The Best Air Conditioner

If you’re putting an air conditioner in your window this summer, it should be the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 ($227, Amazon$219 without thermostat remote at Lowe’s) , or whichever version in the series fits your room. After almost 50 total hours of research and 13 additional hours of testing, we found it’s a clear winner. One of just a few affordable air conditioner lines with the latest Energy Star certification, the Frigidaires are even more efficient than the stringent new guidelines require. In fact, according to our tests, the FFRE0833Q1 was 12 percent more efficient than the runner-up and 8 pounds lighter, too. Subtle but super-clever touches—like a thermometer in the remote control and a staggered sleep mode—not only save energy, but actually make your bedroom or den more comfortable than other air conditioners can.

Last Updated: August 4, 2014
Quirky responded to some of our questions about our experience with the Aros. They let us know that our issues with the Smart Schedule feature were atypical, and that there is now a software update that offers user control over the LED indicators' brightness. We've updated the guide.
Expand Previous Updates
July 18, 2014: It's the most-talked-about air conditioner in a very long time, so we tested the new Quirky + GE Aros smart A/C. It's a nice first effort, and they get a lot of things right, but there are major bugs with the software that prevent us from recommending it yet. See the Why not Aros? section for details from our hands-on tests.
June 12, 2014:

There's a noteworthy "smart" accessory coming out soon: The tado Cooling AC controller. Its main features are smartphone control and geofencing, just like the Quirky. The upside? The tado should work with any air conditioner that uses a remote—no need to buy all-new hardware just to make your old AC less dumb. Wall-mount it within remote range of your AC (window, portable, whatever works with a remote), and it will respond to commands from a smartphone app. CNET published a great first-look article on it. 

Now we just need to see if it works right. The company behind it made a similar accessory for heating systems a few years ago, which bodes well. Its Kickstarter project was successfully funded in June, and should be available in August for $149.
June 5, 2014: Portable air conditioners are not a good replacement for a window unit. That said, if you must have portable, we now have a suggestion for you: the LG LP1214GXR. See our new portables subsection. Also, we messed up earlier when we said the Amazon and Lowe's versions of our main pick, the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1, were exactly the same. There is a difference: the Lowe's unit does not include the handy built-in thermometer in the remote, or come with an ionizing filter.
June 3, 2014: Our new pick for best air conditioner, the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1, has all of the great features of our previous pick (and then some) and it's fantastically energy efficient.

The Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 is our new favorite air conditioner—it’s especially energy efficient and has useful features (like a remote, built-in thermometer, and staggered sleep mode) that help make your room more comfy than the competition.
The particular model we tested is rated at 8,000 BTU, meant for spaces between 300 and 350 square feet—about the size of a comfy living room or master bedroom. You can expect any model in the 33Q1 series to perform well, so if you need to chill a larger or smaller area, pick the one with the corresponding BTU rating.

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $239.
The LG LW8014ER is our runner up if the main pick sells out. It’s got the most recent Energy Star rating and cools well, though it doesn’t have the convenient extra features of our Frigidaire pick.
If the Frigidaire sells out, you’ll be well served by our runner-up pick, the LG LW8014ER. It too meets the new Energy Star spec at a reasonable price (around $240), but it lacks the convenient features of the remote thermometer and energy-saving “sleep mode.” It’s also not quite as efficient as our top pick. However, it’s still a good air conditioner and more efficient than most other 2014 models. The Frigidaire is just better.

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $229.
The Frigidaire 86AT7 was our top pick in 2013. It’s not as efficient as our new Frigidaire pick (or even the runner-up LG model), but it does have many of the features we like if our other two picks are sold out.
For those keeping track, this is a new version of the Frigidaire model that we recommended last summer. That model, the 86AT7, is still a good unit that has many of the same features as our pick (including the sleep mode and remote thermometer) and is still available from a few stores. But it’s not as efficient and doesn’t meet the current Energy Star standards, which is why we have new favorites in this category. However, if both the top pick and the runner-up are sold out, you should still be able to pick one of these up for a decent price.

What size air conditioner do I need?

The cooling power of an air conditioner is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). Normally, a BTU is a measurement of how much thermal energy it takes to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. But in the case of air conditioning, it’s reversed; the rating measures how much thermal energy it takes to remove from an area, and the size of the area determines how many BTU an appropriate air conditioner should use.

If your air conditioner is underpowered for a space, it’ll run constantly, hopelessly trying to get down to the target temperature. That’s a waste of energy, and your space will never be perfectly comfortable. It’s also why some window units get caked in ice and burn out their compressors much sooner than they should.

An AC unit with extra BTUs will cool your space quickly but switch itself off before the air is dehumidified, leaving behind a cold but clammy climate. Moisture is half the battle.

To avoid these problems, you need the right air conditioner for your space. It’s very easy: find the square footage of the room you want to cool, then consult this handy sizing chart from Energy Star to figure out how many BTUs your air conditioner should crank out.

For example, my living room measures about 14 feet by 10 feet. That’s 140 square feet. Energy Star says that I should use a 5,000 BTU air conditioner. Voila. All air conditioners list their BTU ratings on the box, and many will tell you how large of an area they’re designed to cool.

There are some other variables to consider, if you want to get super-accurate with your BTU rating. If the space is exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, add 10% to the number of BTU you’ll require. No sunlight? Subtract 10%. Planning on regularly having more than two people in the space at a time? Tack on an additional 600 BTUs per person. Putting your air conditioner in the kitchen? That’s an automatic 4,000 additional BTUs to compensate for the amount of heat generated by your stove and oven.

Air conditioners draw a lot of power—the larger ones drew over 9 amps—and, if shared with other devices, that could cause blown fuses or even fires with a poorly wired electrical system.
Now, you probably won’t be able to find an air conditioner with the ideal BTU rating for your room. The gaps between models start at 1,000 BTU and grow wider as the ratings increase. But use your best judgment when you’re rounding off.

If you’re cooling multiple rooms, you’re probably better off using smaller air conditioners rather than one giant air conditioner. John, an air conditioner specialist at the Home Depot in Victoria, British Columbia told us back in 2012 that “the air just doesn’t flow properly” when one big unit tries to chill many rooms, unless there’s an open floor plan. “I mean, you can set up fans to circulate the cool air through the house, but it’s never the same. If there are people sleeping in each room, you’ll want to have multiple units,” John said.

Here’s another reason to divide the cooling responsibilities between a few small units: If you go bigger than 12,000 BTU, you’ll need a 220 V outlet, which usually means you’ll need to call an electrician. Smaller air conditioners work in any typical 120 V outlet, though it’s worth noting that you should avoid using extension cords or power strips. Air conditioners draw a lot of power—the larger ones drew over 9 amps—and, if shared with other devices, that could cause blown fuses or even fires with a poorly wired electrical system.

Which type of A/C do I need?

If you have vertical opening windows, a window unit is probably what you need. Window units are the most popular style of air conditioner in North America and generally the least expensive.

It makes sense that they’re king on this continent. They’re easy to install with just one or two people. You can take them with you when you move to a new home. You also can buy one just about anywhere. Most of these units are designed for vertically opening windows. Another type slides into a hole built into the exterior wall of an apartment—it’s really a wall sleeve, not a window, but the design is very similar. And then there are casement air conditioners, which fit into skinny, side-opening windows. Given the overwhelming popularity of the typical vertical window units, we chose to focus on them for this guide.

Window units are the most popular style of air conditioner in North America and generally the least expensive.
However, in many condos and apartments, renters and owners are forbidden from installing an air conditioner that can can be seen from outside the building. Or sometimes people need to cool rooms like basements that don’t have windows. For them, a portable air conditioner is the way to go. Wheel it into the room you want to cool, plug it in, and turn it on. (Although you still have to vent it outside, usually through a window.)

Finally, if you own a house with forced air heating, you might want to invest in a central forced-air system that will regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level through its existing heating ducts and vents.

How we picked

This is our third year picking air conditioners, and each time, we try to make our process more efficient. In past years, we tried to track down an expert editorial source on air conditioners to no avail. We asked salespeople for advice, and not many of those folks knew much on the topic either. Even the buying guides from editorial heavy hitters like Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping didn’t usually do much to help. Many discontinued and out-of-stock models are mixed into their recommendations, while some of the newest models aren’t included. So instead of searching for expert and editorial leads that likely don’t exist, we jumped right into the strategy that worked best last summer: finding the best models on paper and testing them ourselves.

To start, we browsed listings at major national retailers, looking for models that are available from at least two stores. In both of the past two summers, some of our favorite A/C units have become near-impossible to find at times. In the interest of helping you find an air conditioner that you can actually buy, we limited the scope of our search to units that are (or should be) readily available.

We expected to spend hours looking for ways to whittle down the field, but it turned out to be super-simple. Of the 20 models we considered in the 8,000-BTU class, only 5 of them meet the new Energy Star criteria (our friends at Reviewed.com have a great primer on the latest Energy Star). Of that small group, one of them had been dismissed last year because it cost $90 more than our eventual pick. We dismissed another on price, too—it was a $780 window air conditioner. So we were left with three, a small enough batch to test.

We expected to spend hours looking for ways to whittle down the field, but it turned out to be super-simple.
Our search also included 12,000-BTU air conditioners. As it turned out, after we whittled the competition down based on price, availability, and Energy Star ratings, the only survivors left were bigger versions of the three 8,000-BTU models we had already settled on. As we learned last year, it’s fair to expect similar results from each model in a product lineup (relative to the BTU rating, of course). So in the interest of saving some time, effort, and shipping dollars, we opted to conduct tests only on the 8,000-BTU models this time around.

The three finalists we chose are the Frigidaire FFRE08x3Q1, the LG LW8014ER, and the GE AEx08LS. (The lower-case x in the Frigidaire and GE models are wild cards; different stores sometimes carry models with slightly different SKUs, even though the machines are otherwise identical.)

The LG LW8014ER, left, and Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1, right, two of the best 8,000-BTU window air conditioners.

The LG LW8014ER, left, and Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1, right, two of the best 8,000-BTU window air conditioners.

Unfortunately, we were unable to track down the GE in time for testing. It’s widely available in some parts of the country but difficult to find in others. The unit closest to our testing technician and physics expert, Jim Shapiro, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, was an 80-mile round trip at the time of writing. (More on his credentials in “How we tested.”) Our associate editor Michael Zhao couldn’t find one near Portland, Oregon, either. While neither of those places are huge, they are major metropolitan areas in their respective regions, so we decided to exclude the GE based on availability issues. It can’t be the best for most people if not everyone can buy it. We learned from a GE product manager that distribution for air conditioners is regional—they concentrate most of their stock on the east coast. Buildings in that part of the country tend to be older and are therefore less likely to have central air. Demand for window units is higher. As the summer progresses, we’ll track whether the GE AEx08LS spreads westward and update accordingly. July 17 update: You can find it in stores pretty easily for a reasonable price, but it’s still $300+ online–and we don’t expect that to change for the rest of summer.

After we’d called in our finalists and began testing, Consumer Reports published test results for a handful of new 8,000-BTU models. The models on that list lined up nicely with the shortlist we had before making cuts based on price and availability. While their testing didn’t factor into any of our decisions, the similarities between our finalists makes us feel even more confident that we didn’t miss anything.

How we tested

We shipped our finalists out to one of our testing experts, Dr. Jim Shapiro. He was integral in helping us choose a space heater a few months ago, so it seemed fitting that he’d work on air conditioners as well. Jim has a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a Masters of Science and a PhD in mathematical physics from the University of California, Los Angeles. He’s taught geophysics at Texas A&M University, worked in the petroleum industry as a geophysicist, ran his own software and consulting companies, and has authored a pair of books: one on the inner workings of hardware we use every day but often take for granted, and a second called In Your Head that explores just how far derivations can be taken mentally, free of paper and pencil or the aid of a computer. He may not be an HVAC specialist, but he’s a pretty smart dude.

Last year’s procedures were pretty solid, so we made only a few changes this time around. The biggest one was that we cut the cooling power test. As it turns out, an 8,000-BTU air conditioner chills the air at about the same rate as any other 8,000-BTU air conditioner. Here’s what Jim ended up testing:

Ease of installation: Is it possible to install the hardware by yourself or with two people? Is it necessary to alter your home in any way to use it? Given the fact that most people will only be installing and removing their window air conditioner once a year, we didn’t put too much truck in the results of this one, but it’s a helpful data point. Jim has side-opening windows, so he did the installation test over at his neighbor’s house.

Ease of use: Are the controls on the air conditioner and its companion remote intuitive? Are features like a sleep timer or in-remote thermometer simple to understand and use?

A close-up of the Frigidaire’s control panel.

A close-up of the Frigidaire’s control panel.

Air flow control: Can you direct which way the cold air produced by the hardware blows?

Ease of maintenance: Is the air conditioner’s filter easy to remove and clean? Is the drip pan easily accessible?

Power usage: How much power (watts) did each air conditioner use on high?

Noise level: How many decibels did each piece of hardware produce when running on low and high settings? Additionally, was there anything special about the quality of noise produced that might make it more intrusive?

We measured noise levels in the high-50 and low-60 decibel range from both models, depending on the fan speed.

We measured noise levels in the high-50 and low-60 decibel range from both models, depending on the fan speed.

Jim conducted the tests in his home and a neighbor’s home over the space of a week and laid out the results.

Our pick

The Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 is our new favorite air conditioner—it’s especially energy efficient and has useful features (like a remote, built-in thermometer, and staggered sleep mode) that help make your room more comfy than the competition.
The Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 emerged as the clear best pick. It’s widely available from most major retailers that sell appliances and is one of the few Energy Star compliant lines out there right now. The Frigidaire and the LG are very similar in terms of construction and cooling capabilities. But the Frigidaire is a better air conditioner for three key reasons: it’s more efficient, it has a sleep mode that keeps your bedroom comfortable while drawing less power overnight, and it has the ability to sense temperature through the remote control so it can judge temperature based on where you actually are.

Again, you need to buy an air conditioner with the right BTU rating for the space you want to cool. Any model in this line should be great; they’re available in versions from 5,000 BTU up to 22,000 BTU. Here’s a handy chart of the right model for various areas, with links.

E-Star Rec’d Room Size Sq. Ft. BTU Model # Notes
100 – 150 5000 FFRE0533Q1 No remote thermostat
150 – 250 6000 FFRE0633Q1 No remote thermostat
300 – 350 8000 FFRE0833Q1
400 – 450 10000 FFRE1033Q1
450 – 550 12000 FFRE1233Q1
~750 15100 FFRE1533Q1
~1000 18500 FFRE1833Q2 230V required
~1250 22000 FFRE2233Q2 230V required
~1500 25000 FFRE2533Q2 230V required

 

One of our favorite features that set the FFRE0833Q1 apart from the competition is the bundled remote control’s built-in thermometer. This lets the unit gauge its on-off cycles based on the temperature near your couch or bed, instead of the temperature right next to the air conditioner. This means more accurate readings and better comfort. While we found this feature in past Frigidaire models, it’s not available in any other affordable units we’ve seen, including the LG and GE finalists.

The Frigidaire remote (right) can control just about all of the unit’s modes and cycles. Its built-in thermometer is one of our favorite features, one that’s not easily found bundled with other models.

The Frigidaire remote (right) can control just about all of the unit’s modes and cycles. Its built-in thermometer is one of our favorite features, one that’s not easily found bundled with other models.

Like all of the air conditioners that we considered testing, the FFRE0833Q1 meets the new Energy Star standards, which will save you a few iced coffees of cash over the course of a hot summer. According to our tests, it’s about 12 percent more efficient than than our other E-Star–compliant finalist, the LG LW8014ER.

Model Compressor Watts High-Fan Watts Total Watts at Full Blast
Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 434 W 93 W 527 W
LG LW8014ER 483 W 119 W 602 W

 

While the power draw is already relatively low, Frigidaire also tossed in some energy-saving modes to save a few watt-hours here and there. Like most air conditioners, the FFRE0833Q1 has a 24-hour on/off timer. It’s a one-shot clock, meaning that you can’t set a weekly schedule or program usage patterns ahead of time. But as you head out for work in the morning, you can tell it to start pre-chilling your living room 15 minutes before you get home in the evening. Not bad.

There’s also a nifty sleep mode that gradually raises the target temperature for the first hour of its cycle, sustains that warmer temperature for 7 hours, and then drops back down when it’s time to wake up. Although some user reviewers thought this got a little too warm for comfort, Jim thought it was a useful feature that he could see himself using. You can be the judge of that, though; if you think it’s too hot, you don’t have to use it.

The Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 with its window brackets and plastic curtains attached, plus its remote control with built-in thermometer.

The Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 with its window brackets and plastic curtains attached, plus its remote control with built-in thermometer.

As with most air conditioners, the compressor turns off once the room gets to temperature, then kicks back on for a few minutes when the room warms up. In Economy mode, the FFRE0833Q1 goes a step further, shutting off not only the compressor but the fan, too. It can’t save much power, but every little bit helps, we suppose. The fan kicks back on at set intervals every 10 minutes or so, because it’s an integral part of getting accurate air temperature readings. There’s an Auto setting for the fan that starts off at full speed to move newly cool air around the room and then gradually slows the air movement down as it approaches the target temperature.

Installation is straightforward. It took our assistant, a 6-foot, 4-inch high school senior, about 45 minutes to mount the FFRE0833Q1 into a window—pretty typical for a first-time installation, maybe a couple minutes longer than the LG that we tested. Most of the time was spent measuring where to screw the brackets into the windowpane and then actually screwing in the brackets and associated hardware.

It took our assistant, a 6-foot, 4-inch high school senior, about 45 minutes to mount the FFRE0833Q1 into a window—pretty typical for a first-time installation…
The FFRE0833Q1 weighs about 49 pounds with the bracket and plastic curtains attached, which is on the lower side for an 8,000-BTU window unit, 8 pounds lighter than the LG. (For reference, the 6,000-BTU version of the Frigidaire weighs about 44 pounds, while the 12,000 BTU version is a whopping 72 pounds.) Most folks will want a buddy to help with heavy lifting, though that part only takes a minute or two. It fits into any window that can open at least 14 inches vertically, and 23 to 36 inches horizontally—that should cover almost any typical window. And it’ll plug into any standard 115 V outlet with no special wiring necessary.

Noise levels are acceptable, about the volume of a conversation in an environment like an office or restaurant. We measured 59 decibels at the lowest setting and 63 at the highest. That’s quite typical of an energy-efficient window unit.

The vents can aim air in eight directions, which is about as good as it gets. It’s always nice to be able to blow cold air right at your face when you need it and then move the breeze in a different direction when you’re tired of the frigid blast. Turning the vents all the way in either direction really cut down on the air coming straight out. Think of these like the heater/AC vents in a car: they more or less direct the air where you want it, but it’s far from perfect.

Also important is the fact that the FFRE0833Q1 is easy to find (unlike the GE we eliminated). It’s currently available at Lowe’s, Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy. Last year’s model is still available at Home Depot, so we’d expect to see the new one pop up there when the old stock diminishes. At the time of writing, Lowe’s has the best price by far, at $219. The SKU on this model is actually FFRE08L3Q1 (the extra L stands for Lowe’s, natch), and it has two slight differences: there’s no ionizing filter (not a big deal) and it comes with a regular remote, not the remote with a built-in thermometer. If you want the fancier remote, get the FFRE0833Q1 at Amazon.

A 1-year full warranty is standard, as is a 5-year warranty on the sealed system (which basically covers all the important parts around the compressor). Frigidaire seems to be in good shape as a company and has a strong reputation, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about getting a lemon or support vanishing.

Since this is a brand-new air conditioner, there aren’t many reviews yet. Consumer Reports published one, which we’ll get to momentarily. But for user reviews, the sample size is too small—5 reviews at Amazon—to draw any conclusions.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Generally speaking, window air conditioners have some inherent irksome traits that have held for decades. They’re all relatively loud, something that almost every internet reviewer seems to forget when they offer their impressions of a new model. There’s also no elegant way to install a window air conditioner. You’ll need to drill a hole, install a tiny, bent piece of metal to prop up the back of the unit, and shut the window onto the air conditioner and leave it there for the entire summer—otherwise, it’ll probably fall out. This is the reality of window air conditioners, and this Frigidaire is no different.

On particularly humid days, newer air conditioners including this Frigidaire might start to make a noise like a cat slurping milk from a saucer, or a pump in a fish tank. It’s the sound of the fan sloshing through a pool of condensed water. Special tips on the fan blades pick up the condensed water and sling it onto the condenser, cooling it off and helping the unit to run much more efficiently. It’s a clever design, and helps keep energy usage in check. (Initially, we were concerned that the condensed water it would just evaporate back into the room, effectively offsetting any dehumidification. But we checked with Frigidaire, and the unit is designed so that all of the condensed water—in the puddle and on the compressor—is designed to evaporate or drain to the outdoor-facing side of the machine.)

On particularly humid days, newer air conditioners including this Frigidaire might start to make a noise like a cat slurping milk from a saucer, or a pump in a fish tank.
We haven’t read any specific complaints about this Frigidaire’s slinger fan design (it was early in the season at the time of writing), though there are a few common themes in some of the negative reviews of other recent air conditioners. Some owners find the lapping sound to be distracting, though it shouldn’t be very loud. In super-muggy climates like Florida, the condensed water can’t always evaporate quickly. Mildew can grow in the tray and leave a stank behind. Dust can settle in the stagnant water, and if it gets picked back up by the slinger, the system gets gummed up a bit. Though it’s not a perfect system, it’s necessary to achieve the Energy Star standards.And really, there’s no need to worry about it much. The puddle usually evaporates between uses, and as long as you wipe down the catch tray at the beginning and the end of every season (it’s super easy to access when the unit is unmounted), the built-up grime won’t be a problem.

Otherwise, there are a handful of small quirks particular to the FFRE0833Q1. The remote has a lot of buttons, too many for some folks’ taste. The ionizing air purifier is probably pointless. No vents open to the outside, so it’s recirculation-only. That’s actually better for cooling a room off, though if you want to get some “fresh” air, you’ll need to open another window. And the window bracket isn’t pre-installed, so you’ll need to screw it into the top of the unit on your own, which adds about 3 minutes to the installation process.

In Consumer Reports’ updated air conditioner ratings, the FFRE0833Q1 earned an overall rating of 70. It’s the lowest score among the current test group, which includes 6 models. The top-rated model is our other finalist, the LG LW8014ER, earning an overall score of 79. All of the air conditioners in CR’s test group fall into the Very Good range of scoring.

We don’t know CR’s exact testing criteria or how they weigh each test in the overall score. Some of their tests are interesting, like brownout performance, which “gauges the unit’s ability to run and restart during extreme heat and low voltage.” That information could prevent some short-term inconveniences three or four times per summer. On the other hand, CR doesn’t consider the cost of operation. As we learned, even Energy Star-approved appliances draw different amounts of power. That’s a figure that matters all summer. We also disagree with CR’s assessment that the LG is easier to use than the Frigidaire—the LG has fewer buttons on its remote and is marginally quicker to install, while the Frigidaire has a handful of extra features. That’s a toss-up.

The CR ratings are a helpful point of data, but without more specifics on their testing procedure, scoring criteria, and weighting, we don’t put too much stock in their rankings.

A runner-up

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $239.
The LG LW8014ER is our runner up if the main pick sells out. It’s got the most recent Energy Star rating and cools well, though it doesn’t have the convenient extra features of our Frigidaire pick.
If you can’t find the Frigidaire, the LG LW8014ER is a solid backup. It isn’t our top pick, because it’s larger, heavier, and less energy-efficient than the Frigidaire. It can be a little bit more expensive depending on where you’re shopping.

Minor differences aside, the LG is still one of the only name-brand, Energy Star-compliant, reasonably-priced, widely-available window air conditioners out there, so it’s an easy choice as our runner-up.
As far as direct performance comparisons go, the LG doesn’t have as many cycles and settings as the Frigidaire, but if you usually just flip the thing on and off at will, you’re not going to notice a difference. We found it a little bit easier to install, because its window brackets are pre-mounted and the instructions are just a bit clearer, though it’s a fundamentally similar experience. Noise levels are very similar—we found that the LG is a bit quieter on the low setting (56 dB vs 59 dB), while the Frigidaire is a bit quieter on the high setting (63 dB vs 64 dB).The LG’s remote can’t control as many settings and has no thermometer, but some owners might prefer the stripped-down interface.

Minor differences aside, the LG is still one of the only name-brand, Energy Star-compliant, reasonably-priced, widely-available window air conditioners out there, so it’s an easy choice as our runner-up. Like the Frigidaire, it’s also part of a whole line of units with various BTU ratings, all of which we’d expect to perform similarly. For whatever it’s worth, it’s the highest-rated unit in Consumer Reports’ latest update, though it falls in the same “very good” range as any other model.

Why not the Aros?

The Quirky + GE Aros ($280) is the most exciting new window air conditioner in decades. It’s billed as a “smart” AC, in that a companion app turns an iOS or Android phone into an energy monitor and remote control—even when you’re away from home. When it works right, it should help save owners a few bucks over the course of a summer, and keep their homes more comfortable.

It’s a great idea, and obviously the way of the future. The story behind it is cute, too. But the Aros is a first-generation model, and Quirky needs to work out a few kinks before it becomes the kind of machine that people should consider hanging in their windows for the next 10 summers.

The first wave of user reviews of the Aros were sub-par, so we never seriously considered this machine for our top pick. But since there’s a lot of interest in it, and we’re positive there will be copycat models coming in the future, we figured it’d be worth our time to get familiar with the Aros. We got a loan unit from Quirky so that we could add some hands-on impressions.

Since we first published in early June, the average Amazon user score has not improved at all, holding steady at 3.2 stars out of 5 based on 173 ratings—more than double the number of reviews since we last checked (and that’s a ton of ratings by the standards of window air conditioners). On Quirky’s own website, the Aros scores 3.5 out of 5 stars, from 26 reviews.

The Aros is a first-generation model, and Quirky needs to work out a few kinks before it becomes the kind of machine that people should consider hanging in their windows for the next 10 summers.
Reading some reviews, it’s clear that some early buyers are bummed out because Quirky promised the future, but delivered a loud, boring, totally regular appliance with a fancy faceplate and a Wi-Fi antenna. But beyond that, it comes up short in some important ways.

Owners think that this thing is wicked loud. Sweethome contributor Peter Ha was an early adopter and told us that he found himself turning up his TV to hear over the Aros, even though the AC is a good 20 feet from where he sits. Quirky then released some professional studio recordings and decibel measurements that compare the Aros to a handful of other name-brand 8,000 BTU window air conditioners showing Aros is right in the middle of the pack, in the high-50, low-60 decibel range.

After living with it for a few weeks, it does seem pretty loud to us. We measured 64 decibels from 6 feet away, while the fan is on its lowest setting. That’s a little bit on the high side, but not unreasonable. It seems like the mid-rangey “whoosh” competes with speaking voices—the pitch and timbre are the main culprits, not so much the volume.

The LED indicators on the front panel are another sore spot for some reviewers—they’re really, really bright. A few owners note that it’s tough to sleep in the same room as the Aros  because of the lights alone (much less the noise). While the first batch of Aros units don’t offer any control over the LED, Quirky told us that they’ve released a firmware fix—but a service technician will need to come manually flash it into the unitOr, if they can’t send somebody out, they’ll accept exchanges. On our review unit, the lights only switch on for a few seconds at a time, and only when we’ve turned the machine on or adjusted the temperature. Depending on when you buy your unit, this may no longer be an issue.

Installation is totally typical for a window AC—that is, there are some misprints in the instructions, and you’ll mess up once or twice. The unit weighs more than 60 pounds, about 12 pounds heavier than the Frigidaire we recommend, so you’ll need a bit more manpower than usual to lift the thing into the window, and to hold it in place while you fit the foam strips.

Some of the design choices look sleek, but are a functional disadvantage. The flat, cloth curtains look more sophisticated than the plastic accordion flaps that most ACs use, but they leave visible gaps along the side of the unit—that’s how warm air gets in.

The software, though, has the potential to be a real upside for the interface and your energy bill. With very little effort, Quirky has shown that all air conditioners should have some kind of app control, and it doesn’t need to be a premium feature.

But there are tons of bugs, as if the software never went through proper beta testing. The execution is flawed, and as much as we want to like this thing, we just can’t recommend it.

The air conditioner and app seem to be out of sync at least half the time for us, and we have to hard-quit the app to get them back on the same page. Sometimes it forgets its last-used temp and fan-speed settings. Ry Crist at CNET couldn’t get Smart Away to work at all during his review period. For us, it worked every time—to a fault: Whenever we left the geofence (to grab a burrito, for instance), the Aros always turned on when came back, even if the AC had been off all day up to that point. The geofence range can’t be adjusted, either.

We tried the Smart Schedule feature for a week or so, but the behavior was so erratic that we just turned it off out of frustration. It’s supposed to learn your usage patterns, then run itself, sort of like the Nest thermostat. But our unit mainly turned on at full blast during unpredictable, sometimes inappropriate times of day.  We asked Quirky about it, and they said our experience is “untypical,” and explained that “the Smart Schedule looks for temperature setting patterns.  So if you always turn to 74 at 4pm every day, it will learn that, but it can also get deeper than that.” It monitors the local weather reports and can measure how you adjust the thermostat in relation to the outdoor temperature. “It has the potential to get really smart, and figure out your patterns, and is ever adapting.” The question is, will anybody have the patience to deal with that learning curve?

Quirky did nail a few important details. For starters, it’s super-easy to set up—the whole process took about 4 minutes. Using a phone or tablet as a remote works well (as long as you own one) because you’re much less likely to lose it than a standalone clicker. I hit the on-button from the highway to pre-cool my apartment after a particularly sweaty weekend camping. That alone made it feel like a worthwhile feature. The geo-fencing capability will save energy on its own. Just being reminded how much money you’ve spent on air conditioning in a day should help change behavior for the better.

Even without the smart features, it’s a very efficient air conditioner. The Energy Efficiency Rating is 10.9, better than the 11.3 that this year’s other leading ACs manage to pull off (including the Frigidaire we recommend). Combined with the app control, the Aros should end up using less energy than most A/Cs. It’s not Energy Star-certified, but according to Quirky, that’s only because they submitted their application too late to get it approved before AC season began.

But that little detail sums up the problems with the Aros—it was rushed. Quirky says that they only spent 29 days developing this thing, which explains all the glitches. It’s a good first attempt, but it still costs more, weighs more, and has way more bugs than our top two picks, the Frigidaire and LG models. Hold off to see what comes next.

If you absolutely can’t wait to start experimenting with a connected air conditioner, try adding the $59 Belkin WeMo Insight Switch to the AC you already have. It’s an outlet adapter with wireless connectivity and a smartphone app that mimics some of the Aros’s best functions—mainly, turning the air conditioner on and off through your phone from anywhere, and monitoring energy usage. Ry at CNET pointed out a hidden upside to us: once the summer is over, you can use it with another appliance like a space heater.

What about a portable air conditioner?

If you have the option to use a regular window air conditioner, do it. Portables are a crappy substitute. They cost more and cool less per BTU. For example, an 8,000 BTU window unit cools up to 350 square feet, but an 8,000 BTU portable only cools 200 square feet. Since the whole machine sits indoors, portables are louder. Condensation can’t drain or evaporate outside, so you’ll need to empty the drip tank by hand. And not a single model meets current Energy Star requirements—not even close. Boo. Some of you have no choice but to get a portable air conditioner, and you have our sympathies. For the rest of us, avoid these things.

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $399.
We strongly recommend a window AC over a portable unit. But if you must have portable, we're inclined to like this LG, which should be relatively efficient and comes with a remote control and a 24-hour timer.
If you absolutely can’t use a regular window model, the LG LP1214GXR is a good portable air conditioner (as are the other sizes in the series). We haven’t tested it, or any other portable units yet, so consider this a preliminary recommendation. But after looking at 17 different models, we have a few reasons to think that it’s the right choice.

It’s easy to find. It’s affordable, at least by the iffy standards of portable units. It comes in sizes from 8,000 to 14,000 BTU, which is a broader range than most lines offer. From what we can tell based on spec sheet, it’s relatively efficient. It comes with helpful features like a remote control and a 24-hour timer. And while it hasn’t been out very long, there are already plenty of solid user ratings—an average of 4.2 stars from 54 reviews at Home Depot. Older versions were well-liked, too.

The only obvious downside is that it’s a single-hose (exhaust-only) unit. In theory, dual-hose portables are better because they work more like window units: Indoor air is for cooling the room, outdoor air is for cooling the compressor. Single-hose units use indoor air for everything, so they burn energy to cool indoor air, and then end up blowing a bunch of it out through the hose.

That said, we doubt there’s much practical difference. Yeah, a dual-hose AC might save a little bit of energy. But portables are so wasteful that the savings amount to a drop in the bucket. The real issue is that the hoses are poorly insulated. Plus, there just aren’t many dual-hose models out there anymore, and they cost extra.

For now, the LG is a safe bet. Keep in mind that a portable needs more BTU per square foot than a window unit. The 8,000 BTU model cools about 200 sq. ft., the 10,000 covers 300, 12,000 does 400, and 14,000 does 500, according to this Home Depot chart.

Care and maintenance

It’s pretty easy to keep a window air conditioner working properly. For starters, make sure that it’s installed properly—that is, leaning from your window at the correct angle so that any condensed, collected water can drain. Every installation guide has this info.

Every air conditioner has a filter to block dust from getting into the important parts of the system. It’s sort of like the lint filter on a clothes dryer. It usually slides out from the front of the unit. You should clean this every month to keep air flowing properly. Most modern units (including both the models we tested) will have a light to remind you to do this after every 250 hours of use.

For bonus points, you might want to clean the catch tray at the end of every summer, especially if you live in a very humid climate. Mildew can grow in the tray (as it could in any stagnant water), and your air conditioner might develop an unpleasant musty scent. In the spring, wipe away any dust that might’ve gathered in the catch tray while it was in storage. If soggy dust gets picked up by the slinger fan, it can clog up the system and block air flow.

What to look forward to

…it’s already summer in the northern hemisphere, and if a company hasn’t shipped its 2014 air conditioner up here by now, it’s some rinky-dink operation you don’t want to bother with.
It’s possible that more air conditioners, including some that are currently in stores, will earn the latest Energy Star certification. This seems unlikely, for two reasons. One: it’s already summer in the northern hemisphere, and if a company hasn’t shipped its 2014 air conditioner up here by now, it’s some rinky-dink operation you don’t want to bother with. Two: it’s a huge upside to be able to put an Energy Star logo on a product’s packaging, and no company in its right mind would package and ship thousands of air conditioners without that blue badge if there was even a chance that it’d receive one later.

There’s an especially noteworthy “smart” accessory coming out soon: The tado Cooling AC controller. Its main features are smartphone control and geofencing, just like the Quirky. The upside? The tado should work with any air conditioner that uses a remote—no need to buy all-new hardware just to make your old AC less dumb. Wall-mount it within remote range of your AC (window, portable, whatever works with a remote), and it will respond to commands from a smartphone app. CNET published a great first-look article on it. 

Now we just need to see if it works right. The company behind it made a similar accessory for heating systems a few years ago, which bodes well. Its Kickstarter project was successfully funded in June, and should be available in August for $149.

Competition

We’d previously mentioned that we dismissed the GE AEM08LS (also known as the AEN08LS and AEH08LS) because it isn’t widely available. Consumer Reports rated it, and the score is right in the wheelhouse of the other models. The most significant downside is the noise at the highest setting, according to CR. If it becomes more widely available, we’ll take another look at it.

We also looked at two models from the Friedrich brand. These are high-end, well-made air conditioners, but they are also heavy and fairly expensive. The lower-end Chill costs $340, which isn’t outlandish. But aside from moderately lower noise levels, it doesn’t have any clear edge over our top pick. Then there’s the fancy Kuhl model, which is super efficient, super quiet, and super expensive, at $786. That’s out of most folks’ price range.

We briefly considered 15 other models that were available at at least one big box store, but dismissed them all outright, because they are not Energy Star certified. C’mon guys! The offenders: GE AEx08LQ, Whirlpool ACQ088GPX, Danby DAC8011E, Frigidaire FRA082AT7, Frigidaire LRA087AT7, Arctic King WWK-08CRN1-BJ8, Hanover HANAW08A, Hanover HANAW08A, LG LW8012ER, LG LW8012ERJ, RCA RACE8001, Sunpentown WA-8011S, and Kenmore 79081.

Wrapping it up

Your best bet for a window air conditioner is the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 or whichever model in its series has the proper BTU rating for your space. Stay cool; save cash.

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Sources

  1. Tyler Wells Lynch, Your Next Fridge Will Be More Efficient. Here's Why., Reviewed.com, May 8th, 2014
  2. Air Conditioners , Consumer Reports
  3. Ben Kaufman, CEO of Quirky, Twitter, May 8th, 2014
  4. Quirky, The Sound of Aros, Vimeo, May 2014
  5. Stephan, Great idea, Cool design, needs some tinkering, Amazon (review), May 7th, 2014
  • Wanago Bob

    I just bought the Kenmore 79081 and it does have a timer on it. It also has a sleep feature that increase the set temperature by 2 degrees after 30 minutes and 2 more degrees after another 30 minutes than returns to the original set point after 7 more hours. Having a temperature sensing remote would have been a nice feature.

    • http://TheSweethome.com Joel Johnson

      You’re right. After confirming that with Richard, we’ve updated the Kenmore’s section.

    • brian lam

      thanks, fixed

  • SpirituallyInsane

    I can vouch for this unit. I’ve used a 10k BTU version for two years in a very poorly insulated 100 year old home. The features on it are all excellent. Aiming the remote to allow remote sensing to work can be a little dodgy, and the plastic film over the buttons does wear out over time.

    The sleep and energy saver features allowed me to maintain the temperature in my living space at a higher but reasonable level, and have it at a desired temperature when I get home.

    As a companion to this unit if you’re planning to use the energy saver feature, I would recommend a small fan to circulate the air in the room, because it only runs for a very short time to sample the air, so in poorly insulated or poorly circulated rooms, it can create a temperature difference, cold by the A/C unit, but warm everywhere else.

  • http://www.jwardell.com/ jwardell

    I just purchased the LG unit a few weeks ago, partly because of your past recommendation. I was neck and neck with the Fridgidaire, but the LG is more energy efficient/uses less power than the fridgidaire (at least at the 10kBTU level that I was buying), and had many reviews of being quieter. I *DID* see several reports of LGs arriving noisey or dead thanks to motor or fan supports broken in shipping or loose screws; I bought a factory serviced unit which not only saves money but to me means a human has given it a once-over on the inside and increasing my chances of getting a good unit. It is the quietest air conditioner I ever owned (and is in my bedroom) and works great so far.

  • floatingbones

    An indoor dehumidifier plus a couple of fans may well be a viable alternative. Knocking 20-30 points off of the relative humidity is often all that’s needed. Dehumidifiers consume far less energy than air conditioners. If you empty the water reservoir manually, installation is trivial.

  • Guest

    Is there any plan on reviewing portable units?

  • xc

    Bought a 12K BTU Frigidaire for this summer. Overall it performed well … we had it in a space larger than it technically was rated for (it was in our dining room, which is open to the kitchen on one side and the living room on the other), but it still made things comfortable enough. Anything larger would’ve possibly tripped the only outlet that was within reasonable distance, which as renters we didn’t want to deal with electrical work. One thing that helped in the larger space was a floor fan set up to help circulate cold air into the living room.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Glad it worked out well for you. And glad to see you found your way over here from Giz :)

  • Vitor Nagata

    any plan on reviewing a split unit?

  • Vivek Singh

    Great blog relating air conditioner. Air conditioners are one of the most important home appliances. We must share this post.

  • Smythe258

    Those prices are actually not too bad looking. http://www.aircon-johannesburg.co.za

  • http://www.bestportableairconditionerratings.com/ Chris

    If you do make a portable write up, we would love the chance to be included in it.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      In what way do you mean?

      • http://www.bestportableairconditionerratings.com/ Chris

        opinions on units and a link swap if possible?

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          You mean you want to be notified when we update? Or you want to be involved in the research process?

          • http://www.bestportableairconditionerratings.com/ Chris

            Yes, involved in the research process.

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            We really don’t do that. We have our researchers/experts test things and then publish our findings.

  • FirefighterGeek

    Just an UPDATE — I went looking for this today, and found the model number FFRE08B3Q1 instead in this range. It took me some effort to find out the differences. Apparently the FFRE08B3Q1 is nearly identical in specification except the motor uses slightly less energy and the EER (energy efficiency ratio) is slightly higher. The volume listed in decibels, the btus, the look and feel, the remote, etc. are all exactly the same (comparing the two on Frigidaire’s site). It’s simply a new model number for the year with the updated efficiency. I didn’t open up both, but the spec listing also shows the newer model to be a couple of pounds heavier –which is unusual. I suspect that with a slightly less powerful motor they’ve increased the size of the condenser to compensate just that little bit. I bought it, and it meets my expectations perfectly. It’s quiet, which is important to me, and the noise it does make is deeper (more bass) than most of them.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      So wait, you’re saying the FFRE is the same as the model we recommend? Or?

      • FirefighterGeek

        In every measurable way, they are identical.

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Link?

        • TonyTech14

          The FRA is a discontinued model. The FFRE is Energy Star rated, the FRA is not. FFRE’s EER is 11.3 while the FRA’s is 10.8. The FFRE has different fan speeds than the FRA. The FFRE has more refrigerant capacity. The FFRE weighs a tad more. The FFRE is about $30 more than the FRA, but to me it makes sense to buy the latest model and not last year’s or earlier model, even though it’s a bit more expensive. There are 3 models of FFRE’s:
          FFRE08L3Q1 ($219, no ionizer), FFRE08B3Q1 ($239), FFRE0833Q1 ($269, ionizer). I’m not sure if all models have the remote thermostat and I’m not sure what the B3 model is lacking over the 33 model to make it $30 cheaper.

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            Thanks for the awesome feedback!

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Just a heads up, I just got word from our lead researcher on this and there is an update for this (2014) in the works. Stay tuned!

  • http://hpka.net/ Henry Armitage

    What would people recommend for sideways sliding glass/castement style windows (where the window slides left or right as opposed to up and down). There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on this but I’m not sure if DIY is the best approach…

    • https://twitter.com/mhzhao Michael Zhao

      One solution that we’re going to look into later this year is portable units. We didn’t have the time and resources to do it on our initial pass, but we will do it if we get some time later on.

      • http://hpka.net/ Henry Armitage

        That’s ok – I had a quick look at the Frigidare units and as it stands, it may be better to adapt a window mounted unit to a sideways sliding window.

        Awesome article as always :) Another wirecutter/sweethome purchase for me soon… yes you’ve started a cult :)

  • http://colinweir.me Colin Weir

    I once learned the hard way that if you live more than a couple stories up, a window air conditioner arm is well worth the ~$35. It isn’t really needed once the unit is secured, but it makes installation and removal a breeze.

    • http://flavors.me/tommy Tommy-P

      I live on the sixth floor and recently removed an AC unit from my window for cleaning, and those few moments when I had that heavy metal box in my arms while it was six stories in the air were somewhat terrifying. Definitely need to get an AC support, if only for piece of mind.

  • Connor

    Has anyone looked into the build-your-own AC units? Do they even work?

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Cool project, but it’s a fancy version of putting a block of ice behind a window fan, not an air conditioner. It doesn’t vent outdoors, so it’s not actually cooling the room off. Just blows cold air. Definitely saves a bunch of energy, helps to keep you comfortable, but not going to get a room as comfortable as an actual AC.

    • creanium

      That’s not an AC, that’s a swamp cooler. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporative_cooler

      It may make the air feel cooler, but you’re adding moisture into the air so you now have two problems: the air will have less capacity to hold more water, therefore the evaporative cooler won’t work as well as time goes on because less water is able to evaporate into the air. And the higher humidity means the air will need to be cooler for you to feel as comfortable.

      True air conditioners work well for two reasons: they cool the air but also dry it out. 78° air at 25% humidity will feel cooler and more comfortable than 78° air at 75% humidity because your body’s sweat will evaporate faster in the cooler air. You may not feel sweaty, but your body is still producing small amounts of sweat to stay cool. The faster it evaporates off your body, the cooler you feel.

      So while the bucket will cool the air somewhat, it also will introduce more water into the air and become less efficient and able to cool the room as time goes on. This may not be as much an issue in the desert southwest, but say in Houston or New Orleans where the dew point is currently 71°-72°, a swamp cooler won’t do much to cool the room for you.

      And this doesn’t take into account the fact that if you’re using your own ice from your freezer, your refrigerator has to work harder to make more ice, thus running its compressor more, throwing more heat back into your house.

  • Theo

    Definitely looking forward to a portable air-conditioner guide. The last 3 places I’ve lived wouldn’t work with window units (House with HOA rules, apartment with similar rules, and now a house with only horizontal sliding windows) Portable units seems to work much less effectively than their windowed cousins, and noise levels are magnified due to the entire units being inside. Then theres the whole single hose vs dual hose thing.. I’d guess dual hose is better but how much better..? 2x the price for a step up better? I checked out the DeLonghi model commonly available at Costco, but disliked the noise levels and the fact that the thermostat only shutdown the compressor but never the fan. The moment the compressor turned off the fan would blow in a wave of humid air and would just run indefinitely at whatever speed you chose. I seem to remember using window units years ago that were smart enough to cycle the compressor as well variate fan speeds and even shut off completely.

  • PaulaCarswell

    How much amount for the Price of Air Conditioner ?
    http://alleureaustralia.com

  • Jonathan D

    I just picked up the FFRE08L3Q1 model from Lowe’s and it does not have the ionizing filter or the temperature sensing remote (it just has a normal remote). I’m not particularly upset about it, given that they’re not really “must have” features (and because the Lowe’s model is $40 cheaper than the Amazon one), but I figured people should at least know about the difference so they get what they’re expecting.

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Ah thank you for the tip

  • TrishBadish

    I have two of the older models, FRA086AT7, in my apartment and recommend them highly. My only complaint is volume of the beeping noise the a/c makes when you push a button; it’s especially annoying in the middle of the night. But that’s a small price to pay for cool rooms!

  • Harvey

    I just bought and installed the LG 8k about a week before this review. This is my second one. I bought the first 10 years ago under the name Hampton Bay. It’s still running well today with no maintenance. I might have given the Frigidaire a closer look had I seen this article sooner, but I would’ve ultimately have gone with the LG again.

  • squirrel squirrel squirrel

    I’ve got a small ~ 100 sq ft apartment bedroom. Do you recommend any unit in particular for smaller areas?

  • Kyle Rogers

    I love this testing concept. What is the difference between a dual hose portable air conditioner and a single hose? I live in an upstairs apartment complex that can get just so blasted hot in the summer!

  • keltor

    The upper end of the series ends in 33Q2 – denoting that it requires 220/240V. Also the 12k and 15k units effectively require dedicated circuits, and in general 15k units will occasionally trip the breaker since they pull a continuous 11A, but will sometimes spike above that when the motor first comes on.

  • Jade Hoffman

    My AC unit would shut down so much during the day that it drove me crazy. I was prepared to just throw it out when my brother recommended Atlas Trillo in San Jose CA. I’m so happy I listened… They did an amazing job! My AC now works like new! I recommend them for AC servicing, visit their website http://www.atlastrillo.com.

  • Shalini

    I think samsung air conditioner is best. I have bought this summer and would sat its working very efficiently. You can check all details at Samsung official site

    http://www.samsung.com/in/consumer/home-appliances/air-conditioner/split-air-conditioner

  • http://www.twitter.com/chaddierickx chad dierickx

    Looks like the Frigidaire is on sale right now on Amazon for just $239: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IV3IOIS?tag=thesweethome-20&linkCode=as2&creative=374929&camp=211189

    • Phyllis Prokes

      hi, i am looking for the quietest one for my 400 sq foot studio apt. i can’t stand much noise.

  • http://hpka.net/ Henry Armitage

    I have one window in my apartment that can take an air conditioner (its a verticle/cassement one but I’ll just make a frame for a horizontal/up-and-down window a/c), and it’s in the bedroom. This is good as we mainly need to cool the bedroom down to sleep in it.

    Thing is, I’d like to cool the living room as well, and I can’t follow the direct advice in this article as I don’t have a location for a second window-mounted a/c unit. The only solution I can think of is to have the bedroom door open and a fan blowing cold air out into the rest of the apartment.

    My question is:

    1a. Should I bother with this plan at all, in other words, should I just get the recommended a/c unit and just cool the bedroom?

    2. If I do go ahead, should I get a larger a/c unit, e.g. the 12,000btu unit in the same range (Lowes version model number is FFRE12L3Q1) which has the claimed power to cool the whole bedroom and living room? Or is this unnecessary?

    • Bill Leseberg

      Buy one AC unit with the required BTU’s for the total square footage of the two rooms.

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Unless it’s a wide-open doorway, I’d say you’re better off with the 8K model plus a fan. Neither solution is going to be perfect, but the extra BTU won’t do much if there’s nothing drawing the cold air out of your bedroom into the living room (hot air is drawn into cold spaces).

      You could get an AC with more BTU and circulate the air with a fan, might be overkill, not sure it would make a big difference.

      I have a window unit in my bedroom, and sometimes I forget to shut the door behind me when I leave for a few minutes. Even then there’s a very obvious temperature difference as soon as I cross the threshold. It’s a real barrier. More BTU won’t necessarily offset that.

      • http://hpka.net/ Henry Armitage

        Since this was posted I’ve actually purchased the 12000 BTU version. I already have a floor level fan… so will hope for the best…

        • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

          I mean more more BTU isn’t going to hurt if you’ve already bought it ;-) Let us know how it works out for you

  • http://hpka.net/ Henry Armitage

    With regard to the Danby units, their website indicate it is in fact energy star compliant? http://www.danby.com/en/CA/our_products/air_conditioners/dac8011e

    Same with the larger unit: http://www.danby.com/en/CA/our_products/air_conditioners/dac12010e

    However, interestingly, both Costco and Bestbuy have a slightly different model number, an it claims the same EER of the Fridgidares (11.3):
    http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/product/danby-danby-12000-btu-window-air-conditioner-dac120eb2gdb-dac120eb2gdb/10282271.aspx

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Thanks for the tip. They must’ve been given approval sometime since May, as they were not listed on the Energy Star website when we did research. Perhaps a sign that the company doesn’t quite have its act together?

  • Chris

    This may be outside the scope of The Sweethome’s capabilities, but any chance you guys will ever review whole-home systems – conventional central compressors, high-velocity mini-ducts (at least in concept), or ductless splits? After years of apartments with window units, we finally moved into a house last year, and spent much of this summer with absolutely no idea where to start with installing central air conditioning. Central is relatively inefficient and requires boxing out and extensive ductwork (we have an older home with radiators), high-velocity mini-ducts seemed like a good solution but people apparently don’t like the airflow (it’s basically a hose of whistling air that comes out perpendicular to the output, so you need a whole bunch of whistling holes in each room, none of which can be positioned over where anyone is likely to sit; and ductless split systems, while efficient (and able to serve as heat pumps!), look goofy on both the inside and outside of your home, and cost a bomb. I realize this is difficult to test side-by-side, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts conceptually.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      That might be a bit far of a reach, but I’ll forward along and see what our experts have to say!

  • Marco

    What are my options if I have a 40″ wide window? Despite your not so great review of the Quirky Aros and the fact that I don’t need an 8000 btu conditioner, I’m considering it because it’s one of the only air conditioners I’ve found that will accomodate a wide window like mine..

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Your best bet might be to get a custom piece of wood/plywood cut for you at your local Home Depot/Lowes/hardware store. This is what I had to do with mine. I got the wood for free out of their scrap pile. Fit like a glove. Just make sure to measure twice.

  • Neil M

    To the listed portable A/C. Can you guys check this one out: http://www.whynter.com/productdetail/air_comfort/portable_air_conditioners/347 ? I compared it to the one you guys recommended and many others. This one’s EER is comparable to a window A/C and circulates the air similarly. Do you think I should get this one? We can only get a portable A/C. Thanks for your help.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Maybe during the next roundup, which will more than likely be closer to next summer.

      • Neil M

        Thank you for the timely response. I really hope you guys do add this to the roundup as well as thoroughly test it as well as others. :D

  • Phyllis Prokes

    how much noise does the ffre08l3q1 make. i need the quietest one i can find. any suggestions? thanx.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Noise levels are acceptable, about the volume of a conversation in an environment like an office or restaurant. We measured 59 decibels at the lowest setting and 63 at the highest. That’s quite typical of an energy-efficient window unit.

  • Phyllis Prokes

    it will be 10,000 btu.

  • Ransom

    There is what looks to be a drainage hole for EXCESS amounts of condensation. I’m let down that a hose wasn’t included to allow drainage to say, a gutter. Noise is annoying. I’ve got mine installed through a wall that used to be a door. It’s a snug, sturdy fit… no rattling, the compressor isn’t so bad but man that fan is loud. Also, you CAN NOT move the direction of the air. No matter where the blades point, most of the air just blows straight out.

  • Debra Colmers

    Bought the FFRE0833Q1 at your recommendation for,our bedroom. This is absolutely the LOUDEST unit we have in our house! This is even after padding all surfaces it comes in contact with. Very very disappointed.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Did you read this part under Flaws (not dealbreakers)?

      Generally speaking, window air conditioners have some inherent irksome traits that have held for decades. They’re all relatively loud, something that almost every internet reviewer seems to forget when they offer their impressions of a new model. There’s also no elegant way to install a window air conditioner. You’ll need to drill a hole, install a tiny, bent piece of metal to prop up the back of the unit, and shut the window onto the air conditioner and leave it there for the entire summer—otherwise, it’ll probably fall out. This is the reality of window air conditioners, and this Frigidaire is no different.