BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Home

The best cooling options for people without central air

Alvina Wang/BestReviews

Staying cool in the face of record temperatures

As the earth continues to warm, temperatures creep higher and higher. In July 2023, a new record high for global average temperature was recorded. In August 2023, South America broke heat records in the middle of what’s supposed to be its winter. In the face of this heat, it’s imperative not for comfort, but for health to stay cool. The typical solution is to stay inside with quality air conditioning. In the United States, central air is the most common AC system. However, many homes don’t have access to it. In these cases, you need an alternative solution.

Shop this article: LG Window Air Conditioner, Senville Mini Split Air Conditioner and Whynter Portable Air Conditioner.

Can I have central air installed?

The biggest requirement to installing central air is that your home must have a duct system. This means buildings such as cabins are immediately exempt. The second biggest requirement is money; installing central air costs thousands of dollars, with prices increasing the larger your home gets.

If you meet these requirements and you plan on staying in your home long-term or want to increase its value, central air should be a serious consideration. Otherwise, pick your alternative cooling poison.

Alternative cooling options

There’s no shortage of alternative cooling methods to central air available. Some of the best options are:

  • Window air conditioners are the classic alternative air conditioning solution to central air. Most are easy to install and have the power to cover large areas of your home, limiting how many you need to buy for full coverage. You can also take them down after the summer to get your window back.
  • Mini split air conditioners are the most similar to central air, as both have some parts installed inside and outside — hence the name. They’re highly effective, but starting prices are roughly $700 to $1,000. They’re best used as a long-term budget alternative to central air for homes that experience heat year-round.
  • Portable air conditioners are great for those living in small homes and especially those living alone. They do still need access to a window so they can pull in air to cool and push out excess hot air. This system can be quickly set up and taken down on repeat as you move about though, such as from your bedroom after a night’s sleep to your home office.
  • Smart air conditioners are a subtype of any of the above three main air conditioner types. They become smart by connecting to your Wi-Fi so you can control them from your phone or tablet with an accompanying app. Some can also integrate with your smart home setup for broader control options.
  • Fans aren’t a complete solution by themselves since they only help circulate air or mimic a breeze. This means if the air in your home is 90-plus degrees, you aren’t any safer no matter how many fans you have going. However, they’re excellent for helping spread the cooled air from your air conditioning unit around your home.
  • Curtains aren’t a complete solution either since they don’t provide a cooling effect. Some types of curtains do, however, help keep heat out of your home by blocking the sunlight from entering. This means your air conditioning unit doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a temperature, which also keeps your energy bill down.

Best window air conditioners

LG Window Air Conditioner

LG offers a suite of window units with power starting at 6,000 British thermal units and going up to 25,000. Some of the units also offer Wi-Fi connectivity.

Sold by Amazon

GE Window Air Conditioner

This GE unit is an excellent budget pick since it offers a reasonable 5,000 Btu or 6,000 Btu model for a little more than $200 each. It comes in white or black.

Sold by Amazon

Best mini split air conditioners

Senville Mini Split Air Conditioner

This all-in-one machine can also dehumidify the air and offers heating for the winter. It comes with a remote control and an installation kit. There are two voltage compatibility options.

Sold by Amazon

HomeLabs Mini Split Air Conditioner

This unit is quiet at only 33.5 decibels at its lowest, which is a touch above a whisper. It comes in four strengths but requires a 230-volt outlet.

Sold by Amazon

Best portable air conditioners

Whynter Portable Air Conditioner

It has a cooling strength of up to 14,000 Btu and operates at roughly 56 decibels, which is a little quieter than background music. It can also dehumidify up to 71 pints per day.

Sold by Amazon

Black and Decker Portable Air Conditioner

It comes in five strengths ranging from 8,000 Btu to 14,000 Btu, with two strengths also having a heat mode option for a small price increase. The included remote has an LCD screen.

Sold by Amazon

Best fans

Air King Window Fan

If your area isn’t getting too hot and adding some air flow to your home is enough to stay cool, a window fan can help. It’s installed like a window air conditioner and pulls cool air in and pushes hot air out.

Sold by Amazon

Lasko Tower Fan

This oscillating tower fan is 42 inches tall and has three speed modes. The oscillation is only 60 degrees, so it comes back around to you more often. It has a night mode that lowers its speed and brightness.

Sold by Amazon

Best curtains

ChadMade Thermal Blackout Curtains

These lovely pleated curtains add a touch of elegance that flat-fronted curtains lack. They come with plastic hanging hooks, in 15 sizes and in 12 colors.

Sold by Amazon

Nicetown Thermal Insulated Curtains

These curtains use a triple-weave construction that helps reduce noise. They also have extra-large grommets to slide right onto a curtain rod. They come in 22 sizes and 43 colors.

Sold by Amazon

Alternative cooling options worth checking out


Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: