Be One of the Cool Kids

Want to know how hot it is on any given day? Ask a pregnant woman or a new mom who has no air conditioning. Of course, the answer might be shouted at you (hissing is also a possibility) but her answer will be accurate.

Our first son Ethan was born in late April. Newborns spend most of their time sleeping, so the subsequent summer, I was pretty housebound. Trying to stay cool in our poorly insulated, circa 1939 home became my obsession. It was cooler downstairs, but spending even a few minutes dealing with the laundry in our basement/crypt of the undead freaked me out. The attached crawlspace, home to at least one, murderous badger and his “leftovers,” a cuisine we were pretty sure involved a diet heavy in skunk, reeked even after we boarded up the inside and outside entrances.

Our backyard, barely more welcoming than the basement, boasted the neighborhood’s hardiest weeds, wide and plentiful patches of dirt interrupted by the occasional clump of grass, undoubtedly also circa1939, and a view of the neighbors’ well-kept, badger-free homes.

Since neither of our families had a pool yet, there was little respite, and so, at some point in the middle of that heat, I vowed that the summer of 2002 was going to be our ONLY summer without air conditioning!

Nineteen years later, the system we installed is still going strong and is still worth every nickel.

If the summer of 2021 has taught us anything, it is that air conditioning, once considered a luxury in the Pacific Northwest, is quickly becoming a necessity, and not just for pregnant women and new moms. Seriously, what the heck was that heatwave we experienced the last week of June? JUNE — the month of outdoor weddings and birthday parties. “Welcome, little Abigail, here is your bag of party favors and soon, a blistering sunburn. Enjoy the melted cake.”

For the thousands of Spokanites who have no AC, the record-setting heatwave was overwhelming. My parents’ home has no ducts for a conventional air-conditioning system, and not having actual air conditioning didn’t seem like such a big deal until that week when their single, wall air conditioner (along with their impressive array of strategically placed fans — tripping hazards all) struggled against Mother Nature’s blast-furnace! They have now changed their minds. It is a big deal.

The good news is that AC systems have vastly improved since first introduced in 1931.

Fun fact: In 1932, a wall air conditioner cost between $10,000 and $50,000. (In today’s money, that’s between $120,000 and $600.000!) Today, such a purchase costs well below $500. (In today’s money… oh, you can probably figure that out.)

The current technology integrating whole-house air-conditioning systems with other smart home technologies is a game changer making the operation of home systems much more efficient and saving a whole lot of money!

I have worked with SO many buyers who think about the summer heat even in the middle of winter. If you are a seller in Spokane, don’t be naive. AC is definitely expected for a top- dollar house. If you have forced-air heat without AC, look into getting a system installed ASAP!

No duct work? There’s help. Some companies have taken a page from the European way of cooling older homes. A “mini split” system can heat and cool a home that has no ducting. It’s basically a small heat pump attached to multiple units — one for the living room, another for the kitchen, etc. Here’s a website that can explain it much better than I can:

As I said, AC is no longer considered a luxury even here in Spokane, and nowhere is that more evident than in the real estate market. Buyers expect the homes they visit on hot days to offer respite from the heat, and they aren’t going to spend any more time in a steaming hot house than they have to. Some might not even get past the entryway before turning back to their air-conditioned vehicles, and I don’t blame them. That last week of June, I didn’t even want to get the mail!

So, if you are a seller, remember, keep your house cool for all showings! At the very least, get window or a wall air conditioner and start the cooling process long before the first potential buyer is scheduled, and give yourself every advantage to get the best possible price for your home!