There are lots of things that divide us. But in the summer one of the most hotly debated issues is to sleep with the A/C on or not.
The world divides into twos. Cat people and dog people. Introverts and extroverts. Those who like the mountains and those who prefer the sea. Larks and owls. Now, to forestall all the trolls who are sure to take this seriously and write screeds about their equal passion for Troodos and Napa, let me just say this is a way to make my point. Which is this. Air conditioning… you either love it or hate it.
Not in the daytime (I’ve yet to meet anyone who wasn’t up for a quick blast of A/C after a walk down Ledra), but at night. When the evening draws in, and it’s time to pile under the covers, do you automatically hit that button, or do you throw open the window and – on very sultry nights – turn on the fan?
Personally, I’m an advocate of sleeping in A/C. For many reasons. Firstly, I’m deathly afraid of bugs. Open windows mean mosquitos (which I can deal with, annoying though they are), moths (they’re so flappy!), and cockroaches – which I’m totally unable to cope with. Secondly, dark and quiet. If you’re going to sleep sans climate control, then the dawn will hit you like a CIA torture session, light straight in the eyes. The same goes for noise – if you’re the kind of person who can snore through the dawn chorus (read: local canines) then good for you. I wake at the slightest disturbance, which is, luckily, covered by the white noise of the A/C. Lastly, snuggliness. I love my quilt. And when the day has been long, hot and sweaty, there’s simply nothing like taking a cool shower, cranking the wall unit up to the max, and jumping under a comforting comforter. (Sometimes I even play my rain app, and pretend I’m back home in the cool of the Costwolds!).
Now, all of this does play havoc with a) my savings and b) the environment. I’ve actually started an A/C Jar’, which fills with spare change, the odd 5 euro note and – if I can manage it – a solid 20 euros a week. And this goes quite a way towards offsetting the hideous electricity bill when it slams (weightily, and with an odd smell of sulphur) into my postbox every couple of months.
But it’s the environmental aspects of all-night A/C that really bother me: split units consume huge amounts of energy and pump both harmful greenhouse gases and heat straight out into the atmosphere… Ever noticed how the city seems a lot warmer than it used to be? That’s thousands of air conditioning units dumping excess warmth – temperatures in many cities around the globe are now up to 2 degrees higher than they were a decade ago purely for this reason!
According to a local government survey, over 80 per cent of local households now use air conditioning units during the summer months (not just at night!), with nearly three quarters of these installed within the last decade (hence that two-degree increase). Compared with the rest of Europe, this is staggeringly high. Okay, it’s not as hot abroad but, apparently, only 2 per cent of Germans have air conditioning in their homes, a mere 5 per cent of the French and, even in Italy where temperatures soar only 30 per cent of households boast climate control. In fact, we’re only beaten by Greece, where more than 90 per cent of homes have at least one split unit. And while the annual energy consumption of a typical household for space cooling is 1.107 KWh of electricity, almost a fifth of Cyprus’ total electricity usage goes on cooling (in comparison, America only uses 5 per cent for this purpose).
So, okay, A/C is not good for the environment (and also not great for us – if you’re not getting your units serviced on a regular basis, all sorts of nasties will be lurking), and it costs a lot. But, for many of us, it’s still an absolute necessity come high summer. And while there are those who swear by it, despite the pitfalls and the damage to the environment (#idorecycle) there are, strangely enough, more than a few local residents who can’t stand it. But are their concerns for the good of the planet, or are they more worried about other aspects of all-night A/C use, I wonder?
Of the 30-odd people in the straw poll, 22 were totally pro-air conditioning. Their responses ranged from “seriously?!! – who sleeps without it?!!!” to the more mundanely punctuated “I’d never survive a Cyprus summer if I didn’t have A/C.” But of the eight vocal antis, only two cited their electricity bill (who are all these people with more money than sense?) and one solitary eco-friendly soul mentioned the environment: “I’m mindful with energy usage, be it air conditioning or lighting. Same goes for showering – quick showers always.” The majority of the A/C-haters were single (two people in a bed = double the sweat!), and one inveterate bachelor was vociferous about his love of bringing the outdoors in: “Climate control cuts you off from the sounds and smells and sociability of summer; the crickets, the night jasmine, kids in the park.” But for the most part, the gripe about A/C during the small hours concerned “the stagnant, stale atmosphere” (and, more than once, a love of sleeping in the nude!).
Which brings us – lengthily – back to the original point: when it comes to cooling off, there’s no middle ground. Those of us who happily blast our air conditioning all night long can’t live without it (despite the inconvenient truth!). And those who are totally against A/C just can’t understand our passion for all-night cooling. Suffice to say, this is one local topic that’s highly divisive. Whether you prefer cats or dogs, Napa or Troodos, A/C usage is an issue that truly boils (or freezes!) the blood!