Living in the Pacific Northwest means you experience a lot of beautiful, but very temperate weather. Although Seattle natives are no stranger to gorgeous blue-skyed summers, does it ever really get hot enough to justify air conditioning? Seattle summer days do get a little toasty sometimes, and inexpensive box fans can only cool your home down so much.
If you’re in the process of designing your custom home or moving into a new one, you may want to consider sun orientation, window treatments and location, and insulation before ruling out A/C altogether.
Seattle is the least air-conditioned major city in the United States, with the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey reporting that only one out of three homes have A/C. In Portland, a mere three hours south, 70% of homes are air conditioned, and they are still the third lowest air conditioned metro city in the United States.
Here are three different A/C systems to consider if you’re looking for a nice cool home during Seattle summers.
Central air conditioning is a ducted system that distributes cooled air throughout your home via ducts and fans. As the cool air circulates and eventually warms, it is then cycled through the return ducts to make way for more cool air. The compressor unit is usually kept in a basement or outside the home in a discreet and out-of-the-way area. The air moves through the same system that warm air furnaces use during the colder months and uses the same thermostat for temperature adjustment.
If you have a larger house, central air is probably the best option for adequate and even cooling throughout rooms. Since the compressor unit is usually kept away from the main area of the house, central air is also a lot quieter than other systems. However, these types of A/C systems use up significant energy, so finding a unit designed for high energy efficiency should be a top priority if that is one of your concerns.
A window unit is a nonducted air conditioning system that pulls in room temperature air and cycles it through a filter and over a cooling coil, which then lowers the air’s temperature. The coil also removes moisture from the air, since the temperature of the coil is lower than room temperature. A high-powered fan then blows the newly chilled and filtered air back out of the window unit’s front vent and the cycle repeats.
Window units are great for smaller homes and apartments since they won’t take up space on the floor and are best used to cool down a specific room or area of the house. Keep in mind that they must be installed in a window that opens completely, and for that reason can be a security issue if you install one on the ground floor. Window units are also noisier than central air, which is something to consider when deciding where to install your unit.
Research the unit’s energy efficiency rating (EER) and see if you can find a unit designed for saving energy, with options such as sleep mode or other timer settings.
Mini-split air conditioning units are commonly used in multifamily homes that aren’t opting for central air, or need an additional system for another room. They consist of an outdoor compression unit that compresses air through a refrigerant and into the indoor apparatus, which works similarly to a window unit.
Mini-split units are small and therefore easy to integrate into your home’s interior design, as they can be suspended from a ceiling or hung on a wall. They are also perfect for personalizing each room’s temperature, especially if all rooms aren’t being used at once — which also makes them perhaps the most energy-efficient type of air cooling unit.