Friday, July 28, 2006

Air Conditioning as a Status Symbol

Of all the things we've done to our house (where we've now lived for two years) -- and we've done a lot of stuff -- No. 1 on the list remains "adding central heat and air."

It was necessary -- our house didn't have either. (Remember, we bought in 2004-- when sellers could get away with offering up no-frills homes and still pocket big bucks.) With a baby in the house, we needed both (we were improvising with portable electric heaters through the house -- and fans in the summertime).

Along came this summer, and every day I'm happy that we installed the AC. Our house may be tiny, but it still heats up like an oven. When we shut it off and head out for a few hours, we inevitably return home to a thermostat well over 90 degrees.

Today's Los Angeles Times notes that just one in four L.A. households has central air, but that's changing:

As homes are sold or passed down a generation, more people are deciding that air conditioning is a must-have amenity.

They may need it only five days a year, but "those days are our critical days," said Claudia Chandler, assistant executive director of the California Energy Commission. "On any hot summer afternoon, about one-third of the electricity that's being consumed is being used to drive air conditioners."

When forecasting energy use, California officials factored in new-home construction, with almost all homes equipped with one — and often two — air-conditioning units.

People "just wouldn't buy" a new home without air conditioning, said John Young, president of Young Homes and of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.

Surprisingly, the story doesn't touch on the sticker shock that's sure to be hitting mail boxes in the coming months. Having run our AC almost constantly the last few weeks (hey, again, it's for Blogger Baby), I'm truly dreading that electric bill.

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