“Why about a quarter of US households are stuck with ugly and loud window AC units”
–Sophie Bearman | @stbearman.
“LaPorte, Indiana 2011” by Kevin Dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
For people who don’t have central air, few annual chores evoke a sense of dread quite like the task of installing their 40-pound window unit come summer.
It’s a precarious balancing act: a delicate teeter-totter of securing the metal device between the windowsill and the windowpane while preventing it from plummeting straight down to the sidewalk below.
Across the world, the air conditioning market is big business. In North America, it’s expected to reach nearly $53 billion by 2020. Yet in the U.S., window air conditioners aren’t that common except in major cities with older buildings that aren’t equipped with central air like the rest of the country. About 65 percent of U.S. households have central air.
New York City is a major exception
Around 75 percent of the buildings throughout the five boroughs were constructed before 1960, according to the NYC Department of Buildings. Central air became mainstream later in the 1960s, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Retrofitting an old building with central air is expensive and complicated, so most New York buildings don’t go to the trouble of making that renovation.