We all know central AC is great but can be expensive. What are some other options to look into?

Whole-house fans use 90 percent less energy than air conditioners, and typically cost less than $1000, even with installation. They draw cool morning and evening air through open doors and windows and force the hot air up through the attic and out the roof vents. Good places to put these are the upstairs stairwell or a hallway ceiling with 3 feet of clearance above the fan. The drawbacks are that the inside temperature will only go as low as the outside temperature gets, they can make allergies worse by drawing in pollen, and large fans need quite a bit of ventilation in the attic.

A window AC unit can cool up to 650 square feet, but windows need to be the right size and you’ll need an electrical outlet nearby. They only cost a few hundred bucks.

In-wall air conditioners are similar to window units, but they have vents on the back instead of on the sides and they sit slightly farther from the exterior wall. You will need to cut a hole in the outside wall of your home and may need a new electrical unit. They typically cost less than $800.

Portable air conditioners are easy to use but about twice as expensive than a window unit of the same size, and use more energy. They sit on casters on the floor and vent hot air through a hose running through a window, wall or sliding glass door.

A mini-split system air conditioner is sort of a hybrid of central air and a window unit. A small condenser sits outside and connects to an inside evaporator mounted high on the wall or ceiling. Installation is a bit more expensive than other options.

A few other options to consider: a ventilator fan installed in the wall or floor or a vent or duct booster fan, which sits on a ceiling, floor, or wall register.


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