The price of comfort

An actual picture of me in my room after a shower. A sign to turn the AC off.
An actual picture of me in my room after a shower. A sign to turn the AC off.

After observing my air-conditioning-related behavior this week, I noticed a few things about when and why I turn the air conditioner on and off:

  1. There are two times when I almost always turn it on if it is off: when I am getting dressed and ready in the morning and when I have been sitting in the room for a while.
  2. There are also two times when I almost always turn it off if it is on: when I come back from the shower and when I get back from class.

Good news from these observations is that they helped me notice some obvious strategies for more sustainable behavior when it comes to my AC use. The times when I turn it off show me that it should not be left on while I am in the shower or in class. I am thinking about putting a sign by the door as a reminder for my roommate and myself to the turn the AC off when we leave the room, even just to shower. This will cut out a substantial amount of “ON” time.

There are also some solutions for the times when I turn it on. I can do more of my getting ready in the morning in the bathroom where it is not as hot. I can also relocate to the living room if I start to get warm when I am in the room for a long period of time.

During times when it is unbearably warm in my room (which it will likely become later in the spring) I can make sure that I only use the AC on its lowest setting or use the “fan only” function. These options use less energy than having the AC on full blast. When my roommate and I get too hot, we usually put the AC on high to cool the room as quickly as we can. No more of that.

The reason I turn the AC on when it is hot or off when it is cold is all based on my comfort (at least it was until this sustainable behavior challenge altered my awareness of my own actions). As I typed the words “unbearable warm” I actually thought to myself “what really is unbearably warm?” According to Marsha Ackermann’s book Cool Comfort: America’s Romance with Air-Conditioning (2002), this idea has been created by “the larger social processes that produced new standards for how the middle-class body (and every body) was to feel and function” (as cited by Berger, M. W., 2004). AC technology has obviously changed and improved since its creation, but the socio-economic implications of AC use have been present since people first had AC units in their homes. Those who can afford to cool their homes will do so just because they can, unless they make a conscious effort to reduce their energy consumption (as I am about to do).

So, do I have what it takes to lower my socially defined standards of comfort in order to engage in more sustainable behavior? I guess it’s time to take the challenge and find out!


Berger, M. W. (2004). Cool Comfort: America’s Romance with Air-Conditioning. [Review of the book Cool Comfort: America’s Romance with Air-Conditioning, by M. E. Ackermann]. Technology and Culture, 45, 452-454.

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