(Here in Texas, we pretend like we have all four seasons. But in reality, we have two – hot and not so warm. So we thought it would be interesting to see what folks who live way north of here put up with on a yearly basis. We asked our friends at Hogg Heating and AC in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada to describe the summers and winters up north of the border. Here’s what Peter Wagner had to say.)
In the middle of last weekend’s gorgeous weather, I remember stepping into our (coolish) house thinking, “Will I ever be glad when we don’t need air conditioning anymore this season?” How bad is that? After the winter we had – where the furnace was going constantly, the natural gas bills were 20% higher than the year before, and the air in the house was bone dry – I was complaining about how cool our house was compared to being outside. That got me thinking summer (and air conditioning) in Ontario is way more comfortable than winter (and heating).
Let me elaborate.The most obvious distinction between summer and winter here is how long and severe the winter season is. You don’t have to think about it for long to realize that while we need air conditioning at various times for four months max, but we need heating (usually a furnace) CONSTANTLY FOR AT LEAST FIVE! While we need the A/C – what do we need it to do? Cool the building down 10⁰-15⁰ F (5⁰-8⁰ C). Contrast that with making the building 75⁰ F (24⁰ C) when it’s 0⁰ F (-18⁰ C) outside. Obviously the extra 60 degrees make it a lot easier for a properly sized air conditioner to keep up. While the temperature fluctuates a bit, over 98% of the hours between December and April here in Ontario need heat of some sort. We only need to cool the building 24 hours a day once or twice a summer. We all know how nice it is to be able to open the window at night after running the A/C throughout the day!
Secondly – the clothing! We don’t need any extra layers if we want to go outside in the summer. Yet no one would think about leaving the house without a coat, boots and something over our hands (no hat, sorry Mom…). Although most houses have spots where the air conditioning is more effective than others, you don’t need to wear something different depending where you are in the house during the summer. I have friends who love to point out how interesting it is that I’m in the heating business, yet when they come to our house for dinner in the winter, they’ll likely need a sweater at one end of the dining room. (We have old, single-pane windows – but the heating system works fine, thanks).
The last reason is not so obvious – humidity. While the problem is there’s too much humidity in the summer, our homes have uncomfortably low humidity in the winter. The dry air leads to dry skin, chapped lips, etc. In summer, air conditioning reduces humidity (making it more comfortable in your home). But the furnace actually makes the air inside the house drier. When the furnace is fired, the heat of the flame (and the heat exchanger) burns off the relative humidity. We are all familiar with getting a static electricity shock in the middle of winter when we accidentally shuffle our feet on the carpet!
So while we may not like the “chill” coming in from outside, it sure beats no coats, dry air, chapped lips, and big gas bills! Believe me, we’re all incredibly jealous of those Texas winters!
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