Air Conditioners in 87 Percent of U.S. Homes, Though Many Don't Meet Efficiency Standards

About 87 percent of the 113.6 million U.S. homes in 2009 had air conditioning equipment, according to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). This number is up from about 68 percent as recently as 1993. New data from EIA's Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) show near-total saturation of air conditioning in the South and double-digit increases in all remaining regions over that period. Except for the few temperate regions on the West Coast, air conditioners are now standard equipment in most homes, especially in those newly constructed.

Federal energy-efficiency performance standards for air conditioning were first adopted for window/wall air conditioners in 1990 and central air conditioners in 1992, and have been updated since that time. In 2009, 10.1 million homes had cooling equipment that predates the first federal efficiency standards, and that equipment is likely to use more than twice as much energy as equipment being manufactured today.

Notable trends in central air conditioning characteristics show:

  • 78 percent of homes with central air conditioning (55 million homes) use equipment installed since 1993.
  • Homes built in the 1970s and 1980s have the highest share of air conditioning equipment that predates Federal efficiency standards, suggesting that original equipment is in wide use.

The new data collected by EIA also highlight other opportunities for select home improvements and equipment maintenance that can improve both air conditioning and space heating performance and lower energy bills.

  • Although it is common practice for Americans to have routine service or maintenance performed on their automobiles, just 42 percent do the same for their central air conditioning systems and 40 percent for their main space heating systems.
  • About 80 percent of U.S. homes built from 2000 to 2009 have energy-efficient double- or triple-pane windows, up from only 52 percent of homes constructed before 1990.
  • More than 40 million households (35 percent) added weather-stripping or caulking to reduce air leakage from their homes, and 26 million (23 percent) added insulation.

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