August 28, 2011

Percentage of Homes With Air Conditioning From 1973 to 2009

Our home does not have central air conditioning.  This year for the first time we bought a window air conditioner.  I was curious how many people actually have air conditioning.  

I got the data out of the American Housing Survey results from the previous years.   I had to pull up individual years and copy the figures for each year.    Note that I'm just looking at owner occupied homes so the data I show below does NOT include rentals.  I could have gotten numbers for all housing or for rentals separately but to make it easier I just grabbed the number for owner occupied units.

Here is a graph showing the % of owner-occupied homes with air conditioning either central AC or one or more window/room units.

Here are the numbers in table form :

AC central window
1973 52% 19% 33%
1974 55% 21% 33%
1975 55% 22% 32%
1976 57% 25% 32%
1977 58% 26% 32%
1978 58% 28% 30%
1979 59% 29% 30%
1980 62% 30% 32%
1981 61% 31% 30%
1983 63% 33% 30%
1985 66% 37% 29%
1987 69% 40% 29%
1989 73% 45% 28%
1991 75% 47% 27%
1993 75% 50% 26%
1995 79% 54% 25%
1997 80% 56% 24%
1999 83% 60% 23%
2001 85% 63% 21%
2003 86% 65% 21%
2005 88% 69% 19%
2007 89% 70% 18%
2009 89% 72% 18%

I'm a little surprised how many homes actually have air conditioning. I live in the Northwest where summers are pretty mild so its not as common out here.  But its clear that over the years more and more homes have gotten air conditioning.   Also the growth is all in central air conditioning systems.   Over the past 4 decades the % of homes with window air conditioning units has steadily dropped while the % with central air has steadily grown.

Part of the growth in AC is due to higher population growth in the Southern states.   The AHS has data for regions as well.  If you look at all housing units then per region the % of homes with some form of AC is as follows :

AC Central Window
Northeast 84% 32% 51%
Midwest 91% 70% 22%
South 98% 86% 12%
West 67% 52% 15%

As you can see the percent of homes with AC is a lot lower in the West and Northeast.   In the South 98% of homes have AC so its basically a given that a home will have some form of AC.   Window units are a lot more common in the Northeast. 


  1. Having been born in 1973 and not had air conditioning on a top floor apartment, it really is amazing that 90% of households have it now. Nuts. It still seems like such a luxury to me not a necessity. I have central AC now. When we redid our furnace I was pregnant and it was summer.. I'm not sure I could have justified it if I weren't insanely uncomfortable at the time. I also bought an expensive mattress. I think I would have spent any amount of money back then getting comfort.

  2. Wow. 70%+ with central air? That's surprising...but here in the Pacific NW, I can assure you that this number is much lower....though we do have central air here.

  3. I also live in the Northwest so I agree that we don't really 'need' AC so much here and its not nearly as common. And its easier to think of it as a luxury. If you live in Arizona or Georgia then we wouldn't consider it a luxury though I'm sure.

    Also the numbers I looked at were only for owner occupied homes so that doesn't include anyone who rents. Renters make up ~30% of the population and the % of rentals with AC is lower.

    For renters the total with AC is 82%

    If you look at ALL housing units including renters and owners then its 84%.

    Still both high, but not quite the 90% seen in owner occupied homes.


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