There was a time when air conditioning was not standard equipment for most buildings in the Pacific Northwest.
Today, it’s fair to say the standards have changed as Kitsap County residents are preparing for summer heat earlier than usual, and Realtors and builders alike are seeing cooling systems becoming a priority.
Regardless of cost, it’s a price more customers are willing to pay as temperatures continue to trend upwards every year. Larry Kight with Bainbridge Homes said while it’s still not a top priority for his buyers, he hears more inquiries concerning cooling systems in homes now than in years past.
“If you’re touring a house like we did this week, yes they want to know if there’s an air conditioner,” he said. “In the winter time, it’s not a priority at all, but in the summer they do come out and really see there’s value to having it.”
Some people actually went outside to try to beat the heat. Temperatures jumping from 60 degrees to 85 degrees last weekend created quite a stir on Bainbridge Island as residents and visitors alike took advantage of the early summer-like weather.
Eagle Harbor was just one of the many busy spots as people took to the water in kayaks and sailboats, had discussions around picnic tables, and even birds were seen sunning themselves.
Elsewhere, store shelves holding air conditioning units and box fans were left nearly bare in some stores after a heat spell May 13-16 saw temperatures consistently reach the mid 80s and even hit the low 90s.
“It’s nuts,” Hannah Evenson of Bremerton said. “We never had 90-degree days in May in Washington ever. Like, I can remember being six years old, and it hitting 101 in July, but now it’s this.”
The heat spell left families without a regulated house temperature scrambling to find ways to stay cool, from cold drinks to picnics in the shade to turning on sprinklers and garden hoses in yards. Meanwhile, those who already own air conditioners found themselves turning them on much sooner than expected.
“We bought (an air conditioner) about four years ago just before a heat wave,” said Emory Eller, a former resident of Bremerton who now lives in Belfair, “and we’re pulling it out more often and earlier every summer since.”
Ever increasing heat waves are why people like Evenson are looking to invest in an air conditioner. “We live in a three-story house right now, and it’s all carpeted and gets constant sun,” she said. “We were looking at fans earlier, and I want to say they jumped the prices up a little bit. As far as AC units, I don’t think they had a whole lot, but they’re in the $200-$400 range which is a little bit out of our price range.”
A separate solution will also become more relevant in future months as mandated heat pumps in new residential builds were added to the state’s updated residential energy code set to go into effect in July. Rather than pumping cool air in, heat pumps pull hot air out of the home in warm months and into the home in cold months.
It’s a building concept that Andy Lehde of Bremerton said was already becoming more regular in the past few years. “Being a retired builder, I did a lot of high end work on that kind of stuff. Heat pumps started going in, and now it’s like standard equipment,” he said.