Central AC is becoming more common

EIA data also show more households are investing in central air systems, which are several times more popular than window or wall units.

The EIA recently started tracking the use of more energy-efficient cooling options, like mini-split or heat pumps, and evaporative air coolers. But their use remains limited for now.

How Americans use central AC

Many Americans with a central AC system set the temperature and forget about it. That’s how central AC is used in over 40% of homes. A much smaller but growing share—16%—use a smart thermostat to adjust the temperature.

How to stay cool without central AC

Americans have a growing number of options to keep cool aside from installing a central AC system. Geothermal heat pumps are one of the most energy efficient forms of air conditioning, according to the EPA. Unlike traditional heat pumps, which collect heat from the air and eject it outside the home, the geothermal version absorbs cooler temperatures from the ground to circulate inside.

Evaporative air coolers use water to bring down hot air temperatures, and are less energy-intensive and cheaper than central AC. Planting trees and other vegetation also provides natural evaporative cooling and shade.

For those who already have central AC, there are ways to get it to run better. For example, making sure there are no leaks in the duct system helps air conditioners perform at their rated efficiency. And generally, a well insulated home with well-sealed windows will help with overall cooling.

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