Traditionally, when people talk about cooling systems for their homes, they're usually referring to either a one-room air conditioner or a whole-house air conditioner. The latter is usually a part of a central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit called an HVAC system. But these aren't the only methods for cooling your home. Ceiling fans, portable fans, and even evaporative coolers can offer alternative techniques, although some more effectively than others.

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1. Keep Your HVAC Tuned

The reason that HVAC systems are so popular is that they offer a very convenient, whole-house cooling option that can be easily controlled from one or more thermostats located around the house. One of the biggest disadvantages of this method is that — if the equipment is more than 15 years old or not maintained properly — it can cause significant and expensive energy loss. Learn more at HVAC Maintenance Tips or contact a professional for a tune-up.

2. Add a Ceiling Fan and Raise Your Thermostat

One of the most effective ways to lower your energy costs is to raise the thermostat on your air conditioner. In fact, for each degree that you turn it up, you'll save 1% on your overall cooling costs. Of course, when you turn your thermostat up, your house gets a little warmer. That's where ceiling fans can help. Ceiling fans create a wind-chill effect that makes you feel cooler. In fact, by simply adding a ceiling fan, you could turn up your thermostat by 4° and still be comfortable.

3. Use Portable Fans for Spot Cooling

There will be some days that you'll find that you don't need to keep your whole house cool. For example, you might be cooking, doing laundry, or working out of a home office. This would be a good time to use a portable fan. It creates the same wind-chill effect as the ceiling fan, yet you can move it and position it wherever you want. There are several different styles to choose from, but whichever one you choose, make sure that — once you turn it on — you also raise your thermostat for energy savings.

4. Consider Evaporative Coolers in Dry Climates

Evaporative coolers are a good alternative - but only if you live in a low-humidity area. Often called swamp coolers, these units use about a quarter of the energy of conventional air conditioners, cost about half as much to install, and provide a steady stream of fresh air into your home. The downside is that they require more frequent maintenance and are only good in dry climates.