Part of the "high-tech" cooling system in my bedroom in Littleton, Colo. The fan sucks in cool air -- but also frequently very poor quality air thanks to Denver's ozone issues and wildfire smoke, both directly related to the relentless, and insane, burning of fossil fuels by humanity. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

Am I sacrificing my own — and kids’ — health too much to reduce climate change?

The central AC unit (gray square near middle right of photo) gets very little use because I am loathe to use it due to the way it contributes to climate change. But bad and unhealthy air quality almost every day and night this summer means I am blowing in bad air into my condo and into my own, and my teen daughters’, lungs. Is my sacrifice to reduce my carbon footprint worth the costs I am paying in terms of my personal and my kids’ personal health? [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
editor's blog iconI am very committed to doing many things to reduce my environmental and carbon footprint. Among other things, I ==>

  • Set my heat in the winter to 68F during the day when I am home, 60F when I am away, and to 63F at night here in often very cold Colorado.
  • In the summer, I never turn on my central AC unless my first floor reaches a temperature of 80F or higher, and often I still skip the AC.
  • I have driven an electric car for 7.5 years, and it has been my ONLY car.
  • I had a 5.5 kW home solar system installed on a house in Aurora, Colo. in June 2010 and used it to fuel my first EV, an 2014 Nissan LEAF for 1.5 years before divorce forced me to sell the house with its solar system.
  • I worked for 18 months in my HOA community, Highline Crossing Cohousing Community, to persuade the community to pay for, and install, 20 kW of solar on our community house and on our shared garages.
  • I am currently working again to persuade my HOA community on solar, this time, to allow individual condo owners here to pay to have their own individual solar systems installed on the shared community HOA rooftop above each unit.
  • I have paid extra for so-called “Windsource” electricity from my utility, Xcel Energy, for six years.
  • I regularly contribute money to environmental and progressive journalism outlets and NGOs.
  • I eat very little meat, and zero red meat, consuming approximately 35 pounds of chicken/turkey (mostly in the form of sandwich meat) annually, or at least four to five times less meat than the average American consumes (some sources indicate that the average American consumes well over 200 pounds of meat per year; other sources put forward estimates that range from 60 pounds to about 150 pounds per year).
  • Yes, I know it is small, but I always bring my own bags when grocery shopping.
  • I have been actively advocating for solar-charged driving for 12 years on this web site, SolarChargedDriving.Com, which has had 400,000 visitors from more than 150 countries over that time period.

One thing that I also do: I almost never run my condo central AC at night here in Littleton, Colo. But, lately, I have been wondering at what cost to my own health and to my two teen daughters’ health — I have my teen daughters half time, since a 2015 divorce.

The air quality in the Denver area often is in the (very) unhealthy range. We have a lot of problems with ozone, in particular. This thanks in large part to a combination of our high altitude, thousands of active gas and oil wells in Colorado, millions of vehicles, all but about 35,000 of them gasoline fueled, and more and more people — about 100,000 new people every year — moving to Colorado for its “quality of life”, a long-running trend which, of course, continually undermines the quality of life here 😖😖😖.

A longer and much more intense wildfire season due to a rapidly unfolding climate emergency which has created lots and lots of relentless smoke this summer and across most other summers here for the past 20+ years worsens the air quality.

I do not run my central AC at night here in Littleton unless it is VERY hot because I know that running window fans and ceiling fans and pulling in cooler air from outside is A LOT more environmentally friendly than me running my condo’s central AC. However, when I use fans, I am often sucking in air rated at an Air Quality Index  (AQI) of 100 to 150, or VERY unhealthy air. And, I am blowing that air directly onto me for eight or nine hours every single night, night after night after night 😖.

If I were running my condo’s central AC, the air filter in my system would be filtering the air AND the indoor air would already, presumably be of (much) higher quality than the outdoor air typically now is in the summer. During the day, I close my windows and shades and do everything I can to keep the air inside cooler for as long as possible, with this presumably also helping the indoor air quality in the process.

The cooling system I have set up in my bedroom in Littleton, Colo. A window + ceiling fan. Is it destroying my lungs and health, and that of my daughters, thanks to consistently unhealthy quality air along Colorado’s entire Front Range? [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
Lately, I have really been wondering if I am significantly damaging my own and my daughters’ health by insisting on using fans, and outdoor air — which IS almost always cool enough — to cool us off at night rather than my central AC, which is drawing from the electric grid at a rate likely at least 10 times, probably quite a bit more, intense than a few window fans and ceiling fans draw.

I wonder what an air quality expert and/or air quality health expert/doctor would advise me to do?

Should I continue to suck in very poor quality air and blow it at myself, and my two daughters, all night long, night after night? Or should I relent and turn on my central AC, thereby contributing in much more intense and pronounced fashion to the climate emergency?

Any air quality experts out there who might be able to advise me?

Also, what do the climate activists think: Am I sacrificing too much of my own health and my daughters’ for relatively little benefit? What would you do? What are you doing during these times of increasingly poor air quality to stay cool at night — are you also making similar choices with potentially significantly negative personal consequences for the good of the larger social whole, why, or why not?

Weather.Com shows that air quality is very poor in Littleton, Colo. on the night of Aug. 6, 2021. The display is in German because my iPhone iOS is set to German.