Are Oregonians Learning to Love Air Conditioning?

The Pacific Northwest has never had the love affair with air-conditioning that the torrid South or the humid Northeast has, but new data from the federal government—never before released in this particular format—suggests that Oregonians are slowly but surely embracing that AC lifestyle. 

According to the recent research released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 76 percent of Oregonians now have some kind of air conditioning equipment in their homes. That’s more than neighboring California (72 percent) and Washington (53 percent—that Puget Sound breeze energy is strong) and just shy of Idaho, which is at 80 percent. 

It’s not a full-blown embrace by any means. Percentages are higher among 40 other states (shout-out to Iowa and Delaware, which sit atop the heap, with 97 percent of homes having some kind of in-home cooling system in place.) 

But we are more prone to installing air conditioning equipment than our friends and relations in Wyoming (71 percent), Maine (70 percent), Vermont (67 percent), Montana (65 percent), Hawaii (57 percent) and Alaska (7 percent—and we’re frankly surprised it’s that high), plus the aforementioned California and Washington. 

Some important caveats here: This data was compiled in 2020, before last summer’s deadly heat dome, which prompted a run on AC units. Last summer’s unprecedented high temperatures also prompted ongoing efforts by local, regional and state government to purchase and install cooling units in low-income homes; additionally, Oregon lawmakers in March signed off on a law which limited the restrictions that landlords and homeowners associations are allowed to place on window AC units.

And this isn’t a metro area breakdown, which will have to wait until new numbers from the US Census Bureau are released in the coming months. But it does provide a pretty comphrensive overall view of our AC habits. To wit: 

  • We aren’t that into ceiling fans! Odd, because you’d think this environmentally friendly form of cooling down a room would play well in these parts. But only 57 percent of Oregon homes have these installed. 
  • Statewide, just 49 percent of homes have central air-conditioning installed, which makes sense given our mild climate and our relatively older home stock in urban areas. 
  • Another 30 percent have jumped onto the individual AC unit bandwagon at some point—our prediction is that that number will keep on rising the next time these numbers get an update.