Trying to beat the summer heat? As temperatures climb, cooling your home is a necessity. When it comes to selecting the right cooling system, there are many systems available, ranging from fans to central air conditioning. We’ve listed a few of the most common types of cooling methods below, along with a description of each to help you in your search.
Fans and Ventilation
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the least expensive way to cool your home is through ventilation. While this method may not work in hot, humid climates, if you live in a more mild place with hot days and cool nights, this could be effective for you.
Window and Ceiling Fans
Window fans and ceiling fans may be enough to keep air circulating within your home, and to keep you comfortable.
The Department of Energy considers ceiling fans to be “the most effective of these types of fans, because they effectively circulate the air in a room to create a draft throughout the room.”
Window fans are another common cooling method. When using a window fan, the Department of Energy suggests closing windows near the fan and opening windows far from the fan on the windward side of your home. They further suggest that the window fan “should be located on the upper level, if possible, and the open windows should be located on the lower level.”
Whole house fans, commonly known as attic fans, can lower your home’s temperature and your electric bills when compared to air conditioning.
So, how does it work? An attic fan pulls cooler outside air through your house and pushes warmer air out through the attic.
Attic fans can be purchased for a few hundred dollars or less, but their effectiveness is limited by humidity and extreme outdoor temperatures.
Evaporative, or Swamp, Coolers
In areas of low humidity, such as the Southwestern U.S., evaporative coolers, or swamp coolers, are another popular choice. Swamp coolers chill the outdoor air when it passes over water-filled pads. As the water evaporates into the warm air, the overall temperature cools and is then pushed into your home.
Swamp coolers are less expensive than central air conditioning by about one half. However, they may need more frequent maintenance than A/C units.
In addition to roof-mounted swamp coolers, portable coolers are becoming increasingly popular.
Air conditioners are used by three-quarters of all homes in the United States, according to the Department of Energy. There are many different types of air conditioners to consider: central air conditioners, ductless mini-split air conditioners, and room air conditioners.
Central Air Conditioning and Heat Pumps
Central A/C uses a system of supply and return ducts to cool the air throughout your entire home. With a split-system central air conditioner, an indoor cabinet often contains the evaporator and a furnace or heat pump. The condenser and compressor are located outside the home. If you are looking to install central A/C and already have a furnace, this is likely the least expensive type of central A/C to install.
There are also packaged central air conditioners, where all components of the A/C are located in one outdoor cabinet. These are usually seen at commercial properties, but can be installed for residential use.
Heat pumps are another option. They are similar to central air conditioners, but they also produce heat in the winter. A heat pump extracts heat from the environment and transfers it to another location. In the summer, this means removing heat from the inside of your home. For the winter, this is reversed. As Smarter House puts it, “In winter, the heat pump reverses this trick, scavenging heat from the cold outdoors with the help of an electrical system, and discharging that heat inside the house.”
Basically, a heat pump operates the same as a central A/C, but it has the ability to reverse the cycle depending on the season.
Ductless mini-split units are small air conditioners with the ability to cool individual rooms or zones.
Much like central air conditioners, mini-splits use an outdoor condenser and an indoor handling unit. However, there is no duct work. The unit is instead mounted on the wall or ceiling in each zone and can use flexible tubing to provide cooling to other areas.
You can purchase multiple-zone units, which allows each area in your home to have a different set temperature.
For older homes without the space to install central HVAC, ductless A/C might be your best option.
Mini-splits have some disadvantages, though. According to the Department of Energy, “such systems cost about $1,500 to $2,000 per ton of cooling capacity,” which is about 30% more than central systems.
Window A/C Units
Room, or window, air conditioners are less expensive than other types of A/C units, but they can only cool one room or area. They typically come in two styles – a wall unit, or a window unit.
If you live in a more moderate climate, this may be all that you need to keep cool. And, of course, more than one unit can be purchased over time if you need more than one area cooled.
Once you’ve decided on a unit type, there are some other considerations to make. There are many rating systems and standards that rate the efficiency of a unit, as well as energy use.
One such standard, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), measures how much your cooling system puts out per unit of energy consumed. When comparing different products, the one with the higher SEER rating will be more efficient.
Take your time when deciding on a unit. Some units have more features than others, like humidity control. Do your research, and make sure that the unit you are purchasing is the best one for your needs.