Air conditioners and heaters consume a great deal of electricity, which is apparent when opening up monthly electric bills throughout the hottest months of the year. What does this mean beyond more money spent? Well, in the US most of our electricity is created by burning coal. The more we crank the air conditioners and heaters the more pollution we create in the form of dirty air, polluted rivers and streams, acid rain and climate change. It's a deadly cycle; the more we try to get comfort from extremes the more problems we create!
It's obvious that the worse the weather gets the more we will use air conditioners. Americans appreciate creature comforts to the extreme and are admittedly not good at suffering through heat waves or bundling up in the winter rather than turning down the thermostat. Unfortunately, those two solutions are really the best way to fight pollution. It's apparent that we, as a nation, will not be taking part in a ‘turn off the air conditioners or heaters day' any time soon.
Scientists are studying the problem and are coming up with a few solutions. Increasing the efficiency of AC units is paramount to breaking the cycle. As old, inefficient air conditioners and heaters are slowly phased out and replaced with much more efficient units the energy consumption will slowly decrease. In NYC air conditioners are trending toward the greener side. With NYC's massive size and an economy bigger than Switzerland NYC changing their habits and buying more efficient units could set a national trend that could go a long way toward reducing energy consumption and pollution.
Sealing air leaks in homes has become a popular past time that is also helping fight the battle. Another great way to help break the deadly cycle is to simply reduce how often its and heaters are turned on. If the home can be made tolerably comfortable with ceiling fans and opening windows at night and closing them during the day, using proper window coverings and dressing in sensible summer clothing then it doesn't make much sense to use air conditioners.
When AC units are turned on, try to limit how long they run and how hard they work. The cooler the thermostat is set the more energy the unit consumes. Extremely humid days and very hot days are really the only times air conditioners should sensibly be used. The rest of the time it is ok to open windows and use fans. The fan setting on HVAC systems like central air units are great tools that are not used often enough. Using fans that pull fresh air from outside and bring it inside can also help reduce indoor air pollution; another extremely troubling problem.