no air conditining

What to Do If Your Roommate Won’t Turn on the AC

no air conditining

Bring ‘peace out & chill’ to your roommate thermostat war with one of these peacemaking ideas:

  1. Use temperature comfort patterns to find a compromise.
  2. Get used to warmer temps to help the planet.
  3. Chill your pulse points.
  4. Share the thermostat with a schedule.
  5. Create AC zones in your home.

Roommate thermostat wars are a well-known phenomenon. In this case, your roommate won’t turn on the air conditioning when you need it.

I am going to assume that you’ve already tried talking about this with your roommate and offered to pay more than your share of the utilities bill (which is why you are looking for my advice). So, let’s jump into further options straightaway.

1. Discover if You and Your Roommate Feel Temperature Differently

hot cold

Perhaps your roommate won’t turn on the AC because they are just not hot.

A WIDE variety of factors influence how people feel hot and cold. Were you aware of that?

You probably were if you think about it…most of us have heard a weather reporter speak about the “windchill factor”, right?

Windchill Factor

Basically, the blowing wind causes us to feel colder than the actual temperature would suggest.

For example, it is 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside. There is a 25-mile-per-hour wind. As a result, most people would feel as if it is 8 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, COLD.

(BTW, that’s why we blow on hot liquids to cool them down.)

Bodily Factors

Things such as how fast our body burns up energy, how much muscle and fat we have, and even age and gender cause differences in how people feel temperature.

Many of us have heard stories about women in menopause who keep their homes at about the same temperature as the inside of the fridge.

As a result, what you feel as ‘hot needing the AC’ your roommate might feel as ‘comfortable’—which is why they don’t turn on the AC or prevent you from doing so.

air temperature thermometer

Try this:

Keep a temperature log for one week.

Install a reliable, indoor thermometer in a common room such as the kitchen or living room.

Several times during the day when you are both home, record the temperature on the thermometer. Also record the time of day.

Then, have each of you record whether you are feeling comfortable, too hot or too cold.

At the end of the week, look for patterns.

It could be that during the evening and night, you feel warmer even though the temperature was the same as in the morning or afternoon.

Or some other patterns may emerge.

Using the data you both have produced, discuss an air conditioning schedule to keep your home temperature satisfactory for you and your roommate.

2. How to Easily Get Used to the Higher Temperature

environmental campaigning

Here’s how the cycle goes: when it is hot, we turn on the AC…the global use of A/C contributes to warmer temperatures…so we turn on the air conditioning more frequently…and so it continues.

Being a little warmer is better for environment the environment

Your body CAN adjust to warmer temperatures. This process is called acclimatization.

Athletes who compete globally do this to improve their performance in hotter countries.

If you can get used to a slightly higher temperature, you and your roommate might not have so many problems about them not turning on the AC.

Try this:

The program for athletes is 7-14 days of heat exposure.

It begins with a 90-minute session (or two, 1 hour sessions for a total of 120 minutes).

During the heat exposure, the athlete should do aerobic exercise.

Each day, the athlete should increase the session length, the intensity of the exercise or both.

You don’t have to go to such extremes.

Step 1: Explain to your roommate who won’t turn on the AC that you are trying to compromise by getting used to warmer temperatures.

Step 2: Turn the thermostat up 1 degree (1 degree warmer), and go about your regular routine.

Make sure you drink plenty of water and rest if you feel too hot and/or tired.

Step 3: At your own pace (perhaps 2-3 days), increase the thermostat 1 degree.

Continue this process until you have reached your new comfort limit. It may take several weeks or even a month.

If you do this correctly and give yourself time, you will be surprised at the higher temperature your body can now comfortably accommodate.

Many years ago, I moved to a warmer country and had to acclimatize.

At the moment, in the summer, I need to turn the AC on when it is 86 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as it gets down to 82/83, I can already turn it off.

Just those few degrees of difference are now enough for me.

3. Use the windchill factor to your advantage

wind sock

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) researched thermal comfort and published a standard: ASHRAE 55.

They took into account both environmental and personal factors.

Their results are the temperatures that most people will feel comfortable with in indoor spaces.

It shows that speed (how fast the air is moving) is an important factor.

Kind of reminds us of the windchill factor in Item #1, right?

Try this:

Invest in a good quality fan.

By moving the air at a faster speed, you will feel as if it is cooler and not need the A/C…just yet.

Yes, it is an added cost if you already have A/C but how much more? Is it significant?

The cost will depend on the wattage of the fan, how long you run it, and the cost of electricity in your area.

You can use this handy U.S. Energy Department estimator to figure it out.

Here are three reliable articles with fan ‘best of’ suggestions. They offer different types of fans (box, tower, window, pedestal, purifying, etc.) so you can compare:

4. Chill pulse points

Chilling specific points on your body can help you feel cooler.

Try this:

Chill several washcloths in the freezer. Place them on your wrist or neck pulse points.

They will help lower your core body temperature, so you will feel cooler.

You can also use ice cubes in a bag or wrapped in a cloth.

First aid ice bags and picnic ice packs are also good options.


Idea:  A cold shower will help you feel cooler in hot temperatures.

Myth breaker: Sorry, it won’t. The cooling you feel will only last a short time.

5. How to share the thermostat

different temperatures

When exactly do you need your roommate to turn on the A/C?

Are there times when they are more willing and times when they just won’t?

Try this:

Work out a thermostat schedule.

Plan who is going to control the thermostat when.

Build in some flexibility such as if you have guests and want the A/C on during a time when your roommate is in control (and vice versa).

Keep your schedule running smoothly with a programmable thermostat.

As its name implies, this type of thermostat lets you create different temperature schedules.

Depending on which thermostat you choose, you could create a schedule for each day of the week with each day split into four periods.

Basically, that’s 28 different instructions.

This link will help you start your search for the programmable thermostat that best suits you.

6. Create A/C zones in your home

air conditioning control unit

Different rooms can require different temperatures.

Gyms and exercise rooms are usually kept colder. Most people would agree on this.

Sunny rooms need more A/C than shady ones…even if the curtains are drawn or the blinds are shut.

Your bedroom probably needs to be cooler than your roommate’s bedroom (who won’t turn on the A/C).

Try this:

You are going to have to get the professionals in for this one.

So, run it by your landlord first, and be prepared to help out with the cost.

System zoning for the layperson

Your A/C moves from cooling unit to room by means of air ducts.

Once in the room, the air moves from the duct into the room via the vent.

So far so good, right?

Dampers placed at strategic points in the ducts control how much cold air moves beyond each damper.

If a damper is closed completely, almost no cold air gets past it.

Zoning is a combination of the use of more than one thermostat and more than one damper.

These thermostats are usually programmable like we mentioned in Item #5 above.

The thermostats are wired to the control panel. These components operate together to adjust the flow of cold air into a room or living space.

With this system, your bedroom can be a freezer while your roommate’s can be a desert.

Some existing AC systems can be converted to zoning. In other cases, you would need to remove existing equipment and start from scratch.

Again, this is a job for the professionals, so any further advice from me at this point would be unhelpful.

Writer: Lisa Aharon

lisa ahron writer