The weather forecast announced 30 degrees Celsius* that day so I choose a light summer dress to go to work. Big mistake. Really big mistake. Hopefully I had a leftover scarf and winter jacket in my office to fight the indoor blizzard.
Insights on the extent of the air-conditioning market.
*All degrees in Celsius in that article
Let’s dig a bit
The USA spend 6% of their electricity for air-conditioning - apparently way higher than any other developed country. It is explained partially by the fact that the USA have a way warmer climate than the other countries but still. We are not talking only about freezing cold offices, we are talking also about freezing cold hotels, airports, buses, metro (a warmly welcome blessing in that case after living for 10 years in Paris), supermarkets, coffee shops, theaters, gyms… Beware, everywhere you go in a hot summer day, it will be cold.
The USA own air-conditioning
I did not know that air-conditioning had been invented in the USA. In a nutshell, first attempts were in Florida in the 1850’s by an inventor that envisioned that by lower the temperature, it would easier to manage disease spreading. Then in the early 1900’s, an engineer in New York designed a system to manage printing quality by controlling the humidity. After that, there was increasing understanding of the actual benefits of cooling in different applications and in the 1930’s, the first cooling systems were introduced to the market. In 1947, the first household air-conditioning production lines were built and 43,000 american households in Florida and Arizona were finally able to enjoy it.
Today, 87% of the households have air-conditioning and the market is worth more than $110b including $52b for north america.
At that point, I understand that the USA are the pioneers and leaders of the AC technologies that solve major challenges of humanity. I still do not understand why putting it that cold though.
Cold temperature undeniable benefits
Let’s take deeper look at the some of the figures found on the internet that support the extensive use of AC :
When temperature exceeds 21C or 22C in exam halls, students start to score lower in math tests
In offices, colder temperature make us more productive. One of the figures showed that one US government typist would be 24% more productive
With air conditioning, it enables to extend operation all year long and to use areas of the country that could not be without it. One example is Disney in Orlando or the southern state : who would like to live in Houston without AC ? Or go to Disney in august ?
AC enables cinema to fill up rooms during summer as this is appArently one of the key selling point at that time of the year
It saves lives : coping with heat is hard for weak bodies, for young kids, elderly and any other categories.
So AC is good for business and health and there are thousands of studies to support that. But I have found numerous examples showing that too cold temperatures do not bring these benefits anymore…
Office temperature : a gender case ?
Let’s focus on the office space : apparently women suffers more from these cold temperatures because of the way our body is made plus we have lighter clothing options for summertime allowed by companies’ dress codes. All of the sudden, everything makes sense to me : men are stuck with their suit and tie and need these extra degrees less as shorts and lighter clothing are generally forbidden by the dress code, plus they do have a t-shirt below their shirt ! I have found some attempts of shorts and short sleeves suits but that does not sound like an upcoming trend.
But now I am happy, I have found the root cause of the extreme temperatures at the offices : the t-shirt below the shirt and the nonexistence of decent summer suit and tie options …
So based on that
Let’s free up the men by allowing them to enjoy the summer temperature using shorts. In between, just bring an extra scarf or layer.
It is not the purpose of that blog but as I was reading articles about AC, I found out about the dramatic impact of AC in energy consumption and in the temperature of our cities : AC would increase by 2C their temperature by taking the indoor calories out. Also, if all the growing economies such as Brazil, Middle East, India, Indonesia, follows the USA trend in terms of AC, it is going to be a major issue for the energy sector. Yes it is comfortable to have these extra degrees out but could we be reasonable ?
About the environmental impact