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Air Conditioning


Admittedly, January is an odd time for an article on air conditioning for a publication whose readership is mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. Makes sense though for those in Australia where you have probably become a carbon cinder in the last few days. But this Economist piece on the pros and cons of air conditioning is pretty interesting. The short of it is that air conditioning is great for you but awful for everyone else given the massive amount of energy they use and the effect that has on the planet, where the poor suffer from ever greater heat.

On principle, I am highly skeptical of technological fetishism that assumes better technology will solve all our problems. But this is one area where some technological advancements in air conditioning would probably save a ton of water and power. It also reminds me of how odd I continue to find it that rather than capture the manufacturing of wind energy and profit from it, oil companies want to destroy it. Why not take the lead on the future of your market? Of course the answer is short-term profit.

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  • Leeds man

    I’m guessing ground source heat exchange is not a viable alternative in the short run, due to its high initial costs. I’m sure other folk around here would know more.

    • Derelict

      An almost completely unused resource, ground-source heat exchange is thoroughly proven and understood (think grandma’s root cellar). It’s also less expensive to install and maintain than a conventional A/C system provided you do it during the design phase of a building. Retrofitting is usually cost prohibitive, but it can be done. There are several buildings where I live (in Vermont) that use ground heat exchange to keep the place cool in summer.

      • Ami Silberman

        We have ground loop, and it saves considerably on both cooling and heating costs.

    • JoyfulA

      We were planning to retrofit our “new” house; the quotes were all under $20,000. But then there was the crash and the Great Recession.

    • Steve LaBonne

      The condo that I lived in for 10 yeas and now need to sell has a geothermal heat pump for heating and cooling. Amazingly low energy usage- a new installation would have a very reasonable payback period. Practical, affordable efficiency does exist.

  • Murc

    Do oil companies really want to destroy wind energy? I mean… they serve completely different markets, do they not? Oil is used in things like cars and ships and trains and other things that move around. Wind energy goes into the grid.

    I can see why energy conglomerates as a whole would be into destroying wind energy, tho.

    It also reminds me of how odd I continue to find it that rather than capture the manufacturing of wind energy and profit from it

    Speaking only for myself, I can say that if I were comfortable doing one thing, and that thing provided my livelihood and security, I’d be suspicious of, if not outright scared of, things that threaten that.

    Suppose I’m a pretty good coal guy. Not an amazing one, but a pretty good one. I understand coal. I understand the coal industry. I have a lot of expertise.

    I know dick about wind or wind energy or the wind industry. Frankly, it frightens me. It’s alien to what I do and it directly competes with me. And it competes with me in a way that’s outside of my tribe, to boot. The natural gas guys, well, they’ve been around for awhile, they’re also an extraction industry. They’re competition, but they’re my type of people. The wind guys talk about completely changing the paradigm and look at me and the natural gas guys and whatnot as enemies.

    Of course I want to destroy them! Either they want to destroy me, or if we get into their business they’ll try and REPLACE me, because they know more about what they do than I and they’re not trying to start and understand it from scratch.

    • But businesses go into other markets all the time. Microsoft got into video game consoles, and the frisbee maker Aerobie makes coffee makers.

      The reasons you mention in the 2nd half of your comment, though, are pretty good. I’d also add some serious ideological prejudices these people have to hold, in order to convince themselves they haven’t spent their whole careers screwing up the planet.

      • KadeKo

        Tangent: Microsoft also got into the MP3 player market.

        The idea of oil cos rebranding themselves as “energy” cos is interesting, seeing as how there’s no way to start a new oil co and compete with the big boys.

        In the days of old, many companies went from being industry leaders of the horse and buggy age to making automobiles. Studebaker, now out of business for almost 50 years, was probably the best run and most successful of them.

        And that reflects a natural want for old-tech companies to think they have a birthright to be a big, frontline presence in a new sector related to what they know how to do. But given the entry costs to go from one industry to another, it’s time for the government to make sure there’s more visibility in the “invisible hand”.

        (Disclaimer: The current Ford was the third one to be founded in the first decade of the 1900s after the first two foundered. Chrysler was formed by its namesake, a railroad engineer who worked his way up in automobiledom from the remains of Maxwell in the 1920s, then bought the independent Dodge Bros. car co. And William C. Durant took GM into bankrucptcy twice (I think) before Cal Coolidge got into the White House, threatening to take Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac marques down with him.)

        • Green Caboose

          Baldwin and American Locomotive (Alco) were by far the leading manufacturers of steam locomotives. The both sold quite a few diesel-electrics in the first decades of diesels but although many railroads went out of their way to give them extra chances with new models, they both eventually went out of business as they couldn’t compete with the IC/electric companies (GM’s EMD and GE). Their extensive railroad experience was outweighed by the new competitor’s deeper experience with the new technologies.

          The difference, of course, is that GM and GE were already major corporations in their own right when the diesel-electric competition began – even bigger than the leading steam locomotive manufacturers. In a situation where the corporations in the new industry are small and the old industry are the largest in the world the old industry corporations can and will use every quasi-legal method possible to squash the new industry.

  • Air conditioning often makes me feel sick, so I usually opt to sweat it out with a fan if I can. I really hate being in an office during the summer, and often will resort to wearing sweaters when inside.

  • Phoenix_rising

    There are a couple of aftermarket additions, basically pre-coolers, that can make AC 6 to 8 times more efficient than it was before the add-on. Of course there are other cooling options, evaporative and heat exchange among them, that can be designed in.

    The hard question that is going to require significant investment to answer is, What should we do with the buildings we already have, as-is where-is, that are going to be increasingly expensive or impossible to cool in the climate of 2025? In some parts of the US SW, paying to bulldoze existing housing and commercial buildings and replacing them with designs that work in reality may be the cheap solution. Impossible politically, but cheap.

  • montag2

    Wind turbines can’t be vertically integrated into the oil & gas business. The corporate thinking goes, “they don’t use fuel, so there’s no multiplicative effect by integrating them.”

    They also run counter to the ancillary effects of rising gas prices for energy production because, once amortized, they will tend to drive down electric prices as compared to rising costs of gas-fired electrical production when gas prices go up and the costs are passed on. That tends to make consumers think that they’re being played.

    Beyond that, they’re geared to extraction, and they’ve set up over the years a very nice tax model for themselves based on exploration and extraction, which wind doesn’t fit into very well. (Why on earth would one want to drill offshore above the Arctic Circle in some of the most inhospitable conditions imaginable unless there were considerable tax benefits to do so?) As well, they love to keep fixed-site capital investment low, which is why they prefer to supply fuel to nuclear reactors, rather than own and operate them. About the only fixed-site investments they’ve made in 150 years is in office space and refineries and some retail outlets, and they haven’t built any brand-new refineries in forty years (although they have done upgrades on a few older ones).

    But, when the crunch finally comes, yes, they will want to get into electricity production (and hydrogen production) in a big way, but they will wait until governmental desperation sets in. That way they can keep the pricing advantages of monopoly production and distribution under their control, but force the government to pay for the infrastructure via subsidies and credits. Can’t have a hydrogen economy, for example, without pipelines, and none of the current ones are useable for hydrogen because of the hydrogen embrittlement of steel. If they wait long enough, they pick up additional profits from oil and gas scarcity, and they get the government to foot the bill for the transition.

  • Fake Irishman

    Here’s an interesting question, Erik:
    You’ve gone on record as a number of times as highly skeptical of “technological solutions” to climate change. So, for example, I think that you’d be (rightfully) dismissive of hydrogen cars and cautious about the ability of hybrid engines to halt global climate change without fundamental lifestyle changes. (after all, if you just live another 20 miles in the ‘burbs while driving a Prius, you don’t cut your emissions.)

    But what about some basic improvements: Here, for example is simple improvements to air conditioning, which hasn’t been improved fundamentally in 50 or 60 years. Or what about improvements to basic building materials or techniques, especially if applied to retrofits or renovations of existing buildings? Are these things parts of “technology fetishism” or fundamentally different from technology?
    Or is the idea of technology on a continuum from basic (improved caulk and efficient windows and door) to the full Jetson (hydrogen cars, geo engineering) It seems that the continuum approach would allow for more basic technological improvements (retrofitting windows and doors, improving air conditioning) would fit in more nicely with basic lifestyle changes (moving back to the central city, trading in your car for a transit pass, cutting meat consumption) and improved public policy (subsidizing renewable energy, taxing parking and carbon) that together will really start biting into pollution.

    Not sure if that made sense, but I’d be in
    Where do s

    • Fake Irishman

      er… I’d be interested in your thoughts (and editing).

    • I think that technology can make a difference, as can government policy. Obviously we could incentivize efficiency and craft policies that led to a more climate-friendly society. My problem with technological solutions is the idea that we can change nothing about our lifestyles and that some Edison out there is going to have the Eureka! moment that will somehow eliminate all the excess carbon in the atmosphere or whatnot. It’s the latter path we are choosing.

      • Njorl

        It’s reasonable to expect people in the developed world to make modest changes in their lifestyles so as to consume slightly less energy. It is unreasonable to expect people in the developing world to refrain from making changes in their lifestyles which consume staggeringly larger amounts of energy.

        The choices are technological fetishism or world war.

  • Speak Truth

    Why not take the lead on the future of your market? Of course the answer is short-term profit.

    Very entertaining to see someone that has never run a business or had to meet payroll discussing what little he knows about the private sector.

    And while I thoroughly enjoy your posts, best stick with something you know something about.

    • efgoldman

      Oh, calling up the Masters of the Universe again, are we? The same clowns who very nearly destroyed the whole economy?
      Doesn’t matter what the actual business is, they all learned the same shit in MBA school:
      Fight every new improvement that might protect public or employee safety, and might actually save you money in the long run.
      Cut every fucking corner you can for short-term profit.
      Cover up what you’re actually doing with PR campaigns designed to keep your corporate image unblemished (or restore it – think BP.)
      Buy as many of your friendly local Congresscritters and Senators as you can, and local officials, also too.

      Look, I believe in the private sector. I work for one of the biggest brokerage/mutual fund companies in the business. It is still family owned. They compete hard, and they push the employees equally hard. But they have never been involved in any of the fraud and criminality that we saw leading to the recession. They did not get involved in any of the mortgage backed securities, and discouraged customers from buying them. Yet we lost less than other companies, laid off a much smaller percentage of our work force, and came out on the other end just fine, as did most of our customers.

    • The Tragically Flip

      Yes, I’m sure Exxon’s CEO stresses every 2 weeks as to whether he’ll “meet” payroll that cycle.

      An industry wasting billions trying to drill in the choppy, 6 months dark, largely ice covered, iceberg-y, very cold arctic ocean simply cannot afford to invest in wind or solar.

      They have to meet payroll see.

  • Dagney

    On the one hand, we have civilized and cultivated ourselves through the use of atmospheric modifications thanks to modern air-conditioning, but, on the other, employed atmospheric terrorism.

    — Peter Sloterdijk, in Something in Air

    • Joey Maloney
      • Dagney

        Peter Sloterdijk is probably the most important philosopher alive, along with Agamben.

  • joel hanes

    Most of our environmental problems are primarily problems of scaling: behaviors that are no problem when populations are small and sparse become big problems when populations grow by an order of magnitude or two.

    If the global human population was 700 million or so, most of our environmental problems would be tractable. If the global human population was 100 million, everyone would be able to have a first-world lifestyle without destroying the biosphere.

    Human contraception is the single highest-leverage technology for mitigation of peak oil, global warming, and a host of other environmental problems.

    Support Planned Parenthood

    • Wait! Weren’t we supposed to privilege heterosexual marriage because it leads inexorably to reproduction and an increased human population?

      • And wait! Is “privilege” even a verb?

        • Dagney

          Yes. It is is German and in French anyway.

        • Ken

          My approach to grammar is descriptive, not prescriptive, so yes; you can verb any noun.

          • Malaclypse

            Verbing weirds language.

            • mds

              Promiscuous gerunder!

      • efgoldman

        Weren’t we supposed to privilege heterosexual marriage…

        We’re still waiting for all that gay marrying to destroy our traditional marriage. 35 years and counting. I guess there’s a critical mass of te ghey that hasn’t been reached yet.

    • Dagney

      There is no such thing as ‘environment’. What do we mean by ‘environment’? Environment means ‘in viro’. To speak with Peter Sloterdijk, we live within the “viro,” within a sphere, more than a circle; and that sphere is highly technological.

      I thought we were supposed to think behond the bipolarity between nature and culture! What is being called the ‘environment’ is the sphere in which ‘we’ live. We do not live on a natural plane. Never did, not since the genesis of Man, not since what is called anthropogenesis.

      • Oh, Jesus.

        Dagney, find yourself a walk-in freezer and spend a little time there. Then tell me about the environment that doesn’t exist.

        • Uncle Kvetch

          Is it just me, or is it getting weirder in here?

          • Malaclypse

            There’s a fine line between troll, and batshit-insane crank.

            You know, I believe Foucault established that it was only Western discourse practices that established the power/knowledge nexus that tell subjects (in, of course, the Lacanian sense) that they cannot drink bleach. The true counter-revolutionary course of action is clear. A metonomy of freedom will challenge this discursive power/knowledge constructs, safe in the knowledge (in the Satrean sense, obviously) that Jesus saves.

            • Dagney

              Peter Sloterdijk pretty much destroyed the concept of environment, and it’s pretty hard to debunk it. Point to me where is the environment in our topography?

              • Malaclypse

                Truly, he who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

            • Dagney

              We are always trying to create and find a protective environment. The task of building convincing immune systems is so broad and so all-encompassing that there is no space left for nostalgic longings. This is an ongoing task that has to be performed and theorized with every technique that is available. There is no way back.

              — Sloterdijk

              The way Soterdijk uses the concept of environment here does not presuppose a difference between nature and culture, a human world and a natural world. Whereas the common use of the word ‘environment’ seems to presuppose a place immune from technology, from human culture.

              The ‘greenhouse effect’ of our planet’s atmosphere is air conditionning. He predates humanity-and-technology, of course. But we don’t live on the same plane as the planet, we never did, and never will. We live within a highly artificial world. From our perspective, there is no difference in kind between natural air conditionning and techlogical air conditionning; there is only a difference in degree. Between too hot and too cold.

              • Then thing I love about the Internet is that screeds that one used to fine stapled to telephone poles now find themselves on online journals.

                • BigHank53

                  No longer will one have to make a pilgrimage to a Toynbee Tile; a fresh one will be provided daily. Thanks, Mr. Gore!

              • UserGoogol

                Many apparent dichotomies in the world are ultimately differences of degree rather than one of kind. But using the simplistically dichotomous terminology to refer to the respective ends of the spectrum is still useful if you want to have useful discussions about things.

                • Dagney

                  Yes sir. But to have a useful discussion about air conditionning, we need to get rid of the concept of environment if that concept presupposes wrongly that we humans have ever live in harmony with nature or something. We must assume that we have always lived within evolutionary biotechnological bubbles, in order to build ourselves adequate spheres of immunity, rather than becoming hostile to humanity (self-contempt) and to promote a neo-pagan utopia of mother earth where the planet’s well being comes as the ultimate value.

                  It should coincide at some point, since this planet is our sole habitacle (until further notice), but we should not begin to even entertain the utopia of going back to a natural way of life that never, ever was. We need to think correlatively our becoming with both natural forces AND technological forces; rather than diabolizing our techno-humanity like many eco-lefties do.

                • Anonymous

                  That seems like a lot of words to spill to say “we should treat the planet right not because that’s a good in and of itself, but because its our only planet and we’d like to keep living here and, ideally, live here well and comfortable and hand it down to our kids.”

                  Sentiments I doubt many here will disagree with.

                • Murc

                  I don’t know what I was logged out. That was me.

            • Ken

              the power/knowledge nexus that tell subjects … that they cannot drink bleach

              A variation of this claims that Obama could make his job much easier by saying that people shouldn’t drink bleach.

        • Dagney

          There is such thing as an exteriority; but it exists as a potential interiority, not as an environment. If there is such thing as an environment, then it is the cosmos, since planet Earth is pretty much our ultimate habitacle in this world. Until further notice!

          • Dagney

            Unless we’re thinking about something like the space station, between Earth and Cosmos, — and that habitable is pretty much the ultimate paradigm of air conditionning.

          • This is the sort of language employed to describe one’s surroundings by one who ignores or fails to understand physics and chemistry, let alone biology. By all means, read philosophy, Otto, but for heaven’s sake, don’t mistake entertaining sets of ideas for the necessities of life, like oxygen and a stable range of temperatures.

            • Dagney

              We live within a place where architecture and technology feedback into our biogenetic flux, and where the evolution of our biological system (what is commonly called our organism) feedbacks into our technological operations.

              Think about neoteny for instance; it was possible because of our increasing insulation from the forces of wind and cold for instance; and it allowed us to stay immature more longer, and thus to develop more ambitious brain (the cerebrum). This higher cerebralization resulting from technogical insulation fedback onto increasing our technological aptitudes.

              The development of hands from claw also is a perfect example of this retroactive junction between biological development and the use of technology, between nature and culture, and now: organisms and machines.

              • Which is all just as neat as shit, but still does not affect in any way our basic need for a stable partial pressure of oxygen and a fairly narrow range of temperatures.

                The development of hands from claw is actually due to natural selection; no human ever had claws, and the development of the hand evolutionarily owes nothing to the interaction of human and technology.

                • Dagney

                  yes of course, and it was highly affected by the use of tools as well.

                  That was part of a selection as well. Not the selection operated by the mothers choosing among the babies who shall survive and who shall be sacrificed, nor the sexual selection among females and males, but the selection between losers and winners in the ‘battlefields’, those winning battles because they were able to throw that silex better: better claws, claws-becoming-hands.

                • No, not at all correct. The human hand is essentially structurally unchanged over the past hundred thousand years–we have excellent fossil evidence for that. Furthermore, the hand is essentially the same in varying populations, so that metacarpal length and thenar muscle prominence is pretty much the same in adult male !Kung and adult male Croatians.

                  It’s all very colorful to imagine that spears and shovels and typewriters and Thompson submachine guns have altered the shape of the human hand, but the evidence says otherwise. Lamarck is fun to read, but cool stories aren’t science.

                • Dagney

                  I was referring to the transformation of claws into hands able to produce swords and later, play piano.

                  The use of technology was highly informative here. Massive negentropic force; not the only one; but a very important one. That development was very slow, and it’s still very early to know how our technology and our use of it will affect our hands.

                • Dagney

                  I was referring to the period between say, Kubrick’s monkey killing with that bonestick and err, the first tribe, the first post-herd form of life.

                • So just to be clear, you’re not referring to hands, but to “hands”? Not to physical extremities, but to theoretical appendages?

                • Dagney

                  no, no: to hands, to those with which we are typing our conversation, to hands which are the product of an extremely, extremely long operation during which our ancestors’ claws were transformed into our actual hands — via a long process of retroactive feedback loops between our biological flux and our technological prestations.

                • Dagney

                  We I’m sayin’ about hands Deleuze has said about the visage, the face.

                • I can’t speak for your hands, but I suspect mine came to be via processes more recognizable to students of evolutionary biology.

                • Dagney

                  both biology and technology: that’s the point: there is a continuum between nature and culture, biology and technology.

                  you’re like those creationists objecting to darwin: in the same way there is a continuum between animality and humanity (as shown by Darwin), there is a continuum between the organism of biology and the technology of what is now called ‘cybernetics’.

                • Dagney

                  my source here is Dieter Claessens.

                • Leeds man

                  “in the same way there is a continuum between animality and humanity”

                  There is always a continuum between fictitious abstracts you pull out of your arse (as shown by Benny Hill), mon ami.

                • Dagney
                • You keep citing philosophers. That’s great, but science is supposed to be evidence-based. The evidence pretty clearly shows that hands are unchanged since well before the knapping of flint was pioneered.

                • BigHank53

                  Gosh, I wonder which is faster and more efficient: waiting for 500 generations to examine evolutionary pressure, or redesigning the handle on the tool so it’ll be more comfortable and effective. Take a walk through the hardware store and look at the many, many, many handles on the garden implements.

                  We’ve been increasing insulated from Darwinian selection ever since we developed agriculture, amazingly protected since the industrial revolution, and nearly immune since discovering vaccines and antibiotics.

                  But by all means, keep pitching the Lamarck.

                • Dagney

                  yes, but the period between the Kubrick’s monkey using something like a bonestick as an extension of the arm and the first hands as we know them (hands looking like ours) is gigantic, isn’t it? Like 99% of evolutionary biology-&-technology…

                • (By the way, there is not a contiuum between humans and animals. Humans are animals, period. We’re mammals, like baboons or housecats.)

                • Dagney

                  “ever since we developed agriculture, amazingly protected since the industrial revolution, and nearly immune since discovering vaccines and antibiotics.”

                  indeed. But from the perspective of the development of claws-into-hands, the stage of agriculture is very recent.

                  it’s the 1%.

                • Dagney

                  “Humans are animals, period. We’re mammals, like baboons or housecats.”

                  Nope. We are mammals, sure. BUT animals do not have language nor mnemo-technic (artificial extension of memory), nor political economy (no accumulation of capital there) nor are they living within a technologically insulated context, with clothing, like we do. They are “naked,” we are not. there is a difference in nature between us and animal, but only a difference in kind between our organisms and our machines.

                • Forget it, Dagney. Tool use has been observed in a bunch of other species. Technology is not limited to humans.

                • Ants and bees can be said to accumulate capital–what else is honey, after all?–and we have no idea about language in other species, though we’re getting closer with cetaceans.

                • Dagney

                  Marginally so. Very, very maginally so, Doc. And you know it.

                  We humans use them tools in such a singular way, there is an abysmal difference between us and animality: we are living within a vortex of data and digits (inorganic extension of our hands): our cognitive processes are inextricably linked to our use of technology; we’re way beyond tools when our brain (& nervous) system is extended into inorganic memories; and those memories compute information as well, quasi-autonomously; and that amplifies our cognitive powers, feeding into our production, sensation, movements, thinking, housing, even into the planet’s atmosphere.

                  The Darwinian continuum between animal-and-human has been overfold by technik.

                • Dagney

                  Paging Von Uexküll !!

                • Leeds man

                  “The Darwinian continuum between animal-and-human has been overfold by technik.”

                  My God, this is bog-intellect of the first water. Haven’t seen anything like it since my last visit to Paris, going to a movie (Chocolat, IIRC). Getting ready to leave afterwards, and my colleague says “wait, there’s a discussion to follow”.

                • Snarki, child of Loki

                  My cats seem to be of the opinion that the human hand evolved specifically for efficient grooming.

                  That, and using a can opener.

                • Jon

                  I admire your persistence, but come on. This isn’t even good parody. Apparently it is effective trolling, though.

                • Joey Maloney

                  Doctor Sokal, is that you? (In the right place, this time.)

            • Pestilence

              nice Wanda reference there

          • Leeds man

            “There is such thing as an exteriority; but it exists as a potential interiority, not as an environment. If there is such thing as an environment, then it is the cosmos, since planet Earth is pretty much our ultimate habitacle in this world. Until further notice!”

            I blame the French. Let us know when you learn English, you dissembling fuck. “potential interiority”? That doesn’t even rate pretentious.

      • Leeds man

        “There is no such thing as ‘environment’”

        You sure your first name’s not Maggie?

    • StP

      How many children do you have joel?

      Those advocating for population control, especially if they live in a country the consumes 25% of the world’s energy resources, should do their part first. Remember each American child is equivalent to 60 Indians and 600 Tanzanians.

      • No pun intended

        Why do you assume Joel hasn’t put his vasectomy where his mouth is?

  • Bernard

    try living in the South without AC. i don’t want to, thank you very much. all those people who migrated South from the Rust Belt. because we are being held hostage to greedy MF’s is not enough a reason here to do away with AC. come up with a feasible alternative and i’m with you.

    A hot Southerner, thinking of Australia too

    • greylocks

      Perhaps you should read the article. Neither it nor Erik uggested getting ready of A/C.

    • Perhaps you should consider moving back.

  • There are also decent ways of addressing building heating, cooling and lighting through passive solar, ventilation and natural lighting. Houses do not have to be capsules.

  • Emma in Sydney

    It’s currently close to 40 degrees C where I am I enjoying my summer holidays, but there’s no air con in my parents’ timber beach shack. No worries. It’ll cool down later on, with all the doors and windows open.

    Solar panel companies here aggressively market solar powered air con — the power from your array going first through the air conditioner. This seems like a good idea to me. But building houses that are cool, with deep verandahs, wide eaves, angled away from the western sun, south facing courtyards — all these were skills developed long before air con. The trouble is that developers build cheap shoddy hot houses, here, and then try to make them live able with honking great air conditioners.

    Domestic scale air con has a solar future, wi one cooled room for really hot hot days, not vast cooled spaces just for the sake of it.

    • Dave

      Well said.

    • Vance Maverick

      deep verandahs, wide eaves, angled away from the western sun, south facing courtyards

      While these are obviously good things, were they ever available to people of ordinary means? Or before air-conditioning, was cool living in hot places only for the rich?

      • Vance Maverick

        (Assuming “south” means “away from the Equator”.) I remember tangling on this topic with Eric Rauchway back in the day — he’s from Florida, and looked back nostalgically on “Florida rooms”, which I think were equally unavailable to the inhabitants of tarpaper shacks.

  • Green Caboose

    We live in a house with no A/C. Course, we live in a dry climate (Colorado) at a high altitude (7400 feet), meaning temps rarely top 90F, even with all the records last summer, in a forest (meaning shade, except when during the mid-day hours) and a house with a finished walk-out basement that stays about 66F throughout the summer regardless of the temp outside. In other words, just about ideal conditions for not needing A/C.

    The problem in the US is that in the last 50 years millions have moved to places that were barely tolerable before A/C. The intensely humid south, or the extreme heat of the southwest desert. In addition, those who live in the midwest humidity belt have gotten acclimated to having A/C everywhere because during heatwaves you often can’t escape the heat very much in the shade or at night. The old methods we had, in my younger days, such as getting the body to cool down using warm-water-soaked towels just before sleep, have been largely forgotten.

    There probably is not going to be a solution in time to prevent catastrophic climate change. But one minor tweak we should consider is eliminating daylight savings. Daylight savings was suggested as an energy-saving measure when the biggest use of electricity was for lighting. Now that it is A/C it is actually better to have people arrive at offices, retail, and workplaces earlier in the day and leave earlier – you’re basically trading a hotter hour of awakeness/activity for a cooler one. A recent study of Indiana-area utilities – comparing counties which have daylight savings with those that don’t – confirmed this.

  • Anonymous professional philosopher

    @dagny – never heard of either of them, and by what you have said, I’m better able to teach environmental ethics having not.

  • Anonymous

    The last guy in the article was funnily overoptimistic to think we could without entirely. He lives somewhere ALOT cooler than the Texas where I live… I’ve got all the things you can do, and it just saves on AC.

    I must say, so far, Dagney’s Peter the Wrong seems like the very WORST philosopjher ever, full of wrong, too long bullshit. I mean, half of it is just words strnng together, a BAD SIGN.

    Hmm, thread, is he worse than Rand?

    And can we lose the population control BS, please? The more people we have, the easier we can develop tech like effifcient AC and better fish farms to deal with our fish scarcity. It’s SUCH old wrong hat.

  • OTWD

    Air conditioning service should always be performed by experienced and trained professionals. It is cost effective, guarantees safe use of the unit, doesn’t create extra expenses or injuries, and more importantly, doesn’t waste your time and energy.

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