Is Air Conditioning Worth It?

by Joshua Michtom

I am the worst kind of curmudgeon, a scolding old man in a young man’s body, forever decrying the needless conveniences of the modern era. Not surprisingly, at this time of year, I turn my luddite ire on air conditioners, which have always struck me as the height of needless luxury, at least for those among us who are able-bodied and not afflicted with respiratory problems. As such, I have always happily and blithely assumed that air conditioners impose a crippling cost, but it turns out that it’s between $40 and $120 a month, which isn’t nothing, but isn’t plutocrat money either.

Still, an extra $100 a month could go a long way, and that’s without taking into account the cost of buying the unit in the first place. And, of course, all that electricity use (and the coal-burning that makes it possible) isn’t exactly a happy thing for the earth, let alone overtaxed urban power grids.

The Boston Globe, offering tips for the unconditioned life, notes how little traction the environmental angle has gotten:

But although there are a handful of anti-A/C crusaders out there, the idea that we need to be using less of it hasn’t become a touchstone of environmental enlightenment, like recycling or hybrid cars. This may well be an indication of how deeply it has shaped our world: While we can imagine giving up plastic bags and Styrofoam, living without climate control seems unfathomable, especially during a heat wave.

So where’s the smart money on this question? I’m told that home A/C is great. But is it $100-a-month great? Can it make you happier at home than all the extra beers (or Negronis, or whatever) that you could buy with the money you save? We have talked about this before, but that was two years ago! Have two years of jobless recovery changed your feelings on this little luxury?