I remember not all too long ago, yes I am still on what I hope to be the first half of my life, that Central Air-Conditioning was a luxury.  Like the radio, then the television; next the telephone, and now the cell phone, Air-conditioning has become a necessity.  What was before Air-Conditioning?  What did the weather people (yes, politically correct here on Excess Air) say to the elderly before they would recommend "staying inside, out of the heat"?
  I remember what I used to do when I was a kid.  We didn't have the house in the Hamptons, that is for sure!  I remember visiting my Grandmother very often to swim in her pool.  Or maybe the family would head to the beach for the day.  This seems counter-intuitive in my household these days, but it has to be cooler with that breeze off the water, right?  The ride was close to horrible, as we did not have a car with A/C either. 
  I remember spending countless summer days outside playing baseball, golf, or whatever neighborhood game du jour.  I never passed out, got a skin burn, or even remember it being too hot!  But this weekend, when taking a picture of my daughter in her tiny swimming pool, I told her to, "Smile!"  To my surprise she replied, "Daddy, it is too sunny to smile..."  This from a three year old, a very aware, smart, and means the world to me three year old.  The next day, my built-in A/C, essentially a window unit, failed.  So, being the "ACE Technician" I say I am, I pulled that thing out of the chassis and remembered I couldn't even get a set of gauges on it!  How can you fix an appliance when you can't even use the right tools?  Needless to say, the new unit was "installed" a few hours later, to my household's delight.
  This made me think, long into the last few evenings, about what has become of the HVAC industry in New England.  No longer can a family wait until morning to have their A/C diagnosed, but yet it is no problem if they have no heat in the dead of Winter.  No longer can an elderly person take a stroll on a nice Summer day.  No longer do cars cost more with A/C as an option, as it has become "standard".  So, in a time of expendable appliances, how long before I cannot diagnose and fix a central A/C and it becomes viewed like a Refrigerator - just another necessary appliance that is cheaper to replace than fix!  I think we all may forget, some of us only a little, where we came from.  I admit, I once told an old woman who called me years ago on Independence Day to open a window!  She complained and mentioned she didn't see how she would be able to make it through the night.  I still feel a little guilty today, but I genuinely believed it and might have been a little bitter after being in Iraq the previous year.  Did the world really get that much hotter to which we as humans can no longer bear (some experts may argue yes here), or have we taken a luxury and turned it into a necessity?


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Comment by Curt Kinder on July 11, 2013 at 7:04pm

I just left steamy Florida for a week in Massachusetts. Dewpoint was same or higher in Mass darned near the whole time I was there! Dewpoints of 70+ call for AC, whether you want to call it human weakness or not. Given the pace and stresss of daily life, I value a good night's sleep, and AC reliably makes it so, even in New England.

Comment by Armando Cobo on July 11, 2013 at 9:13am

Well. It all depends from which “spectacles” you look though… your Granny’s ice box or kerosene refrigerator was better than the cold cellar and curing meats of her elders… her Model A or 1932 roadster was better than the horse buggies her Granny rode on… I’m also sure the washing machine bought from the Sears Catalog was an improvement to the washboard she’s been used to.

Tried to show young kids today a sliding ruler, a calculator, a typewriter or drawing table, a turntable to play LPs or rotary phone…. Ha! How knows what our great-great-grand kids will say about our computers, iPads, etc. Have you heard of comfort, technology and progress?

Comment by Adam Gloss on July 11, 2013 at 8:32am

It is not just people who have changed, it is the homes they live in, and the businesses they work in. Back in the "good old days" energy efficiency was not even a consideration, and homes were built with little to no insulation, and with significant air leaks. You didn't have to add ventilation, it occurred due to natural forces. Homes had front porches or lanai's where you could stay out of the weather, and enjoy a cool drink. Huge tracts of land were not de-nuded of trees to build subdivisions - and these trees provided their own cooling effect. 

As much as you are correct that people have changed (we've become accustomed to being comfortable) , our homes and businesses have been designed around central heating and cooling systems. We build tight homes with lots of windows facing south and west, and then add in high ceilings to enjoy the natural light and open feel because we know we can cool the space mechanically. Every large tree in the area was cut down when the house was built to make it faster, easier and cheaper for the builder to do their work - and we've lost the shade they provide. We enter through our attached garage, and don't even use the front door anymore. A front porch is no longer needed to keep us out of the weather - we make our own weather indoors.

Even in Seattle, where temperatures are relatively mild, we are seeing an increase in the number of homes with AC. That being said, there are some real benefits to heat pump systems that provide summer cooling, but can make heating more efficient. You can read more about the flip side of this on our blog at http://www.belred.com/blog/entry/2012/05/18/do-you-really-need-ac-i... and at http://www.belred.com/blog/entry/2012/05/21/air-conditioner-or-heat....

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