PEMCO Poll: Northwesterners forgo the AC, even when it’s hot

PEMCO Poll: Northwesterners forgo the AC, even when it’s hot

The FINANCIAL -- As Northwest residents lament the scarcity of home air conditioners on these unusually warm summer days, the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance reveals that of those who have central air installed, just half use it regularly when it's hot.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds that a majority of Washington and Oregon residents (59 percent) live without AC at home, but of the 39 percent who have central air installed, just 51 percent say they use it regularly in the summer when it's hot.

In Oregon, where average temperatures are slightly warmer than Washington's, residents are more likely to have air conditioning in their homes – 46 percent vs. 32 percent – but higher temperatures don't necessarily prompt Oregonians to use their central air more often. According to the poll, Oregonians use their AC at about the same rate as their Washington neighbors, with 49 percent using it regularly in Oregon and 53 percent saying the same in Washington.

But what keeps Northwest residents from flipping the switch on icy air, if it's at their fingertips? The poll finds that many residents (24 percent) hesitate because of the energy cost of using air conditioning. Some locals (32 percent) simply don't think the weather is warm enough to warrant it.

"Though our typically mild Northwest climate doesn't often require AC, with our recent 80-degree days in the west and temperatures grazing the 100s east of the Cascades, we wonder if more folks might be rethinking their stance on air conditioning to beat the heat," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. "Then again, maybe AC is like umbrellas in the Northwest – true locals don't need 'em!"

Interestingly, the poll revealed that warmer inland climates in Oregon don't yield a greater prevalence of central air. In fact, Western Oregon residents are just as likely as Eastern Oregonians to have air conditioning, according to the PEMCO poll.

In Washington, though, 53 percent of Eastern residents say they have AC, while just 29 percent of Western Washingtonians said the same.

When it comes to finding the ideal household temperature, nearly three-quarters (70 percent) of residents across the Northwest say they prefer to keep their thermostat at or below 69 degrees no matter the season.

Younger people, though, tolerate higher temperatures, with two-thirds (67 percent) opting for household temps of 68 degrees or warmer, which supports the poll's finding that younger people are the more cost-conscious of the group, as well. They're almost twice as likely to avoid using their AC, compared to their older counterparts, because of the costs associated with running it (35 percent vs. 19 percent).

So what happens when young and old live under the same roof? The PEMCO poll finds that households are generally harmonious when it comes to choosing the desired temperature. About three-quarters (77 percent) of homes with two or more people say their household agrees on the right temperature settings, while just 23 percent say their household generally disagrees about the thermostat.