New York City Air Conditioning

New York City Air Conditioning – Summers in the south are tough. It is often beautiful outside, with bright, blue skies and lots of lush, green vegetation. But it’s also so hot that you can’t really enjoy it. The air is heavy, as if you are constantly being hugged by a sweaty person. So either you stay inside or you suffer. And most people find it easy to stay indoors because almost everyone has air conditioning.

In the summer of 2011, a heat wave hit North America. From the southwest to the east coast and up to Canada, it was the hottest heat wave in 75 years, affecting an estimated 200 million people. It was also the weekend that my air conditioner broke. In Durham, North Carolina, we experienced five triple-digit days in a row. Across the city, the air conditioners couldn’t keep up. From office buildings and grocery stores to coffee shops and movie theaters, the buildings you’d normally expect to provide you with sweet relief from the outside have simply become overcrowded. Inside my house, the thermostat dropped into the 90s and stayed there – for a week.

New York City Air Conditioning

New York City Air Conditioning

At first I thought I could do it. I didn’t grow up with air conditioning, so I did what we did when I was a kid: draw screens and close the windows during the day, then open everything at night to let in the cold air. But even at midnight, my poorly insulated house felt like the inside of a tumble dryer.

Wrapped Up Window Air Conditioner In A Barred Cage During The Winter In New York City On An Apartment Building Stock Photo

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New York City Air Conditioning

To cope, I lay on the living room floor under a ceiling fan and held a frozen washcloth to my wrists and neck. When that didn’t solve the problem, I took a cold shower. When my skin started to cut, I stuck my feet in an ice pack. When the ice melted, I called a friend with a working air conditioner. I spent the rest of the week at her house, I was never so happy because of good friends and good AC.

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Primitive air cooling systems have existed for centuries, from ancient Rome, where the wealthy cooled their homes by circulating water between the walls, to China in the 200s, where the first fan large enough to cool a room (powered by hand ) had been developed.

New York City Air Conditioning

Outdoor Window Air Conditioning Units On An Old Brick New York City Apartment Building During Spring Stock Photo

The first modern refrigeration system was invented by John Gorey, a Florida physician who believed that cold was good for healing. Gorey cooled the hospital rooms by hanging basins of ice from the ceiling, but the ice had to be imported from the north. It was expensive, difficult to store and, predictably, prone to melting. Instead of relying on this limited natural resource, Gorey began experimenting with artificial refrigeration, using a steam engine to force air through a tank of chilled brine. It worked, and Gorey received a patent for his refrigerating machine in 1851.

However, it would take many decades before air conditioning as we know it came onto the market. Almost 50 years later, an engineer at the Buffalo Forge Heating Company in upstate New York named Willis Haviland Carrier was tasked with solving a problem plaguing a Brooklyn printing house: excessive humidity was ruining the printing process and making it impossible to work during the summer months. And this wasn’t just a problem for printers – from chocolate and pasta to textiles and tobacco, industries across the country have just shut down for the hottest months of the year.

New York City Air Conditioning

Carrier developed a system that pumps air through ammonia-cooled coils and then expels it with a fan. This simultaneously cools the room and reduces the humidity level. Soon Carrier’s invention spread from the printing press to other industries. In 1925, a Carrier system was installed at the Rivoli Theater in Times Square, making it the first place where audiences could experience the wonders of AC.

Air Conditioning Will Not Save Us

Air conditioning has finally entered the public sphere. But while some very wealthy Americans could afford industrial units for their homes, the first system that could cool individual rooms wasn’t developed until 1931, when H.H. Schultz and J.K. Sherman invented the first window units. Even then, the AC was expensive enough to be rare, costing between $10,000 and $50,000 (or $120,000 to $600,000 in today’s dollars). By mid-century, only about 10 percent of American households had air conditioning at home.

New York City Air Conditioning

But in a few decades, air conditioning will be everywhere: today, 86 percent of American households have air conditioning. And where America goes, so goes the world—at least when it comes to AC.

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Take China. In just 15 years, urban Chinese households went from almost no air conditioning to almost all air conditioning. Today, almost every city in China has at least one AC unit, and many have more than one. Sales are increasing in India, Indonesia and Brazil at a rate of 10 to 15 percent annually. In Mexico, where only 13 percent of households currently have AC, ownership is expected to reach 71 to 81 percent by the end of this century. Overall, researchers predict that the world will install 700 million air conditioners in the next 15 years, and 1.6 billion by 2050.

New York City Air Conditioning

To Battle Climate Change, Begin With Your Air Conditioner

AC comes with a number of problems. It’s undoubtedly true that air conditioning saves lives, especially among vulnerable populations like the elderly, but it also comes at a high price—and not just when it comes to your utility bill.

Air conditioners in the United States currently account for about 5 percent of our annual energy use and put about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. The CO2 emissions are bad enough, but air conditioners also contain refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another potent greenhouse gas, which can leak during use, maintenance and disposal of AC units. In fact, fluorinated gases such as HFCs are the most potent and long-lasting of all greenhouse gases emitted by human activities, and according to the EPA emissions have increased by a staggering 258 percent since 1990. HFCs, but it will take many more years.

New York City Air Conditioning

Meanwhile, the huge amount of greenhouse gases we emit to run our air conditioners actually increases the need for air conditioners. As Stan Cox, the author of Losing Our Cool, the definitive history of air conditioning, told me, “It’s a particularly vicious cycle because the air conditioning inside makes it even hotter outside.”

Klarstein Klimagerät Metrobreeze 9 New York City Mobile Klimaanlage 3 In 1, Klimagerät Mobil Air Conditioner Kühlgerät Luftkühler

The social costs are also high. AC has fundamentally changed the way we interact with the world and each other. Today, many Americans are moving from air-conditioned homes to air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned places of business. Instead of going to parks or sitting on porches or jumping in public pools, we stay inside and see the world only through tightly closed windows.

New York City Air Conditioning

In 1998, playwright Arthur Miller wrote about living in New York City before air conditioning: “With a few other kids, I walked across 110th to the park and walked among hundreds of people, single and family, and slept on the grass next to their big alarm clocks that setting a gentle cacophony of seconds ticking away, the ticking of one clock synchronizing with another,” Miller wrote. “Babies cried in the dark, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional loud laugh by the lake.”

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Humans have always lived in warm climates. Before Phoenix, Arizona, for example, the Hohokam people thrived in the region for 1,000 years, from about 450 to 1450 AD. At its peak, the Hohokam population numbered between 25,000 and 60,000.

New York City Air Conditioning

Hvac Stock Photo. Image Of Hvac, York, Ventilation, Rooftop

The same area is now home to more than 4 million people. It is a sprawling, suburban megalopolis where temperatures routinely reach 110 degrees. Air conditioning, as anyone who has visited Phoenix in the summer knows, is not a luxury; it is a necessity. But still, they made the Hohokam because the climate wasn’t that cold, and they did it without electricity, much less air conditioning. So how?

A critical strategy: They changed their physical landscape in ways that helped them survive extreme temperatures, according to chronicler AC Cox. “They built a huge canal system. In that desert environment, water was everything, so they maintained this huge canal system that not only provided water, but also had a cooling effect. They were able to grow vegetation along the banks of the canals.”

New York City Air Conditioning

On hot days, the Hohokam hung damp cloths at the entrances of their adobe structures, which would simultaneously cool and moisten the dry air. They also had plenty of shade trees and stayed out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day. On warm nights they slept outside.

Air Conditioners Sprout From Windows In A Building In New York On Thursday, November 5, 2020. © Richard B. Levine Stock Photo

In Phoenix and much of the rest of the United States, we have done the opposite of the Hohokam: We have changed our physical landscape in ways that make extreme temperatures even more extreme. We paved over natural areas and green areas, replacing them with concrete and asphalt that absorb heat from the sun during the day and release it back into the air at night. This causes the cities to be significantly warmer than the rural areas that surround them.

New York City Air Conditioning

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