01 Apr #77 Fatal Conveniences™: Air Conditioning: Cooling Down Your House While Heating Up the Earth
Do you turn on your air conditioning the second it gets a bit hot out? No one likes to be hot and sweaty at home. But do we really need to use it as much as we do?
Welcome to Fatal Conveniences™.
The entire content of Africa’s energy use is the same as America’s use of just AC.
Listen, I get it. When that heat hits, it’s not fun. I don’t like to be hot and sweaty when I’m relaxing at home. But I’ve made it a habit over many years to wait longer and longer to turn my air conditioner on. And you know what? The more I did that, the more heat I was able to take. We get so used to being comfortable, the second we feel uncomfortable we reach for a solution. The body can handle a little heat! It’s actually good for us to get a little cold, and to get a little hot.
All this comfort is using an insane amount of electricity. Almost half of America’s energy use is on air conditioning alone. AC use releases 2 Billion tons of Co2 into our atmosphere, which is a big contributor to global warming. So by cooling our homes down, we’re heating our planet up.
In this segment, I go over the massive toll AC is taking on our energy consumption, as well as the personal effects on our health. Contaminated air conditioning units, or dirty or damaged filters, can spark asthma attacks and respiratory issues. Working in office buildings with the AC running constantly has proven to lead to health issues. I’ll cover all this as well as things you can do to minimize your AC dependency. Listen, I don’t expect you to sweat it out in the summer, just be more aware of the price you pay, and we all pay for comfort.
Other info in this Fatal Conveniences™ segment:
- A brief history of Air Conditioning
- The massive amount of energy AC needs
- Sick Building Syndrome
- Tweaks in behavior to cut down on AC use
More information to learn about this subject:
Is My Air Conditioner Killing Me? | TIME Magazine
The air conditioning trap: how cold air is heating the world | The Guardian
The Future of Cooling – Opportunities for energy efficient air conditioning | Report by the International Energy Agency (IEA)
Can you cool a house without air conditioning? | BBC – Future
Darin: It’s that time of the week for another fatal convenience. This is a bite-size segment that addresses some of society’s fatal conveniences and the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of them. I define fatal conveniences as the things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us believe we have to, tap water, shampoo, sunglasses, food. I dive into the hidden truths behind some of our everyday choices that could not only be harming us but even killing us, so let’s dive in.
Darin: Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. This is Darin Olien. This is the Darin Olien Show with my obviously fatal convenience episode. I just want to say that I’m on the road filming Down To Earth. We’re having an amazing time diving into some great topics, some intense topics, all to share more of what we’re uncovering and discovering for you, and hopefully you’ll see that soon whenever we can get that done and get that to Netflix and have Netflix distribute it. But I just want to say with all the filming and the intensity, I’m not able to keep up on my fatal conveniences, so I need to focus on the show right now, The Down to Earth show. So this one will be my last fatal convenience for a little bit. So I apologize for that but doing the best I can and have to kind of trim out the things that I’m not able to keep up with. So we’ll pick those up as soon as I can once I get done. So this fatal convenience is about indoor air quality, essentially, and indoor temperatures and how that relates to yourself, your life, and ultimately the environment, and that is air conditioning. I know that we all use it, I use it, of course. It gets so intense right now, and temperatures seem to rise in certain areas, and we rely on this stuff. So there’s a bunch of stuff to keep in mind with this and largely it proliferates into many different topics: energy efficiencies, use of it, if you’re creating your own power in any sort of way, or if you’re plugging into the end of the grid, and also what kind of air is being thrown around and blown around in your own house. So this is a big thing and listen, from an environmental standpoint when it gets really hot, they find that certainly, there was a study in New York City that nearly 50% of the power is used in air conditioning when the heat rises. So it’s a major, major energy suck for the globe, especially when you’re on top of each other on apartments and buildings and disconnected a lot from nature. But a little bit of history, in 1902, engineer Willis Carrier invented the first electrical air conditioning unit while solving a humidity problem. So we know that when you run cold liquid through steel or copper pipes that becomes a desiccant. So humidity touches that and it pulls humidity out of the air. We used to do it in Minnesota in our basements because it was so humid and so that was the reason for it because Willis, the engineer, he ran a magazine, and he saw that the papers were getting wrinkly and so the invention came by way of the necessity of getting the humidity out of the air in his publishing company in Brooklyn. And then it goes, in 1904, St. Louis World’s Fair organizers use mechanical refrigeration to cool the Missouri State building for the fair, the World’s Fair, creating “comfort cooling” as they call it. In 1929, Frigidaire introduced a split system room cooler small enough to use inside your house, basically like the size of a radio cabinet. In 1947, Henry Glasson developed even more compact and even less inexpensive as they were starting to industrialize mechanisms of production. And then it goes on and then in 1960s even central air came on track making it more affordable. In the 1990s, chlorofluorocarbons were being used and then they realized how detrimental this is and annihilated the ozone layer. And then hydrofluorocarbons, they introduced, but then they realized that was also a serious environmental problem causing greenhouse gases and affecting the ozone layers. So just a little bit of understanding, the same amount of energy that we use in the US just for air conditioning is the use of the entire continent of Africa. The entire continent of Africa’s energy use is the same as the US’s use of just air conditioning. What? That is crazy, right? So we’re controlling our environment so much, it’s pretty gnarly. So then they realize that there are some scientific studies that they’re showing, and we have those in the show notes, that through controlling the conditions that you’re living in so much all the time in your car, in your house, and it’s actually lowering your natural human tolerance for heat. So you get less desensitized, so your body doesn’t sweat as much. It’s regulating temperature, internal temperature clock gets thrown off. So it’s a whole host of things that go on. So now we’ve got nearly 100 million people who have air conditioning in their homes representing 87% of all households, according to the Energy Information Administration. And here’s just a little bit, a small unit cooling a single room on average consumes more power than running for refrigerators. So as you can tell, that’s a lot of power. So why is the air conditioning convenient? Well, you can basically create whatever climate, whatever temperature, whatever environment you want. And now we realize that that has a detriment effect. And a little thermal discomfort actually goes a long way. And obviously, we have extreme examples of hot saunas and cold plunges, and all of that stuff. But in reality, being a little cool, is fantastic for you, it keeps your metabolism going, keeps it interactive with the environment, as well as being a little hot. So maybe a takeaway here is, don’t be so fast to get that ideal temperature. Wait a little longer before you turn it on, and turn it off a little cooler. For me, when I’m running around here in hotel rooms right now, I turn it off during the day, it’s not on at all. In order for me to sleep if I’m in a hot area, I do turn it on at night. But I also ask the hotel to change the filter systems. So obviously, we now realize that there’s an incredible article called Warmer Temperatures Lead to More Air Conditioning, More Air Conditioning Leads to Warmer Temperatures, because it’s absolutely releasing CO2 in the environment. So there are just over 1 billion single room air conditioning units in the world right now and about 1 for every 7 people on earth, that’s a lot. So when you start adding up people in the billions, you’ve got a lot. And so that is an incredibly intense energy suck. And the International Energy Agency projects that as the rest of the world reaches similar levels, air conditioning will use about 13% of all electricity worldwide, and produce 2 billion tons of CO2 a year, about the same amount as India, the world’s third-largest producer today. And so there’s this other weird phenomenon that’s going on, a lot of work done by Dr. Mark Mendell called the sick building syndrome. And there are many factors that come to be involved in this but the one major one, and he’s an epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health, and the study again is in the show notes. He says that air conditionings directly worsen asthma problems and allergies are two health issues that stem from contaminated AC units. So how many of you turning on your AC, you don’t think about it, these AC units could be contaminated and also re-breathing, circulating bad air and not changing the filters or the filters not being correct. And this is directly connected to nasal congestion, breathing problems, headaches, fatigues, irritable skin, all of this stuff, and it could be as simply as changing the filter system and your air conditioning unit, as well as hey, let’s just get a more efficient air conditioner and one that’s rated safely. There’s a lot of respiratory effects, I’m not going to go into all these, we got a ton in the show notes. One study in 2014 compared 920 adult women and found that those who worked in offices with central air conditioning had higher rates of absence due to sickness and more visits to ear, nose, and throat doctors. What’s going on is it’s drying out the air. So the original invention of cooling the air is also dehumidifying the environment and stressing out the mucosal linings of the ear, nose, and throat. And so that dries it out and that’s very stressful for the body and that’s one of your first lines of defense against bacteria, virus, fungus, etc. So that can lead to lethargy, dehydration, headaches, open yourself up to infectious diseases. These are all gnarly problems that we don’t want to– literally, too much air conditioning is undermining your health. That’s all you need to take away and in a big way. So we need to have a lifestyle shift here. There was a case study in Switzerland in the mid-1980s in Geneva where it has even a warmer climate than the US in general. And the local government even banned the installation of air conditioning units only under special permission because it was undermining so much health. Now, I don’t believe that the government should tell you where you can put an air conditioning unit in your house. But again, we need to be aware of this so we don’t undermine our own health care. You know, the better use of fans the, better use of building materials and the use of conduction of airflow, letting the air out the top and opening up windows and you can get a lot of airflows. Cool roofs, you can even plant on the upper part of your apartments and buildings etc., that will help the airflow. And just more energy-efficient windows and proper shades can be massive, especially in the summer. So the one thing you can absolutely do is minimize the use, invest in more efficient air conditioning. The International Energy Agency, the problem is today the consumers are not buying the most efficient AC units. Investing in more efficient AC could cut our future demand in half, literally. If you want to be an environmental activist, just buy a better more efficient AC unit. It can cut our demands, our cooling demands by 45%, so super important. And one thing you can do around your house and things like that around your land, planting trees will naturally cool these areas, retrofitting old buildings and making proper insulation better. No longer building these straight-up concrete and glass cages. There’s concrete use, you can use all kinds of geopolymers, basalt fibers, even crushed glass within concrete mixtures, that alone can cut that emission down by the different use of concrete by our energy demands and CO2 by over 50% as well. And Paul Hawken talked about this in Drawdown as well. So there’s a lot we can do but minimize the use and try to look at this as fun and stress your body out just a little bit. If it’s hot outside, don’t turn your AC on so much so quickly. And when it’s cold outside, sleep in the cold. It’s really good for you, your mitochondria will love that, your metabolism loves that. And just cuddle up with your lover, that’s great. Live in a yurt like me and I do that all day every day. But anyway, so thank you for tuning in. That’s the fatal convenience for today. I love you tons. I still have my regular The Darin Olien Show out because I recorded a bunch ahead of time. I was able to do that. In the meantime, if you have and are aware of more and more fatal conveniences, look around with awareness. Look around at the things that you think are convenient for you or question things like stains on wood, paint in your bedroom, the type of lighting you use, so that you can have the best life ever. I love you tons. I’m giving you a big ozzie ozzie ozzie oi oi oi hello, and we’ll catch you next time. Okay, I love you.
Darin: Thanks for tuning in everyone. I hope that left you feeling inspired to take a closer look at the everyday choices you’re making and how they could be impacting your health and even the planet. If you want to learn more about life’s fatal conveniences, head over to fatalconveniences.com. You can sign up for the exclusive access to Fatal Conveniences episodes, news, insights, and more. And all this great stuff gets sent each week straight to your inbox, making it really easy. Now, that’s a convenience without the negative side effects. It only takes a few seconds to join. Just fill in the form and take that amazing step towards making better choices. Remember, small changes can have big impact. So, keep diving my friends, keep diving. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the interview, I released earlier on the week, here’s what you missed:
Dr. Will: The reality is that every food we eat either feeds inflammation or fights it, some in benign small ways, negligible ways, but some in big sweeping ways. And the heart of functional medicine, one of them is bio uniqueness, it’s the individuality. And we all have different microbiome balances and immune modulations and genetic components that all play a part in that interconnected dance of how we react to things and how different inflammatory pathways are expressed.
Darin: This episode is produced by my team at Must Amplify, an audio marketing company that specializes in giving a voice to a brand and making sure the right people hear it. If you would like or are thinking about doing a podcast or even would like a strategy session to add your voice to your brand in a powerful way, go to www.mustamplify.com/darin. That’s www.mustamplify.com/darin.