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Published Apr. 11, 2022

Buying a new air conditioner is a significant investment in terms of time and money.  Most air conditioning units will only cool one room at a time, so it’s important to note specifics about the machine and room size to make your pick. The ideal A/C will, of course, keep you cool on even the most sweltering of days, while making minimal noise and guzzling the least amount of energy as possible. These days, machines have a range of settings and design abilities to blow air at the speed and temperature and in the direction you want. We’ve rounded up some of the top air conditioners on the market right now to help you get through hot days and nights on the terms that work for you.

How We Selected These Products 

We reviewed reliable sites such as Consumer Reports while examining the Energy Star guidance for the best air conditioners and what specific features to look out for. We researched more than a dozen brands to determine which had the optimal offerings in a few key areas, including: 

  • BTU: This widely used acronym stands for British Thermal Energy Unit, which is a measurement used to define an air conditioner’s capacity to cool a room. Be aware that a higher BTU doesn’t automatically translate to a colder room; it’s important to measure the square footage of your room to identify the compatible BTU. As Consumer Reports points out, citing the government-run Energy Star, you should also consider a room’s natural shade and lighting, regular number of occupants, and overall purpose (for kitchens, for example, increasing the BTU would be relevant).
  • Energy efficiency: Speaking of Energy Star, the organization’s certification is commonly cited to signal a machine has been tested to efficiently deliver the right BTU in for a specific room size. Other features include “eco” mode and different cooling and fan settings to ensure users are only using the necessary amount of power to provide comfort at any given time.
  • Type of unit: Window units tend to be the most commonly manufactured of the air conditioners, and standing or portable units are a fit for certain rooms depending on the layout. (The term “portable” is a bit of a misnomer given these appliances are often heavy and not easily movable, since they filter air out the window.) 
  • Window compatibility: If you’re opting for a window unit, be sure to take measurements to ensure your new unit will fit. Most products will list a minimum and maximum width as well as a minimum height.
  • Noise level: dBA is an abbreviation for A-weighted decibels, and it indicates the level of noise your machine is expected to generate while it’s on.

The Best Air Conditioners: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Midea U Inverter Window Air Conditioner

Why It Made The Cut: This unit is energy efficient and priced mid-range, and its brilliant design reduces noise and satisfies the desire to open your windows during lovely-weather days. 

Specs:

  • BTU: 8,000, 10,000, or 12,000 
  • Compatible Room Size: 350-550 square feet 
  • Unit Type: Window 
  • Noise Level: 42 dBA

Pros: 

  • Smart control and compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Exceptional design 
  • Quieter than major competitors
  • Allows for window opening
  • Features a dehumidifier setting

Cons:

  • Newer company with less experience in the industry  

It’s always a tradeoff: a rare breezy summer night arrives, and you can’t open your window thanks to a clunky, humming machine that’d topple right out if you did. Why settle for an eyesore that blocks natural light for a good portion for the year? Midea has come up with a solution to this problem with an inventive U-shaped design that reduces noise as well as offers flexibility to open your window unlike most major competitors. It fits windows between 22 and 26 inches, and the minimum height is 13.75 inches. The machine’s modern features don’t stop there: you can also connect to your smartphone to operate the machine and use your voice thanks to Google and Alexa compatibility. Adding to the credentials, Midea has been certified by Energy Star.

Budget Pick: GE Window Air Conditioner

Why It Made The Cut: This machine might look conventional, but it has all the features to get you through hot nights at an incredibly accessible price.

Specs:

  • BTU: 5,000-14,000 
  • Compatible Room Size: 150-700, depending on BTU
  • Unit Type: Window unit
  • Noise Level: 58 dBA

Pros: 

  • Simple to use
  • Features smart connectivity 
  • Easy to install
  • Made by a legacy brand
  • Great for people on a budget or for a guest room  

Cons: 

  • Some reviewers complain it’s slightly loud
  • WiFi app can be clunky 

This workhorse has three cooling settings and three fan settings that keep you comfortable without becoming confusing. It’s easy to install with the included mounting hardware, and it weighs in at only 50 pounds, making it easy to move and store in the off seasons. Made from a longtime leader in the HVAC space, this GE model also includes smart connectivity so you can cash in on one of the more modern A/C features without breaking the bank. The unit has deep-slotted fans that can be cleaned without much trouble, and the eco function is available for lower environmental impact. It fits windows between 24.5 and 36 inches wide and up to 13.375 inches high.

Best Value: TOSOT Portable Air Conditioner

Why It Made The Cut: This standing unit won’t overpower your space and spares you from complicated installation at a price point that’s lower than many of its peers.

Specs:

  • BTU: 8,000 or 10,000 
  • Compatible Room Size: 300 or 400 square feet
  • Unit Type: Portable
  • Noise Level: 49 dBA

Pros:

  • Includes remote control 
  • Features dehumidifier and fan
  • Allows more flexibility to open window
  • Reusable air filter
  • 6-foot power cord

Con:

  • Some users think it could have more intuitive filters

Weighing in at 65 pounds, the unit is light enough to be wheeled between rooms, and if it’s in the bedroom, it’s quiet enough to allow you a good night’s sleep. People who bought this unit say it delivers powerful cooling and features a precise timer, so you can choose to turn it off while you’re asleep or out of your home. For especially humid days and nights, the unit will remove excess moisture for maximum comfort; it also includes “night mode” so no lights disturb you. Its X-shaped fans allow you to blow air in your preferred directions, and it’s a great fit for people with oddly shaped rooms or narrow window locations. This unit — which is compatible with windows between 9 and 62 inches wide — is designed for the long haul with a reusable filter that you can clean throughout and across seasons.

Best With Heater: SereneLife SLACHT128 Portable Air Conditioner

SereneLife

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Why It Made The Cut: Featuring a built-in heater and dehumidifier, the SereneLife air conditioner stands out by serving multiple purposes and sparing you from storing two separate machines, especially in a smaller home. 

Specs: 

  • BTU: 8,000-12,000 
  • Compatible Room Size: 215-450 square feet
  • Unit Type: Portable
  • Noise Level: 56-59 dBA

Pros: 

  • Intuitive drain location 
  • Reviewers say its various BTU options overdeliver 
  • Four operating modes: heating, cooling, dehumidifying and fan
  • Includes a remote control
  • Power cord is 4.3 feet long

Cons:

  • Some reviewers complain about noise
  • No smart technology 

Folks who want to heat or cool a garage or who live in a space with limited storage options will be pleased with this crowd-pleasing, four-in-one air conditioner. Reviewers note that its installation process is stress-free, and it’s light enough to roll across the floor or keep out all year round. Crucially, the fans blow from the side rather than the top to distribute cool air or heat in a more 360-degree fashion. The swing setting also allows you to open or close the vents. While it doesn’t offer smart technology like many leading competitors, this unit still impressed us with its energy efficiency, compact size and accessible control panel that includes a timer and sleep function.

Best Smart Tech: Windmill Air Conditioner

Windmill

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Why It Made The Cut: This Windmill unit blasts air so powerfully that some reviewers compare it to central air, and it brings a modern look and quality  to even the oldest of homes.

Specs:

  • BTU: 8,300 
  • Compatible Room Size: 350 square feet
  • Unit Type: Window
  • Noise Level: 50 dB

Pros: 

  • Includes smart connectivity and is compatible with Google Voice or Alexa 
  • Attractive design with innovating venting system 
  • Reliably quiet while cooling 

Cons:

  • Only one BTU option
  • Only one color option
  • Heavier weight at 73 pounds 

This futuristic-looking unit doesn’t require complicated installation and looks leagues better than any average air conditioner. Windmill is focused on efficiency, noting that it uses a refrigerant that’s less harmful to the planet. The unit’s fans can be slanted upward unlike many other machines, so you can take advantage of an angle that blows air up and out without feeling compelled to dial down the temperature. It can connect to an app WiFi to make your life easier. One reviewer put it more succinctly than we can: “Quiet, cold, and not ugly.” 

Things to Consider When Buying the Best Air Conditioner

Smart Technology 

Tech upgrades like smart cooling that you can control from a smartphone are increasingly easy to come by among new air conditioners. While some people are content to walk over to their unit to adjust temperature or fan speed, many prefer the option to operate it from the comfort of a bed or couch. Decide which camp you fall in before investing in an air conditioner with a traditional remote or without any ability to control it from  a distance. 

Noise Tolerance 

Someone living in New York City and someone who’s a notoriously light sleeper will have different points of view on what constitutes a loud and disruptive air conditioner. It can be hard to tell exactly how loud a unit will sound once it’s installed in your particular space — especially just from reading reviews — but pay special attention to the decibel levels and compare them across units. Plus, it’s helpful to know if you’ve previously had good or bad experiences with a certain level for past air conditioners. 

Room Layout

It’s not just the square footage of your room (which you should absolutely know before purchasing an air conditioner) that determines which unit is best for you. Consider your window size and which direction of the sun they face before deciding on which BTU unit will fit your needs.

FAQs

Q: Which type of air conditioner is best? 

We researched dozens of window and standing air conditioner units and found the Midea U Inverter Window Air Conditioner is the best option on the market right now. It stands out with smart design, energy efficiency vetted by Energy Star, low noise, and three BTU options that fit most consumers’ needs.

Q: Is it worth getting an air conditioner?

 

If you’re living somewhere with hot temperatures and without central air conditioning, getting an air conditioner is probably worth it for you. If you’re not looking to invest, this GE Window Air Conditioner is an affordable option that meets many budgets. Also, if you’re renting an apartment or condo without central air conditioning, getting your own unit with your landlord’s approval is likely your best option. 

Q: Do AC units provide heat? 

Some models like the SereneLife SLACHT128 Portable Air Conditioner act as air conditioners, dehumidifiers, fans and space heaters. For people who want to reduce their number of appliances or to heat and cool an area that traditionally isn’t connected to their HVAC system, an AC unit that provides heat is a great option.

Final Thoughts

As we experience fewer cool summer nights and many more of us work remotely, we expect our air conditioners to be running round-the-clock. Under those circumstances, it’s important to know what size unit will work with your space, what level of noise you’re willing to tolerate and what special features you can’t live without. It’s not frivolous to care about the aesthetic of your unit — many of which can be eyesores that set a tone for your interior design — so consider whether a certain design matters to you. With that all in mind, the Midea U-Inverter Air Conditioner checked a ton of boxes for us: smart design, energy efficient, and powerfully blasts air in a wide range of home sizes. It gives you the flexibility to open your window and is engineered to be quiet, an attractive option to lots of people spending more time in their homes.

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