When the weather turns hot and muggy, a reliable air conditioner is a necessity for staying cool. “Air conditioning systems can feel like a simple yet vital part of life during hot summer days, however, it's important that homeowners understand how much science and engineering goes into taking the home down to a cooler temperature,” says Traci Fournier, Vice President of Operations at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.
We spent hours researching the top air conditioners on the market, from window units to wall-mounted and portable models. The best air conditioner for a space will cool the room adequately and efficiently, but there are other factors to consider beyond the size of the room. Fournier recommends, “When buying any appliance, always work within your own budget and personal needs.” With that in mind, we evaluated each air conditioner’s size, efficiency, cooling area, features, performance, and price.
There are many AC styles to choose from—some of which are fairly basic, while others offer smart features and other conveniences—but they can all help you beat the heat and save energy.
LG LW6017R 6,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner
Customizable cooling options
Digital controls, LED display, and remote control
Slide-out, washable filter
Noisier at higher settings
Installation can be tricky
The LG LW6017R Window Air Conditioner is an all-around solid choice for those seeking an effective cooling option at a reasonable price. It kicks 6,000 BTU, which can cool rooms up to 260 square feet. Though it lacks any of the smart features you’ll find on more expensive models, its control panel is extremely easy to use. A digital LED display and full-featured remote control further enhance its intuitive design, allowing you to adjust the settings from anywhere in the room.
This unit has three cooling speeds and three fan speeds, as well as a timer that can be set for up to 24 hours. The two louvers can be manually adjusted to direct the air wherever you need it most. In the event of a power outage, this unit will turn on automatically once power is restored. Not only is this model Energy Star certified, it has an energy-saving mode for efficient operation.
The LG LW6017R is relatively quiet, emitting 52 decibels at its lowest setting. However, it will be noisier when it’s cranked up to higher speeds. According to some reports, the lack of detailed instructions could make the installation a bit tricky, especially if you’re unfamiliar with window ACs. On a positive note, the filter is both removable and washable, which makes maintenance a breeze.
Price at time of publish: $260
Dimensions: 17.31 x 14.38 x 11.13 inches | Cooling Area: 260 square feet | BTU: 6,000 BTU | Weight: 39.6 pounds | Window Size: 21 to 35 inches wide | Energy Star Certified: Yes
GE 5,000-BTU Mechanical Window Air Conditioner
Ideal for smaller rooms
Simple, adjustable controls
Ten temperature settings
EZ mount kit included
No energy-saving features
No remote control
The GE Mechanical Air Conditioner delivers an impressive performance at an affordable price point. While it lacks some of the advanced features you’d find on more expensive window air conditioners, this compact unit cools well in rooms up to 150 square feet. It offers ten different temperature settings, allowing you to achieve your ideal comfort level.
This unit doesn’t have a remote control. Instead, it is controlled by two dial manual dials on the front. Although the design is fairly rudimentary, it is easy to operate and equally easy to set up. A mount kit is included for easy installation and thanks to a fixed chassis, it installs nicely in a double-hung window. The washable filter is removable, making cleanup a breeze.
If energy efficiency is a top priority, this air conditioner isn’t the best option. Unlike most of our other picks, it lacks an energy-saving mode and is not Energy Star-certified. On the plus side, it’s a solid, budget-friendly choice for cooling smaller rooms like bedrooms, guest rooms, and home offices.
Price at time of publish: $189
Dimensions: 16.44 x 15 x 12.56 inches | Cooling Area: 150 square feet | BTU: 5,000 BTU | Weight: 36 pounds | Window Size: 21.88 to 36 inches wide | Energy Star Certified: No
Windmill Air Conditioner
Sleek, modern design with cosmetic side panels
Easy to install
On the pricier side
App is challenging for some
This Windmill Air Conditioner offers an array of smart features for nearly effortless operation. When using this model in a real-world setting, we found it to be very unobtrusive design-wise and quiet in operation. It is a sleek, modern air conditioner unit, complete with cosmetic side panels to create a seamless aesthetic in any room. With 8,300 BTU of cooling power, this window unit is an ideal choice for rooms up to 350 square feet. It can be controlled through your smartphone or by voice command when connected to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. According to a few reports, navigating the app isn't the most intuitive process—but we have found the app to be convenient for turning on the air conditioner remotely.
This air conditioner has three fan speeds and three cooling speeds, plus an auto-dimming LED display that won’t disturb your sleep in the bedroom. As it cools, air is filtered through an antimicrobial mesh filter and activated carbon insert, helping to keep your room fresh and odor-free. This air conditioner comes with the necessary hardware for installation, making the setup process a breeze. It is Energy Star certified to reduce its environmental impact and your utility bills. Considering its relatively small size, the Windmill is fairly pricey, but it is a standout performer with the latest smart features.
Price at time of publish: $415
Dimensions: 19.4 x 19.3 x 13.2 inches | Cooling Area: 350 square feet | BTU: 8,300 BTU | Weight: 71.3 pounds | Window Size: 23 to 37 inches wide | Energy Star Certified: Yes
Best Window Air Conditioner
Midea U-Shaped Inverter Window Air Conditioner
Allows the window to be opened or locked
Can only be installed in hung windows
Pricier than other window AC units
Midea Smart Inverter Window Air Conditioner eliminates the hassles associated with window units–particularly noise. This AC is exceptionally quiet, running at a maximum of 42 decibels. Most of the unit sits outside, and the U-shaped design deflects noise coming from the compressor. Users have no trouble getting a good night’s sleep or watching television while it’s on. Another unique advantage is that your window can be opened while the unit is installed, providing fresh air whenever you need it. For added security, there is also a mechanism that locks the window.
This 8,000 BTU unit cools rooms up to 450 square feet. With an Energy Star certification and a CEER rating of 15, it’s one of the most efficient options in our roundup. In addition to a remote control, the Midea Window Air Conditioner also comes with smart features to make operation a breeze. It can be controlled via the Midea Air app, Google Assistant, or Alexa–even if you’re away from home. It’s important to note that this unit can only be installed in hung windows. It’s also significantly pricier than other window air conditioners, but its ultra-quiet operation and smart technology are well worth the splurge.
Price at time of publish: $399
Dimensions: 19.17 x 21.97 x 13.46 inches | Cooling Area: 350 square feet | BTU: 8,000 BTU | Weight: 55.6 pounds | Window Size: 22 to 36 inches wide | Energy Star Certified: Yes
Best Wall-Mounted Air Conditioner
Keystone 12,000 BTU Through-The-Wall AC
Easy-access washable filter
Temperature-sensing remote control
Energy Star certified
Trim kit included
Requires a sleeve for installation
This through-the-wall air conditioner from Keystone is a more permanent alternative to a window unit. With a 12,000 BTU output, this unit can cool rooms up to 550 square feet. It comes in multiple sizes, ranging from 8,000 to 14,000 BTU, and a heating function is optional on all models. This unit can dehumidify up to 2.5 pints of moisture per hour. One of the best things about this wall air conditioner, however, is that the thermostat is built into the remote control. This unique feature allows you to monitor the temperature of the entire room, not just the immediate vicinity of the air conditioner.
Other helpful features include a front-access washable filter, three cooling modes and fan speeds, and a programmable 24-hour timer. Once the desired temperature is reached, this unit can be set to energy-saver mode for maximum efficiency. A trim kit is included, but take note that a wall sleeve is required for installation. You can purchase one from the manufacturer at an additional cost. Operating around 56 decibels on its lowest settings, this unit is fairly noisy compared to other options on this list.
Price at time of publish: $560
Dimensions: 20.3 x 24.2 x 14.5 inches | Cooling Area: 550 square feet | BTU: 12,000 BTU | Weight: 78 pounds | Window Size: Not applicable | Energy Star Certified: Yes
Best Portable Air Conditioner
Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
Wheels for portability
Three operating modes (cool, fan, or dehumidifier)
Dual-hose design and auto-drain technology
Pricier than other types of ACs
This portable air conditioner from Whynter utilizes a dual hose to efficiently cool rooms up to 500 square feet. Unlike a window or wall-mounted air conditioner, this unit allows for versatile placement within a room. Plus, it has an exhaust hose that extends up to 60 inches. This AC can also be used as a fan or dehumidifier to remove excess moisture on muggy days. The activated carbon filter eliminates chemical fumes, smoke, and other toxic odors to keep air fresh.
Thanks to automatic draining technology that eliminates condensation and a washable pre-filter, this air conditioner is easy to maintain. Keeping noise under 56 decibels, it's also notably quiet for a portable unit. Other convenient features include easy setup, a protective cover, window kit, and remote control. At 73 pounds, this unit is quite heavy, but it has castor wheels for portability on smooth surfaces. However, it could be a challenge if you have carpeted floors.
Price at time of publish: $600
Dimensions: Cooling Area: 500 square feet | BTU: 14,000 BTU | Weight: 73 pounds | Window Size: Not applicable | Energy Star Certified: Yes
Best for Small Rooms
Frigidaire FFRE053WAE Window Air Conditioner
Compact and lightweight
Easy to install
Extra-long power cord
No smart features
With a 5,000 BTU rating, the Frigidaire FFRE053WAE Window Air Conditioner is an excellent choice for small rooms up to 150 square feet. This unit is compact and weighs under 40 pounds, making it an easy-to-install air conditioner. Plus, there are adjustable side panels to ensure the best fit in your window. Maintenance is a breeze thanks to a washable filter, and you will receive an alert whenever the filter needs to be cleaned. The extra-long power cord eliminates the need for an extension cord and allows for more versatile placement options.
This air conditioner offers an array of useful features, including a remote control, programmable 24-hour timer, and digital control panel. However, you will have to forgo any smart technology. In addition to traditional cooling, there are auto, dry, fan, and eco settings, giving you plenty of options to achieve the ideal temperature. To top it all off, this unit is Energy Star certified, so you can keep it running at peak efficiency. According to reports we read, the only major complaint is that it’s fairly noisy at 56 decibels, especially in a small space.
Price at time of publish: $219
Dimensions: 16 x 13.19 x 12.06 inches | Cooling Area: 150 square feet | BTU: 5,000 BTU | Weight: 38.2 pounds | Window Size: 23 to 36 inches wide | Energy Star Certified: Yes
Best for Larger Rooms
Whirlpool 24,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner
Cools up to 1,500 square feet
Three cooling speeds, eco mode, and sleep mode
Remote control and LCD display
Requires a 230-volt outlet
Some find it noisy
The Whirlpool 24,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner is powerful enough to cool up 1,500 square feet, making it an excellent choice for large rooms and open floor plans. Despite its force, this unit is highly efficient and has an EER rating of 10.4, saving you money on electricity. With three cooling speeds, as well as eco, auto, and sleep modes, you can achieve just the right temperature. Plus, eight-way louvers allow you to direct the air for more precise cooling. This unit comes with a remote control, LCD display, and 24-hour timer for nearly effortless operation.
With noise levels as low as 67 decibels, this air conditioner is relatively quiet considering its size. However, we read some reports that say it’s noisy. A window-mounting kit is included, allowing for simple installation. The air filter is removable and washable for easy maintenance, and an indicator light will alert you when the filter needs to be washed or replaced. Note that this unit requires a 230-volt outlet for operation; it will not work with a standard 120-volt outlet.
Price at time of publish: $825
Dimensions: 18.7 x 26.9 x 26.4 inches | Cooling Area: 1,500 square feet | BTU: 24,000 BTU | Weight: 130.1 pounds | Window Size: 30 to 41 inches wide | Energy Star Certified: Yes
Best Over-the-Sill Air Conditioner
Soleus Air 8,000 BTU Hybrid Window Air Conditioner
Doesn’t block window
Extremely quiet operation
Temperature-sensing remote control
Available with or without Wi-Fi
May not fit all windows
May require manual drainage in humid areas
The Soleus Window Air Conditioner fits easily over your windowsill, and its convenient installation sets it apart from the competition. Another benefit to its saddle-shaped design is that it puts the compressor outside your window, resulting in extremely quiet operation. Just keep in mind that you need 11 inches of clearance over the sill to ensure a proper fit. With 8,000 BTUs of cooling power, this air conditioner can be used in rooms up to 375 square feet. You have the option to purchase this unit with or without Wi-Fi connectivity. With Wi-Fi enabled, you can fully control the settings from your smartphone, Alexa, or Google Home.
This air conditioner has a 24-hour timer, as well as energy-saver and sleep modes, which will help you save on energy costs. For added peace of mind, this unit will automatically restart after a power outage. Another noteworthy feature is the temperature-sensing remote control, which helps to eliminate hot spots and keep the entire room cool. It also has a washable and reusable filter for easy maintenance. According to some reports, this air conditioner may need to be manually drained if you live in an area with high humidity.
Price at time of publish: $569
Dimensions: 18.7 x 28.9 x 15 inches | Cooling Area: 375 square feet | BTU: 8,000 BTU | Weight: Not listed, Window Size: 24–48 inches | Energy Star Certified: Yes
The LG LW6017R 6,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner earns our top spot thanks to its customizable cooling options and relatively quiet operation. For added convenience, it comes with a remote control and has a programmable 24-hour timer. If you have an extra-large room or open living area, the Whirlpool 24,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner is powerful enough to cool up to 1,500 square feet of space. It also comes with an array of convenient features, including a remote control with 24-hour timer.
What to Look for in an Air Conditioner
When shopping for an air conditioner, one of the first things you’ll want to consider is the style that works best for you. There are several options available, and they vary widely in terms of cost, capability, and installation requirements.
Two of the most common options for occasional users are portable air conditioners and window air conditioners. Both of these options are fairly inexpensive and can be easily installed without professional help. However, the downside of these options is that they’re typically only powerful enough to cool one room at a time, which means you’ll need multiple units if you want air conditioning throughout your home.
"Window ACs can be temporarily installed," explains Chris Roth, CEO and owner of National Technical Institute and a licensed HVAC technician. "If you are renting, this may be a good choice as you can take the unit with you when you move. You will, however, need a frame to secure the unit in a window which could require hiring some outside help."
"A portable unit can be on wheels and rolled from room to room and includes a tube to exhaust heat out of a window or through an opening in a wall," Roth says. "It is usually easy to store and is very versatile. It will, however, take up floor space and the exhaust tube must be re-positioned every time it is moved."
Another option is a through-the-wall or built-in air conditioner, which is a permanent style. These styles are installed into a “sleeve” in an exterior wall of your home. This is ideal if your room doesn’t have an acceptable window. However, as you may have guessed, this style of air conditioner requires a more complex initial installation, since you’ll need professional help to cut an appropriate-sized hole in the wall.
For more comprehensive air conditioning, you may want to consider a ductless mini-split system. This style of air conditioner has gained popularity lately, as it’s a good permanent alternative for homes without central HVAC. As its name implies, there are no ducts required, and these units are typically more powerful than window units. However, mini-split systems are also fairly expensive and complex to install.
Finally, there are central air systems, which require ductwork throughout your home. These are the most expensive and complicated to install and, as such, are typically most common in newly constructed homes.
If you’re installing a window air conditioner, you can take some simple measurements to ensure it fits into the window opening. Once you’ve opened the bottom window, measure the height from the bottom of the window to the top of the window ledge. Then measure the width of the window by the innermost part of each side. Most manufacturers display the opening size requirements for a particular model on the side of the box and under the product specifications. Our "best for small rooms" pick, the Frigidaire FFRE053WAE Window Air Conditioner, has adjustable side panels to fit the width of your window.
Room Size and Location
Next, you’ll want to consider where you plan to put the air conditioner and how much square footage it needs to cool. “The right-sized unit for your home will allow you to relax in comfort and efficiency, while a model that is too big or too small can leave you with insufficient climate control or excessive electric bills,” says Fournier.
The amount of heat an air conditioner can remove from a room is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units—larger rooms require a unit with a higher BTU. Here’s a general breakdown of the recommended room size and BTU from Energy Star:
- 100-300 square feet: 5,000-7,000 BTU per hour
- 300-450 square feet: 8,000-10,000 BTU
- 450-550 square feet: 10,000-12,000 BTU
- 550-700 square feet: 13,000-14,000 BTU
- 700-1,000 square feet: 18,000 BTU
- 1,000+ square feet: 21,000 BTU and up
You’ll also want to consider the location of the room as you decide what BTU is best. For instance, a room that has several large windows and gets direct sunlight for several hours a day will likely be hotter and therefore need a more powerful air conditioner. In this situation, experts recommend increasing the BTU by at least 10 percent. Similarly, if your air conditioner will be in the kitchen—and, as a result, will have to combat the heat from the stove—you’ll want to bump up the capacity by about 4,000 BTU.
“The average household spends 40 percent of its energy budget on heating and cooling, with Americans spending $24 billion each year to power their air conditioners alone,” says Fournier. “That means it's important to find savings anywhere you can—and getting the right size central air conditioning system is a key factor in doing so.”
Care and Maintenance
To keep your air conditioner in tip-top condition, you should clean and replace the filter as recommended by the manufacturer. Another key maintenance tip is to monitor the water pan inside the unit and wipe it dry with a rag or sponge. This will help ensure proper drainage of any condensation and prevent mold growth. Our "best for larger rooms" recommendation, the Whirlpool 24,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner, has a washable filter for easy maintenance and will alert you when the filter needs to be washed or replaced.
Energy Star Certifications
An air conditioner that earns the Energy Star certification saves energy and money simultaneously. Certified models provide superior sealing and insulation, preventing air from escaping and energy from being wasted. According to Energy Star, an Energy Star-certified room air conditioner uses 10 percent less energy than a standard model and costs about $70 per year to run (on average).
A noisy air conditioner can be bothersome, especially when you’re trying to sleep at night. An air conditioner’s noise level is measured in decibels, with most units typically operating between 40 and 60 decibels. To help put this in perspective, background music typically emits 60 decibels of sound, while the average office noise falls around 70 decibels, according to the Hearing Health Foundation. Some air conditioners offer a quiet mode, which can be particularly helpful in a bedroom, office, or other living space. Our "best window air conditioner" pick, the Midea Smart Inverter Window Air Conditioner, is the quiet option on our list, operating at only 42 decibels.
What are BTUs and why do they matter?
The amount of energy an air conditioner requires to remove heat and effectively cool down a room is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units. Determining the appropriate amount of BTUs directly correlates to the room’s square footage. To make sure you’re choosing the right air conditioner for your space, consider the dimensions of the room and compare it to the recommended BTU rating. You can use our helpful window air conditioning chart for reference.
Energy Star units around 7,000 BTU for rooms up to 300 square feet; 10,000 BTU units for up to 450 square feet; 12,000 BTU units for up to 550 square feet; and 14,000 BTU units for up to 700 square feet.
Do air conditioners control humidity?
According to Fournier, most air conditioner units “won’t don’t directly control the humidity in your home.” However, through the cooling process an air conditioner will remove some moisture from the indoor air. Fournier says that “properly sized and designed systems will do a good job of controlling the temperature and humidity” in a space. If dehumidifying is your goal, consider snagging one of the best dehumidifiers on the market or an air conditioner model that features a specific dehumidifier setting, like the Whynter ARC-14S Portable Air Conditioner, our “best portable air conditioner” pick.
How much does an air conditioner cost?
The cost of an air conditioner varies by type and functionality—you can spend anywhere from $150 to several thousand dollars. Window models start at around $150 but can cost upward of $1,000 if you need one with advanced features and a high BTU capacity. Portable air conditioners tend to be slightly more expensive, typically costing between $300 and $500. Wall-mounted air conditioners generally cost $500 or more, and mini-split options start at around $800, plus the cost of installation.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Sage McHugh, a home and lifestyle writer who has been contributing to The Spruce since 2019. For this roundup, she considered dozens of air conditioners, carefully evaluating their size, efficiency, cooling area, features, and performance. Sage also took hundreds of customer reviews and write-ups from third-party websites into account. For expert insight on air conditioners, she interviewed Traci Fournier, Vice President of Operations at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.
Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and product tester, also contributed to this article. She conducted research and spoke with Chris Roth, owner of National Technical Institute and a licensed HVAC technician, to determine the most important criteria for selecting the best AC for your home. She personally owns and loves the Windmill Air Conditioner, which she uses in her bedroom during the summer, thanks to its quiet operation.