Letter to the Editor

AC Addiction

Friday, September 27, 2019

I enjoy and often agree with editorials by Scott Loftis, but I must offer an alternative view to his “Fall Fantasies,” (Carroll County News, 9-17-2019).  I believe the condition of “sweating … through spring and summer …waiting for the respite of fall” is a condition perpetuated by the relatively recent proliferation of air conditioning. If the bulk of our population would discontinue the artificial chilling of summer air, not only would it be good for the planet, people would acclimate to the temperatures some of us lived with as a matter of course before  A/C took over, and eventually minimize their distaste for high temperatures. As things are, those of us who accept summer for what it is carry sweaters and jackets all summer long in case we go INDOORS. Coming outside again can wreak havoc with one’s sinuses, and makes the outdoor heat seem even hotter than it is. (I have never understood why some folks need indoor temperatures approaching 60 degrees in summer and 80 in winter.  Wouldn’t a year-round 70 degrees suffice?)

I know, I know.  Whenever my father attempted to impart his wisdom with a story that began with “When I was your age …” my eyes would glaze over and my brain would reflexively activate a filter to thwart the incoming message. But please, hear me out: My husband and I both grew up without air conditioning and lived to tell about it. He grew up in South Louisiana and did not have A/C at home or in school until he went to college in the 1980s. I won’t try your patience with stories about my Michigan childhood, but I moved to the South at the age of 18, and learned the meaning of “humidity,” but managed to live without A/C. I caved in when I endured the third trimester of pregnancy with my third child during July and August 1990. We got an A/C unit. And I will concede that there are certain segments of the population for whom such an argument can be made — my 87 year-old mother has a window unit in her room at our house.

But other than my mother’s unit (which she uses sparingly, by choice) we don’t have  A/C in our current home. We use ceiling fans, and when the sweat just won’t stop, we can enjoy our basement where the temperature is naturally 10 degrees cooler than upstairs. We actually spend comparatively little time confined to the basement. We dress for summer at home — sleeveless shirts, short pants, bare feet or sandals. We love to garden, and spend hours outdoors in the mornings or evenings, careful to spend the hottest hours under the fan with a tall glass of iced tea or water.

A couple of years ago we installed solar panels that tie into the Carroll Electric grid, and it is a fine summer sport to watch the meter spinning backward. When our electric bill totals around $20—to cover the “night light” in our very dark yard and the privilege of being hooked up to the grid— I feel an inner satisfaction that my friends who struggle to support their A/C habits can’t even imagine. Perhaps if they could train themselves to use a basement or one small room with a window unit to wean themselves from their arctic air addictions, they would find funds to invest in solar energy. But even if solar panels never materialize, discontinuing their central air might allow folks to regain acceptance of summer heat, which won’t feel so darned hot when not constantly compared to the indoor chill.  And ultimately the planet WILL be cooler.  Autumn would still be just as glorious—maybe even more so.

— Cara Sroges