The Energy Costs of Cooling and Heating a Home NPR's Climate Connections series with National Geographic has prompted a lot of questions from listeners. Several wanted to know how air conditioning compares in its energy consumption – and climate impact — to home heating.

The Energy Costs of Cooling and Heating a Home

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Climate Connections has prompted a lot of questions from listeners. Every now and then we're going to take a moment to answer one of them. Today, Steve, what produces more greenhouse gases - cooling a home or keeping it warm?


Oh, I'm glad you ask, because we have an answer right here according to researchers at the National Geographic's The Green Guide.

The answer is that Americans typically use more energy to heat their homes than to keep them cool, at least under the climate as it is right now. In colder parts of the country, experts say that staying warm accounts for up to two-thirds of the energy used in a home and heating a typical house can produce five or six thousand pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Of course, CO2 is a major warming gas.

MONTAGNE: It turns out no surprise in hotter areas the calculation changes. Air conditioners become the bigger energy users and can also produce about 6,000 pounds of CO2 a year.

Studies show that you can reduce those emissions by nudging the thermostat just a bit. I know this is advice you heard before. But raising your central air conditioning from 72 to 73 degrees, for instance, can save some of the pounds from the carbon you're putting into the air.

INSKEEP: Now, if you have questions about climate change, you can ask them at

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.