6 Alternatives to Traditional Air Conditioning

Sometimes HVAC just won’t cut your home.

For many, the rising temperatures in the summer months make living in a climate-controlled home crucial. But cooling through a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, or HVAC, may not always be the best solution. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, three-quarters of all U.S. homes have air conditioning, representing about 6% of all electricity produced nationwide. Whether you want to reduce your energy consumption, stop that summer energy bills or if your home just doesn’t work with an HVAC system, you have many options for keeping your space cool in the heat. Here are six alternatives to central air conditioning.

How air conditioning works

The traditional HVAC refrigerator section that most people recognize as the boxy unit that sits outside a home transfers the warm air from the inside to the outside, while simultaneously cooling air with refrigerant and expelling it through vents in each room. The energy efficiency of an HVAC depends on the age of the system, whether it regular maintenance and when the air filter is replaced. Air conditioners cost U.S. homeowners a total of about $29 billion a year, according to the Department of Energy. They also emit about 117 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air on an annual basis.

Ductless or mini split air conditioner

Getting between walls isn’t always an easy option for installing ductwork, so a less invasive way to incorporate air conditioning is with a ductless system, also known as a mini split system. These systems include an external condenser unit, which is similar to a refrigerated air conditioning unit, but smaller. Connected to the condenser are small units for each room that are mounted on a wall.

Benefit: The individual units of a mini split system allow you to adjust the temperature of each room.

Disadvantage: The more rooms you need to cool, the more it costs, because each room needs its own unit.

Cost: A ductless system usually starts at about $1,300 and can go up to $13,000 for a five-zone system package, according to HomeAdvisor, with installation adding a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.

Window unit or portable air conditioner

One of the most popular alternatives to central air is a window unit or portable air conditioner that cools a single room.

Benefit: A portable air conditioner or window unit is one of the fastest ways to effectively cool a room. Once you have purchased the air conditioner, all you need is a power outlet and a window.

Disadvantage: Whether installed in a window or placed on the floor, these compact air conditioners must be capable of venting exhaust fumes to the outside, either by propped up in the window or with an exhaust hose inserted into an opening in the window, which is not always easy. or convenient. Otherwise, the warmer air will remain in the room and the unit will not be able to cool the room effectively.

Cost: Both window and portable air conditioners can run from just under $200 to $800 or more and can be purchased at stores such as Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Home Depot.

Evaporative cooler or swamp cooler

In arid climates, an evaporative or swamp cooler is a common option. With a fan and a water-soaked sponge or pad, air is blown through the pad by the fan, allowing the water-cooled air to blow into the room or the rest of the house. To cool the house and regulate the temperature from room to room, break windows to let the warm air escape and leave the cooled air behind.

Benefit: With a fan and a small amount of water consumption while running, a swamp cooler is much cheaper to run than refrigerant air conditioning. You will be happy with bearing useful bills.

Disadvantage: With water as the cooling factor, a swamp cooler, which is often placed on the roof, only works at low humidity. At 50% relative humidity, for example, you achieve a difference of about 10 degrees. The more humid the air, the less effective you can cool.

Cost: Home improvement network and information company Angi reports that most swamp cooler installations cost between $1,402 and $3,454.

attic fan

A slightly simplified version of a swamp cooler, an attic fan avoids humidity restrictions and works best for areas or days when the weather outside isn’t too hot. It simply works by circulating air, pushing stuffy, warmer air out of the house and bringing in a constant breeze. With right attic vents, the fan can be reversed to draw cooler air through the house when the windows are open, expelling the hot, stuffy air from the attic vents.

Benefit: With only one fan running, this alternative is a major cost saver.

Disadvantage: Without a refrigerant, an attic fan won’t make the air much cooler if the temperature rises above 80 degrees, but it can be a much more cost-effective alternative to central air conditioning to keep the house cool on days when it’s not too hot.

Cost: The cost of installing an attic or whole-home fan typically ranges from $369 to $876, according to HomeAdvisor, while quality materials and installation can run as low as $2,750.

Air Cooling Fan

The simplest cooling option – a fan – is an effective solution for many, as it cools by increasing the air circulation in a room.

Benefit: It is a cheap and easy solution. A fan that sits low to the ground and angled upwards may feel most effective because the coldest air in the room is on the floor.

Disadvantage: Unless it contains a mister, is a portable evaporative cooler, or has some sort of exhaust vent, a fan cannot take in warmer air and make it cooler. In a humid environment, the mister or evaporative cooling fans will only make the room more humid.

Cost: Fans vary in size and style — a simple table fan can cost $15 or less, while the popular and quiet Dyson bladeless fans start at $400.

Geothermal heating and cooling

Geothermal heating and cooling takes advantage of the more stable temperatures underground. There are a variety of geothermal systems to choose from, but they all work largely with fluid flowing through a system of buried pipes, which exchanges heat from the house to the ground, and vice versa in cold weather.

Benefit: A geothermal heat pump system is more energy efficient than a traditional HVAC system and pays for its installation costs in five to 10 years in the form of energy savings, according to the Department of Energy.

Disadvantage: Installing them requires a lot of extra work due to the digging required to bury the pipes, which also adds to the overall cost of the project.

Cost: HomeAdvisor reports that the typical range to install the system is between $3,652 and $16,985 and can be as high as $30,000, including the equipment and excavation.

Here are six alternatives to traditional air conditioning:

— Ductless or mini split air conditioner.

— Window unit or portable air conditioner.

— Evaporative cooler or swamp cooler.

— Attic fan.

— Air cooling fan.

— Geothermal heating and cooling.

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