Air conditioning has had a more profound effect on the United States than any other place in the world. AC has changed where people are willing to live. It has increased productivity, particularly in areas where prolonged summer heat once stifled the ability of individuals to work to their potential.
The most obvious change that air conditioning brought was comfort. From a small apartment to the largest home, individuals no longer had to risk heat exhaustion during 100 degree summer days. They could maintain their normal level of activity without sacrificing their health in the process.
Massive heat waves in modern countries have killed many people. In 2003, some 70,000 Europeans died due to the extreme heat and the lack of air conditioning. The ageing population in the United States can age more slowly, too, without the stress of merciless summer heat. Hospitals can take better care of patients. AC ensures that the hard-working nurses, medical technicians and doctors aren’t under the additional stress of heat exhaustion. Operations and other procedures are safer when the temperature is controlled.
Nowhere has air conditioning had a more definite effect than the U.S. South. Texas was the first state where half the population had AC. That was 1970. Now the entire South is air conditioned. AC businesses and homes acted like an invitation to the rest of the U.S. After years of losing jobs and people to states with cooler climates, the South has exploded in population.
AC has always been a great business partner. It started with air conditioned theaters, which attracted huge crowds who wanted to cool off as much as they wanted to watch the latest picture show. Shoppers flocked to air conditioned stores, and they stayed longer. Some would argue that the modern mall wouldn’t be possible without AC. Employees become more efficient in the summer when the AC kept them cool. The business high-rise would be a nightmare without AC. Industrial sites could ease their sweat shop image with the introduction of AC to the premises.
Of course, there is always a downside to everything. People stay indoors more than they should, although trends show that is changing with the emphasis on physical fitness and weight maintenance. Then there’s the energy use, but even that is being addressed vigorously by new technologies. There’s greater emphasis on efficiency from modern AC units, and there is renewed emphasis on a diversity of clean energy sources.
Without air conditioning, there would still be life in America, but the pace would slow to a stop in summer, and progress, productivity and health would all take a hit.