Our Northwest

Heatwave, so what? NW folks ignore AC

Wednesday, July 15, 2015by  Jon Osterberg

Just 39% of Northwest residents have air conditioning in their homes, and of those, only 51% use it regularly when it’s hot.
     That’s what we learned from the latest PEMCO Poll.
     If those folks already have AC at home, why don’t they use it? One-fourth said it’s too costly on the energy bill, and 32% don’t think it gets hot enough around here to warrant using their AC.
     I suspect that’s somewhat akin to NW natives shunning umbrellas, unless it’s a real downpour.
     For me, our recent 90-degree weather baked our house enough to warrant using AC. If we had it, that is. But we don’t.
     I figure there are only about five nights each year where it’s truly too warm to comfortably fall asleep because of a hot house.
     Like many people I talk with, we rely on big box fans in open windows. The minute we get home from work we crank them up, blowing cooler outside air into our home. Not only does moving air feel cooler, it’s fresher than the stale air that roasts inside during the day.
     I’ve long known that Portland averages about 4 degrees warmer than Seattle in the summer, so I suspected more Oregon residents might have AC than their Washington counterparts.
     Our poll revealed that more Oregonians do have central AC, 46% compared with Washingtonians at 32%. But what’s interesting is Western Oregon residents are just as likely as Eastern Oregonians to have AC, while in Washington it’s 53% of easterners versus just 29% west of the Cascades.
     In both states, temperatures east of the mountains reach much higher in the summer.
     We also expected we might find squabbling in many homes over which AC temperature is too cold, too hot, or just right. But it turns out that 77% of homes with two or more people agree on the temperature.
     Personally, I also thought we’d learn that older people can tolerate warmer household temperatures. I remember visiting my dad in Arizona, where he would set the AC to “cool” his house to 82 degrees.
     Wrong again! The poll said it’s 67% of younger people, those under age 35, who choose household temperatures of 68+ degrees. Not for a reason that was obvious to me, at first – 35% of those younger people said they’re reluctant to use AC because of its cost, versus just 19% of folks age 35 and up.
     Read more about the PEMCO Poll, and take an informal version of the poll yourself.

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