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BlueWaveNeverEnd

(8,736 posts)
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 07:27 AM Jun 15

'It's unbearable': in ever-hotter US cities, air conditioning is no longer enough

‘It’s unbearable’: in ever-hotter US cities, air conditioning is no longer enough
Record-breaking temperatures in the last few years shatter the myth that air conditioning alone will keep people safe


Gloria Gellot, 79, takes a careful seat in a kitchen chair in front of her only air-conditioning unit, massaging her knees. She’s hung a sheet in the doorway to keep the cool air in the kitchen, and drawn shades to keep the sun – already blazing in May – out of her second-floor New Orleans apartment. Her home was badly damaged by Hurricane Ida in 2021, and heat radiates from the gutted walls.

“All the heat’s up here,” she says. “I don’t have to go out in the sun. I get a suntan inside.”

Gellot’s sweltering apartment is not just uncomfortable; it’s dangerous. Extreme heat was linked to some 11,000 deaths and 120,000 emergency room visits last year. Heat injuries don’t just happen in sun-soaked fields – older adults like Gellot who live alone and cannot escape stifling, poorly insulated units are among the most at risk.

Conventional wisdom and public policy have long operated on the assumption that, no matter how bad the heat gets, air conditioning will be enough to keep people safe. But the last few years of record-breaking temperatures are shattering that myth.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/11/air-conditioning-protect-extreme-heat

Storm-battered homes like Gellot’s lack proper insulation. Power grids stumble and fail during periods of high demand. And many cooling systems are simply not powerful enough to contend with the worsening heat. Some experts have begun to warn of the looming threat of a “Heat Katrina” – a mass-casualty heat event. A study published last year that modeled heatwave-related blackouts in different cities showed that a two-day blackout in Phoenix could lead to the deaths of more than 12,000 people.
27 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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'It's unbearable': in ever-hotter US cities, air conditioning is no longer enough (Original Post) BlueWaveNeverEnd Jun 15 OP
Whoever owns the apartment videohead5 Jun 15 #1
NOLA is not exactly the code enforcement kind of town. They may not even have much code to enforce. dutch777 Jun 15 #3
Louisiana's wealth gets sucked out by oil companies. Hermit-The-Prog Jun 15 #21
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Aussie105 Jun 15 #2
It's been about ten years since swamp coolers were effective in dryer areas. Hugin Jun 15 #4
My house doesn't even have air conditioning DFW Jun 15 #5
One of my best friends had to install a/c in her Seattle condo. She's lived there for years and never needed it. brewens Jun 15 #6
We haven't installed it here yet. DFW Jun 15 #8
We also don't have AC. When we moved in, we only had AllyCat Jun 15 #7
The house we live in was built in 1973. DFW Jun 15 #11
OMG! What a nightmare! AllyCat Jun 15 #13
Here, we know people who live in 600 year old houses who have had less trouble than we have. DFW Jun 15 #16
Ours was built fine. It's the modifications that have AllyCat Jun 15 #24
if... myohmy2 Jun 15 #19
We're getting to the point that everything south of 30 degrees north latitude is uninhabitable paleotn Jun 15 #9
Central air seems like a good idea, but my old house doesn't have ducts. JustABozoOnThisBus Jun 15 #10
Same as our condo. Many neighbors have opted for ductless heat pumps karynnj Jun 15 #14
Get mini-splits LovelyStuff Jun 15 #18
This one example, just one city, makes the headline invalid and unreliable. NOLA does not represent US cities. ancianita Jun 15 #12
We replaced our central A/C unit last year Klondike Kat Jun 15 #15
It was in the 80's here in February and May saw a heat index of 109. It's only June and it feels like August already. Solly Mack Jun 15 #17
We replaced the air handler SARose Jun 15 #20
Just listened to the forecast for western NY for the coming week. wnylib Jun 15 #22
They used to build for shade and cross breezes. LisaM Jun 15 #23
BlueWaveNeverEnd............ Upthevibe Jun 15 #25
We put in a metal roof a few years ago. JoeOtterbein Jun 15 #26
I was in New Orleans last summer, it was 110 in the shade, for days. Passages Jun 15 #27

videohead5

(2,272 posts)
1. Whoever owns the apartment
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 07:45 AM
Jun 15

Should fix it. I can't believe the city is ignoring code violations. Sure, air conditioning is not enough when her apartment is damaged.

dutch777

(3,183 posts)
3. NOLA is not exactly the code enforcement kind of town. They may not even have much code to enforce.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 07:59 AM
Jun 15

I was shocked visiting there a few years after Katrina as to how much infrastructure was just left damaged from Katrina and was truly a hazard. Washouts in street gutters that were deep enough to turn an ankle in, huge sections of sidewalk undermined and heaved and major tripping hazards especially as so many streets are poorly lit at night and on and on. It's really a poor city that is poorly run and underfinanced that just happens to be a major tourist attraction. So imagine what small town Louisiana or many other places are like and how folks are pretty much on their own.

Aussie105

(5,766 posts)
2. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 07:59 AM
Jun 15

Soak a bedsheet with water, get naked, wrap yourself in the wet sheet, sit in front of the air conditioner - or just a fan.

Keep your head cool - a baseball cap soaked with water does it for me.

Minimal exercise, drink lots of cold fluids, non alcoholic.

All those air conditioners, dumping heat outside a building. Don't go out there!

Hugin

(33,659 posts)
4. It's been about ten years since swamp coolers were effective in dryer areas.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 08:14 AM
Jun 15

Sahara heat outside and Congo heat inside. Bleah!

DFW

(55,248 posts)
5. My house doesn't even have air conditioning
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 08:28 AM
Jun 15

Up until ten or so years ago, we never missed it. In the last ten years, we have had to go down and sleep in the guest room in the basement a few times. This year, curiously enough, it has been unseasonally cool. We haven't even broken 20° for weeks.

brewens

(14,117 posts)
6. One of my best friends had to install a/c in her Seattle condo. She's lived there for years and never needed it.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:19 AM
Jun 15

She was used to only a few days out of the summer being a little too warm.

DFW

(55,248 posts)
8. We haven't installed it here yet.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:26 AM
Jun 15

It would be a very expensive undertaking. Air conditioning in houses is pretty rare this far north. It is far more prevalent in North America than it is here.

AllyCat

(16,515 posts)
7. We also don't have AC. When we moved in, we only had
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:24 AM
Jun 15

3 or 4 days a year we even needed it and then we used a window unit. Old Victorian houses have the windows placed to maximize breezes.

The last 2 years have been awful. We are going to have to have it installed.

DFW

(55,248 posts)
11. The house we live in was built in 1973.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:37 AM
Jun 15

We bought it in 1990, and it was a pretty façade with a disaster behind every wall. We moved in in November during a cold snap (below freezing), and the heating died within a few days. Then we started getting short circuits in the electricity, which turned out to be due to the walls not being insulated. Mold started showing up on the walls. We called an electrician, who at first thought he'd be here a couple of hours. He was here a week. The guy built the house also installed his own telephone lines, which entered at basement level, and then he encased the phone wire to the ground level in cement (!!) so that no one could get to them. We spent a fortune getting the ground dug up at the back wall, and the whole house isolated, and then the whole thing re-constituted. It looked like the aftermath of an artillery strike. We FINALLY got the moisture problem under control, but when it's 38° outside, there's no external troubleshooting that will help. We'll be forced to consider air conditioning some day, I'm sure. So far, that's not the case, but we know that the warming only takes a coffee break every now and then. It never quits altogether.

AllyCat

(16,515 posts)
13. OMG! What a nightmare!
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:51 AM
Jun 15

Ours is “century-old house” problems. Old modifications from generations of DIYers. We just remodeled our kitchen and it took months doing it ourselves and trying to fix years of projects.

DFW

(55,248 posts)
16. Here, we know people who live in 600 year old houses who have had less trouble than we have.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:54 AM
Jun 15

Their houses were worked on over the centuries by people who knew what they were doing (at the time). Ours was built by someone who knew a little, which turned out to be way TOO little.

AllyCat

(16,515 posts)
24. Ours was built fine. It's the modifications that have
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 10:50 AM
Jun 15

Been the problems. Good bones at least. I’ve been outside in the yard and had people walk by and say “Yeah, I did some work on this house 50 years ago”.

Yeah, buddy, wanna come in and fix it? On second thought, never mind.

myohmy2

(3,394 posts)
19. if...
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 10:03 AM
Jun 15

...you have regular sashed windows a couple of $180 easily installed 5000btu window air conditioners placed at opposite ends of your living level will go a long way in keeping you cool...

...they're cheap to run, quick to install and disposable when broken ...

...put them in in May and take them out in October...

...

paleotn

(18,416 posts)
9. We're getting to the point that everything south of 30 degrees north latitude is uninhabitable
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:31 AM
Jun 15

New Orleans, Houston, Miami. Wonder if I'll live to see a time when the habitable line shifts to 35 degrees north latitude and the entire south is unlivable. Didn't think I'd live to see what I've seen so far. We thought all this warming would impact the middle to last half of the 21st century. I'm afraid not.

JustABozoOnThisBus

(23,550 posts)
10. Central air seems like a good idea, but my old house doesn't have ducts.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:34 AM
Jun 15

It has steam pipes.

I guess I'll just continue to use window units and portable air conditioners.

karynnj

(59,625 posts)
14. Same as our condo. Many neighbors have opted for ductless heat pumps
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:51 AM
Jun 15

that can cool and heat in conjunction with the original heating. All of the people we know are happy with it. This is Vermont, so there are few days where I turn the window unit on upstairs. The downstairs seems to always stay cool.

Here's a Vermont Gas link to show what it is. https://vgsvt.com/heatpumps/

LovelyStuff

(12 posts)
18. Get mini-splits
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 10:01 AM
Jun 15

I've just had them installed. Kinda expensive, like everything nowadays. Mini-splits are ductless air conditioners, with a condenser outside and the inside heads have to be attached to an outside wall. My 1927 house is fairly small (1100 sq ft, not counting the unfinished basement and attic) and is hot water heated (boiler with radiators) so no ducts. I get by with two heads, one in the living room and one in my bedroom. With the doors open it cools the whole house. Only had them for two weeks, but seems to be working well.

ancianita

(37,046 posts)
12. This one example, just one city, makes the headline invalid and unreliable. NOLA does not represent US cities.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:38 AM
Jun 15

Nor does the Guardian link any lists of any cities, just the CDC's mention of regions, meaning not just cities.

Klondike Kat

(823 posts)
15. We replaced our central A/C unit last year
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:54 AM
Jun 15

Just a smidge under $6,000. I had just retired and received a heft lump-sum payout for unused vacation and sick leave, so I was able to pay for it.

It's getting hotter here in central MN, too. Heat and humidity, but still nothing like they've got in the South.

Solly Mack

(91,190 posts)
17. It was in the 80's here in February and May saw a heat index of 109. It's only June and it feels like August already.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 09:56 AM
Jun 15

August being the hottest month here. Actual August is going to be bad. We have AC but we keep it at 70, using ceiling fans and blackout curtains to keep the house cooler.

Southwest Central Louisiana.

SARose

(552 posts)
20. We replaced the air handler
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 10:07 AM
Jun 15

this year. Nine years old. The San Antonio area had 75 days last summer over 100. Spend most of the summer with blinds closed and bought thermal drapes.

We run our central air 24/7 8/9 months a year. Ceiling fans everywhere.

Looking forward to tropical moisture forecast for next week.

wnylib

(22,842 posts)
22. Just listened to the forecast for western NY for the coming week.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 10:10 AM
Jun 15

Temps in the 90s F for most of the week.

I live in an upper floor apartment on the west side of my building so I get the afternoon sun at my windows. No shade on my side of the building. I will have my blinds closed most of the week and will use electric appliances and lights sparingly to preserve energy. A/C will be on steadily in all the apts. as well as in other buildings in the area. Hope we don't have a blackout. Or even a brownout.

LisaM

(28,001 posts)
23. They used to build for shade and cross breezes.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 10:27 AM
Jun 15

Now, not so much, not to mention that they are determined to pack us all into skyscrapers in the name of density. It's pretty hard to get get OR s cross breeze 15 stories up when you only have windows on one side. Having trees and shade makes a world of difference but in Washington they are constantly ripping out trees to build more dense housing.

Upthevibe

(8,383 posts)
25. BlueWaveNeverEnd............
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 10:57 AM
Jun 15

Thanks for this.....

I've posted recently that I was in TX (Dallas) for most of this year. I came back home to California on June 3rd.

Being in TX was a hellacious experience. There was a horrible storm that hit on May 28th. I was there working for a friend and dog sitting in her home (she was vacationing out of the country). We lost electricity for six days! Other folks have posted about the horror that is Oncor and are they right!

I ended up having to stay at a hotel six nights for air conditioning and power.

Passages

(530 posts)
27. I was in New Orleans last summer, it was 110 in the shade, for days.
Sat Jun 15, 2024, 11:42 AM
Jun 15

I can understand why experts refer to the threat as a Heat Katrina.

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