Updated August 2023

Efficiency Standards Around Air Conditioning Continue to Improve

Starting in 1992, the Department of Energy has been establishing conservation requirements for producers of residential central air conditioners and heat pumps. The initial guideline is projected to yield approximately $29 billion in energy cost reductions spanning from 1993 to 2023.

Homes built before the 1960s or 1970s typically did not include air conditioning systems. In some cases, older homes do not have space for the ductwork necessary to accommodate a central air conditioning system. Even if your house now has central AC or an evaporative cooler, you may still struggle to maintain a comfortable interior temperature. Insufficient insulation or leaky vents could be robbing you of cool airflow.

Fortunately, you can draw upon several strategies for cooling your older home. A variety of equipment exists that could help you beat the heat in an old house.

Ceiling Fans

Overhead lighting in your rooms can be converted to ceiling fans with lights. Your local home store should have several styles of ceiling fans that you could buy off the shelf. Do-it-yourselfers or electricians can install these. Although ceiling fans do not alter air temperature, the moving air helps to cool your skin.

Whole House Fans

A whole-house fan works by ventilating hot air out of the building and drawing fresh air inside. These are large fans that are permanently attached to a central location in your house. They direct air up into your attic, where the heat can travel out of roof vents. As you run a whole house fan, you open your windows so that the system can pull new air inside. You gain a cooling effect by running a whole house fan at night or early morning when the temperature is lower.

Attic Ventilation Fans

Heat naturally builds up in an attic because heat rises into the top of the house. Temperatures in attics with poor ventilation can quickly soar to 150 degrees. This trapped heat makes cooling your home very difficult because it’s essentially covered in a giant heating pad. The installation of attic ventilation fans will prevent these high temperatures and enable your air conditioner to work more effectively and efficiently.

Radiant Barriers on Ductwork

Ducts located in hot attics or crawlspaces can absorb exterior heat. This heat gets transferred to the cooled air traveling through your ducts. As a result, your air conditioner or evaporative cooler has to fight an uphill battle to cool the building. The system cools the air, but the air heats up again before entering your rooms.

Radiant barriers that reflect heat away from ducts can significantly reduce this problem. Foil and paint products can be applied to ducts that are absorbing heat. Homes in hot climates like we have here in California are prone to radiant heat absorption.


Insulation may get more attention in cold climates, but it’s just as crucial for cooling purposes. On hot days, intense heat penetrates poorly insulated walls and roofs. This makes your home hotter and undermines the efforts of your air conditioner. Older homes can be notorious for lacking insulation. Even if they have been updated with a modern central air conditioner, half the cool air could be leaking out the walls and roof before you even get to feel it.

An evaluation by Huft Home Services in Elk Grove, CA, will inform you about air leaks in your home. We’ll explain how to solve these issues with sealing and insulation services.

Evaporative Cooler

Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, perform well in hot, dry climates. They dispel heat from the air through the evaporation of water. They also raise the humidity inside your home to a comfortable level while reducing the interior temperature. They do not have the same cooling capabilities as air conditioners but can certainly cool a house in 90-degree weather.

Central Air Conditioning

A central air conditioning system uses a refrigerant that moves between the interior evaporator coil and the exterior compressor. Blowers move the air throughout the home during the cooling process. Central air has become the standard approach to residential cooling. Since it has been around for decades, many older homes have been retrofitted with air conditioning. An older home that already has ducts for a forced-air furnace can connect those same ducts to a central air conditioner.

An older home with central air might still experience cooling problems. An aging air conditioner may have passed its peak of performance and now gobbles electricity while delivering mediocre results. Replacing an outdated air conditioner with a modern one will improve indoor comfort and control utility costs in an older house.

Window or Wall Air Conditioner

You will often encounter older homes that had one or more window air conditioners installed. Units like this can also be fitted into holes in the walls instead of taking over a window. A wall unit can make your living room or bedroom quite comfortable during hot weather. However, they consume quite a bit of power compared to the amount of cooling provided. They also fail to cool off your whole home.

Portable Air Conditioner

Speaking of power consumption, those portable air conditioners that you see online or at box stores are the least efficient form of air conditioning. Most models are quite noisy as well. The compressor is operating inside your home instead of outside. Despite these disadvantages, portable air conditioners do offer an off-the-shelf solution when you’re living in a hothouse. One of these could make your bedroom comfortable for sleeping or cool a living room so that you can relax with friends or family.

High-Velocity HVAC

Adding regular ductwork to an old home may be impossible, but a high-velocity mini-duct HVAC system overcomes this issue. This system employs smaller ducts that are only about 3 inches in diameter. They can be tucked between studs and put over ceilings. The small ducts connect vents to a central HVAC unit that manages heating and cooling.

Ductless Mini-Split System

A ductless mini-split system places one or more wall units in your home and then connects them by hoses to an exterior heat pump. Only small holes are needed in walls to run the hoses from the inside to the outside. No ducts are required. The wall-mounted air handler blows heated or cooled air into your room. Mini-splits deliver precise temperature control when and where you need it, and they are energy efficient.

Level-to-Level Ventilator Fan

If your house has a basement, you already know how much cooler the subterranean level is. A level-to-level ventilator fan lets you take advantage of that cool air area. After cutting a vent hole in the floor, you can install the fan and draw the cool basement air up to the main floor.

Talk to Us About Cooling Solutions

Huft Home Services employ NATE-certified technicians who know how to solve heating and cooling challenges. We perform repairs and maintenance on air conditioners and furnaces. We’re licensed to install new heaters, air conditioners, whole-house fans, and water heaters. You can consult our experts about the best ways to go about making your home both comfortable and efficient.

Contact us today for heating and cooling advice when remodeling your older home.

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