To help you find the best air conditioners, we spent over 15 hours of research compiling a list of the best air conditioner models on the market today. We looked for both portable and window-mounted systems, capable of at least 5000 BTUs — enough to quietly cool up to 150 square feet of space. We also looked for units that were relatively low-maintenance with reusable filters and gave bonus points to ones that had additional features, such as a dehumidifier to remove moisture.
Our top pick for the best air conditioner is the hOmeLabs 14,000 BTU Air Conditioner, which earned the title because it’s the best all-around unit on the list. The BTU rating of 14,000 can cool up to 500 square-feet efficiently. Moreover, it has a built-in dehumidifier, includes a remote control, and also a washable filter. Our honorable mention is SereneLife 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. It’s slightly cheaper (and less powerful) than the top pick yet includes a lot of the same features. Of course, there are several other options. Keep reading to learn more about our top picks.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: The hOmeLabs air conditioner has a 14,000 BTU rating, which covers about 450 to 500 square feet. That’s a sizable area for a portable AC, and when you consider everything else it has to offer.
Read Full Review: hOmeLabs 14000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Review
Standing at 30-inches tall, the hOmeLabs Portable Air Conditioner offers a 14,000 BTU rating. It’s capable of cooling spaces up to 450 square feet. It’s a floor-based unit, so you don’t have to mount it in a window. Built-in wheels make it rather easy to move from room to room. You will need to install a window slide adapter and connect a hose, but other than that setup is straightforward and installation costs should be relatively low. It has a washable filter, so you don’t need to buy replacements. Furthermore, it comes with a remote, which allows you to configure the unit from afar.
Related: Check out our best air conditioner for sliding windows.
A built-in 100-pint dehumidifier offers moisture and humidity controls if you need them. It adds a lot more value in places where humidity is high. It might also be useful if you install the unit in a much smaller space than intended. Compared to the other air conditioners on the list, the hOmeLabs unit is one of the most expensive. Even so, it’s the best AC option if you want energy efficient cooling for a decent-sized area and don’t like traditional window-mounted units. If you want to dry a room on the other hand, the best drying fan will help.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: We chose the SereneLife 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner for honorable mention because it offers a lot of the same excellent features as the top pick, albeit at a more affordable price.
Read Full Review: SereneLife 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Review
Like our top pick, the SereneLife 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is a standing unit at 32 inches tall. It also has wheels so you can roll it from room to room. It still needs to sit close to a window and comes with a window plate and exhaust vent to expel warm air. SereneLife claims the unit can circulate cool air around an area up to 225 square feet. That’s a decent-sized area for a portable unit. It has three operating modes, including a standard AC cooling mode and a fan-only mode. The third is a dehumidifier which will remove moisture and humidity. It does come with a remote, but there is a touch-button control panel on the top with a digital LED readout display, as well.
The price is average, but overall a little higher than most of the other units on this list. Keep in mind, a majority of the other units are less powerful, nor are they upright like this one. If you don’t want a traditional window AC unit and want something that can easily be moved around your home, the SereneLife air conditioner is a good choice. It’s also slightly cheaper than our top pick yet has a lot of the same features if you’re on a tight budget. Rather than relying on a portable, window-mounted or central AC, you could also cool a room with the best large ceiling fans.
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Award: BEST BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: Frigidaire’s FFRA0511R1E 5,000 BTU window-mounted air conditioner is the best budget pick because it’s the cheapest on the list, and despite that, it offers some excellent features.
Read Full Review: Frigidaire FFRA0511R1E 5000 BTU Review
The Frigidaire FFRA0511R1E window-mounted air conditioner offers 5,000 BTUs and is capable of cooling up to 150-square-feet of room air. It is one of the least efficient window-style AC units on the list, but it’s also the cheapest. A built-in dehumidifier will help remove moisture and lower humidity in the space. There are two cooling speeds, two fan speeds and the air flows in two directions. There are physical controls, temperature and fan speed control knobs, on the front of the unit.
As it’s a window-mounted unit, you’ll need to install it within a properly sized window. It comes with a mounting kit and side panels, to block out the open air. In total, you need a space about 23 to 36 inches wide, and 13 inches tall. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to install this type of unit — HOAs usually prohibit doing so. For a smart ac unit, read about the best wifi smart air conditioner.
Award: BEST WINDOW UNIT
WHY WE LIKE IT: The LG LW8016ER 8,000 BTU air conditioner earns the best window unit title because it has a decent efficiency rating alongside some great features. To top it off, it’s one of the quietest units on the list, making it perfect for nighttime use.
Read Full Review: LG LW8016ER 8000 BTU
LG’s LW8016ER window-mounted air conditioner offers 8,000 BTUs, so it can cool an area up to 300 square feet in size — LG claims up to 340 square feet. Either way, that’s an excellent efficiency rating for a compact unit. It has three cooling speeds and three fan speeds. You can control both via the panel on the front of the machine. It has a digital readout, and button-based controls — no knobs. It also comes with a remote.
The LG air conditioner does need to be installed in a window. It comes with everything you need to install the unit, including side panels. In total, you need a space about 22 to 36 inches wide, and 13 inches tall. You can also look at the best misting fan.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Black & Decker BPACT14WT portable air conditioner is the best high-end because, although it’s expensive, it has excellent features and build quality to back up the price. At 14,000 BTUs it can cool 450 square-feet of space and has multiple modes, like a stealthy sleep-mode.
Read Full Review: Black & Decker BPACT14WT 14000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Review
The Black & Decker BPACT14WT portable air conditioner is a standing unit, but it still needs to be installed near a window. That said, there are wheels on the bottom so you can move it about freely. It offers 14,000 BTUs, which can cool up to 450 square-feet efficiently. As with the other air conditioners on the list, it includes a built-in dehumidifier, but it does not list the efficiency rating. It has a couple of operating modes, including a timed mode with a 24-hour timer, and sleep mode for quiet operation.
The Black & Decker air conditioner comes with a remote for easy operation, as well as all the mounting accessories you need, like an exhaust hose and window panels. The company claims you can vent the warm air through a wall or door if you don’t mind the nearby space getting warmer and don’t want to use a window. For the price, the Black & Decker AC unit is one of the most expensive on the list, second only to the top pick, hOmeLabs portable air conditioner. If you travel, you might consider the best rv air conditioner.
Award: EASIEST TO MAINTAIN
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Friedrich Chill CP06G10B 6,000 BTU window-mounted air conditioner is the best DIY unit, thanks to a slide-out chassis. After it’s installed, you can easily remove the casing to service and clean the unit and remove the washable filters.
Read Full Review: Friedrich Chill CP06G10B 6,000 BTU Review
The Friedrich Chill CP06G10B window-mounted air conditioner offers 6000 BTUs, which is capable of efficiently cooling up to 200 square feet. Friedrich claims it can handle up to 250 square feet. It is one of the few units on the list that doesn’t include a built-in dehumidifier. It does, however, have three cooling and fan-only speeds with an ultra-quiet mode for use at nighttime. Its Energy Star qualified, so it makes efficient use of power. It also comes with a digital remote and all the mounting accessories. A slide-out chassis means it’s easy to remove and service after it’s been mounted in a window.
The Friedrich Chill air conditioner must be mounted in a window. In total, you need a space about 20 to 36 inches wide, and 14 inches tall.
Award: BEST DESIGN
WHY WE LIKE IT: The TOSOT 8,000 BTU window-mounted air conditioner is the best-designed unit. It offers a sleek, attractive in window design with minimalistic venting. It also features a built-in dehumidifier, reusable filter, and has a unique thermostat that’s built into the remote control.
Read Full Review: TOSOT 8,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner Review
The TOSOT window-mounted air conditioning unit offers 8,000 BTUs, which is enough power to efficiently cool up to 300 square feet of space — TOSOT claims up to 350 square feet. What’s most striking about the unit, however, is that it’s sleek and employs a minimalistic design. Instead of the rather ugly metal grilles of similar units, it has low-profile vents especially when everything is sealed up. A built-in dehumidifier means the unit will cool and remove humidity from a space. A built-in reusable filter can be cleaned, so you don’t have to replace it regularly, just clean it. Furthermore, the system offers smart temperature controls with the thermostat on the remote — not the actual unit. That means the unit will cool the space based on the temperature that the remote picks up.
Because the TOSOT air conditioner does need to be installed in a window, it comes with everything you need, including side panels. You will need a space of about 23 to 36 inches wide, and 15 inches tall.
The most important feature is the BTU rating or power and efficiency rating of the unit. It tells you how much space the unit can cool efficiently, informing precisely what size you need. Furthermore, it gives you some idea of how well the machine might cool a room or space. We looked for anything at least 5,000 BTU or above, enough to cool up to 150 square feet.
The next thing we looked for was the degree of operation each unit offers, or rather how many operating modes they have. Every unit on the list has several operating modes for both the cooling and fan. Most of the units include an additional mode thanks to a built-in dehumidifier, which helps to remove moisture and humidity in a space. Operating noise is also a concern, especially at night when you’re trying to sleep. The Black & Decker BPACT14WT portable air conditioner is not only one of the quietest, but it also includes a stealth mode for nighttime use. All other air conditioners, however, do run relatively quiet, and several also include a similar low-power sleep mode.
Almost all of the air conditioning units on the list have to be installed near a window or open space, including the floor-based units. That’s because the warm air is vented through an exhaust pipe that, hopefully, leads outside. Everything you see on the list includes all the necessary mounting accessories you will need to install and set up the unit. That includes the exhaust vent or pipe, and window panels.
Finally, we looked at the size of each unit. Believe it or not, there’s a standard size range for window units, which is less of a concern with portable and standing units. All the window units on the list fit in the range of 20 to 38 inches for width and 13 to 16 inches for height. That range allows for optimal compatibility with modern window frames.
It’s best to choose the correct size for the area you want heated or cooled. Choosing a unit with less power means it won’t be effective if it is at all. Choose a unit that’s too powerful and you’ll experience an adverse climate such as higher humidity levels.
For window units, our best window air conditioner guide has some good choices. If you are looking for something smarter, check out the best WiFi smart air conditioner. However, those larger units are not for everyone. That’s why you can read the best small portable air conditioner.
Those who live the Rv lifestyle also have air conditioning choices with the best RV air conditioner.
What constitutes “best” is going to vary from person to person, so be sure to consider the top features and brands and make a selection based on your needs. That said, if we had to choose the best window air conditioner or best portable air conditioner then it would have to be the top pick, hOmeLabs’ 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. It’s the best all-around unit on the list, with an incredible BTU rating — enough to cool up to 500 square feet of space. It also includes a lot of excellent features such as a built-in dehumidifier, washable filter and even a remote control. If you’re looking for something cheaper, you can’t go wrong with the SereneLife 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner, which earned our “honorable mention” title. It has a lot of the same features as the hOmeLabs top pick but at a more affordable price.
Central air conditioning units are much different than portable and window-mounted air conditioners. They are meant to cool an entire home, residence or building as opposed to a single room or small space. They use much more power and are, understandably, way more expensive. Unlike portable or window air conditioners, you can’t install a central air conditioning unit on your own either, they need to be installed by a licensed professional. Some of the best central air conditioner brands 2019, include Trane/American Standard, Maytag, Carrier/Bryant, Daikin, Goodman, Heil and Mitsubishi.
What you want to look at when choosing the best portable air conditioner is the BTU rating, or power and efficiency rating. It will explicitly tell you how much space the unit is capable of cooling or heating efficiently. It’s important to select a unit that matches the size of the room where you’re going to install it. Choosing a unit that’s too big will create excess humidity while choosing a unit too small will result in ineffective cooling.
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and refers to the unit of measurement that commonly denotes the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. 1 BTU — or a single unit — refers to the total energy necessary to heat or cool one pound of water by an increment of 1 degree in Fahrenheit at sea level. The best portable air conditioner models operate in the range of about 8,000 to 12,000 BTUs. Split system air conditioners operate around 9,000 to 36,000 BTUs. Finally, some of the best window air conditioner units operate in the range of 3,000 to 25,000 BTUs. Larger central air conditioning systems and units are given different measurements, generally in tonnage. Converting between BTUs and tonnage is rather simple. 1 air conditioner ton is the equivalent of 12,000 BTUs per hour.
Heating and cooling are essential for your home. When winter comes you will want to make sure you have the best heaters to stay warm as well. You may also want to read about the best air purifier to keep the air in your home healthy.
If you aren't sure what brands to trust, read the best appliance brands list.
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