Industry: Hot Times in a Cool Business

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorched. That is to say, husbands who spend the torrid days of summer in air-conditioned offices reached by air-conditioned cars, buses or trains find it difficult to say no when overheated wives demand air conditioning at home. As a result, cooling units have become the smartest-selling home appliances after refrigerators and washing machines.

Last year 2,200,000 U.S. families tried air conditioning for the first time. This year the industry expects to sell 3,500,000 window units or central home air conditioners worth $1.6 billion. Sales have...