Give yourself a long lead time and an ample budget if your goal is an air-conditioned summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Give yourself a long lead time and an ample budget if your goal is an air-conditioned summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Installing central air conditioning takes money and patience

But it’ll be worth every penny the next time a heat dome descends over Snohomish County.

In late July 2009, there was a heat wave that was so bad that I feared for my newborn daughter’s life. She was two weeks old. Nursing her made both of us even hotter. I remember sitting in front of a fan and watching her face become beet red. So I collected her and my 4-year old son and escaped to Alderwood mall, where it was air conditioned. We stayed there all day even though I was in pain from having just given birth. To keep my son busy, I gave him quarters for the gum ball machines.

In 2021 the so-called “heat dome” scared me, too. I put up cardboard packaging on the windows to block sunlight, covered my dog with wet blankets and turned on all our fans. We didn’t own a portable air conditioning unit and couldn’t buy one because they were all sold out.

This year I decided that enough was enough. We would get central air conditioning. My husband thought air conditioning was a luxury. I viewed it as a safety tool. It’s probably both: a luxury and a safety tool. Central air conditioning is also a home upgrade that might help when we sell our house someday. I would not shut up about it until my husband gave in.

I began calling HVAC companies in February, with the goal of getting ac installed before summer. All the companies I talked to were stretched thin. Supply chain issues, labor shortages, you name it; they were impacted. One company said they could come out in mid August, and one said September. I went with the third company that promised the end of June.

As for cost, we paid about $10,000 when all was said and done. That was more than one quote of $9,000, and less than a quote that came in at $18,000. Things that impacted the price were the size of our house and that that we already had air ducts for our furnace and easy access in the garage.

The kicker is, the air conditioner didn’t work right away. The first time the City of Edmonds inspector came out to check, it failed. The company had to come out three different times to solve various issues until finally the unit passed inspection.

We didn’t use the air conditioning enough this summer to notice a sharp spike in our utility bill, but we did enjoy an increase in comfort. We extended invitations to friends and relatives to come escape the heat on hot days. The AC was also helpful on smoky days because of its filtration system.

Looking back, I wish I had given pregnant-me permission to buy a portable air conditioning unit in 2009. That summer’s heat event wasn’t an isolated incident like we’d hoped. In 2017 when our furnace died, I wish we had replaced it with a heat pump. But now, looking into the future, I have peace knowing that my house can be a cooling station for my loved ones. That’s worth every penny.

Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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