A Post-Air-Conditioning World

Hi Readers! Stan Cox, author of the new book, “Losing zaarsnnzze
Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer)
,” wrote a great oped for The Washington Post last summer about what life would be like if we still sweltered. As a person who is always freezing, I LOVE the idea of an un-airconditioned world, not just because it would allow me to peel off several (dozen) cardigans, but also because I believe in what Cox preaches: That when we HAVE to go outside for relief, we gain a lot more than a cool breeze. We regain the whole idea of neighborhood. And we regain a season! As he writes in his oped:

Saying goodbye to A.C. means saying hello to the world. With more people spending more time outdoors — particularly in the late afternoon and evening, when temperatures fall more quickly outside than they do inside — neighborhoods see a boom in spontaneous summertime socializing.

Rather than cowering alone in chilly home-entertainment rooms, neighbors get to know one another. Because there are more people outside, streets in high-crime areas become safer. As a result of all this, a strange thing happens: Deaths from heat decline. Elderly people no longer die alone inside sweltering apartments, too afraid to venture outside for help and too isolated to be noticed. Instead, people look out for one another during heat waves, checking in on their most vulnerable neighbors.

Children — and others — take to bikes and scooters, because of the cooling effect of air movement. Calls for more summer school and even year-round school cease. Our kids don’t need more time inside, everyone agrees; they need the shady playgrounds and water sprinklers that spring up in every neighborhood.

Okay — he sounds a little hokey. But only because we’ve become so divorced from the idea that we can stand a little discomfort that we dismiss the idea that we really COULD be happier while sweatier.

I’m not sure how to bring this revolution about, since we already live without a.c. in my house and it’s not like anyone seems eager to follow our lead. (Or visit in July.)  But it’s something to think about, while our teeth chatter next to the A.C. vent. — Lenore

I'd trade a.c. for a day like this.


141 Responses to A Post-Air-Conditioning World

  1. Whitney May 4, 2011 at 4:23 am #

    I lived in an un-airconditioned dorm in college (in Georgia in the 90s, even, so it was pretty unusual) and we were much more social in our dorm than in the ones with a/c.
    We had to leave our doors and windows open throughout September, some of October, April, May and June, and being on the first floor, on the way to the drink machines, computers (such as they were) and laundry room, we got tons of visitors.
    The dorm has a/c now, and I’m a little sad for what those students are missing.

  2. JeneeLyn May 4, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    I noticed this phenomenon one evening several years ago when the power went out. It was lighter outside than in, so everyone headed outdoors. I seriously spoke to neighbors who live right next door or across the street whom I had never met. Not because we were afraid to go outside – we lived on an Air Force base – but because air conditioning and electric lights had kept up isolated in our homes.

  3. Anna May 4, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    I read an article last year that argued that AC was the single most important invention of our time. It allows us to build vertically beyond a few stories, which revolutionized architecture, landscapes and yes, neighborhoods. The author mentioned the same thing you did….we wake up in a cold box, travel in a small, cold box to another cold box. Interactions are limited.

  4. Lollipoplover May 4, 2011 at 4:31 am #

    My kids attend elementary school with no air conditioning. They have to bike to get there several miles (busing was cut due to budget contraints).
    They don’t melt.

  5. EricS May 4, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    As much as I like the outdoors, I’m glad I have AC. Especially for those days where it gets so humid and muggy, that no amount of shade can keep you from “melting”. Having a BBQ outside, and stepping inside to cool off. Or riding your bike around all afternoon, and then coming home to a cool place. Or even have friends over that don’t have AC during a heatwave. Just like anything else, it all depends on how you use it, and how you let it affect your life. Balance.

  6. SgtMom May 4, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    It’s not A.C. that’s the problem, but T.V.

    Movies filmed in New York City before 1947 always depict neighbors sitting out on the stoop, children playing in the streets.

    The years after T.V. the streets became deserted as people gathered in front of the boob tube to watch other people socialize and interact.

    I haven’t had Air Conditioning most of my life…yes, I’m THAT old.

    I grew up VERY very poor. I’m talking no coat in the winter, holes in my shoes, the water freezing in our toilet in the winter.

    My brother in law astounded me once by commenting ” I can’t believe how poor you guys were….I can’t imagine growing up without AIRCONDITIONING!”

    Believe me…air conditioning was the LAST thing I considered myself deprived of….

  7. Robin May 4, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    I grew up with central a/c in the 70’s. It was very unusual, nobody else in our neighborhood had it. But my mom was asthmatic and it was the only way she could breath in the summer. Like Eric says, it’s how you use it.

    Cell phones and ipods keep us from interacting with others too. Should we stop using them or learn to use them better?

  8. Elissa May 4, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    Here in Phoenix, we would die without AC. Its not any better outside than it is inside without AC…its just miserable all around. Its interesting to note that people didn’t really start moving to phoenix in mass until after AC was invented.

    I agree with the others…its not the AC that’s the problem but all the other stuff inside – the game consoles, computers, t.vs, ipods, cell phones etc that keeps people inside.

  9. Jrmiss86 May 4, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    I agree with the general idea, but I know that for us, we can’t go without AC. Between my asthma, my son’s asthma and his genetic condition that causes him to over heat very very easily, we just can’t. But like others have said it is all in how you use it. We still venture out in the evenings when it is starting to cool down some, as do our neighbors. We invite people over and do what we can. I believe you can still connect with others even with AC, you just have to want to. I am sure there were recluses before the age of AC, just as there are now. The only difference is that they are not as hot in the summer now.

  10. AB May 4, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    My problem with doing without A.C. and going outside is that my grandmother doesn’t take the heat well, so it’s not an option as I live with her. Also I spent most of my childhood summers indoors because she feared I would have a heart attack if the temperature was over 82 degrees. She lost a family member from a heart attack ( and this relative was in their late 20’s) on a hot day when she was a kid, and she doesn’t want the same to happen to anyone else in the family.

    So how hot is too hot for children to be outside? Some people have medical problems that run in the family, and don’t want to take risk with things that other people can tolerate but can make another them very sick. I can’t tolerate heat well and get sick if I’m outdoors in weather more than 82 degrees, even though I only have mild asthma and no heart problems.

  11. marciepooh May 4, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    AC is a tool, that’s all. Like all tools it can be used minimally or allowed to take over. My mom grew up in Mobile, Alabama in the 40s and 50s; one of her weekly chores was wiping the mildew off the books – a little AC sounds good to me. On the other hand my sister worked in retail in Birmingham for several decades; she’d wear a sweater in the summer and short sleeves in the winter to work.

    Also, I’d like to point out that year round school does not necessarily mean more classroom days in the school year. It’s mostly a shifting of breaks/holidays around, so more time is taken throughout the year and less in the summer. We don’t live in an agrarian society* and schools are mostly air conditioned so there’s no real need to not have school in June, July, or August.

    *in some parts of the conutry the need for kids to work the farm may still be a valid reason for long summer breaks

  12. PeeDub May 4, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    Ugh, yes. In NY, sure, I could live without AC. But in the *South*?? No. Freakin’. Way.

  13. This girl loves to talk May 4, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    I have neither heating or aircon ( i will admit we have a small window aircon in our bedroom) so in winter we heat rice bags in the microwave and put them in our beds and in our pockets – works a treat (I’m thinking cold because winter is coming here now)

    In summer you just take extra showers, deal with the heat and don’t move around too much.

    People say they can’t live without aircon but we did as kids (In Australia where it is VERY HOT,) plus a high percentage of the world makes do without it. I remember putting facewashers in the freezer to make them go cold and stiff and we would take them to bed with us to lay over our foreheads while we sweltered.

    I think it is also a fear of leaving windows/doors open. I also live in a old house with no screens. I don’t like the thought of someone climbing in plus all the bugs we have here in Australia. But thats what people used to do!!

    My mother tells me relatives used to drag mattress out to the hallway to sleep with the doors open to get a little breeze. People used to sleep outside on varandah’s. In some countries people sleep on their flat roof’s to get a little cool.

    I’m not saying I do these things, and I do love the small respite of my one little aircon, but I try to limit heating and cooling as I read somewhere if everyone in the world lived as the average american (or australian for that matter) we would need three earths!!

    As a person who believes that everyone else in the world deserves a little luxury, it means those of us with adundant luxury will have to decrease in order for poorer countries to increase.

    I think it is possible but it takes a major rethink of how you live. and a push beyond the ‘pain’ barrier

  14. dmd May 4, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    I don’t know that the author is saying let’s STOP using A/C, but recognize that it does impact the way we interact with the world. I notice in my city, in the poor neighborhoods, you very often see folks out in the evening where it’s (moderately) cooler. The kids are running around while the parents sit on the porch and drink beer.

    In my neighborhood, you don’t want to leave the door open and let the A/C out. So doors are closed. Yes, you sometimes get folks on their porch. But once you are used to A/C, it’s hard to get unused to it. I’m like Lenore – cold all the time. But my husband literally melts when the temperature goes above 72. He (and his family) tell me he was always like that – even though they had no A/C when he was a kid. People also don’t want to walk anywhere, because they’ll get sweaty.

  15. Emily Catherine May 4, 2011 at 5:48 am #

    I’m a Floridian who (like Lenore) is cold all the time. Certainly, we could do without AC and most of us would be just fine. But I can tell that Mr. Cox isn’t a Floridian! Here, the season where it goes from hot all day to cool in the evening is called “a couple months every winter.” Hot all day and hot all night is called “the rest of the year.” 😉

  16. Dolly May 4, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    It depends on where you live. I live in the South US. It is very hot and also extremely humid. Being outside is not an option when the temps are high. I actually almost got heatstroke twice last Summer. I take my kids outside but we do it early in the morning. Our neighborhood also does not have a lot of shade so yet another reason we can’t go out all day long in the Summer and why we need our AC.

    We also are easy to burn family meaning pale gingers and pale skin so even with sunscreen our sun time has to be limited. With seasonal allergies yet another thing very bad in South US we can’t leave windows open. I have an asthmatic child. We have to leave windows closed pretty much 24/7. So then we need our AC.

    Our big times of year to do stuff like travel and outdoor trips is Spring and Fall. Summer not so much. I actually think we spend more time outside in Winter than we do in Summer.

  17. Dolly May 4, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Pointing out like AB that medical problems also play a part. My stepdad had a stroke many years ago that made it where one side of his body is always burning up and he will literally be sweating down one side of his body and not on the other. So even with AC on full blast he feels like its 90 degrees on that side anyway. So with no AC poor man would probably die. When we visit them I bring warm clothing because they keep that house freezing cold. My mom gets hot flashes too. But they are very outdoorsy. At least my mom is. She is outside all day long gardening and when my boys visit them they play outside in the country all day. But having that cool house to come back to really is a nice thing!

  18. socalledauthor May 4, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    “Can’t” live without AC? How on earth did people do it before there was AC, then? AC is a new invention, and before that people lived just fine…

    We don’t have AC. I grew up without it. Only recently have I even owned a car with AC (since by the time I get the car, the AC and many other things are well-worn out. The cost of not having much money.)

    We often say we “can’t” because we are lucky enough that we don’t have to even consider it. If you didn’t have the money to afford installing or running the air conditioning, suddenly, you’d find that you really CAN. (Similarly, I have been told that you can’t live in a snowy clime like Michigan without 4 wheel drive. Can’t my tailfeathers– I drove to work in all weather in just a old Cavalier!)

  19. Marie May 4, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    I grew up in a house without AC. Found out eventually how much the trees in the front and back yard helped keep things cool.

    These days we have AC, but we’re in a hotter area, and during the day it’s set to 84 F. We get used to it pretty quickly and it makes going outside less of a shock when it’s 95-100+. We do often enjoy a walk in the cool evenings… cool being a relative term some nights.

  20. Elissa May 4, 2011 at 6:38 am #

    @socalledauthor – people may have lived just fine in Michigan without air conditioning but most people who are in Phoenix now didn’t come here until after AC was invented. In the 40s, the population of PHX was only 65K, when AC was accepted by the FHA to be part of home mortgages in 1957, the population exploded and by 1960, was 439K.

    So yes – while it is possible for some people in certain parts of the country to live without AC, it is really rather unpleasant to the point of dangerous to do it in others.

    That isn’t to say we don’t go outside – but its tough for kids to get out in the summer when the mercury doesn’t drop below 100 until 9 PM. Most little league games here don’t start until 8:30pm so the kids don’t die of heat stroke in the summer. And since we don’t observe daylight savings time here…it gets dark pretty quick – the sun is long gone by 8pm even on the longest days of the year.

  21. beckyS May 4, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    Like Elissa, I live in Phoenix, and we’d pretty much die without AC. That said, my son’s house, where I live, is pretty well insulated, so we open windows a lot and save the AC for the really brutally hot days. And we have a swing on the front porch, which we use a LOT.

  22. Aaron Muderick May 4, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Very true. Take a look at Weegee’s street photos and you’ll see…before A/C, the life of a city was on its streets during the summer months.

  23. Donna May 4, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    Well I grew up in the south and didn’t have air conditioning until I went to college. We survived just fine … and went outside regularly. The reason that people can’t do it now is because of air conditioning. We move from our air conditioned houses to our air conditioned cars to our air conditioned schools and offices so we never acclimate to the heat so it always feels miserable outside. Yes, there days that were miserable and you wanted to do nothing other than find the closest body of cool water or movie theater but for the most part I was not as miserable in the summer as I am now.

    That said, I’ll keep my ac, although it’s set pretty high.

  24. Catspaw May 4, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    I live in New Zealand where ac is not common, and we still don’t get together as neighborhoods etc in summer. I think it has not much to do with ac, and everything to do with tv, electronics and the way we live our lives. What is common is a group of friends getting together for a bbq on weekend summer nights, but that often means people have traveled from other suburbs.

  25. Elissa May 4, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    @becky – we like to open our windows too, but then the dust comes in. 🙁 Ah well. I’ll still take the heat over the snow. 🙂

  26. Eldo May 4, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Of course, people could live without A/C. People lived without it for thousands of years. People also lived without electricity, vaccines, and shoes among other things.

  27. Beth May 4, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    I grew up without A/C in my home or school so it’s nice to have as an adult. But I cringe a little when my 4 1/2 year old kvetches about it being too hot.

  28. Steve Horwitz May 4, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    Air conditioning has been one of the great life savers of the 20th century. One reason that Europe suffers from heat-related deaths more than the US is that we are much more air-conditioned than they are.

    I get the idea Lenore, but a/c saves so many children’s lives that it’s not worth whatever benefits it would provide from getting kids outside.

  29. Luna May 4, 2011 at 7:36 am #

    I live in Texas, and it can get truly sweltering here in the summer. Without A/C, I couldn’t run my computer, so I wouldn’t be able to work from home (with my kids running free-range). Like most devices, it’s a tool. It can be used properly — or not. Of course, as soon as the sun starts to go down (after 8pm or so), you’ll see a lot more folks out and about around the neighborhood. A lot of times in the summer we’ll let the kids play outside until 10pm or so just because it’s the only time it’s cool enough to be outside and not in a pool.

  30. Kim May 4, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    I live in the south. I want a/c. And yes, it is a tool…mine is set to 76 and I think it is fine. I’ve been outside at midnight here in the summer and it’s been 95 degrees so going outside doesn’t always help.

  31. Denny May 4, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    I’m moving into a house soon that has no central AC, but we did get two used window units (for $50 for both), and we may get more. Our current house has AC, but I don’t turn it as low as many people. I’m amazed how many people have their AC set on 70. Recently, there have been some days when some people will have the AC on and then the heat an hour or so later. Front porches and swimming pools and lakes help so much for keeping cool too – but I’m glad I never had a chore of cleaning mildew off of books!

  32. Barbara May 4, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    I grew up in the San Francisco area where you
    certainly didn’t need air con and then moved
    to a part of Australia where summer temps
    regularly get over 40C (100 F).Our first house
    didn’t have it, our present house had an old
    one we took out about 3 or 4 years ago. After
    several years of suffering through summer
    heat waves we broke down and installed a new
    one in one room only. I agree that it’s all a
    matter of using it judiciously – we don’t use it that
    often but it’s been a godsend when we’ve
    had a week of 40+ heat!

  33. Angela@beggingtheanswer May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    I don’t think it’s the AC keeping people in, so much as TVs, video games, etc. Honestly, you see the same phenomena when the power goes out, especially if it’s out for an extended period of time. All of a sudden, every one is outside, talking to their neighbors, etc., not just because it’s cooler, but because there’s nothing to do inside!!

  34. JaneW May 4, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    I miss spending time outdoors. Unfortunately, since developing bad allergic asthma, I HAVE to spend the entire warm season indoors with the A/C on, or else fight for breath day and night.

    Still, it was great when I was a kid.

  35. madmothermusings May 4, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    We have no AC in our house either. And although our neighborhood is chock full of young families, no one is outside during the summer for my kids to play with. Makes me sad really.

  36. Vanessa May 4, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    My three-story townhome has no AC, and it’s not bad for most of the year. (I live near the ocean.) But when it’s miserable, it’s REALLY miserable, and I say that as someone who spent most of her childhood in the South, playing outside on 100-degree days with 90 percent humidity. The heat inside doesn’t seem to do much to get me and my daughter outside–we just sit on the sofa with electric fans pointed at us and suffer. If we do leave the house, it’s to escape to an air-conditioned mall or movie theater. 🙂

  37. Jenny Islander May 4, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Part of the problem with air conditioning in the U.S. is the ridiculous inappropriateness of housing in most of the country.

    An ordinary single-family residence in the Sun Belt, for example, should have thick walls of adobe, stone, or cinderblocks to keep out the heat, cross-timbered to strengthen it against earthquakes, with a flat roof surrounded by a railing so that it can be used as open-air living space or even sleeping space. There should be an internal yard with similarly thick walls separating the main house from the kitchen and possibly also from the laundry room. The yard should be big enough to hang laundry in and have one smooth path so that meals can be wheeled from the kitchen to the house on a trolley, but the rest should be engineered for coolness: a recirculating fountain, a tree planted to block the afternoon sun, perhaps a plot of grass. If the home has an upstairs, it should have big windows with heat-blocking curtains and bug screens positioned to let air circulate. Perhaps the upper windows shouldn’t even have any glass–just shutters for bad weather.

    Instead we get wooden houses designed with snow-shedding roofs in a region that gets no snow. If the roof is flat, it’s often black, the absolute worst color for reflecting the heat of the sun. The kitchen is right next to the main living area and the biggest windows often can’t be opened. No wonder people camp out next to the air conditioning to the point of rolling blackouts.

  38. Larry Harrison May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    I agree that the air conditioner isn’t the culprit, but rather the TV–and maybe the PC as well.

    I like it when it’s hot, though, but for a terrible reason–the skimpy clothing the females wear, ha ha. I’m such a guy!

    Even so, there is a point to this though–kids need to play outside, and for us to not allow them or submit to their whining based on “wah wah, it’s hot outside,” that is a problem. I recall being made to play outdoors when it was 93’F or even, on the other extreme, around 40’F. It may have been for slightly shorter periods of time, and hot chocolate or cold soda may have awaited me later as relief-rewards, but I wasn’t excused from outdoor play just because it wasn’t in that perfect 60-75 degree zone either.


  39. Larry Harrison May 4, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Sorry for double posting, but to me, that is the main point–that is, it is totally understandable for air conditioning and heating to be utilized to make us comfortable, I can tell you I absolutely can’t stand, say, a car without air conditioning even above 75’F, because open windows mean street noise (noisy 18 wheelers with diesel engines) which absolutely hurts my ears.

    HOWEVER, when I was a child I was made to play outside in the heat even though the indoors was air-conditioned, we had an old toy firetruck with a hose-connected sprinkler, water slides–we found ways to keep cool and have fun outdoors in the heat. We might have played outdoors for a LITTLE less time on extreme days, but not drastically so.

    Nowadays, though, parents are so apt to not let their kids play outside because it’s above 80’F or below 60’F, even just for a few minutes. It really has reached ridiculous extents. Have they not heard of hot chocolate on cold days and Kool-Aid or Hawaiian Punch on hot days?

    Me myself, last year, during lunch-break at work during the summer, I’d go to the local park and play basketball outdoors in the noon-day time of day when it was nearly 100 degrees outside and the sun was shining brightly where I was, not a bit of shade. Afterwards I’d go to the carwash and wash myself as much as the cool so as to cool off.

    I live in eastern Texas, and Tucson Arizona prior to that, so yes–air conditioning is a MUST. However, so is letting–or in some cases, MAKING–children play outdoors even when it is hot, as opposed to sitting inside all day & playing video games.


  40. Cheryl W May 4, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    I NEVER have had a car with working air conditioning. I have had several cars that did not have working heaters. (More dangerous – defrost doesn’t work.)

    Up until my current house, I have not lived in a house with central AC. When we lived on the Eastern Shore of MD, where the mosquitoes are liable to carry you off, we had only a window unit in the bedroom. There, in the summer you’re lucky if the temp gets below 75 at night.

    Still, we always did the old fashion way of cooling down. We opened the windows at night, used a large fan to pull air through the house, and then, closed up everything in the morning. After it finally got hotter inside than out, we opened the doors and windows. We still do the same to keep our electric bill down, and because we have good insulation, even on days when it gets up to 103, we don’t need AC until about 3:30 or 4:00. Then, once the sun goes down, we open the windows, and cool everything off.

    I am not sure if it is the AC with my neighbors, or the general condition of people where I live, but I hardly ever see people outside at most neighbor houses. For a couple families, we didn’t know that they had kids there full time for several months. Yes, there was a trampoline, and bikes, but we never saw kids and figured they must be with the custodial parent. Turns out, the parents are together. My kids are outside all the time, if it is hot, we put out the slip and slide or go swimming at the pool.

  41. pentamom May 4, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Is it too obvious to point out that if you’re cold sitting next to the AC vent, it’s turned up too high?

    Our house was designed in the 80’s (the era of sick buildings, though ours is not) for maximum heat efficiency, because we’re in a cold climate.

    This means it is like a greenhouse. We spend very little in heating in proportion to most homes in our region, but the place is pretty much intolerable without air conditioning once it hits 85F outside. One can’t sleep outside, and it’s just plain inefficient to try to cool it down every night if you let it heat up during the day.

    But people in my neighborhood spend a good amount of time outside, as well. The fact that several of us have in-ground pools and most of us let our kids run Free-Range helps, of course.

  42. Library Diva May 4, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I have a room AC in one room, but spend most of the time in the summer on my porch or in my garden. I grew up without AC too, as did most of my neighbors. We’re in upstate NY, where AC is sort of a luxury item and really only useful a few months out of the year. I don’t think it made a tremendous difference in the friendliness of my neighborhood though. A handful of people were neighborly, the majority weren’t, and that continues to this day even though it’s all new people on the street. I blame the street design more. It’s a backyard culture, not a front porch culture. You just don’t see people. The ones who know each other are the dog walkers, or people who know each other through a circumstance like having kids the same age.

  43. Julie May 4, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    I think what Lenore meant when she said that about teeth chattering near the AC vent is that she gets cold in places where others are in charge of the AC. I know I do!! Inevitably if I am going to someone’s house and it isn’t the dead middle of summer, I WILL get chilled…and I ALWAYS have to carry along a wrap or cardigan if I’m going to a church or conference or something of that nature…because inevitably the AC is cranked up way too high!!

    I live in Texas with my asthmatic husband and asthmatic son…so we can’t go without AC during the hottest months of the year or when there is mowing happening nearby. BUT I also grew up half my childhood in other countries and never had AC there…and only ever a window unit or two in bedrooms in the US (cause we seemed to always live in old houses without central AC)…so I get chilled easily. Even when we have the AC set at 78 (which is our usual setting when home) I tend to use a throw while sitting on the couch.

    So for me, I can’t say I can really do without AC cause I get fairly miserable in muggy weather and my guys have a hard time breathing. But we do have it set fairly high, only turn it on when it hits 78-80 inside, and spend many cloudy days and most evenings out in our yard for at least a little while…and yet we don’t know more than a handful of neighbors…and only really hang out on occasion with one neighbor couple (really the moms and kids…but the dads do speak occasionally).

  44. This girl loves to talk May 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m interested at all the people who say they need aircon for allergies/asthma. I have quite a few american expat friends who live here in australia and they *all* say the same thing. Yet I’ve never heard an australian say this as a reason for needing aircon (for most it’s because its extremely hot here). I’m not doubting your allergies just found it interesting that all the posts here say this, and my american friends say this.

  45. Lea May 4, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    I’m sure I’d live without airconditioning it just wouldn’t be pretty, comfortable, happy or terribly healthy for me in the triple digits and blazing sun. I use our central air sparingly because I prefer fresh air to the canned stuff but there are a few months of the year where it’s used more often than not.

    We had a window unit and a fan growing up. I loved those things.. The heat would get so awful and the afternoon sun was blazing bright. I spent a lot of time in front of the air with my friends or submerged in the pool. Being hot made me cranky, sluggish and not very sociable. It does that to me as an adult to. I love to be outside when the temps are resonable. Our summers often just aren’t reasonable. I imagine previous generations didn’t take to the heat so well either. I hear many of the elderly talk about the cold baths followed by long naps they would take in the afternoons just to get through the day and how cranky and covered in heat rashes the babies would be and that cooking anything way out of the question unless it was before the sun came up. Honestly it doesn’t sound like they felt much like being social in the extream heat either.

    I appreciate the authors point and I do see it but I think maybe he’s romantazied what the hot summers without air conditoning were like for so many. We can be 90 degrees at 2am in August. Sure some months I’m a bit more isolated in the air conditioning and don’t go outside to say high as often but I’m also not melting and I simply go inside to visit with people more or have them come to me. The airconditioning doesn’t seem to have isolated my kids a bit though. They just bring the neighborhood inside when outside can’t be tolerated anymore!

    Air conditioning is one modern invention I just can’t find many flaws and drawbacks to. Noow if I lived in a more moderate climate maybe I wouldn’t see it as such a need.

  46. King Krak, All-Seeing, All-Knowing May 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I approve of your plan to depopulate Florida and Las Vegas.

  47. Nicole May 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Growing up I lived in an area where we only used AC for maybe one week a year, if you had it. It was a source of pride to state how long you went without using it. I lived in a town with about 800 residents.

    My community wasn’t any more social or tight knit because of it. This really is wishful thinking. Sort of like people who idealize rural living.

  48. Nicole May 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Oh, and where I grew up, it gets unbearably hot and humid. So it’s not like I grew up, like, in Seattle or anything.

  49. The Gentle Mom May 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I lived without air conditioning for several years, and the truth is that I found it torturous. Even worse was the effect on my then-infant son. He was constantly sweaty and miserable. Taking him outside into the 90 degree heat certainly didn’t bring any relief, either. So while the idea of neighbors frolicking together in the summer sun sounds lovely, the reality is far too sticky and sweaty for me.

  50. Donna May 4, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    @ This girl – Allergies often require AC because of an inability to keep the windows or doors open. What you are allergic to with plant allergies is the pollen floating around in the air. If you leave the doors and windows open, the pollen from outside comes inside and covers everything in the house making the allergic person miserable. As for asthma, often that is triggered by allergies so it would be the same problem. Add to that the very thick air in humid climates and it can be difficult for a person with normal lung function to breathe, let alone someone with asthma or copd.

  51. Mdema009 May 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I grew up without AC. I lived in Massachusetts, where it’s cold most of the year, but in the summer months, it gets unbearably hot and muggy. I did not die from the heat. I now have central air, but it stays off most of the time. I turn it on when it gets too hot to sleep comfortably- that’s what I always hated as a kid, lying in bed, sweating, unable to fall asleep.

    Anyway, we open windows and doors and go outside when it’s hot. It’s funny how we think of something that was a luxury twenty years ago, like central air, as a necessity today. It’s like the dishwasher. I had one in my apartment, and now I don’t have one in my house. It’s an old home and there wasn’t one here when we moved in. We haven’t gotten around to putting one in and I don’t miss it.

    PS- the kid does the dishes because I am a cruel mother who makes her do chores and doesn’t pay her for them. She’s learning about pulling her weight and being a contributor.

  52. Emily May 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Jenny Islander has a good point about home design. I grew up in Kentucky, and a common house design has a central corridor with windows that can be opened to create a breezeway that keeps the air moving through the whole house. During the summer, it is hot and humid air, but it’s the air movement that cools you off.

    During my childhood we had a couple of rooms in the house that had AC. In the rest of the house, we kept the windows and connecting doors open to use whatever breeze was available. During the hottest, most humid summer days, I did a lot of lying around drinking lemonade and fanning myself with a comic book.

    A lot of the allergies in cities and towns could be eased with a change in landscaping. Urban planners almost exclusively plant male trees because female trees create fruit/seeds — a mess that people have to clean up. Unfortunately, male trees pump masses of pollen into the air, resulting in itchy eyes and a streaming nose for anyone who ventures outdoors in the summer.

  53. baby-paramedic May 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    In the spirit of laying all my cards down:

    – I am not a native Queenslander. I loathe the heat.
    – My car is un airconditioned. I do avoid driving on sunny Summer days though. It does have tinted windows.
    – My house does not have aircon. But it does have an uniterrupted prevailing breeze, and house architectually designed to cool etc. A normal house I would probably want one (I do have access to a pool I live in though in Summer).
    – by the very nature of my work, I am oftened in unairconditioned environments.

    we dont begrudge heating to those in cooler climates.

    In my line of work, over Summer we have an added question that people answer when they ring for an ambulance ‘Do you have the air conditioning on?’

    I would estimate 1/4 of our calls would either not require an ambulance, or would be less serious, if the patient had airconditioning (or lived in an amazingly cool home like mine).

    Airconditioning is a tool. I would hesitate to use it if the case called for it. In my old place we used the aircon 3-4 times a year, and it was bliss.

    And I loved when I was living in North Queensland the paramedic quarters are airconditioned. Overnight temp of 40? Too hot to sleep for someone not used to it like me!

  54. Nicole Krieger May 4, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    I HATE the heat. Luckily we live in Switzerland where it doesn’t get as hot as it does on the East Coast, so we don’t need an AC, a fan does a trick for those few super hot weeks.

    But I can’t agree with a no AC world. The heat frickin’ sucks. If you’re too cold you can wear a sweater… nothing so easy to do if you’re too hot.

  55. Sky May 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Well, this is even more true of the car. The car broke down families and broke down neighbourhoods and broke down socialization by making it easy to move, be mobile, and be on the go, and work quite aways away from your family and neighbourhood. Technology changes society. But don’t you dare try to take my car away. Or my A/C. Not in a humid, 100 degree summer. Every great good technological invention has both negative and positive consquences, but usually – and certainly in the case of the car and the A/C – the good outweigh the bad. But I and all my friends had AC growing up in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and yet kids were outside playing in the streets from school out to dinner time, so I’m not even sure how much influence A/C had on all that going back inside thing…I really do think the greatest deterrent to kids playing outside with other kids is simply that today, parents won’t ALLLOW them, or they have other scheduled plans and activities for that time.

  56. Jo May 4, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    I teach in Western Sydney (Australia). In February we had a week straight of 45 degree celcius weather. I was certainly glad of the air conditioning our school has then. We are lucky to be one of the few high schools that have air conditioning in every room too!
    However I think that it does encourage us to stay indoors alot more (which is a good idea in 45 degree heat). We reguarly have dinner outside in the warmer months as do most of our neighbours with young children. (Less mess too!)
    I love the fact that we all head outside when the heat of the day has disappated and our kids run around in the backyard to work off their energy before bed.

  57. Dolly May 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    This girl: Well I live in like #4 city on the 10 worst allergy cities in the US. Found that out a couple weeks ago when the list came out. So yeah, we never open our windows because when we do the pollen comes in. All of us have seasonal allergies and environmental allergies. Every last one of us. One of us has asthma. We got food allergies too.

    But I digress, if we lived somewhere else our allergies might be nonexistant. But we don’t. We live in #4 worst allergy city in the US. So maybe when people move to Australia there allergies might go away because the pollen goes away?

    The southern US is awful for allergies. Lots of blooming plants and humidity and no ocean breezes to blow it away. We live surrounded by mountains so the bad air just sits there. It stinks. I have often dreamed of packing up and moving somewhere else and magically our allergies might disapeer.

  58. Jo May 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    I forgot to add that it is illegal to let your kids run around under the sprinkler like we did when we were kids (It wastes water), so they can’t keep cool that way.

  59. Dolly May 4, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

    Honestly I doubt AC is the cause of people not being outside and knowing their neighbors. Like I said we are outside in our front yard (we have no backyard really) all the time playing. Guess what? I never see anyone outside hardly during all 4 seasons. I think it has more to do with things like electronics and two parents working and kids doing more activities. Our neighbors have all these amazing kid toys and swingsets but they are never outside. The boy does Little League, both parents work, they do a lot of church stuff and they are just hardly ever home nevertheless outside the rare time they are home. I think that is a good example of why you don’t see families outside more.

  60. Liz K May 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    I agree that children are being taught to catastrophize discomfort. I know children who don’t want to play outside if it is at all hot, or at all chilly. This same subset of kids cannot tolerate standing in a line, waiting for their dinner in a restaurant patiently (thus a video game thrust in their hands), being hungry or thirsty for a short period of time (thus constantly being given snacks), or walking any distance without their legs hurting (thus kids in strollers well beyond when they should). These kids have not been asked to tolerate any sort of discomfort and thus don’t know how to just deal with it.

  61. pentamom May 4, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    “I think what Lenore meant when she said that about teeth chattering near the AC vent is that she gets cold in places where others are in charge of the AC.”

    Okay, yes, that is a fair point — we keep our AC set pretty high and I do notice that some other people’s houses seem downright cold in the summer.

    I think there a lot of good points being made here: some parts of the country would simply be depopulated, whether you spend time outside is more than a matter of AC, some people need it for various medical reasons, etc. I know personally in the years before I had even a window unit in a bedroom I could retreat to, migraines were a lot more frequent for me in the summer.

    But on the other hand, Liz K’s point is true: children (as well as adults) are trained to think that we must be maximally comfortable every moment or something is “wrong.” Our ancestors simply wouldn’t have survived with that mentality. Yet I still think it’s wrong to make AC the culprit here — if you keep your AC at a reasonable rather than refrigerator level, going outside is not a terrible thing on except the very hottest of days in most parts of the temperate world, and at least for our family personally, the contrast is not so great that it discourages us from stepping outside at least 80% of summer days. I think over-air conditioning plus a “can’t stand anything” mentality plus a general disinterest in being outside or interacting are much more to blame.

  62. pentamom May 4, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    I wonder, too, if some of it is that many of us are conditioned to working in low temperature buildings all day, which means that what would have been a tolerable home temperature seems “too hot.” Because of the large number of people and equipment, office buildings and so forth have to have things set relatively low, but that just conditions people to sit around at 72F all summer instead of a more reasonable (under normal conditions) 78-80.

  63. Robin May 4, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Another thought to put out there. Maybe the reason the kids aren’t out in the heat is that mom feels they can’t be out alone and SHE doesn’t want to be outside in the heat…

  64. Tuppence May 4, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Interesting concept. I would say impassioned, rather than hokey re the oped. That photo is brilliant! Exact replica of my childhood. I could swear I know some of those kids!

    In the past, I only considered a/c a force for good (excepting energy consumption, of course), which was denied me in my childhood. Unlike Lenore’s good self, I suffer in the heat.

    I did become aware of how air-conditioning can negatively affect people’s quality of life a few years ago, because of an American woman I met here in Germany. We both had toddlers at the time and would meet in playgrounds with the kids. The weather here that summer was cool, damp and gray. I was constantly moaning. She was constantly in raptures. Okay, living in a new place can be fun and exciting – I guess that’s why she doesn’t let the weather bum her out? And she was just generally a great gal, with a sunny disposition, so I wasn’t too suspecting at first. But then wet weather came, days on end, kids needed to be kitted-out head to foot in their rain gear for their daily outing in the park; here at last my complaints would find a welcome reception, thinks I. But no, she could barely contain her joy. I was finally like, dude – what gives? And she explained that living in her hometown of Houston, which for the vast majority of the year is unbearably hot and muggy weather-wise, meant that everyone was inside with the a/c ALL the time (It’s even a Houstonian(word?) that invented it). The mundane event of being outdoors for several hours at a time was exhilarating for her. It was a joy for her to see her daughter outside and playing – and splashing around in the puddles, such fun!

    When she went back to Houston, she had some serious reverse culture-shock. Her laments that at least on days that weren’t too hot , the kids at her child’s daycare could and should go outside, fell on deaf ears: Oh no, today’s too windy. Yep. Windy. I guess if you’re so used to being inside in the “perfect” climate all the time, a little wind will freak you out.

  65. Liz K May 4, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    @ Robin: this point about mom is so true. But often this rubs off on the children, so now the kids cannot tolerate even the slightest discomfort because they have been taught that being slightly hot is a catastrophe.

  66. Cynthia May 4, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    I thought the comments about people moving to Phoenix, and the other one about not having trees in the neighborhood was telling. Having AC affects where we are willing to build, and makes converting back to less modern conveniences harder. Back in the day, people would have built their house under a tree. The same thing occurred to me when we were having flooding in the area last week, and I realized that if our city water was cut off, we don’t have a water source within miles. The pioneers would never have built their house where we did.

    I’m also in the South, and i have to say that my pet peeve is businesses that keep their stores sweltering in the winter and freezing in the summer. It’s very common here, and makes it impossible to dress, not to mention wasting resources.

  67. Stephanie May 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    It’s funny, but even though I grew up with central air (born in 1982), now that I have my own central air-free home I don’t really miss it. We do have a wall unit in the living room, but we don’t always have to turn it on since the south-facing side of our home is blocked by a massive maple tree. And we do tend to use a window unit in our bedroom in the middle of the summer.

    But during the warmer months, my husband and I CONSTANTLY eat dinner on our (massive!) front porch while our dog runs around outside, and we regularly go on evening walks with him (and sometimes with our two pet rats, who love to sit on our shoulders while we walk). During the winter, we hardly see or say hi to our neighbors, but during the spring/summer everyone is outside doing yard work, cooking out, walking their dogs, etc., and there’s a lot more interaction. I never thought about it til now, but I do think part of it may be that we live in an older neighborhood (both the age of the homes – built in the 1950s – and the neighbors themselves – who are mostly retirees) and a lot of the houses don’t have central air.

  68. Tuppence May 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    @Jenny Islander — Hear, hear!

    And the only way to start getting appropriate housing built (or old houses renovated) is a bitter pill to take: Raise energy prices!

    That’s what they did here in Germany. And it works. People will invest the money in building low energy because they will SAVE that money + some in the years to come.

    Excellent windows (also fab in an urban setting for keeping out noise) with roll down shutters will do a lot to keep cold and heat from coming in, and conversely, escaping. And the big thing to do here is to clad the whole house in an about 10 inches thick layer of Styrofoam. This keeps air from coming in and from escaping, so the house temperature can remain more or less constant. It stays comfortably warm in the winter and cool in the summer (and also keeps house quieter btw). Result: energy bills ridiculously low.

    But doing those things cost money up front. So it’s only worth it because energy here is so expensive — you can expect to re-coup your investment in a relatively short amount of time. If you can blast your a/c for a few bucks a day, the only pressing arguments to make these kind of investments are environmental ones, and obviously, they alone are not enough to carry the day.

  69. Cheryl W May 4, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    School kids here sometimes have to stay inside when it is too windy. But we are talking about 50 mph + winds, with lots and lots of dust and dirt blowing. Those are the days we drive around looking for tumbleweeds. For my kids, any time not spent outside when windy is made up when the wind stops and we have to gather and burn the hundreds of tumbleweeds gathered on our fence that prevent our electric fence from working. The interesting thing with the schools not allowing the kids outside is that in this district, most of the kids actually walk to school. (Nice that when the city was built in the 50s and 60s, they were forward thinking and made sure that there were places IN TOWN for schools, parks, churches and small businesses within a few blocks.)

  70. Diane May 4, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    We are wimps, we heat our house to 72 in the winter and cool it to 78 in the summer. We like AC. But if my kids want to stay indoors all summer they are drawing, reading, and playing. No TV and video games allowed until they have spent several hours on useful things.

  71. deanne May 4, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    Back when we had cable, I remember an ad that showed a deserted subdivision on a hot summer day; completely empty with only an ice cream truck driving up and down the streets with its tinny music playing. Finally a dog pops out the dog door of one house and runs to the truck with a wallet in its mouth. A voiceover then announces the name of an air conditioner company with the tagline “makes your house so comfortable you’ll never want to leave”.
    I’ve never had central air conditioning, but that ad makes me sure that I’ll never want it either!

  72. Dolly May 4, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    LOL some of you have points about my kids get hot and all but usually I want to come in before they do on super hot days because lately I get migraines if I am outside in the heat too long. Thus last summer almost getting heat stroke twice. One time was because I tried to exercise in the evening before the sun went down and that was a mistake. Second time we were at the Huntsville Botanical Garden all day long in July climbing up their treehouse exhibits and walking with the kids and my God the heat was horrible!

    I put my almost 4 year olds in strollers sometimes when they are capable of walking but it has less to do with them getting whiny or tired and more to do with making sure they don’t get lost from me or run over or I want them to be able to go all day long like at Disney World and the stroller conserves their energy. So it was actually MY choice to use a stroller for MY comfort. I also like being able to put my bag in the stroller under basket and not have to carry it on my back. A lot of the stuff I do is less because of what my kids want or what they can handle and more of what MOMMY can handle because if Mommy is not happy, no one is happy. LOL!

  73. Elissa May 5, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    I totally agree with Jenny Islander. I do think its ridiculous that in Phoenix, I live in a house that looks like it came from the neighborhood my parents live in in Nebraska. Apparently, when people began moving to Phoenix, back in the day – and my house was built in the 70s – they wanted houses that looked like home.

    But I do wish my house and the houses here in Phoenix – were more energy efficient. I grew up in a house that had passive solar heating and was designed to be very comfortable without much heating and a/c. It was also out in the country in a small development with lots of kids and we all had 2+ acre lots to run in. We did a lot of outside play, but our favorite place to play – especially in the summer – was in the basement. We’d turn off all the lights and pass out the flashlights and play hide n seek in the dark. It was a blast. The oldest kid in the neighborhood was the babysitter and the parents all went off for work. We had a great time.

    Not all community play takes place outside. We didn’t have a lot to DO outside. We played kickball, baseball, and shot hoops, rode our bikes but because we were out in no mans land, and only about 5 of us so teams were tricky – there wasn’t a park or anything so we played together inside just as much as outside.

  74. KyohakuKeisanki May 5, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    As many have said, it’s not the AC that’s the problem. It’s the attitude of enhancing safety and comfort at the expense of freedom and community. Advocating the removal of AC is the very same “save the few at the cost of many” thinking that the anti-abduction (helicopter) advocates have.

  75. KyohakuKeisanki May 5, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    As in, it’s the same thinking the helicopter moms have

  76. mamamezzo May 5, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    that pic is so deliciously ’70’s.

  77. Traceyp May 5, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    What you cannot deny about air conditioning is that eventually you have to go outside in the summer, even if it’s just to the car to drive to the store, then you have to step outside again, and I think that being in air conditioned rooms gives us a lower tolerance for heat. My husband used to work in an air conditioned office, then walk home a mile in the summer heat, which he found very uncomfortable, whereas I worked in a non air conditioned hospital, and I could walk home and not feel great having walked in the heat, but it was tolerable. We now live in a climate that is very humid in the summer, with little breeze, but we have found ways to cool our house, while running the a/c minimally, ie windows open at night, installing ceiling fans, closing drapes against the sun. We don’t run the a/c at night at all. Summer is supposed to be hot! Meanwhile when we go to visit friends, we have to bring sweaters along because their houses are so chilly, I have to do the same thing when I go to the supermarket in the summer. BTW I also grew up in New Zealand without air conditioning. We survived. Not to mention we saved a lot of energy.

  78. mighthavejoy May 5, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    I agree with Jenny Islander about architectural and landscaping solutions to making homes more comfortable for the environment. I took a summer vacation a few summers ago and visited some old missions along the California coast. I was amazed at how cool it was inside — more than a century before AC was invented.

    Here, LEED-rated (green, energy-efficient) architecture is the new thing, but it takes a long time to change and many homes were built without a thought given to energy efficiency or environmental appropriateness.

  79. oncefallendotcom May 5, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    I think it is more about our isolationism and need for comfort than anything. We’re a selfish society in general. Some may not see where I’m getting at but the point I’m trying to make is our culture looks out for #1– as long as I’m comfortable first that is all that matters. We cannot bear discomfort in the least except to benefit ourselves.

  80. Starr May 5, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    I grew up with central air that was blasting all summer at about 68 (my mom liked the house cool)…and yet we spent all day outside during school breaks. All the neighbors knew us and expected all the kids to be galavanting through their yards.

    We didn’t have cable or a video game system, though.

    I love AC. I get heat rash so easily, so AC makes me comfortable. And keeps everyone from having to stare at my ruddy, bumpy skin all summer long. It also keeps my piano from deteriorating.

  81. Sky May 5, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    ] I forgot to add that it is illegal to let your kids run around under the sprinkler like we did when we were kids (It wastes water), so they can’t keep cool that way.
    Where are you that this is illegal? We do this every summer…I have yet to see the police make a call…

  82. amanda May 5, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    Until last year we did not have AC. Dis it cause me to get out more and socialize…nope because I can not stand the heat, I get sick and cranky and will spend most of my time infront of a fan trying to get relief. Since getting AC last year I slept better, felt better and actually had a better quality of life. Can AC be over used…maybe but I do believe we have far bigger issues like TV and computers that keep us from socializing with each other.

  83. Jessi May 5, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    110 with no shade? its better in my house even without ac

  84. Ambient_Skater May 5, 2011 at 5:04 am #

    AC has nothing to with it. Blaming AC for people not socializing is as silly as blaming, say, electric lights. If people want to get together they will, and if they don’t want to they won’t, inside or outside. Depending on the region you live in it’ll be even hotter outside than inside.

  85. Lori May 5, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    I should love this, but I don’t.
    The important part of your post is when you say that you are ALWAYS COLD. Well, I am ALWAYS HOT. If there were no AC, I would have to move to Canada. AC makes my life south of the Mason Dixon line survivable.

    I agree we should go outside in the summer more, but AC isn’t the only problem.


  86. Ted Sali May 5, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    I have no Central air, but I do have a dehumidifier to make sleeping more bearable.
    I’m actually kind of notorious for being outside a lot during warmer weather, because that’s how I grew up. My wife, on the other hand will hideside even during swealtering weather, so I do not agree that AC is the sole issue. I think it’s a contributor, but not the source of the issue.

  87. Mthousemama May 5, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    I think you should add another thing to do with your family…a week where instead of sitting inside, you ask us to sit outside with our kids. Just imagine it, families all across america would hang out in front of their house and maybe even meet their neighbors.

    We hang out front a lot during the nice months. I don’t meet to many people but its a nice way to spend some outdoor time with my young kids (4 and 2, still too young to be outside by themselves).

    I would also say that year round school is not about keeping kids inside longer but by changing the vacation times they get to be more even they retain more of the previous lessons. I attended year round school until the 8th grade and it was really a good thing. Besides it gave me a couple of weeks off in the spring just as the weather got nice, same as in the fall just before it became cold. I liked it and would support it in my local schools.

  88. Jonathan R May 5, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    I spent two weeks several years ago in a Malian town on the edge of the Sahara desert, a town with no electricity service. It was the height of the hot season, with temperatures around 120 degrees F in the middle of the day.

    The heat definitely lowered my energy levels and also lowered my appetite. After lunch we would sit in a breezeway fanning ourselves with homemade straw fans.

    But it wasn’t completely impossible to live or enjoy myself; we spent a lot of time talking and reading. I would go back.

  89. Debbi May 5, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    Sky- where I live in TX there is a thing called water restrictions. You can not water your lawn, etc between like 10 and 5.

  90. Elizabeth (Foodie, Formerly Fat) May 5, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    I’ve often said that technology that is designed to make our lives more comfortable and “bring people together” actually separates us from each other. Every time there’s a power outage people come out of their houses and talk to each other. It’s lovely.

  91. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    The French already live in a “post-ac world (actually pre-ac), and you will remember that during heat waves it doesn’t work out so well for vulnerable people.

    Lack of Air-Conditioning Cited in France’s Death Toll

    They are hardly alone in this.

    The lack of social interaction among Americans is not rooted in air conditioners.

    This is another case of prospective social engineering at the expense of consumer choice and well-being.

  92. martini May 5, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    our household, and business are ac free on all but the hottest days. always have been always will be. summer evenings on the porch and stoop are eagerly looked forward to. children have the run of the hood, and the parents are at ease, usually enjoying a beer. can’t say that I agree with this post, or the linked oped more wholeheartedly. thanks!

  93. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    The following article, which appeared today, deals with a parallel issue:

    The Attack on the Washing Machine

    Demographic researcher Hans Rosling has called the washing machine the greatest invention in the history of the Industrial Revolution. It liberated homemakers from boiling water and washing clothes. For women around the world, it makes the difference between poverty and prosperity.
    Only two generations ago, nearly every mother in the world slaved at washing clothes. Today, no one in the developed world does this. Instead, they can read, do professional work, teach children, hold parties, and generally apply their time to building civilization. As Rosling says, “even the hard core of the green movement use the washing machine.”
    But government is working on systematically reversing these advances — attacking the washing machine’s workings at the most fundamental level.
    In 1996, Consumer Reports tested 18 models of washing machines. It rated 13 models as excellent and 5 models as very good. They found that with enough hot water and any decent laundry detergent, any machine would get your clothes clean.
    In 2007, Consumer Reports tested 21 models and rated none of them as excellent and 7 models as poor; the rest of the models were rated mediocre. The old top-loading machines were mediocre or worse.
    Consumer Reports found that in most cases your clothes were nearly as dirty as they were before washing. The newer front-loading machines worked better, but they were much more expensive and had mold problems, and you cannot add a dropped sock once the machine is started. None of the top-loading machines performed as well as a mediocre model from 1996.
    This would seem to be a case of a broken invisible hand. The truth is that government’s meddlesome hand is at fault. Between 1996 and 2007 the government’s energy-efficiency standards were dramatically increased. In order to meet those standards, manufacturers had to switch to the inferior front-loading washers, which are more “energy efficient,” and to design models that used less water. Less water in the machine means the machine uses less energy to rotate the clothes with the water and detergent. It also means less rinsing, which is a vital component to getting clothes clean.
    The result is that clothes come out of the washer still dirty. The easy stuff like sweat is mostly removed, but all the tough stuff like grease and body oils largely remains. Most people are unaware of this problem either because they have an older model, they don’t do their own laundry, or they are just oblivious to this type of thing.

  94. Matt L. May 5, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    I lived in southern Virginia in the 90s without A/C in a 100 year old home. architecture was specifically designed to help mitigate the heat. High ceilings, deep overhangs, huge, numerous windows. All awesome save for a few days a year…

  95. Jen Connelly May 5, 2011 at 6:03 am #

    Me and my dad actually had this conversation last summer. When he was growing up in the 50s AC was almost unheard of. It was for rich people and businesses not the working class that his parents belonged to. When he was a kid people sat out on their stoops and neighbors would gather on one porch and chat. I lived in the same house my dad did until I was 12 and we had just 1 window AC unit in the living room and fans to blow the air around (no central air). I remember spending most evenings in the summer sitting on the porch drinking iced teas with my mom and neighbors. The kids would run around playing hide and seek. We spent a lot of time in our pool and the other kids (we were the only ones with a pool) played in the fire hydrant (and no one complained).

    We moved when I was 12 to the house my dad lives in now (22 years later) and I notice most of the neighbors houses are locked up tight at all times. Their windows are NEVER open, their screen doors no longer have screens. While I was living there I refused to use the AC) just window units) on the first floor unless it was unbearable. We used the ceiling fan in the living room and sucked it up (the upstairs had to have AC because it would get so hot even when it was just in the upper 70s outside).

    There were a few times the power went out and with nothing else to do in the heat the neighbors all gathered outside, having drinks and just chatting. It was probably the only time I saw some of our neighbors and the only time we all gathered together.

    That being said…I’d take AC over not any day. My dad said he would never live another day without AC after he came back from Vietnam. He couldn’t take the heat after that and has always had AC since the 70s.

    I’ve lived off and on in unair conditioned buildings. It sucked. In college I lived in the dorms without AC and in an apt. The apartment was brick and plaster, no insulation. It baked in the summer sun and would regularly get to over 100F inside. All I had was a fan to circulate air. I’d get done working in the kitchen at the school (in the 120F+ dishroom or next to the steaming grills) and go home to my 100F apartment with no relief. It was miserable. The one summer I worked I spent most of my time outside of work in the school library because it was too hot to go home. Many of the people in my building had window units but I was too poor.

    When we lived in PA we had a nice 2nd floor apartment but like the one I had in college it had no insulation and it just baked in the summer. Our thermostat was digital and only went to 99F. It regularly sat at 99F for weeks at a time in the summer meaning the temp inside the house was over 100F. We had a window unit in the living room to make it bearable. I never slept well in that apt in the summer. I had a window fan and that was it (no overhead fans). I’d lay there at night and it would still be 90F inside the room and I’d be sweating and uncomfortable.

  96. Katie McKinney May 5, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    My front porch is another room in my house and in my neighborhood we are all outside a lot! But in South Carolina no air conditioning is BAD. Mine broke last summer, and my house was 95+ degrees. Even sleeping with fans and ice packs; wait did I say sleeping? I mean laying around awake. I don’t mind sweating outside but I like my comforts inside.

  97. C May 5, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    I live in Singapore–90’s with high humidity 365 days a year. You can take my right to chew gum, but I’d start a rebellion over loss of air con. It’s the only thing keeping life bearable.

    I usually agree with you, Lenore, but you’re 100% wrong on this

  98. pentamom May 5, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    “The newer front-loading machines worked better, but they were much more expensive and had mold problems, and you cannot add a dropped sock once the machine is started. None of the top-loading machines performed as well as a mediocre model from 1996.”

    I’m on my second front-loader, two different manufacturers, and it’s no trouble at all to throw in an extra item after the cycle is started. There’s a pause button on both. So it’s not universal by any means.

  99. Eldo May 5, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    There is a simple way to avoid mold problems with your washing machine — just don’t keep the door closed. I have a front-loader that is probably about 12 years old (it was here when I moved in). If I’m not washing clothes in it, I leave the door open.

  100. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    @ pentamom
    We use science and other forms of methodical investigation because anecdotal personal experiences are often not reliable. Your own experience might reflect your subjective expectations, or optimal operating conditions, or that you have one of the best contemporary machines. If Consumer Reports rated the machine you have, do you know what rating they gave it?

    The laws of physics have not been repealed, so less water still means less thorough rinsing (though manufacturers do the best they can to overcome the problem). It also means that more detergent, an allergic hazard, is left in clothes.

    The same problem exists with dishwashers. They now use much less water, and it is more difficult to get dishes clean. Manufacturers try to overcome the problem by having the machines run much longer.

  101. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    @ Eldo
    By leaving the door open you increase the ambient humidity in your home, which introduces a different problem. You also increase the probability of contaminating the air with detergent ingredients. The newer, more “efficient” (in resource consumption, not effectiveness) machines represent a notable problem for people with both inhalant and skin allergies, in my view.

    Sure, it is possible to find workarounds, but there are unexpected consequences, and the need for workarounds highlights the problems that make them necessary.

  102. Elissa May 5, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    I remember back about 8 or 9 years ago when my husband and I were living in an apartment complex, we experienced a 2-3 day blackout (along with the rest of the city). There was no tv, no air conditioning and nothing to “do” inside – so we went out…and met our neighbors for the first time. Talked to them. Got to know them. Had a good time, cooked some hotdogs and generally had a good and social time that we never would have had if the power hadn’t been out.

    Now, I’m not about to go without air conditioning (or power!) on a regular basis just to foster neighborly togetherness, but it really did make me more aware of the wide world that existed beyond my computer, tv and the four walls that I live between.

    I didn’t necessarily read this article as a true call to get rid of air conditioning (although it sounds like the author quoted might be). I took it as more of a call to get outside and enjoy the summer, rather than sitting in the comfort of our homes all day just because we don’t want to be a bit hot or sweaty.

  103. james May 5, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Was a follower of the free range idea, but just heard this in our neighborhood today, and this is the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Reading the below makes my heart skip a beat.

    Some of you asked for this info this morning so here it is:
    Subject:***ALERT*** Possible Child Predator In the NEighborhood
    This is all the information I have right now- will post more if I hear
    anything. Please tell your neighbors.

    Yesterday at 6:15pm a neighbor on Ranier was outside with her
    daughter- she had
    the door open to the car and was behind it so you couldn’t see her. Her
    daughter was looking under a rock in the front and she was waiting for her to
    get in the car. A man stopped looked around- was looking at her daughter-
    looked around again and then got out of his car and really fast and
    was walking
    towards her daughter. He walked on to their property. He was startled to
    see the mother and turned around and walked really quickly to his car
    and drove
    off. She watched the whole thing and initially thought, “do I know this guy?”
    She said everything about this just was not right.

    Here is a description:
    Middle aged White Male Medium Build
    Brownish hair
    Driving Dingy Silver colored late model Toyota Land Cruiser or 4 Runner with
    slightly tinted windows.

    PLEASE- if you see this car or this man CALL 911 and realize his car may

    Update to the details:
    The man pulled on to Ranier- a dead end street- drove around the
    culdsac slowly
    and backed up when he saw her daughter. His windows were slightly tinted but
    the mother could see him looking at her daughter and then looking around. From
    behind the car door she could see everything, but he could not see
    her. He left
    his car on the other side of her street pointed towards West Paces Ferry -for
    what she thinks was a quick exit -and then walked across the street, on to her
    property aimed for the little girl. She said he was focused on her daughter.
    She is 4 years old. He never said a word to the mother. She says he was very
    startled to see her and turned quickly, leaving her property, jumped
    in his car
    and sped off- this is a very short street- maybe 5 houses. In this time to
    process what occured, the mother says beyond a shadow of a doubt he was coming
    for her daughter and really just cannot believe this happened.

    She has contacted the police and they will be increasing their patrol of our
    neighborhood but it is truly up to us that live here to be on the lookout.
    Thorpe has also been notified but Please tell your nannies, housekeepers,
    gardeners, handy men all to be on the lookout.

    Just an FYI- Ranier was adopted as part of the Kingswood’s Association last
    year and is one street west of Rembrandt. It, like the rest of Kingswood,
    receives no outside traffic since it offers no cut through and is a dead end

  104. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    @ james
    This is, of course, disturbing. But because many kids die in car accidents do you advocate the banning of the transporting of kids in cars? Because many adults are killed by spouses, do you advocate the prohibition of marriage? Where, exactly, do you want to draw the line?

    What are we supposed to do with the information you posted? It is not possible to attenuate some risks without introducing others.

  105. Donna May 5, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    “In this time to
    process what occured, the mother says beyond a shadow of a doubt he was coming
    for her daughter”

    Since stranger abductions of 4 year old children are incredible rarity (most stranger abductions are of teens and preteens, not preschoolers), wouldn’t a more logical explanation be that the man saw a young child unattended in a drive way with a car door wide open and, being a parent himself, stopped to see if something was amiss? He saw the mother, most likely giving him stink-eye because he was coming near her precious lamb, and he took off without saying anything.

    People see what they want to see. In our pedophile-around-every-corner-obsessed culture, many go into every scenario involving strangers with the idea that they are bad until proven otherwise. If you start with that mindset, you are almost always going to interpret things in a way that proves what you already believe to be true.

  106. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Less than One Percent of Missing Persons Abducted by Strangers


    No one is suggesting that stranger abductions do not deserve their fair share of publicity; we simply want stranger abductions placed in their proper context.

    Reports filed by local police to state crime repositories and eventually to the FBI don’t always contain the circumstances of the missing person. Of the 719,558 records entered in 2009, the Missing Persons Circumstances (MPC) field was used in 307,672 (42.8 percent).

    When the MPC field was used in 2009 entries:

    304,580 (99.0 percent) were coded as Runaway;
    2,598 (0.8 percent) as abducted by Non-Custodial Parent,
    494 (0.2 percent) as abducted by Stranger.

  107. Laura May 5, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Like many have said, it’s how we use everything. AC coupled with all the indoor toys DOES damage neighborhoods when the weather is such that the outside would be bearable (not so much in areas like Phoenix or Texas in August, obviously). But they also, taken individually, give us quite a lot. It’s letting them take over that isn’t great.

    I’m in Oregon, where many people could do without AC through most or all of the summer if they needed to. I am not one of them. I have allergies – partly under control now with allergy shots (antihistamines alone could not control them), but still present – so cooling the house from outside air during peak pollen/grass seasons is not a wise idea. And I am very heat sensitive and get heat sick easily.

    Neither lends itself well to a house, or worse a car, without AC. (Why is the car worse? Because those little ovens heat up faster than a house – at least I COULD keep the house mostly-cool-enough if I could tolerate the allergies.)

    I had childhood asthma as well. We don’t know yet whether my son has inherited my allergies and asthma – if so, we will REALLY need our AC in the summer – but so far it looks like he takes after his dad in this regard. I sure hope so.

  108. Frances May 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    I live in Canada where I might appreciate an air conditioner in my home maybe 3 nights a year, so I don’t have one. Certainly we talk to the neighbors more when the weather is nicer, but that includes the ac’ers just as much as the non-ac’ers. We all have to heat, so I won’t begrudge those who live in hot climates the energy to cool their houses. But I must agree with whoever pointed out that house design should take climate into account.

    Re the washing machines: my front-loader works fine on all kinds of stains, Consumer Reports likes it (my low-water dishwasher, too) and if the “problems” of having to leave the door open between washes, use less & different detergent so there isn’t residue (and yes, I have allergic skin, so I get it), and, horrors, scrape my plates before I load them are too onerous to be borne…well, we really have reached new lows of laziness.

  109. maaaty May 5, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Great comments, everybody.

    I grew up in the middle of Kansas without AC. A whole neighborhood of kids ran around together all summer along.

    Now the houses there have AC but there’s not a whole lot of outdoor activity.

    I freeze in a Dallas airport with the AC set to 65, but I’m totally comfortable in shorts and T-shirt if it’s only 55 degrees outside. AC just feels different. It’s not natural. It’s a shock to the body if you’ve been walking briskly outside.

    The correlation between increased AC usage and American obesity go hand-in-sweaty hand.

  110. baby-paramedic May 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    In many parts of Australia it is illegal to waste water.
    Where I live, no sprinkler systems permitted. And I cannot wash my car unless there is a dust storm. Only permitted to to water garden from a bucket every second day. Not allowed to fill pools without a permit.

    Each council area has their own laws.

  111. BMS May 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    I still don’t have central AC. I have never lived in a house with central AC, ever in my life. I grew up in Illinois, and now live in Massachusetts. We have window units in our kids’ rooms (the rooms are small and poorly positioned to get decent airflow, and the kids tend to cook without it), but we use those for sleeping only. My husband and I do not have AC in our room (blows the circuit – old house). Occasionally if we are really, really hot we will turn on the window unit in the living room and sleep down there, but I think that happened exactly once last year.

    I always sort of wondered (as a northerner) what the big deal is about living in Arizona and other deserty areas. I mean, if everyone is inside all day because it is too hot to go outside after about 11 am, then you could be living anywhere. It could be Alaska, Boise, Oklahoma City – if all you are seeing is walls, what’s the difference?

    If anyone needs to discuss this, I’ll be in my summer office – the hammock under the maple tree.

  112. BMS May 5, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    I do have to add, having reread more of the comments, that I agree that people have become wimps about even the slightest discomfort.

    I have an acquaintance with a useful temperature range of about 55 F-72 F. Any hotter or colder and she is freezing or dying from the heat. She is always miserable, and needs her climate controlled exactly or she ‘just can’t take it’. I try to sympathize, but in my mind I’m saying “Oh suck it up already, honey.” When my kids whine about how HOOOOT it is, I take them out in the back yard, line them up, and shoot them with water pistols. Cools them off, gets my annoyance out in a productive way.

  113. pentamom May 5, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    “By leaving the door open you increase the ambient humidity in your home, which introduces a different problem.”

    When a front-load washing machine is done with its cycle, there is barely enough moisture left to make a towel damp if you wipe it out. How on earth this is going to increase the ambient humidity in a home eludes me — a toilet or a damp sink or a bath towel hung up to dry contains much more moisture than that. You’re talking about the equivalent of an ounce of water in tens of thousands of cubic feet of air.

    I also have my doubts about the detergent residue thing, unless someone is *extremely* sensitive. There are more residues than that introduced all over the house from normal cleaning or dish washing on a given day. While it may be argued that none of this is good, the marginal effect of an open washer door has to be insignificant.

    You may be right that front-load washers have their net drawbacks and aren’t the great idea that they’re cracked up to be (though my family’s clothing has certainly been adequately clean through the years) but these particular arguments aren’t very convincing.

  114. pentamom May 5, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    “We use science and other forms of methodical investigation because anecdotal personal experiences are often not reliable.”

    My “anecdotal personal experience” that it IS possible to put a piece of laundry into a running front load washer completely refutes your “scientific” assertion that it is not. I’m not talking about all those other things you mentioned, just the inaccurate blanket statement that front load machines don’t allow additional items to be put in after the cycle starts. In “science,” one counter-example refutes an unqualified assertion that something does not occur.

  115. pentamom May 5, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    “I always sort of wondered (as a northerner) what the big deal is about living in Arizona and other deserty areas. I mean, if everyone is inside all day because it is too hot to go outside after about 11 am, then you could be living anywhere. It could be Alaska, Boise, Oklahoma City – if all you are seeing is walls, what’s the difference? ”

    Well, having a job IS kind of important. We’re well into the second generation of large numbers of people living in extreme southern climates in this country, and not everyone can just pick up and move because they don’t like the climate. I’m in a northern climate I don’t particularly like for precisely the same reason. And the reason people got to those desert areas in the first place is that that’s where the job growth has been in the last several decades.

  116. Karla May 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Another Canadian here, and I have central air for the first time ever in my owned home, and I love it. Granted, with my MS (the reason we needed to install it), we were able to use part of the purchase/installation price as a nonrefundable medical tax credit… 😉

    It was an expense, and yes, we only get use out of it 3 – 4 months of the year (if that), but those times when I need it to manage my fatigue and flare ups it is priceless. It lets me do things around the house and with my kids where otherwise I would be lying listless. We had been limping along with fans, window acs, and floor units, but it was not working…

    Last summer we barely used it at all as it was fairly cool and unusually damp. This summer is projected to be warmer and drier, so it will be coming on again… 🙂

  117. sonya May 5, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    I’ve lived in tropical Africa and in Sri Lanka without a/c. It is possible to live without a/c in hot places, but you have to live differently. As a kid in Africa, we would lie on the cool linoleum floor to sleep when it was too hot. We had lots of trees around our house. But for a couple of months a year, we felt quite lethargic. In Sri Lanka older houses on the coast are all built to catch the sea-breeze. Richer people would escape the hottest months by going up to the hills. No-one tries to get anything done too quickly when it’s hot. A/C definitely alters how you live and how you build your houses/cities.

  118. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    @ pentamom
    When Consumer Reports reviewed washers, it was apparently not possible to add an item during the cycle. So, the company that makes your washer solved the problem. That is quite tangential to the central issue of “efficient” washers doing a poor job of washing on average, and creating a mold problem that didn’t exist previously. Creating a pause button is not quite the same as repealing the laws of physics that make it impossible to clean as well with much less water.

    In recent months Consumer Reports found that clothes often contain a large residual of unrinsed detergent, and so advised consumers to use less. What is the consequence of using less detergent in washers that already don’t clean very well?

    So far as I can tell you rely entirely on your own impressions, beliefs, and experience, and do not explore other sources of information. It’s no wonder that you are not convinced by evidence that differs from your biases.

  119. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    You utterly ignore the research sources I cited showing that more people get sick and die when ambient temps are higher. (All “wimps”?) Do you think the un-air conditioned French should have dragged the elderly outside and hosed them down to prevent the scandalous mortality during their heat waves?

  120. pentamom May 5, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    “When Consumer Reports reviewed washers, it was apparently not possible to add an item during the cycle. So, the company that makes your washer solved the problem.”

    Then it must have been a very, VERY early review of a product type that is significantly different than back then, so hardly more relevant to the current situation than cars with carburetors are to most modern vehicles. I believe my first one was a second generation Kenmore — hardly a very modern machine or an off-brand.

    The only point here is to dispute the accuracy of a single element of your argument. Please do not lecture people on scientific interpretation and anecdotal evidence and the rest if you do not understand the difference between “your fact is in error here” and “you are wrong about everything.” The former is what I said, the latter is what you reacted to that I did not say.

    “So far as I can tell you rely entirely on your own impressions, beliefs, and experience, and do not explore other sources of information. It’s no wonder that you are not convinced by evidence that differs from your biases.”

    My point is that whatever your quoted research indicates, it should not be used as a reason to condemn all front load machines, since *apparently they do vary.* I am not denying the findings of the studies, I’m questioning their broad applicability. If every front load washer was as underdesigned and horrible as your generalizations from a Consumer Reports article would indicate, my clothing would NOT be clean and all those other things WOULD be happening, and they are not. Anecdotal evidence cannot be used to prove that front-load washers are great, but it can be used to disprove that “all front load washers are smelly and inadequate and you can’t add extra clothing to them.” Please understand the limits of other people’s assertions before you argue with them.

    Besides, the “laws of physics” dictate that “less water rinses less well” ONLY IF the “lesser” amount is actually inadequate. If the amount of water that was formerly used in top-loaders was excessive, then reducing it somewhat does not, according to the “laws of physics” necessarily mean that somewhat less is inadequate.

    I don’t dispute that Consumer Reports found some problems with front-load washers, quite possibly due to the inherent nature of the machines. I’m disputing *your use* of those facts, along with some strange assertions about tiny bits of water raising the ambient humidity in a home.

  121. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    @ maaaty
    You say, “The correlation between increased AC usage and American obesity go hand-in-sweaty hand.”

    Correlation is not causation. One could think of a many other possible (and more convincing) causes of increased obesity rates. For instance, Americans eat more calories, and especially from sugary foods. They spend more time in cars. They are sedentary in front of computers and TVs.

    In fact, many Americans who use a/c are not fat or sedentary, and quite a few exercise in facilities that are air conditioned. I think I can guess how the people who work out at the nearby YMCA would react if the facility didn’t have a/c. I don’t think they are prepared to do the treadmill outdoors and then stand in line to be hosed down.

    As for whether a/c is “natural,” who cares? Indoor toilets are not “natural,” nor antibiotics, nor year-round fresh fruits and vegetables. Yet we benefit from them tremendously. I’m betting that you take warm showers that are not “natural,” in the sense that they are the product of human ingenuity.

    Overcoming nature has increased average human life span in countries with freer economies from the historical norm of less than 20 years to almost 80 years in little more than two centuries. In fact, the more people overcome nature, the longer and healthier they live. Nature is the number one killer.

  122. Nicolas Martin May 5, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    @ pentamom
    No fact was in error. Technology changed. But as I said, that point is remote from the central point, though you prefer to latch onto it. The comparatively poor washing capability of modern dishwashers and clothes washers has not changed.

    I had a service call for an expensive dishwasher just weeks ago that was cleaning poorly. The technician lamented that my experience was just characteristic of the “efficient” washers that use less water, and leave more crap on the dishes. They all have this problem, he said. (More or less so depending on the nature of the water.) A cheap old dishwasher worked better than an expensive new one does.

    As Consumer Reports has found, the lesser amount of water is inadequate to clean the clothes and remove the detergent thoroughly. To requote the article I cited earlier, “Consumer Reports found that in most cases your clothes were nearly as dirty as they were before washing. The newer front-loading machines worked better, but they were much more expensive and had mold problems, and you cannot add a dropped sock once the machine is started. None of the top-loading machines performed as well as a mediocre model from 1996.”

    We could also talk about the fecal material left around the insides of “efficient” toilets that require a lot more mucking about with disgusting, bacteria-filled brushes than their predecessors to do the job that more water did in older units.

    Reading Consumer Reports’ comments about washers, I found this response from a consumer:

    “I hesitate to consider your ratings after being “burned” by them last year. I purchased a Whirlpool Cabrio washer for a lot of money based on your ratings and absolutely HATE the machine! Clothes do not get clean, unless I run their special cycle using clorox (to which I am allergic!) the clothes smell and often I have to re-rinse the clothes because of residual suds. It’s an abomination. I have been doing laundry for over 40 years and know the problem is with the machine.”


  123. Nicolas Martin May 6, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    A couple of additional points.

    People are inside by choice: they prefer to do the things they do inside over the outdoor activities some think they should engage in. Frankly, I find reading or watching a good movie to be far more interesting than interacting with my neighbors. I also prefer the intellectual products of the more sedentary Mencken or Twain to the hyperactive product of, say, Billy Blanks.

    Despite the knock on obesity and sedentary lifestyle, the data show that life span increases year after year in America and other developed countries, and death from cancer and heart disease have declined. there was a “40-50%” reduction in heart disease mortality in the USA from 1968 to 2000.”


    There are always those who whip up fear about prospective problems — especially when they claim to sell a solution — but the data are quite positive. Air conditioning correlates with improved health and life span in America.

  124. pentamom May 6, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    Again with the use of statistics:

    “Despite the knock on obesity and sedentary lifestyle, the data show that life span increases year after year in America and other developed countries, and death from cancer and heart disease have declined. there was a “40-50%” reduction in heart disease mortality in the USA from 1968 to 2000.”

    And this has nothing to do with beta blockers, stents, angiography, cardiac sonography, and a host of cancer treatments that didn’t exist in 1968?

    Correlation is not causation, darn right. The thing to look at is not death from heart disease or cancer, it’s incidence of heart disease and cancer. Treatment has gotten astronomically better for both conditions so it’s of little use to compare death rates as opposed to incidence.

    And lest you mistake my meaning yet again, I’m not defending maaaty’s point or any other particular point, I’m taking issue with your use data.

  125. pentamom May 6, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    /use of data./

  126. BMS May 6, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    @ Nicholas Martin

    By wimps I mean the people who whine when it gets half a degree above 80 F, or who treat getting a little sweaty as a major crisis. I’m not talking about the elderly or the sick who clearly need extra consideration.

    But there are a lot of perfectly able bodied folks for whom any kind of physical discomfort is just not to be tolerated. These, I suspect, are the same ones who think it is a major problem if, say, a 5 year old skins his or her knee on a playground and thus uses it as a justification for never going to playgrounds.

  127. Sarah May 6, 2011 at 2:54 am #

    I am also one of those “always chilly” people. l LOVE our sweltering Iowa summers, and the best thing in my life right now – my husband and I just bought a wonderful house – WITHOUT A/C. And we’re certainly not going to mess up it’s early 20th century style and charm putting a bunch of ductwork everywhere!

  128. Mo May 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Well, I love this site but in this case I have to say I do disagree. We don’t have air conditioning and it’s not exactly the paradise described in the article. Yes, we’ve lived this way for our entire married lives and, no, we haven’t died but it is often very uncomfortable.

    I certainly don’t believe we need air every day of the summer but on days it’s very hot I’d love it. On such days, I don’t find any relief outside and am glad to accept the offered hospitality of my grandmother who lives around the corner and does have air. (Her health and age require it.) Obviously, Granny had no air growing up but she doesn’t long for a return to those days. As she said, “We didn’t have air back then but if we had we certainly would have used it.”

    I’m not saying we should spend the entire summer locked in an air conditioned house never venturing outside but it’s going to far in my opinion to act as if it were the worst invention ever.

  129. K May 6, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    AC is a tool. In the south, it is often vastly overused. We cool our house to about 79 in the summer and heat it to about 68 in the winter. Thus, we can still move about outside without massive physiological adjustments. We enjoy our porch for the entire summer, and our deck for the spring and fall (less so in July and August).

    I would concur with many readers that point out the electronics are a major impediment to enjoying the out of doors. The AC doesn’t necessarily keep the kids in, but they wouldn’t go outside except that they only have access to the wii remotes rarely – and we almost never watch television.

    Without the remotes or the screen – amazingly our children resort to kayaking in our pond, catching critters, playing in the mud and other mischief. With the remotes, they are silently lost in the world of mario bros or lego star wars.

  130. Robin May 6, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    Why do we like the good old days so much? I guess if you didn’t have to live in them they seem simpler and romantic. I can’t imagine getting up in the morning, showering, dressing, and commuting to an office with no air conditioning during that routine. I guess deoderant was better back in the old days? Did people sweat less? Houses are not made to accomodate breezes anymore because we have air conditioning available. Just like we don’t build wells on the property because we have indoor plumbing. Was it better when the women had to walk to the community well to draw their water? They probably talked to each other more, but I sure don’t want to go back to that.

    And one of the main reasons washers and dishwasher do not work as well is that the detergent manufacturers were required to remove the phosphates from their formulas. It doesn’t matter how you design the machines, they’re going to do a worse job if the soap going in isn’t any good.

  131. pentamom May 7, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    I agree with the overall sentiment that it’s better to have air conditioning than not to, and that the lack of it is somewhat romanticized — provided it is used in a sensible fashion.

    However, if people want to argue that we’d all be better off without it, they’d better also be willing to have lifestyles slow down significantly in the summer. One of my big beefs about living in a high-snow climate is that everyone just assumes that you will somehow get there, even at risk of life and limb, and if you don’t have a “properly equipped” vehicle, that’s your own problem. Why can’t people live *with* weather conditions, instead of always trying to pretend they’re not an issue, thus requiring both physical risk to people (exhaustion and illness in the heat, injury from falls or MV accidents in snowy/icy conditions) and expensive use of resources (near-universal air conditioning and SUVs and insistence on getting the whole city plowed within two hours every time.)

    In the “old days,” people slowed down their lifestyles in the summer and stayed home more in the winter because they had no choice. Now we refuse to do those things, and society pretty much refuses to let us, because we have no sense.

  132. AB May 7, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    I forgot to mention that the relative ( I think it was my great grandmother) who died from a heart attack in 85-90 degree temperatures had scarlet fever a few years before they died. I’m not sure if that was the real cause or not, but it meant I spent my childhood indoors most of the summer as my grandmother didn’t know if the heart attack was caused by a birth defect or not. At times I think she was right to keep me inside ( though I hated it seeing all the other kids being outside and playing while I sat in front of the TV or played with dolls indoors) as I could have gotten very sick from playing outside if there was a genetic problem in the family that could have even killed me in hot weather. In a neighborhood I lived in one of the kids had a severe asthma attack in 95 degree weather while playing outdoors, and had to be resuscitated. However, later on I took ice skating lessons all year round, so being in the rink on a “hot” day was very helpful during the summer.

  133. Meggles May 7, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Lenore, there are some places where you can’t find a breeze. Not even at the beach (this was a strange concept to me that I at first didn’t believe, but I assure you it’s true). My husband and I (true New Englanders) survived 4 years in SC. You haven’t lived until you’ve walked around in August (pregnant) in 90 percent humidity and 100 degrees. I know some people would rather live where it’s hot as Hades to avoid a long dreary winter, but not me. So glad we got out of there….

  134. Meggles May 7, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    Oh, and every time my mil complains about the weather being “so dreadfully hot in the summer”, my husband and I tell her, “You have no idea what ‘hot’ is”. There’s just no comparison with northern humidity to southern. None.

  135. Beth May 8, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    @pentamom, I live in a high-snow climate too and your are so right; I never thought about it that way.

    There’s a nice list of progressive “consequences” in my job’s work rules for not arriving to work on time if it there has been significant snowfall overnight.

  136. jess May 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    My apartment doesn’t have central air conditioning (we have a window unit for one room) and we manage with fans and keeping the window open.

  137. skimiss May 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    I did not have air condioning growing up. And I grew up in sub-tropical Miami. We were poor, that’s why; however, I have always detested refrigerated air. It bothers me. We do not have air conditioning now and we live in a much colder climate. When my kids complain about the temperature, hot or cold, in the car my rule is that the heater/air conditioner goes off. And then, they know what’s coming…I tell them what I always tell them when they complain about creature comforts. Life is not about being comfortable!

  138. Herndon May 13, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    Temps in DC reached 100 a few days last summer. We don’t have central air but do have a few window units (that we don’t use). Neither my husband nor I grew up with a/c; we made it through. Our kids are coolness spoiled — but not at home. They can’t be since we pretty much say turn on a fan and have some water. Don’t get me wrong; last year was unfathomably hot. For the first time in years I was actually physically frustrated and irritable. But, as much as I detest winter, I found the ability to not complain. I deemed it was time to hop in the pool (which is code for run through the hose).


  139. Georgia June 4, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    I live in SE Texas and was born in 1984. My parents did not have a/c. We were outside all the time, and in the summers when it got around 104 we’d get in the car and go to the store for cooling down. Trips to the ice cream store were common. In college I lived for 2 years in the un-air-conditioned dorm because it was $500 cheaper than all the others and I was used to it. All total, I didn’t live in a/c until I was 20 (2004 I believe) 7 years later and I still wake up with the sniffles if I sleep in a cold room. A/C (as my mother always said) makes you weak to the elements. We are stronger without it. 😀 Heck, my parents STILL don’t have a/c. My dad bought a portable one for their office so the computers wouldn’t melt and my mom threw a fit. “We don’t need that!”

  140. air conditioning November 5, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    There are basically three times of air conditioning units: the built-in wall AC, the portable window unit, and central air. Although they all help keep our homes at a nice, cool temperature, the way each type of unit works is different from the other.


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