Soapbox Monday: How to handle air-conditioning

The Soapbox Monday series returns with a discussion on staying cool and green, today's blissfully cool temperature notwithstanding.

Join greenlimbs Editor in Chief Lauren Leonard and me as we explore how you beat the heat and the guilt sometimes associated with the luxury of air conditioning.

SANDY: Hi Lauren. Has your air-conditioner been cranking along like mine has? I’m sorry to say I’ve been lavish in my expenditure of electrons in my effort to keep cool.

LAUREN: Hi Sandy. My a/c has for sure been cranking! I held out as long as I could, but it’s already been a long, hot summer. I try to think of it a luxury and use it sparely. Mine is set at 76 and controlled by a programmable thermostat. How about you?

SANDY: Yes, I have a programmable thermostat. But it doesn’t work as well in summer as it does in winter. When the humidity is high, I turn the temperature lower to feel comfortable. Yes, in general, I try to tough it out at higher temperatures.

LAUREN: I’m with you on the challenges of finding an ideal temperature in summer versus winter. The humidity really makes the difference. Without it, even if it’s hot, a fan can move enough air to allievate some of the discomfort. Have you tried fans or supplementing a/c with fans?

SANDY: Yes, I turn off the “big” unit at night and just keep on a small window unit in the bedroom. I use a ceiling fan. But I’m also just plain uncomfortable doing without altogether. Am I bad?

LAUREN: Not bad, just human! Climate control can really impact your mood; it’s not a relief to come home at the end of the day if there’s no actual relief when you get there!

SANDY: A woman I recently talked to told me she and her husband were considering installing central air-conditioning. But she didn’t want me to tell anyone. She belongs to an environmental group, and she was worried she’d be criticized. I think that’s sad. She probably does dozens of other things, large and small, to lessen her footprint. But there are still people out there who will judge her on one thing.

LAUREN: I think it’s a promising sign that she’s putting so much thought into the decision. You and I have talked before about how important it is to just take the time to think through how our decisions impact the environment. That she’s wrestling with it seems to me to prove her dedication. Has she done the homework on energy efficient units? Maybe a way to rid herself of the guilt is to schedule a home energy audit and see where else she can lessen her footprint?

SANDY: Yep, I think she’s doing all that. And air-conditioners really are getting more efficient all the time. I love how all these appliance efficiency standards are really making it easier to be greener, and still have the luxury of a cool room!