Mpls more than three times as energy-demanding as Miami in terms of heating, cooling

Categories: Environment
miamivmpls.jpg
Image by Tatiana Craine
The long and short of it: It takes less energy to cool Miami than it does to heat Minneapolis.
Since we don't have to run air conditioners for the vast majority of the year, you might think living in Minneapolis (America's coldest major metro) is less energy-demanding, in terms of heating and cooling, than living in Miami (American's warmest metro).

SEE ALSO: Climate change could make Mpls the new NYC, says The Economist [VIDEO]

Think again. A study by the University of Michigan's Michael Sivak found that not only is Miami less energy-demanding -- it's about three and a half times less energy-demanding.

Sivak's study didn't look at energy consumption. Rather, he looked at "heating and cooling degree days," which is basically a measure of how much energy is takes to keep your dwelling at a temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

The study's findings are summarized nicely in an Atlantic Cities blog post:
"Think of it this way," Sivak says. "Let's say you would like to have 70 degrees indoors. Think of how cold it can get in Minneapolis or Chicago or Ann Arbor. It can get down to zero." But on a really hot day in Miami, maybe the temperature tops out at 100. It takes a lot more energy to heat a room by 70 degrees than to cool a room by 30. In fact, it takes more energy to heat a room by one degree than to cool it by the same amount. And the typical air conditioner is about four times more energy efficient than the typical furnace or boiler.

Sivak freely admits that he's looking here at only one small piece of the sustainability picture, which also includes things like water consumption, transportation and air quality (within the realm of heating and cooling, he also doesn't factor in the energy needed to extract the natural resources that feed power plants to provide electricity to your air conditioner). And he's not considering whether buildings in Minneapolis are better insulated than those in Miami. But this does suggest that colder places aren't more sustainable simply by virtue of not being warm. "What I would like," Sivak says, "is for people to start thinking about both extremes."
Though a more complete study would factor in the amount of body warmth we generate by biking around even in the dead of winter, Sivak's study could be considered a reason -- albeit a very qualified one -- to make like LeBron and take your talents to South Beach.


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12 comments
keny1
keny1

So tax dollars were wasted to fund this study that proved that Minneapolis is colder than Miami? Glad to know that tax dollars are being used wisely. I think we should increase taxes so that more useful studies like this can be conducted.  

Charlie Seto
Charlie Seto

We have disgusting humid summers and frigid winters. Worst of both worlds. Our bugs are bigger.

Jeremy Hop
Jeremy Hop

This study leaves too many variables out, therefore the results are incomplete. Try again when all the data is gathered.

Edward Bertsch
Edward Bertsch

Lots of poor people in Miami without air conditioning.

Amy Anderson
Amy Anderson

I can't think of two cities with less in common than Mpls and Miami :)

Eríc Newman
Eríc Newman

i blame Michele Bachmann for being an icy B.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@keny1 The good news is, it shouldn't have taken more than about five minutes, a minimal web search, and a rudimentary Excel spreadsheet to figure out that, in both summer and winter, Minnesota temperatures range a lot further from the ideal indoor room temperature than Miami's.  So it should have been a pretty cheap study.  Heck, flip me $20 and a twelve-pack and I'd set the thing up for you myself.

keny1
keny1

@swmnguy Perhaps. But here is the real question: how many of these "cheap" studies are being conducted at tax payers' expense each year that provides empirical evidence of an issue that has no value to anyone other than to employ government workers for the sake of "job creation"? I am probably sure that the researcher who conducted this study makes more than $20 and a twelve pack a year. Also, did you know that the Federal Government spent $666,905 on a "study" to show the effects of TV re-runs on people's moods? So you must enjoy your tax dollars being wasted? Here are some more. Read it and weep (or in your case, rejoice): 

http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=77c257a6-adc8-4e38-87a5-85c86d7ed4a5

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