Photographer: Manuel Gutjahr/Getty Images
Real Estate

How to Sell a House in Red Hot America

These two charts say a lot about air conditioning and maybe a little about global warming, too.

Air conditioning has become ubiquitous in new U.S. homes over the past four decades. That's true in the South, where it was already common when the Census Bureau started tracking the amenity in 1973, and even more dramatically so in the Northeast, where AC has gone from a relatively rare to a common feature.

There are a number of possible explanations for this gust of cold air, including better technology, a pool of home buyers conditioned by frigid office buildings and retail stores, and migration patterns—the U.S. population is growing fastest in the hotter parts of the country. Cheaper air conditioning and rising homebuyer expectations may also help explain the trend, said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, the Seattle-based housing website. Then there’s climate change.

“In Seattle, the old adage was that you only need air conditioning two days of the year,” she said. “These days, you actually need it for more of the summer.”

It's tempting to see AC as a self-reinforcing habit. Air conditioners use about 5 percent of all electricity produced in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy, releasing something on the order of 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. All that carbon contributes to a hotter planet—on which we'll want more and better air conditioning as time goes by. 

Whatever impact air conditioning has on the climate, the earth's temperature is rising fast, and it's going to change the way—and the where—we live.  

Do you know what’s become less common over the same period? Fireplaces.


    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.