Is Air Conditioning a Necessity or a Luxury?

In today’s world on the necessity side of the debate many health and labor organizations say that excessive heat is a big threat to many people in America and especially here in Texas.  The Centers for Disease Control reports that every year more than 600 people in the United States die from extreme heat.  They report that those who are at the greatest risk from heat related illness are adults 65 and older, people  with chronic medical conditions, infants and children, low income households, and outdoor workers. In fact, OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that every year thousands of American workers become sick from occupational heat exposure, and yes, some die.  The effects of extreme heat are well known in America, in fact, Federal workers can get a pay hike, known as an environmental differential if they’re assigned to work in high heat environments.  So here you have people who monitor the health of its citizens and also people who monitor the health of the workers across America.  You also have the American government recognizing the impact of high heat environments.

So you might wonder what the debate is.  Its sounds like air conditioning is considered a necessity.  At least for workers and the groups at risk for heat related illnesses. But what about the rest of us, is air conditioning really a necessity?  Or is it a luxury?  Some say that air conditioning is causing major damage to the environment by introducing tons of greenhouse gases as properties, homes, and businesses are being air conditioned.  A debate in the New York Times illustrated this.  Author Stan Cox saying a house full of refrigerated air is a manufactured necessity, not a real one like food or water.  Also, architect Steve Bodine says AC has made builders and architects’ lazy because they just air condition a house instead of trying to use passive cooling techniques like shade, cross ventilation, porches, shutters, and more.  Some say that air conditioning is making us soft and that we should try being more rugged instead.

Of course on the pro AC side, lead certified engineer Ed Bosco says AC is a necessary luxury.  As he puts it, air conditioning puts us in control of our comfort and frees us from the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of the weather.

It’s an interesting debate and one worth exploring.  But for those who believe AC is just a luxury certainly have an uphill battle.  The United States Energy Information Agency says AC is now standard in American homes.  They report 87% of houses in the US now have air conditioning.

For home owners it really comes down to your own individual decisions.  Use air conditioning all the time or maybe just on the hottest days or never at all. Yep, that’s one of the best things about being a home owner, because while the whole world debates issues like whether AC is a necessity or a luxury, home owners can make up their own minds.  They can decide what’s best for them, their family, and their home as they stay cool this summer.

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