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Some Americans refuse to use air conditioning in their home, even as they swelter through another summer. Their image of an air conditioner is a noisy window unit that makes the air feel clammy indoors and drips water outside. Today's AC is not your grandmother's room air conditioner. Check out these new features:
* High-efficiency units. They lower monthly cooling bills and waste less energy. Look for air conditioners with the ENERGY STAR label, and a high SEER rating. Both are industry standards for efficient energy use.
* Non-polluting Freon, or refrigerant. It's now possible to buy environmentally responsible, chlorine-free refrigerant that provides cooling comfort but does not harm the environment.
* Direct-drive fans. They reduce the noise of outdoor condensers for central air conditioners.
* Programmable thermostats. Preset the thermostat to match the hours you are home or away. Set the thermostat to a warmer temperature to save money on cooling services when no one is home. Program the temperature to start cooling 15 minutes or a half-hour before you are due home.