This Calculation Explains Why It's Cheaper To Pay For Air Conditioning

Photo: flickr/rosengrant

I don’t have an air conditioner. Am I smug about it? A little. But that’s because it’s all I’ve got to hold on to when I’m lethargic, smelly and faintly dehydrated all summer.I tell myself that I can’t afford an air conditioner, but I think I might just be cheap. Plus, I always begin each summer optimistically: I tell myself that summer’s not all that bad! That I can do this! But that’s in May, when it’s always in the 70s.

In July, the heat is relentless, my apartment never gets below 90 degrees, and I’m cranky. By then, I’ve got it in my mind that it’s too late in the summer, that I don’t have enough money for an AC unit, and I’ll just have to wait it out. Plus, I think heat is a little bit like pain: You remember it’s bad, but you quickly forget just how bad.

But am I really saving money by not having an AC? What about the discomfort, or the lack of sleep, or the terrible sweetness? By my logic, I deserve lots of treats for saving myself from high electricity bills. Do those treats add up to more than the cost of a window unit? Let’s find out! 

I’ll go with this unit recommended by The Wirecutter since they already did the research, saving me from sweating over my laptop. Total cost: $219

Let’s go ahead and say I keep it for five years, because that’s how long the first reviewer on Amazon said the AC compressor is good for (and again, I’m cheap).

I used this website which shows how much electricity household appliances use, and plugged in the type of AC I’d use, and estimated I would use it 20 days per month, 10 hours per day. Total cost per month: $54 (adjusting for inflation)

Total cost per summer: $209
Total cost for five years: $1,045

Thinking back on the last few years, here are all the ways I’ve tried to beat each summer the heat, sans-AC:

• Ice cream cones: $20/month  
• Lemonade and other refreshing beverages: $30/month
• Movie tickets: $25 (I’m not a big movie person, but they do have some good AC)
• Doing laundry nearly twice as often because I’m sweaty: $6.50/month
• Lunches bought at work because it was too hot to cook the night before: $32/month
• Dinner out because it’s too hot in my apartment: $30/month
• 75% more showers: let’s just say $20 for extra soap and shampoo
• Electricity bill from running a fan all night: $0.18/night according to this website,$6/month
• And finally, there’s the inevitable day each summer when I crack because I’m so uncomfortable that I march to the nearest clothing store and buy myself some new summer dresses, and immediately feel guilty: $100 per summer

Total cost per summer: $518
Total cost for five years: $2,592

Verdict: Wow. The numbers do not lie, and although I am a thrifty lady, it seems as though AC would be the way to go. I just need to first get over my internalized notion that AC is a luxury I can do without, or that having one means I will be cooped up in my apartment all summer. I need to finally admit to myself that I am a person who cannot deal with the heat. And then I will go buy an air conditioner. Immediately.

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