Ana Swanson writes: Some people take frequent breaks outside. Others bring in a sweater, a scarf or an “office blanket.” Some block air vents with cardboard, or quietly switch on space heaters under their desks. If you’ve ever sat shivering in your office in the dead of summer, you too may be a victim of excessive air conditioning.
Even as the temperature outside rises to sweltering temperatures, America’s extreme air conditioning habit mean that people in offices, movie theaters and restaurants end up being chilled like TV dinners.
How did this happen? How did America become the land of overpowering air conditioners? Will it ever change?
It’s not just a matter of taste or personal comfort. Some studies have found that worker productivity falls with the temperature. Customers aren’t happy either: In a 2008 survey, 88 percent of people said they find at least some retail establishments too cold, and 76 percent said they bring extra layers of clothing with them to movies and restaurants. The Post’s Petula Dvorak has observed that in offices, the trend exacts a particular toll on women, and, of course, it wastes huge amounts of energy. The U.S. uses more electricity for air conditioning than Africa uses for everything.
America, it turns out, is addicted to A/C for reasons of fashion, physiology, gender norms, architecture and history. Over the last century, air conditioning improved our health, happiness and productivity. But somewhere along the way we grew dependent on it, and now we don’t know how to find our way back. [Continue reading…]