Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have a war on air conditioning in America.
Kate Murphy, a Houston, Texas-based journalist for The New York Times, recently wrote a column on air conditioning, in which she complained about indoor spaces that she thinks are too cold because of what she considers to be excessive air conditioning in places like offices, courtrooms, movie theaters, coffee shops, and department stores:
IT’S summertime. The season when you can write your name in the condensation on the windows at Starbucks, people pull on parkas to go to the movies and judges have been known to pause proceedings so bailiffs can escort jurors outside the courthouse to warm up.
On these, the hottest days of the year, office workers huddle under fleece blankets in their cubicles. Cold complaints trend on Twitter with posts like, “I could preserve dead bodies in the office it’s so cold in here.” And fashion and style bloggers offer advice for layered looks for coming in and out of the cold.
Why is America so over air-conditioned? It seems absurd, if not unconscionable, when you consider the money and energy wasted — not to mention the negative impact on the environment from the associated greenhouse-gas emissions. Architects, engineers, building owners and energy experts sigh with exasperation when asked for an explanation. They tick off a number of reasons — probably the most vexing is cultural.
Commercial real estate brokers and building managers say sophisticated tenants specify so-called chilling capacity in their lease agreements so they are guaranteed cold cachet. In retailing, luxury stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue are kept colder than more down-market Target, Walmart and Old Navy. Whole Foods is chillier than Kroger, which is chillier than Piggly Wiggly.
While Murphy has a few valid points in her piece, such as wasted energy associated with air conditioning, greenhouse gas emissions associated with air conditioning, and luxury retailers using more air conditioning than low-end retailers (which is what I like to call chill inequality), I hate hot places and hot spaces with a passion. During the summer months here in the east-central part of Illinois, it can get extremely hot outside, and I would feel very uncomfortable for months on end without air conditioning. I have air conditioning in my bedroom, and that’s where I’m the most comfortable in the summer months. The only reason why I don’t set the temperature lower on my window air conditioner than I have it now (75°F) is because my parents would complain about me running up the power bill if I set the air conditioner temperature lower.
I’m shocked that a Texan like Kate Murphy would complain about air conditioning, given how excessively hot Texas can get during the summer months.