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Editorial: Crank the AC? Resist? In weeks like this, we can’t win!

We really should be writing about something more substantial, more affectable, than the weather – but it’s so difficult to be creative when it’s hot and humid like this. Such summer weather beats days on end of rain, to be sure, but sticky heat saps our ambition and our self-esteem.

Why self-esteem? Because no matter which heat-driven life choice we make, we lose.

Let’s say we’ve held out all these years when it comes to buying an air-conditioner. The case for this contrarian approach is three-fold. First, it’s contrarian; we like that. Second, it’s a matter of identity. This is New Hampshire, not Florida; they get to brag about their short-sleeve winters, we get to brag about our cool-night summers.

Third, it’s about keeping our carbon footprint under, say, Size 9. If we don’t want power plants on every corner and power lines in every pass, we all have to do our part to conserve.

So by foregoing an air-conditioner, we are claiming the moral high ground. But in the midst of a heat wave, we can’t help wishing the high ground had more shade. On a night when it’s too humid to sleep, being all high and mighty about air-conditioning seems foolish in the extreme.

Now let’s consider a different choice we might have made: Let’s say we did buy an air-conditioner years ago, in the midst of a hot stretch just like this one. You know where it is now, don’t you? Right. In the basement.

Why? Because it’s heavy. It has sharp edges, it’s dirty, maybe moldy, and we’re not as young as we used to be, so hauling it up the stairs is a risk to the back. Placing it in the window is no easy matter either, and there’s always the fear that it will keep right on going, tumbling out the other side, flattening the day lilies.

So there it sits, down cellar, under a stack of empty boxes that may come in handy when we need to mail something somewhere someday. It’s cool down there, because basements are always cool, yet we’re upstairs sweating profusely despite having plugged a fan into every available outlet.

We might suffer through an entire heat wave like this, chagrined by our own inertia and yet unable to overcome it. Or a sequence of sleepless nights might at last drive us downstairs to uncover the air-conditioner, muscle it upstairs, wedge it in place and plug it in.

You know what would come next, don’t you? Thunderstorm, followed by a break in the weather. And now we’d be left staring at an air-conditioner whose moment in time has passed.

High ground, low ground – we lose either way.

There is a third choice: getting the air-conditioner in place right away, cranking it up and chilling right on out. That’s by far the most comfortable option. But the kilowatts! The guilt! The burden inherent in being both self-aware and self-indulgent! That energy-consumption label is still stuck right there on the front, haunting our conscience as surely as Edgar Allan Poe’s raven did. Nevermore!

That’s some set of choices: noble and miserable; lazy and miserable; comfortable and filled with self-loathing.

Summer? It’s all well and good. But September is simpler, and you might even say that’s cool.

Legacy Comments4

I gave in to AC 3 summers ago and was pleasantly surprised by how little impact it's had on my electric bill (and presumably my carbon footprint) using it just on the hottest nights of the summer - maybe 10 in all. The key is to keep that 10 nights from creeping up to 20, 30....

No air conditioning! What are you nuts! I remember working in an office years ago and folks passing out it was so hot. I do not do well with heat, so thankful to have it! I would be interested how many cars in your family and what size they are. The excess traffic is doing more harm than the AC ever will. Carbon footprint, green, cap and trade. Just another fad to stop progress. We had summers this hot and hotter years ago, so let's stop the sky is falling propaganda.

America needs the Northern Pass and the Keystone pipeline. Needless to say democrats oppose both

Go ahead and feel guilty about your AC, if thats what you choose. Mine's plugged in and running right now, I sleep well. I pay for the electricity, and I don't really care about the carbon footprint. I don't feel guilty. There are other, far worthier attacks on unecessary luxury and excess and the effects to our planet. Maybe you should get rid of your AC, ever think of that? Donate it to someone who needs it, someone with a heart condition, a poor family in a 3rd floor apartment.

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