A long, hot summer kept local air-conditioning installers busy. Marr’s Heating and Air Conditioning installed about twice as many air conditioning and cooling units this summer compared to last summer.
“You could pretty safely say it’s been the biggest year for cooling units in the last 10 years,” said Ken Marr, owner of Marr’s Heating. “I can tell you anecdotally it’s got to be at least double or more for air conditioners compared to the year before.”
Cooling units includes more than just air conditioners. Marr also installs heat pumps, which can both heat and cool. They’re popular in buildings that aren’t connected to natural gas because they heat more efficiently than electric heaters. In the summer, a reversing valve allows them to cool air.
Heat pumps cost $600 to $1,000 more than air conditioners, but Marr is selling more of them than air conditioners, he said.
Marr’s father started the company, and Ken Marr began installing duct work at age 12. Since his days crawling around under houses with his dad, Marr has seen other hot summers. When summer starts early, like it did this year, Marr sells more cooling units.
“The earlier your house gets hot in the season, the more you’re inclined to do something about it,” he said.
July started with 90-degree temperatures and a 10-day heat wave in Western Washington. In late August, temperatures at Sea-Tac airport were on track to break the record for hottest July and August ever.
Heat isn’t the only factor for how many people install cooling units in their homes. The slightly improved economy is also a factor, Marr said.
Houses heat up mainly through their windows – especially east and west facing windows, which let in sunlight at the beginning and end of the day when the sun is low. Window size and location is one of the biggest factors Marr uses to calculate the size of air conditioner to install.
Newer houses tend to have bigger windows.
Marr also suspects that people spend more time at home during the summer than they used to.
“You probably have cooling in your car and at work, everywhere but in your house,” Marr said. “Without air conditioning, you’re going to come to where you spend most of your time and be uncomfortable.”
Barron Heating and Air Conditioning, with offices in Mount Vernon and Ferndale, is a bigger company than Marr’s Heating and Air Conditioning.
Barron’s sales manager Chris Baisch didn’t report as dramatic an increase in installations as Marr’s, but he called the season “fantastic” and longer than usual.
“Barron is one of those companies that’s going to get a high volume of calls. Ringing off the hook is an adequate analogy,” he said. “It might well be over 50 percent more than last year.”
Like Marr’s, Barron also installs more heat pumps than air conditioning units, Baisch said. Sometimes people buy a heat pump for more efficient heating, but end up using it to cool their home also, he said.
“What happens is people are investing in heat pumps from the energy efficiency standpoint,” Baisch said. “I think they realize how often the heat pump is running in the summer. It’s way more than the five nights a year where you can’t sleep.”