When it comes to air conditioning, there is no denying you can't live without it in certain cities across America. Temperatures regularly go over 100 degrees in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, and most of the central valley in California. Although there are central air conditioning units produced by Carrier, Bryant, Trane, etc., we will focus our attention and reviews to the room size air conditioners that fit into windows. The National Association of Home Builders says that the average air conditioner will last you roughly 10 years. Over the last decade prices have dropped about 50% on all AC units for homes and technology has made them quieter, smaller, lighter, and safer to run. We've all slept in a hotel room with an air conditioner that runs all night and is so loud it's hard to sleep. Many of the home air conditioners you can buy are now extremely quiet, but some are still rather noisy and can be a nuisance. The other good news, is that all the newer models have great energy efficiency ratios (EER) that will save on your energy bills.
A/C Buying Guide
- Buying an air conditioner with an Energy Star rating is the way to go if you want to help conserve energy while staying cool. One thing to keep in mind is that some AC units don't run well when "brownouts" occur. A "brownout" is when your local utility company reduces voltage at peak hours of the day to conserve energy usage and this can directly effect an air conditioning unit. The key to choosing the correct air conditioner for your house is to know the exact square footage of the area or room it will be placed in. Experts say if you choose an air conditioner meant for a 700 square foot room and put it in a 400 square foot area you will not get efficient use from it. Make sure you have the measurements of any room you want to put an air conditioner into and then talk with a qualified sales rep at your local department store to get the best model. Installing the heavier units can be a bit tricky, so look for larger air conditioning units that have "slide-out" chassis. These units allow you to secure the chassis to the window and wall and then just slide in the AC unit (some weigh as much as 92 lbs). Try placing the air conditioner in a window that is central to the room for maximum efficiency (when more than 1 window exists). Many of the current models have digital displays and remote controls which can be very useful. Consumer Reports makes a good point in their latest issue on AC units in that you need to be able to read the digital display and see the controls even in a dark bedroom. The Internet has made it very efficient to find reviews of air conditioners online. Sears carries a lot for Kenmore products, while Amazon.com, Lowes.com, HomeDepot, and Target.com also have customer feedback to help guide your decision. The most comprehensive study we came across was done by Consumer Reports of course and they broke the different models down by BTU and room size or square feet. CR rated the air conditioners on comfort, indoor noise, ease of use, air direction, price, BTU, and EER. As usual Consumer Reports may rate one model higher than another, but the one with the lower overall score may get their "best buy" award because it's a better value. In any event, we have tried to break down the best air conditioners based on square footage and noise levels down below. The top air conditioner manufacturers are GE, LG, Frigidaire, Sharp, Haier, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Goldstar, Samsung and Panasonic. In many reviews we found the GE air conditioners got the best rank, but they were also the most expensive. In several situations, the air conditioner that gets recommended to customers the most are those that rate high in many categories and are mid-range in price. RECOMMENDED - We suggest shopping online at Amazon.com since they carry all the leading brands and usually have the LOWEST PRICES on the Internet. You can browse their top selling room air conditioners online here.
Small Air Conditioner (Around 200 Square Feet):
I live in an air conditioned home, but there is one room on the second story that gets extremely hot during the peak summer months. The heat is unbearable up there even when the downstairs is at like 72 degrees. I only have the air conditioner on the lower level so my upstairs can get hot. I decided to get a small air conditioner just for that 1 room and it does work great. It's a little noisy, but it keeps the room cool and at a reasonable temperature. I went with the Frigidaire FAA067P7A ($150) that Consumer Reports recommended for smaller sized rooms and areas. At 6000 BTU and an EER of 10.7 the unit does an excellent job and it fits in a window width of 23-26 inches. In terms of the overall best rating, the Friedrich Air Conditioners get excellent reviews, but experts say the Friedrich XQ05L10A Series Window Air Conditioner ($480) is the standout model . Shop around in the off-season for a good air conditioner since they will be on sale at that time. Prepare for summer early by saving in the off-season. RECOMMENDED - See all the top rated small air conditioners here.
Best Midsized AC Unit:
It used to be that GE ranked high for midsized AC units, but the noise levels on some of their air conditioners has recently been an issue. In 2012 a top consumer magazine rated the Friedrich CP08E10 as a top performing 8000 BTU AC. Reviews note that at low fan speed the unit is very quiet and even on high it is quieter than most others tested. Noise levels were a bit higher when the compressor first kicks on, but that is considered normal. Perfect for "great rooms" now found in homes that are 300-400 sq ft. We also think that the Frigidaire FRA156MT1 Median Room Air Conditioner is worth a look with a variable speed fan, 8 way air direction, and remote electronic controls. The price isn't too bad either at around $200.
Best Value Air Conditioner for 400 Square Feet:
If you are willing to sacrifice a bit on noise levels when the unit is on high, consider the much cheaper Kenmore 76081 (Sears) ($200). The Kenmore air conditioner delivers the same performance features but it gets low ratings for noise levels. Midsized air conditioners are best for rooms or areas in your home/condo/apartment that measure from 250 to 550 square feet. You can find our more details online at Sears.com with all the various Kenmore models available. The 76081 is Energy Star qualified and offers EZ-Out reusable filters, 4-way adjustable air direction control, and a quick mount window installation. Has electronic controls and display, 3 cooling speeds, 3 fan speeds, and a delay timer as well with 12 hours on/off. Many of the user reviews on Sears say this model rates just as well as other higher priced competitors and they are happy with their purchase. RECOMMENDED - Check out the Frigidaire FAH12ER2T 12,000-BTU Through-the-Wall Unit - for rooms up to 640 square feet and features a full function remote. Has a variable speed fan, 4 way air direction, and a 24 hour on/off timer.
Top Rated Large Air Conditioner:
Do you need to keep more square footage cool in your home/condo/apartment? Consider the larger air conditioners from GE, Haier, or Frigidaire. They can accommodate up to 950 sq ft and they all do an excellent job of cooling off rooms. The Frigidaire FAM18ER2A ($600) with 18,500-BTU Window Air Conditioner with 16,000-BTU Heat and Electronic Controls gets the best rating from consumers and it can handle rooms up to 1170 square feet in size. The energy saver and sleep modes are what owners mention as big positives and the quick mount window kit lets you install it in no time. The new portable AC units are really catching on. No need to mount them in the window - just put a small hose out the window and you are set. They are easy to use and can roll from room to room if you want. The caveat to all consumers is not to buy a large AC unit for a small room. Experts say you are not only wasting money up front, but you are also going to end up with a cold, damp room. The LG large air conditioners have recently been rated #1 and #2 in the latest AC surverys - so give them a look as well. Both the LG LW1210ER and the LG LW1010ER are considered excellent options at this size level.
Low Profile Air Conditioner:
We kept reading in online forums that people wanted "low profile" air conditioners in their windows. The LG LP6000ER ($300) rates as a top seller for low profile air conditioners. It has a very low height of just 12" which lets more light in through your window. The LG air conditioner can handle about 200 square feet of space when cooling. Some specs are 6000 BTU, 10.7 EER, Energy Star qualified, remote control, and you get a great warranty of 5 years on parts, labor, and compressor. RECOMMENDED - View all the most popular window air conditioners here.