The Best Air Conditioner

After spending the past four summers researching window air conditioners—including more than 20 hours testing units in a 1930s East Coast apartment with a dated electrical system—we’re sure the best model for most rooms is the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 ($239). This Frigidaire is as efficient and powerful as any of the best window air conditioners of its size, offers more useful features than the competition, and, at a relatively manageable 48 pounds, it’s lighter and easier to install, too.

Last Updated: June 29, 2015
Frigidaire has announced a new smart AC. We're 95 percent confident that it's our current pick, plus "connectivity," meaning Wi-Fi and a companion app. The price is $55 higher, and we aren't yet sure that it's worth it—but we'll be testing the new unit to find out and will update the story again with our results.
Expand Most Recent Updates
May 21, 2015: After four summers of researching and testing window air conditioners, we found the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 is the best unit for most rooms. It’s quieter, lighter, and easier to install than competitors, and has useful, unique features like a remote that measures temperature based on your surroundings and an energy-saving sleep timer that adjusts cooling intensity overnight. If that’s sold out, the LG 14ER and 15ER have better airflow control than our top pick (though they offer less features). For those who need a convenient portable unit, the Honeywell MN10CES works as a last resort.
May 7, 2015: It got hot this week. After an additional 25 hours of research and 10 hours of testing this spring, the best window air conditioner is once again the Frigidaire 33Q1 series. It’s the easiest to install, its extra features are useful, and it’s relatively quiet. Most of you will probably want the 8,000 BTU version, but it’s available in other sizes, too. If that’s sold out, the (basically identical) LG 14ER or 15ER series are solid runners-up. And if you absolutely have to have a portable air conditioner, check out the Honeywell MN10CES.
April 13, 2015: We've narrowed our search to six air conditioners, including new 2015 models from our current picks' manufacturers, LG and Frigidaire. These all meet current Energy Star requirements, and we'll post a full update once we've tested the new units.
March 10, 2015: We're on the lookout for new models that'll be coming out for summer 2015. There's nothing new from the top brands yet, probably because it's so early in the season. Energy Star guidelines aren't changing this year, so our picks from last summer are about as efficient it'll get—and it's possible that our picks will stay the same. We hope to have a full update by mid-spring, before temperatures really start to rise.
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.
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.
Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1
Relatively quiet, light, efficient, and easy to install, the Frigidaire has standout features like a temperature-sensing remote and a smart sleep timer that make it just a bit better than its competitors.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $239.

Subtle but clever touches unique to Frigidaire—like a room-measuring thermometer built into the remote control and a sleep mode that lowers the cooling intensity overnight—make this one of the most efficient Energy Star-certified machines. Those features also help keep your rooms more comfortable than other air conditioners can. Like some other good AC units, the Frigidaire has a 24-hour timer to help you customize a simple operating schedule.

This model’s 8,000-BTU rating works best in 300 to 350 square feet of space (and there are other sizes in the same line—here’s a chart to help you choose). It’s relatively quiet from a decibel standpoint, although we did measure some other potentially annoying noise issues. The air flow control could be more precise, too; honestly, these shortcomings are minor. This was the AC we recommended last summer, and it’s still the clear pick for 2015.

Also great
LG LW8015ER
This is as efficient and powerful as our main pick, with better control of air flow and a sound quality you may prefer—but it’s heavier, tougher to install, and not as full-featured.

If the Frigidaire sells out, the new $239 LG LW8015ER (or last year’s nearly-identical $239 LW8014ER) is a very close runner-up. Our 8,000-BTU test unit is just as efficient and capable as our top pick, and it has better air flow control. However, it’s 11 pounds heavier and not as simple to install. It’s also missing a few convenient features like a sleep mode and a temperature-sensing remote. Although it’s marginally louder than the Frigidaire, the LG emits a more even hum while it’s cooling, which some people might find easier on the ears. Otherwise, you can expect roughly the same room comfort and energy efficiency from either of our picks. Like the LG, the 15ER (and 14ER) lines have units with different BTU ratings to suit different needs. If you decide to go with LG, pick whichever model is cheaper or more convenient to buy.

Also great

*At the time of publishing, the price was $369.

Honeywell MN10CES
If a portable unit is your only option, this one is convenient to move around. The noise is tolerable, cooling performance is adequate, and dealing with its ventilation and condensation is relatively hassle-free.

A portable air conditioner is a last resort—but if you’ve got picture windows, casement windows, or just no windows where a traditional style will fit, check out the Honeywell MN10CES ($369) portable AC. It’s not too loud, it’s very easy to install, and dealing with its ventilation and condensation is a little less annoying than with some competitors. The downside is that it’s not nearly as good as a window unit at cooling a room, but neither are any of the other portables out there. We settled on the Honeywell because the user reviews are solid, it’s widely available at a fair price, and it was (at one point) the top-ranked portable at Consumer Reports. Compared to the rest of the field, cheaper portables don’t do as good a job as this one, and more expensive ones don’t cool a room any better.

Table of Contents

Why you should trust us

This is our fourth year picking the best window air conditioner, and our second considering portable ACs. (This is my second year on this beat, personally.) We’ve put in about 75 total hours of research, and spent more than 20 hours doing real-world testing.

This year in particular, we looked at 18 different Energy Star-qualified window air conditioners and 26 portable air conditioners. We spoke with a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency and an HVAC+R (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration) engineer from a federal laboratory. We also tested the finalist units in the same circumstances you might have if you’re reading this story—we carried the test units up three flights of stairs, unboxed them, installed them, and operated them in a 1930s building with a dated electrical system.

What size air conditioner do I need?

It’s simple. Measure the square footage of the room you need to cool, then look at a chart to find the appropriate cooling capacity required as measured in British Thermal Units (BTU).

First, multiply the length and width of the room to figure out the square footage. With this room size measurement, you’ll already be in the ballpark for your overall BTU requirement. If the space is exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, add 10 percent to the BTU rating. No sunlight at all? Subtract 10 percent. More than two people in the room most of the time? Tack on an additional 600 BTUs per person. And if you’re putting an AC in the kitchen, that’s an automatic 4,000 additional BTUs you’ll need to add to compensate for the heat generated by your oven.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers has a BTU calculator that can account for all sorts of detail like exterior walls that are exposed to sunlight, if you want to go that route. But unless you’re shopping for a central air conditioner, it’s probably overkill.

Now, you probably won’t be able to find an air conditioner with exactly the ideal BTU rating for your room. The gaps between models start at 1,000 BTU and grow wider as the ratings increase. You’ll need to approximate—but you should resist the urge to overcompensate with a bigger unit than you need. Get an air conditioner with the right-sized cooling capacity, because it’ll be much more efficient than an over- or under-powered unit—and you’ll be more comfortable.

“Generally one wants to get the smallest AC one can that meets peak cooling needs.”

An underpowered air conditioner will run constantly, trying and failing to get the room down to the target temperature and a comfortable humidity. If you’re not comfortable, you’re really just wasting energy.

On the other hand, an overpowered air conditioner can leave a room feeling clammy. A big compressor will cool a small room quickly, then turn itself off until the temperature rises again. That sounds like an upside. But the way that window units are designed these days, any condensed moisture that hasn’t drained out of the machine will just re-evaporate into the room while the compressor is switched off. “The simple bottom line is that you don’t want to oversize it, because it’s going to cycle on and off more, and then you’re going to lose some of your humidity control,” Max Sherman, a Staff Senior Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said.

If you’re cooling multiple rooms, you’re probably better off using a smaller air conditioner in each room rather than one big air conditioner for several rooms. A typical doorway makes it difficult for air to flow (Sherman referred to rooms as being “thermally separated”). To be fair, it’s more expensive to buy two small ACs than one large AC, and smaller units aren’t as efficient. But you get much more accurate climate control when you put a properly-sized machine in each individual room you need to cool.

How we picked

We focused on 8,000-BTU window air conditioners because that size tends to be the most popular at retail, implying that it’s the size that most people need. It’s the right cooling capacity for spaces between 300 and 350 square feet, roughly the size of a comfy living room or large master bedroom. To help readers in need of alternate sizes, we chose units that are available in other BTU capacities within the same core group of models. We don’t test every unit available, but we’re confident that our results apply to most other sizes in each lineup.

A second major criterion was Energy Star certification. AC units that meet this mark are cheaper to operate and generally have a higher build quality and better features than ones that don’t—so we dismissed any air conditioner that did not qualify for Energy Star 3.0 or 3.1 standards.1 After combing through the sortable, up-to-date list of qualifying models and eliminating models that we’d previously dismissed in the 2014 version of this guide, we were left with roughly 17 contenders.

Taking a close look at that list, we realized that at least ten (possibly eleven) models are carbon copies of each other, just sold under different names. They’re all made by Midea, a Chinese mega-OEM, and re-branded by Danby, Arctic King, Kool King, and other labels you’ve probably never heard of. We decided not to consider them for our main pick because their distribution is inconsistent and because their features aren’t on par with the best models.

Then we dismissed a few more models that cost too much, were often hard to find, had unremarkable features, or had some combination of those shortcomings.

That left us with a pair of finalists: First, the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1, which was last year’s winner and is still a current product. Second, the LG LW8015ER, which is essentially the 2015 version of last year’s runner-up, the LG LW8014ER. (The older model is still widely available, so we considered it a de facto finalist, too.)

It might seem like the Frigidaire was a shoo-in at this point, since it beat out the nearly identical LG model last year. But we decided to test them again anyway, because we’ve since learned several ways to improve our testing methods. We wanted to base our 2015 recommendation on the best, most up-to-date information possible.

How we tested

After a few years of covering this category, we’ve learned that window air conditioners are very similar to each other. We’ve tested their performance in all the ways you’d think would be important, and found the results doesn’t really reveal much.

What truly matters—and what distinguishes one air conditioner from another—are the basic usage details you discover once you actually live with it.

Energy efficiency, for example, is highly regulated and pretty much uniform from AC to AC if they have the same efficiency rating (measured in CEER). A representative from the Energy Star program at the EPA told us that “if you took two room ACs with the same CEER and tested them in a qualified lab according to [Department of Energy] test procedure, [the energy use] should come out the same.” We tried to test efficiency last year, and found that the results confirmed the EPA’s claim. Based on all this, we decided to cut this measurement from our procedure.

Likewise, climate control (cooling power and dehumidification) does not differ significantly between models with the same BTU rating.

Here are the differences that you’ll actually notice: ease of installation and removal, ease of maintenance, features (like a remote control or a timer or a sleep mode), operating noise, and basic details like how easily the vents can adjust to blow the air in different directions. So that’s what we looked at.

Most of our testing this year was a simulation of what a reader would find if they brought a particular model home. So we got our test units and took notes on the installation and user experience: How heavy is the thing? How loud is it? How many holes are you supposed to make in your window frame for screws? Is the remote useful? Are there any design quirks that might be frustrating for some owners?

Our noise test was the most rigorous part of our rubric, developed with the help of audio-visual expert and Wirecutter contributor Geoff Morrison. We connected a calibrated microphone to an iPhone 5S, fired up the SPLnFFT app, and set it to C-weighting with a slow response. First, we measured volume by averaging a handful of readings taken from various angles all about 6 feet away from each air conditioner (that’s as close as you should be sitting to it). We did that with the fan set to both low and high, with and without the compressor running. Then, with the fan on low and the compressor turned on, we measured the frequency of its noise output, looking for any isolated spikes in the upper midrange and high frequencies—the human ear is sensitive to those kinds of sounds, which can come across as irritating high-pitched whining or midrange whooshing.

If you’re keeping track, you might notice that we got different results in our new volume test than we did last year. Part of that, we think, is because we are now using better equipment and following clearer procedures. Another factor could be variance between each unit of a given AC model, though that seems less likely. In any case, the numbers you see in this guide are based on the data that we gathered in spring 2015.

Our pick

Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1
Relatively quiet, light, efficient, and easy to install, the Frigidaire has standout features like a temperature-sensing remote and a smart sleep timer that make it just a bit better than its competitors.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $239.

For the second year running, the Frigidaire 33Q1 series (specifically, the 8,000-BTU model FFRE0833Q1) is the best window air conditioner for most people. It’s quieter, it’s lighter, and it’s easier to install than its competition—mostly because it weighs less, but also because you don’t need as many screws to keep all the parts in place. Some additional features also give it an edge: A temperature sensor on the remote control tells the AC how hot it is in the room, a 24-hour programmable timer helps you customize its schedule, and a sleep mode lets it gradually reduce its output overnight to save energy and keep your room from getting too cold. It’s as efficient as anything else out there, and you can find it just about anywhere that sells appliances.

Installing the 33Q1 is straightforward—and easier on all counts than our runner-up, the LG LW8015ER. The only tool you absolutely need for the 33Q1 is a Philips-head screwdriver. All the necessary screws, clips, and insulation are included in the box. You use four screws to attach a bracket rail to the top, then slide the plastic insulating accordion curtains into grooves along the sides of the machine. It took me about 30 minutes, working solo, from the time I opened the box until it was mounted in a window and ready to work.

The curtains for the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 slide into notches on the sides of the machine, which saves time and frustration compared to screw-in curtains.

The curtains for the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 slide into notches on the sides of the machine, which saves time and frustration compared to screw-in curtains.

The FFRE0833Q1 weighs about 48 pounds with the curtains attached. That’s on the lighter side for an 8,000-BTU window unit. I was able to hoist it from the floor into the window frame alone, no problem at all. I’m 6’2”, 28 years old, medium build, in decent shape with no nagging injuries or chronic pain, so you can use those stats to set your expectations accordingly. But it’s probably a good idea to have a buddy around, especially if you’re installing a bigger version of the 33Q1—the 12,000-BTU variant, for example, weighs a whopping 72 pounds.

The 8,000 BTU Frigidaire (left) is much smaller and about 11 pounds lighter than the comparable LG (right), which is one reason why it’s much easier to install.

The 8,000-BTU Frigidaire (left) is much smaller and about 11 pounds lighter than the comparable LG (right), which is one reason why it’s much easier to install.

Once the 33Q1 was in the window, I clipped the curtains to the window frame using a pair of metal hooks that came with the AC. The installation guide recommended that I lock the window and AC in place with screws, but that would’ve involved drilling 5 holes into the frame. I decided to skip that step—the AC felt totally secure in the window without those extra fasteners, so no drilling was necessary in my case. With larger versions of the 33Q1, you may need to install some exterior supports—not included—to keep the AC safely in place, so that’ll add a few minutes to your installation time. Regardless, check your local laws to make sure your window unit is legally installed.

Finally, I stuffed all the gaps with foam insulation. Frigidaire includes plenty of it with the 33Q1, and even after I stuffed the small gaps around the edges, there was still some left over. Extra foam insulation isn’t the single most important feature a window AC unit must have, but it’s a nice touch.

During our tests, we found this unit to be marginally less noisy overall than its closest competitor. At the lowest fan speed, with the compressor turned on, the 33Q1 registered 60 decibels, a comfortable level that roughly matches the volume of a conversation at an office or restaurant. With the fan at the highest setting, we recorded 66 dB, which is considered a “moderate” volume. The LG is marginally louder at both operating speeds, at 62 dB and 67 dB respectively. Despite the Frigidaire’s low decibel levels, however, we did find another possible problem with its noise—an upper-midrange whine that we’ll talk more about below.

One of the cool features that really sets the 33Q1 series apart from its competitors is a remote control with a built-in thermometer. This lets the 33Q1 take the temperature where you’re sitting, rather than wherever the unit is installed.
Basically, it means the unit is aware of the temperature of the room you’re in and is responding accordingly, which means you’ll be more comfortable more of the time. 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) has a built-in thermostat and control over all the AC’s settings and feature, while the LG remote (left) is much more basic.

The Frigidaire remote (right) has a built-in thermostat and control over all the AC’s settings and feature, while the LG remote (left) is much more basic.

Like all of the air conditioners that we considered testing, the 33Q1 meets the latest Energy Star (blue badge) standards. According to Energy Guide (the yellow sticker), the 8,000-BTU version will cost about $64 to operate annually. That figure is going to vary for each owner, but compared to other air conditioners, the 33Q1 is at the lowest end of Energy Guide’s projected costs—you’ll save enough cash for a few iced coffees over the course of a hot summer.

While the 33Q1’s 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, it 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 plan to get home in the evening. Not bad.

There’s also a nifty sleep mode that’s unique to Frigidaire’s products (it’s not found on our LG pick). This setting gradually raises the target temperature by 4 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of an hour, sustains that warmer temperature for 7 hours, and then drops back down—right around the time you’re due to wake up. Although some user reviewers thought this made their rooms a little too warm for comfort, others thought that it was a useful feature. You can be the judge of that, though; if you think it’s too hot, you don’t have to use it.

Also important is that the 33Q1 is easy to find. The 8,000-BTU version is currently available from several major big box and internet retailers. At the time of writing, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon have the best price of all the major retailers, tied at $239. It’s also available at Lowe’s (though without the temperature sensing remote—the model number ends with L3Q1 rather than 33Q1), Best Buy, and tons of other regional and internet retailers. This isn’t the case with all air conditioners—GE, for instance, told us last year that they concentrate their window AC stock on the East Coast because the buildings are older and less likely to already have central air.

The 33Q1 is covered by a one-year full warranty, plus a five-year warranty on the sealed system, which includes the evaporator and compressor. Frigidaire (part of Electrolux) seems to be in good shape as a company and has a strong reputation, so in the event you need to contact customer service, you shouldn’t run into any trouble.

Owners tend to like the 33Q1. We tallied up user ratings from Amazon and Google Shopping for a few variants in the series (rated for 6,000, 8,000, and 12,000 BTU), and the average score came out to about 4.12 out of 5 stars based on 268 reviews. That’s a slightly better score than the LG 14ER (which we’re using as a proxy for the newer 15ER, which has barely any reviews yet).

As we mentioned earlier, you’ll get the best results when you buy an air conditioner with the right BTU rating for the space you want to cool. We specifically tested the 8,000-BTU variant, though others are available from 5,000 BTU up to 22,000 BTU. A few things to note: The 5,000-BTU variant has a different interface than the others and gets very loud on humid days, so you might be better off stepping up to the 6,000-BTU version. But otherwise, you should be safe buying the version that’s right for your space. Here’s a handy chart with links.

E-Star Recommended Room Size In Square Ft. BTU Model # Notes
100 – 150 5000 FFRE0533Q1 No remote thermostat; no sleep mode; gets very loud in humidity.
150 – 250 6000 FFRE0633Q1 Conventional remote, without temp sensing
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

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The biggest problem with the Frigidaire 33Q1 is the biggest problem with every room air conditioner: It’s loud. They’re all loud. And they’re getting louder! According to this Energy Star memo (page 2), manufacturers claim that it’s a side effect of stricter efficiency standards.

We mentioned that the 33Q1 runs quieter than some of its competitors, but there’s more to sound than volume, and the 33Q1 can make a few noises that some people might find tough to ignore. The 8,000 BTU model 33Q1 whines when the compressor is running, which showed up on our frequency chart as a spike around 3 kHz.

Blended with the other frequencies coming from the AC, it sounds like a pack of cicadas off in the distance.
After a few minutes, it faded from our consciousness, and stopped altogether when the compressor turned off.

We’re not sure this is a problem with every unit. We tested a different unit of the 33Q1 in 2014 and don’t recall a similar whine. Only one user review that we found that mentions it as a specific issue. We don’t think it’s a dealbreaker, but if you consider yourself very sensitive to sustained, high-pitched sounds, you might want to consider the LG 15ER instead. The LG is louder, but we measured a more even frequency response.

Here’s another noise issue: in very humid climates, the 33Q1 might start to sound like a small fountain. That’s the fan sloshing through a puddle of condensed water, and it’s built that way on purpose. Special tips on the fan blades sling the water onto the condenser to cool it off and help it run more efficiently. The noise gets louder as the humidity increases, because as more water condenses inside the machine the fan spins through a deeper puddle.

However, this sound isn’t limited to just the 33Q1—in fact, it’s the side effect of a clever design that pretty much all of the most efficient air conditioners today use. The LG LW14ER and LW15ER make the same noise, and we’ve read reviews for all of these air conditioners that complain the noise is too distracting to have in an office or bedroom.

The disc-shaped deflectors in the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 aren’t always effective at directing air where you want it to go.

The disc-shaped deflectors in the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 aren’t always effective at directing air where you want it to go.

Next, the air stream on the 33Q1 has very limited adjustability, as it only really blows air in three directions: forward, left, and (barely) up. It won’t really blow down or to the right. The problem is with the deflectors inside the vents. Rather than the “fin” deflectors you’d find in most small climate control systems (like your car or, y’know, almost any other air conditioners), the 33Q1 uses discs that only rotate on one axis. Most owners don’t seem to mind, but some user reviewers write that they can’t figure out how to stop it from blowing cold air at them while they’re sleeping. It is a really stupid design—if you’ve owned another Frigidaire unit recently, you may already be familiar with it. We hope you can find at least one configuration that keeps the air flow approximately where you want it.

There are a couple of other quirks with the 33Q1. The remote has a lot of buttons, which might be off-putting. The ionizing air purifier is probably pointless.

In Consumer Reports’ updated air conditioner ratings, the FFRE0833Q1 falls into the “Very Good” range of scores. But it has one of the lower scores in its testing group at 70, while the top-rated model (the GE AEM08LT) scores an 80. Some of their criteria seem only marginally relevant, like the brownout score, which will only matter if your city routinely experiences summer brownouts or blackouts. Other marks are subjective, like the ease of use score—we simply disagree with their assessment there, and that’s fine. Without more specifics on their testing procedure, scoring criteria, and how they weigh each result as part of the whole score, it’s hard to know exactly why our ratings are so different. But it is worth noting that CR has a different take than we do.

One flaw is a general criticism of window AC units: There’s no vent that opens to the outside. While that actually makes it better at cooling a room, it means you’ll need to open a different window (preferably every day) if you want to get fresh air into the house.

One last note: Compared to most items you might order through the internet, air conditioners are more prone to break during shipping if they aren’t handled correctly. Compressors are finicky like that. It’s still a very low chance that you’ll get a dud if you buy your AC online and have it shipped via UPS or FedEx. But we wanted to let you know that in our experience, this is one of those categories where buying online increases your chance of receiving a busted unit.

The runner-up

Also great
LG LW8015ER
This is as efficient and powerful as our main pick, with better control of air flow and a sound quality you may prefer—but it’s heavier, tougher to install, and not as full-featured.

Our runner-up is as efficient and powerful as our main pick, with better control of air flow and a sound quality you may prefer—but it’s heavier, tougher to install, and not as full-featured.

The new LG LWxx15ER group is another great line of air conditioners. If you can’t find our pick or if you find an LG unit at a cheaper price, go for it. The specific model we tested was the $239 LG LW8015ER. This is the line’s 8,000-BTU unit, and it’s just as efficient and powerful as the same-sized Frigidaire 33Q1. Plus, LG’s design has better control over its air flow, and its compressor doesn’t give off a high-frequency whine (although it is a bit louder overall).

All the comparisons we’re making here also apply to last year’s $239 LW8014ER, which can be easier to find (for now at least). As far as we can tell, the 15ER is the same machine with a new name that meets the new DOE standards. Both LG units should be widely available this summer, and if you see either for a cheaper price than the Frigidaire, go for it.

The runner-up (last year’s model)

Also great

*At the time of publishing, the price was $239.

LG LW8014ER
The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch adds wireless connectivity so you can control anything that’s plugged into it via a smartphone app.

The same unit with a different model number, this is the one to get if it’s cheaper or easier to find than the 2015 LG, or our first pick, the Frigidaire.

First, the good: The LWxx15ER is Energy Star qualified and as efficient as any window AC you’ll find. The yellow Energy Guide sticker that comes on the front of the machine predicts that the 8,000-BTU variant will cost $63 to run per year, which is actually $1 cheaper than their estimate for the Frigidaire 33Q1—but both are at the low end of the Energy Guide spectrum, and with typical use, the difference is probably a wash.

The LG 15ER can direct its air flow in eight directions—more like the mostly accurate vent controls in a car than the half-baked vent controls in the Frigidaire 33Q1. If you have to put the AC right next to your bed or couch, this is an advantage in favor of the 15ER. But if your AC is at 6 feet away, it probably won’t make a dramatic difference for most people.

In terms of noise, we think that the LG 15ER is slightly less comfortable to sit near than the Frigidaire 33Q1, running about 2 dB louder at its lowest setting, even with the compressor off. The LG doesn’t, however, have the same high-frequency compressor whine as the Frigidaire. So on the whole, we think that the LG will fatigue your ears a bit faster—but that’d be over the course of hours, with the machine running constantly. User reviews have noted that the 14ER makes the same “fountain” noise as other high-efficiency ACs; while the LG has a removable plug that can help the baseplate drain faster, it still doesn’t cure the noise in very humid climates.

The most obvious disadvantage to the LG 15ER is installation. The top bracket rail comes pre-attached—and then every other step is at least a little bit more labor intensive than the Frigidaire 33Q1. You’ll need to screw the insulating curtains into the sides of the air conditioner. That’s 8 screws, all at odd angles. It takes time; you’ll definitely fumble with them. The 8015ER also weighs 59 pounds, 11 pounds more than the 33Q1, so it’s more cumbersome (and if you’re on the second floor or higher, more treacherous) to lift into place. Remember to lift from the knees.

The LG is heavier and deeper than the Frigidaire, and needs two support shims to keep it safely situated in a window.

The LG is heavier and deeper than the Frigidaire, and needs two support shims to keep it safely situated in a window.

Partly because of that extra weight, and partly because it’s a few inches deeper, the LG needs more exterior support. You’ll need to attach two support shims into the outer part of your window frame, and they need to be spaced out evenly—more measuring, more screwing, more hole-poking, more work overall. The 15ER even comes with less foam insulation than the 33Q1, so there’s less room for error and for filling little coverage gaps. And when it’s time to pack the AC away for the fall and winter, the 15ER’s 19.5 x 19 x 12.5-inch body takes up more space in your closet than the Frigidaire’s 18.5 x 16.5 x 12 dimensions.

We’ll put it this way: Installing an appliance is never fun. But mounting the Frigidaire 33Q1 in your window feels more like a regular chore and less like the full-on construction project you face with the LG 15ER.

Another downside (at least in our eyes) to the 15ER is that it’s missing a couple of useful features and settings that make the Frigidaire great. The LG remote doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, the temperature detection happens on the unit itself. If you sit far enough away from the unit, it might not be keeping the temperature in your armchair as cool as you like. The LG also has no sleep setting, so over the course of a summer, you’ll probably use a few extra dollars’ worth of energy compared to the Frigidaire if you’re in the habit of running the AC overnight.

For what it’s worth, Consumer Reports likes the LG 14ER more than the Frigidaire 33Q1. The LG scores a 79, good enough for second place in the category (top score is 80). As we mentioned above, we’re not sure what to make of CR’s scores because they reveal so little information about their procedure, and some of their findings contradict our test results. Owners seem to like the LG 14ER, with an average score across a few size variants and ratings outlets of 4.04 based on 389 reviews—that’s a slightly lower rating than the Frigidaire 33Q1.

All that said, the LG 15ER (or 14ER) and Frigidaire 33Q1 are the two best window air conditioners out there now, and you’re getting a good machine whichever way you choose.

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 correctly, 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, obviously the way of the future. The story behind it is cute, too. But Quirky (a troubled company, it turns out), needs to fix a long list of hardware and software problems before the Aros is worth your money.

Reviews of the Aros are not positive—at least the ones written by people who’ve lived with it for longer than a few days. I personally tested it at home, from July through September 2014, and would not recommend it to anybody based on that experience. At Amazon, it earns just 3.1 stars out of 5 based on 253 ratings. At Quirky’s own website, it earns just 3 stars based on 41 ratings. We’ve been checking user scores since it was first released, and they’ve been on a downward trajectory—even as recently as April 2015, the same complaints were coming up. We’ve contacted Aros for comment.

Noise is the first dealbreaker with the Aros. All air conditioners are loud these days, but owners think that this thing is wicked loud in particular. In terms of volume, it’s right in the middle of the pack with other 8,000-BTU window units, as Quirky was quick to point out. But the real culprit is the noise’s the pitch and timbre—it’s a midrange “whoosh” that drowns out human voices.

That’s annoying enough, but the half-baked smart features have proven to be the real source of discontent for most buyers. At the time of release, the software was beta-quality at best, and seemed to get worse over the course of the summer. We ran into trouble getting the app and the Aros to sync properly. Ry Crist at CNET was never able to get the Smart Away geo-fencing feature to work. The Smart Schedule feature was a total trainwreck. It looks for patterns in daily usage, so that ideally the Aros can run itself without user input. But in our experience, it must’ve found false patterns, because it usually turned itself on at inappropriate times in inappropriate weather.

Quirky promised the future but delivered a regular air conditioner with a poor companion app. Somebody had to be the first to try making a smart AC, but the Aros at this point ends up making life at least a little harder than a regular air conditioner does. It’s not worth your money.

What about a portable air conditioner?

Portable air conditioners don’t work very well. Compared to even the cheapest window unit, portables take much longer to cool a room. They cost more to begin with, you’ll spend more on energy, and you won’t be as comfortable for as long. But some people don’t have the right kind of windows to hold a window AC, so a portable AC is the only practical choice.

Also great

*At the time of publishing, the price was $369.

Honeywell MN10CES
If a portable unit is your only option, this one is convenient to move around. The noise is tolerable, cooling performance is adequate, and dealing with its ventilation and condensation is relatively hassle-free.

If that’s the case, the $369 Honeywell MN10CES is a safe bet. Our hands-on testing confirmed what we were finding in editorial and user reviews: It’s convenient to move around, the noise is tolerable, cooling performance is adequate, and dealing with its ventilation and condensation is relatively hassle-free.

At the time we were doing our research, the Honeywell was one of the few portables that didn’t totally flunk Consumer Reports’ climate control tests. They’ve recently updated their rankings, and the Honeywell now falls into the middle of the pack, though the score holds up pretty well. The top-rated model costs $600 and earns a 55 overall, while the Honeywell costs at least $200 less and earns a 48. It has a solid user rating, averaging 4.1 stars out of 5 based on 536 reviews, aggregated at Google Shopping.

The Honeywell MC10CES is big, and the hose is a bit of an eyesore, but it’s pretty pleasant to have around—at least by the standards of portable air conditioners.

The Honeywell MC10CES is big, and the hose is a bit of an eyesore, but it’s pretty pleasant to have around—at least by the standards of portable air conditioners.

Living with the Honeywell isn’t bad. Its single-hose design is easy to install and remove from a window in just a few minutes. Smooth casters make it easy to move from room to room. It’s a little bit louder than our window units, averaging around 62 dB on the lowest fan setting and producing no distracting noises that we noticed. Moisture can evaporate through the hose, so unlike some other portables, you won’t have to empty a catch-tray every few days. The price is reasonable for a portable, too.

Cheaper models get poor performance scores, while higher-end models don’t seem to be any better at cooling a room.
It’s available at plenty of retailers, too. If you need a portable AC right now, don’t hesitate to pick this up.

Why did we rely on Consumer Reports’ scores for portables if we’re so skeptical of their scores for window ACs? Portables aren’t regulated as closely as window units (they aren’t nearly as popular), so they can have wildly different cooling capacities even if they have the same BTU rating. For example, any 10,000-BTU window unit will cool 400 to 450 sq. ft. But one 10,000-BTU portable might cool 400 sq. ft., while another only covers 300 sq. ft. Basically, we felt like we couldn’t take any climate control claims at face value. We also don’t have the labs or equipment to test those claims ourselves. Consumer Reports is the only organization that tests portables like this, which makes them a valuable source of information.

The important thing to remember about portable air conditioners is that they’re fighting an uphill battle. All room air conditioners work by drawing warm air out of the room, absorbing heat (and moisture), and then blowing the cooler, drier air back into the room. Window units are relatively efficient because they radiate heat out through the part of the machine that’s hanging outside. Portable units, on the other hand, sit entirely indoors, so they have to re-radiate much of that heat back into the room they’re supposed to be chilling. It’s two steps forward and one step back. Yeah, the exhaust hose (which is not insulated) blows some of the heat out through the window. But the whole process takes a lot more energy—and a lot more time—to get a room comfortable than a window unit.

Portable air conditioners are so inefficient that Energy Star hasn’t even bothered to create a category for them until now. For all the energy they use, even a capable machine will struggle to get a hot room down to the threshold for comfort (about 78 degrees, as Consumer Reports measures it). There are portables that use two hoses, which should, in theory, be more effective and efficient, but that doesn’t matter much in practice—a product rep from DeLonghi even admitted to us that the second hose barely makes a difference.

But hey, on a hot, muggy summer day, you’ll be happy to have any air conditioner at all.

Based on Consumer Reports’ updated scores, we plan to spend summer 2015 looking more closely at the LG LP1215GXR and Whynter ARC-12SD as possible alternatives to the Honeywell. The prices are comparable, and they earn slightly better scores. We will update this guide when we know more.

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 out of the machine. 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.

At the end of every cooling season, you should drain the AC by tilting the outer grill downward for about 20 seconds. Otherwise mildew can start to grow in in any leftover moisture, and your AC is going to stink the next time you use it.

Speaking of seasonality, you should really remove all of your window air conditioners before heating season begins. The gaps around the AC will leak heat, so it’s best to just shut your windows. If you’re simply not going to do that, at least cover the top of the AC with a piece of plywood. It helps stop debris from getting into the system.

What to look forward to

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 Aros. The upside? The tado should work with any air conditioner that uses a remote—no need to buy all-new hardware when you can 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 last summer.

Now we just need to see if it works right. The company behind it made a similar and successful accessory for heating systems a few years ago, so that bodes well. It’s a Kickstarter-funded project, so to the surprise of no one, there were some delays in production due to a parts shortage. But if their new timeline holds up, the unit should be available to everyone by early June 2015 for $149.

We expect more smart air conditioners to come out in the next few years. Even though the Aros was a huge disappointment, we spotted a clone made by Midea on display at a tradeshow in spring 2015. We haven’t seen it in the wild yet, but it can’t be long now.

And of course, air conditioners will continue to get more efficient. New Energy Star standards (Version 4.0) take effect in October 2015. The minimum efficiency requirement is getting even stricter, and there will be new requirements for installation and insulation materials—those plastic accordion curtains might be going away.

Looking even further ahead, the industry will have to make some changes to keep up with ever-stricter efficiency regulations—new refrigerants and larger evaporators, for example. Designers have just about bumped up against what’s possible with the current industry-standard refrigerant (R410A), without making the machines uncomfortably loud. Other suitable refrigerants are already available; they’re just expensive. But that’ll change in time.

Competition

We mentioned earlier that 10 or 11 of the window air conditioners we found are close copies of each other. After some poking around, we discovered that they’re all made by a Chinese OEM called Midea (you probably already have some other product in your home that was made by them). Depending on which “brand” you get, these Midea ACs can be $10 cheaper than the top Frigidaire and LG models, and they’re even Energy Star certified. We’d hoped to test one, but weren’t able to track down a unit before publishing this guide.

That said, we doubt that any of these—we found the Danby DAC080EUB2x, Arcticaire AAC080EUB2, Arctic King WWK+08CR5, Comfort-Aire RADS-81M, Coolworks MWDCK-08CRN1-BK3, Koolking MWDCK-08CRN1-BK3, Perfect Aire 3PAC8000, SPT WA-8022S, UBERHAUS 15625000, and the Haier ESA4082 on the Energy Star certification list—would’ve been our main pick. (The ones without links here appear on the Energy Star list but aren’t currently showing up anywhere online.) Compared to the Frigidaire, Midea design is heavier and not as full-featured—there’s no remote temperature sensing, and these have a smaller control panel. And then there’s an availability issue. You can go to five big retailers and find these units sold under five different names. Why should you have to remember all those names? Also, sometimes the prices are jacked up as high as $280—definitely not worth it when there’s a better, cheaper, name-brand model out there.

We also dismissed the GE AEx08LT. A variant is the top-rated unit in Consumer Reports’ latest rankings, though as we’ve mentioned a few times, we’re not totally sold on their evaluations. It’s missing a few of the Frigidaire’s features, and in the past few years, we’ve noticed that GE air conditioners aren’t always widely available until later in the summer, a strike against the product in our opinion. A product manager from the company told us last year that at the beginning of the summer they tend to concentrate their stock on the East Coast, because the buildings are usually older and less likely to have central air systems. A new window AC tends to be the kind of thing you decide to buy in the middle of a heat wave, so if you have to wait a few days for the thing to be shipped across the country, that sort of defeats the purpose.

The Energy Star list of qualified air conditioners includes the Kenmore Elite 76083—but so far, we haven’t been able to find any other evidence that this product exists. It would be a Sears-only model, but searches for the model number internally and externally on Sears’ site come up empty. There’s a chance that it’s just the Frigidaire with a different name on it, but we can’t be sure, so we’ll pass for now.

Friedrich has a reputation as a top-quality air conditioning brand, and the Friedrich Kühl line is excellent: super quiet, super efficient, all the great stuff. It also costs $1,000 for the 8,000-BTU version. Whoa now… Even the Chill, their “budget” model, costs $500, and many user reviews complain about excess noise. And, as you’d expect from the regulations, it’s not any better at cooling a room than a $230 AC of the same rating. No thanks.

As for portables, we dismissed models from Keystone, Danby, Frigidaire, NewAir, Haier, LG, Kenmore, Whynter, Avallon, DeLonghi, Sunpentown / SPT, Idylis, Midea / Kool King, RCA, Whirlpool, Tripp Lite, and Koldfront. Most of these we dismissed for high prices or poor availability, while others had low user scores (or in a few cases, negative editorial reviews).

Wrapping it up

Your best bet for a window air conditioner is the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 or whichever model in the 33Q1 series has the proper BTU rating for your space. If it goes out of stock or the price jumps, the LG LW8015ER and LG LW8014ER are great backup options. And if you can’t use a window unit and absolutely need a portable, check out the Honeywell MN10CES. Stay cool; save cash.

Footnotes:

1. This is a weird year for efficiency standards. In short, the Department of Energy changed the way that it measures air conditioner efficiency, but did not change the rules about total power use. Any new AC imported or manufactured after fall 2014 needs to disclose its efficiency in the CEER metric, which replaces the older EER metric (the change accounts for the amount of energy that the AC draws while it’s in standby or idle mode).
But despite the change, this year’s air conditioners draw the same total amount of energy as last year’s models. The older models that qualified under last year’s standards still get to keep their blue badges. And it’s totally legal for manufacturers to keep selling old units that were imported prior to the new standards.
As a result, manufacturers like LG are selling two air conditioner models that are identical except for the name on the box. For the time being, we’ve got a flood of qualified air conditioners on our hands. Jump back.

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Sources

  1. Max Sherman, Staff Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Phone and Email Interview, April 2015
  2. Eamon Monahan, Energy Star Program, Environmental Protection Agency, Email Interview, April 2015
  3. Window air conditioner rankings, Consumer Reports, May 2015
  4. Room Air Conditioners Specification Version 4.0, Energy Star / Environmental Protection Agency, May 2015
  5. Linda Hotz, Category Director, Home Comfort, DeLonghi Group, In-person interview, March 2015

Originally published: May 21, 2015

  • 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. 😀

  • 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.

  • Allen Millington

    Any plans for reviews on whole-home items like Furnace, Air Conditioner, Water Heater, and perhaps Water Softeners?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      They’re on our ‘things to look into’ list!

  • dmcgregor

    In the Aros section there is this mention on efficiency

    “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).”

    Is that a misprint? I thought higher EER was better?

    Also, no mention of Sharp? They seem to have several models in the same sizes as the Frigidaire available on Amazon, and they are also Energy Star rated.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Looking into this!

  • Andrew M.

    There is a much more comprehensive BTU/hr recommendation calculator from AHAM (the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers). This is the same organization that certifies the ratings on many air conditioners.

    It takes into account room volume, window sizes, wall facing direction, insulation, what’s above the ceiling, location, wattage of other electrical devices in the room, and much more. Well worth using for a far more accurate BTU recommendation than just square-footage.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Excellent tip thank you!!!

  • Shadow6363

    Any estimate when you’ll be done with updating the reviews? Getting pretty hot around here…

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      It’s right around the corner!

  • cherrispryte

    I’ve been looking at the 6,000 BTU version of the frigidaire you recommended, and the price has jumped on Amazon from 189 to 250 over the last few days. Anywhere else, it’s still $220+. Has the FFRE0633Q1 been discontinued or something, or do AC prices fluctuate wildly between mid-week and weekend? Most importantly, really, should I wait and hope the Frigidaire price goes back down, or go with the LG?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      I just checked and see it at $189. Price has been that way since…October 2014. Prior to that there was a bump in price to $200+

      http://www.amazon.com/Frigidaire-Window-Mounted-Mini-Compact-Full-Function-FFRE0633Q1?tag=thesweethome-20

      Unless this isn’t the model?

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      AC prices do fluctuate a lot actually. Kind of opportunistic, not surprised that the price spiked during an early east coast heat wave.

      33Q1 of all sizes have not been discontinued, we confirmed this with Frigidaire. Up to you to decide if it’s worth waiting for the price to drop, but it’s a totally reasonable choice to take the LG now while it’s cheap. Both are great ACs, Frig is just easier to install and has a few extra features, that’s why we give it the edge.

  • KVFinn

    >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

    Am I missing something or is this the opposite of what you want as a sleep mode? I want to be cold at night, and for the air conditioner to warm a bit when it’s time to wake up in the morning, to mimic a normal circadian rhythm? Warmer at night, what the heck?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      That does seem odd as I don’t know a single person that doesn’t LOVE ice cold AC while they sleep under big blankets (myself included!). It’s SOOOOO nice in the summer right? I’ll ask our expert what this is in regards to but I’m going to wager that it’s def related to something scientific. We’re pretty thorough :)

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      The idea is that you won’t notice a gradual, modest rise in temp while you’re asleep, and the energy saved by increasing the temp a few degrees overnight is significant.

      But if that’s not how you roll, then you don’t have to use the sleep mode.

      • KVFinn

        I’d love the opposite, to wake up without an air alarm by having the temperature rise in the morning. Is there any way to do this with the 24-hour timer, is it like a programmable thermostat where you can set a schedule for 24 hours?

        • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

          No unfortunately the timer doesn’t work that way, only controls on / off. And “programmable” would be a generous description. You have to set the timer every time you use it, doesn’t remember schedules or anything like that. Haven’t seen any air conditioners that work like a programmable thermostat, not even the Quirky Aros really.

          A company called Tado is working on an accessory that can make ACs work that way though. Should be out this summer, we’re hoping to be able to check one out.

  • FirefighterGeek

    I’ve had this unit for a couple of years now. It’s been excellent. My one complaint, and it’s common to all of them as far as I can tell, is that the remote is close to useless as a remote temperature sensor. You can use it to turn on and off the AC or whatever, but the idea of leaving it across the room and having it communicate back just frankly doesn’t work on this or any other unit I’ve tried.

  • Erik Shanton

    A helpful hint, if the room only has one window. I cut a piece of 1×2 lumber to length to fit in the grooves in my window. The top of the air conditioner rests against this, not the bottom of the sash, allowing one to open the window above the unit. Add some foam tape to make a good seal, and an adjustable screen from the hardware store to keep out the bugs when you open the window, and you can have fresh air on days you don’t need the AC.

  • Revdawg

    Is it possible to expand the noise part of this review. I currently have a small 8000 btu air conditioner in my room. The volume of noise isn’t a problem. What can be a problem to me is when the compressor turns on. What concerns me is the change in volume and the possibility that this could affect my sleep negatively. Can you tell me which of these air conditioners do that the least? I’d love to have that information.

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      There won’t be much of a difference from AC to AC because they all cool a room at basically the same rate. They’ll cycle on and off at roughly the same intervals.

      Two possible solutions: First, you could try setting the temperature very low, so that the room never actually gets down to temperature. Unfortunately that won’t work if you sleep in a well-insulated room/building, because the temperature _will_ drop to the target, or you’ll freeze. But if you’re in an old apartment building (like I am) it’s probably drafty enough that the AC will struggle to get a bedroom much cooler than 68 F.

      Second: I really, really don’t recommend this, but if you get a non-Energy Star AC with knobs (instead of digital controls), the thing will run all night at whatever temp you set it at. Huge waste of energy, you may find yourself freeeezing in the middle of the night, but at least the compressor won’t kick on or off.

  • Judith

    I spent a lot of time deciding on whether I should go for a traditional airconditioner unit or a portable unit, this review helped me make that decision and I ended up buying a unit from https://portable-airconditioner.co.za/ – It was the cheapest I could find in South Africa and offered everything I needed. Just wanted to say a big thank you to Liam again for leaving this review and helping me make that decision.

  • Joe Bob Briggs

    Any chance of you guys reviewing in-wall AC units?

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Not this year, sorry. But, it seems likely that wall ACs use similar components as window ACs. So a Frigidaire wall unit is probably pretty similar to one of their window units.

  • kiestphoto

    Hey, you have a big error on the important specs, I think. You say “Window opening minimum height:23 inches” But what I think you mean is window opening width! Per mfg, it only needs 14 inches of height, but 23 of width.

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Thank you, fixing now!