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The Dog Days of Summer

August 26, 2009

From the desk of Ms. Green Quick Fixes

The dog days of summer have brought extreme heat and vegetables worth waiting for—including some organic tomatoes that managed to dodge the regional blight!

But along with the dog days comes temptation—an urge to be in air conditioning (A/C).

However, A/C has its emissions, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When VOCs meet nitrogen oxide emissions (such as those coming from power and industrial plants) in the presence of sunlight, ground-level ozone is formed, resulting in hazardous air quality warnings. The elderly, those with asthma and lung diseases, and children are advised to stay indoors to avoid shortness of breath, coughing, and scratchy throats. Ozone can damage lung tissues and linings.

While air conditioners (A/Cs) may be lifesavers for the elderly during heat waves, and when maintained, can actually lower indoor VOC levels, they help spark a vicious cycle. Along with cars, A/Cs and other household appliances contribute to heat island effect — an urban phenomenon where temperatures are higher in cities than surrounding areas.

While it may be completely unavoidable to swear off all A/C, it is possible to be extra vigilant about energy use overall in order to minimize heat byproduct being generated from our homes.

  • Avoid drying clothes and hang them out on a clothesline instead. Dryers alone account for 10% of household energy needs, according to Project Laundry List.
  • Turn off lights, A/Cs, computers, televisions, and fans in any unused rooms.
  • If you have central air, turn up the thermostat a couple of degrees to decrease your system’s energy consumption.
  • Limit A/C at night to essential rooms only, such as bedrooms. As we approach autumn, temperatures will begin to fall at night, so we can throw open our windows instead.
  • Driving locally, cool off with open car windows. When driving consistently over 40 MPH, close windows to reduce drag that increases gas consumption and use the A/C.
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