The 6 Best Window Air Conditioners to Cool Your Home
To come up with this list of the best window air conditioners, we thoroughly researched various models and evaluated them on cooling power, energy efficiency, noise level, and extra features. For expert tips and recommendations, we consulted Gary McCoy, store manager at Lowe's, and Matthew Brown, merchant of ACs and fans, air quality, and floorcare at The Home Depot.
"Window AC units are an easy-to-install, affordable option to cool a single room by essentially reducing the temperature and humidity of a room's air and then recirculating the cool air with a fan," says McCoy.
Our top pick is the Midea U Smart Inverter Window Air Conditioner, which features a unique U-shaped design that allows you to open and close your window without uninstalling the unit.
Read on to learn more about our recommendations for the best window air conditioners, and keep scrolling to find out how to find the right one for your space, according to experts.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall Window Air Conditioner: Midea U Smart Inverter Window Air Conditioner
- Best Budget Window Air Conditioner: Frigidaire 5,000 BTU Window-Mounted Room Air Conditioner
- Best Window Air Conditioner for Large Rooms: LG Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner
- Best Window Air Conditioner for Small Rooms: GE 115 Volt Window Air Conditioner for Small Rooms
- Best Window Air Conditioner With Heat: LG Window Cooling & Heating Air Conditioner
- Best Smart Window Air Conditioner: The Windmill AC
Best Overall Window Air Conditioner: Midea U Smart Inverter Window Air Conditioner
Best Budget Window Air Conditioner: Frigidaire 5,000 BTU Window-Mounted Room Air Conditioner
Best Window Air Conditioner for Large Rooms: LG Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner
Best Window Air Conditioner for Small Rooms: GE 115 Volt Window Air Conditioner
Best Window Air Conditioner With Heat: LG Window Cooling & Heating Air Conditioner
Best Smart Window Air Conditioner: The Windmill AC
Our top pick, the Midea U Smart Inverter Window Air Conditioner, stands above the rest for its cooling power, energy efficiency, and innovative design that allows you to open and close the window without uninstalling the air conditioner. This setup means the compressor portion of the air conditioner is on the outside, which helps keep noise levels low.
How to Shop for Window Air Conditioners Like a Pro
Room Size and BTUs
The first thing to consider when shopping for a window air conditioner unit is the square footage of the space you intend to cool. You can determine any room's square footage by multiplying its length by its width.
Once you know the square footage of your space, choose a unit with the appropriate cooling capacity. The cooling capacity of a window air conditioner is rated in British thermal units (BTU). The higher the number, the larger the space it can cool. "Choosing the right size AC unit for the room is very important to ensure it will completely cool the room and remove humidity," says McCoy.
Ceiling height, room insulation, and sun exposure can also play a role in which size window air conditioner you choose. When deciding on BTUs, Brown suggests making the following adjustments based on your room's conditions:
- For rooms with excessive sunlight: "Select room air conditioners with 10 percent more BTUs than what is required by the size of the room."
- For the kitchen: "Select a unit with an additional 4,000 BTUs than what is required by the room size."
- For rooms that regularly contain more than two people: "Add an additional 600 BTUs per person."
A window air conditioner with significantly more BTUs than necessary will be inefficient and leave you with excessive electricity bills. But on the other hand, an underpowered AC will run constantly and still struggle to cool the room. Most window air conditioners range between 5,000 and 15,000 BTUs. To help you determine the right option for your space, here are McCoy's guidelines:
150–350 square feet
350–550 square feet
550–1,050 square feet
1,050–1,600 square feet
Energy-efficient air conditioners can be more expensive, but they'll save you money in the long run by cutting down on electricity bills. "The energy efficiency of an AC unit depends on several factors—everything from ensuring the correct size and installation of the unit to certain features that make them more energy efficient and even your own habits as a household," McCoy says.
To find the energy efficiency of a unit, refer to its combined energy efficiency ratio (CEER)—the number is usually between eight and 15. The higher the CEER, the more energy-efficient the air conditioner is. You can also look for models with sleep modes that adjust the temperature throughout the night for improved comfort and efficiency. Another way to check energy efficiency is by seeing if an air conditioner is Energy Star Certified, which means it uses at least 10 percent less energy than the U.S. federal standard.
If you're shopping for a window air conditioner for your bedroom or a nursery, you'll want to pay special attention to the noise level. This is measured in decibels (you might see it abbreviated as "dB"), but the number can vary based on what cooling output your air conditioner is set to. Anything below 60 decibels is considered a quiet window air conditioner, but the quietest models can get as low as 42 decibels.
Before purchasing a window air conditioner, always measure the dimensions inside your window frame and compare them to the minimum and maximum dimensions of the unit to make sure it'll fit. But it's okay if your air conditioner doesn't extend the entire width of your window—most units come with an installation kit that includes accordion panels to seal off extra space.
Window air conditioners are more powerful than other household appliances, which means you'll need to make sure your outlets meet the electrical requirements of your unit. Air conditioners with a lower BTU rating (under 15,000) tend to operate on 115-volt circuits, while large units operate on 230-volt circuits.
There are many different features to choose from when it comes to window air conditioners, depending on your needs and budget. Here are just a few to consider while shopping:
- Mechanical vs. Electronic Controls: Lower-priced window AC units often have mechanical controls, which allow you to manually adjust the fan speed and cooling levels within a certain range. Electronic (or digital) controls allow you to set the unit to your exact desired temperature. Most window air conditioners also come with a remote so you can adjust temperature settings or switch the unit on or off from across the room.
- Programmable Timers: This feature allows you to set your air conditioner to turn on or off within a number of hours, which helps reduce energy consumption (and your electricity bill). For example, you can set your air conditioner to turn on an hour before you get home so it's nice and cool when you arrive, without wasting energy while you're away.
- Smart Features: Many modern AC units are Wi-Fi enabled, so you can connect them to your phone or smart device and control them remotely. "If you have pets at home, having an AC unit that is Wi-Fi enabled means that you can adjust the temperature for your pet no matter where you are," says Brown. These smart appliances are also more accessible because consumers don't have to actually be in the room to adjust the temperature.
- Filter Sensors: It's important to regularly clean and change the filter on your air conditioner to keep it working efficiently. Consider choosing an air conditioner with a sensor or indicator light that will let you know when the filter needs to be cleaned.
- Additional Functions: Some air conditioners also have a dehumidifier/dry mode, which helps absorb moisture in the air without additional cooling. Others even have a heating mode that can warm the room in the winter.
Questions You Might Ask
How do window air conditioners work?
According to Brown, window air conditioners typically perform three basic functions: cooling, removing air moisture, and filtering the air. "[Window air conditioners] use an internal thermostat to monitor the temperature in the room it's situated in," Brown says. "When the temperature rises in the room, the thermostat triggers the unit to turn on. The air from the room is then pulled into the unit, cooled as it moves over the refrigerant coils, and blown back into the room, circulating cooler air."
Are window air conditioners better than portable air conditioners?
It all comes down to what your needs are. Generally speaking, window air conditioners are more energy efficient than portable options and don't take up any precious floor space. But if you're unable to install a window unit, a portable air conditioner is a good alternative.
"Both can cool a room, but advantages to a portable AC unit is that it is relatively easy to install (an exhaust hose goes through a window) and can be moved room to room," says McCoy. "It can also supplement larger systems and help cool apartments or rentals where you're unable to install a permanent unit."
How do you install a window air conditioner?
Because every model is different, you'll need to pay close attention to the manufacturer's instructions when installing your window air conditioner. Keep in mind that window AC units are heavier than they appear, so it's best to have a second person available to help.
Start by sliding the accordion panels on either side of the air conditioner and place it inside the open window. You may need to purchase a separate support bracket if you have a particularly heavy unit. Then you'll need to follow your unit's specific instructions for securing it in place—just don't forget to fill any gaps with the foam seal.
How do you care for and maintain window air conditioners and filters?
All air conditioners have a filter to trap dust and keep it from getting into the unit, so regular cleaning is a must. Some models have reusable filters that you can wash, while others have filters that need to be replaced regularly. To keep your AC unit functioning efficiently, make sure you clean or replace the filter once a month.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Melanie Fincher, associate commerce editor for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile this list, she spent hours researching window air conditioners and sifting through user reviews. For expert recommendations and tips, she consulted Gary McCoy, store manager at Lowe's, and Matthew Brown, merchant of ACs and fans, air quality, and floorcare at The Home Depot.