July 1, 2012

Temperature Control: Sweat vs. Air Conditioning

Are you hot yet?

The summer is turning, umm, a tad warm. And perspiration is everywhere. For some reason Western culture has a problem with perspiration, exemplified by the Victorian-era pronunciation that "Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow".

Glow my foot. When I was done with cello practice yesterday, I had to wipe the glow off my forehead. I never suspected that playing the cello can be an upper-body workout. We have the attic fan on, and the living room has been pleasant enough to sit in - until the cello practice, when one is only ostensibly sitting on a chair.

My first reaction: Ack! I'm sweating! But then I shrugged and got on with it. I mean, the cool thing in yoga now (or should it be called the hot thing?) is hot yoga, where they heat the room to 90F and make you do vigorous yoga. But I don't need that: I can do hot cello, right in my living room.

Many cultures value perspiration: think of the sauna, the spa, the hot spring resorts in volcanic regions, and hot yoga. Because it turns out sweating is good for you.

About the smell: it is the secretion of chemicals induced by anxiety that makes your sweat smell. In contrast, relaxation sweat doesn't smell (of course, all old sweat does smell). Think about it: when you're giving an important presentation, or at your annual evaluation, or when you get frustrated sitting in traffic: those are the situations that make your sweat smell. But on your weekend run, or when you're out hammering a play stand for your children and whistling quietly to yourself, or when you're paddling around the lake, you get good clean sweat.

Relaxed sweat really is clean, for it has bacteria-fighting properties: it works to keep the bacteria on your skin from invading you, thus keeping infections and colds at bay. Sweat is even on your side in your fight to keep down acne and other facial impurities. That's why when you go to a spa for a facial, the first thing they do is drape your face in a hot towel.

Then, at the end of the day (or earlier if you can't wait), you can wash the sweat plus the impurities away in a nice cool shower. Even a quick navy shower, if you make the water progressively cooler as you go, can give you a nice reset in your body temperature: there is nothing like running water to take away excess body heat.

Of course, you could turn on the air conditioning. If you are very young, or very old, or pregnant, it's probably a good idea. Once a luxury reserved for the 1%, it has made its way into most of our homes, offices, and cars. But there are good reasons to keep the AC turned off as much as you can.

Air conditioning makes the air very dry: it's hard on your skin, and hard on your breathing apparatus, so it's not surprising that it tends to give problems in the respiratory system, such as irritations of the throat, and allergic reactions. It doesn't help that the cold components collect water condensation, so AC systems tend to harbour molds.

Air conditioning takes a huge amount of energy, as everyone with an electric bill knows. On your car, it does a number on the fuel efficiency: while above 45mph it's more efficient to close the windows and drive with the AC on, at lower speeds you're much better off driving with the windows open. Apart from the happiness factor, you get a chance to really air the car interior, and you're not collecting mold in the manifolds.

The compressors make the rest of the world a lot warmer, and the refrigerants either tend to poke a hole in the ozone layer (like the chloro-fluorocarbons which have been phased out of new units), or they are ferocious greenhouse gases, like the currently popular Puron (1500 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2). Either way, they leak out over time.

Going in and out of air conditioned spaces is terribly hard on the body; I'm one of those people who get exhausted from walking into a deeply air conditioned space: all I want to do is fall asleep. And coming out of air conditioning makes a reasonably warm day feel unbearable. I find it less tiring to skip the air conditioning altogether and stay warm.

Besides, what would summer be without a little sweat?

Keep your cool:
Park in the shade
Drink enough water
Slow down (it's summer)
Eat cucumbers
Take frequent cool/cold showers
Consent to sweat a bit, and emerge acne-free



  1. I'm hopping over from Monday Meet & Greet. LOL, I didn't realize there were so many kinds of sweat! Cute post, thank you!
    Huge green hugs,
    Pat @ Green Living Thrifty Frog blog

  2. Wow this is really a very informative post. Lots of facts I didn't know. Thanks!!

  3. Thanks for sharing on my FB page... I thought that driving in the car there was speed that it was more efficient to drive with the windows closed but I never knew what it was!

    1. You're right, Leigh, and that magic speed is 45 mph. I think that assumes the windows wide open. But I find you can get a long way, cooling-wise, from opening front and rear windows a little bit to get the air flow. I'm so not into those manifold molds.


You have an opinion: Let's hear it.
(Comments are moderated; please be patient).