Best Practices Guide to Potential Residential Cooling Solutions

family under heat pump

In the 1970s, there was a growth in popularity of central systems with an exterior condensing unit feeding an evaporator in the forced air distribution system of a house. This type of system is now used in 75% of all Minnesota homes with air conditioning (RECS 2015). Although there have been many innovations in the efficiency and design of cooling systems, the default system installed in Minnesota homes remains this conventional technology.

Compared to a modern system, such as a ductless mini-split heat pump or a variable capacity energy efficient split system, this system may use three times more energy annually in order to meet the comfort needs of the homeowner. This project will quantify the magnitude of opportunity for more efficient cooling options in Minnesota and provide guidance for Minnesota homeowners, contractors, and utilities to bring the decision-making process for cooling systems into the 21st century. 

The project team will use research from cooling-dominated climates to characterize Minnesota residential cooling loads and optimal cooling equipment performance potential. Additionally, the team will utilize this understanding to provide guidance on energy efficient options, including the development of methodologies for selecting systems for Minnesota homes, and best practices for operation, occupant comfort, energy efficiency, system controls, and demand/load profile management.

This white paper will examine current and future residential cooling practices in Minnesota, including barriers to optimal energy-saving solutions, analyze national research on various cooling solutions to determine how they could be applied in Minnesota, and characterize the industry as it is in Minnesota today. This approach will foster the development of best practice guidelines and a program framework for making good decisions about energy efficient installations. The project will also delineate the tradeoffs between the capital and operating costs of specific choices.

Project Summary


  •  Characterize how Minnesota homes are being cooled.
  • Identify market barriers that prevent adoption of energy efficient solutions.
  • Characterize Minnesota residential cooling loads, based on cooling conditions and use types.
  • Characterize optimal cooling equipment performance capabilities for Minnesota, using research from cooling-dominated climates and knowledge of Minnesota.
  • Use the improved understanding of cooling in Minnesota to provide guidance on energy efficiency options.


Analysis of cooling load, assessment of installed equipment in Minnesota and performance, analysis of Minnesota energy use, and a final report/dissemination. 

Non-energy benefits

  • Improves the humidity control of the cooling system.