Air conditioning: a necessary vice?

My usual fall/winter routine came a bit early this week when the air conditioning in my overpriced apartment decided to stop working. After a long day of classes and work, I came home to an uncharacteristically warm and musty apartment.

I checked the temperature – 77 degrees. The humidity in the room might’ve been 200 percent because I think hell hath felt cooler nights.

As much as I like to think I am trying to become a conservationist and cut back on my ecological footprint, there are a few things in life that just aren’t bearable to live without. Well, at least not for us pseudo-environmentalists who tend to have that admiration for these heroic saps that actually try to practice what they preach.

It seems as though summer is year-round in this state. Even though cities north of Central Florida tend to get a colder “winter” than we do in Tampa, it’s easier just to classify our seasons into two categories: hot and not as hot.

When I was in high school and still living with my aunt and her penny-pinching ways, I had a tendency to keep an oscillating fan at my feet to keep cool during that period where the calendar says fall but the weather still screams summer.

It was a habit that I kept until college when I got my first off-campus apartment.

Being able to control the air in your own home is a freedom about as satisfying as, say, putting your feet up on the coffee table or watching all three Lord of the Rings films with the bass so loud it vibrates your teeth.

But it is also a habit that may, as hard as it seems, do more to reduce our carbon emissions than purchasing a hybrid


Air conditioning tends to cost most households, be they houses or apartments, more than 50 percent of the monthly electric bill. In addition, the chlorofluorocarbon gases, emitted from the Freon or Puron that creates the cool air, has been said to rip holes through the ozone layer, potentially contributing to global warming – that’s if you believe that Al Gore sort of thing.

This summer I went to New York, an area as different from Tampa as comparing apples to, well, chickens, not oranges. I remember waking up at 8 a.m. and feeling the wonderful 50-degree weather. Every night my family and I would sit outside at a picnic table to eat dinner and talk about everything and nothing all at once.

All day they had windows open, and at times, if the temperature got up to a whopping 85 degrees, someone would turn on a fan. It is something that is unknown to most Floridians.

But planting more trees around homes to create shade or adjusting the air during the day and at night when the temperature has dropped are small steps that could reduce power bills by nearly 30 percent, according to Energy Star ratings.

Something that makes complete sense – but tends not to go into practice – is proper Florida attire. Ever noticed how every department store and office are usually a cool 65 degrees or so?

We have men and women working in offices bundled up in suits and long-sleeved shirts as if it’s the middle of October in the Northeast. There is an importance to looking professional, but sometimes it just seems ridiculous. My personal favorites are the yuppies who decide to wear a scarf as they walk around International Mall – classic.

I’m not suggesting we all move out of our carbon-emitting homes and create colonies of hippie domes that emit faint smells of patchouli, but what about some better planning?

As enticing as hippie domes sound, I can only envision another St. Petersburg tent-slashing incident, just with more, you know, folk chants and pot busts.

By the way, AC problem fixed. It was just a drainage backup that signaled an automatic system shutoff. A few days without air conditioning and I think I may have reduced my eco-footprint by a big toe.

Eric Smithers is a senior

majoring in mass