Posted by: The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

23 responses to “Poll: Does your home have air conditioning or a heat pump?”

  1. Kary L. Krismer

    It would be nice if the poll broke it down a bit more, to at least indicate A/C or heat pump. A heat pump benefits you practically year around, while A/C is of more limited use. A heat pump might actually save you enough money during the colder months to pay for the cooling during the warmer months!

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  2. redmondjp

    Window A/C unit in family room, but what keeps the entire house 2-4 degrees cooler is the attic fan (yes, I need more insulation in my ceiling).

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  3. David B.

    A/C is of extremely limited use in a climate where the average summertime highs are only in the 70s and there’s only a small number of truly hot days in each summer. And calling even those a “heat wave” would make anyone from east of the Mississippi laugh.

    Heat pumps, on the other hand, can offer a significant savings over other forms of electrical heating.

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  4. Jacob Beaty

    We actually just put in a heat pump in June, the house we live in doesn’t get a good “flow” of wind and with a newborn I’d rather keep the house in the low 70’s so he’ll sleep so we can sleep…..

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  5. wreckingbull

    Multi-split heat pump is saving me about $1500/year over noisy, in-wall Cadets. Way more quieter and warmer too.

    I never thought I would use the AC function, but this July has changed my mind on that subject. On really hot days, I let it kick in at 6pm for a few hours to bring the house down in temp for a cool, comfy sleep.

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  6. Charlie Rogers

    Heat pumps are extremely energy efficient and are great for our climate both for heating and for cooling (if your house needs it). Other ways to keep your house cool include attic insulation, attic air sealing, exterior solar shades and low-e coated windows.

    Community Power Works and Seattle City Light are giving away $1,200 rebates for heat pumps, $750 rebates for attic insulation, $300 rebates for air sealing and $50 rebates per window. It’s a great deal:

    http://www.communitypowerworks.org/electric/heat-pumps/

    One overlooked factor in the rent v. buy debate is that buying offers you an investment opportunity to lower your utility bills. A renter would rarely take the time or cost to complete cost-savings and comfort improving projects in their home. A homeowner on the other hand can securely make these good investments.

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  7. David B.

    RE: Charlie Rogers @ 6 – “A renter would rarely take the time or cost to complete cost-savings and comfort improving projects in their home.”

    As a renter, why should I? I don’t own the property and therefore I’m not going to be able to recapture any of my investment when I sell. And I’m only going to be here a few more years at most, so the investment won’t pay for itself in energy savings, either.

    Heck, when I replace the landlord’s incandescent bulbs with my own compact fluorescents, I save the incandescents and put them back in when I move out, taking my CF’s with me.

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  8. Charlie Rogers

    I agree with you and you are proving my point: one of the advantages to owning a home is it allows you the opportunity to invest in efficiency improvements. Renting doesn’t give you that option.

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  9. wreckingbull

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 1 – And them some…..Based on my estimates of current draw, my AC use is costing me at most $15 per month for July and August. So $1500 savings more than outweighs $30 of AC use.

    That being said, the main reason AC mode is so effecient is that I use it in the early evening, when house is hot but outdoor unit is in a shaded area, with a cool breeze from the bay. I have to put my ear up to it to be sure it is running.

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  10. mmmarvel

    I realize that this poll was/is probably for Seattle, but it didn’t say that, so I answered. I live in Houston, wanna guess which vote I cast? Heck yeah we got AC, we’d die if we didn’t (which has always made me wonder how folks lived here before AC, and yes, they had quite a population prior to the advent of AC).

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  11. Blake

    By mmmarvel @ 10:

    I realize that this poll was/is probably for Seattle, but it didn’t say that, so I answered. I live in Houston, wanna guess which vote I cast? Heck yeah we got AC, we’d die if we didn’t (which has always made me wonder how folks lived here before AC, and yes, they had quite a population prior to the advent of AC).

    Heh… I was born in Houston and we never had A/C back then! I don’t recall much but running around buck naked most of the time!! We then lived in New Jersey for 7 years, Connecticut for 7 years and then Ohio… NEVER had A/C! My folks moved to South Carolina in ’91 and finally got A/C there! (I still don’t like it, but when I lived in the midwest and a heat wave hit I would put a window unit in my bedroom so I could sleep…)

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  12. David B.

    RE: mmmarvel @ 10 – The Deep South in the era before A/C wasn’t pleasant in the summer, but it was less unpleasant than being in a house there without A/C today, for several reasons:

    1. People got acclimated to the heat, something that A/C prevents, and
    2. Houses then were built to maximize ventilation. That’s become a lost art because builders just assume everyone will crank the A/C.
    3. Cities were built to maximize shade. Again, nowadays, urban planners mostly don’t care, because they assume people will just crank the A/C.

    The above, if done today, could reduce the need for air conditioning and save quite a bit of energy. People could still have A/C but use it less and the A/C would work less hard when it was used.

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  13. softwarengineer

    The Heat Pump Costs $8000 for a Smaller Rambler to Install

    I asked a contractor a week ago.

    The midwest homes already come with central air, no extra charge except upkeep maintenance. The window air conditioners are a joke if they’re not attached [and bolted] to a frame attached to the house frame. Otherwise a burglar can just rip it out and waltz into your house, even with a burglar alarm [the window is already open].

    A portable air conditioner is best [the contractor agreed with me], the outlet hose heat can be sent out a house outlet hole through the wall and they come much cheaper too, like $350 each.

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  14. Kary L. Krismer

    By softwarengineer @ 12:

    The midwest homes already come with central air, no extra charge except upkeep maintenance.

    They don’t just magically appear out of thin air. At some point someone pays for them to be installed, even in new construction.

    The window air conditioners are a joke if they’re not attached [and bolted] to a frame attached to the house frame. Otherwise a burglar can just rip it out and waltz into your house, even with a burglar alarm [the window is already open].

    That is a legitimate concern, but it can be dealt with. We had a window unit at the old house, and by removing two screws on the OUTSIDE you could just push the unit into the house. I installed a metal strap on the inside of the unit that could only be removed from the inside of the house. Also, I had an alarm magnet installed on the case so that the removal of the entire unit would trigger the alarm.

    A portable air conditioner is best [the contractor agreed with me], the outlet hose heat can be sent out a house outlet hole through the wall and they come much cheaper too, like $350 each.

    Those are not nearly as efficient, although the ones that at least have two hoses (intake and exhaust) are reportedly better than the ones that have only one exhaust hose.

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  15. Oahu Realty

    I live in Honolulu and we have one window a/c which we rarely use – maybe 5 days a year. Yes it does get hot sometimes, we usually use fans. It also depends on what part of town you live in. Our home is in a valley.

    Do that many Seattle residents consider a/c necessary?

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  16. Kary L. Krismer

    By Oahu Realty @ 14:

    Do that many Seattle residents consider a/c necessary?

    Only 5 days a year! ;-)

    I’m actually a bit surprised by the survey results here. Maybe there are a lot of window units being included in the results.

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  17. Greg

    We have central air, and we live in Bellevue. We’re also telecommuters, so we’re at home most of the time.

    On a typical summertime day, I turn on the whole house fan from 7pm-10am. If it gets warm in the afternoon, I’ll close the windows and turn on the A/C. For the few warm days like we had, we kept the A/C on 24/7, and we were comfortable.

    But if you work in an air conditioned office, and you are careful about ventilating the house at night, you can probably get by without A/C.

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  18. Ardell DellaLoggia

    To Kary #16

    The number of sold homes with Central A/C and/or heat pump have more than quadrupled in King County since 2000. Just did a 5 min. rough stats research on that with results below. To be more accurate I would have to do % of sales, but that is harder to do because of the 5,000 home limitation. I think these quick stats tell most of the story and note when the numbers starting shifting as to years. These not counting window a/c units.

    2000 – 682, 2001 – 657, 2002 – 830, 2003 – 928, 2004 – 1,232, 2005 – 1,251, 2006 – 1,395, 2007 – 1,600, 2008 – 1,970, 2009 – 2,081, 2010 – 2,380, 2011 – 2,731, 2012 – 3,490, 2013 – 3,999. Year to Date 2014 = 2,107. Required Disclosure: These stats are not compiled, verified or published by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

    To Greg #17

    So glad you brought up what I call “Air Management”. Given the hottest part of the day on West vs East Coast is often late afternoon, and it cools down significantly once the sun goes down when it’s not too humid, air management is very effective. For some reason inspectors around here are not big fans of whole house fans. I think they are awesome. But a fan or two in the windows or at the screen door at the right time works nearly as well.

    For those not utilizing “air management” the cycle starts in the evening.

    1) As soon as the temp outside is cooler than the temp inside, usually shortly after the sun goes down, put fans in appropriate home openings (doors and/or windows) to draw that cool air in.

    2) If possible and safe to do so, keep the fan blowing cool air in throughout the night.

    3) In the morning remove the fans and close everything up to keep the cool air in. Do not run fans when the outside air is warmer than the inside and do not open windows to let the hotter air in. Keep the cool air in as long as possible. This usually keeps it cool until early or late afternoon on most hot days.

    4) No way to avoid the hottest part of the day from 3 to 5 or so on the hottest of days, but those days are few in a year and a good time to head out to an air conditioned spot or do your errands in an air conditioned car before coming home to start the “air management” cycle again.

    If you have a view home with large windows facing West, this can be very important. Trying to cool that kind of heat down with A/C is expensive and often futile. We have only had about 10 days in 10 years where air management is inadequate for Seattle area and supplemental A/C is actually needed. Still, the numbers reflect that a/c is on the rise. Not likely because of weather change but because of more and more people moving here from other parts of the Country and other Countries who don’t have the “air management” method down.

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  19. wreckingbull

    How about a solar chimney?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_chimney

    Anyone have one?

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  20. Charlie Rogers

    If you have an existing fireplace you could just open the damper. Just don’t forget to close it again when it starts to cool off in late September!

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  21. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Ardell DellaLoggia @ 18 – Thanks for pulling those stats, but they are well below the 41% currently shown on the poll.

    As to air management, that’s exactly what I do. We usually keep the house fairly cool in the winter (66 degrees), so if we can get the house down below that point using cool air that’s great. And unless it’s extremely hot the house seldom gets above 72 degrees (ignoring the upstairs office with computers and printers).

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  22. wreckingbull

    RE: Charlie Rogers @ 20 – Except that really won’t do much without a temperature differential. From what I understand, you need to engineer both the chimney and the air intake to maximize the temperature differential and induce convection. I don’t think you really get that with a regular chimney.

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  23. Oahu Realty

    Solar chimney very interesting! We don’t have many fireplaces in Hawaii since it rarely gets cold enough to start a fire.

    Our place does have solar powered fans on the roof that vent from inside the house. And it does get hot sometimes. Living in a valley is a bit cooler because we get more rain and the sun shines less because the mountains block sunlight in the late afternoon.

    I was born in Seattle and can understand why you folks might not look forward to rain. But on a hot island like this we welcome some sprinkles each day.

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