Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published September 24, 2000.)
Q: My friend turns his air-conditioning off when he goes to work, goes on vacation or plans on being out of the house for more than a few hours. It gets up to 100 degrees in his house. Is he really saving money on his electric bill?
A: Coincidentally, as this is written, the air-conditioning is off here at the Valley 101 offices on the No. 9 parapet of the Dark Tower.
Our masters, who are sipping cool drinks and being fanned and fed grapes by interns, tell us this is a temporary malfunction, but in some of the more primitive areas of the newsroom there are mutterings of human experiments being carried out.
Nonetheless, brow dripping, we soldier on.
We have reason to believe that your friend—and we don’t mean to get too technical here — is a dope. We got partial confirmation of this by consulting with the estimable Scott Harelson, a Salt River Project
Yes, said Harelson, if you are going to be gone for a long time, like a couple weeks or so, you might savemoney and energy by turning the air-conditioner off. However, the unit is going to have to work really,
really hard to cool the place off when you get home, because the whole house—walls, floors, furniture, pots and pans and the goldfish—are going to be pretty well baked by then. So your savings might be
But if you’re only going to work or going to be out for a little while, SRP recommends turning the thermostat up just 4 to 6 degrees above your comfort level. Turning the air-conditioning off for a short-term outing will not save money or energy because of the effort involved in cooling the house down.
Our masters insist the air-conditioning will be on again soon.
Meanwhile, they have called for more grapes.