To AC Or Not To AC

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When is it considered too early to turn on your air conditioner?
There is no hard and fast rule, I guess. Depending on the weather, you might need to give it a try in April. I know we’ve turned it on once or twice in April, haven’t you?
For those of you without central air conditioning, the point is moot. Unless you have wall units patiently waiting for you to hit the “cool” button, you probably wait until the last minute to bring those window units up from the basement.

A centralized unit is the air conditioning gold standard columnist Paul DiSclafani swears by
(Photo by Achim Hering/CC BY 3.0)

Central air people, like me, just flip the switch, calendar be damned. Our bodies are programmed for AC. Others may use their AC to help cool their bedroom or living room, but we use central AC to survive. Next time you are at a dinner party in a home without central AC, take note of the people sweating. I bet they all have central air in their homes.
My house is set to 68 degrees all year long. Somehow, that temperature keeps me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. When you enter my house, prepare to shiver. We affectionately call it “The Meat Locker.”

I spent my entire childhood without air conditioning. While living in Brooklyn, we had a giant fan in the living room window that could have simulated hurricanes on a movie set. But I wasn’t allowed to blow air into the house, only out. My parents had me convinced when the fan blew hot air out from one window, cool air came in through the open window.
I would get into big trouble for allowing the fan to blow in while I watched TV. Within minutes, my mother would appear, yelling and screaming. My theory was simple; if cool air came in when you blew out the hot air, how much cool air would come in if you blew it in? Apparently, my parents weren’t interested in scientific theory.

Oh, but those few minutes of bliss. The force of the air blowing on me was such a relief. I was told more than once that having a fan blowing directly onto my body was not good for my back. In retrospect, decades later, maybe they were right?
We struggled for years in our new home with wall units in both the bedroom and living room. By erecting a sheet in the hallway, we could “direct” the cool air from our bedroom and push it into the kid’s bedrooms with a strategically placed fan.

Like many other heat-suffering people, we made the investment into central air about 20 years ago. It was a luxury we felt we couldn’t do without. It was expensive at the time, but I can honestly say I could not live without it.
Once you have central air, you can never go back. People without central air will tell you how their wall/window units keep their homes very comfortable. They don’t see the need for cooling every room in the house 24 hours a day.
Really? Keep telling yourselves that.

When the temperature inside my house gets up over 72, I feel like I can’t breathe. Even Louie the Labrador reacts when it gets over 70. He’s like our canary in a coal mine, panting and breathing heavy. As soon as that condenser kicks on, he returns to normal.
We turn our Massapequa home into a meat locker when it starts to get hot outside, regardless of what the calendar says. It also comes in handy when you can’t open the windows due to pollen.

Maybe I secretly blame my parents for my obsession with air conditioning. I know when my mother visits, she complains about how cold it is inside. I tell her to bring a sweater. By this time, she knows not to even ask me if I can turn down the AC.

Paul DiSclafani’s new book, A View From The Bench, is a collection of his favorite Long Island Living columns. It’s available everywhere on June 27.

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