Staying Cool on the Homestead: Know Your AC Options

Staying Cool on the Homestead: Know Your AC Options
Homesteading's popularity has exploded in America in recent years. Some make the switch to take more control and ownership of their lives. Others feel a powerful yearning to reconnect with the land and return to simpler times. No matter the reason, more people are seeing the appeal of living off the land and embarking on the journey of their lives. For all the benefits of homesteading, creature comforts like heating and AC can be a challenge. Let's review your options for keeping cool without conventional air conditioning.

What AC Options Are Available for My Homestead?

First, we'll ask how much you want to rely on the power grid. Your access to electricity will be the most significant factor in determining which alternative AC option is right for your homestead. Here are some of your best choices for staying cool on and off-grid.


The term “heat pump” might sound misleading because it sounds like it would only provide heat. But you can use your geothermal heat pump for heating and cooling! Geothermal air conditioning works by pumping conductive fluid through a series of underground pipes, usually located directly beneath or near your home. Here's a brief explanation of the cycle:
  1. The heat pump compressor raises the pressure and temperature of the conductive fluid.
  2. The hot fluid travels through the condenser to the cool ground.
  3. The ground absorbs the heat from the fluid.
  4. The fluid circulates back up to your house.
  5. The hot air inside your home comes into contact with the cold fluid and cools down.
  6. The cycle begins again.
Though geothermal systems can be pricey upfront, they can save you a lot of money over time. Here's why.
  • Longevity: A properly maintained geothermal system can last anywhere from 20 to 50 years before it needs replacement.
  • Minimal maintenance: With few moving parts to worry about, geothermal heat pumps require significantly less upkeep than other AC systems. Annual servicing and occasional filter changes are all you need to keep them in good working order.
  • Energy efficiency: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, geothermal heat pumps use 25% to 50% less energy than most conventional air conditioning systems.


Depending on what kind of system you choose, solar cooling systems can help cut your dependence on the power grid and reduce your overall energy costs. Plus, the sun is a renewable energy source, so you can also shrink your carbon footprint. Some solar AC systems require access to the grid to keep running at night or on overcast days. You have three options.
  1. Alternating current: An alternating current system works with the power grid. It converts the direct current collected from the solar panels.
  2. Direct current: These systems wire the direct current directly from the solar panels — because they don't convert the energy into alternating current before using it, you can go off-grid. However, you will need a backup battery to keep your air conditioner running overnight.
  3. Hybrid: A hybrid system combines the direct current from the solar panels and the alternating current from the grid to reduce your overall heating costs. While these systems tend to be the most expensive, they provide the best of both worlds for solar cooling.
Solar cooling systems work well for most homesteads, including those with limited space.


As the name implies, water-cooled air conditioners use water rather than refrigerant to cool a building. These highly efficient systems are only beginning to become common in residential buildings. Choose between two types of water-cooled air conditioners.
  • Chilled water: The water in the system absorbs heat from the air in your home, then travels to the chiller, where the heat evaporates. Then, the cool water circulates back into your home and the cycle starts over.
  • Cooling tower: The water in this system absorbs heat, then runs cold water over the hot condenser coils to cool them down. Then, it recirculates the cool water back into your home.
Water-cooled AC is most efficient for large buildings with complex floor plans, like schools and office buildings. They also tend to be pretty high-maintenance because they use a lot of water, especially in hot climates — you'll need to refill the tank frequently to keep it up and running.

Evaporative Coolers

If you live in a dry, hot climate, you might want to consider installing an evaporative cooling system. Also known as swamp coolers, these units work by passing hot outdoor air over water-saturated pads. The heat causes the water in the pads to evaporate, and cold air gets dispersed throughout your home. The primary drawback to swamp coolers is that they increase the humidity in your home because they release evaporated water directly into the air. Consider other options if you live in a humid climate.

What Are the Most Affordable Homestead AC Options?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioning costs American homeowners $29 billion annually — not to mention the 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide it releases into the atmosphere. Fortunately, the federal government offers various tax credits and rebates to homeowners who install energy-efficient upgrades like solar panel systems and geothermal heat pumps. And though they're pricey upfront, many Energy Star-certified products also offer rebates that make installing new HVAC systems more affordable. Based on that fact alone, solar and geothermal will be the most affordable choices over time. However, if you don't want to install a full system right away, a ductless mini-split setup might be a better option.

Can I Run AC Off Solar?

Yes, you can use solar power for your air conditioner. The number of panels you'll need depends on the size of your homestead and the specific AC unit you plan to use. If you choose to use an alternating current or hybrid solar system, you don't need to maintain batteries because these systems remain connected to the grid. When you run out of solar power, you'll pull power from the grid. On the other hand, using a direct current solar air conditioning system lets you get off the grid completely — but you'll need an inverter and backup battery for use at night and on overcast days.

What About an Off-Grid Mini-Split Air Conditioner?

For many homesteaders, a solar-powered mini-split AC is the best AC off-grid solution. A mini-split is a ductless air conditioning unit with an exterior condenser and an interior air handler. It's much smaller than most conventional central air units, making it affordable and easy to maintain. This type of system is incredibly cost-efficient, though you will need an inverter to connect your mini-split to the panels. You can often install it yourself, too, which helps cut some of the additional costs. The other significant benefit of a mini-split AC is that you can save money by adding to it over time — and you can do it without overloading your solar panels. Start with enough equipment to cover the rooms where you most need cooling, and install more as needed.

How Do I Keep My Livestock Cool Without AC?

Keeping your animals hale and healthy is vital to life on the homestead, especially during the blistering summer months. Here are some ways you can help your livestock beat the heat.
  • Keep them hydrated: Place your watering troughs in a shady spot and refill them frequently. You can also install automatic watering machines that replenish themselves to cut down on time.
  • Provide plenty of shade: Any animals that spend time outside should have ample access to shade, whether that means planting trees or setting up a movable shade structure.
  • Make frozen treats: Freeze your extra produce to make cold treats that will help lower the animals' internal temperatures. You could also freeze big tubs of water to make giant ice cubes for your watering troughs.
  • Turn on the sprinkler: Set up a timed sprinkler system to give your animals a reprieve from the hot sun.
  • Set up some fans: Keep air moving in indoor enclosures to eliminate airborne contaminants and prevent the temperature from rising too high.
  • Apply sunscreen: Fair-skinned animals like pigs and sheep are susceptible to sunburn just like humans are. If you don't have adequate shade available, you might want to give them some sunblock to protect their skin.

5 Tips for Staying Cool Off-Grid

If you need to get by without a full AC system, you'll need a lot of the same things your livestock do — after all, humans are animals, too! Knowing how to stay cool without air conditioning can help you cut down on your overall energy needs, which can also save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some of our best tips.

1. Keep Your Home Ventilated

Proper ventilation keeps fresh air moving through your home, which is a simple way to lower the temperature. It also helps naturally remove airborne pollutants from your home so you can stay safe and healthy. Cross-ventilation is a passive technique that relies on the principle of convection to create airflow in a room. By placing windows on both sides of the room and leaving the top half of the windows open, the temperature difference will push the hot air up and out of the room.

2. Use Passive Design Elements

Passive solar design lets you harness the sun's energy to naturally reduce excess heat in your home. Some examples of passive design elements include the following.
  • Window placement: If you're building a new home or adding to your existing one, try to place windows out of direct sunlight to prevent the house from heating up too much.
  • Shading: Planting shade trees or installing window treatments outside your home can help block sunlight from hitting the windows, which helps keep the internal temperature low.
  • Thermal mass: Use heat-trapping materials like concrete, bricks or stone in well-ventilated rooms to help eliminate unwanted heat.
  • Insulation: Thick walls and proper insulation keep cool air in and hot air out, reducing the need to turn the AC on.

3. Change Your Habits

So much of our modern lifestyle relies on conveniences like central AC and heating. When you're homesteading, you'll need to be proactive about staying comfortable. Here are some easy changes you can make to become less reliant on air conditioning.
  • Stay hydrated: The hotter it gets, the more water you lose through sweating, breathing and other bodily functions. And the less water is in your system, the harder it becomes to regulate your internal temperature. Drink water with each meal and throughout the day to keep yourself cool and healthy.
  • Eat right: Heavy, hearty meals are harder to digest, which raises your body temperature. Instead, opt for lighter dishes like seafood, smoothies and salads, and eat a small snack before doing any strenuous work outside. Eating lots of water-rich foods like fruits and veggies also helps keep you hydrated.
  • Switch your schedule: Try to get your outside work done in the early morning or evening while the temperature is more bearable. This change might be a little difficult at first, but it can save you a sunburn.
  • Take a siesta: Yes, we mean it! Taking a midday nap in the shade helps you avoid the afternoon heat and leaves you feeling refreshed and ready for the rest of the day.

4. Wear Light, Breathable Clothing

The clothes you wear can help keep you cool, even during the hottest months of the year. Look for garments made from breathable, natural materials like:
  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Merino wool
  • Viscose
  • Bamboo
Your clothes' fit and colors can also affect your body temperature. Light colors reflect sunlight instead of absorbing it, which makes maintaining your internal temperature easier. And loose-fitting clothing lets air circulate, which evaporates sweat and keeps you more comfortable.

5. Acclimate Yourself to the Heat

Have you ever wondered how people live in hot, arid regions without burning up? Their bodies are used to extreme temperatures, so they can work and live safely. By spending more time in the heat and letting yourself sweat, you can acclimate yourself to the point where you're comfortable without air conditioning. Since homesteading requires a lot of physical work, you might want to try the same strategies runners follow to prepare themselves for the summer. Start slowly with short periods of lighter, easier work. Gradually increase the time and intensity over the next few weeks — acclimatization takes about two weeks for most athletes. Of course, you'll still feel the heat, but you will handle it better, which can make all the difference in your need for cooling.

Prep Your Homestead With Ingram's Water & Air

Ultimately, the best AC for your homestead will depend on your family's specific needs. We have plenty of options to suit every budget and property, including geothermal heat pumps, mini-split units and more. You can save a little time and money by browsing our product catalog to learn more about our offerings.  
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