 7:41 AM on July 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


America is definitely over air conditioned. Many, many people are cold when they go indoors in the summer. Just think about it: how many people do you see bringing jackets to go into a restaurant? Personally, I find that I have chronic headaches in the summer just from going through the constant temperature changes. Likewise, I'm frequently hot in the winter.

So I'm calling bullshit on this article. It is essentially moralistically judging and labeling as elitist people who point out this simple fact. Clever move, that. But a bit too much on the sociopathic side for my taste.

Air conditioning is a wonderful invention, but, like the internal combustion engine and space heating, that doesn't mean it isn't problematic in terms of it's widespread overuse and mis-use. It is clearly a big energy consumer, and that is scienficially a problem in an age of climate change.

In the end, one could argue that it's not about the AC, per se, but about piss poor control systems and inefficient building design, not to mention stupid social attitudes (right up there with golf courses in the southwest desert) that lead to its abuse. But having that discussion wouldn't be anywhere near as click-bate-y.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:42 AM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm astonished that tropic and desert locales were bearable before air conditioning. Yes, I know homes built with higher ceilings or stone walls could keep the heat at bay, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to being able to drastically cool and dry the air.
posted by dr_dank at 7:42 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The government is not coming for your gunsclimate control, dude. Chill.

That's what I'm trying to do.
posted by JDHarper at 7:43 AM on July 10, 2015 [24 favorites]


Would it discombobulate the diencephalon to warm yourself beside the fire on a frigid night, or sip a steaming cup of cocoa?

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 7:44 AM on July 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


As far as energy use goes, my electric bills are always lowest in the summer (even though I'm in the Southeast), so yeah, that argument is mostly bunk. But I have found that since I started commuting on my bike and spending more time outside, I don't need A/C nearly as much and it makes times without A/C bearable (like the time mine died on Friday night and nobody was available to fix it until Monday, or when I had to take a long road trip in an unairconditioned car). I could do without feeling like I stepped out of a meatlocker after work every day, but taking the moisture out of the air is really crucial. I guess the New York bourgeoisie don't have to contend with a swampy, miserable climate.
posted by indubitable at 7:45 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


How about we all agree that wasting less electricity is good and use A/C in moderation? The government is not coming for your gunsclimate control, dude. Chill.

If you are using solar power plus have good insulation/efficiency, there is no reason you can't have A/C and also not waste energy. Which is a much better solution than going back to no A/C.

Our A/C broke last summer and we slept in front of fans and all that, but it was a sweaty unpleasant few nights. During the daytime, it was worse and while we could escape and go to a friend's house, it was rough on our pets, who couldn't.
posted by emjaybee at 7:47 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


it was rough on our pets, who couldn't

I felt so bad for our cats last summer. Sure, I was miserable but I wasn't wearing a fur coat 24/7.

posted by Kitteh at 7:49 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


So it's my problem that I don't want to freeze to death inside when it's 90 degrees outside? Because, really, the temperatures barely hit 67 in most air conditioned offices and that's not only a waste of energy but damn uncomfortable besides.

Could we just all agree that AC is wonderful and set it at, like, 78 and live happily ever after?
posted by lydhre at 7:50 AM on July 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


Can someone point to data that shows AC to be less energy intensive than heating given the scenarios discussed in the Slate article? I was expecting to find a citation there, but I must have missed it.
posted by hwestiii at 7:52 AM on July 10, 2015


No, 78 is too warm. 73 plus a fan blowing on me, thanks.
posted by Foosnark at 7:53 AM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Or maybe a big copper heat sink helmet.
posted by Foosnark at 7:53 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


My life entirely changed when I got a window unit for my room - I no longer dread summer and I no longer dread that time in August when I'll be going crazy from lack of sleep! I no longer have to sleep downstairs on the sofa on the hottest nights of the year, angering the cat and giving myself an awful night!

Jeez, the year before I got air conditioning, we had three nights in a row where it was humid and the overnight low was eighty. I would chill those giant ice packs in the freezer and lie on top of one; that would cool me off enough that I could fall asleep, then I'd stagger up in the middle of the night to get another and drop the first one back in the freezer. It was so awful. Perfect strangers were chatting to each other all over the place about how great it was once the heat finally broke, and this is Minnesota where we are withdrawn.

Up to a point, I did adjust to the heat when I didn't have air conditioning - but I couldn't adjust enough to be able to sleep in summer. That awful feeling when you're just going crazy from exhaustion and heat but you can't sleep or rest properly - oh, I would dread it every year and start getting impatient for fall the minute that it was September. My life has been totally transformed by an air-conditioned room and I no longer hate summer.

Honestly, though, I need it to be at about 72 - I have it set at 74 currently but that's still a bit too warm and it ennervates the cat.

I like cold office buildings, actually, because I am a weirdo. I am productive in the cold and useless when it's too warm.
posted by Frowner at 7:54 AM on July 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Air conditioning is less energy intensive than heating, but a lot of heating is of the gas furnace, forced-air variety. So the energy expenditure is split between burning gas and consuming electricity, whereas the summer months are a drain on electricity alone.

I am fine without air conditioning in my home until it reaches almost 80 degrees, as long as I am unencumbered by a dress code and have a fan moving air. My main problem, and the reason I'll turn on air conditioning earlier in the year, is that the outdoor air seems to be 90% pollen-based during allergy season and leaving all of the windows open in the house is a quick way to saturate my home with allergens.
posted by mikeh at 7:58 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Can someone point to data that shows AC to be less energy intensive than heating given the scenarios discussed in the Slate article?

Thermodynamics? If it's 30 outside and you are comfortable at 70, that is a 40 deg difference. If it is 90 outside, that is a 20 deg difference.
posted by indubitable at 8:00 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The article is trolly. There are lots of ways to save energy and moderating your AC use is obviously one of them, especially if you are a big-ass company.
posted by colie at 8:00 AM on July 10, 2015


My apartment doesn't have air conditioning, doesn't have windows that will accommodate a window air conditioning unit (or even one of the portable ones with the hose!) and as far as I can tell, moving to an apartment with air conditioning would at least double my rent, so I'm relying on fans and antihistamines for another summer. I got a new fan that is pretty damn amazing, though, and I'm a lot happier on the hottest days than I was last year. (Seriously, it is worth getting a good fan that will make objectively warmer temperatures feel a lot cooler and thereby save on your electric bill even if you've got AC.)

I'd been experimenting with a portable evaporative cooler for the last two summers, and it works OK, but it's difficult to figure out how to position it for the best cooling. This summer it's been too humid to bother getting it out yet, so I guess it's not something I need to think about unless next summer is also air-conditioning-free.

Anyway. No AC at home and I bike commute, so I keep a bunch of wool shawls and such at work to deal with the air conditioning here. I'm just not used to it. I like wearing summer clothes in the summer and winter clothes in the winter. Building managers who make me feel like I should be swapping the two irritate me.
posted by asperity at 8:01 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


AC is one of the most beautiful and important inventions of all time. I sometimes feel like I can't breathe without it.

That said, people come to my desk at work and marvel at how windy it is. The chief of staff at my office knows that I'm having a good day temp-wise if I am "only" wrapped in a blanket, rather than a blanket and a coat and a scarf and sometimes gloves. During summer. When it is 100 degrees outside.

Does anyone else remember those luxury car commercials where the man in his wool sweater set the temperature for his side of the car to 68 degrees, but his wife in the silk blouse set her side to 72 degrees? I just want that technology to be expanded to homes and offices. I don't want to live my life at 60 degrees because otherwise the floor two levels up is at 82. I want us all to have 90s commercial-style luxury car thermostat controls.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:02 AM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


The Slate article is pretty reactionary, and while I didn't think the NYTimes article was all that judgmental (I do know a lot of people that complain about how cold their office can be), Engber probably saw it as the last straw.

hwestiii, the Slate article links to this pdf from DHHS's 2010 Low Income Home Energy Assistant Program's "Home Energy Notebook". That study is done annually and it usually finds heating as costing more energy than cooling, at least for low income households. What the article also links to are more articles from Engber himself, so those aren't unbiased.

I'm on the side of using everything in moderation if I can, but also, energy-efficient windows goes a long way to help keep your home comfortable for longer periods of time without having to turn on AC or heat.

But I also have excessive sweating and would prefer cool dry air. My federal building keeps the whole place at an even 73 all day and I love it.
posted by numaner at 8:07 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Went out yesterday and forgot to bring a sweater. Library - too cold Grocery store - frigid - had to leave. Right this minute, on the deck, in the sun, tiny breeze - perfection.

Buildings are still built with poor adaptability to climate. In commercial buildings, most windows don't open, so even on perfect days, you have to have canned air. Homes are built to look a certain way, but could be built for passive savings Awnings work really well in summer. Deep overhangs that block high summer sun and allow the lower winter sun. Deciduous trees. I worked in an office that was in a big old converted house. There was a day care on site, so there were fire doors. They installed door holders tied into the fire alarm and we could keep the central stairwell doors open, and there was literally a breeze in the stairwell as the warm air went out the top of the building, and the temps in the building got way more pleasant.

In warm weather, you want heat to be able to rise and escape. You want fans to stir the air because moving air cools you. Ideally, users would be able to open or close vents in their area. In summer, many people have personal fans - that's appropriate technology. In winter, way too many people have space heaters - energy inefficient and a safety problem.

There are smarter solutions, but electricity is still relatively cheap, so screw it. It's not like the ever-increasing use of fossil fuels is causing Impending Doom or anything.
posted by theora55 at 8:08 AM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


So it's my problem that I don't want to freeze to death inside when it's 90 degrees outside?
lydhre

Frankly, yes.

One thing the NYT article brings up is that what feels like the "right temperature" varies greatly from person to person. For instance, you suggest a setting of 78 which, like Foosnark, I also find to be too high.

The solution is to set the temperature low and let people who want to be warmer bring coats or sweaters. You can always add another layer if you're cold, but if you strip naked and are still hot you're out of luck, and most offices generally don't let you strip down that far.

In conclusion, all hail AC, our one true god.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:11 AM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Air conditioning (and, by extension, heat pumps, which are literally AC units run in reverse) is more efficient than gas/oil/electric heat because it is moving heat, not creating it. IIRC, 1KWh of electricity generates 3416 btu of heat. That same kilowatt hour can move about 10 times that amount of heat, depending on the efficiency of the particular unit. I believe they go up to around 14EER now. Air conditioning is freaking magic. Problem is that air source heat pumps don't work well below around 20-25F, so a backup heat source is needed. Electric resistance heating commonly used for that purpose (and in space heaters in offices everywhere) is very efficient (pretty much 100%) compared to burning fossil fuels, but also very expensive compared to burning stuff. While you can get >90% efficient combustion heaters, they are usually more like 80% efficient, meaning 20% of the heat goes up the flue and is wasted.

That said, due to more lax regulations, window units are significantly less efficient than central air. It's generally around a 25% difference. However, if you only need to condition the one room you will be better off with the window unit despite the lower efficiency simply because you aren't modifying the environment in the entire house to keep the one room you care about cool.

And personally, I find 75-78 just fine, so long as there is a fan involved and I'm not engaging in physical exertion. My SO prefers 68-70, because she sweats even with a fan at higher temperatures. I can deal with that, too, so it works out, other than the expensive electric bill.
posted by wierdo at 8:15 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I should note that in the south, those air source heat pumps are quite common, so in some ways the extra efficiency in the winter offsets the extra cooling necessary in the summer. It's easy for us since it rarely gets so cold that a decent heat pump can't keep a house at 70F. Up north where it actually gets cold in the winter, you really need a ground source heat pump if you want to avoid relying on the backup heat half the winter.
posted by wierdo at 8:18 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness: what motivates businesses to refrigerate their buildings in the summer? I've always wondered. Chain restaurants and big-box stores are the worst offenders: I actually get goosebumps when I step into some of those places. It has to be horrendously expensive, and everyone I know hates it.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:23 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most people prefer it to the blazing hot summer heat. They will stay longer and (hopefully) spend more money if you keep it decent. I wouldn't be surprised if some restaurants keep it excessively cold in an attempt to turn over tables faster, though.
posted by wierdo at 8:28 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Anyone who thinks that America is over-air-conditioned should spend some time in Hong Kong.
posted by Slothrup at 8:28 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also worth noting that there is OSHA guidance on heat limits for workplaces in the US. In my experience, they are more observed in the breach, apart from at state agencies, but they do exist.

The Slate author is wrong about people not criticizing the use of central heating, too. Among other arguments, use of central heating has become one of the alleged causes of the obesity epidemic.
posted by pie ninja at 8:33 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


[...]what motivates businesses to refrigerate their buildings in the summer? I've always wondered. Chain restaurants and big-box stores are the worst offenders: I actually get goosebumps when I step into some of those places. It has to be horrendously expensive, and everyone I know hates it.

I strongly suspect it's one of two things, more likely the latter:

1) The thermostat is somewhere warmer, like near a food service area.
2) The employees, who are running around carrying things and darting in and out of a hot kitchen set the temperature. 68F will feel chilly if a breeze is blowing on you as you sit still eating, but it'll feel downright warm if you're up and about, constantly on the move.
posted by c0nsumer at 8:34 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


One thing the NYT article brings up is that what feels like the "right temperature" varies greatly from person to person. For instance, you suggest a setting of 78 which, like Foosnark, I also find to be too high.

This is definitely worth remembering, especially because it's easy to underestimate how much it varies. 78 sounds hot to me, especially for an office environment where I'll be wearing a suit and tie a lot of the time, but I could probably stomach it. My wife wears short sleeves in 40 degree weather if it's sunny, I can only imagine setting it for 78 would be unbearable for her, without a fan, which you can't really use in an office.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:34 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because, really, the temperatures barely hit 67 in most air conditioned offices and that's not only a waste of energy but damn uncomfortable besides.

Nonsense! I have established through winters here in Buffalo that the proper temperature for inside is 60-62F.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:38 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


As the one who (usually) controls the AC at my workplace, it has proved conclusively true that no setting pleases everyone, or even most. Some are carrying and moving, and are too hot; some are sitting or standing, and are too cold; some "run hot" and some don't. No matter what the setting, some are unhappy. We tend to set it cool because the chilly people can at least add clothing, but the sweaty ones can only take off so much.
And oddly, a two-degree change is enough to be felt and make people happier. And others unhappy again.
posted by librosegretti at 8:38 AM on July 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


desert locales were bearable before air conditioning

Living in the desert southwest, I've found that very few homes have AC at all. Almost all of them are equipped with an evaporative (swamp) cooler.

They are amazing. 100 degree heat isn't that terrible - if you can find shade, it's actually quite nice - but the swamp cooler brings that down 30 degrees and adds moisture, so it's very comfortable. The main problem though is when we have had the summer we've had - where RH has been >40% for much of the time. The swamp cooler just makes it more miserable.

The thing I really like about them though, is that unlike AC, you can have the windows open. So you can still get the nice breezes and and such - the house doesn't feel so enclosed.

Back when I used to live in the Mid-Waste, I couldn't live without AC. It was especially important for the filtration during allergy season. Since I've moved out west, I rarely miss having it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:39 AM on July 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I don't have house AC now (though there's a window unit in the basement I could drag out if it gets really hot), but when I lived in Florida I actually spent almost as much as my shitty beater car was worth to fix its AC. Because otherwise I would end up with the smelly car from Seinfeld. I would have rivers of sweat rolling down my back just sitting waiting for the bus. I am not built for Florida weather.

OTOH, I have relatives who complain if it gets above 70F. I once went to North Carolina with them and they had the house AC cranked so high that there was dew on the windows. It was insane.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2015


The questions of how cold and how wasteful American AC is are actually separate. From an energy-efficiency standpoint, the problem isn't that America is over air-conditioned, it's that it's under-insulated.

When I moved from the states (born in Memphis, where one tends to spend most of the summer inside, because that's where the AC is, at best set to 19C/66F) to Switzerland (where home AC in general is an alien idea), one of the things I was most terrified of was how I was going to manage to sleep in the summer in a country without either AC or ceiling fans. The answer: I adapted. From wondering why all my european friends complained about how cold it was in Starbucks I came to find 25C/77F a comfortable room temperature in summer, and I can't really handle an air conditioned room the way my mom used to make it for more than a few minutes anyway.

It helps than the summers are more New York than Memphis. It helps a lot more that most residential buildings are *far* better insulated than the American average, which helps both with the heating and the cooling. In our new flat, the windows are triple-paned, and the exterior walls are half a foot of steel reinforced concrete or hollow brick, covered with another three quarters of a foot of low density insulation foam. Last week we experienced the worst heat wave in Switzerland in the last decade, with daytime highs around 37C/99F. After five days of this (admittedly, while paying attention to how much sun we let in through the windowshades, and cooking on the grill outside to keep the oven from heating the kitchen) it was still under 27C/80F in the apartment. Still in take-a-cold-shower-at-3am territory, but a far cry from the week I had to spend in a hotel when the AC died in Memphis thirty years ago in June, with similar weather.

Once you've built to keep the heat on one side and the cold on the other, the difference between 18C and 25C is a mere matter of personal preference.
posted by Vetinari at 8:41 AM on July 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


But it does seem like a got-mine-fuck-you move common with the north with respect to the global south

I'd like to see a link to an article that says "the Global north should continue to use air conditioning at its current rate, but the Global south shouldn't be allowed to start doing the same." I suspect that it will be hard for you to find such a beast, but I'm willing to be proven wrong.
posted by yoink at 8:43 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anybody who thinks american AC is too much... go to Singapore, over there you'll learn the true meaning of "full blast AC" :)

Also... AC is powered from electricity, could be solar/hydro/wind/nuclear there are ways to have AC without carbon emission.
posted by coust at 8:55 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Of course insulation works and is good, but

Switzerland (where home AC in general is an alien idea)

If you look at the climate numbers, and at how cool it gets at night, Zurich and Geneva are a lot closer to Halifax than they are to New York, and only a little warmer than summer nights in Anchorage or Novosibirsk.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:58 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm astonished that tropic and desert locales were bearable before air conditioning.

Well, they kinda weren't, at least not at anything like the densities that they are now. Air conditioning was absolutely transformative; if for some reason the laws of thermodynamics changed tomorrow in such a way as to make AC impossible, whole cities would empty out.

The shitty response to this, of course, which sometimes people will actually say out loud but they will more often just imply, is "well, people just shouldn't build cities there!" But aside from just being an ignorant and inhumane thing to say, it ignores the fact that air conditioning is more energy efficient than most types of space heating. And yet, oddly, I never hear it implied that that nobody should live in Boston or Chicago because it's clearly not meant for human habitation in the winter. (Okay, maybe I did hear some people saying that about Boston, this winter. Mostly people from Boston.) Somehow nobody moralizes about heating energy usage in the same way that they do about AC.

If you were to take all the people living in the US' Sun Belt who would probably not live there were it not for AC, and move them back up north where they'd be burning heating oil all winter, what you end up with isn't a net win.

On a global level where migration isn't exactly easy, it's still a win: the ability to build very dense, modern cities in areas where the climate would otherwise not have allowed it probably lowers the net ecological impact of those people; high-density cities tend to lead to less land clearing, lower per capita energy usage (particularly for transportation), etc., versus low-density areas. So again, the existence of AC is probably a very big net win for the planet in general, at least if you take on premise that the global population is what it is and you're not implicitly assuming genocide.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:01 AM on July 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


graymouser: "Air conditioning has to be in the top 5 human inventions. I love it unconditionally. You can have my air conditioner out of my cold pleasantly cool dead hands."

Don't worry, it'll be easy to pry out when your house sinks under the waves as the water levels rise.

You don't need air conditioning. You're conditioned for it, and you're too lazy to live on fans and acclimatisation. And yes, I'm very familiar with conditions requiring AC. My work usually involves 12 hour fieldwork days (ugh) in 110-120F heat with lows overnight of 90, and I've lived in the humid tropics for awhile.

You live in Jersey, man. Get a fucking fan and drink some ice water.
posted by barnacles at 9:09 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Anybody who thinks american AC is too much... go to Singapore

I can't give this enough favorites! It is kind of like jumping out of a hot tub and into a snow bank.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:11 AM on July 10, 2015


newsflash, people's bodies aren't all alike
posted by desjardins at 9:12 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


The thing I really like about them though, is that unlike AC, you can have the windows open.

It's probably not quite the same as having the windows open (I don't have this in my home), but energy recovery ventilation allows one to exchange air with the outdoors in a pretty energy efficient manner.
posted by indubitable at 9:12 AM on July 10, 2015


My work usually involves 12 hour fieldwork days (ugh) in 110-120F heat with lows overnight of 90, and I've lived in the humid tropics for awhile.

Well I work in Antarctica mining the cold air they put inside AC units and I don't appreciate you having such contempt for my work.
posted by griphus at 9:18 AM on July 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


You don't need air conditioning. You're conditioned for it

List of things you also don't "need":
Health care
Easy access to clean water
Books

I'm not saying be wasteful with AC, or anything really, but not everyone wants to be a martyr.
posted by dudemanlives at 9:21 AM on July 10, 2015 [27 favorites]


seems like every social issue in America is eventually reduced to a bitter partisan screaming match where very little rational discussion happens. the few voices of reason get drowned out in the shouting.
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:23 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


And a second on the bad insulation and air infiltration being the more pressing issue. I just moved into a newly renovated house complete with good insulation and double pane windows that actually close all the way (fancy, right). Even though everything in the house is electric, my electric bill is half of what my old place was. FYI, the old house had gas furnace, water heater, range, and oven and was roughly the same square footage. So I guess the moral of the story, as always, is to caulk your windows.
posted by dudemanlives at 9:27 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


You don't need air conditioning. You're conditioned for it, and you're too lazy to live on fans and acclimatisation. And yes, I'm very familiar with conditions requiring AC. My work usually involves 12 hour fieldwork days (ugh) in 110-120F heat with lows overnight of 90, and I've lived in the humid tropics for awhile.

Have you ever been at the bottom of ametafilter pile-on?
posted by srboisvert at 9:28 AM on July 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Well I work in Antarctica mining the cold air they put inside AC units and I don't appreciate you having such contempt for my work.

Oh, is that where HCFCs come from? That would explain the giant hole in the ozone layer down there.

(Which is to say: There is plenty of scientific argument against air conditioning.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 AM on July 10, 2015


I spent the most miserable, sleepless, summer of my life living in New York without AC, and I worked from home so there was no escaping it except for going to packed air conditioned cafes where other people were trying to escape the heat. It was far far worse than living in the SoCal desert where I grew up without it, when we used to escape to the dollar theater on the very worst 120 degree days. Hell, I even sat through Ghost Dad just for the AC, that's how important it was.

Anyway, I moved back to LA the following year and kept the damned thing on 24/7/365 as a reaction to it. Now I live in Berkeley where it'd be nice to have it for maybe a week out of the year but it's otherwise very livable, though some restaurants that don't have it get miserable if you're not dining al fresco. I'd never live in NY without it again.

Before A/C people had sleeping porches and in the worst of the NY summer, people would just go camp out in Central Park, and I don't think anyone would argue for returning to those days.

The two transformative technologies that allow us to live at modern densities in cities? AC and elevators. One of them is probably destructive to the environment, but going back to pre AC levels of density is probably moreso.
posted by mikesch at 9:29 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is timely to me, as I am hiding in the warehouse at work as our AC is failing and the main office building is too hot to work in.

My office building is something of a parable for designing to the climate. Whoever built it in the 1970s did something that, in 6 months, will seem like a wonderful idea: They built a large atrium that has a huge amount of solar gain. In the winter it is glorious, it is right in the middle of the building so there is lots of sunlight in those dark months. There is a whole patio-ish setup of plants and chairs to hang out in during coffee breaks which is just delightful in December.

Rewind to now, when we are having record high temperatures, and the atrium is a bad idea: our air conditioning cannot keep up, walking under it is like being an ant under a magnifying glass. I am squatting in the warehouse (thank god for laptops and wifi) as my office was around 38°C (100° in Freedom units) yesterday, I went outside at lunch to cool off as it was only 30°C outside (86 Freedoms).

The moral of the story, building buildings is hard. Especially in places with wide ranges of temperatures (Edmonton routinely experiences -30°C to +30°C (-22°F to +86°F) throughout the year with extremes of −49.4 °C to 34.9 °C ( −56.9 °F to 94.8 °F) having been recorded). AC isn't evil, and it isn't always going to be possible to design around the climate in one season without making it worse in another. While it sucks today, being so hot, and there are probably things we could try to mitigate the impact of the atrium in the summer (a shade?), I would hazard a hand-waving data-free guess that the environment is better off with us blasting the AC summer and gaining all that sunshine and heat in the winter.
posted by selenized at 9:32 AM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


All I can add to this conversation is that my temperature range for being able to do sustained office work is 60F-75F. I can do a lot of things when it's colder. I can do a lot of things when it is warmer, but when it comes to earning a living, 75F is right at the top of my range.
posted by wotsac at 9:35 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's totally ridiculous that I need to wear wool socks and use a space heater in my cubicle when it's 85 degrees out. I appreciated her explanation of why that is. But I love AC! I am certain I would die without it.

Some years ago a cartoonist drew the perfect solution for office temperatures:

Women should wear shirts and ties and men should wear skirts and blouses.
posted by ocschwar at 9:37 AM on July 10, 2015 [10 favorites]




Honestly, though, I need it to be at about 72 - I have it set at 74 currently but that's still a bit too warm and it ennervates the cat


I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest your thermostat/thermometer needs to be re calibrated.
posted by notreally at 9:37 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have spent some time in the Deep South during the summer, without air conditioning. This was in a house designed to capture the breezes and with high ceilings to create a more airy feel, and ceiling fans to sweep the warm, damp air around. Even so, it seemed improbable to me that children were conceived during the summer prior to the invention of AC. And yet somehow they were.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:40 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It annoys me when certain women come into stores and other public buildings on the hottest, most humid days of the year (I'm talking days when it's literally so physically painful to take the air into my lungs that I'm light-headed by the time I get from the car to the door) wearing practically no clothes at all (bikini tops, teeny-tiny shorts that are smaller than any underpants I have ever contemplated wearing, and flip-flops), and spend the entire time loudly complaining about the air conditioning, testily demanding to every employee they encounter that it immediately be turned off because everybody can see how RIDICULOUS it is to keep it SO FREEZING COLD!!!

Lady, we've invented this thing called a "t-shirt."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:43 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Air conditioning (and, by extension, heat pumps, which are literally AC units run in reverse) is more efficient than gas/oil/electric heat because it is moving heat, not creating it. IIRC, 1KWh of electricity generates 3416 btu of heat. That same kilowatt hour can move about 10 times that amount of heat, depending on the efficiency of the particular unit. I believe they go up to around 14EER now. Air conditioning is freaking magic. Problem is that air source heat pumps don't work well below around 20-25F, so a backup heat source is needed. Electric resistance heating commonly used for that purpose (and in space heaters in offices everywhere) is very efficient (pretty much 100%) compared to burning fossil fuels, but also very expensive compared to burning stuff. While you can get >90% efficient combustion heaters, they are usually more like 80% efficient, meaning 20% of the heat goes up the flue and is wasted.

While there are certainly plenty of 80% efficiency heating systems out there, I think 95%+ efficiency gas furnaces and boilers are typically what you are seeing in new construction or retrofits.

More importantly, even though electrical heat is "100% efficient", that doesn't include the loss in generating and that electricity from coal, natural gas or oil, which is likely around 55%-65%, and distributing it, which is around 5%. So resistive electric heat is around 30-40% efficient by that measure. That's why heat pumps are such an important invention.

That's also not accounting for the fact that different energy sources may have different prices per unit energy.

Looking at the bigger picture, there's a measure called Exergy which attempts to account for how valuable a certain type of energy is. Electricity is extremely high exergy because it can be used in many, many ways (such as running your computer). Low-temperature thermal heat is low exergy because there is much less you can do with it.
posted by Harvey Byrd at 9:46 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest your thermostat/thermometer needs to be re calibrated.

Really? Why? I assure you that I'm the person who feels too warm, and I can distinguish my cat's normal behavior from flopping sadly on the bed in the "summer and I am way too hot" position, as when she is ennervated, or weakened, deprived of force or strength.

Unless you're thinking of innervated?
posted by Frowner at 9:54 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always set my thermostat to 69 both because it's the right temperature for me and for the lulz.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:58 AM on July 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


If you feel too warm at 75-80, there's either something seriously wrong with you or with your thermostat.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:59 AM on July 10, 2015


You don't need air conditioning. You're conditioned for it, and you're too lazy to live on fans and acclimatisation.

I tried that in the summer of 2003. I got heat exhaustion and ended up in the hospital. How lazy of me!
posted by Monochrome at 10:00 AM on July 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


It annoys me when certain women come into stores and other public buildings on the hottest, most humid days of the year (I'm talking days when it's literally so physically painful to take the air into my lungs that I'm light-headed by the time I get from the car to the door) wearing practically no clothes at all (bikini tops, teeny-tiny shorts that are smaller than any underpants I have ever contemplated wearing, and flip-flops), and spend the entire time loudly complaining about the air conditioning, testily demanding to every employee they encounter that it immediately be turned off because everybody can see how RIDICULOUS it is to keep it SO FREEZING COLD!!!

Finding sensible women's clothing can be hard (shorts that aren't teeny-tiny, for example). I suspect this is part of the problem.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:00 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you feel too warm at 75-80, there's either something seriously wrong with you or with your thermostat.

Oooh, oooh, it's me, it's me! Around 80 degrees I start to get itchy and irritable and develop symptoms of Heat Madness. My southern husband laughs at me but I really do get hot and cranky at relatively low temperatures (my normal body temperature is around 96 so maybe that's related?).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:04 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you feel too warm at 75-80, there's either something seriously wrong with you or with your thermostat

Or it's really fucking humid outside, or hormones, or typical body variation.

(The humidity is the usual problem for me - I hate when it's only slightly warmer than what I would like, but so humid that I can't help but be sweating all the time and I just feel so gross. 82 and humid is worse than it being 95+ and humid, I swear)
posted by dinty_moore at 10:05 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


You don't need air conditioning. You're conditioned for it, and you're too lazy to live on fans and acclimatisation. And yes, I'm very familiar with conditions requiring AC. My work usually involves 12 hour fieldwork days (ugh) in 110-120F heat with lows overnight of 90, and I've lived in the humid tropics for awhile.

You realize heat waves actually do kill people, right? The 2003 European Heat wave killed 70,000 people.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:11 AM on July 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


You live in Jersey, man. Get a fucking fan and drink some ice water.

So ... you're not actually moralistic about the use of electricity for cooling, since ice water implies I have a refrigerator and an electric fan requires an outlet. You just draw an arbitrary line at using electricity to actually cool the air of the room I'm sitting in, instead of exclusively using it to cool a little metal box? I mean, an air conditioner is basically a condensing coil with a fan, which is pretty much the same as the technology you already approve of. So fuck your inconsistent and silly moralistic reasoning, I am keeping my air conditioners.
posted by graymouser at 10:19 AM on July 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


Add to the discussion the fact that new homes in the US are getting steadily larger, and you can see that it's a problem. Air conditioning a 3,000 s.f. house to 71F that only 2 people live in is pretty wasteful. Put a timer on the thermostat so it doesn't have to be at 71F when no one's home. Zone it so not all of that 3,000 s.f. has to be at optimal temp.

Really, I don't want to call names or be overly judge-y, but people who can't tolerate a couple degrees from their perfect comfort temp should get a grip, and the temp should be set in the direction that saves energy. Get in better shape, learn to deal with slight discomfort. as much as I don't enjoy being cold in the summer when I'm dressed appropriately for summer weather, I mind being too warm in winter when buildings are over-heated. The more attention I pay to climate change, the less I mind saving energy on heat in the winter. The biggest savings should be coming from smarter building design & use. Those killer heat waves are going to get worse and worse and A/C is part of the reason.
posted by theora55 at 10:20 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am a Very Fat Person, and much of the world would agree that is "something seriously wrong" with me. I suspect that my well-paddedness is part of why I am really a lot more comfortable in the 72 range, get by at 75 but feel slow and a bit uncomfortable, and am a very sad panda who spends all her time sitting right under the ceiling fan if we keep the house at 80.

Maybe someday I will be a thinner person and more comfortable at warmer temperatures and I will raise my thermostat because it's not that I get my jollies out of accelerating global warming.

But in the meanwhile, I think I am better served to keep my thermostat where I am comfortable enough that I actually get up and exercise, to be more conscious of other ways that work better for me personally to help the environment like eating less meat and taking the bus everywhere, and to enjoy the fact that my fat body is very comfy to hug and snuggle, treats me well if I treat it well (such as keeping it at a comfortable temperature), and is not in and of itself "seriously wrong" in any way that is the business of anyone but me and my doctor.
posted by Stacey at 10:21 AM on July 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you feel too warm at 75-80, there's either something seriously wrong with you or with your thermostat.

Or you wear, or are required to wear, a different sort of clothing?

The last few places I've worked have all described themselves as "business casual." For women, that can allow clothes that are at least somewhat suitable for the temperatures outside, and indoor temperatures that are closer to them: arms bare to the shoulders, legs bare to the knee, and the additional ventilation of skirts, and possibly even sandals.

For men, the very coolest that standard allows is khaki slacks and polo shirts, and for a lot of places, it's still requires dress shirt, undershirt, (tropical) wool shacks, and a sport coat when customers or vendors are around. Maybe they get to roll up their sleeves when alone at their desk (but not too far--are you trying to look like a marine?) I'm sure ditching the tie helps, but not very much.

When people are dressing that differently, it's not at all surprising they they're comfortable at very different temperatures. Back when I was a kid in the service industry, it was even worse: I'm rushing around carrying heavy items, in and out of the kitchen,shoulder to-ankle in multiple layers of cheap, unbreathable synthetics, while you've come in dressed in a cotton sundress that you could wear straight to the beach. Sure, you're the customer: of course the thermostat is set for you, but please don't complain when that means that I show up at your table a bit flushed and sweaty.
posted by CHoldredge at 10:24 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


People pity those of us living in SF for the high cost of living, but among the other benefits it is so, so wonderful to not ever have to worry about using our (nonexistent) A/C.

Of course, it's also 61 and cloudy on this--oh, is it July?--day.
posted by psoas at 10:24 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


yoink: "I'd like to see a link to an article that says "the Global north should continue to use air conditioning at its current rate, but the Global south shouldn't be allowed to start doing the same." I suspect that it will be hard for you to find such a beast, but I'm willing to be proven wrong."

Yeah, Because unless people say that they are discriminating, they don't discriminate.

There is some validity to the point that the shout about impact of use AC is related to north - south divide...

After all, the problem is not people using ACs, the problem is that the technology used for creating and running ACs is either environmentally unsustainable or expensive and covered by patents.

Guess, which countries are focusing on patent and IP protection instead of helping poor countries climb up quickly on the tech ladder?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:25 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Finding sensible women's clothing can be hard (shorts that aren't teeny-tiny, for example). I suspect this is part of the problem.


I guess it depends where you shop. I've never owned a pair of teeny-tiny shorts, nor been faced with the predicament of them or nothing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:28 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


You live in Jersey, man. Get a fucking fan and drink some ice water.

i read this and got up to turn on my second AC which i don't even need
posted by poffin boffin at 10:28 AM on July 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


After all, the problem is not people using ACs, the problem is that the technology used for creating and running ACs is either environmentally unsustainable or expensive and covered by patents.

This is wrong on pretty much every count. The only problem people have with AC use is that it's a huge drain on energy. No one in the environmental movement is saying "well, the Global North already has its AC units installed, so it's o.k. if they run them as hard as they want, but we draw the line at NEW AC units being built for the Global South." And nobody is twirling their moustaches and saying "we will protect our seeeeeeeeekrit AC technology patents and forever prevent the Global South from having sweet, sweet cooled air."

The argument about AC--from an environmental perspective--is simply one about total energy use. It's actually one of the more egalitarian issues from a North/South perspective because it's a purely use-based one. It's not like issues related to deforestation or other kinds of environmental degradation where we get to say "o.k., we did it, and that was bad, but we can't exactly return New York to pristine forest, can we?" It's one which is simply about how many kilowatts per person, per year, is sustainable for the planet.
posted by yoink at 10:31 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


So ... you're not actually moralistic about the use of electricity for cooling, since ice water implies I have a refrigerator and an electric fan requires an outlet. You just draw an arbitrary line at using electricity to actually cool the air of the room I'm sitting in, instead of exclusively using it to cool a little metal box?

Cooling a small, well-sealed, highly-insulated metal box is thousands of times more efficient than cooling an entire house. I don't think people who choose to use AC are monsters or pussies or whatever, but there's absolutely no contradiction in preferring iced water to AC in terms of reducing energy use.
posted by yoink at 10:35 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


ice water implies I have a refrigerator

Everybody who is needlessly running AC is also the owner of a fridge. They didn't make a choice between the two. There is no comparison between the need to have a fridge in order to feed your family, and the need to be all comfy and cool because you like it.
posted by colie at 10:39 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The only problem people have with AC use is that it's a huge drain on energy.

Well sure, but so is heating. A much bigger drain, in fact. And yet somehow you see far fewer of these opinion pieces suggesting a lack of moral fiber on the part of those who refuse to turn their thermostats down to 55 in the winter.

I'm sure it's completely coincidental that most of the wealth and media power in the world is concentrated in places that use more heating than air conditioning
posted by CHoldredge at 10:40 AM on July 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


barnacles: "You don't need air conditioning. You're conditioned for it, and you're too lazy to live on fans and acclimatisation. And yes, I'm very familiar with conditions requiring AC. My work usually involves 12 hour fieldwork days (ugh) in 110-120F heat with lows overnight of 90, and I've lived in the humid tropics for awhile. "

Goddamn!

I hope I could see you give this sermon to these 2,330 people who had the laziness to die even though they had fans and were acclimatized (hopefully). I am sure they were probably working for less than 12 hrs in 100 to 115 F heat in a tropical country.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:41 AM on July 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you feel too warm at 75-80, there's either something seriously wrong with you or with your thermostat.

Eh, not really. Because if it's 80 and swamp ass humid I'm going to feel super unwell but if it's 80 and bone dry I'm going to feel pretty good about life. Also various medications people take can cause serious problems with thermoregulation, which is the fucking worst.

My office was the site of really fucking gruesome bloody battles about the AC because of one lady who decided her comfort was more important than everyone else's, and who was in the throes of terrible menopausal overheating, and who thought that the AC should be on 65 degrees at all times. Now that she's not working with us anymore everyone looks back on that time like some kind of terrible POW story in which we lived lives of unending torment and it's such a fucking relief to not have to deal with it anymore. Also we are saving literally thousands of dollars a month on our electric bills, not just from less AC but from the fact that 25 people are no longer running individual space heaters on the highest setting for 8h a day.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Well sure, but so is heating.

Everyone I know has taken steps to insulate their homes and cut down on their energy use in winter as well. The government gives out grants for it. There are more efficient boilers marketed every year. My entire childhood was soundtracked with 'put a jumper on if you're cold'. I don't recognise any of this 'yeah but heating' argument.
posted by colie at 10:44 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Weirdly I can work physically in 90-100 degrees for hours without too much discomfort, but if I have to sit in front of a computer and concentrate I need the temp below 78°F. I'm not going to judge people who need colder temps for comfort, but as pointed out earlier there is no one-size-fits-all comfortable thermostat setting. I will say that if you can't tolerate much temperature variation you might be better off exercising outdoors more, but that's not possible for everyone and probably not effective for some.

As for why some restaurants keep the temps low, I suspect people eat more when they are cold, and if there's a sudden crowd that temperature can spike quickly into an uncomfortable range if it's not already very cool.

BTW, if you've ever been in an old California mission in the summer it's amazing how effective that architecture is for comfort in a desert environment.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:44 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


yoink: ""we will protect our seeeeeeeeekrit AC technology patents and forever prevent"

Hey, I am sure the technology to build cheaper and more efficient power plants is freely available at cost to everyone .... but what do I know? I thought both AC technology and electricity production technology are important for air conditioned houses.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:45 AM on July 10, 2015


AC & heating are different beasts when it comes to energy. Heating can use natural gas, coal or wood, and all inefficiencies are local, whereas AC has inefficiencies locally and in the power production and distribution. Additionally, AC use drives peak or maximum demand whereas heat is used all day.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:47 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I grew up without the need for AC. It wasn't necessary. Then I moved to where the general temps were the same but had humidity. I made it through one summer of hell before happily jumping in an getting my house ac'd out.

AC saved me from losing my mind during a summer a few years ago. For the month of august I had this really weird body itch thing happen. It was like an allergy to outside. Every time I went outside my skin would start to crazy itch all over. Never did figure out why, hasn't happened again. The only thing that gave me relief and made that month bearable was cranking up a portable AC unit, being butt naked and sitting right beside it. I played a lot of video games that August with my AC friend resting right beside my chair.
posted by Jalliah at 10:51 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm astonished that tropic and desert locales were bearable before air conditioning.

They weren't. No one really wanted to live in these places unless they had no other choice. A good example is Houston, Texas. When my father was getting his degrees at Rice University back in the 1950s, Buffalo Speedway was the edge of town and Houston wasn't all that large. Now it's in one of the innermost inner core areas, and Houston is a zillion times larger. The difference? Affordable air conditioning has made it bearable to live there.

It's also made it bearable for me to live in New York City in the summer. It can get pretty ridiculously humid here. And on top of that, my 100+ year old building has a huge southern exposure so its thick stone walls soak up thermal energy all day and radiate it back into the building all night. At some point I realized I was spending all summer in my tiny bedroom where the AC lived, so I bit the bullet and put a window unit into every room. Never regretted it.

People of course differ greatly in the temperatures at which they are comfortable. I have never been particularly comfortable once the temperature gets past the mid 70s, and forget about sleeping in temperatures above 70F.
posted by slkinsey at 10:54 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well sure, but so is heating. A much bigger drain, in fact. And yet somehow you see far fewer of these opinion pieces suggesting a lack of moral fiber on the part of those who refuse to turn their thermostats down to 55 in the winter.

Actually, there are lots of such pieces. Environmentalists talk all the time about how to make heating more efficient and how to increase insulation in people's homes. Remember all the flak Obama took over proposals to spend stimulus money on home insulation programs? Trying to figure out ways to cut the energy devoted to heating has been a major aspect of environmental concern for decades.

I'm sure it's completely coincidental that most of the wealth and media power in the world is concentrated in places that use more heating than air conditioning

Almost everywhere in the US uses more power for heating than air conditioning. The idea that this is the rare privilege of East Coast elites is, well, weird.

I hope I could see you give this sermon to these 2,330 people who had the laziness to die even though they had fans and were acclimatized (hopefully).

It's true that heat kills a lot of people. But as a massive study recently published in The Lancet shows, cold is a much, much bigger killer worldwide than heat. I think the reason we see home heating as--at least to some degree--a basic requirement and AC as more like a "luxury" is that that is demonstrably true in the vast majority of places human beings live. That is, we know that people won't survive winter in, say, Montreal, without heating of any kind. On the other hand we know that--however uncomfortable it was--people did routinely survive summers in Montreal before AC was invented. Just as they routinely survived summers in Florida, the Southwest etc. AC can be a life saver, certainly, but in most cases it is simply improving people's comfort, not saving their lives. In many instances heating is actually making the difference between life and death.
posted by yoink at 10:55 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've never had AC in my home.

I don't think it's a moral issue however I think it's a moral issue to provide for there to be cooling centers for the folks who're suffering from the heat or getting sick from it -- we've got to do it, you can't teach a heat stroke or exhaustion victim prevention once they're sick and even the skilled aren't going to evade it every time. Lots of churches around here provide cooling stations, but office buildings and stores and so on could be a lot more understanding of the challenges some people in our community will face -- ultimately though that's not an AC thing, it's more like a classist thing.

For my lifestyle of walking all over the damn place in most any weather I have got to know how to dissipate heat without AC and how to turn the start of heat exhaustion around into another couple miles of walking and not heat stroke. That's how I like it. I love that dazed tranced-out feeling walking on at a deliberate and slow pace while the sun beats down on me.

I also love switching to staying up late and taking early evening naps in the Summer for a divided sleep schedule. Late nights and divided sleep schedules make Summer for me, even now as an adult in a professional field. It doesn't really bother me to sleep in a 30-35C environment, though the challenge of not being sick as a dog when I wake up increases with the temperature.

I don't know how long I'll keep at it but I bet if I'm ever in a weakened state I'll be at least a little more resilient to the heat having developed scripts for recognizing and mitigating the effects of heat and sun on myself and my companions. I hope it turns out to be at least a little helpful to people around me and not just my weird idea of a good time.

Someday I'm going to break a bone or get real sick and then I'm pretty sure I'll get AC. But I sure don't "need" AC, so I figure why get personally involved with it? It'd just be one more thing to buy and have to deal with. No judgement if others evaluate the cost/benefit differently, people have got to live right?
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:29 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


selenized, it sounds like your building needs a seasonal sunshade over the atrium. Reducing solar gain in summer would go a long way.

Anyone who thinks that America is over-air-conditioned should spend some time in Hong Kong.

Or Manila. In both places, the constant 90-100 F and 95-100% humidity are unbearable without AC, and that's in the shade. Parts of central Makati are connected with walkways through malls. I had two mini-splits in my 90m2 loft apartment and couldn't sleep without the upstairs one running. But other parts of Manila are curiously not air-conditioned, like the gotdamn international airport for example. Nothing says "welcome to the shit" like stepping off a fourteen-hour flight into that miasma.

Here on Oahu, most residences have jalousie windows and no AC, and as long as we have tradewinds it's mostly OK. When we get a storm or Kona winds, though, it gets sticky and I've wished for a portable. It's too humid (~60%) for swamp cooling to work, so I take a cool shower or bath before bed.

I'm so moving to SF after I win at least two lotteries.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:40 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a lot of disagreement about what the proper indoor temperature should be. A lot of this disagreement is because what the thermometer is measuring is just air temperature. But indoors, your comfort is mainly due to radiation, not conduction or convection. Radiation is determined by the temperature of the walls, windows, ceiling and floor. That is not what the thermometer measures.

If your thermometer says 70 degrees, but the ceiling and walls are 80 degrees, its going to feel like 80 degrees, so you turn on the air conditioning. If your thermometer says 75 degrees but the walls and ceiling are 65 degrees, its going to feel like 65 degrees, so you turn on the heat.

Your comfort has more to do with the quality of insulation in the building than it does with what the thermometer says.
posted by JackFlash at 11:59 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The other day I was joking with my favorite checker at the grocery store about how I'd just bought a window air conditioner on Amazon that afternoon, so it'll probably rain soon... and would you look at that, potential rain in the forecast this weekend and cooler temps coming. You're welcome, fellow Seattleites. I suppose I'll just use that AC unit as a footrest until things get weirdly hot and awful again.
posted by palomar at 12:07 PM on July 10, 2015


Your comfort has more to do with the quality of insulation in the building than it does with what the thermometer says.

residential brick buildings in nyc that are built like pizza ovens to hold in the heat are going to be the death of me
posted by poffin boffin at 12:09 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


No decent air cons fit my windows. Which (except for maybe 6-12 nights out of the year) is mostly ok with me. I feel like there's a chilly, clammy edge to that air, even when it's the right temp for me (plus it smells funny). Still, there are those nights in July where I'd prefer feeling clammy to suffocating in dirty, hot soup. (It is always the humidity that gets me.)

I did all right last summer with my setup of strategically placed fans and frozen water in plastic bottles, but not sure how eco-friendly that is, really. (The main issue at my place is that for whatever reasons - pressure? - the air currents moving through the front and the back windows go in opposite directions, colliding in a dead zone that covers most of my apartment. They're not even consistently the same opposite directions.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:21 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


what is wrong with me, i meant "ice", duh
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:23 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does anyone else remember those luxury car commercials where the man in his wool sweater set the temperature for his side of the car to 68 degrees, but his wife in the silk blouse set her side to 72 degrees? I just want that technology to be expanded to homes and offices.

Remember that ad where I piss in my side of the hot tub and you sit in your piss-free side of the hot tub? No? There's a reason they don't sell that feature on a lot of cars, because it really can't work. Not without dividing the car down the middle.

Anyway, I feel like I'm too late to make a meaningful comment but I can brag that I haven't had A/C at home for over 15 years and it's fine. Even in Toronto it was fine. Sort of. Which brings me to my second point:

We have hyper-AC in offices because the entire building is designed for it. I managed to live through 35+ degree heat waves in Toronto because we had a Victorian semi with 12 foot ceilings and two layers of brick for the walls. The attic was plenty hot but the main floor was often not too bad. Well, I guess I exaggerated - we had a window AC unit in our attic bedroom. That was the only way to keep that room cool enough.

But basically if we designed buildings to not need A/C, guess what - they wouldn't need it nearly as much.*

* This statement not valid in The South where you're fucked when it comes to heat in general.
posted by GuyZero at 12:30 PM on July 10, 2015


The only problem people have with AC use is that it's a huge drain on energy.

Well sure, but so is heating. A much bigger drain, in fact.


The issue is that natural gas is a cheap way to get heat whereas electricity for A/C is more constrained.
posted by GuyZero at 12:32 PM on July 10, 2015


You realize heat waves actually do kill people, right? The 2003 European Heat wave killed 70,000 people.

Yeah, and get ready for more of that.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:35 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Finding sensible women's clothing can be hard (shorts that aren't teeny-tiny, for example). I suspect this is part of the problem.

How is it difficult to find sensible women's seasonal clothing? I wear lightweight dresses or skirts and short-sleeve/sleeveless shirts. It's sure as hell not sensible for me to to go around in the summer in 85-degree weather wearing clothing to keep me warm enough to sit still in a 67-degree (or colder) building.

I'm not suggesting that air-conditioning be banished, but it's ridiculously over-aggressively used and having cold air blowing on me all the time makes me miserable and ill-feeling.
posted by desuetude at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2015


People pity those of us living in SF for the high cost of living, but among the other benefits it is so, so wonderful to not ever have to worry about using our (nonexistent) A/C.

Hell with that. I would fistfight at least a dozen brogrammers and/or anti-vax yoga moms to be able to find a nice apartment, any apartment, with fucking A/C. We don't need it that often, but when we do holy shit is it infuriating not to have it, and it's so ridiculous how it's a point of pride amongst certain kinds of people who live here.

I'm pretty sure SF is "brr-geosie" ground zero, and my reaction to it is pretty much yeah? yeah? well let's see how much you want to cool off when I set you on fire with my mind.

I don't think it's a moral issue however I think it's a moral issue to provide for there to be cooling centers for the folks who're suffering from the heat or getting sick from it -- we've got to do it, you can't teach a heat stroke or exhaustion victim prevention once they're sick and even the skilled aren't going to evade it every time. Lots of churches around here provide cooling stations, but office buildings and stores and so on could be a lot more understanding of the challenges some people in our community will face -- ultimately though that's not an AC thing, it's more like a classist thing.

It's definitely a classist thing and also an A/C thing specifcally. Cooling centers area good first step, but if you compare it to just subsidizing AC in the first place, it's kind of ridiculous as a comparison if the real priority is saving lives. The "brr-geosie" factor is definitely a real problem; I can't imagine putatively liberal people acting the same way about things like heating oil subsidies, and yet the public solution that gets the most coverage is one that's going to be less effective at keeping people from dying than just giving them A/C in the first place. It's something that should be part of an interim solution, and that's not really how it's being discussed in the popular sphere.

*Okay, I'd do that anyway.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Just gonna say that I survived the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave with no AC.

Never again.
posted by dnash at 1:13 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


compare it to just subsidizing AC in the first place

I keep having Words about this with my local energy company, which subsidizes the purchase of high-efficiency air conditioning and especially evaporative (swamp) cooler units, but only home-install ones, not portable. Which means if you rent you're completely out of luck.

And sure, portable evaporative coolers are nowhere near as efficient as a large central evap cooler unit would be, but they're not much more expensive to run than a fan even so (since it's basically just running air over water to provide cooling in a low-humidity environment.)

Evaporative cooling's not especially functional in a high-humidity environment, but there are ways to make it work if you really have to -- I recall spending a week with a broken AC in a Florida summer as a kid, and opted to just wear a swimsuit all day, taking a quick shower every hour or two to cool down and then read or play Civ until I dried off, at which point I'd repeat the process. It worked moderately well, but of course is not a useful cooling method for grown-ups doing grown-up things outside the home.
posted by asperity at 1:18 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


it's so ridiculous how it's a point of pride amongst certain kinds of people who live here.

SOUTH BAY NO AIR - BOOM. It's like a firebombing of moral superiority.

AND I GOT IT.
posted by GuyZero at 1:19 PM on July 10, 2015


I'd like to see a link to an article that says "the Global north should continue to use air conditioning at its current rate, but the Global south shouldn't be allowed to start doing the same." I suspect that it will be hard for you to find such a beast, but I'm willing to be proven wrong.

I was thinking of this article from a few years ago: Relief in Every Window, but Global Worry Too. In particular, this bit of it:
And concentrations of the newer, ozone-friendly gases are also rising meteorically, because industrialized countries began switching to them a decade ago. New room air-conditioners in the United States now use an HFC coolant called 410a, labeled “environmentally friendly” because it spares the ozone. But its warming effect is 2,100 times that of carbon dioxide. And the treaty cannot control the rise of these coolants because it regulates only ozone-depleting gases.

The treaty timetable requires dozens of developing countries, including China and India, to also begin switching next year from HCFCs to gases with less impact on the ozone. But the United States and other wealthy nations are prodding them to choose ones that do not warm the planet. This week in Rio de Janeiro, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, where proposals to gradually eliminate HFCs for their warming effect are on the provisional agenda.

But she faces resistance because the United States is essentially telling the other nations to do what it has not: to leapfrog this generation of coolants. The trouble is, there are currently no readily available commercial ozone-friendly alternatives for air-conditioners that do not also have a strong warming effect — though there are many on the horizon.
We're basically telling India: do as I say, not as I do with respect to the coolant gases used in air-conditioners, making more difficult and expensive for them to attain the same quality of life that we have.
posted by dis_integration at 1:31 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I grew up in the Midwest with no ac but had an attic fan to cool off at night. We also heated with wood, which heats you 7 times before it gets burned!

Now, if my wife and I didn't air condition in the summer, she wouldn't be able to breathe for months at a time due to allergies. We set our window units at 80 though. We still heat with wood in the winter which means the room with the stove is about 90F and the rest of the house hovers around 45F.
posted by schyler523 at 1:36 PM on July 10, 2015


the United States is essentially telling the other nations to do what it has not: to leapfrog this generation of coolants.

And yet this thread is full of MOAR BACON style comments about how nice it is to be cool.

Just switch the fucking AC off.
posted by colie at 1:38 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I also might suggest that excessive air conditioning is used in public places as a form of social hygiene and control. E.g. buses are seriously over-air-conditioned. So are NPS public bathrooms (at least in the Washington, DC area). A school or workplace may also be overly air conditioned to discourage violations of the dress code or NSFW clothing.
posted by bad grammar at 1:39 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I keep having Words about this with my local energy company, which subsidizes the purchase of high-efficiency air conditioning and especially evaporative (swamp) cooler units, but only home-install ones, not portable.

I run utility energy efficiency programs for a living, but I'm on the gas side, so I don't know much about window units, and rules for the programs vary with state regulatory regimes, so with those caveats: It may be that there's just not enough variation in the efficiency of window units for the utility to try to push you to a higher-efficiency unit. According to Wikipedia they all tend to run about 10 SEER and are exempt from appliance standards. There are ENERGY STAR-rated units, but I don't know how big a difference there is in terms of efficiency.

That matters, because utility programs typically have to be cost-justified; the energy savings from the high-efficiency unit needs to pay back the incremental cost relative to a base-level unit. So if there's not enough savings to justify the extra cost (or the extra cost is really high), you can't rebate the equipment.

Note that what the utility programs are supposed to promote is high efficiency, not the purchase itself. We assume the customer is already in the market, and we want them to choose the more expensive but more efficient version of the thing they were already planning to buy. So not quite the same as subsidizing AC (which regulators would call load-building if a utility did it, and is generally a no-no).

But your conclusion - that renters are out of luck - is still valid.
posted by nickmark at 1:40 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Climate change: A very important global issue issue that we should take seriously provided the mitigations don't require me to experience pit stains.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:41 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm astonished that tropic and desert locales were bearable before air conditioning.

They weren't. No one really wanted to live in these places unless they had no other choice. A good example is Houston, Texas.


You're the second person to say something to this effect in this discussion. You know there are an awful lot of densely populated dessert, tropical and subtropical places outside of this country where civilizations have flourished for thousands of years, right?
posted by geegollygosh at 1:46 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Climate change: A very important global issue issue that we should take seriously provided the mitigations don't require me to experience pit stains.

Spoken like someone who's never lived south of the Mason Dixon line. Spend a week driving around in my old car with the broken A/C in 100+ degree heat at 85% humidity and you will become a convert to the ways of air conditioning.
posted by JDHarper at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


You're the second person to say something to this effect in this discussion. You know there are an awful lot of densely populated dessert, tropical and subtropical places outside of this country where civilizations have flourished for thousands of years, right?

I think the issue is that you can't sustain society based on contemporary consumer/work culture in these places without A/C - which puts us all in a double bind, since most of us are dependent on contemporary work/consumer culture just to get by.

If you look at the civilizations that flourish/flourished in really hot and muggy parts of the world, they didn't have 8-5 business days, people didn't wear western-style business dress and these societies were not financialized as our is. I would also argue that some of those places were very, very coercive of low status people - you can certainly get a lot of work out of someone in a hot, humid place if they're a slave or a near slave. (And that's how factory work in New York went before A/C, too - people did it because they were coerced into working in nightmarish conditions.)

If you lived full time without A/C in a tropical part of the world and were not a coerced worker, you wouldn't be working hard in the full heat of the day; summers would be slowed down; you'd wear clothes adapted to the heat, quite possibly very very little clothing indeed. Your whole way of life would be built around adapting to the heat. But on the other hand, people who were physically sick or frail would suffer - pregnant women, for example, I doubt that even dressing very lightly and staying inside would be pleasant if it was ninety degrees and muggy. And the lot of coerced workers hardly bears thinking about.

In theory we could do this. In actual practice, it's very difficult for most people - and let's talk about the working class majority, not the most privileged of the creative class who can largely set their own schedules and work from anywhere - to live in this way. Most of us have to work during the heat of the day; most of us don't have work that slows down in the summer; most of us have to wear business dress or uniforms of some kind. Who among us can just say "by the way, boss, it's summer, I'll be working less and I won't be working at all between 11am and 3pm, plus I'm going to wear short shorts and a tank top to work"?
posted by Frowner at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


So basically, again, we're saying "here is a structural problem that could perhaps be solved by social reform combined with better cooling science, but the most important thing is to hector! individual! people!, no matter what those people say about where they live and the state of their health, because that's satisfying and simple".
posted by Frowner at 2:01 PM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


But indoors, your comfort is mainly due to radiation

And rel. humidity, and airflow. 74 at 10% and a breeze is better than 68, 100% and standing air - but people usually ask for and engineer to the temperature. Throw in different people having different comfort zones on the psychrometric chart, and a loss-of-control experienced everyday in open-plan offices, malls, bigbox stores etc. and it's a recipe for discomfort and wasted energy.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:02 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suspect that my well-paddedness is part of why I am really a lot more comfortable in the 72 range, get by at 75 but feel slow and a bit uncomfortable, and am a very sad panda who spends all her time sitting right under the ceiling fan if we keep the house at 80.

Maybe that is part of the reason, but maybe it isn't - people are just different. My body naturally runs about as non-padded as a person can get without eating a special diet, but the upper end of my comfort scale lands exactly the same place yours does.

On the positive side, I'm comfortable in cold weather to an almost freakish degree, happy running around in a tank top when others are putting on their long insulated coats, still comfortable and able to work long after others are huddled up under blankets shivering.

It's a good thing that people are different, because that's how groups of us are able to function well in a much wider array of environments than any of us could handle individually. Mocking moralistic sentiments like "just turn the AC off" really aren't helpful.

The issue is that natural gas is a cheap way to get heat whereas electricity for A/C is more constrained.

Natural gas may be cheap but it's not carbon-neutral. From a climate-change point of view, we'd be better off convincing people to move out of cold northern places, where they have to burn massive BTUs of oil and gas to keep warm in the winter, and move instead to hot southern places where we can easily power their air conditioners with nice clean photovoltaic arrays whose power output peaks during exactly those times when AC is most needed.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:08 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


You know there are an awful lot of densely populated dessert, tropical and subtropical places outside of this country where civilizations have flourished for thousands of years, right?

Yeah, and over those thousands of years they developed regionally appropriate living habits that help them deal with excessive temperatures, like not working during the hottest noon hours of the day, and clothing that shields them from the sun, and houses with 3 foot thick walls to keep out the heat. And modern civilization looked at all those things and said "no, this is rubbish, i want a huge fucking glass building in the middle of the desert and no one gets away for 3h in the middle of the day, and we're going to turn half of this into a golf course so what was once intense but manageable dry heat will now be unbearable humid heat ha ha this is great"
posted by poffin boffin at 2:10 PM on July 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Golf courses are a whole other nightmare. Just turn your AC down to save energy.
posted by colie at 2:14 PM on July 10, 2015


You're the second person to say something to this effect in this discussion. You know there are an awful lot of densely populated dessert, tropical and subtropical places outside of this country where civilizations have flourished for thousands of years, right?

You realize that ~thousands of years ago~, many of those civilizations actually had radically different climates and environments, right?

And don't even get me started on the densely populated dessert reasons. I still mourn for the effect the Great Scooping of the 19th century had on the Ice Cream Hills.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:16 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


so many good men lost during the battle of toffeefalgar
posted by poffin boffin at 2:16 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just turn your AC down to save energy.

Hell no! The right answer is to double down on the benefit of living in a high tech civilization by installing an array of solar panels on your roof, like I did(*). Then you can stay exactly as comfortable as you please, and anyone who wants to complain about it can go off and examine their life to see where they went so wrong.

* but I don't actually have air conditioning, yet, because I live in a century-old house in Seattle. Maybe next year.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:27 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


seems like every social issue in America is eventually reduced to a bitter partisan screaming match where very little rational discussion happens

Whether it turns into screaming or rational, you can guess the first comment in any air conditioning discussion might be the same. Previously in the blue, it was the first two comments.
posted by LeLiLo at 2:30 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of rational and interesting comments in this thread about AC and energy use. We can do this. I have family living in Singapore who even approach the issue calmly.
posted by colie at 2:49 PM on July 10, 2015


I have family living in Singapore who even approach the issue calmly.

Do you think you could ask them for some advice? Your profile indicates that you live north of the 51st parallel. It's possible that your suggestion to "Just switch the fucking AC off" is not as practical a suggestion for many in the thread as it is for you.

Like psoas, I live in San Francisco and don't even have an air conditioning unit in my house, so I don't have any skin in this game. But I grew up in a southern city with incredibly hot and humid summers so I can appreciate what a literal lifesaver it can be--especially given the heat stroke that nearly took out my grandmother when I was young. And given the article's point, supported by data (e.g. this HHS report, Tables 2-4a and 2-6), that cooling costs substantially less money and energy than heating (for those of us in the US), it's hard to understand why A/C is the target of so much brimstone and linkage to global warming in this thread.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 3:59 PM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Colie, according to your profile, you live in a place where the average July temperature is under 20C/70F and the highs run 23C/74F-ish. When we have weather like that here in Minnesota, I don't use the air conditioner either - in fact, I dance with glee.

In the middle of the summer, our highs here are in the 30 - 32C range and our overnight lows are what you have as highs, and it's generally humid.

Believe me, if I lived in your climate I wouldn't bother with air conditioning either - but until you've actually lived multiple midwestern summers with night after night of little sleep due to the heat, you're really not in a position to understand why folks want to stay cool. It's not just a couple of nights of muggy heat, it's week after week - first your sleep just suffers a bit and your body just feels more tired and strained and you recuperate by being in the air conditioning at work; but after weeks you start to feel awful and hallucinated because you're sleeping only a few hours a night and that poorly. What I always notice is that I feel notably worse on the weekends because I'm spending all day in a hot, humid house; during the week, my body recuperates a bit by being in the cool at work.

There was one summer where I actually dragged my futon down to our damp, dirty Victorian basement (admittedly I propped it up on some stuff) and ran the risk of centipedes and all kinds of bugs because I was getting ill from the heat and no sleep and at least it was cool down there. It was so gross, but I got a couple of fairly decent nights' sleep.
posted by Frowner at 4:33 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


To continue - I worked in Shanghai, which is hot and damp, with a bunch of British people. I was able to cope with the summer because of living here. They all virtually liquified and had a terrible time.
posted by Frowner at 4:34 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


All this "put on yer damn big boy pants, ya pantywaists!" posturing in this thread is really, really tedious. Not everyone lives where you do. Not everyone reacts to hot or cold temperatures the way you do.

Phoenix averages more than 100 days a year with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees. In 2013, 115 days hit 100 degrees. In 2011, the city set a new record for days over 110 degrees with 33. That’s over one month of the year with scorching highs.

I live in Tucson, but I couldn't find a similar page. My home is not air-conditioned - I sleep incredibly poorly during July and August when the humidity defeats our evap cooler. I really don't like 2 full months of sleep deprivation. And I have to say, I'm very happy my 70-year parents have AC here and aren't suffering through 100 days of the year with temps over 100, at their age.

I work in a 10-story glass and concrete building. Sometimes it's a little cold in there in the summer. Usually when we've had 20-30 days in a row over 100 and then a cold front (yes a cold front) drops the outside temp to 92 or so. The building seems really cold for a few days until it has a chance to adjust to the outside temp. And then seems really hot for a few days once the temperatures rise again.

And yeah, some businesses here seem over-cooled in high summer, while I'm eating my dinner or watching a movie, but I always have a light sweater in the car, and I appreciate the cooling, and I don't complain because it probably doesn't seem that cold to the people hustling their asses to feed me.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:00 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


All this "put on yer damn big boy pants, ya pantywaists!" posturing in this thread is really, really tedious. Not everyone lives where you do. Not everyone reacts to hot or cold temperatures the way you do.

That's why I'm Kickstarting a campaign for "Cool Chick Ventilated Boot Straps." (Safe for women who are pregnant or on HBC.) Stretch goal: "C-Old Chick Ventilated Boot Straps." Comes with three modes: Perimenopausal, Menopausal, and Postmenopausal.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:38 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess since I like it on the cooler side (I like my AC is between 22-23 / 71-73) I don't really experience this "overcooled buildings" thing. My office is usually too hot (high 70s is not uncommon).

There is no temperature everyone will be happy at, though. My wife and I can't really find a temp that works for us both --- so if we're both home, we either alternate or set it at some mutually-uncomfortable level.

(And one thing I love about LA is fewer people pretend you don't need A/C, unlike the south SF Bay area where most apartments didn't have it but it still got way too hot and summers were miserable... although I did have a few people try to convince me I didn't need it in central LA, thankfully I knew better).

The only place I've lived where A/C was truly unnecessary was Pacifica, the land where the sun never shines (this was the more-foggy part) and I would have to run my heater in the summer.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:38 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Drink hot tea during the summer, not iced water. Interior cooling.
posted by emf at 5:48 PM on July 10, 2015


Under certain conditions, maybe, if it makes you sweat. Personally, I'd rather drink a cold beverage and use cool washcloth.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:23 PM on July 10, 2015


it's bizarre to me that anyone would argue in favor of keeping it in the 60s, which is where it makes many people really uncomfortable. Most offices and stores keep the temperature around 72 in the winter— why do we have to be cooler in the summer?

It's not wasting energy to heat a place until its comfortable, on average— it is wasting energy if you cool it so that people who are dressed appropriately for the actual outdoor weather will freeze while inside.

Why is that so difficult? I always tell people I hate going to Florida because it is so cold. Inside.
posted by Maias at 7:02 PM on July 10, 2015


Personally indoor temperature in the seventies is too warm for me in the winter. I was taught that 65 is room temperature. But I guess I had an unusual upbringing. I grew up in houses heated with wood stoves, and the energy crisis cast a long shadow over my childhood. Also my primary school was more or less in a church basement. We wore sweaters and socks around the house and flannel pajamas at night.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:11 PM on July 10, 2015


I live in this southern US and this is our forecast for the next week, upper ninety's and at least 50% humidity daily. The elderly and babies actually die around here without A/C, it happens every summer and it's very sad. We just had a baby June 1st and leaving the hospital they asked if we had working a/c because they actually have a program to send you home with a portable unit for the baby, it's that important. We try our best to be environmentally responsible by having new windows (just installed in April!), a well insulated attic and keeping the ceiling fans going while we sip some ice water but I'll fight you before I let you take my a/c unit, we need it around these parts.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:28 PM on July 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


wow, I never thought this topic would be so partisan.

Women should wear shirts and ties and men should wear skirts and blouses.

I've argued this for years, one day I'm going to claim a long lost Scottish ancestry and wear kilts into work.
posted by numaner at 8:11 PM on July 10, 2015


Nonsense! I have established through winters here in Buffalo that the proper temperature for inside is 60-62F.

Living in a place with better weather and lower energy costs would allow you to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures, of course.

I like the heat, though AC is a lifesaver during the weeks when the heat is unrelenting. I always seem to have the thermostat higher than most other people, so I've learned to turn it down (in summer) or up (in winter) when guests are coming over.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:19 PM on July 10, 2015


I liked some parts of the Slate article but it really misrepresented the NY Times article, which was about the difference between 68 degrees and 74 degrees or thereabouts, not the difference between having air conditioning and going without completely.

People's temperature preferences vary a lot obviously, but a 'room temperature' (office, store, whatever) of like 71 or 72 might be better in terms of fewer people being uncomfortably cold/hot than the standard 68 or 69 degrees. Although I guess there might be some reasons this is harder to achieve or building managers don't want to (the NY Times article goes into this a little).
posted by thdavis at 8:33 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


After moving to D.C. from Buffalo, I was surprised to learn that the city has cooling centers for when it becomes dangerously hot outside. A few D.C. summers later, I got it. Homeless people in particular spend a lot of time outside. Even those staying at shelters frequently get kicked out during the day. Moreover, homeless people frequently have health conditions that mean they can't tolerate heat easily. It's great that some people can go outside and be fine no matter the temperature but that's not the case for everyone.
posted by kat518 at 8:55 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having just moved from Houston, TX, to the Bay Area, CA, I can see how people who have lived where I now live for their whole lives might think of air conditioning as an optional luxury. However, those people are 100% incorrect. They just happen to live where it is naturally air-conditioned outside. They have no idea what living without air conditioning is like, even if they do not have an air conditioner. And holy shit do I love the weather here (well, could use a bit more rain.)
posted by smcameron at 9:00 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Homeless people in particular spend a lot of time outside. Even those staying at shelters frequently get kicked out during the day. Moreover, homeless people frequently have health conditions that mean they can't tolerate heat easily. It's great that some people can go outside and be fine no matter the temperature but that's not the case for everyone.

I tolerate the heat well, which is good because my work is often outdoors in 100 F or higher temperatures. I dress for the sun, and I stay hydrated. Even so, taking the occasional break in an airconditioned vehicle (or jumping into a cold river) feels like a lifesaver, and once in a while it literally is. I've never had it happen but colleagues have gotten serious heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and I've been dehydrated enough to feel the warning signs. The better solution would of course be to solve our absurdly vast homeless crisis (and our even vaster poverty crisis, because plenty of people have a place to live that doesn't come close to middle class standards of amenities and comfort), but since we aren't doing that I am glad that some places are providing cooling centers.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:18 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nonsense! I have established through winters here in Buffalo that the proper temperature for inside is 60-62F.

Living in a place with better weather and lower energy costs would allow you to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures, of course.


No, I meant that I actually like it at 60-62. I would keep it that way all year round if doing so weren't stupidly expensive.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:26 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's a difference between (1) wondering why your office building or the store you work at always has to be like 67 degrees (rather than something that's closer to the median of people's preferences) and thinking that it's a bit wasteful (during the summer) in addition to being uncomfortable, and (2) moralizing about what kind of ac or heat other people should have/use when they have a choice.

I really don't like the idea that people should just suck it up and deal with it if they're not comfortable (hot or cold). It's mean-spirited and unpragmatic. I really really cannot function well or get work done if I'm sitting still and it's less than like low/mid 70s. I'm going to turn some heat on if I'm able to.
posted by thdavis at 9:28 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: ...I actually like it at 60-62. I would keep it that way all year round if doing so weren't stupidly expensive.

Get yourself to a General Systems Vehicle for a climate control overhaul. The citizens you carry cannot tolerate those temperatures for long. I believe GSV Just the Washing Instruction Chip in Life's Rich Tapestry is nearby.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:36 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


They'll tolerate what their neural laces command them to tolerate.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:46 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's how you get nasty nicknames.
posted by Shohobohaum Za at 11:19 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tempfucker
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:25 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hell with that. I would fistfight at least a dozen brogrammers and/or anti-vax yoga moms to be able to find a nice apartment, any apartment, with fucking A/C. We don't need it that often, but when we do holy shit is it infuriating not to have it, and it's so ridiculous how it's a point of pride amongst certain kinds of people who live here.

I'm pretty sure SF is "brr-geosie" ground zero, and my reaction to it is pretty much yeah? yeah? well let's see how much you want to cool off when I set you on fire with my mind.


Yea, it's the same exact shit in Seattle. This article failed to make the distinction once again between the people who think ac is overdone/set to too low of a temperature and the people who get all "i don't even own a tv" about it. If anything, it blended them together.

These are two distinct groups of people. And growing up in seattle, i saw a lot of the latter kind. AC is deeply uncool here. It's as uncool as driving a hummer or clubbing seals. For this large group of people any amount of AC is a moral failing, and also some hurr durr fat americans thing that's basically the equivalent to mcdonalds.

The other group are people who have no moral objection to AC, but just think it's run too aggressively. They may vaguely bring up some environmental concerns, but their main issue are the temps being too low in some places not the concept of AC itself.

Where the issue arises is that if you have anyone in group 2 anywhere, and they start to voice their concern, as soon as they get to the environmental/energy usage part someone from group 1 NotAllMens over the conversation and highjacks it to plow it in to the ground in a firey explosion of the weird moralizing all AC is bad bullshit.

And this article, and the general discussion about this, pretty much always follows that script. And it's completely pants on head stupid as fuck like that whole "hurr durr why are american fridges so big it's because people here are fat amirite?" thing that got an FPP.

What's crap is that we just had essentially an entire month of high 80s temps, and are on track to have one of the hottest summers ever here. No place here is built for it, and basically all my friends houses are hovering around 90f internally if not hotter. And yet the vast majority of them are still staunchly all "FUCK AC LOL FUCKING LAZY AMERICAN RESOURCEWASTERS" and going insane from the combo of lack of sleep and heat rage. Hell, my entire neighborhood has become more hostile from that combo.

I strongly suspect it's one of two things, more likely the latter:

1) The thermostat is somewhere warmer, like near a food service area.
2) The employees, who are running around carrying things and darting in and out of a hot kitchen set the temperature. 68F will feel chilly if a breeze is blowing on you as you sit still eating, but it'll feel downright warm if you're up and about, constantly on the move.


The AC setting actually comes down from corporate. I've worked in places like this. The system is detecting the temp accurately. Very accurately. There's likely even multiple sensors throughout the space, and possibly even extra blowers to equalize it if there's a hot zone.

Here's where my opinion on this gets ~super controversial~ though, and this is something me and my partner have high fived on before theory wise.

It's entirely about making fat people, er, i mean customers of size comfortable. Lots of chain restaurants and big box stores have a high number of larger customers who easily overheat or are more comfortable at lower temperatures. Who wants to shop or eat in a place where they feel too warm?

I've also definitely heard corporate doublespeak about lower temperatures feeling "crisp" and clean. I think i even saw it in a general handbook for store operations at one chain i worked at(regarding the importance of getting malfunctioning AC repaired by reporting it to corporate being a SUPER high priority for customer experience and the general appearance of the store).

I also noticed that although we did get occasional complaints about the low temperatures, the few times our HVAC blew out we got a TON of complaints about it being too hot and humid in there when it was basically normal humidity and maybe.. 76-77f? With airflow, too. The blowers were still functioning, it just wasn't cooling.
posted by emptythought at 5:14 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think despite the partisan rancor and überdefensive bloviating we actually would all agree that being in high heat and humidity is unpleasant and AC was an ingenious and important invention. We would also all agree that everyone's got a different range of comfortable temps. But there is such strident disagreement here because some people are saying we should use LESS air conditioning and the other side interprets it as a salvo from a dangerous AC abolition movement. How can people argue that AC is used, generally in this society, to an appropriate *extent*? The NYT article was about excessive use of AC, not about AC proliferation. Is the very concept of moderation really such a frickin hot potato for you people? If it's 90 degrees out and you're wearing a sweater or have a spaceheater on, dear friends, something is going really frickin WRONG.
posted by AmyPants at 6:16 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not entirely sure about this whole "fat people get too hot easily and we air condition things for them" thing - I mean, I'm not myself thin, but I have a number of fatter friends and acquaintances and one pretty big housemate, and they all like things much warmer than I do. I'm not saying that it's never true, but I have enough anecdata at this point to suspect that things are more complicated.

Winter indoor temp here is about 60 - we set the thermostat at 62 but due to idiosyncrasies of the house, it's always a bit colder.
posted by Frowner at 7:46 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have an endocrine disorder that causes me to always feel hot. I also have facial hyperhidrosis. Summer here in the midwest is a miserable time for me. I can't use the prescription medication that stops the sweating because it's mostly alcohol that burns my face. (My face literally feels like it's a few inches above a charcoal grill for over an hour after I put it on. It's intolerable.) So I use something else that doesn't work nearly as well, but doesn't burn.

The sweating is tied to temperature, exertion and anxiety. If I can keep the temperature below 22/72, the sweating mostly stops if I'm calm. Above 27/80, I'm a dripping mess. The more I sweat, the more self-conscious I feel, which makes me anxious, which makes me sweat more.

The office where I work is about 24/76, which is right at the edge of discomfort for me in terms of my sweating. I keep a desk fan pointed at my face, which helps a lot. But I still sweat a little bit. I share my office with a woman who often wears a fleece sweatshirt while I'm sweating six feet away from her. It's a good thing that we don't have a settable thermostat to fight over. By chance, it's fairly set exactly between the 29/85 she's said she wants and the 19/67 that I want. I feel bad that it's too cold for her, but I'm just as uncomfortable. She can always put on another layer. I can't take off my face.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:16 AM on July 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's entirely about making fat people, er, i mean customers of size comfortable. Lots of chain restaurants and big box stores have a high number of larger customers who easily overheat or are more comfortable at lower temperatures. Who wants to shop or eat in a place where they feel too warm?

I'd love to see some actual stats on this, instead of just a really shitty comment made specifically to cast aspersion on people like me, that makes me want to fucking quit this place for good.
posted by palomar at 8:26 AM on July 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


If it's 90 degrees out and you're wearing a sweater or have a spaceheater on, dear friends, something is going really frickin WRONG.

It seems much more likely that if it's 90 degrees out and you're wearing a sweater you just feel the cold more than most people and wear a sweater (or more) when it's 65F outside.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:02 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Winter indoor temp here is about 60 - we set the thermostat at 62 but due to idiosyncrasies of the house, it's always a bit colder.

I've stayed in houses where the owners preferred that temperature range (and that is probably close to what I grew up with as a kid, though I don't recall exactly). I'm fine at that temperature when I'm moving around, but for sitting on the couch and reading I get really cold unless I am buried under a stack of blankets. I'm one of those people with a high metabolism who always has warm hands, but I assume it is because I don't have a lot of body fat that I really suffer sitting still in the cold.

One time I was a houseguest and they kept the house so cold that it was very difficult to get warm enough to be able to fall asleep, even wearing clothes and with my head under the pillow for extra insulation. I've slept in much colder temperatures (including backpacking in the winter), but I think the problem was that I got chilled while sitting and chatting in their living room after dinner, and just couldn't get warm again.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:25 AM on July 11, 2015


Anecdotally, temperature preferences do not seem to me to have much to do with weight or size. They seem way more complicated and idiosyncratic than that. In the office I work in, nobody ever complains that it's too hot inside (because it's almost always pretty cold), but the people that think it's too cold are pretty diverse in terms of height, weight, size. I haven't noticed a pattern other than a little bit with gender (men seem to be less bothered by the excessive AC, although there are exceptions to that too).

I think that 'heavier people like AC because their extra weight keeps them warm' is just something that people assume is true, similar to 'people are fat because they eat too much' (when the reality in both cases is much more complicated). I doubt there are a lot of studies actually showing this.

Anyway, nobody every tells me to put on a sweater, because I'm usually already am, but I gotta say, the idea that it's better to keep things too cold than too hot, because people can just bundle up, is something that I find pretty annoying.

If I'm only slightly too cold, putting on an extra layer can help a little but if I'm significantly too cold it really doesn't honestly. Or two or three sweaters/sweatshirts even. I'm still too cold but now just with weird underarm sweat issues too.
posted by thdavis at 9:27 AM on July 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Drink hot tea during the summer, not iced water. Interior cooling.

That's still exterior cooling, not interior, because it works by tricking your system into sweating harder - the cooling comes from the evaporation of the sweat on your skin.

For me, being hot enough that I have to sweat is inherently uncomfortable; making myself sweat more would just be making the problem worse. If I'm hot enough to sweat, that's the signal that I need to either change my environment, or go into temporary estivation until the miserable conditions pass. Seriously, I have a really hard time being active at all in hot weather; my brain fogs up and I become lethargic, and pretty much just lay around feeling awful until the heat passes.

The popularity of Bikram style yoga shows that this experience must not be universal. I would pay a lot of money to avoid having to endure such an experience, but there are clearly thousands upon thousands of people who don't mind getting hot enough to sweat - I've met people who say that they actually enjoy it, that it feels good to them. This is... well, it's like meeting a club full of people who are all into massaging each other with belt sanders.

It works the other way, too. It took me a long time to realize that people who are sensitive to the cold weren't just being wusses about it; the sensation of being cold is inherently unpleasant for them in a way that simply doesn't register to me. One of my exes was like this, and I eventually figured out that when she said "I'm cold", what she meant was "my skin is cold", and for her this was a painfully unpleasant sensation.

It's not that my skin got any less cold than hers did; it was just that the feeling of having cold skin doesn't, in itself, feel painful or unpleasant. It's just a thing, not good or bad. If I say "I'm cold", what I mean is that my core temperature is dropping because I am losing heat faster than my metabolism is producing it. And so I am happy running around barefoot in the snow, or whatever, because I have a very active metabolism and as long as I stay fed it's easy to keep my core temperature up. This past weekend I went out to a festival in the forest, and I was comfortable in a tank top all night, long past the time when other people had put on their big furry insulated coats and bundled up next to the fire, because I was doing a lot of dancing and keeping myself warm that way. My skin was plenty cold, but I simply didn't feel like that was a problem to solve, the way that many of my friends did.

In conclusion, people are different, and it's best to accept that people mean what they say when they tell you about their experiences, because the solutions that work for you won't necessarily do anything for them.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


emptythought: "These are two distinct groups of people. And growing up in seattle, i saw a lot of the latter kind. AC is deeply uncool here. It's as uncool as driving a hummer or clubbing seals. For this large group of people any amount of AC is a moral failing, and also some hurr durr fat americans thing that's basically the equivalent to mcdonalds...Here's where my opinion on this gets ~super controversial~ though, and this is something me and my partner have high fived on before theory wise...It's entirely about making fat people, er, i mean customers of size comfortable."

So you identified that there are two groups in Seattle: a) AC as moral failing of fat people and b) AC is OK in moderation. You complain that the stupid people in category A are making themselves miserable without AC. Then you firmly place yourself in category A by blaming us lazy fat people who want to stay frosty cold while we buy our corn dogs and Crisco at The Walmart.

Your comment doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I'll take it as an anecdote against ever moving to Seattle. because a) I don't want to live next door to people who equate AC with seal clubbing and b) I don't want to live next door to you.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:51 AM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


You know, I didn't see this the first time but "my partner and I theory high-fived" and "fat people, er, customers of size" are both really bigoted and gross things to say. You and your partner patting yourselves on the back for spotting how fat people really require deep immorality in terms of AC, etc....Do you have overweight friends, relatives or co-workers? Remember that when you're being [unflattering redacted term] about fat people, you're being [unflattering redacted term] about actual humans.
posted by Frowner at 10:56 AM on July 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Jesus christ, every thread here can turn into a lesson in why Being Fat is So Gross and Bad and Also Super Gross Ew. As one of those super disgusting fat people who gets really hot but does not get very cold in winter, air conditioning has made it possible for me to live in Atlanta and not die. I guess that sucks for you guys though, since the world is so much better without fat people in it.

All drama queening aside, no kidding, air conditioning is a game changer. I'm thankful for all of you judgmental folks who magically are never hot, because I assume we are somehow Even Stevensing each other with regards to our a/c energy usage.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 11:05 AM on July 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Anyway, nobody every tells me to put on a sweater, because I'm usually already am, but I gotta say, the idea that it's better to keep things too cold than too hot, because people can just bundle up, is something that I find pretty annoying.

It sucks when people are dismissive or have an unrealistic expectation of how easy it is to warm up, but unfortunately it is better to keep things too cold and than too hot. It's still easier to warm up individual people who are too cold than to cool down people who are too hot, especially since etiquette doesn't allow people to strip down and public sweating outside of hot yoga is basically taboo.

Here's where my opinion on this gets ~super controversial~ though, and this is something me and my partner have high fived on before theory wise.

It's entirely about making fat people, er, i mean customers of size comfortable. Lots of chain restaurants and big box stores have a high number of larger customers who easily overheat or are more comfortable at lower temperatures. Who wants to shop or eat in a place where they feel too warm?


Yeah totally for sure that's why you also sometimes get the phenomenon of artic chill A/C in high-end boutique stores where the biggest size they carry is like a 6 and there's more stock of 00s than 4s.

I mean, aside from being not so much controversial as a dick, you're just wrong.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:18 AM on July 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Here's where my opinion on this gets ~super controversial~ though

And yet you kept typing.
posted by indubitable at 11:40 AM on July 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't know if anyone else has this problem, but my allergies quickly become unbearable (hospital-unbearable, not sticky-thighs unbearable) without AC. If I have the ability to use a household appliance to stave off rounds of prednisone and bringing an epipen everywhere, I'm taking that opportunity.
posted by thetortoise at 12:42 PM on July 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's entirely about making fat people, er, i mean customers of size comfortable.

Did you read the NYTimes article? Because no, it's not. Also, never mind restaurants and big box stores, every office I've ever worked in has been kept at brisk temperatures. This is across education, legal, IT and healthcare industries. I don't see how that could relate to higher concentrations of bigger people.

This was a bigoted and ill-informed thing to say on your part.
posted by desjardins at 12:48 PM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, my BMI is 20 and I puked today because it is so hot/humid here.
posted by desjardins at 12:49 PM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


It sucks when people are dismissive or have an unrealistic expectation of how easy it is to warm up, but unfortunately it is better to keep things too cold and than too hot. It's still easier to warm up individual people who are too cold than to cool down people who are too hot, especially since etiquette doesn't allow people to strip down and public sweating outside of hot yoga is basically taboo.

I disagree with this, in the context of ~68 degrees vs ~73 degrees that the NYT article was about anyway. Or at least I'm not yet convinced of it. Are you saying that it's easier for a person who is too cold in 68 degree office to warm up and not be uncomfortable than it is for a person who is too hot in a 73 degree to office to cool down and not be uncomfortable. How would you quantify or measure this?

The only ways I know to reliably warm up are to move around or to like put a blanket over my head and these aren't possible if you have to sit or stand still in a meeting or at your desk or at a cash register. Putting on a giant parka with hood that covers half your face would also violate workplace ettiquete (would not be allowed at retail jobs I've had).
posted by thdavis at 1:10 PM on July 11, 2015


Here's where my opinion on this gets ~super controversial~ though... [etc]

I've cut out the rest of this because i found it hurtful; it makes people - like me - feel even worse about themselves.

I'm sure that you wouldn't purposefully set out to make people feel bad, so I would appreciate it if you didn't say things like this in threads that aren't about that topic.

Thanks. :)
posted by subbes at 1:44 PM on July 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have nothing to add to this thread except that I LOVE that feeling you get when you walk out of a brutally air-conditioned space, like a movie theatre, right into a 100 degree day, and your skin crackles all over while your thermoregulation system reels from the shock. Love it, love it, love it. Gone all too soon
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:00 PM on July 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


You aren't the only one. When summer first gets going I like to stew in my 110 degree car for a good 5 to 10 minutes before turning on the fan or AC. After that, though, it gets rather uncomfortable, but those first few minutes are delightful.

Remember that ad where I piss in my side of the hot tub and you sit in your piss-free side of the hot tub? No? There's a reason they don't sell that feature on a lot of cars, because it really can't work. Not without dividing the car down the middle.

You'd be surprised at how well zoned climate control in cars works. I suspect part of the reason is that you can aim the vents at each individual, so it heats/cools the person directly. Some higher end cars now have 4 zone climate control, so even the rear passengers have their own zone. I love dual zone, if you can't tell. I'd rather have heated and ventilated seats, though. Heated seats are most delightful in winter, but aren't exactly helpful when it is 95° out.

It really makes me mad that the Fusion that I'm driving right now (not literally right this second; I don't post to MeFi while driving, ffs) has no ventilated seats, yet the equivalent trim Mustang does. First world problems, for sure.
posted by wierdo at 2:45 PM on July 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


(For what it's worth I regret posting that shitty comment and I'm sorry if I made anyone feel like shit. Sorry guys, I'll try and do better. It was shitty framing and a shitty thing to go in to or pin it on.)
posted by emptythought at 2:48 PM on July 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is America over-air conditioned? I think it really depends on where you live. I grew up in the southern U.S. and it get hot and humid in the summer. Really sticky and miserable without air conditioning. OTOH, I lived in Seattle and the summers there are fantastic--warm but not really hot, and very low humidity; AC is quite unnecessary there.

I live in Japan now, and while AC is around, it's generally not used nearly as much, especially by familes at home. During the day you can get away with running fans, using ice packs, and other tricks. And it's not too bad, though it gets very humid in Japan in the summer, much like the southern U.S. The only time I insist on AC is at night. There's nothing more miserable than sweating your way through sleep and waking up because it's so hot.
posted by zardoz at 3:18 PM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I lived in Seattle and the summers there are fantastic--warm but not really hot, and very low humidity; AC is quite unnecessary there.

Seattle weather for July 2015. Consistently at least ten degrees above average, often more like twenty degrees above average. Not shown is the daily humidity, which has been hovering around 55-65%.

I'm not sure when you lived here, but I think a few things might have changed. Like, for instance, the climate.
posted by palomar at 3:57 PM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


(The heat wave that just ended began around June 25, but plenty of weirdly hot days throughout early and mid June, and long-range forecasts indicate hotter and drier weather here through September 2016.)
posted by palomar at 3:59 PM on July 11, 2015


Hotter and more humid is bad, but hotter and drier means more bearable.
posted by zardoz at 7:15 PM on July 11, 2015


I definitely don't want a nutty hypothalamus, of that much you can be very sure indeed.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:04 PM on July 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


humidity up over 70% through the night doesn't exactly feel "bearable", night after night after night, but okay. have it your way, guy who doesn't live here anymore.
posted by palomar at 11:20 PM on July 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


AFAIK, one of the reasons that grocery stores are maintained at a temp around 70F is that is the recommended ambient temperature for the open face coolers. When it's hotter, they have a much higher failure rate.
posted by schyler523 at 6:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure SF is "brr-geosie" ground zero, and my reaction to it is pretty much yeah? yeah? well let's see how much you want to cool off when I set you on fire with my mind.

For the record! I just want to say I spent 10 years living in DC (and mostly in spaces with inadequate A/C) and I was mostly speaking from a POV of being glad that it is so much less of a need here. I am entirely With You in my opinion of people who are constantly straining for gold in the Self-Righteousness Olympics.
posted by psoas at 9:54 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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