Climate change Is it time for Americans to stop using their air conditioners?

Maciamo

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No less than 90% of American homes have air conditioning. In Europe it's under 1% (except in Italy and Spain where its a bit over 10%). It's not because the United States has a hotter climate. It's really a cultural thing, and that partly explains why the average American produces nearly twice more greenhouse gas emissions than the average European.

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According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, air conditioning accounts for about 12% of U.S. home energy expenditures. There are obviously regional differences in AC usage, but even in cold and very cold regions, which make up over half of the country, people think it necessary to have air conditioning.

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According to this website, it's more common in U.S. homes to have an air conditioning unit than a dishwasher, garage, or dining room. All this has a impact on global warming. 100 million tons of carbon dioxide release into the air annually, which is about 2 tons per home, via air conditioners.

In fact, the U.S. uses more energy for air conditioning than all other nations combined.

The following article makes a few good points.

Washington Post: Europe to America: Your love of air-conditioning is stupid

"The weather in Washington, D.C., and Berlin, Germany, has been pretty similar recently. There is one striking difference between the two capitals, though: Whereas many Americans would probably never consider living or working in buildings without air conditioning, many Germans think that life without climate control is far superior.


The divide isn't limited to Berlin and D.C.: In fact, many Europeans visiting the U.S. frequently complain about the "freezing cold" temperatures inside buses or hotels. American tourists on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, however, have been left stunned by Europeans' ability to cope with heat, even at work spaces or in their private homes."



[...]

"Whereas Americans prefer an average temperature of 70 degrees [21°C], Europeans would consider such temperatures as too cold, Michael Sivak from the University of Michigan says. "Americans tend to keep their thermostats at the same temperature all year around. In contrast, Europeans tend to set their thermostats higher in summer and lower in winter. Consequently, while indoors, Europeans wear sweaters in winter, while American wear sweaters in summer," Sivak told The Washington Post."

I had long wondered why in American movies and series set in southern California (mostly around L.A.) it is so common to see people wear sweaters and cardigans inside. In The Big Bang Theory, Raj always wears a t-shirt, a shirt, a sweater and a cardigan on top! Four layers ! In Los Angeles !

It's time that Americans re-think their lifestyle and habits and start acting less selfishly. I can completely understand why people in Florida or Louisiana need AC during hot and muggy summer months. But AC is not essential in dry climates. And it's definitely not necessary to set it so cold as to require to wear winter clothes indoor.
 
No thanks. My air conditioner isn't going anywhere.

You don't seem to realise that the more people are going to use air conditioning, the hotter the Earth is going to be. It's a vicious cycle.

Maybe part of the problem is that a majority of Americans live in shitty wooden houses that keep the heat and humidity inside in summer, instead of proper, well insulated brick or stone houses that are warm in winter and cool in summer. According to the Western Wood Products Association, over 90 percent of American homes are built with wood. (The brick and mortar ones are mostly found in places like New York and Boston.)

The poor quality of American houses is explained here.

"One striking aspect of houses in America is the flimsy quality of even the most expensive ones. Houses are built literally like a house of cards. Weak beams, plywood, flimsy insulation, flimsy siding and roofing that either blows off in high winds or just rots away after a few years. Its really no wonder that come tornado or hurricane and houses are literally ripped off of their foundations and tossed into the air.

In contrast, houses and most buildings in Europe are much sturdier, being built with stone or cinder blocks or brick for the whole wall and inside walls. This is true for new houses and apartment blocks as well as old buildings. This is the reason we see buildings hundreds of years old still standing in good shape. In the US a 50 year old house is considered old and is torn down to make room for another flimsy yet expensive structure."

One of the greatest mysteries about the USA for me is why in one of the richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita people live in such shoddy houses that fly away during hurricanes, are washed away by floods, are broken when a car runs into them, and of course get uncomfortably muggy in summer without AC. :useless:
 
Many houses are made of wood and at times it gets way too hot in the summer

... even without power I managed to run an Air-Conditioner at home 2 - 3 hours at day (credit to my Jeep) and other things.

but I also used small solar panels for smaller charges.

i should get my power back today :)


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I can definitely see your point but as someone who lives in Florida, I’m not going to give up my air conditioning. However, I can also say that my carbon footprint is approximately 42% of what the average American’s is. Falling slightly under the numbers listed for Sweden above. Coincidentally, I was born and raised in New York and we never had any air conditioning when I was growing up. I think I was in my teens before my parents got a window unit for their bedroom. When I moved out on my own, I eventually got a window unit for my apartment, so that I would have one room air conditioned in the summer. Most of the houses in NY were not built with central air conditioning in those days. Nor were any of the apartments I lived in. The only time I’ve had central air conditioning, is when I retired and moved to Florida 12 years ago.
 
Many houses are made of wood and at times it gets way too hot in the summer

... even without power I managed to run an Air-Conditioner at home 2 - 3 hours at day (credit to my Jeep) and other things.

but I also used small solar panels for smaller charges.

i should get my power back today :)


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Is that your Italian or American ingenuity kicking in? :)
Hope you get your power ASAP.
 
Is that your Italian or American ingenuity kicking in? :)
Hope you get your power ASAP.

it’s not that difficult, all you need is a high wattage Power-Inverter hooked up to the Battery of a running car :)

that one is 3000 watts - and now we made a Generator!
 
There is no way the average summer temperatures of Europe, especially Northern Europe, approach the average summer temperatures of places like Florida, Louisiana, Texas, with the high humidity to boot, or the dry heat of the southwest, the deserts, even the summers of the Great Plains. I used to rent my condo on the west coast of Florida to Brits and Germans and if there was the slightest hitch with the air conditioning they went mental. You can’t use average figures for the whole US. We’re continent sized with continent type variations in climate. The demands are only going to get worse as more and more Americans move to what we call the Sun Belt.I don’t get this thing about all wood houses either. In Florida and the southwest it’s all concrete and plaster.As for me I’ve been in my block and brick house without power and thus air conditioning since last Tuesday . I feel like I’ve been living in one of Dante’s circles of hell. At times my husband thought I was going to go postal. :) I cannot BEAR this kind of heat and humidity. Only periodic breaks sitting in the car got me through but the nights have been horrible. In my next house I’ve already contracted for a generator that Switches on automatically when the main power goes off. Never again. This is the fourth time this has happened to me since Ive lived on the island and it’s going to be my last. If the codes permit I’ll put in some solar panels though.
 
There is no way the average summer temperatures of Europe, especially Northern Europe, approach the average summer temperatures of places like Florida, Louisiana, Texas, with the high humidity to boot, or the dry heat of the southwest, the deserts, even the summers of the Great Plains. I used to rent my condo on the west coast of Florida to Brits and Germans and if there was the slightest hitch with the air conditioning they went mental. You can’t use average figures for the whole US. We’re continent sized with continent type variations in climate. The demands are only going to get worse as more and more Americans move to what we call the Sun Belt.I don’t get this thing about all wood houses either. In Florida and the southwest it’s all concrete and plaster.As for me I’ve been in my block and brick house without power and thus air conditioning since last Tuesday . I feel like I’ve been living in one of Dante’s circles of hell. At times my husband thought I was going to go postal. :) I cannot BEAR this kind of heat and humidity. Only periodic breaks sitting in the car got me through but the nights have been horrible. In my next house I’ve already contracted for a generator that Switches on automatically when the main power goes off. Never again. This is the fourth time this has happened to me since Ive lived on the island and it’s going to be my last. If the codes permit I’ll put in some solar panels though.

There is no way this is what I said. I explicitly wrote that I understood the need for air conditioning in places like Florida and Louisiana, but not in northern states. As for northern Europe being cool, that was true 20 years ago, but no longer. For the last 10 years there has been heatwaves with temperatures between 30 and 38°C (86 and 100°F) in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland... There is one right now. We have had 35-36°C (95-97°F) every day for the last 6 days and it's going to last 3 more days before cooling a bit to 30°C the back up again. This week it seems that only the Deep South states between Florida and Texas and the Mexican border are as hot in the US. 90% of the US is in fact cooler.

I have been to Florida in summer and it's pretty much the same as in Japan in summer. The difference is that the Japanese use the air conditioning sparingly at home, just one room at a time and not all day long.

The only places where AC may be needed during hot summer days is at work or in cars.

The issue with air conditioning is not just the electric consumption. Otherwise the solution would be simple. Get all your electricity from clean renewables like solar or wind. The real problem is the HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), which are super greenhouse gases and they remain in the atmosphere for up to 29 years. HFC are 1,430 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide per unit of mass. Fortunately HFCs are being phased out in new AC units, but there are still plenty of older units on the market.

Air conditioning curbs could save years' worth of emissions

"Up to eight years’ worth of global greenhouse gas emissions could be prevented over the next four decades by setting tougher standards for air conditioning, according to a study.

It found that improving the energy efficiency of cooling systems by using climate-friendly refrigerants could remove emissions equivalent to between 210bn and 460bn tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2060.

The peer-reviewed analysis by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that cutting the use of climate-warming refrigerants such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) alone could help avoid up to 0.4C of global warming by the end of the century."


According
to the US Department of Energy, the average lifespan of an air conditioning unit is about 15 to 20 years, so even with new HFC-free models, the harm is going to continue for quite a while.
 
My Power is Green, it comes from a Nuclear Power Plant in my State (Zero Carbon Emission).

I’m in the Northeast and right now it is 96°F / 35.5°C

It can get really hot in the summer around here!
 
Today it’s 95 plus even here and it’s by far not the first time. Florida is the tropics. I’d never buy a new condo down there without central air conditioning. Even with it I never went down in July, August, September. I can’t even imagine what it’s like in most of Texas or the southwest without air conditioning. 116 degrees and up is nothing for Arizona.

Anybody who tries to take away their air conditioning has a fight on his hands. Heck, I won’t give up mine either.

No way I’ll ever give up my air conditioning.
 
Maciamo:

The issue with air conditioning is not just the electric consumption. Otherwise the solution would be simple. Get all your electricity from clean renewables like solar or wind. The real problem is the HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), which are super greenhouse gases and they remain in the atmosphere for up to 29 years. HFC are 1,430 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide per unit of mass. Fortunately HFCs are being phased out in new AC units, but there are still plenty of older units on the market.

[…]



"Up to eight years’ worth of global greenhouse gas emissions could be prevented over the next four decades by setting tougher standards for air conditioning, according to a study.


It found that improving the energy efficiency of cooling systems by using climate-friendly refrigerants could remove emissions equivalent to between 210bn and 460bn tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2060.


The peer-reviewed analysis by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and the International Energy Agency (IEA)
ound that cutting the use of climate-warming refrigerants such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) alone could help avoid up to 0.4C of global warming by the end of the century.
"





According to the US Department of Energy, the average lifespan of an air conditioning unit is about 15 to 20 years, so even with new HFC-free models, the harm is going to continue for quite a while.



Personally, I think setting the new standards is the best solution. Unfortunately, in the United States, the States have been forced to take the lead. Which is certainly the least efficient way to approach the problem. Hopefully, things will change and a more comprehensive effort will be put in place.




Excerpts from: These States Are Not So Chill About Air Conditioners’ HFCs.
Stateline Article April 22, 2019 by Alayna Alvarez.
Pew Charitable Trusts


As summer scorchers draw closer, more Americans will be cranking up their air conditioners, desperate for swaths of cool air.


But the comfort comes with an environmental cost — one a growing number of states are trying to reduce by phasing out the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.

HFCs, which are used as refrigerants in air conditioners, refrigerators and insulating foams, are even worse than carbon dioxide — up to several thousand times worse — in trapping heat in the atmosphere. That makes them a major contributor to climate change.


California led the way last year when it passed a law limiting HFCs, and Washington state is expected to pass a similar bill this year. The laws place prohibitions on the manufacture and sale of HFCs and mandate the use of cleaner alternatives, with low global warming potential (GWP), which already exist. Most states are focusing first on large, commercial refrigeration units such as those that cool supermarkets and office buildings.


There are hundreds of examples of HFC-free air-conditioning and refrigeration technologies already available today, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Now lawmakers and industry leaders in states such as Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Vermont and Washington are looking to follow suit.


The states are seeking to fill a regulatory void left by the Trump administration, which for two years has held off on submitting a 2017 international treaty to the Senate for ratification. The Kigali Amendment, as it’s known, has been ratified by more than 60 countries.

Under the amendment, countries commit to cutting down production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80% over the next 30 years.


The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, a coalition of manufacturers, businesses and trade associations who make and use HFCs, supports the Kigali Amendment. It’s good for job growth, strengthening U.S. exports and positioning U.S. technology at the forefront of innovation, according to the alliance’s 2018 economic analysis jointly released with the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute. But the group worries that a patchwork of state regulations could make it more difficult for industry to comply.


“Obviously one federal action is better than a bunch of states trying to figure out how they go about doing this,” said Kevin Fay, executive director of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy. “I think the states are now figuring out that it’s pretty complicated.”


[…]


Improving refrigerants used in air conditioners could do more than anything else to reduce greenhouse gases, according to Project Drawdown, a think tank that created a top 100 list of the most effective ways to combat climate change using existing solutions.

“I hope it’s a matter of when [national regulation is put in place], and not if,” said David Abel, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who focuses on energy systems, air pollution and public health. “It really has to be, if we’re going to avoid some of this really catastrophic damage.” ……




 
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My apologies for the disjointed presentation above. I was having problems submitting it because of all the links imbedded in Maciamo’s post.
 
I’ll continue to keep my AC on whenever I think it's necessary!
 
I live in San Diego, it's not necessary (nor the heat). I haven't turned either unit on in 20 years . . . I wouldn't bet that either one works.

I’m used to having 4 seasons, but I can see the benefits of living in a milder mid 70°s F year round climate.

The planet and the dolphins should thank you for having such a small carbon impact :)
 
Today it’s 95 plus even here and it’s by far not the first time.

The point of the discussion is that Americans are claiming that summers are hotter in the USA than in Europe. You also claimed that:

Angela said:
There is no way the average summer temperatures of Europe, especially Northern Europe, approach the average summer temperatures of places like Florida

So let's compare the actual situation now. The heat wave in Northwestern Europe just passed, so it would have been more remarkable one week ago when it was above 35 degrees ever day.

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What we see is that major northern European cities are in fact as hot or slightly hotter this summer than even Miami in southern Florida. In the last few summers there has been very little difference in temperatures between cities in southern England, the Benelux, northern France and Germany and cities in southern France, Italy, Spain, Portugal or Greece. In fact it is considerably hotter in the north than in Lisbon at the moment. That would have been unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago.

The main difference with Florida is the humidity, which keep the temperatures high at night, but also prevent the heat from climbing too high.

The reason why Europeans can more easily bear this summer heat is that houses with thick brick or stone walls keep cooler inside. As you know, in Italy traditional architecture has made use of very high ceilings (like in palazzi) to keep rooms cool in summer (as the heat goes up and accumulates in the upper portion of rooms). In most Mediterranean countries houses are built of stone because people have learned over the millennia that it keeps the inside much cooler in summer. Why don't Americans do the same?

It's been 35°C in the shade (over 40°C in the sun) for a week here, but inside my house (which doesn't have very thick walls, but is well insulated) it's 26°C in north facing rooms and 28°C in south facing rooms. In average that 7°C (15°F) cooler than outside, without air conditioning.
 
Sorry, Maciamo, but one can’t look at one day or base an analysis on a particular heat wave, even if they’re getting more frequent.

I just looked up the data for Brussels and Munich since it was inland. The warm season in both cases is said to be 3.3 months with an “average” “daily” high of 67 degrees.

The warm season for most of the southern US is said to be 4.5 months. I’d say closer to 5 months but whatever.

The average daily high in that period in Florida including Northern Florida is 90 degrees. The average daily high in Phoenix is 107 degrees.

There is no comparison.

As for building materials, houses built 100 years ago were built with the building materials available locally. Not a lot of bricks available in the Mississippi Delta. In the last decades, as I said, homes in Florida, the southwest, are concrete and plaster.

I’m all for making air conditioners more environmentally friendly but nobody in the southern states especially is going to get rid of them.
 
My prediction: Europeans are going to get more air conditioners too. The summers are getting hotter and longer in Germany and many of my friends complain about the hot nights when they want to sleep and they are thinking about getting air conditioners.

German newspaper articles about sales record for air conditioners in 2018:

https://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article180838122/Klimaanlagen-Ein-Geraet-zur-Abkuehlung-muss-her.html


https://www.welt.de/newsticker/dpa_...ekordsommer-fuer-Klimageraete-Hersteller.html

Switzerland air conditioner sales from 2009-2019:
https://de.statista.com/statistik/d...rage/absatz-von-klimageraeten-in-der-schweiz/

Sales are 47% up from 2018 to 2019 alone.
 
I live in San Diego, it's not necessary (nor the heat). I haven't turned either unit on in 20 years . . . I wouldn't bet that either one works.

It really depends on where you live in San Diego. La Jolla, Mission Valley, Eastern SD? I bet you if you lived-in the dessert part of the Metro area you will need air-conditioning. Same with the San Fran area: San Fran proper vs Oakland Hills vs Livermore. Lots of microclimates.
 

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