Unless you live in an extreme northern latitude, most people in the world have to live with an unfortunate truth: summer is hot.
Even in northern cities like Calgary or Berlin, where summer days average in the high 70s, 90- and even 100-degree days are not out of the question. In many parts of the United States, temperatures average 90 or higher sometimes for several months of the year.
For most people, owning an air conditioner is more than a convenience; it’s a necessity. Although there are several types of air conditioners, window air conditioners are by far the most popular.
All air conditioners produce heat as they consume electricity, and since window air conditioners push that heat right out the window, their appeal is obvious. If your home doesn’t offer central heat and air, a window air conditioner is one of the best investments you can make.
In order to buy the right air conditioner – or air conditioners – for your home, it helps to be informed. For example, if your air conditioner is too small for the room you’re trying to cool, you won’t be satisfied with the results.
In order to help you find the best window air conditioner for your home, we’ve included some information to help you make a more informed buying decision.
How to Buy a Window Air Conditioner
If you’re looking to buy a window air conditioner, the first thing you need to consider is that these units are only designed to cool a single room. Because of this, they are best used in bedrooms or other confined spaces, or else in an apartment with a small living area.
All air conditioners have a BTU rating, which refers to how much heat they can extract from a room. In order to pick an appropriate air conditioner, you need to know the size of the room you plan to cool. If you don’t know the size of your room, take a tape measure and check the length of your walls to determine the area. You don’t need to know the exact area; a ballpark estimate will be close enough.
Once you’ve determined the approximate area of the intended room, use the guide below to determine the size of the air conditioner needed.
- 5,000-8,000 BTUs: Rooms under 350 ft2
- 8,000-12,000 BTUs: Rooms between 350 and 550 ft2
- 12,000-18,500 BTUs: Rooms between 550 and 1050 ft2
- 18,500-25,000 BTUs: Rooms between 1050 and 1600 ft2
Most commonly used window air conditioners run between 5,000 and 8,000 BTUs. Air conditioners over 8,000 BTUs are not uncommon, but are fairly expensive and use quite a bit of electricity. Most households don’t need an air conditioner over 12,000 BTU.
EER stands for Energy Efficiency Rating, and is used to measure the energy efficiency of an air conditioner. Thus, an EER can help give you a good idea how economical an air conditioner is. Since electricity costs typically rise in the summer months, knowing the EER for an air conditioner can help you prepare to meet those costs.
If the air conditioner doesn’t provide an EER, you can easily determine it for yourself. EER is determined by dividing the BTUs of the unit by its wattage. While an energy efficiency rating won’t tell you how much the unit will cost to run, it can help you make an informed purchase.
Suppose you’re looking at two different air conditioners. One has 5,000 BTUs, the other 8,000. Both use 1,000 watts of power. Although the 8,000 BTU unit is more powerful, it uses the same amount of electricity, thus making it more efficient. More efficient models typically cost more, but they will generally save you money in the long run.
3. Automated Features
Another thing to look for when purchasing an air conditioner is what kind of automated settings you can use. While central air conditioners typically come with a thermostat that lets you maintain a desired temperature, not all window models feature this. If the air conditioner features electronic controls, you should be able to set a specific temperature for the unit to maintain. If the unit uses manual controls, however, this may not be possible.
Another feature to look for is a programmable timer. This sets the air conditioner to turn on or off at specific times during the day, allowing you to control when the conditioner runs and regulate electrical costs. This is ideal for working individuals or families who aren’t home during the day.
Of course, a programmable timer can always be turned off for the weekends or during exceptionally hot weather that demands higher usage. Some models also include a sleep timer. This is a special mode that allows the temperature to slowly rise during the night before kicking in to maintain lower temperatures.
Finally, look for a remote control. While these aren’t necessary, they add an element of convenience, letting you control your temperature settings from your bed or your office without having to get up and disturb your work, rest or other activities. Some remote controls even function as a temperature sensor, activating the air conditioner if they detect higher temperatures in the room.
Who Should Buy a Window Air Conditioner
Not everyone needs a window air conditioner. Most apartment complexes feature central heat and air, and may not even allow you to install an air conditioner. Many newer homes also feature central air conditioning, though this is not always the case. You may want to purchase a small air conditioner for your bedroom even if your home has central air as a backup in case your air conditioner needs repairs, but this isn’t necessary.
If your home doesn’t have built-in air conditioning, however, investing in an air conditioner is probably a good idea. Running multiple air conditioners can get prohibitively expensive, so try to reserve them for bedrooms, as cooling larger living areas is much more difficult. If you have a large family and need to purchase several air conditioner units, you might need to set ground rules for when the air conditioner can be used.
If you own an RV, an air conditioner can be an excellent investment to make. An air conditioner will make traveling in your RV a far more pleasant and enjoyable experience. Just remember that air conditioners use a lot of power, so be sure to make sure your generator is rated to handle an AC unit. In general, 5,000 or 6,000 BTUs will be enough to cool an RV.
The Best Window Air Conditioners
Because the best air conditioner hinges so thoroughly on the size of the room in question, it didn’t make sense to include a single AC unit here.
If you’re looking for a 6,000 BTU model, we recommend the Keystone KSTAW05C 6000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Air Conditioner. It’s priced at under $200, yet it includes a variety of desirable features, including an EnergyStar rating, a digital thermostat control panel, and a remote control.
If you’re looking for an 8,000 BTU model, we recommend the LG LW8016ER 8,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Air Conditioner.
It is competitively priced with other 8,000 BTU units and is also EnergyStar certified. It includes a 24-hour on/off timer and can remove up to 2.2 pint of water per hour from the air, making it ideal for cooling in humid climates. It includes a digital display panel, a 24-hour on/off timer and a remote control.
Best Window Air Conditioners Under $200
hOmeLabs 5000 BTU Window Mounted Air Conditioner
If you’re on a budget, the hOmeLabs AC-188 5,000 BTU window mounted air conditioner is one of the most affordable air conditioners on the market. It doesn’t quite meet EnergyStar regulations – that requires an EER of 12.0, which the AC-188 just misses – but you’ll be hard-pressed to find an EnergyStar AC for much less than $200 anyway.
At 5,000 BTUs, the AC-188 is fine for an RV or small bedroom, and is rated for a room up to 150 ft2. This is definitely a no-frills AC, as it lacks any electrical controls and provides a simple turn knob to adjust the temperature to your preferences.
It has seven speeds and works quickly, cooling down your room in as little as 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of course. It features an eco-friendly filter that can be washed either with or soap and water or a vacuum.
If you’re looking for a fancy air conditioner with a lot of convenience features, this one isn’t it. This is a bare-bones AC that gets the job done, but with limited settings. That said, it’s not terribly inefficient, coming just a few points shy of an EnergyStar rating. If you’re on a budget and in urgent need of some cooling, you could do worse. The air conditioner measures 16 inches long x 12 inches high x 15.4 inches deep.
Frigidaire FFRA0511R1E 5,000 BTU 115V Air Conditioner
Like the hOmeLab AC, the Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 5,000TU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact is a basic budget model without a lot of advanced features. It features two knobs to control temperature and speed, and is recommended for a room of around 150 square feet.
The FFRA0511R1 offers two different cool speeds and two different fan speeds, for when you simply want to circulate air without running the AC. It also works to dehumidify the air, removing up to 1.1 pints of water per hour. This is especially desirable in hot and humid regions such as the southern United States.
However, the Frigidaire is not as energy-efficient as the AC-188, with an EER of just 11.1. While not terrible, it’s not the best either, though you can hardly complain about the price. The AC comes with a mounting kit and fits in most windows. It measures 16 inches long x 12 inches high x 15 ¼ inches deep.
Keystone KSTAW05C 6000 BTU Air Conditioner
If you’re willing to pay a little bit more money, the Keystone KSTAW05C offers a lot more options to choose from than the sparse hOmeLabs and Frigidaire models. This 5,000 BTU air conditioner features a modern electronic display that gives you far greater control over your environment.
While temperature knobs work fine, they’re very imprecise, and make it more difficult to regulate your energy usage. The Keystone KSTAW05C lets you set your preferred temperature so the AC only comes on when it has to, saving you power. In addition, it has a sleep timer, Energy Saver mode, and other features to help you keep your energy bills down in the summer when it matters most.
Adding to the convenience, the KSTAW05C comes with a remote control, so you don’t even have to be standing next to the AC to operate it. It is able to dehumidify up to 1.3 pints per hour, and has an EnergyStar 12.2 EER rating.
The model is compact, measuring 16 inches x 12 inches x 15.4 inches, and is ideal for small rooms. It does cost a little bit more than the other options, but it still comes in at less than $200, making this arguably the best budget compact AC on the market.
Best Window Air Conditioners Under $300
LG LW8016ER 8,000 BTU 115V Air Conditioner
If your bedroom is more than 150 or 160 ft2, a compact 5,000 BTU air conditioner just isn’t going to cut it. If you need something to cool a larger room while sticking to a modest budget, the LG LW8016ER 8,000 BTU Window-Mounted Air Conditioner is one of your more affordable options.
With a 12.1 EnergyStar energy efficiency rating, the LG doesn’t cost much to run, making it economical in the long-run as well as the short-term. It’s recommended for a room up to 340 ft2, and can dehumidify up to 2.2 pints per hour for more pleasant temperatures. It offers three cooling and fan speeds, and includes an electric display that lets you set your preferred temperature. It also comes with a controller for remote access over the AC.
In addition, the LW8016ER comes with a 24-hour on/off timer, so you have some flexibility over when the unit runs or doesn’t run. It isn’t exactly quiet, but it’s not terribly loud either, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble sleeping with it on at night. The AC measures 19.6 x 12 x 19.4 inches.
Koldfront WAC8002WCO 8,000 115V BTU Air Conditioner
If you’re looking for an alternative to the LG LW8016ER, the Koldfront WAC8001W window air conditioner is a comparable model with similar specs, size and performance. Like the LG, this is an 8,000 BTU air conditioner with an electronic display and remote control access.
While the measurements are a little different from the LG, this unit is roughly the same size and weight – about 50 pounds – so it’s not too terribly difficult to install, though you’ll definitely want someone helping you.
The temperature control settings are more aesthetically pleasing and offer more user options, such as a sleep mode, EnergySaver mode and more. It has a cooling range of 62°-86° F, and like the LG is recommended for a room up to 350 ft2.
At 12.0 EER, the Koldfront is slightly less efficient than the LG, but likely not enough to notice or really matter. The Koldfront offers three different fan speeds, runs in dry mode, and has an LED filter alert that lets you know when the filters need to be changed. The air conditioner measures 18.5 length x 13.3 height x 17.5 depth.
Frigidaire FFRE0833S1 8,000 BTU 115V Air Conditioner
Another AC option in the 8,000 BTU range is the Frigidaire FFRE0833S1. This unit also boasts a 12.0 EnergyStar energy efficiency rating, and features a temperature-sensing remote control that informs you of the temperature from across the room, letting you making temperature decisions on the fly before they can affect your comfort.
The FFRE0833S1 features 8-direction fans that let you control the direction of the air, letting you dictate your comfort on your terms. It isn’t nearly as efficient at dehumidifying as the LG, however, removing just 1.7 pints per hour, but it’s still quite effective. What the Frigidaire does offer, however, is an air ionizer that removes particles and pollen from the air, cleaning the air and helping to fight allergies.
The AC has a digital temperature monitor that lets you set the exact temperature you prefer, and an LED light lets you know when the filter needs to be replaced. However, the Frigidaire doesn’t have as many timer and control options as some other models. The unit measures 18 ½ x 13 7/16 x 17 ½ inches.
Best Window Air Conditioners Under $400
Friedrich Chill CP06G10B 6000 BTU Air Conditioner
Not everyone prefers penny-pinching budget air conditioners. If you’re looking for a compact small-room air conditioner with advanced control and safety features, the Friedrich Chill CP06G10B 6,000 BTU window air conditioner has your name on it.
This air condition offers a wide variety of features, including a digital thermostat, a 24-hour on/off timer that lets you program when to run the unit, an Auto-Restart feature that remembers your settings in the event of an outage and a digital remote that lets you set the temperature and fan speed from anywhere in the room.
With 6,000 BTUs, this AC is recommended for rooms between 150 and 250 ft2, making this a good choice for someone who doesn’t need the power consumption of an 8,000 BTU AC but wants more efficient cooling than a 5,000 BTU air conditioner can provide. It also utilizes an ingenious anti-kick design that secures the chassis to the sleeve to prevent the unit from being kicked in, potentially stopping an assailant from breaking in.
The biggest downside to the unit is that it isn’t the most energy efficient, with an EER of just 11.3. Still, this is a very quiet, high-performance AC that is a great fit for a small-to-medium bedroom. It measures 20.9 x 14 x 18.9 inches.
Koldfront WAC8001W 8,000 BTU Air Conditioner
Some air conditioners are capable of providing not only cooling, but limited supplemental heating as well. The Koldfront WAC8001W is one such unit. While the unit isn’t suitable for heating an entire home, it does work to keep temperatures more comfortable in the winter, much like a small space heater would.
The Koldfront provides 8,000 BTU cooling, and as a supplemental heat source 3500 BTUs. The air conditioner features an electronic thermostat with a variety of energy-saving modes to reduce power consumption, which is especially important as this isn’t the most energy efficient model.
If you’re just looking for a standard 8,000 BTU air conditioner, there are probably better choices for you to buy than this one. But if you want the added luxury of a little extra heat in the winter and want to avoid a bulky space heater, this could be a good choice. The air conditioner has an EER of 10.6 and measures 22.6 x 16.1 x 23 inches.
Best Window Air Conditioners Under $500
Koldfront WAC12001W 12,000 BTU Air Conditioner
Generally speaking, air conditioners over 8,000 BTU are not going to be very energy-efficient, because the power required to cover a greater area starts to escalate. The Koldfront WAC12001W is even less efficient than it could be, because in addition to providing a 12,000 BTU air conditioner, it also provides an impressive 11,000 BTU heating function capable of filling an entire room with pleasant heat.
At 12,000 BTU, this air conditioner can cover quite a large area, up to 550 square feet, typically enough for a living/dining area.
Like other high-end air conditioner units, it utilizes a digital thermometer that lets you set your preferred temperature, set automatic timers to save energy, provides a check filter light and offers a sleep mode in the event that your bedroom is very, very large. It offers three fans for controlled airflow and features a dehumidifying mode for humid climates.
Although it isn’t the most efficient model, it’s 10.9 EER isn’t atrocious, although a 10.9 EER @1100W is still significantly more than 10.9 @600W. Nevertheless, if you need an AC unit large enough for a living room or large master bedroom, this is a great multi-purpose choice that might see as much use in the winter as it does in the summer.
Frigidaire FFRS1022R1 10000 BTU 115-volt Air Conditioner
Finding an air conditioner that fits a sliding casement window can be challenging, as they don’t support standard AC models. If you’re looking for an air conditioner that fits the bill, the Frigidaire FFRS1022R1 10,000 BTU Slider/Casement Room air conditioner is a powerful, if somewhat expensive, option.
This large, 10,000 BTU air conditioner cools an area up to 450 square feet, ideal for larger rooms that often feature slider and casement windows. The Frigidaire includes all of the advanced utilitarian and energy-saving features of other expensive models, including a thermostat, auto-cool, sleep and Energy Saver modes and a 24-hour on/off timer.
The unit isn’t the most efficient, with an EER of just 10.4, but it is exceptionally good at dehumidifying, capable of removing up to 3.4 pints per hour. This makes this a great AC tgo have in very humid climates like Louisiana or Florida. The unit measures 23.5 x 14.5 x 20.2 inches.
Whether you’re looking for an air conditioner for a child’s bedroom or your living room, there are plenty of options to choose from. Hopefully this article has given you the information you need to pick the right AC for your needs, and directed you towards quality units that will fulfill those needs.
16 x 15.4 x 12 inches
Up to 150 square feet