Air conditioning? Or just open the windows?

17 Sep

There was a time when I would joke about rust holes in my car as being the air-con system. Natural ventilation was the norm; older readers will remember quarter lights and how you could reverse them to get face level ventilation. Then Ford’s Cortina came along with it’s eyeball vents in the dash in about 1963. We have come a long way since.

This week I was chatting with another chap who told me that he wouldn’t use his air-con; it wasted fuel, cost him power and he just opened his windows to get cooled down. Now we all know that the air-con system is driven off the engine and so there is some truth in what my companion was saying, but modern cars have such a surfeit of power against the speed that you can legally drive at that you are not going to notice it.

As for fuel consumption, has he any idea how much extra drag driving with the windows down will cause? Far more than the air-con will take. I suggested this but, as is the way with dogmatic people, he wouldn’t have it.

If I come back to my car when it has been parked in the sun I often will drive the first half mile or so with both front windows down, but no more than needed to take the heat away. After that I use the air-con (sorry, climate control as the salesman sniffily corrected me) and drive along in the comfort and quiet that allows me to concentrate on avoiding all of the idiots who are trying to kill me.

Driving with your windows down costs you speed and fuel and the noise will add to fatigue levels. At anything over a very low speed it is better to shut the windows and let technology do the work. If you want fresh(!) air, stop and take a walk; it’s better for you anyway.

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