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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  • Homestead Heating: What Are My Options?

    Homestead Heating: What Are My Options?

    Homestead living is a dream come true in many ways, but winter is always just around the corner when you're an off-grid living enthusiast. Protecting your crops and livestock when the cold comes in is second nature. Protecting yourself may require a little extra thought and planning, though. Understanding your heating options is a must for getting you through the winter — at least, getting you through the winter without wearing all your clothes at once or listening to your teeth chatter during late-night trips to the bathroom.

    Many types of heating systems are suited to homestead living and the best one for you depends on your property, budget and needs. The choice can seem overwhelming, but going through your options step-by-step can help you choose how you'll stay warm through the spring thaw.

    Should I Use a Wood Stove?

    Self-sufficiency is integral to homesteading, and a wood stove fits nicely with off-grid living. A wood stove will rank quite high if you're looking for the most efficient way to heat a home. You'll have a lovely, old-fashioned fireplace that heats the whole building.

    Pros of a Wood Stove

    Wood stoves are excellent at extracting every last inch of heat from the logs you feed them. These stoves provide a high enough heat output to heat your entire home without a single kilowatt of electricity. You also have more control over your heating and can adjust the temperature easily by burning more or less wood.

    If eco-friendliness is a consideration, you'll want to look for a newer model. Modern versions produce fewer harmful emissions, lowering global and local ambient air pollution. New EPA-certified wood stoves are also remarkably efficient, using one-third as much firewood to generate the same amount of heat.

    Cons of a Wood Stove

    Installation and the appliance itself can leave a dent in your pocket, though its durability and the sustainability of having one in your home can help offset the cost.

    If you've never used a wood stove before, it might take a little getting used to. You'll have to stock up on cords of wood and keep them on hand at all times. You may even have to chop the wood yourself, which is great cardio, but a bit of a hassle. If you don't live near a forest, you may have to travel some distance to harvest your firewood.

    Finally, the stove's body can get scorching hot, which could pose a safety risk to pets and small children.

    Should I Use a Masonry Fireplace?

    For a more traditional and aesthetically pleasing option, consider a masonry fireplace made of brick, stone and mortar. These fireplaces are most often installed during construction, though you can add the firebox and chimney afterward.

    Pros of a Masonry Fireplace

    Masonry fireplaces are functional and possess a certain rustic charm, making them a firm favorite. Their undeniable charm creates an ambiance that's challenging to replicate with other systems.

    Masonry fireplaces are also versatile. Brick and mortar hold heat very well, so it can be an excellent choice for heating your homestead for long periods. You can also use masonry fireplaces to boil water if you'd like to save on energy costs.

    Cons of a Masonry Fireplace

    On the flip side, masonry fireplaces are large, with space-invading attachments like the chimney and hearth. You might find you're limited in where you can place your fireplace. Masonry fireplaces are fixtures in your home, so you'd better be sure about the location — as there'll be no moving it later, regardless of how it turns out.

    Building a masonry fireplace in your home will be expensive and you'll also need to factor in cleaning and maintenance costs. The chimney serves as an exhaust and gets dirty quickly. Without regular maintenance and cleaning, blockages can develop and lead to fire hazards or dangerous carbon monoxide backflow.

    Should I Use a Pellet Stove?

    Pellet stoves take the guesswork out of homestead heating and provide one of the cheapest ways to heat a home. There isn't much opportunity for human error, either, so you'll be safe even if you have one too many glasses of red wine in front of the fire on a cold winter night.

    Pros of a Pellet Stove

    You can use a thermostat to control your pellet stove's temperature, and the central control panel makes them easy to operate. There's no need for manual adjustments with a pellet stove — its automation takes care of the temperature and airflow.

    Pellet stoves are incredibly efficient, providing a lot of heat per pellet. This highly clean-burning stove option gives you as much heat as possible from every pellet with minimal waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all new pellet stoves to meet low-emission standards, which is fantastic for sustainability.

    Installation is cost-effective and since pellet stoves don't require ventilation, you can install them anywhere you want. There are several models to choose from to suit the needs and sizes of the heated areas. While you'll have to clean them every few days, manufacturers have made pellet stoves easy to clean. Storing your fuel is also tidy and straightforward. You can buy the fuel in bags and keep some inside the stove — no mess, no fuss.

    Cons of a Pellet Stove

    Pellet stoves are electric, with additional bulky components that take up space and are challenging to move. These electrical components also make pellet stoves more of a hassle to maintain. You'll need to clean them out often and have a certified technician.

    The electricity means you'll have another energy cost in addition to the fuel pellets. Reduced availability can increase fuel prices. Those pellets are also manufactured, meaning you can't harvest your own the way you can with firewood. If you let your supply get low, you could freeze while trying to get more.

    Pellet stoves have a less traditional look — even the flames are different, which may not fit your homestead aesthetic. You also won't get the pleasant lull of a crackling fire with a pellet stove, as all their moving parts make them noisy.

    Should I Use a Heat Pump?

    A heat pump could make your shortlist if you're looking for more than just a heating option. The system uses heat from the outside air to warm your home. These multifunctional devices also remove the need for an air conditioning system while providing a reliable heating option in the colder months.

    Pros of Heat Pumps

    A heat pump is many people's first choice for homesteading temperature control. Instead of burning fuel to generate heat, they draw in heat from outside to warm your home. They'll also help you reduce costs compared to other electric heating options and limit your reliance on fossil fuels — a plus if you're environmentally conscious!

    Heat pumps are user-friendly and low maintenance, which is good news if you prefer to spend your time doing something other than figuring out your heating system. They also don't use gas or release carbon monoxide, making them a safer heating option for small spaces and homes with children.

    Cons of Heat Pumps

    Despite their popularity, heat pumps do come with some downsides. Incorporating a complex technology is expensive, so expect to pay a pretty penny for installation, repairs and maintenance. Heat pumps also run on electricity, which can get expensive due to rising natural gas prices.

    Heat pumps do better in temperate areas, as their efficiency plummets in colder climates. You'll also get cold quickly in a power outage unless you have a backup plan.

    Should I Use Geothermal Heating?

    Although geothermal heating is a bit complex, it has significant advantages in terms of off-grid energy.

    Geothermal systems come in different types. Underground tubes circulate water — sometimes mixed with antifreeze — that the earth's temperature warms in winter and cools in summer. The tube systems connect to a unit in your homestead that converts the liquid into heated air, which travels throughout your home.

    Pros of Geothermal Heating

    Geothermal heating can have a significant impact on your heating and cooling costs. This eco-friendly system creates minimal air pollution, though you'll still need electricity from solar or grid power to operate one.

    Like heat pumps, geothermal systems draw heat from the environment. However, geothermal heating is suitable for any climate since it pulls heat from the ground instead of the air.

    Cons of Geothermal Heating

    If you want the benefits of geothermal heating, you have to be willing to pay for them. You can't take advantage of this system unless you're prepared to dig up the roses and dip into your savings.

    Installing a complex system like this is expensive. You may need to dig up your garden, as installation requires extensive landscaping to place the underground pipes. Depending on the technology, you might also need to upgrade the ducts in your home.

    Should I Use Solar Heating?

    There may not be more sustainable off-grid heating than harnessing the sun's energy. Solar heating systems are gaining popularity, though they still come with their own challenges.

    Pros of Solar Heating

    With solar heating, you may not need to use electricity at all. You're producing clean energy and minimizing your carbon footprint, as the sun's heat is entirely renewable. Once you get past the installation, solar may well be the cheapest way to heat a home.

    Cons of Solar Heating

    Sounds perfect, right? Pay specific attention to the phrase "once you get past the installation." A solar-powered heating system isn't cheap to install — quite the opposite. The upfront installation costs can be prohibitive, although the long-term energy savings still make it worth exploring as long as the sun shines.

    Solar heating isn't suited to all climates. As the name suggests, solar heating requires sunlight, so your heating system won't work if you're short on that. If you live in a primarily overcast area, you may find that you can't generate heat at all.

    Additionally, you'll need an inverter to change your DC current to AC. Depending on your inverter capacity — the maximum power your system can provide — more than a few days of bad weather might leave you shivering in the cold.

    Should I Use Passive Building?

    If your homestead is in the design or redesign phase, you can use passive building techniques to design a house that needs less energy. Instead of relying on air conditioning and heating systems, these techniques focus on regulating temperatures by using a building's passive influences — sunshine, shade and natural ventilation. Combine these principles with robust insulation and an airtight interior, and you have a passive house.

    Pros of Passive Building

    Passive building offers a lot of flexibility in the design, letting you build a house that suits your needs. A properly designed passive house will significantly reduce energy costs and improve indoor air quality, providing massive health benefits. You can also enjoy better-regulated temperatures in the rooms.

    Relying on innovative architecture to heat your home gives you peace of mind as you reduce your carbon footprint. In the long term, passive building is an excellent investment for eco-friendly and off-grid living.

    Cons of Passive Building

    The main hurdle in passive building is the cost. Most existing homes will require a complete rebuild and the specialized architecture and materials make the process more costly than building a typical house.

    Working with an experienced contractor is essential, which can further increase the cost. However, it will help prevent errors that could otherwise lessen your homestead's eco-friendliness and energy efficiency.

    What's the Best Heating Option for Your Homestead?

    Everyone has unique needs and requirements for homestead heating. The choice of what's best for you depends on your preference. There are some considerations to narrow down your options, including the following:

    • Location: Where you live is central to your decision. Consider your climate, the distance you'll have to travel to get fuel for your heating system and the reliability of backup power.
    • Maintenance: Every heating system requires maintenance, but it's worth considering how much time you'd like to spend cleaning and tweaking your system. What would you like your life to look like? If you can't picture yourself scrubbing dirty chimneys, it's worth focusing on more user-friendly options.
    • Aesthetics: How important is the look and feel of your heating system? Are you looking for something that fits seamlessly with your homestead's rustic design or a purely functional alternative? Try to picture the different heating systems in your home and see if they work.
    • Budget: Some heating options come with significant initial expenses. Consider what you're willing to spend upfront and weigh that against the long-term cost of various heating options. Which is best suited to your needs now and in the future?
    • Energy saving: How off-grid do you want to be? Perhaps you prefer to stay away from electricity altogether or stick to natural fuels like wood. Considering how sustainable you'd like your heating system to be can help you narrow down your choices.

    Upgrade Your HVAC With Ingrams Water & Air

    You have many options for upgrading your HVAC system, each with its own pros and cons. Ingrams Water & Air has a wide range of options to suit your homestead's needs.

    If you're looking for a way to save time, money and hassle when shopping for your next heating alternative, browse through what we have on offer. If you're interested in a pricier system, you might also want to consider our financing options.

    Feel free to share your questions with us and let one of our experts help you make the best decision.

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