Submitted by Don Doman
Recently, the Seattle Times business staff reported on the upswing on Seattle area rentals touting air conditioning to attract new renters. The Times writes, “As Seattle summers keep getting hotter and hotter, a once-unthinkable perk for renters here had become more commonplace: air conditioning.” Degrees of warmth vary little from the Seattle and King County area to that of Tacoma and Pierce County.
With apartment construction in Seattle booming and home prices soaring in King County driving traffic to Pierce County, we could see an “amenities arms race” from both developers and home owners in both counties as well as other locations through out the Puget Sound region. We’re not referring to window mounted AC, but rather central AC, although the portable units have gained in popularity as well.
As renters enter the Pacific Northwest for our job prospects and our natural beauty, they arrive here expecting AC like they had in the east, the south, and California.
Over 72 percent of local homes built in this decade have central AC. In the past the average has been only 21 percent. Our continued low power costs probably account for the increase. John Day, owner of Furnace Doctors in Seattle has seen an increase in HVAC system sales. “Local utilities often offer rebates on conversions to HVAC. Although, initial costs of a heat pump are higher than baseboard heaters, the monthly utility bill is so much less with the heat pump.” The big advantage of heat pumps is that they heat the home in winter and cool it in summer.
Another fairly new device helping with heating and cooling is the “ductless” heat pump. Mounted on an exterior wall it replaces baseboard heaters and window mounted AC without the need for ductwork running throughout a home or building. It provides heat and cool air depending upon the season.
Renters of older apartments without AC usually go the heavy window mounted (or mounted directly below the window) unit route. There are also portable units (on wheels) that vent via blowers like clothes driers. Just two years ago 14 percent of Seattle area apartments had only one room cooled with these devices. 21 percent of apartments all across the region had AC, while nationally the percentage is 86. Obviously we’re moving up in the ratings here in paradise.
Megan Murphy, a senior manager for Paul Allen’s Vulcan Real Estate said, “For Seattle, if it gets over 80 degrees, we all think we’re in a desert. But it is . . . it’s getting hotter.” Tacoma and Pierce County is just as hot.