Did you know that today marks the beginning of National Air Conditioning Appreciation season? Modern residential air conditioning as we know it began in the 1920s and helped facilitate the great migration to the Sun Belt. Air conditioners make summers much more comfortable and continue to save countless lives, especially among the sick and elderly who struggle to cope with the effects of high temperatures. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine summer without them.
But for all the good ACs have done for us there’s also a flip side – ACs consume a lot of energy. America uses more electricity for cooling than Africa uses for everything. Almost 90% of American households run ACs, which significantly contribute to the average annual US energy bill of $2,000, while emitting over 100 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.
As President Obama recently highlighted in his Earth Day speech, global warming is real. 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred in the 21st Century, with 2014 being the hottest of them all. Furthermore, the continued rise of global incomes is resulting in a tremendous growth and demand for air conditioners. According to a recent study by the University of Yale, a tenfold increase of energy consumption for cooling could happen by 2050, driven primarily by the developing world.
The increasing use of air conditioning also has the somewhat ironic cyclical effect of making our cities warmer. The hotter our cities get the more AC we use, the more AC we use the more hot air they pump out. Studies have shown that ACs can raise a city’s temperature by over 2°F in the summer.