Is Air Conditioning the Next Tobacco?

Is Air Conditioning the Next Tobacco?

“Kill your air conditioner,” wrote Joe Klein in Time Magazine. “The unnecessary refrigeration of America has become a chronic disease.” What? I’m tempted to laugh at the lunacy. It’s as silly as banning the light bulb in an attempt to save the planet. Who could be that stupid?

Well, in a few years incandescent light bulbs will be illegal. We’ll be forced to buy compact fluorescents, which require Hazmat disposal teams when broken. In today’s green environment, nothing is too insane.

Frighteningly, our industry is increasingly considered politically incorrect. A decade ago, the New York Times reported that an Italian Green Party spokesman declared, “Turning on your air-conditioner today means suffering from the heat tomorrow.”

Laugh if you want, but this lunacy has crossed the Atlantic. A leading presidential candidate declared that Americans can’t continue to set thermostats where they want. Unsurprisingly, a growing cadre of regulators seeks remote control of your thermostat.

Sinfully, we in the HVAC Industry preach comfort while the politically correct call for sacrifice (uh, sacrifice for you, not them).

We’re at risk of becoming the next tobacco.

Yet, air conditioning isn’t a problem! It’s a solution. It’s the only practical solution to potential global warming. World too hot? Well, step inside and cool off.

Like burning food (ethanol) in our gas tanks, opposition to air conditioning is immoral. Kill air conditioning and kill people. Literally. Plus, kill office productivity, kill promising medical advances, kill the computer industry, and kill entire regions of the country.

Yes, the absence of air conditioning will kill. When a heat wave warmed Europe in 2003, an estimated 35,000 people died. Yet, Dallas surpasses Euro heat wave temperatures every summer without a plague of heat related deaths. Sure, we have some, but they’re rare and getting rarer thanks to air conditioning. If Europeans used more air conditioning, heat related deaths would plummet.

Removing air conditioning increases disease — think of hospitals without air conditioning. Open windows. Blowing fans. Less sanitation. Miserable patients. Increased disease.

Without air conditioning, office productivity would freefall. ASHRAE and AHRI’s “Stay Cool! Air Conditioning America,” reminds us of a time before air conditioning:

“American life followed seasonal cycles determined by weather. Workers’ productivity declined in direct proportion to the heat and humidity outside — on the hottest days employees left work early and businesses shut their doors. Cities emptied in summers as people fled to cooler mountain and seaside resorts.”

Absent air conditioning, medical and information technology would practically be in the dark ages. Many modern medicines could not be manufactured. Air conditioned clean rooms, necessary for manufacturing integrated circuits wouldn’t exist. Eliminate air conditioning and eliminate most post-1970 technology.

The very roots of air conditioning are health and productivity. Physician John Gorrie invented the first mechanical ice machine to ease the suffering of yellow fever patients. Willis Carrier invented the first commercial air conditioner for the publishing industry because color printing was unreliable due to heat and humidity’s effect on paper and ink.

In Sunbelt states, few dismiss the wonder of air conditioning. That’s reserved for the climatically parochial. A New York suburbanite’s call to kill air conditioning is as ludicrous as a South Floridian’s call to rid New England of oil heat because no one in the Sunshine State uses or needs it.

Simply stated, air conditioning saves lives, improves health, boosts productivity, and makes many other technologies and industries possible. It’s why the National Academy of Engineering named air conditioning one of the 10 greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.

As industry practitioners, it’s up to us to spread the gospel of cool and counter the hysteria of heat. Tell your customers. Tell your congressional critters. Tell everyone about the beneficence of cool air on demand.

Promote your industry! Don’t let air conditioning become the next tobacco!

Matt Michel is the bombastic, ranting CEO of the Service Roundtable (, HVAC’s largest alliance of independent contractors. For a free copy of his over-the-top paper titled, “The Patriotic Du ty of Air Conditioning Contractors,” contact Liz Patrick toll free at 866/262.3341 or by email at [email protected]. To reach Matt about the Service Roundtable, his free Comanche Marketing newsletter, or to have him speak at your next contractor meeting, email [email protected] or call his cell at 214/995.8889.

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