Air Conditioning Projects on a Budget

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Rachel Polant

Jan 1

If your budget is tight but you want to stay cool, try these HVAC hacks first

In the high heat of the summer, the last thing you want is an air conditioner on the fritz. Just the thought of crawling into bed on a hot, humid night without the cooling reprieve of A/C is enough to leave you sleepless before you even walk into your bedroom.

Luckily, not every problem is a major problem. However, keep in mind that the average lifespan of a central air conditioning system is 12–15 years.

If you have central air conditioning but it’s not cooling effectively

So, if your A/C is well within this timeframe but giving you a bit of trouble, here are a few things you might want to check into before you call an HVAC pro and spend more money than necessary.

  1. If you have water leaking by your HVAC system.
    • Make sure the drain isn’t clogged or disconnected.
    • Unit constantly cycles on and off.
    • Clean the condenser, evaporator unit, and fan.
  2. Air conditioning unit isn’t cooling as well.
    • Check that the thermostat is working properly.
    • Make sure air flow is good by removing plants and debris away from the condenser.
    • Clean or replace the air filter.
    • Provide shade to the unit.
    • Replace insulation on the refrigerant line if it’s worn-out.
  3. Air conditioning is shutting off before your home has reached a comfortable temperature.
    • Make sure your thermostat is not poorly placed in the home. If it’s in an area close to registers, doors, stoves, etc., moving it may make a difference. Also, re-using the same thermostat will save you money.

How to stay cool when you don’t have air conditioning

If you’re one of the 10 percent of homeowners in the U.S. who do not have some form of air conditioning, there are a few tricks you can use to stay cool as the temperature rises. 

Purchase drapes that have a light colored liner to reflect the sun’s heat, and keep them closed during the hottest part of the day. Also, letting the drapes gather at the floor will block warm air movement. Installing slated shutters is also helpful to keep the heat out of the house.

Applying highly reflective mirrored-window film on east and west facing windows will keep your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

This one might seem obvious, but if you’re unaccustomed to going without A/C, it might not occur to you. Luckily, it’s the easiest. Open your windows in the morning and again in the evening, and keep them open throughout the night when the air is coolest. This will cool off all surfaces in the home, bringing down the overall temperature. This is especially effective if you open windows on the opposite side of the house to create cross ventilation and cool it off further.

Try not to run your heat-generating appliances during the hottest part of the day. Heat and steam from your oven, dryer, dishwasher, etc., will only cause more misery.

An inexpensive alternative to central air conditioning

You may want to think about installing a whole house fan. Even though they are a bit pricey, costing around $1,000–$1,600, they are much cheaper than installing a central A/C unit.

A whole house fan works by venting the hot air inside the house out through the roof vent via the attic, drawing fresh air from outside through open windows.

If you want to ditch the fans and install central air conditioning

Staying cool doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many brands and models of cooling systems at many price points. The best first step you can take in getting cool this summer is to connect with to find and hire the top HVAC contractors in your area. Qualified heating and cooling contractors are well informed about different brands, models, the quality and functions available at different prices.