How to replace your air conditioner

What are the other options?

Central air doesn't work for everyone, especially if you live in a house that doesn't have forced heat.

One option is a ductless system, which comes with a slim indoor unit with a fan (usually installed on or near the ceiling), and a compressor unit, which is installed outside.

These systems are ideal for ductless homes, or if you're trying to add air to one space, like a room over a garage. Expect to pay at least $4,000 per unit installed.

Another choice is high-velocity air conditioning.

"It's a really good option for people who have an established house with boilers," says Phil Rizzo, HVAC instructor at Chicago's Coyne College.

High velocity systems circulate cold air into a room through 2- to 3-inch flexible tubing, which is snaked through the walls and/or ceilings of your home. Then the air is pumped out through nozzles in the corner or ceiling of the room.

Pricing is by the ton. The average home needs 2.5 tons, and each ton can cost $5,000 to $6,000.