Stay cool without spending a fortune

Energy efficient cooling means cooling your house while minimizing air conditioner use. It doesn’t get simpler than that. To save money on air conditioning, the best way to start is to look for other ways to stay cool.

Before you spend a fortune on a new air conditioner, read my summer energy saving tips, or further down this page, my thoughts on how to survive without an air conditioner. Even if you do decide to buy a new AC, you’ll be able to get by on a smaller one,
which will save you money up front and for years to come.

My site has nearly 20 pages on energy efficient air conditionerss:

  • Energy saving air conditioners: my main AC article, with general guidelines, such as what to buy, and how to get the most cooling for the least energy.
  • How air conditioning works: learn how different air conditioners work so you can choose the best system for your needs.
  • Home air conditioning problems: don’t ruin your AC while trying to fix it. Learn how to troubleshoot, and when to call the experts.
  • Residential air conditioning units: An efficient residential air conditioning system might be your biggest energy saver.
  • Window AC units: That $200 big box special may be a bad deal when you factor in the lifetime operating costs of low-efficiency window units.
  • Best portable air conditioners: You can roll them from room to room, and some can serve as heat pumps in colder weather. But gosh those hoses are big!
  • Air conditioning ratings: Yes, you should buy an ENERGY STAR rated air conditioner. But there’s more to ratings than that.
  • Solar air conditioner: It sounds simple: power your AC with solar panels. Improved AC efficiency and lower solar power costs are making this a more realistic option.
  • The Trane AC unit: The Trane XL19i is a good example of a central AC unit with a very high efficiency rating.
  • Nordyne air conditioner: probably even better than Trane, with ultraefficient SEER 21 to 24.5 central air units and ultra-quiet iQ Drive technology.
  • Lennox air conditioners: fair to decent energy efficiency, but their solar powered air conditioning approach is little more than a gimmick.
  • York AC units, popular with builders, have more quality issues than other brands, perhaps because the builders tend not to hire the best installers?
  • Intertherm air conditioners: whole house air conditioners for manufactured homes, with minimal efficiency by today’s standards
  • An air conditioner mister sprays water on your condenser unit, and the cooling power of evaporation means your unit runs more efficiently.
  • The best window air conditioner is efficient, properly sized to the space being cooled, and runs quietly and reliably. Find out what factors to look for.
  • The best air conditioning temperature: programmable thermostats can save you cooling costs, but make sure you set the temperatures to maximize savings.

Can you live without air conditioning?

It amazes me how dependent people have become on air conditioning. In the hot, dry southwest US, without air conditioning many cities would probably still be small dusty towns. But do we really need air conditioners where it rarely gets over 90F?

Air conditioning was unheard of when I was growing up. The most energy efficient cooling was the front lawn sprinkler. Now half my neighbors seem to run their central or window AC systems 24×7 through the summer, even when it’s cooler outside than in. A few open windows would do the trick for free!

We used to have a hunk of old iron that would churn away noisily and hardly cool at all. Energy efficient cooling it was not. We ripped it out in 2010, and other than 2 or 3 days a summer where we’re uncomfortably hot, I’m very glad we did. We save hundreds on our electricity bill.

If you want to achieve energy efficient cooling, use simpler technologies and techniques. We use two-way window fans in our bedrooms, that can blow vast quantities of air in or suck it out.

The fans run all night. In the morning, we turn them off, and draw all the blinds except where we need natural sunlight.

It’s surprising how cool the house stays. One hot afternoon a visitor from the Caribbean actually complained to us that the air conditioning was on too high, when all we’d done is capture the coolness of the previous night and hold it inside!

Ceiling fans are a great way to achieve energy efficient cooling. Over your bed, they’ll give you a steady stream of air all night long, at a tenth or less of the cost of a window air conditioning unit, plus you get to leave the windows open and enjoy fresh night air.

What really used to make our house hot in the summer (especially from mid-afternoon until about midnight) was the heat built up in the attic. When the roof was re-shingled in 2007 we had the roofers install extra roof vents, and baffles between the soffits and the open space of the attic. This made a big difference. Before, our attic got really hot during the day, and slowly released heat into our upstairs rooms through the afternoon and night. The improved venting keeps the attic cooler, and keeps us cooler too!

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