Energy Saving Alternatives to AC

Talk to long-term Coloradans and you’ll surely hear someone say, “Yon don’t need air conditioning in Colorado.” That may sound ridiculous given the recent run of 100°-plus days in the state, but a few days do not an air conditioning season make. Before you invest in a central cooling system for your upgrade, remodel or new old house, here are a few things to consider.

Central Air is Expensive
Our partners at HomeAdvisor.com estimate that adding central air to a 1500 square foot home will range from $4,000-7.000, depending on whether there’s existing ductwork and upwards of $10,000 for a 2500 square foot residence. Other factors such as equipment location and electrical service affect the cost, too.

According to Energy Star, air conditioning costs account for around 13% of home energy use and it’s not unusual to see $400-plus electric bills in the summer with central air running full-time.

What Are Some Alternatives?
First, dress for the heat and let your body’s built-in cooling system work. While shorts and a tee shirt or a sundress may not be acceptable office attire, they’re perfect summertime work-from-home. And what you wear after five is up to you.

Use blinds or drapes (shady foliage is even better) to block direct sun during the heat of the day and open windows for cross-ventilation in the evenings to enjoy Colorado’s cool night air. Low-E windows and weatherstripping do double duty year-round.

If you need extra cooling on hot days, here are some choices:
Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are year-round energy savers. Get ones that are reversible for a cooling downward breeze in the summer and to distribute warm air up and around the room in the winter.

Room Fans
Room fans come all sizes, shapes, and function. From small “personal” fans that blow directly onto you to large box fans with hurricane winds, fans use you body’s natural cooling system
Tower and bladeless fans run quieter and generally offer a gentler breeze than fans with blades and are safer around children and pets.

Window Fans
Window fans are made to sit in windows with the sash pulled down to complete their enclosure. They can be installed to bring in fresh air or exhaust hot air. They can be very effective, but need to be tightly sealed to keep out rain and bugs and are not great from a security standpoint when used on the ground floor.

Whole House/Attic Fans
Attic fans draw hot, humid air out of your attic helping cool your house by distributing cooler air throughout the house. They cool fairly slowly but use very little energy to do it. There are even solar-powered models on the market.

Evaporative (Swamp) Coolers
Generally mounted on the roof, evaporative coolers blow outside air through water-soaked pads using evaporation to cool the air before directing it into your living space. They are most effective in dry climates, making them popular in Colorado and other parts of the Southwest.

They need a water supply (about the same as an icemaker) and electricity to run the fan, but can cool a lot of space very economically.

Portable Room Air Conditioners
Similar to portable fans, these units add compact cooling coils to blow refrigerated air through a fan. There is a wide variety of sizes and types to offer extra cooling to small spaces.

Window Air Conditioners
Just as their name implies, window air conditioners mount in a window opening like a window fan but instead of untreated air, they use coolant and condensers to blow refrigerated air into the room. They use considerably more electricity than the fans above and may require upgraded wiring but can still save money when used to cool an area versus the load of central air.

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners
Ductless air conditioners use a compressor mounted outside the house like a ducted central air system but the cooled air is distributed through pipes to individual rooms containing thermostatically-controlled blowers. The blowers are generally mounted at the top of a wall and allow you to cool rooms individually.

Floor-mounted air conditioners are similar to mini-splits and are used where wall mounting is impractical.

While installation costs are relatively high, they generally cost less than ducted systems, offer many of the same benefits, and can save a considerable amount of energy over a cooling season.

Don’t risk your comfort and safety by overlooking important electrical work to make your summer improvements function at their best. Allstar Electrical Services delivers the expertise and quality results you expect and deserve for your summer fixes, whatever your needs may be. Just give us a call at (303) 399-7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy online forms to request a free estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 20 years, are top-rated by the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List and are proud to be listed as a preferred contractor by Home Advisor.