July 15, 2010

Addicted to air-conditioning?

Does AC really use up to one fifth of our country's energy?

I haven't yet read Losing Our Cool by Stan Cox, but that's the claim he makes. Wow! If true, it's really shocking. I'll admit that I'm now dependent on AC--especially at night--and can't imagine how I tolerated those sweaty humid nights as a child, with big fans pulling in the hot humid air.

My past postings about the proposed coal burning power plant across the James River show where I stand on that. The emissions into both our air and our water are my biggest concern. The Chesapeake watershed just cannot handle any more threats. "Clean coal" just does NOT exist--yet.

But coal-burning power plants elsewhere in our electric grid keep my AC humming. If only more wind and solar energy was contributing to our overall demand for energy, I'd feel less guilty with the AC pumping out that cool air into our home. I'm not suggesting that we do without AC, but be reasonable.

We keep our thermostat at 78 degrees during the day, but like it at 76 degrees at night--with ceiling fans going almost all day and night. There is absolutely no excuse to chill your home--or stores--cooler than 75 degrees--once you've lowered the humidity. I know this may conjure up memories of Jimmy Carter telling Americans to put on a sweater and turn down the heat in winter, but I'll stick to that advice.

Cox says, “Air conditioning… generates more than 300 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This is the same amount of CO2 that would be produced if every household in the country bought an additional vehicle and drove it an average 7,000 miles a year." During these last few weeks of horrendous heat in Virginia, that's still alarming.