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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, but if you have a large home, it might be worth it considering one of the best central air conditioners. 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.
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.
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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.
If you’re shopping for an air conditioner, things may seem confusing due to there being so many options on the market. While finding the perfect air conditioner can be daunting, you only need some basic information to find your ideal choice. For example, what is the square footage of the space you want to cool? Next, decide if you want to invest in a built-in central air conditioner or a portable model. In addition, think about other tools you may need, like passive cooling and dehumidifiers. Before settling on a particular unit, though, read our beginner’s guide to selecting a new air conditioner.
STAT: Around 87% of homes in the United States have some form of air conditioning. (source)
An air conditioner is a home appliance that cools indoor areas during the hot summer months. These machines can service single rooms at once, in the case of window units and portable units, or an entire home, in the case of a central unit. There are plenty of different air conditioners, each with specialized features and accessories. Some modern AC units, for example, integrate with smart assistants and smartphone apps, in addition to boasting a heat pump and exhaust hose for heating. While made up of many parts, the condenser, the compressor, and the air conditioning system fan are the most important to the cooling process.
When the heat’s hitting hard, you may wonder how it is that air conditioners keep you cool. Simply put, an A/C unit pushes hot and humid air inside your home through its system, cooling it in the process and recirculating it through your house. Refrigerants and fans work together to move the air along the system, and the absorbed heat is dumped outside. A portable AC works in a very similar way, it’s just in a smaller package and expels heat through its exhaust hose.
When Did Central Air Conditioning Hit The Market? Air conditioning room units became affordable and popular in the 1950s. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that central air became a standard for new homes.
The temperature is rising, so it’s time to switch the A/C on. But how exactly do you use an air conditioner? For most models it’s simply a model of switching it on and setting temperature. Some thermostats require you to set a temperature that’s below the ambient temperature of the house, and many smart thermostats allow you to handle everything with a few simple taps on your smartphone.
When you see the term BTUs in reference to air conditioning, it stands for British Thermal Units. This unit of measurement indicates the cooling power of a given air conditioner model. Generally speaking, window units range from 5,000 to 13,000 BTUs, while central units extend all the way to 30,000 or more BTUs. The higher the BTU rating, the higher the price ranges and the greater the cooling capacity.
How Long Do Different Types Of Air Conditioners Last? The quality of the air conditioner unit is the top indicator of how long it will last. That said, the average lifespan of an air conditioner is about 10-15 years. With regular maintenance and efficient use, most models can last even longer. For best results, pick a feature-rich model and pre-schedule your regular maintenance.
First of all, examine your needs. If you require just a single room to be cooled, go with a simple window unit. If you need a room to be cooled but don’t have ready access to a window, go for a portable air conditioner or indoor unit. If you need an entire home to be cooled, choose between one of the main central air conditioner designs. Some central AC designs require full ductwork, and others like a mini-split do not. Installing the required ductwork into older homes is expensive, so take that into consideration. If you have special installation needs, such as casement windows, you’ll have to choose a specific style of air conditioner.
If you’ve settled on a window unit or portable AC, you need to match the size of your room with the cooling power of the unit. Generally speaking, a bare-bones AC features a minimum of 5,000 BTUs of cooling power, which is enough for 150 square feet. A 6,000 BTU AC unit ups this measurement to 250 square feet. When shopping for an AC, the packaging should list the BTU metric and how much cooling power this measurement provides. There are dozens of air conditioners out there to match your cooling needs. How many BTUs you need for an AC to cool a three-story home will differ from that required for cooling a mobile home.
You don’t need to spend a ton to get a solid air conditioning unit. Of course, just like other appliances, the more you spend, the more features you’ll get. For example, you should expect to see more energy-efficient models with high SEER ratings and active temperature control at higher price points. The type of A/C you get also has a huge impact; window A/C units can cost between $150 and $750 dollars, while central air starts around $1000 and goes as high as $4500 or more.
There are some serious real-world benefits to using an energy-efficient air conditioner, such as reduced energy costs and a reduced carbon footprint. To ensure your AC unit meets modern efficiency standards, look for the Energy Star seal of approval and energy saver features while shopping for a new air conditioner. Energy Star also maintains a service that lists any air conditioner that meets the organization’s standards, all while meeting your heat transfer needs to beat the summer heat. You’ll also want to choose an AC unit with a good SEER rating.
STAT: On average, 12% of a US household’s energy consumption is because of air conditioners. Information courtesy of the Energy Information Administration. (source)
While an A/C unit is an excellent choice to regulate the temperature in your home, it may not be the appliance you need. Air conditioning solutions can be very expensive, which may not fit into your budget. Some solutions may be a better use of your money, such as springing for something less expensive like an air cooler, or perhaps something that just helps control environmental conditions like humidity. For example, you may want powerless passive cooling for a sunroom. Or if you’re dealing with humid conditions, you may need a dehumidifier instead.
There are many types of air conditioners to suit the needs of different consumers. Window units cool a single room at once, as do portable rolling air conditioners. Conversely, central air conditioners cool an entire home, with standard units requiring ductwork and mini-split units eschewing ductwork. Also, most air conditioner types are available with heat pumps and related heating elements for warming spaces during winter.
STAT: Houses that use single units spent an average of $156 dollars on A/C, compared to central air system households, which spent $299 on their energy bills. However, single units are less effective at cooling larger areas, and as a result, less efficient. Single room units cost about $0.31 per square foot cooled, while central air costs around $0.15 per square foot. (source)
There’s more to owning an air conditioner than just setting the thermostat and turning your fans to “automatic.” Once you pick your ideal A/C unit, learn to perform essential maintenance and look out for any warning signs of serious issues. In addition, most units should be cleaned at least twice a year to maintain peak efficiency and effectiveness. While deep cleaning is a professional job, there are many aspects that you can take care of on your own. So, if you’d like to know all about owning an air conditioner, check out this guide.
How you install an air conditioner is going to depend on the type of A/C you have. To install a window air conditioner, you need to begin by measuring the window to pick the right size unit. Then place the unit in the window and lock it in place and seal any gaps around it. If you have a floor unit, attach the exhaust hose to the window and plug in your A/C unit. The location you install filters on every model of air conditioner is going to vary, as form factor and manufacturer both change the shape and location, so consult the owner’s manual. You’ll likely need a professional to install central air conditioning, as the process is involved and complex. We’ve also got plenty of handy extra tips for the installation process, like insulating the window around a window air conditioner, installing window air conditioner seals, and installing new filters in your A/C unit.
Clean each component of your air conditioner every month or two during the summer months and once before the summer begins. Clear debris from the outdoor unit and wipe down the indoor components with a microfiber cloth and an approved cleaning solution. Remove any mold in your AC unit and be sure to clean the evaporator coils. Finally, never forget to clean or replace the air conditioning filter as indicated by the instructions. Some filters need to be replaced every two to three months, while others must be cleaned manually every one to two months. Remember, regularly cleaning your ductless mini-split system is essential to maintaining its functional lifespan.
How Often Should You Clean Your A/C? As air conditioners circulate the air in your home, hair, dirt, and dust get pulled into the unit’s internals. The built-up debris can lead to an increase in allergy symptoms and a reduction in heating and cooling. Therefore, you should schedule professional A/C cleanings about twice per year to keep the system in perfect working order.
Air conditioners tend to see heavy use during the hotter months of the year, and that means that parts will naturally wear. If you’ve run into some kind of problem with your A/C and it’s no longer working, we’ve got useful repair tips for fixing your air conditioner. One of the most common places to check when an A/C fails is the compressor, because if the compressor fails, the A/C will stop properly cooling air, even if it keeps running.
A/C units use a lot of power and moving parts to keep your home climate controlled. Unfortunately, parts can go bad just like other appliances, and your air conditioner will need service. For most serious repairs, you’ll need to contact a certified repairer. That said, there are some problems you can fix on your own.
As a general rule of thumb, service your central air conditioner twice each year, once before summer and once before winter. When it comes to window units and portable AC units, however, service the units when they encounter a repair issue. As long as you stay on top of maintenance tasks, such as resetting the AC unit when needed, replacing the air filters, and draining portable AC units, smaller air conditioners should not run into too many issues.
If you’re trying to save money or be ecologically conscious, set your thermostat higher. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests 78F in the summer.
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