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Last week, the New York Times featured a Home Section article on fans and/or air conditioning–depending on where you stand in the debate. The author, Michael Tortorello, reported that the number of people who prefer fans over air conditioning is less than 2%, according to ten years of research conducted by the Solar Energy Center in Florida. I, like the author, are among that Lilliputian population. What the article reveals is that we are essentially a nation addicted to air conditioning regardless of need.
Oddly enough, I spotted this window unit on the street where I live, and came to the realization that there could be an even more serious addiction to air conditioning than the article hints. What saddened me most was knowing that the energy I’m saving by not running an air conditioner, is being consumed just a couple doors away by someone who really, really loves air conditioning. (A colleague of mine likened this photo to people who, years ago, placed a smaller, portable television on top of their older, bulkier console units.)
The fact of the matter is that air conditioning is essentially an energy black hole, accounting for about 25% of a home’s electricity costs. With 6.4 million room air conditioners in New York City (and central air in approximately two-thirds of all American homes) you can understand how your electric consumption may be escalating faster than the fare meter on a taxi stuck in rush hour traffic. Neither is desirable; both are costly.
While a good room air conditioner can run you anywhere from 36 cents per hour to operate, a ceiling fan (running on medium) will cost roughly a penny for the same amount of time. Perhaps it’s time to think of circulating that air rather than chilling it.
For more on home cooling and energy saving, consider: