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Before AC, did people not live without it?



I live just North of Toronto, it's definitely gotten above 30 degrees a few times this year and I think above 40 (Celcius), but I can't be sure.

We have no air conditioning. There are days it's downright uncomfortable and you're walking around shirtless and sitting by a fan because even warm air flow is better than no air flow.

There are a lot of cold showers and cold drinks consumed. I have to say though, it's only seemed to be 2 or 3 days at a stretch and then a storm or cold front comes in and breaks it up. So is it unlivable? No. Is it uncomfortable? Sure.

If it were my house, I'd definitely have caved and had AC installed; and if I had it, I'd most likely abuse it more than I should. If I'm honest with myself and asked "do I really need to have the AC running right now?" I'd have to say, I could count on 2 hands the number of days this year where the answer was yes (although, I did make it through without it, so is that even true?) vs. just (ab)using it because it's there and 18C is comfortable in summer.

When I build a house, it's definitely having geothermal heating/cooling to take the edge off.

... and a dehumidifier takes the edge off too. Dry heat is a lot easier to suffer than wet heat.


geothermal cooling. Really? For a private residence north of Toronto?

I have a $50 AC in my bedroom, that I'll turn on at night to get to sleep. That cost maybe $10/month in electricity.

I don't see how the upfront and maintenance cost for something like geothermal can ever breakeven in a place where you only need to use it for a few days a year in one room. Do you?


It's not a few days a year in one room. Geothermal maintains a stable temperature throughout the year so it reduces the need for AC in summer and heating in the winter. While it doesn't do the whole job, it does enough that you can reduce your power needs significantly. As for break even, it does, when you consider the whole picture. Additionally, if you don't take on environmental needs as your own personal cause, then how can you expect others to.

Be the change you want to see in the world.


Before AC, people didn't know what they were missing. Good luck unringing that bell.


Many died. Even today, it's common for hundreds or thousands to die during heat waves. Today, it's people who are too poor to afford air conditioning. Before, it would have hit many more.

Those who didn't die were also far less productive. In many climates, living without air conditioning means spending much of the day simply surviving the heat, not getting anything done.


Hot climates were extremely limited in potential without A/C.

This includes the American south, much of the midwest, Tokyo, China's larger cities (especially toward the south), Indonesia, the Middle East, and Australia.

Developing regions, especially in Africa, Central and South America, the Philippines, and Australasia also tend to strongly favour aircond. It's not just a comfort thing -- computer and office equipment, and even paper, are difficult to maintain in hot and humid environments.

These are also the latitudes and climates in which the bulk of the world's population, much of it still underdeveloped, still lives. If the story of "an advanced Western standard of living for all" is to be borne out, A/C will be a large part of it.


In my part of the world (northern Europe) basically nobody has AC, but that is probably because of the cooler temperatures here. I'm curious, at what temperatures do people who live with AC start using it? Or is it going all year round?


I live in a latitude about the same as Spain, Southern Italy, Greece and Turkey, but in my part of the U.S., it's been above 30 degrees Centigrade for a few weeks, with high humidity. Our winters also get around 0 Centigrade (+- 8 or 9 degrees) pretty regularly, so we need to supply both heating and cooling.

Usually when it gets above 24/25 C we start to really put on the air conditioning. And below 20 C we put on the heat. A/C is generally important for not only cooling, but reducing humidity so your body's sweat actually does something useful.

I've lived in houses around here that didn't have A/C and it's pretty dreadful in the summer. You basically don't do anything during the day, and it's too hot to really sleep comfortably. Even fairly poor people usually end up with at least one room with A/C.

This isn't true for all of the U.S., the Pacific Northwest (e.g. Seattle) and Northern California tends to not have air conditioners because it doesn't usually get hot enough.

Quite a bit of the U.S. is at the same latitude as North Africa or the Middle East, the northern-most bits get maybe to Belgium? So even with the temperature gradients that ocean currents and global air movement affords, we get total sun that's more like areas of the world people associate with being "hot".

Having been to Europe numerous times, I notice most public areas, cars, buses, trains and offices seem to have A/C. So I'm sure you spend more time in it than you may realize.


"And below 20 C we put on the heat."

I'm pretty sure we don't put our heating on here in Edinburgh until October when nights are probably getting to be well below 10C.

Mind you for me 10C is "comfortable", 15C is "warm", 20C is "hot" and 30C means I'm on holiday somewhere hot where I can go capsizing to stay cool.


There's definitely an element of being locally acclimatized. I remember spending some time in the desert, finally got used to the hot temperature when December rolled around. I was freezing all the time and finally checked the thermostat, 19 C.


I had a situation like that when I first went to university. My parents house in the north of Scotland was rather old and rather ramshackle with no central heating - I can remember going to have a bath once and finding 2" of ice in the bath. However, I don't remember feeling cold as a kid.

However, I went to university and stayed in centrally heated halls of residence, which I didn't find warm. However, when I returned home for Xmas it felt like I had been shipped to Siberia - I was dying of cold! I remember being pinned to the bed by a pile of blankets as I desperately tried to stay warm at night.


I'm in Newcastle and I'll probably have heating on next month - basically the lowest I let my home temperature drop to naturally is ~17C, then I put the heating on, set to 19C.


Isn't that because Geordies are famous for never wearing warm clothes? :-)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/7892733.stm


In greece, summers are atrocious without AC. But it gets even worse in the middle of polluted cities like athens.

Some corners of Athens are disgustingly unbearable. Tall buildings, narrow streets filled with parked cars. The entire thing is a dust, smoke and heat trap. Temperatures feel 10 degrees warmer in those corners. Not to mention it smells horrible.


I'm from Poland, last week we actually had 38C outside and I don't know anyone who has AC. Yes it's hot during the day and nights can be uncomfortable, but every conversation I had with friends about this always ends with "yeah it would be nice to have but it's not worth the expense for the few weeks of summer".


It's not all year round. The rule is pretty easy: when you can't think clearly any more you start your AC.

That's the reason some houses have not AC in the south of Europe but all the offices have.


I live in Louisiana, southern US. I generally leave the thermostat set to ~23°C, so the AC comes on periodically to try and maintain that temperature indoors. During the warmer months, that's a significant portion of every day. During the winter, the central heating comes on instead to do the same job. There are some times of the year where neither come on, but they are brief and it will likely be on at night. It would get far too humid indoors without something running, I wager.


Here's the thing: You'd save significantly by setting it to 25deg. when cooling and 19deg. when heating. Both are very comfortable once you've adjusted for a day or two - after that, going to 23deg. actually feels wrong (either too cold im summer or way too hot in winter).

Don't underestimate the thermal power needed for just one additional degree in a typical American house with poorly insulated windows, walls and doors.


Northern Italy (just below Austria). The hottest is around 37° Celsius, but I don't use AC until I go over 30 inside the house (which has happened just once or twice this summer). Workplaces usually keep AC on as long as temp is above 23°, but that's just my experience.


I live near Barcelona, those days the temperature reaches 27-28C.

We don't put the AC, we open the balcony door and the air current is enough.

In winter, we reach at most 5C, we don't put also the heating. Some neighbors have it very high and in our apartment the temperature is 20-21C.


I live in Australia.

We tend to use AC if the outdoor temp is above 30C, so most days November to April.

It gets to above 45C here, which is pretty horrible without AC.


Not in huge concrete jungles in hot latitudes in the summer.


Yes, but it wasn't as hot... It's a vicious self-fueling cycle. By using AC, we're making the world warmer, which makes us use more AC.


People in our Florida office have fan heaters running under the desk because the AC keeps it too cold.

The insanity boggles my mind.

I had to go out and buy a sweater and thick trousers to sit in the office while it is 32C/90F outside.


I can beat that one. My school was in the mountains and had cold winters (temps < 10F/-12C not being unusual, dropped below 0F/-18C several times while I was there), but also fairly warm summers (> 90F/30C) due to being in the southern US.

The school had a campus wide steam heating system to deal with the winters, but according to what I heard they were terrified to ever turn it off because parts of it were approaching 100 years old. So, all summer long the heat was running on low in the same buildings that were being air conditioned.


Don't worry, the sea level rise will come up through the floor and kill their fan heater.


in cities like chicago and new york they crank the heat in the winter so that it's 80F inside. you get sick just from the temperature differentials of walking inside and outside.

you also have to strip down to a single layer as soon as you walk in the door, and put all the damn clothes back on if you want to go outside, or you start pouring sweat. what's wrong with keeping everything on but your winter coat?

being from southern california you see this stuff for what it is -- people going insane from shitty weather. it should be 73F everywhere, inside and out, all the time.

unfortunately, it's getting hotter and hotter here, too. eventually we'll be insane also.


The problem there is: what are you supposed to do? Many thermostats are placebos anyways.


Use solar panels to power the AC to break the vicious cycle!




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