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Alternatives to Air Conditioning
(a People & Planet Gateway & Guide)

Is air conditioning keeping us comfortable – or creating unhealthy communities and an unsustainable world? Yes, some people need air conditioning, particularly the elderly and infirm. But many could do without if only we were a little creative about it! Here are some of the disadvantages of air conditioning – followed by some great summer comfort alternatives, tips and resources.

(A) Costs & Disadvantages of Air Conditioning – Personal
(B) Costs & Disadvantages of Air Conditioning – Social & Environmental
(C) Summer Comfort Alternatives
(D) Related Links, Tips, Resources

Click here to return to The Blackout, Emergencies, Energy & You.

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(A) Personal Costs & Disadvantages of Air Conditioning

Increased Utility Bills – air conditioning can substantially increase in your electricity bill (and these costs don't begin to reflect the real costs of damage to our health and environment)

Indoor Air Quality Problems – if anyone in your household is sensitive to molds or chemicals, closing the windows in summer can increase discomfort or even make them ill.

Trapped Indoors – living or working in an air-conditioned environment means you have to readjust each time you go outside. This can be uncomfortable, stressful and could lead to illness. It also means you're more likely to avoid outdoors activity and exercise. See the tips below for ways to enjoy hot weather, rather than trying to run from it.

Isolation – Sealing yourself off in your home, car or workplace isolates us from our neighbours and communities, and contributes to other social, emotional and behavioural problems

Blackouts – Air conditioning strains the electrical system at peak times and increases the likelihood of brownouts and blackouts. The personal effects of electrical system event include disruption of communication and transportation, lost pay, health and safety risks, as well as potentially catastrophic damage to appliances, computers and electronic equipment – just to name a few.

Noise – the noise that air conditioners make can be unpleasant and stressful for yourself or your neighbours. It can interfere with conversation and enjoyment both indoors and out.

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(B) Social & Environmental Costs of Air Conditioning

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Blackouts & Brownouts – When our electrical system becomes unstable, it has serious effects on public health and safety, the economy and the environment.

Climate Change & Smog – Ironically, air conditioning contributes to climate change and smog. This only creates an increasingly uncomfortable world – a world where we futilely try to seal ourselves off from our environment.

Social Isolation – A community in which everybody is sealed behind closed windows and doors is not a healthy community. Decreased social interaction and physical activity lead to a myriad of social, economic and health problems.

Like many technologies, the benefit is obvious – but the drawbacks are not. Think twice between turning on the "air"... and see the next section for some creative alternatives.

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(C) Summer Comfort Alternatives

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There are many alternatives that can lead to a healthier and more comfortable warm-weather lifestyle.

Most suggestions focus on alternative ways of cooling and ventilating your home or workplace. Other tips relate to everything from your clothing, to your diet – to your willingness to compromise social pretensions in return for a better world.

Home Cooling Alternatives

Cooling Your Home Naturally (2) (more)
Cooling Your Home with Fans & Ventilation (2)
Ceiling Fan Links & Resources Energy-Efficient Air Conditioning
Ask Umbra
(see also energy-saving tips, below)

A few tips – short term/immediate relief: most important: fans in each room – preferrably ceiling fans. Also, try closing windows and curtains on the sun-side. At night, have a window fan suck air out through one window, with all bedroom windows and doors propped open. All about ceiling fans: . Ceiling fan links & resources. Longer term: weatherization/insulation; light-coloured roofs; attic ventilation; decidious shade trees; window awnings; highly insulative construction methods such as strawbale.

Personal Comfort

Short term: drink water frequently; avoid sweets; caffeine; alchohol; large or high-fat meals; wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing; take your shirt off indoors and in shaded environments; sleep downstairs or outside; go bicycling (make your own wind!)

Longer term: daily aerobic exercise (2); a healthy diet; live near green and shady spaces or a large body of water; lose weight; plant trees.

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(D) Related Links, Tips, Resources

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Alternatives to Air Conditioning
Cooling Your Home Naturally (2) (more)
Cooling Your Home with Fans & Ventilation (2)
Ceiling Fan Links & Resources

Energy Saving Tips
Air Conditioning Efficiency & Alternatives
Energy Star
General Energy Saving Tips &
Home Energy Magazine – Feature Article Archive
Home Energy Magazine
Clean Air Consumer Guide
(order a free copy or download PDF; plus lots of online info & links)

Home Energy Audits (Home Visits)
Toronto: Green$aver
Ottawa: EnviroCentre
Other towns: Green Communities Association
Home Performance Experts (Canada)

Air Conditioning – Operating Costs

Environmental Impacts of Air Conditioning

Dealing with Hot Weather
Avoiding Heat Discomfort, Heat Exhaustion & Stroke
Dressing for Hot Weather
Walking in Hot Weather
Shirts off for the Planet!

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