Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer heat wave ... thank you, Mr. Carrier, for air conditioning

We're in the middle of a heat wave in Virginia and, even in the Shenandoah Valley where it's generally cooler than the flat lands to the east, forecasters are warning of possible triple digit temps by Friday.

I was out and about today in the heat and humidity but didn't feel its oppressive high temps for long. I ate lunch in an air conditioned restaurant. I drove my air conditioned vehicle. I returned home to my comfortable, air conditioned house.

Thank you, Willis Haviland Carrier (November 26, 1876 – October 7, 1950), the American engineer who invented air conditioning.

Our house wasn't very old when we bought it in 1997. Like many houses in the Shenandoah Valley, it didn't have air conditioning because the horribly hot heat of summer is usually brief around here so those without tough it out.

We went through our first summer in the house with a stretch of triple digit temps so we found creative ways to stay cool with our two children who were 13 and 9 years old at the time. We went to the mall, took lunch and spent the day at a nearby lake, met friends at the movies, enjoyed long afternoons in the public library, and trekked to the mountains for a picnic.

Dinners became cold plates of macaroni salad, fresh tomatoes and cukes from the garden, cold cuts, shrimp salad, and anything else I could think of that didn't heat up the kitchen. Sometimes we packed dinner goodies and grilled at the lake or on the mountain.

One thing is for sure: it was hot. Before the next summer rolled around, we had a Carrier central air conditioning system installed.

There were several things we realized during our summer without air conditioning:
- Hot weather brings out tiny green bugs that are drawn to light so they come through the screens into the house at night and pester the humans. They also bite.
- Food spoils much faster. Loaf bread had to go in the refrigerator. Anything sitting out got stale sooner than usual.
- All the windows were open which led to less privacy at night.
- The breeze that was sometimes thankfully around during the day always died down at sunset so the refreshing night air could not cool down the inside of the house causing sleepless nights.
- Windows had to be closed during the driving rain of a thunderstorm which made it stifling indoors.
There were other cons to having no air conditioning but those were the ones that stood out the most.

So tonight as we relax in the cool interior of our home, I'll once again tip my hat to Mr. Carrier and anyone else who had anything to do with this wonderful invention that makes our lives more comfortable.

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