The Best Window Air Conditioners, According to Appliance Experts
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Find the right window air conditioner for your space and you’ll stay cool all summer long—and save a bundle in the process.
When your home doesn’t have central AC, a window air conditioning unit can be a lifesaver. The only problem: Not all window air conditioners are created equal—or deliver on their promises. That’s why we asked appliance pros to recommend the very best window air conditioners for every space, from small bedrooms to your whole home and everything in between. On this list, you’ll also find budget-friendly options (yes, they exist!), quiet units you’ll forget are on, models packed with smart technology, and more.
But first, experts say there are a few things you need to know first, such as how to prevent shortening the life of your AC, how to avoid wasting money on your next electricity bill, and even if a window unit is the right way to go or if you’d be better off with a portable air conditioner instead. Read on for some essential tips so you can choose the model that’s right for you, as well as our pros’ top picks for 2021.
Are window air conditioners better than portable air conditioners?
“Window air conditioners tend to be more cost and energy-efficient and better at cooling your space,” says Dean Schwartz, the merchandising vice president of appliances at Lowe’s. “In most cases, they are a good option over portable air conditioners. However, depending on your floor plan and windows, a portable air conditioner may be necessary.” FYI, neither window air conditioners nor portable air conditioners use outside air—both recirculate and cool inside air. However, window units are more efficient because they have an exterior exhaust system, so they blow any warm out outside. Since portable ACs are not connected to a window, they can’t do this.
Another reason window units are a good option: “They’re easy to install in either a single or double-hung window and typically come with accordion panels to ensure a secure fit,” says Matt Brown, a merchant at Home Depot. Freestanding or portable air conditioners, on the other hand, are great for moving from room to room, but “they can be heavy, generate more noise, and cool less efficiently than a newer window unit,” Brown explains.
How can you find the best window air conditioner for your space?
According to Schwartz, “it’s important to choose the right size window air conditioner for your room.” If you get one with too high of a capacity, you may end up with a massive electric bill. Meanwhile, a unit that is under-capacity won’t cool a room efficiently.
Most models list their cooling capacity on the box or on the manufacturer’s website, so make sure to read the fine print before you buy! The cooling capacity is a measurement in BTUs (British Thermal Units). “BTU is a measurement of how much heat an air conditioning unit can remove from a space per hour,” says Brown. “The higher the BTU rating on the AC, the larger the room it can effectively cool.”
Most window units range from 4,000 to 20,000 or more. Here are some general guidelines for what BTU you’ll need depending on your room size, says Schwartz:
- 150 to 350 square feet: 5,000 to 8,000 BTU
- 350 to 550 square feet: 8,000 to 12,000 BTU
- 550 to 1,050 square feet: 12,000 to 18,500 BTU
- 1,050 to 1,600 square feet: 18,500 to 25,000 BTU
That said, it’s important to note things in your home that may make you want to get a bigger air conditioner unit, such as high ceilings, location (like getting a bigger one for the kitchen considering how warm it can get in there), and how sunny the room gets. You’ll also want to measure the height and width of the window opening to ensure that the unit can properly be installed. Also consider factors that may reduce or increase the cooling need, such as how much shade or sun your room receives, as well as whether there are any extra features you ideally want, such as a programmable timer, remote control, filter sensors, or electronic ionizers. Of course, you’ll want to take good care of your unit so it lasts. To that end, change those filters regularly, especially since there’s a disgusting reason your AC might start to smell bad.
Are window air conditioners energy efficient?
“A window AC is best and most efficient for small spaces,” Brown says, since it can save money and electricity by cooling only a specific area of your house. “But if you are looking to cool a larger home or many rooms, it is generally better to install central air.”
Before you buy, check an air conditioner’s energy efficiency by looking at the EER rating (energy efficiency rating). It is calculated by taking the BTU measurement and dividing that by the power consumption in watt-hours. The higher the efficiency rating, the more buckaroos you’ll save on your next electricity bill and the better the product is for the environment, since it’ll cause fewer harmful emissions from power plants.
Want to lower your energy footprint even more? “Window ACs with fan-only mode can use even less energy because it doesn’t use AC,” Schwartz says. “Instead, the appliance circulates and filters the room air much like a fan would.” You can also choose a device that has an energy-saver switch, which will make sure that the fans don’t operate continuously; they’ll only run when the temperature in your space goes above whatever number you’ve set it to. Some units even come equipped with sleep modes that will raise the room temperature at night, which is more energy-efficient—and means you won’t wake up to a freezing-cold room in the morning!
Frigidaire White Energy Star 5,000 BTU
Best for: Small spaces
If you’re looking to cool a small room, Lester Mclaughlin, VP of Operations at Blue National HVAC, recommends this compact, energy-efficient AC window unit from Frigidaire. “This unit is not only highly affordable, but it’s also great for small spaces,” he notes. “This makes it perfect for single people living in small apartments or college students.” How big (or small) of a room are we talking? Up to 150 square feet.
LG 6,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner
Best for: Midsize rooms
Looking for something a little bigger? Try this model from LG, which works on spaces up to 250 square feet. “It’s made for midsize rooms and has features that add convenience, like a remote control, a timer, and temperature sensors,” says Melanie Musson, a home appliance expert with Clearsurance. “You can set it to run for a certain length of time or program it only to run when the room’s temperature climbs to where you set it.” And since it costs just over $200, it’s more affordable than a lot of other models you might see, too, she adds. For more smart buys in other categories, check out our list of the best (and worst) products Consumer Reports has ever tested.
Friedrich Chill Premier 10000 BTU Smart Window Air Conditioner CCF10A10A
Best for: Large rooms
This model can cool a 400- to 500-square-foot space with ease thanks to its 10,000 BTUs and eight-way airflow control, which makes sure cool air reaches every corner of your room. Plus, not only does it come with a washable antimicrobial filter—it’ll also clean your air while it cools. Oh, and did we mention you can control it with your voice via app, too? That means you won’t have to walk all the way across the room to turn it on or change the temperature setting.
Frigidaire 25,000 BTU Heavy-Duty Air Conditioner
Best for: Whole-home air conditioning
With a whopping 25,000 BTUs, this heavy-duty window air conditioner packs a serious punch. “This unit can cool a small to midsize home on its own,” says Musson. “It’s extremely powerful and efficient, even qualifying for Energy Star certification.” Another plus? “It dehumidifies as it cools, which can make the room or house feel even cooler,” she says. “It also has several settings and is programmable.”
However, there is one potential downside buyers should be aware of before purchasing, Musson says: “The biggest con with this unit is that it requires a 230V outlet and will not run on a standard outlet.”
LG 5,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner with Manual Controls
Best for: Quiet cooling
“It’s hard to discuss the best window air conditioning units without mentioning this LG window air conditioner with manual controls,” says Navas Magne, a writer at Appliances for Life. “One of the most likable things about this AC is its low-noise performance, which lets the unit operate at sound levels of 50dB when the low mode is activated.” But despite how quiet it is, it still gets the job done beautifully. “The unit features two fan and cooling speeds, so you can be in total control of the temperature settings,” says Magne. “Its two-way air direction is another exciting feature that helps you direct cool air wherever you want it.”
Another thing to love: “The unit comes with every necessary mounting kit to make the installation process as easy as it can be,” Magne says. Here are a few other easy home improvement projects you can do yourself.
Friedrich Chill Premier 6000 BTW Smart Window Air Conditioner
Best for: Optimal airflow
If maximum cooling with the best airflow is what you’re after, check out this Friedrich unit. “This model is designed to have excellent airflow and efficient refrigerant gasses to ensure your space is colder,” says Glenn Wiseman, sales manager at Top Hat Home Comfort Services. Plus, it’s got all the bells and whistles. “This model also has Wi-Fi connectivity, making it easy to pre-program settings, change temperatures, and turn on and off the power from your phone,” he notes.
LG 14,000 BTU 115-V Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner
Best for: Energy efficiency
With energy efficiency that’s 25 percent higher than the Energy Star certification requirement, this LG model will save you even more money and help reduce your carbon footprint in a more meaningful way. Mclaughlin puts it simply: “It is the most energy-efficient window AC unit you can find.” Plus, he says, this super quiet unit “is also Wi-Fi capable, which means that you can connect it with the IoT devices in your home.” It works with LG’s ThinQ app on your phone, or with Amazon’s Alexa or Hey Google.
Frigidaire FFRE063ZA1 Window Air Conditioner
Best for: Easy programming
Think of this air conditioner as the window-installed version of a Nest thermostat, because it operates similarly. “It’s always an additional perk when an air conditioning unit comes with the programmable 24-hour on/off timer,” Magne says. “This feature is one of the most exciting features in AC units, and its job is to automatically keep temperatures under control in a bid to conserve more energy, and only work whenever it needs to.”
Midea 8,000 BTU U Inverter Air Conditioner
Best for: Alexa compatibility
Just about everything in our homes is smart these days, from our doorbells to our washing machines—and with this new Midea model, now your AC can be, too! “What really sets this model apart is its compatibility with Alexa and Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to run it from anywhere,” says Musson. And word on the street is that consumers love it, too. “It’s probably the best unit on the market this summer and one that customers are delighted with,” Musson shares. For proof, just look at the nearly 4,500 five-star reviews on Amazon, where fans rave that it’s “the best window AC on the market” and that it’s “insanely quiet and very efficient.” Just be aware that the installation is tricky, so you may want to ask for some help in that department. Make your home even more efficient with these other smart home devices that are worth every penny.
GE 6,000 BTU Electronic Window Air Conditioner
Best for: Budget-conscious shoppers
“With cooling power of 6000 BTU, this GE electronic window AC is another popular and cost-effective option you can consider,” Magne says of this model that costs around $200. “The unit will conveniently cool small rooms that are up to 250 square feet with energy efficiency, thanks to its three fan and cooling speeds that provide additional home comfort.”
Beyond saving you money at checkout, this air conditioner help you save big on energy bills, too. “Being an electronic air conditioner, there are lots of things to enjoy in the unit—particularly its energy-saver mode, which automatically shuts off both the compressor and the fan to save your electricity bill from being hugely impacted,” Magne explains. Verified Amazon reviewer Samuel says that you get “lots of bang for your buck” with this model and that “it does not disappoint. I wanted cold and reliable, and that is what I got. [And] it’s a nice-looking unit.”
Best for: Long-lasting quality
Don’t throw away your money on a window AC unit that won’t last. Mickey Luongo, vice president of Total Home Supply, says this model will last for the long haul. “Friedrich specializes in making higher-quality window units with better components. They tend to last longer than cheaper alternatives,” he says. This unit, in particular, is well-suited for bedrooms or one-room cooling, he says. “This model is 8,000 BTUs, which is sized to cover a larger bedroom or a small living room.” Another perk: “It has integrated Wi-Fi, which lets you control it from an app on your phone.”
Best for: Cooling and heating
Looking for a unicorn of an appliance that you can use beyond the summer months? You’ve found it. This air conditioner/heater combo will get you through the entire year, says Luongo. Its 11,200 BTUs are good for cooling spaces up to 450 square feet in the summer and heating them come winter. “It is great for a sunroom or other space that needs its own heating and cooling,” notes Luongo. It’s a little pricier than some of the other options on this list, but look at how much it does!
EdgeStar Koldfront 12,000 BTU
Best for: Sliding windows
Worried that a window air conditioner won’t work with your room’s sliding windows? We have just the thing for that challenge. This narrow EdgeStar air conditioner is compact, but it can cool a room up to 500 square feet, so it’ll get the job done no matter where you put it. This unit also has been Energy Star certified, so you can feel comfortable blasting it on sweltering summer days and not have to worry about your electric bills skyrocketing. It can also function as a heater and a dehumidifier, so this is another model that provides a lot of value in one tiny package. If you’d rather keep your air conditioners and heaters separate, check out these top-rated space heaters next. Colder months will be here before you know it, and you might be able to score an amazing deal in the off-season!
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- Lester Mclaughlin, VP of Operations at Blue National HVAC
- Melanie Musson, a home appliance expert with Clearsurance
- Navas Magne, a writer at Appliances for Life
- Glenn Wiseman, sales manager at Top Hat Home Comfort Services
- Mickey Luongo, the vice president of Total Home Supply