freaky freeze

Ok, August and you know what that means. Interminable hours commenting on the heat interspersed with a constant footrace from one pool of air to another. Amid a ubiquitous technology we forget that not long ago AC was a treat akin to going for ice cream.
Were one to compile a list of people who changed the world, Thomas Midgley would near the top. Midgley, head chemist for Charles Kettering of General Motors, is most famous for isolating in the twenties the lead-based gasoline antiknock compound that enabled modern high compression engines, known indiscreetly as “loony gas” for the effects of lead exposure to industrial workers. Another of Midgley’s assignments fulfilled Kettering’s dream of air conditioning. In a few days, Midgley concocted Freon, the chemical heart of modern air conditioning.
Through these compounds suddenly the world was changed although not because of the later discovered and well-publicized effects of Freon on the atmosphere and of airborne lead on the environment and children; that should have been enough. The social effects are equal to or greater than the environmental.
No one is denying the assets of improved technology. Imagine Raleigh before AC, donning office clothing, a stout three piece suit or a long dress of respectable black bombazine concealing petticoats, mounting a streetcar and clattering downtown to a solemn, dark brick building to toil for the state, the interior heat broken only by the lack of direct sunlight and ventilation via roof-top cupolas. Picture one’s office day punctuated by the despair engendered by a drop of sweat dripping from your nose to splatter a newly scribed longhand report.
Accompanying the technological improvements were some losses, most notably social effects that extended past the work day. The lack of automobiles and reliance on ice for refrigeration engendered societal exposure. Part of one’s life involved jumping on a streetcar or walking to shop for food everyday or so instead of the isolated once a week ritual it has become via Freon and gasoline. Gains in food safety and convenience accompanied losses to the public forum. Public transportation and necessity required rubbing elbows and getting to know each other. A great part of unnoticed social connections have become sundered as we run from one bubble of cool air to another to spend the balance of the hours often in solitary passive pursuits, watching television or surfing the Internet.
Few would suggest ridding oneself of these developments although it is within one’s grasp to reduce dependency on what has become a “necessity” with some simple techniques.
 Do your outdoor business before noon. That’s an easy one requiring no explanation.
 Use your AC sparingly (if your system permits it and you can) by keeping the thermostat as high as you can comfortably tolerate coupled with the use of fans.
 If you don’t have AC or don’t want to use it, employ a time-tested southern technique. When the air begins to cool in the late afternoon, early evening, selectively open windows on opposite or different sides of the space, not all of them. Enhance flow with the fans, one pulling air in, the other pushing air out. The attempt is to utilize varying pressure gradients and wind shear to facilitate transfer, evacuation and flow through the space. While opening every window may work if there is a steady wind, in times of still air having every window open can reduce airflow. When the air begins to heat in the morning, close the windows and use drapes or blinds to exclude the sun. Experiment.
 If your car has AC, give it and yourself a break. Park in shade if you can. If not, when you return open as many doors as you can conveniently, start your motor and engage the AC and. Wait a short time, 30 seconds, a minute, to allow the superheated interior air to evacuate the cabin of the vehicle. When you can feel cool air coming out the vents, close the doors, and drive.


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