Cool Data

How Many Households in Washington State Have Air Conditioning?

A new nationwide survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is our best clue yet, but still not the full picture.

By Benjamin Cassidy July 7, 2022

A photo illustration of an air conditioner over an outline of Washington state, with sun in the corner.

Since the heat dome, and even before, everyone's been wondering how many households in our corner of the world have finally embraced air conditioning. Yesterday, we received our best clue yet—though it still leaves plenty to the imagination.

A new nationwide survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that 53 percent of households in Washington used some form of air conditioning in 2020, the second least of any state (AC? Alaskans would never). About 30 percent of Washingtonian homes deployed central air to cool their homes, well below the 67 percent national average for states. A quarter installed individual units.

The Residential Energy Consumption Survey arrives with an important caveat: The data doesn't tell us how many people sprung for AC to prepare for that treacherous heat wave last year, naturally, since its responses are from 2020, not late 2021. Nor does it detail how many people in Seattle ponied up.

But it is the first time this particular U.S. Energy survey has released state-level data, offering a rare snapshot of how people cool off across Washington and its many climes. A few other takeaways from the data drop:

  • While we had the second-least AC use of any state, a handful of others—New York, New Hampshire, Hawai'i, Maine, and Vermont—had fewer homes, proportionally, with central air.
  • We're no fan of fans. Oddly, given our lack of AC, only 44 percent of Washington homes have ceiling fans. That's last among states. (It must be a Washington thing; DC is at 41 percent.)
  • Nationally, our neighbors might rank low, but both Oregon and Idaho have much higher percentages of homes using air conditioning: 76 and 80, respectively.

We'll have to wait for the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Housing Survey to get city-by-city numbers. In 2019, about 44 percent of Seattle homes had air conditioning, per the AHS. The bureau relayed that data will be out later this quarter.

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