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

The long and short of it: It takes less energy to cool Miami than it does to heat Minneapolis.
The long and short of it: It takes less energy to cool Miami than it does to heat Minneapolis.
Image by Tatiana Craine

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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