- This will get you much cooler than an air conditioner.
Rarely do I feel so strongly about an issue that I put an exclamation point in the headline of a post. But I feel really strongly about air conditioners, in that I really don't think they're necessary. At least, I don't think they're necessary in private dwellings. Having air conditioning on the subways and in offices is more a matter of safety, because corralling large numbers of already disgruntled New Yorkers together and keeping them trapped in an enclosed space for long periods of time without providing a steady stream of cooling air is a recipe for disaster on an apocalyptic level. Like, a human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria level of disaster. It would be bad.
But, anyway, no. I'm not talking about abandoning air conditioners in places where temperature control is essential to functioning. After all, the advent of air conditioning has allowed for major technology developments for the easy-to-understand-by-anyone-who-has-ever-gotten-second-degree-burns-from-resting-her-MacBook-on-her-lap-for-too-long reason that computers need to be kept cool, because those motherfuckers burn hot.
Let's leave aside office environments though and talk about private homes. Recently, DNAInfo posted an article titled, "How to Survive a Sweltering NYC Summer Without Air-Conditioning," which offered common-sense tips from New Yorkers like "drink lots of icy cold water" and "keep the shades down during the day" and "pop your underwear in the freezer." All of these are excellent tips, although that last one hinges on whether or not you wear underwear in the summer, which, you know, I've heard some people don't.
Living without an air conditioner—especially when it's by choice—can cause people around you to sincerely ask if you are losing your mind. I know this, because I don't have air conditioning, despite having been offered free units. If you are like me, and need excuses to give to people about why your lack of air conditioning does not actually mean that you're not just a masochist, but have rational and valid reasons for not having an air conditioner, read on.
I am not the most environmentally responsible person (really, my recycling habits are atrocious, but that's another story entirely) and yet even I can not deny the extremely negative impact that air conditioners have on the environment. Stan Cox, author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer)
, wrote last year in the Times
, "Cooling of America's buildings and vehicles has the annual global-warming impact of almost half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. (Three-fourths of that is attributable to fossil fuels, the rest to refrigerants.) We consume more energy for residential air-conditioning than do all other countries combined, but that's about to change. Home-cooling demand worldwide is projected to increase tenfold before 2050, stimulated by rising incomes and rising temperatures in already-warm regions. Such staggering growth will swamp out efficiency gains, outstrip renewable energy and accelerate warming." This is a pretty big deal. So the next time you are forced to hear about how someone is super into composting and thinks that you too should start storing garbage in your refrigerator because it's good for the environment, just look them square in the eye and say, "Well, at least I don't have air conditioning." This is not a good way to make friends, but it is a good way to make yourself feel morally superior. Win some/lose some, you know?
- Probably that's what you're breathing in because of air conditioning.
Air conditioners aren't just bad for the environment, they're also bad for your health. Unless you're one of those Martha Stewart types who is really good about doing things like dusting the top of your kitchen cabinets, then you are probably not the kind of person who remembers to thoroughly clean your air conditioner filters. And those things are bacteria breeding grounds. Gross! DNAInfo spoke with one woman who said, “I always seem to get sick with an air conditioner on.” And in fact, it turns out that, "bacteria and mold can build up on the filters if they are not cleaned often enough, which can affect allergies and lead to possible longer-term respiratory ailments." Gross. You don't want that, do you? No.
- You don't want to just throw all this out the window, do you? I didn't think so.
Fuck. Air conditioners are so expensive
. They can raise your ConEd bill by hundreds of dollars, and why would you want to give ConEd any more money than you already do? Plus, if you have roommates, this can cause a lot of problems as you try to split the incredibly high electric bill because you'll always have that one roommate who claims that they never even used
the AC and shouldn't have to pay as much, and then it'll cause a huge fight and someone will move out and then your lease will be broken and everything will be just terrible.
Avoid that if at all possible. Just don't get an AC to begin with.
Everybody is super into nostalgia, right? That's why those Buzzfeed lists about the 90s are so insanely popular, except, how many times can someone see a reference to EctoCoolers before getting a little sick of the redundancy? (Correct answer: Trick question. No one who cares about redundancy is spending much time looking at lists over on BuzzFeed.) Anyway, nostalgia. Don't you ever wish you could live in a different time in New York? Maybe one where it was a common sight for kids to be dancing in the streets under the relentless spray of an illegally opened fire hydrant? One where you slept on your fire escape at night, in hopes of getting some kind of a night breeze? Well, try going without an air conditioner for a summer and you'll see, life will be just like this great Arthur Miller essay that was in The New Yorker many years back, "Before Air Conditioning.
" In it, Miller remembers, "The city in summer floated in a daze that moved otherwise sensible people to repeat endlessly the brainless greeting “Hot enough for ya? Ha-ha!” It was like the final joke before the meltdown of the world in a pool of sweat." Which, I get that this might not be appealing to everyone, but there's something romantic about suffering, isn't there? I think so anyway. Just call me a romantic, I guess. Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen