Most Read: Local

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 08/19/2009

To A/C or Not to A/C? That is the Question.

Wx and the City

* D.C. Before A/C: A Weather Story | Full Forecast | UnitedCast *
* Tropical Storm Danny | Hurricane Tracking Center | Weather Wall *

From my observations, Washingtonians, like many Americans, are uncomfortable being uncomfortable. Take the new trend of "glamping" (glamour + camping), for example, or the prolific use of colder-than-necessary air conditioning (A/C) settings in buildings throughout the city.

As typical August heat and humidity have been working their way into our daily schedules again recently, I've been wondering what D.C. was like before A/C became commonplace. What was it like to work, sleep, exercise and travel without the comforting and coveted room temperature? And what about people even today who don't have access to A/C or choose not to use it? Do they ever get to the point of feeling comfortable outdoors, at least in the shade? Is a person's body stronger and more resilient if it's adapted to the weather?

I myself have felt less resilient to the elements since moving to the District and spending a lot of time in air-conditioned office and apartment buildings, which brings me to the following question.

Keep reading for more on A/C, including money-saving and environmentally friendly tips...

We should feel lucky to have the ability to control the temperatures in our cars, homes and offices with the push of a button. Since the modern A/C was invented in the early 1900s, it has no doubt prevented countless heat-related injuries. (And President James Garfield would have been much more comfortable and saved half a million pounds of ice in the two months before his death if he had had an A/C unit.)

I'm not against air conditioning. In fact, as an environmentally conscious consumer, I still admit to having indulged in A/C over the past few weeks. But one thing is for sure: Any device that uses energy takes a toll on the environment and our checkbooks. Even with the A/C turned on, though, there are tips for saving energy and money this summer, such as:

--Setting the thermostat to your desired temperature rather than to a lower temperature than is necessary;
--Turning the unit to a higher temperature or off when you're not home;
--Choosing an ENERGY STAR product; and
--Making sure your A/C unit is the appropriate size for your room or home.

Saving energy is especially important on cooling-degree days.

Also keep your eyes open for more energy-efficient (and environmentally friendly) A/C systems in cars. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are testing these units, seeing as though passenger vehicles in the United States use 7 billion gallons of gasoline a year running their air conditioners.

Do you use A/C or not, and why? Let us know by commenting below.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 08/19/2009

Categories:  Wx and the City, Wx and the City

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company