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The Best Window Air Conditioners to Keep You Cool

The newest models are as smart and efficient as they are cool.

air conditoner
Courtesy of LG

A window air conditioner is the simple cure for a hot and stuffy room. When opening a window or using a fan will not provide sufficient relief, a window a/c will keep you cool and comfortable. But finding one that satisfies yours cooling needs, fits within your home, and won’t jack up your electric bill requires some research. We tested a range (and included promising models we haven’t tested) to help you select the right one. Read on for buying info and our reviews of the best window air conditioners.

The Best Window Air Conditioners

    How A Window Air Conditioner Cools

    A window air conditioner works by using a motor-driven fan to pull hot and moist indoor air over a metal tube coil with cold refrigerant gas in it. The heat energy in the room air passes through the metal coil, into the cold refrigerant inside it. The appliance’s compressor draws the heated gas to a coil on the back of the appliance, converting the gas to a liquid in the process. Another motor-driven fan blows outdoor air over this hot liquid-filled coil and discharges the heat energy to the outdoors. In exchange for the electricity to power the compressor and the fans, you get cool and dry air.

    Equally important in the cooling process is dehumidification. In the summer, there’s a lot of moisture vapor suspended in the air, and in order for you to feel more comfortable, the air conditioner has to remove it. The moisture vapor in the indoor air condenses on the cold surface of the coil and becomes a liquid. The water drips down to the back of the appliance and runs out through a drain. Or it’s picked up by the fan on the back and thrown against the hot coil, where it’s converted back to moisture vapor and discharged with the hot air back to the outdoors.

    The cooling process is identical among air conditioners. However, the appliance’s cooling capacity, features, and controls differ. You need to pay attention to those to select the best window air conditioner for your purposes.

        Features and Efficiency

        To ensure that you get the most cooling capacity for your money, you should do two things:

        1. Buy an a/c with the highest combined energy-efficiency ratio (CEER) possible. CEER is the efficiency rating that applies to window air conditioners. (Note, this is not SEER, or the seasonal energy efficiency ratio that applies to heat pumps and central air conditioning systems.) CEER expresses the ratio of cooling capacity measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs) relative to how much electricity the appliances uses to do its work; it includes the appliance’s efficiency when the compressor is energized and running and when it’s not running, in standby mode. A higher CEER number is better. Note that a few air conditioners still retain the older (but still valid) EER efficiency number. The same rule applies, a higher EER is better than a lower one.

        2. Buy an appliance with appropriate cooling capacity relative to the room size. In most cases, that means the a/c must have roughly 20 BTU of cooling per square foot of room space. Measure the square feet of the room’s floor (length times width) and multiply that by 20. For example, a 20-by-15-foot room would require a small 6,000-BTU air conditioner (20 x 15 x 20 = 6,000).

        Window air conditioners are no different than other appliances in that their controls differ. Controls range from simple knobs that you turn, to buttons that you push, to touch-activated electronic panels similar to those found on a microwave oven or washing machine. Some window air conditioners may be controlled with a handheld remote or by your phone.

        More expensive window air conditioners are more fully featured. Some are equipped with a dehumidification setting (for dealing with extra moist air), a heater, fan without cooling, and timers that allow you to slowly back off the cooling output at night as you fall asleep, then ramp back up cooling again toward dawn.

        Selection and Testing

        To gather the air conditioners you see here, we surveyed the market and quizzed manufacturers, as we looked for features that point to construction quality, energy efficiency, noise reduction, simplicity of use, convenience, ease of maintenance, and versatility.

        For the air conditioners we tested, we install them in a 1,200-cubic-foot space with a high ceiling. One wall of the space faces west and sees a strong afternoon sun. It gets extremely hot and stuffy, meaning it’s perfect for an air conditioner test. We run each appliance at various settings and use an infrared thermometer to measure the a/c’s effect on its surroundings, such as walls and nearby objects. Next, we measure how far away the cooling breeze can be felt. In air conditioning, this is known as throw. Most models will throw their cool air 6 to 8 feet.

        For the appliances we haven’t tested (the Haier ESAQ406T, GE AEG08LZ, LG LW6017R, and Amana AMAP151BW), we consult engineers at the manufacturers, scour the specs, and take note of features. We also look for as high a CEER rating as possible.

        With all that in mind, here are the results from our testing and searching. These are the window-mounted air conditioners most ready to help you beat the heat. Scroll down to the bottom for some maintenance tips to help you keep your appliance running for as long as possible.

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        Best Overall
        LG LW1517IVSM Window Air Conditioner
        Courtesy
        LG

        Key Specs

        • Cooling area: 800 sq ft
        • BTU: 14,000
        • CEER: 14.7
        • Unit dimensions: 23.5 x 29 x 15 in.
        • Weight: 98 lb
        • Amps: 12

        The test’s biggest air conditioner was this LG, a hefty slab of an appliance that uses a multi-speed compressor to control cooling. That compressor doesn’t simply run at a constant speed then cycle on and off to cool the space. Instead, it speeds up or slows down to maintain the temperature. This multi-speed and adaptable design isn’t widely used in window air conditioners, but it’s an effective means to keep the temperature steady and cut down energy use while reducing wear on the compressor. LG calls it a dual-inverter design. If you’re a light sleeper, we’d recommend you consider this LW1517IVSM or the Midea air conditioner below; both have sleep modes that scale back cooling from the initial setting, saving you money and from being woken up by the cycling.

        In all other respects, this a/c is a quiet, pleasant, and effective machine, quickly ramping up to temperature and operating at a steady hum that makes it easy to forget the thing is only a few feet away. We also commend LG as the only manufacturer to include insulated panels that you can install on either side of the air conditioner to reduce energy transfer between the indoors and the outside. Finally, its Wi-Fi capability allows you to turn it on and off from your phone, cooling and dehumidifying the space before you get home.

        Quietest
        Midea MAW12V1QWT Window Air Conditioner

        Key Specs

        • Cooling area: 550 sq ft
        • BTU: 12,000
        • CEER: 15
        • Unit dimensions: 9 x 21.5 x 13.5 in.
        • Weight: 71.8 lb
        • Amps: 12.8

        This was the quietest air conditioner we tested. It was also the only appliance with a unique U-shape that allows you to shut the window in its center, better isolating the compressor (which is always on the outside of the appliance) from the indoor space. This design, which requires a specialized air conditioner mounting bracket, makes the MAW12V1QWT more mechanically complex but also quieter. The low volume was also helped along by the fact that, like the LG, this is an inverter compressor air conditioner. The compressor speed changes to suit demand, rather than simply turning on and off. What’s more, this Midea was the only a/c with an auto louver swing feature—the louvers move vertically to better distribute air in the space. Between that and its large BTU number, the MAW12V1QWT brings indoor temperatures down in a hurry. We also like the fact that its air filter is angled, providing far easier access when the front panel tips out to about 45 degrees. Making it easier to get to means that owners are more likely to actually clean the filter, and therefore healthier air in the living space.

        Easiest to Use
        Amana AMAP050BW Window Air Conditioner

        Key Specs

        • Cooling area: 150 sq ft
        • BTU: 5,000
        • CEER: 11
        • Unit dimensions: 16 x 15.5 x 12.5 in.
        • Weight: 39.7 lb
        • Amps: 3.9

        This Amana is the very definition of low-cost cooling. It seemed to us as much a time machine as a cooling machine. Just looking at its two-knob simplicity and hearing it run was enough to transport us back to our first stuffy apartment and the simple little air conditioner that kept its temperature under control­—and that was more than 40 years ago. Call the little AMAP050BW a fancy version of an ice block and a fan. Turn its dial to the large snowflake setting and the dial to number seven (maximum chill and maximum fan speed). In a couple of minutes, you’ve got cold air filling the space. We detected no rattles, but can we say this is whisper-quiet cooling? No. But it’s not annoying either. If you’re a light sleeper, you might need ear plugs. Then again, you may find comfort in the steady white noise it produces, a clear indication that it’s moving heat to the outside. As for maintenance, its air filter slides out to the right, a simple and welcome feature that eases cleaning.

        Best Value
        Whirlpool WHAW081BW Window Air Conditioner

        Key Specs

        • Cooling area: 350 sq ft
        • BTU: 8,000
        • CEER: 12
        • Unit dimensions: 18.6 x 17.6 x 13 in.
        • Weight: 50. 7 lb
        • Amps: 5.8

        The WHAW081BW is typical of this class of window air conditioner, a mid-priced appliance that does what the manufacturer claims without fuss or flash. Although it’s somewhat loud, it cools rapidly, with no annoying rattles and squeaks. It’s not made by Whirlpool, as the company itself will tell you. It’s manufactured under license to Whirlpool by a company, XLS, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thus, it’s another small, white box made in China sharing (as far as we can tell looking through its louvered sides) many of the components of other small air conditioners in this test—and elsewhere.

        It comes down to this: You can buy this appliance on Amazon or from your nearest home center, put this a/c in your trunk, and have a cool room a few minutes later without paying a lot for it. You also get features typical in this price range. Think varying cooling outputs along with auto, sleep (gradually ramps down its cooling when you’re asleep and won’t notice), and eco (the appliance cycles on and off for reduced energy consumption) settings.

        Energy Efficient
        Haier ESAQ406T Window Air Conditioner
        Haier

        Key Specs

        • Cooling area: 250 sq ft
        • BTU: 6,000
        • CEER: 12.2
        • Unit dimensions: 21.6 x 18.6 x 12.4 in.
        • Weight: 56 lb
        • Amps: 4.4

        This Haier has the reputation of being one of the quietest window air conditioners on the market. And when a family member who’s a notoriously light sleeper decided to purchase an a/c recently, this is the one he selected. He was so thrilled with it, he called us up to rave about it. As far as he’s concerned, of the many air conditioners he’s owned over the years, the ESAQ406T is the quietest. Among its noise-canceling features is an internal compressor blanket that dampens vibration and sound. From what he told us, when the compressor is running, the a/c is slightly louder than a refrigerator. Its Energy-Efficiency Rating (EER) of 12.2 can help reduce the spike in your electric bill that normally comes with running an air conditioner all summer.

        Smartest
        GE AEG08LZ Window Air Conditioner
        GE

        Key Specs

        • Cooling area: 400 sq ft
        • BTU: 8,000
        • CEER: 11.2
        • Unit dimensions: 22.6 x 23.6 x 15.9 in.
        • Weight: 51 lb
        • Amps: 6

        The AEG08LZ looks like another little white box that blows cold air, but appearances can be deceiving. It has a respectable efficiency rating of 11.2 CEER, which it accomplishes by using a variety of energy-conserving features, such as running on next-generation R32 refrigerant and employing a digital thermostat that more closely tracks and monitors cooling compared to electro-mechanical versions. Tech gurus might also be glad to know that this GE can operate via Wi-Fi or voice command. High-tech gizmos aside, you also get the battery of features that people expect at this price: an auto setting, three cooling speeds, an Eco mode, fan only, and programmable operation.

        Best for Large Rooms
        LG LW6017R Window Air Conditioner
        Courtesy
        LG

        Key Specs

        • Cooling area: 250 sq ft
        • BTU: 6,000
        • CEER: 12
        • Unit dimensions: 14.9 x 19.4 x 12.4 in.
        • Weight: 49.9 lb
        • Amps: 6.2

        Designed to quickly cool large spaces, this high-performance, 8,000-BTU LG window air conditioner is ideal for rooms up to 17 x 20 feet. Some of its many features include an energy-saver mode, a 24-hour on/off timer, a full-function remote control, three cooling speeds, three fan speeds, and an auto reset that turns the unit back on once power is restored after electricity is interrupted by an outage. And when indoor air humidity is high, this air conditioner has powerful dehumidifying ability; it can remove up to 2.2 pints of moisture per hour, meaning you’ll feel cooler at lower temperature settings.

        Most Cooling Power
        Amana AMAP151BW Window Air Conditioner
        Amana

        Key Specs

        • Cooling area: 700 sq ft
        • BTU: 15,000
        • EER: 11.9
        • Unit dimensions: 25 x 23.5 x 18 in.
        • Weight: 105.8 lb
        • Amps: 11

        This Amana’s cooling capacity is about as big as it gets in window air conditioners—both in terms of the area it will handle and its current draw (11 amps). So if you need heavy-duty cooling and have a 15-amp circuit that isn’t dealing with much load already, the AMAP151BW is a good choice. In other respects, it’s got all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a fully featured window a/c: a sleep mode, a remote, three fan speeds, and a dehumidification mode that will remove 3.5 pints of moisture vapor from the air per hour. That’s a lot of water.

        CARE AND MAINTENANCE
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        To maintain your a/c, the best single thing you can do is regularly vacuum the air filter. If it’s really grubby, give it a light scrubbing with water and dish detergent, and rinse it clean. Always let the filter dry before reinstalling it.

        It’s not uncommon for a couple of fins on the air conditioner’s back to get mashed or bent as you’re handling the appliance. To straighten them, use the edge of a plastic putty knife or credit card. Insert the knife or card into a space above the bent fin, and slide it down to the bent area. If the fins are severely bent, use a fin straightener tool that you can buy online.

        If your a/c starts to let out a rattle, investigate. It could be anything from a rough window sill to a wobbly pane. Should the sound get to be too much, foam insulation strips and even sound-dampening rubber sheeting can help quiet the noise.

        Most of the air conditioners here will operate very comfortably on a 15-amp branch circuit (a branch circuits consists of all the wiring and devices that hook up to a single circuit breaker or fuse). These circuits will support up to, naturally, 15 amps of current draw. If the a/c runs at 6 amps, the circuit will still support another 9 of current. However, even an energy-efficient air conditioner draws a substantial amount of current–in some cases two or three times the amperage it normally runs at—when its condenser turns on, in order to pump its refrigerant through its sealed loop. This may cause the circuit breaker to trip. If that happens, look around to see what other loads are operating on the circuit. Maybe somebody’s running a vacuum cleaner or other high-current appliance. Shutting down other loads will free up electrical capacity and allow the air conditioner to run as it should.

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