5 Reasons to Go Easy on your AC – Even When Its Hot

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The temperature spiked again today, and we’re sure many people in Chicago are slamming shut the windows and reaching for the AC thermostat … if they aren’t already sealed into buildings with consistent temperature controls.  Here are a few reasons you might consider keeping your indoor temperature a little closer to the outdoor temperature today.

1. Environment

There’s no getting around it.  Opening a window take a smidge of energy from your arm muscles while turning on the Air Conditioner requires … burning coal, or running a nuclear plant … even solar panels take toxic chemicals to manufacture.  So it our comfortable cooling doesn’t come without a cost to the climate.  Climate Rally, of South Bend, Indiana, calculates that:

raising your AC set point by just 2 degrees you could save 4% of your energy demand (four degrees saves 15%) which reduces your carbon emissions by about 5 pounds a week.  

Keep your space a little warmer, and keep the planet a little cooler.

2. Savings

Anything that requires electricity costs you (or your business) money (even if its pretty cheap) so every degree you turn up the thermostat is keeping your pennies, or dollars, in your pocket.  Here are several articles explaining the math on dollars per degree adjusted for your AC.  Invest that in a the longer future you’ll have on a healthier planet … or go out for a walk and get some ice-cream on the way.

3. Productivity

As the NYTimes recent article Enduring Summer’s Deep Freeze points out, being able to cool a space (even beyond the point of actual comfort) is proof of luxury – we do it because we can. That display of wasted energy costs more than the dollars for the electric bill.  Per the Times: 

“Studies have shown people work less and make more mistakes when the air temperature is 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit versus 74 to 76 degrees.”

Plus they are less comfortable which can result in negative emotional and behavioral effects as well.  Who wants to work in an office fully of dour snappy coworkers, hunching tensely over their desks? 

4. Gender Equity

The unpleasant result of the office chill is more extreme for women than for men – exacerbating the gender inequity that is probably present in every workplace environment.  As this New York Times opinion piece recently pointed out, the standard set point for office air conditioning is based on an outdated formula that uses the metabolic rate of a middle aged man to calculate the optimum office temperature.  

A study in Nature points out that now that women form a much greater portion of office populations buildings are being overcooled as a result.   Because women’s metabolic rates are lower than mens, they not only add less heat to the building but they feel more uncomfortably cold in the office environment.  

In response to the Times article, the internet exploded in commentary following two general strains: women shouting AMEN and begging for the thermostat to be turned up, and curmudgeons grousing that if the ladies felt cold they could start by covering up more skin and dressing like it was winter time.  That second thread was accompanied by a full side dish serving of ‘poor men are forced to wear suits in the office environment, and would sweat if the AC goes off.’

This brings us to …

5. Logic, Practicality, and a more Pleasant Day

Why do we insist on setting up indoor environments in such high contrast to the outdoors, even in deference to cultural mores of wearing weather inappropriate clothing.  One of the end results is that we lose our ability to feel comfortable in the actual outdoor weather conditions – both because our metabolisms have adjusted, and because we aren’t dressed appropriately.  There are hot climate accommodations that can be made to male work attire.  Here at moss … we just usually wear shorts in the summer.

Think of it this way: spending a hot afternoon in a cool movie theater is great until you walk back out onto baking asphalt and start counting down the seconds until your car AC has kicked in.  That makes you less likely to want to spend time outside and gives you a guaranteed miserable experience every time you walk out the door.  Why set yourself up for that in your daily work environment?

So today, at home or in the office, consider setting the thermostat dial up a few degrees from yesterday (or turning it off altogether) even though its going to be a warm one.  Make your peace with the fact that it is summer.  Dress appropriately.  Appreciate the heat.  After all, in a few more months we could be back to Chiberia.  Lets enjoy the warm days while we can!

For more on Air Conditioning, and what moss thinks about it, check out these past posts:  HOW AIR CONDITIONING WORKS, WHEN YOU NEED IT AND WHEN YOU DON’TBE COOL, CHICAGO: HOW TO HANDLE SUMMER HEATBEAT THE HEAT WITHOUT AC: PASSIVE COOLING AND YOU