Choosing the Best Cooling System for Your Space

Written by: TJ Celentano

Are you hot or not?  As temperatures rise across the country so does the need for dependable, efficient air cooling systems.  Depending on the size of your space, where you live, and your requirements will determine the best cooling system for you.  Let us show you how. Below you will find air cooling resources to help you choose the right product for your space.

Cooling Comparison Guide

We've done our research at Build.com and broken down the various cooling options for your home.  Refer to the following table to get a better idea of how products in these categories compare to each other.

Central
A/C
Window/Wall AC Ceiling Fan Swamp Cooler Mini-Split AC Air Circulator Whole House Fan Window Fan
Average Initial Cost* $3000 $300 $250 $150 $1200 $100 $1000 $150
Average Monthly Cost $120 $25 $15 $15 $75 $20 $40 $25
Energy Consumption High Moderate Low Moderate Moderate Low Moderate Low
Ease of Installation Difficult Easy Easy Easy Difficult Easy Difficult Easy
Time to Cool Quick Average N/A** Long Average N/A** Average Long
Expected Lifespan 20 Yrs 12 Yrs 15 Yrs 7 Yrs 15 Yrs 7 Yrs 20 Yrs 7 Yrs
Ideal For Entire Home Individual Room Individual Room Individual Room Apartment Individual Room Entire Home Individual Room

*Costs do not include installation.
**Only moves air (does not condition it).

Air Circulation Products

Unlike other cooling systems, air circulators work by simply moving air, not conditioning it. There are a variety of unit types here with varying functionality. For instance ceiling fans and traditional fans work by blowing wind over your body creating a “wind chill” factor. Exhaust fans, on the other hand, push hot air from the inside of the home out, and draw in cooler air from the exterior of the home through open windows.

Ceiling Fans

Ideal for: Individual Room
    Pros
  • Light kits available
  • In the winter, reversing the direction of the blade-spin can help to circulate the warm air
  • Quiet
  • Easy to install yourself - Learn How
    Cons
  • No cooling effect when you are not in the room
  • Shorter life-span if not balanced properly - Learn How
Shop Ceiling Fans

Air Circulators

Ideal for: Individual Room
    Pros
  • Small
  • Easy to use
  • Easy Maintanance
    Cons
  • No cooling effect when you are not in the room
  • Can be loud
Shop Air Circulators/Common Fans

Whole House Fans

Ideal for: Entire Home
    Pros
  • Quickly cools Home
  • Low energy consumption
    Cons
  • Only works if the air outside is actually cooler than the air inside
  • Requires all windows to be open to work properly
  • Tends to be loud
  • Difficult installation
Shop Whole House/Exhaust Fans

Window Fan

Ideal for: Individual Room
    Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Low energy consumption
  • Easy Installation
  • Can cool a room quickly
    Cons
  • Only works if the air outside is actually cooler than the air inside
  • Tends to be loud
  • Not recommended if you have allergies
  • Takes up a window
Shop Window Fans

Window AC and Wall AC Units

      

These types of units are commonly used in smaller homes, apartments and condos, as well as in individual rooms needing extra cooling in a home that has a central HVAC system. There are many brands and products to choose from in these categories on Build.com, so be sure to look closely at the performance details such as energy use, BTU efficiency (the cooling power of the unit) as well as the specific sizing measurements (especially important for window units).

Window AC Units

Ideal for: Individual Room
    Pros
  • Easy installation
  • Great for cooling small spaces quickly
  • Inexpsensive
    Cons
  • Tend to be loud
  • Takes away the use of a window
Shop Window AC Units

Wall AC Units

Ideal for: Individual Room
    Pros
  • Versatile installation options
  • Great for cooling small spaces quickly
  • Inexpsensive
    Cons
  • Installation can be difficult
  • Tend to be loud
  • Not very visually appealing
Shop Wall AC Units

Mini-Split AC Units

Ideal for: Apartment
    Pros
  • Does not require ducting
  • Cools spaces quickly and efficiently
  • Quiet
  • Less space required than whole house AC
    Cons
  • Diufficult Installation
  • Expensive
Shop Mini-Split AC Units

Portable AC Units

Ideal for: Individual Room
    Pros
  • No installation - Plug in and use
  • Great for cooling small spaces quickly
  • Inexpensive
    Cons
  • Not very visually appealing
  • Tends to be loud
Shop Portable AC Units

Evaporative Coolers

Ideal for: Individual Room
    Pros
  • Easy installation
  • Great for cooling small spaces quickly
  • Inexpensive
  • Portable
    Cons
  • Tend to be loud
  • Can make the air feel humid
  • More effective in conjuction with other cooling devices
  • Requires loading water in unit
Shop Evaporative Coolers

Whole House Air Conditioners

Ideal for: Entire Home
    Pros
  • Cools entire home quickly
  • Out of sight out of mind
  • Many Programmable Thermostats available
    Cons
  • Expensive
  • Requires professional installation
  • Requires regular service
  • Concrete Pad required

Choosing the Right Size Air Conditioner for Your Space

Larger is not always better when choosing an air conditioner. thinking it will provide better cooling. However, an air conditioner that is too large is less effective — and wastes energy. Air conditioners remove both heat and humidity from the air. Too large of a unit will cool the room quickly but only remove some of the humidity. This can leave the room with a damp, clammy feeling. A properly sized unit removes humidity effectively and cools simultaneously. To find the proper BTU unit for your space, refer to the chart below:

Area To Be Cooled (square feet) Capacity Needed (BTUs)
100 up to 150 5,000
150 up to 250 6,000
250 up to 300 7,000
300 up to 350 8,000
350 up to 400 9,000
400 up to 450 10,000
450 up to 550 12,000
550 up to 700 14,000
700 up to 1,000 18,000
1,000 up to 1,200 21,000
1,200 up to 1,400 23,000
1,400 up to 1,500 24,000
1,500 up to 2,000 30,000
2,000 up to 2,500 34,000

Air Conditioner Maintenance DIY Resources

How To Change Your Air Conditioner Filter

By changing out your air conditioner filer once every three months, not only will it make your system more efficient, it will cut down your heating and cooling costs, provide cleaner and healthier air as well as prolonging the system life.

Learn How
Shop AC Filters

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips

We teach you some DIY tips on keeping your air conditioner running like new. Performing regular maintenance on your air conditioning system will not only extend its life, but it will also help keep you cool.

Learn How
 
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