| 3 min read

    Installing Air Conditioning in Seattle: Is it Worth it?

    For many years Seattle was a mild climate that didn’t require air conditioning. However, as time has passed, the summers are getting hotter, and more and more homeowners wish they could cool down their homes (over the last three years, Seattle has averaged 43 days above 80 degrees). In addition to higher temperatures comes drier conditions, and in the late summer months, the area is more prone to wildfires and smoke. Of the 1.6 million housing units in the Seattle area in 2021, about 844,400 — roughly 53% — had a primary air conditioning source, with about 21% using central air and nearly 30% relying on room air conditioning.

    Benefits of Cooling Down Your Home

    • An AC system can improve the air quality inside your home thanks to its added level of air filtration. This will also enhance the quality of life for people with allergies and can help fight off asthma attacks.

    • Studies have shown that sleeping in a cooler room can improve your sleep quality and help combat insomnia. Therefore, keeping the temperature in your sleeping area around 65 degrees is recommended.

    • Many people are working from home these days. Working in a cooler room can help reduce your stress level and improve cognitive function.

    • Cooling down your home helps fight odors.

    • Using an air conditioning unit in your home may deter pests and parasites. Insects commonly like warmer climates, so AC deters them from making homes in your space. As a result, lowering your body temperature makes you less appealing to parasites like mosquitos.

    • Living in an air-conditioned home reduces dehydration and the possibility of heat stroke - this benefit is especially important for elderly people. Pets will also be impacted just as much as humans in hot conditions and have a more challenging time cooling themselves down.

    • Adding forced air or mini-split systems for AC may increase home value in the greater Seattle area.

    3 Main Options for Air Conditioner Installation

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    1. Forced Air: Forced air is an excellent option if you already have a forced heating system in the home. Simply adding air conditioning to your existing system is typically the most effective option in terms of cost and maximum cooling. However, this method does require professional installation and may not be the most cost-effective option if you are currently running on a system other than forced heat.

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    2. Ductless Mini-Splits: Mini-splits are energy efficient and often used in new construction. They work great for “zone cooling” when you only want to add air conditioning in certain rooms or areas of the home. This method will require professional installation.

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    3. Window Unit or Portable Air Conditioner: This is the DIY home cooling approach. Typically this method looks like window-mounted or floor units plugged into a standard wall outlet. While it’s relatively inexpensive, quick, and easy, it requires seasonal installation, it takes up floor and window space, it won’t cool an entire home, and it’s not very aesthetically pleasing.

    Air Conditioning Installation Cost Considerations

    • Forced air is the current air handling unit that supplies heat compatibility to install air conditioning; if not, the furnace may need to be replaced when you add air conditioning. In addition, forced air conditioning includes a heat pump located outside of the home and requires upgraded electrical–so you may need to account for this additional cost when budgeting for your HVAC installation. However, typically, air ducts do not need to be changed, making forced air appealing.

    • Forced air may be an affordable option if you already have a forced heating system. However, if you don’t have forced heat, this option can be costly because ductwork would need to be installed, which could be 3-4 times the cost of a mini-split system. The common recommendation, in this case, would be to add a mini-split as your air conditioning system.

    • Minisplit systems are cost-efficient in new construction or homes that do not currently have forced heat. They’re also great if you only want zoned cooling (specific spaces cooled down). In new construction, a mini-split system may be more affordable than forced heating & air.

    Don’t Lose Your Cool

    Summers will only continue to get hotter. The problem of most Seattle homes not having HVAC systems isn’t going away, and realistically as the demand for AC units increases in the area, the price will likely follow suit. So when asking yourself, “Is AC installation worth it?” ask yourself what your health and quality of life are worth to you?

    Pete Baughman

    About Pete Baughman

    Home renovation and custom home building have been a part of my life since birth. My great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all Carpenters. It was only natural for me to be drawn to it as well. I worked as a Carpenter and Project lead helping him create and produce many extraordinary projects. My experiences have varied from Carpenter, Lead Carpenter, Project Manager, Production Manager, Project Developer, and Sales Manager. I started with Better Builders in 2011 and, in 2019, became an owner.