Air Conditioner Buying Guide

A Guide To Discover The Best Air Conditioner For Your Home

The Greatest Appliances Air Conditioner Buying Guide shares all you need to know to make an intelligent decision before buying your next AC.

Our Air Conditioner Buying Guide realizes that, during the summertime when it starts getting hot outside, we worry about chilling out inside. If you do not have central air conditioning, an energy-efficient and cheaper alternative exists for you to cool one or two rooms with room air conditioners.

If you want to find the best air conditioners for your needs, be sure to check out our Air Conditioner Reviews. You should also check out all of our Appliance Buying Guides.

image of an LG window air conditioner for our air conditioner buying guide

When you’re stoked to beat the summer heat, you are in plenty of company: Believe it or not, over 6.5 million window air conditioners are bought every year. On average, 13% of the average annual utility bills are due to cooling systems.

Therefore, choosing the best air conditioner unit is critical for you. If you buy an AC unit that is too small, you will find yourself still sweltering in the heat because it will fail to properly cool the room.

On the other hand, if you find an air conditioner that is too large, it will likely cool the room too quickly to allow for the removal of moisture. Your end result is being in a clammy and cold space. Yuck!

Our Air Conditioner Buying Guide Lists Things To Take Into Consideration

Notice How Loud The Unit Is

ACs that scored excellent or very good in our noise tests quiet enough that just about the only sound you may hear is the running of the fan. According to our Air Conditioner Buying Guide, the quieter the better.

Air conditioners which only scored fair for noise might wake you up if you’re a light sleeper, even when set on low, and are just too loud to rest peacefully if the unit is set on high.

man considering installation of window air conditionerConsider the Window Location

Window air conditioners typically do a better job blowing air in one direction. That can be an issue if your window isn’t located on the center of the wall. To cool a room in a manner which is uniform, you’ll want to direct air to the center of the room, so identify whether or not your air conditioner should be blowing air to the left or to the right. A number of models come equipped with fan arms that you can swivel.

Ensure Correct Installation

In order to get the most bang for your buck with a window AC, you will want to ensure you have it installed properly. The majority of window units are made for double-hung windows. However, you may want to think about getting a through-the-wall AC if you have casement windows.

You also want to be sure that your window unit is able to drain properly. This requires it be level. You will also need to move and devices that generate heat, such as a lamp or a television.

Locate the Filter

Be certain that you’re able to easily access the filter in order to clean it, something you will have to do constantly in order to keep the unit in the best condition possible.

Smart Air Conditioners

A number of air conditioners have gotten more intelligent, giving you the ability to adjust and control them from your smartphone. You will be able to interconnect them to other cooling units throughout your house.

Keep an Eye on the Warranty

Certain air conditioners have longer warranties than others. Prior to purchasing a new AC, be sure to check out the manufacturer’s website to get any information about the warranty for the brand and model that you’re interested in buying. Also, ask the retailer about the warranty as well.

Our Air Conditioner Buying Guide Suggests You Find Out What Size You Need

Prior to getting into the weeds of price and features, begin by making a determination of the size of unit you have to buy for the area you need to cool, as well as where the unit will be placed. Window air conditioners possess cooling capabilities that range from as low as 5,000 up to 12,500 British thermal units (Btu).

A general rule of thumb to follow, an air conditioner requires 20 Btu for each square foot of living space. To measure your room, multiply the length of the room by the width. But don’t buy based off of Btu alone. Energy Star suggests that you take into account other considerations — like the height of the ceiling, the location of where the unit will be installed, and the size of your doorways and windows.

  • When the room is shaded heavily, decrease capacity by 10 percent.
  • If the room is very sunny, raise capacity by 10 percent.
  • When the room is occupied by more than 2 people, give an extra 600 Btu for each extra person.
  • If the AC is going to be installed in a kitchen, raise the capacity by 4,000 Btu.

Our Air Conditioner Buying Guide Helps Determine Which Model is for you

A number of the smaller window air conditioners typically cost less than $200, making them easy to select—however only when you need to cool a very small area. If the area you need to cool is larger, you should focus your reviews on air conditioners that are more of a match to the amount of square footage of the area.

Just about all the window units we examined meets the most recent Energy Star standards, which requires them to use 15 % less of the energy than air conditioners that do not have Energy Star certification. The best models were very quiet when running, provided convenient controls, and were functional under brownout conditions.

image of spt window air conditionerWindow ACs

Small—Capacities range from 5,000 to 6,500 Btu/hr. Cools approximately 100 to 300 square feet. These are the smallest, lightest, and cheapest, but they are unable to cool a room that is bigger than 300 square feet adequately. 

Medium—Capacities ranging from 7,000 to 8,200 Btu/hr. Cools approximately 250 to 400 square feet. Prices start creeping up, and their size and weight can make them more difficult to install and remove for winter storage.

Large—Capacities ranging from 9,800 to 12,500 Btu/hr. Cools roughly 350 to 650 square feet. Best for cooling a big room, however the unit is difficult to install and awkward because of the bulk and weight. 

image of newair portable acPortable ACs

Portable air conditioners are manufactured for homes in that have window configurations or building regulations which make the installation of window units impossible or improbable. The portable ACs in our tests vary in size from 5,000 to 15,500 Btu. However, be sure to avoid comparing portable and window air conditioners by just that measurement.

Our most recent testing results find that portable air conditioners come up short at cooling as unlike claims made by most manufacturers. Also, they’re costly and use up more energy than window units of similar size. They are also usually more noisy than window-mounted units. And even though they are technically “portable,” their overall weight (anywhere from 50 to 80 lbs.) cause them to be cumbersome and difficult to roll across carpets or thresholds.
Price: $300-600.

Split Ductless ACs

image of a split ductless air conditioner

Split ductless is an intelligent method of adding air conditioning to a certain number of rooms without having the need to open up walls to install ductwork—like you would need to with a central-air system—or install and remove multiple window air conditioners each year. In our past reviews, all performed very well when it came to cooling and were much more quiet indoors than their window counterparts. Whenever the setting was low, you couldn’t even hear them.

Split ductless air conditioners are more costly than window or portable units, but is considerably cheaper than central air if you only need to cool a couple of rooms. Also, professional installation is recommended for these units. However, if you want to cool an entire home, the most cost-effective air conditioner would be a central air unit.
$1000 and up.

Our Air Conditioner Buying Guide Lists Features To Consider

All of the units in our AC Ratings do an outstanding job of keeping space cool. They also provide convenient features such as digital displays, built-in timers, and remote controls. A lot of the units provide touchpad controls, and a couple of them are capable of changing the direction of the airflow automatically to disperse cool air throughout the room in a more efficient manner. Keep an eye out for air conditioner features which positively affect performance and efficiency.

Directional Airflow Vents

Air conditioners provide louvers you can make adjustments in order to direct airflow either vertically or horizontally. A number of units have fans which oscillate. But the majority of them are better at directing air toward one side or the other. Take your room layout into consideration and search for a model which allows you to direct the airflow in the area that you need it.

Remote Control

A remote control lets you adjust your AC settings from wherever you’re at in the room. A number of ACs have temperature sensors built in to relay the room’s temperature (instead of the temperature that you’ve set the unit to.)

Our Air Conditioner Buying Guide Lists Our Favorite Brands


Friedrich is a smaller, more costly brand of window air conditioners that are typically available at regional appliance retailers. Window air units range in price from $200 to $1,200. Friedrich makes units with Btu from 5,000 to 24,000 and units that are Energy Star certified.


Frigidaire air conditioners can be purchased in independent and regional appliance retailers, as well as at Lowe’s and Best Buy. Units range in price from $100 to $500, and in Btu from 5,000 to 25,000. Frigidaire makes units that are Energy Star certified.


GE is the industry leader in window air conditioners. This brand can be purchased at a wide range of independent and regional appliance retailers. Additionally, at Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart as well. GE’s window air units range in price from $150 to $300, and in Btu from 5,000 to 25,000. GE makes units that are Energy Star certified.


Haier can be purchased at both Wal-Mart and BJ’s as well as through independent appliance dealers. It makes Energy Star units. Prices range $100 to $500, and Btu from 5,000 to 24,000.

Kenmore (Sears)

ACs for Kenmore are manufactured by LG and are sold at Sears and Kmart, for $100 to $500. Kenmore sells units with Btu from 5,000 to 24,000 and units that are Energy Star certified.


LG is a national brand available in a wide variety of independent and regional appliance retailers. Also, its available at Home Depot. Window air units range in price from $150 to $500, and in Btu from 5,000 to 25,000. The brand has units that are Energy Star certified.

We hope you’ve learned a lot from this air conditioner buying guide. Enough to know exactly what to look for in your next air conditioning unit.