I don’t know where you are from, but it is getting super hot in NYC. Along with the heat of summer comes the seasonal struggle of, do I turn on the air conditioner or don’t I? With me it is not just my decision, but also the decision of my girlfriend Marine, who is what you would call a “delicate flower” when it comes to heat. What I mean by delicate flower is, if she senses heat might be anywhere in the vicinity, it is time to shut all the windows, turn on all the a.c.’s and fans and to cease all movement. Without the air conditioner things get dangerous around here.
What I thought I would do after already experiencing round one of our seasonal fight is write an entry on why a.c. is not cool and some helpful tips besides using a.c. to cool down. Fell free to comment with any additional tips you know.
First it is important to learn how an air conditioner works.
Air conditioning is not about adding cool air to the room, but more about drawing the heat out. The end result is a space without that menacing and sweltering air. Air conditioning is in effect just the result of evaporation. A swab of alcohol rubbed on your skin makes you feel cooler as the liquid evaporates. In reality the alcohol does not lower your body temperature, but rather draws heat away from the air as it turns to a gas.
Air conditioning units contain refrigerant, a chemical which has the unique ability to change from a gas to a liquid in a short amount of time. Air conditioning units form a closed system which consist of a compressor, a condenser, and an expansion valve. Motorized fans within the unit aide in circulating conditioned air, while the thin metal fins on the back of your air conditioner allow heat to dissipate quickly.
Air conditioning starts with the refrigerant entering the compressor. The state of the refrigerant is a cool gas at this stage. Next, the gas enters the compressor’s inner chamber, the compressor squeezes the refrigerant and the gas becomes a very hot liquid under high pressure. This hot liquid goes through a series of condensing coils placed outside of the room being cooled. The heat dissipates into the outside air. Once the refrigerant reaches the end of these coils, it is significantly cooler and in liquid form.
The liquid in a high pressure state, at this juncture the liquid refrigerant is forced through the expansion valve. This valve has an extremely small opening, which forces the liquid refrigerant out of the other end of the expansion valve as a very fine mist. Because refrigerant evaporates at a much lower temperature than water, it begins to evaporate while traveling through another set of coils, which are located in the room being cooled. It is this evaporation action that draws heat out of the air, which includes the air in the room being processed. The air conditioning unit’s fan then blows across the metal fins over these coils, blowing cool air into the room and eliminating heat. Lastly, the liquid refrigerant becomes a cold gas again and re-enters the compressor, where the entire process begins again.
Essentially, air conditioning takes indoor heat and pushes it outdoors. To do this, it uses energy, which increases production of greenhouse gases (a little side note on global warming, check out this article on DeSmog Blog) which warm the atmosphere. From a cooling standpoint, the first transaction is illogical, and the second just proves this. We are cooking the earth to refrigerate the diminishing part that’s still habitable. That’s crazy and that’s why a.c. is not cool
Here are ten tips to fight the heat.
- Cover all your windows with curtains and during the day. Then at night open your windows and use fans or cross-ventilation to circulate cooler air.
- Drink plenty of cold, non-carbonated liquids like water or electrolyte-enriched liquids to replace your fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty or are like me have a hard time drinking water, because you dislike it. No alcohol, coffee or tea!!! :( I curse you heat!
- Light meals, like salads, fruit, cold soup, cheese and bread! Avoid hot, heavy meals and don’t use the oven.
- Lay a cool, moistened towel over your forehead or back of the neck and replace often.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, natural, breathable, organic when possible, light-colored clothing.
- Go hang out in your pool, ocean, lake, rock quarry or for people like me the local public pool!
- If you go out in this heat stay in the shade.
- Stay in air-conditioned areas such as libraries, bookstores, movie theaters, coffee shops (you can drink water there), pottery classes, theater, lectures, and community centers, etc. Even a few hours can cool your body’s temperature.
- Wear a wide-brimmed, vented hat or use an umbrella because your head absorbs the heat, fast and easy.
- Limit all that physical activity to morning and evening hours people. Avoid physical activity or exercise between 10AM and 3PM usually the hottest part of the day.
I learned a lot writing this entry. My house which only had 2 curtains up that were never closed, now has five curtains in all the main windows. Two we already had, Marine made two others herself, one we found in an unopened package last week after a neighbor moved out across the hall. We have two more windows that need curtains to be made for and then that’s a wrap.