It has nothing to do with the clothes I choose to wear.
With all the talk of global warming, record heatwaves, and extreme weather, I felt compelled to write this. The days do appear to be getting warmer, though here in Utah, we’ve had more than the usual amount of cloud cover. I think we’re having mini-monsoons here, every day, around the same time of day. It’s rather unusual weather. But as hot as it’s been and will be, I’ve made my peace with hot and sweaty days.
I work in air-conditioned offices. I live in an air-conditioned house. My office in my basement is always cool, so cool, that I’ve even shut off the vent for the cool air. The mornings are cool and pleasant outside, with the warm sun on my back and the cool breezes.
But after a day of working in a chilled office, I get some respite by walking outside in the heat. I take pleasure in the warm air, the warm sun, and even while sitting in my car, hot from sitting in the sun all day. During the day, I may take a few laps around the building just to get warm again. And when I leave work, I take my time in turning on the air conditioning in my car, just to get warmed up again.
I wasn’t always like this. I grew up in an air-conditioned home, and it was always cool there, just like my dad liked it. His office was always cool there, too. Wherever my dad was, it was always cold there.
As a young adult, I had the experience of catching a cold in the middle of summer. I was unloading a truck in the heat, taking boxes in from the hot truck to the air-conditioned interior of a building. 55-degree air inside, blowing everywhere, 90 degrees outside. After a few hours of that, I woke up the next day, sick.
For much of my adult life, I preferred colder interiors. I preferred the air-conditioned life. In the various jobs I’ve had, I worked at a desk, in a cool environment in Southern California offices, and now, Utah offices. But then one day, something changed.
I was driving southbound on Interstate 5, and just after I crossed the border between LA and Orange County, somewhere near Disneyland, I heard a loud noise. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw what looked like smoke. Did I lose a tire? Did my engine backfire? Did I hit something that went poof? No. None of that.
The compressor, a part of the air conditioning system in my car froze up. That, in turn, ground the belt that turns the compressor to dust. The compressor in an air conditioning system takes refrigerant in a vapor form and returns it to a liquid state by compressing it. That compressor was gone forever.
A few minutes later after the compressor froze up, I noticed that the air coming through the vents was no longer cool. I began to sweat, and I knew I had to get estimates for repairs. I went to the dealer and got an “it’s time to buy a new car” estimate. $1700 was a bit much, and I probably could have shopped a few other places, but I decided that I was just going to live with it. I didn’t have to please anyone else but me at the time.
After a few days and weeks of no AC driving in the sun of California, I just got used to it. I drove with the windows open if needed. I figured that eventually, the sweat would dry up. I learned that sweating is good for the skin, too. Sweating removes the toxins that build up in the body, and sweating is one of the most effective ways for the body to clean itself from the inside out.
Around that time, I had been living in an apartment with no AC. I left my windows open during the summer, with the cool beach breeze flowing from front to back. I had made my peace with hot and sweaty days, even then.
Then I got married, and I thought that my new wife might like to ride in a car with air conditioning, so I bought a new car. That car is now 12 years old and marks the time that my wife and I got married. 12 years later, in my house, I set the thermostat for 78 in the summer. I get out now and again for a walk, to take my kids in the park, or to do yard work. I like it warm. I like how I feel after being so warm.
And in Utah, I’ve seen temps hit triple digits from time to time. We might have a few 100+ degree days this summer, but so far, none have appeared. I’ve adapted by soaking my hat in cool water and wearing the hat on my walks. Sure, it’s cold at first, but as I walk and the water evaporates from my hat in the hot sun, I receive the benefit of evaporative cooling.
That’s how sweat works. When water evaporates, it carries heat away from the surface where it was laying before. Refrigeration works in a similar way by compressing and evaporating refrigerant in a closed system. But air conditioning is very energy-intensive. And as temps go up, demand for air conditioning will increase, and with that demand for electricity will go up.
So I set my stat at 78. I open the doors and windows from time to time. I allow myself to sweat at home. Even with almost 3,000 square feet to control for comfort, my power bill for a month is still only $52 in the summer. Meanwhile, the average power bill in my part of Utah is about $100 a month. I’m doing my part to help reduce energy demands by allowing myself to be a little warmer now, in order to stay cooler later.
It’s a small thing, I know, just letting the house be a little warm. But if millions of people did the same thing, we might be able to keep our planet cooler, long enough to make a transition to a 100% clean energy economy.