Surviving the summer heat can be difficult without an air conditioner. On a sweltering hot day, a fan is certainly not enough to cool your home. But if you crank up the cool air, all of the temperature-related misery will melt away.
If your home doesn’t come equipped with central air conditioning systems, trying to figure out which unit is best for your house, condo, or apartment can easily make your body heat rise. Window-mounted air conditioning systems all pretty much look the same, but they’re rated to be effective in spaces of varying size and can require drastically different energy consumption, per hour, to use. This can make finding the right one to install in your home difficult. So, we did the research for you.
After testing air conditioning units in every setting, from the scorching heat of a North Carolina summer to our climate-controlled testing labs, we found that the GE Profile Series PHC08LY(available at Amazon for $427.50) is the all-around best window air conditioner. It offers an agreeable balance of cooling performance, energy efficiency, modern tech integration, and stylish design.
These are the best window air conditioners we tested ranked, in order:
The GE Profile Series PHC08LY is a window-mounted unit that blends top-notch cooling capacity with a variety of unique features, with a bit of style and elegance.
During testing, this 8,000 BTU (British Thermal Units) AC unit reduced our 340 square foot test area’s temperature by 10°F in only 43 minutes and lowered the room’s humidity by 14 percent in the same amount of time. On top of this, it's a quiet air conditioner. While using the GE Profile Series’ Quiet Mode it only put out 49.3 dBA of sound -- that’s less noise than an average household refrigerator makes. On its maximum cool setting, the decibel level ramped up to 59.7 dBA (about as loud as a normal conversation), making it the second quietest model we’ve ever tested.
With the GE appliances app (iTunes and Google Play), users can remotely control and schedule the GE Profile Series while monitoring its power usage and temperature settings. It can also be controlled and monitored via voice through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, and IFTTT. Finally, the GE Profile Series has an Energy Star energy efficiency rating and offers a number of energy-saving features such as power consumption reports and an automatically dimming LED display.
Our top choice for small spaces is the Keystone KSTAW05B. It’s a 5,000 BTU window air conditioner designed for use in small spaces, between 100 to 200 square feet. Even with its budget-friendly pricing, the Keystone still ships with a number of desirable features, including a fan-only mode, dehumidification options, an LCD remote, an energy-saver mode, and a 24-hour on/off timer.
While the Keystone, with its lower BTU rating, can’t hold its own against air conditioners designed to cool larger spaces, it still proved surprisingly efficient at cooling our 340 square foot test space. In just under two hours, the Keystone dropped the temperature in the room by 10°F. We also found that it projected air well, making the room feel instantly cooler before the temperature had actually dropped. So far as dehumidification goes, it lowered the humidity in our test space from 66 percent to 52 percent in under two hours.
I'm Kevin Oliver. I’m a reviewer for sites like Reviewed, BGR, Freshome, and TechRadar. I have a passion for diving headfirst into complicated topics and distilling them into something worth reading. For eight years, I’ve also had success in the professional audio world as both a touring musician and a sound engineer. This qualifies me to delve into the nitty-gritty of products—like window air conditioners—where noise can be a big factor.
Lindsey Vickers, the sleep writer at Reviewed, also contributed to testing window air conditioners. She followed the testing protocols and criteria to build upon our initial testing and add additional products.
To make sure we were fair in our evaluation, we put 11 A/C units (ranging from 5,000 to 14,000 BTU) through their paces in the same 340 square foot room, taking into account the expected rate of cooling of each unit for a room size with that square footage. After all, comparing a 5,000 BTU product to an 8,000 BTU to a 12,000 BTU appliance is truly a case of apples and oranges.
We installed each air conditioner in the same room, each time making sure the temperature was as close to 80°F as possible, before turning the AC unit on at full max. Eleven temperature and humidity sensors were also set up in the room, which we used to see how long it took for the room to cool down to 70°F—both while it was empty and when there was someone in the room. A noisy unit can be a deal-breaker for bedroom use, so we measured the noise level at the center of the room using a decibel meter while the window units were running. The decibel meter was set to the dBA weighting: a corrected form of decibel measurement in which low, often imperceivable frequencies are reduced, making it a more accurate measurement of what the human ear perceives as loudness.
In addition to collecting hard data, we also evaluated the air conditioners based on a subjective basis, including how easy it was to install, replace its air filters, understand its manual, and use each unit. We took the weight, general awkwardness, ease of storage, and portability of each unit into account. And since no one wants an AC unit that excessively ratchets up their power bill, we measured the power consumption of each unit using an electricity usage monitor.
How Do Air Conditioners Work?
Back in the day, the best way to keep cool was to spend your days below ground or in the shade where the heat of the sun couldn't slowly roast the joy out of your life. That all changed in 1902 when Willis Carrier invented the first electrically-powered air conditioner. It was a massive device designed to pump cool air into large spaces, such as a warehouse or a movie theatre. Over the next century, air conditioners have changed a lot—you can now buy a room unit small enough to fit in your bedroom window. Central air conditioners have become powerful and affordable enough to chill an entire house, unlike the expensive massive evaporative coolers of days gone by. But the basic principle behind how this cooling hardware has worked over the past century has remained much the same.
In basic terms, all air conditioners consist of four parts: a compressor, an evaporator, a condenser, and an expansion module. As the warm air in your home passes over the winding, tubular surface of the evaporator, refrigerant chemicals inside the tubes absorb the heat in the air. As a result, the air's temperature is cooled. As the refrigerant is heated, it transforms from a liquid to a gas. The vaporized refrigerant is sucked into the air conditioning system's compressor. Here, the refrigerant is, well, compressed, raising both the amount of pressure it's under and its temperature. The resulting hot, pressurized gas is then forced into the condenser, where it is transformed back into a liquid state as the heat in the refrigerant is radiated away. The condenser on an air conditioner is easy to identify: just look for the grid of metal fins located on the part of the A/C unit positioned outside of your home. Once the liquid refrigerant has been cooled in the condenser, it's recirculated back into the evaporator where the whole process starts all over again.
One of the fringe benefits that come from this method of cooling is that, as the air is cooled by the refrigerant passing through an AC unit's evaporator, the moisture in the air is cooled enough to transform into a liquid, which collects on the evaporator. As such, when the once-hot air is recirculated back into the room where your air conditioner is installed, it's not only cooler but also dryer--that's a huge win for those living in a humid environment. The water pulled from the air is typically channeled to drain outside of your home or, depending on the type of air conditioner in question, collected in a bin to be disposed of later.
Other Window Air Conditioners We Tested
While the Midea brand may not be as well-known as Frigidaire, LG, or GE, in the United States, the Midea SmartCool MAW08S1YWT was one of the best AC units we tested.
It comes loaded with tons of features, some of which are typically only found on more expensive air conditioners, including a dedicated app for controlling and monitoring your AC unit and voice control through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
When it came down to performance, the Midea SmartCool more than hold its own against the competition, registering a 10°F and 15-percent humidity drop in only an hour on a day that was nearly 100°F outside and 82°F in the 340 square foot test room.
Installation and removal of the unit was a breeze, with Midea including clear instructions for installation and weather-proof sealing. All in all, this was easily one of the best units we tested and one that is certainly worth considering for your room.
The LG LW8017ERSM is the updated version of our previous top pick, the LW8016ER. This unit looks virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor and put up a strong performance during testing, dropping the temperature by 10°F in only 40 minutes.
One major addition to this updated AC unit is the integrated LG SmartThinQ technology that allows you to connect to and control your LW8017ERSM from anywhere using LG’s app (iTunes and Google Play), ensuring that you never have to return to a hot, muggy house again. It’s also compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
The LG LW8017ERSM required more elbow grease on the assembly side of things than much of the competition. At 62.7 dBA, it also in the middle of the pack in terms of noise level on maximum settings. While it couldn’t grab our top spot, the LG LW8017ERSM carries the legacy of its predecessor as a simple yet powerful workhorse of an air conditioner, while also adding handy WiFi integration. For the price, it’s one of the best window air conditioners on the market.
The surprisingly sleek 8,000 BTU Gallery Quiet Temp FGRQ083WAE (also sold as the FGRQ0833U1 by some retailers) from Frigidaire certainly earns its name as the quietest of all the A/C units (on maximum settings) we tested, softly boasting 56.4 dBA (quieter than a normal conversation).
During testing, the Gallery Quiet Temp cooled the room by 10°F and lowered the room’s humidity by 12 percent in one hour. The design of this unit’s front vent forced the air into the center of the room, giving the perception of a rapid room-wide temperature drop. In fact, our center of the room sensor dropped a dramatic 18°F over the course of the hour. While other units boasted similar cooling power, none did it as quietly as the Frigidaire Gallery Quiet Temp.
Ease of installation combined with a simple interface and easy-to-understand instructions made operating the Quiet Temp a breeze. This Frigidaire also features a handy remote and a programmable 24-hour on/off timer to ensure the room cools when you want it to. The only real drawback to the Frigidaire Gallery Quiet Temp is the price tag, which at the time of testing was one of the pricier units we tested. However, the value can be seen in the Quiet Temp’s obviously high build quality and attention to detail.
This is a well-designed air conditioner that gets the job done efficiently and quietly, making it the perfect 8,000 BTU air conditioner for a bedroom or office.
The Haier QHM08LX is a simple and well-designed air conditioner that offers strong cooling and dehumidification capabilities. In other words: it’s simple and gets the job done.
The Haier was fighting the hottest testing day (over 100°F with 78 percent humidity), but performed admirably, dropping the temperature by 10°F over an hour and a half, while dropping the humidity a staggering 19 percent over the same period of time. Aside from a 24-hour timer, the Haier has little to offer in the way of features.
The Friedrich Chill CP08G10B is a well-built air conditioner that features relatively simple installation—including a slide-out chassis for a through-the-wall application—plus an oscillating fan setting to spread the “chill” more evenly.
In the end, the Friedrich Chill CP08G10B was too pricey to be considered for our top spot. However, if there’s extra room in the budget, or you’re shopping for the bedroom, this unit just may be what you’re looking for.
This affordable air conditioner really has a lot going for it. At 52 pounds, it’s six pounds lighter than the LG LW8016ER, and features a robust remote control with a built-in thermostat, allowing you to program the A/C to shut off when the temperature around the remote itself reaches the target.
Back in 2016, we found this model’s fan noise to be relatively intrusive, and there’s no drain for whatever humidity may accumulate. Still, it’s a decent option if our top picks are sold out.
The LG Dual Inverter LW1517IVSM is the only 14,000 BTU unit we tested, making it impossible to compare to the other units we tested. This unit was designed to cool a much larger room (up to 800 square feet) and we’re looking at this air conditioner on its own merits.
With a shipping weight of 102 pounds, this LG was much more challenging to install than the other, smaller units that we called in for testing. While two people are always recommended for installing something as heavy as an air conditioner, this unit makes it an absolute requirement.
Once installed, it performed as well as one would expect -- outpacing its much smaller competition in cooling our 340 square foot test space. In only half an hour, the LG Dual Inverter 14,000 BTU completed the 10-degree test and actually dropped the center of the room by 11°F. It also lowered the room’s humidity by 14 percent in that time.
This unit offers LG's SmartThinQ technology, allowing its user to control the unit via LG’s smartphone app, as well as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The Dual Inverter is designed for energy efficiency to reduce consumption by 25 percent. It also features a more updated and sleeker design than the LG8017ERM near the top of our list.
If you’re in need of cooling a larger room, the LG Dual Inverter LW1517IVSM holds much of the best that LG has to offer with cooling power that truly packs a punch.
The Frigidaire FHWW083WB1 wasn’t as effective at cooling as our top picks. It took 40 minutes to bring the room temperature from 80°F to 74°F. But 35 minutes later, the temperature had only gone down a fraction of a degree—still hanging just above 74°F. (We were aiming for 70°F.) The unit was more consistent when it came to lowering humidity.
Installation was fairly straightforward. The Frigidaire instructions were clear and useful, and the manual provided visuals that made it easy to identify parts and how to attach them.
However, fastening the vinyl side panels to the unit was tedious. The panels had to be slid into small brackets in the metal casing of the AC unit, a process that took multiple tries on each side. Once installed, the side panels seemed to form a good seal, but the seal around the AC as a whole was a different story. There was a visible gap, from certain angles, between the bottom of the unit and the window frame. This could be addressed with insulation, but isn’t optimal.
The LG LW8016ER was our top pick when we first tested window AC units in 2016, but has since been usurped. In recent testing, the unit seemed promising given its size and heft, but it wasn’t very efficient at cooling. It took just over an hour-and-a-half for the unit to drop the room temperature from 79°F to just below 74°F, far slower than most of the other models we tested. The unit did well at decreasing humidity, bringing the room from 57% humidity to 48%.
The instruction manual was decent, but not great. The images in the manual weren’t super clear, in the text or illustrations, of different parts and how to assemble the unit. Figuring out which bolts to use to attach the side panels, based on the manual’s diagrams, for example, was more difficult than necessary. Installation and removal was also a challenge due to the sheer size and weight of the unit.
The unit itself was loud to run, but the initial rattle it exhibited when it was first turned on wore off over time. The seal in the window seemed good—there weren’t visible gaps, and the unit’s size meant the side panels had little space to fill in my 24” wide window opening.
Lindsey writes about sleep, lifestyle, and more for Reviewed. In her waking hours, she likes to spend time outside, read, cook, and bake. She holds a master’s in journalism from Boston University and bachelors' degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from the University of Utah.
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