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Let’s Air Condition the Outside, Why Don’t We?

2010 June 15

grundahlIt’s that time of the year again when the weather gets hot and I get very frustrated as I walk the streets here in center city Philadelphia. Many stores have their doors wide open, air conditioning the outside, wasting energy. Last summer I thought to myself, maybe they just don’t understand how what they are doing wastes resources, produces air pollution and exacerbates global warming. So, I tried one-on-one education, first talking to the greeters, then talking to managers. They were nice but they blew me off.

I didn’t “get it” until one of the managers said, “When we open our doors we get more foot traffic and our sales go up.  We know because we track daily sales and experimented.“ It was an “Ah-hah!” moment. Keeping the doors open means more money. Even if the managers understood the environmental impact of what they were doing, their sales revenue was more important. The managers weren’t getting evaluated on how much energy they used, but by how many sales they made. Particularly in this recession when every sale counts, what right do any of us have to ask a business to keep its doors closed and sell less?

But now there’s the oil catastrophe in the Gulf. With scenes of the destruction constantly before us, I expect everyone to understand now, even if they didn’t before, about the many connections there are between how we live our lives and the health of the environment. So will other people now also be bothered by the open doors? Or, am I being too idealistic? And, what should retailers do?

Retailers who want to learn more about “going green” can visit EPA’s Retail Industry Portal.

About the Author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently manages the web for the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division. Before getting involved with the web, she worked as an environmental scientist. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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22 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    June 15, 2010

    Histories taught to us that the wisdom were came late, after the disasters were happened. Many Holiness came here, but just to the man, not to protect the environmental. So, their result just were wars – destructed this planet. Now, seem the riots could rise to choose a protector of the environmental. Not the other ways……!!!!!

  2. Mark Prebilic permalink
    June 15, 2010

    I am bothered by the open doors. Also, people who leave their cars idling in order to keep them air-conditioned – even sometimes when no one is inside! Or even leave them idling whenever they are sitting in them, even if the windows are open. The only way to keep this type of behavior from polluting the environment is by having 100% renewable power and 100% electric vehicles. Impossible? Hey, we lived for a hundred years with 100% coal power and 100% oil-powered vehicles and no one seemed to mind.

  3. Pete G permalink
    June 15, 2010

    What about using an air curtain? That way they could increase business and save energy.

  4. William H permalink
    June 15, 2010

    I would agree with you about the waste of energy but why would you need a store manager to tell you about increased sales. Isn’t that part obvious and don’t you think they care about their energy bill, as well as the environment?

    And the link you’ve provided should have drilled down to the technological answer you allude to. The high level citation doesn’t do anyone any good. If there’s not a technoligical answer then the EPA should highlight that as a business opportunity.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    June 15, 2010

    One of the problem areas for green house gas emissions is commercial refrigeration systems. Fortunately, there are technological solutions that not only will result in much less greenhouse gas emissions but in lower power bills. The EPA has a voluntary program with the grocery industry that has been very successful. The Energy Star program has also been very successful. And from these, can come solutions for all of retailing. Fans are a better option than air conditioners if the store’s doors are to stay propped open. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. Rachel Fain permalink
    June 15, 2010

    I used to work in a building in downtown LA and had to wear gloves with no fingers in the middle of the summer to be able to type b/c my hands were so cold. If all the buildings in downtown LA, and probably every other major city, would turn down the air conditioning a degree or two the world would be better off and probably many works would not freeze all summer.

  7. Jacobo permalink
    June 16, 2010

    How do you measure an industry that is giving some life to the comunity with an egg farm giving some food, and still be so mad at the air that we breath using their dumps to fertilizethe earth but hurting the quality of the air that we breath. My o my, does it stinks, I wonder how dangerous could be all the hormones that are being smell through the air. My Valley of La Plata, jewel between the mountains, stunk by the industry. PLEASE TAKE A LOOK IN BARRIO LA PLATA, AIBONITO PR where an air contamination might be able to damage health of the population.

  8. Jan permalink
    June 16, 2010

    There are ways to keep rooms cool without air-conditioning:
    – having windows opened at night and closing them early in the morning to trap the cool air
    -…or alowing air flow with having windows open during the day. It is an air flow over the skin that cools the skin
    – light colored roof that reflects the sunshine
    – building wall insulation that keeps the heat outside
    – shadow from the trees

  9. KevinWalker1 permalink
    June 16, 2010

    I am agree with Pete G.

  10. Steve Smith permalink
    June 16, 2010

    The cool air coming from the stores is inviting and a big part of what increases sales. Not just that the door is open.
    That said, you could ask the managers if the increase in sales more than compensates for the higher utility bills. They may also be able to reduce the amount of loss by having a fan control the amount of cool air that escapes. But from a business point of view, the cool air serves the same function as a restaurant pumping the smell of cooked meat onto the street, it attracts customers.

  11. Matt C permalink
    June 16, 2010

    Pete G’s got the right idea!

    Nice blog article. I thought it was interesting that the added electric cooling expense incurred by leaving the shop doors wide-open didn’t out-weigh the added influx of shoppers. I would have guessed that businesses would have wanted their entrances closed to conserve energy?

  12. Sharon Tinianow permalink
    June 16, 2010

    I dislike seeing store doors hanging open as much as anyone and personally avoid stores that do this. However, linking the oil spill in the Gulf to air conditioning “abuse” is tricky, especially in states where the main fuel for electricity is coal. Oil is the main fuel for transporation so linking our choices about driving is far more logical. As far as the economic impact of air conditioning the outdoors, as long as electricity is cheap (like it is in the midwest) retail managers will have little incentive to keep the doors closed.

  13. Al Bannet permalink
    June 17, 2010

    Planet Earth has its own air-conditioning system and we humans interfere with it at our peril, as in global warming, mountains of garbage and oceans of trash.

  14. Dan Riddle permalink
    June 22, 2010

    I saw the same phenomenon when I went to St. Thomas. Boy was it HOT. When you went walking down the sidewalks of the expensive shops you could feel the alluring cold air as it bellowed out the open doors. They were trying to draw you in.

  15. Nancy Grundahl permalink
    July 7, 2010

    Some stores just rent their space and don’t get charged for the amount of energy they use for lighting or heating or cooling. Our rented EPA space in Philadelphia is the same way.

  16. Kevin Megan permalink
    September 10, 2010

    they can redesign there store by making there windows bigger so that buyers can clearly see and place a cat Chinese figurine in front of the store

  17. air-condition permalink
    October 29, 2010

    A good info! Here in Finland, it is difficult to get warm cheap yet stylish football boots…

  18. HyunChard permalink
    January 10, 2011

    With new technology comes enhancements to air conditioning systems. As time goes on, air conditioners will become more energy efficient.

  19. Home Appliances permalink
    February 17, 2011

    Home Appliances are the elecrical or mechanical devices which have been used to perform various household functions such as cooking and cleaning effectively.

  20. permalink
    April 11, 2013

    Using an aire curtain would be a great way to save energy. Air curtains provide a fantastic air tight seal that is a real energy saver. Not only does it keep heat in, but it keeps the cold out. These are used often in food storage unites, but can make the crossover to more small scale use.

  21. permalink
    June 8, 2013

    I like your blog and writing was that I have done many have asked this thank you

  22. Genny @ Auto Air Conditioner Repair Cape Coral permalink
    September 6, 2013

    That’s quite interesting idea, It will be advantageous to environment and health. Good going.

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