A study from Bethesda University in Maryland, USA, found that ‘the death rate for persons who had central air-conditioning was 42 percent lower than the rate for persons who did not have air-conditioning’. A CSIRO study into preparation for extreme hot weather in residential aged care homes found that heatwaves cause excess deaths. Conditions that are mitigated or eliminated with air-conditioning during a heatwave include cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney failure, and dehydration. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Growing up in the Sutherland Shire
If you grew up in the 50s and 60s, only the very well off had anything that resembled central heating. And an air-conditioning unit was considered to be the height of luxury. Not only were the units expensive, but also, running costs were prohibitive for most. Even in public places, air-conditioning was more a novelty than the norm. As school children, we eagerly watched the weather in summer; we knew that hitting that magical 100F meant a day off school ‒ no air-conditioning to keep us comfortable at our desks.
So what happened?
Women in the workforce
Australia in the 1950s and 1960s was a conservative society in which men went to work and women (apart from ‘female’ professions like nursing and teaching) stayed home and managed the household. Until 1966, a woman working in the Australian public service had to leave her job when she married. As obstacles to women’s work were removed, more women entered the workforce. That meant not only increased household income but also exposure to air-conditioned offices helped office workers understand the benefits of air-conditioning. Of course, business owners installed air-conditioning not simply for the comfort of their workers; but because it provides a comfortable temperature and humidity level, which leads to better productivity.
Shopping malls and Sutherland Shire
The advent of the shopping mall that was air-conditioned in summer and heated in the winter exposed more and more Australians to those comforts. In the Sutherland Shire, Miranda Fair led the charge. Originally a Myer shopping centre, when it opened in 1964, it became the first regional centre to boast two department stores. Nearby Roselands wasn’t far behind, opening in 1965 and boasting Australia’s first food court. This attraction, combined with comfortable temperatures and humidity levels, meant greater numbers of visitors who enjoyed the ambience. It made going home to heat and humidity that much harder.
The Sutherland Shire home
Much of our housing in the Shire wasn’t built for extreme weather events. Typically, our homes weren’t designed with passive heating or cooling in mind (which is preferable). Now, as costs for air-conditioning units come down, more of us are installing air-conditioning. However, a big home will cost a great deal to cool and heat, even with a reverse-cycle unit. Most of us manage to cool one or two rooms only.
Ageing in place
As we age, our bodies are less equipped to handle extremes of heat and cold. Our metabolic responses to the cold may be slower; for example, our blood vessels might be slower to constrict in the cold to keep our temperature at a comfortable level.
Unfortunately, as our need for artificial heating and cooling rises, our income is dropping. Maybe it’s time to downsize to a property with cross breezes and good sunlight in winter that is less expensive to cool and heat. In the Sutherland Shire, you’ll find apartments, villas and townhouses that are generous in size while being more economical to run (even with air-conditioning).
Can we help with advice on downsizing?
Having navigated the home sale and downsizing process not only for our real estate clients but also for members of our own family, it’s an area in which we’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge. So don’t hesitate to seek out our help – no obligations.