In many regions, an air conditioner is a must-have for surviving hot and muggy summers, but a good air conditioner can be quite the investment. It’s a decision that matters, so we ran these air conditioners through a series of tests to check how well they worked and how loudly they ran.
The right pick should be able to last through the seasons, have a suitable cooling capacity, and have a comfortable (or at least tolerable) noise level. The best air conditioner units can cool a room or an entire home quickly and efficiently, providing sweet relief from the summer heat. Read on for the best air conditioner models to stay cool all summer long.
- BEST OVERALL: Midea 8,000 BTU U-Shaped Air Conditioner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Midea 5,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner
- UPGRADE PICK: Midea Duo Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner
- BEST WINDOW: The Windmill AC Smart Inverter Air Conditioner
- BEST PORTABLE: Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
- BEST FOR SMALL ROOMS: SoleusAir 6,000 BTU Saddle Air Conditioner
- BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Midea 12,000 BTU U-Shaped Air Conditioner
- BEST APP: Hisense 350-Square-Foot Window Air Conditioner
- ALSO CONSIDER: LG 10,000 BTU Dual Inverter Portable Air Conditioner
How We Tested the Best Air Conditioners
No one wants to spend money on an air conditioner only to find out that it’s low quality—that’s totally not cool. So we spent months testing the air conditioners on this list to ensure we knew how well they would work and that they’d be up to the task.
We tested these units in several different ways. We compared how easy they were to install, how loud they were, how well they cooled, and then how well any smart functions or additional features worked. We evaluated how quickly they cooled rooms on the hottest days of the year and how well they handled sticky humidity. Some models couldn’t quite cut it (either they were too loud, too heavy, too basic, or not effective), so we did not place them on the list. However, all of the included best air conditioner picks excelled in particular areas and were given awards based on their strengths.
Our Top Picks
Installing an air conditioner is the best way to beat the summer heat. The following air conditioners were chosen based on research and hands-on testing for their efficiency, output, and reasonable noise level to keep a home comfortable in sweltering weather.
With its innovative U-shaped design, this Midea air conditioner is more energy efficient and quieter than standard window units. While standard units require the window to be open a foot or more, the Midea straddles the window, allowing the window to close between the blower and compressor. With a tighter seal between the window and the outside, this unique model is 35 percent more energy efficient than traditional window air conditioners, which helps offset its significantly higher price tag.
This design also eliminates excessive noise, as the compressor sits outside. With the noisy compressor on the other side of the glass, this air conditioner produces 42 decibels (dB), which is only slightly noisier than a library.
To top off its great design, this AC unit includes sleep, energy saver, and auto shutoff modes to further improve efficiency. Plus, it’s also a smart device, capable of connecting to a home’s Wi-Fi for control via a smart device or virtual assistant for cooling control on demand.
Though installation certainly took some effort—it comes with several small components and hardware—once installed, this machine was easy to enjoy. It was so quiet that it was barely noticeable, and it cooled our room by 5 degrees Fahrenheit in just 15 minutes.
We also found all of the control methods very easy to use and understand. The control panel is straightforward and using the remote is a snap. The Wi-Fi app was easy to set up and connect as well, and we actually found that to be the easiest control method for this AC.
The Midea has a few more perks, too. Its design allows more light into the room than typical window air conditioners, and we liked that we could tuck our curtains behind it for more privacy. Needless to say, we’re believers in U-shaped air conditioners now.
Read our full review: Midea U-Shaped Air Conditioner
- BTU rating: 8,000
- Room size: 350 square feet
- Combined Energy Efficiency Rating (CEER): 15
- Allows in more light than a typical window air conditioner
- You can open your windows to let in fresh air with the unit in place
- Compressor is outside for quiet operation
- Clean, modern design doesn’t stick out in a room
- Installation is not straightforward; requires several brackets, hardware, and foam strips
Get the Midea 8,000 BTU air conditioner at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.
A high-quality air conditioner doesn’t need to come at a luxury price tag, as proven by this compact window unit from Midea. This small 5,000 BTU air conditioner suits rooms up to 150 square feet, ideal coverage for keeping a small bedroom or office cool. With its mini size, the unit is easy to install. Plus, mounting hardware is included, and installation requires minimal modifications to the window frame, also making it an excellent option for renters.
Once installed, this Midea unit has a reasonably efficient CEER rating of 12.1, so it won’t put a huge dent in utility bills. Ongoing maintenance is also simple with this unit. It includes a reusable, washable filter to minimize maintenance costs. The air conditioner operates at around 56 dB, so it won’t be too loud and might offer a bit of white noise for light sleepers. It’s also simple to use, with just two knobs to adjust.
During our test, we found that this Midea was extremely easy to install thanks to its lighter weight at just 42.1 pounds (compared to 55.55 pounds for the model above). We just had to open the window, pop it in, and lower the sash before adjusting the side panels. It also cooled the small bedroom we placed it in quickly, and although it’s not the quietest model on the list, it’s far from loud. The louvers are a little one-dimensional as they only adjust side to side, not up and down, but overall, that’s a small complaint for an AC that is this affordable.
- BTU rating: 5,000
- Room size: 150 square feet
- CEER: 12.1
- Compact and easy to install in small windows and rooms up to 150 square feet
- Simple 2-knob control leads to easy setup and operation
- Decent CEER rating for a unit that doesn’t cost much or include technology extras
- Louver adjustments are 1-dimensional, only adjusting side to side
Get the Midea 5,000 BTU air conditioner at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Wayfair.
The Midea Duo combines cooling and heating technology with smart technology, making it a great choice for anyone who wants powerful air conditioning and convenient controls. This 14,000 BTU model can cool, heat, dehumidify, and circulate air in rooms up to 550 square feet. Its variable-speed inverter technology also improves this model’s energy efficiency.
Plus, thanks to its Wi-Fi capabilities, it connects with the Midea app, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa for extra user-friendly controls. The control panel and the included remote offer additional adjustment options.
We took this unit to task on a hot and humid day to really test how quickly it could cool a room. Setup was practically a breeze compared to other portable units we’ve installed. The Midea’s built-in hoses prevented us from having to wrestle with any hoses and attachments. The app was also easy to set up. This was a great start.
Once it was running, we felt relief in minutes, and within a half hour, our living area was considerably cooler. We were incredibly impressed with this air conditioner’s ability to cool effectively and quickly. Its air duct system also projects cool air farther (up to 26 feet away), which we were able to feel even in the next room.
While this portable AC/heater weighs in at a whopping 77.16 pounds, we found it easy to move thanks to its four-wheel design.
- BTU rating: 14,000 cooling; 12,000 heating
- Room size: 550 square feet
- CEER: 12.3
- Powerful fans circulate air throughout the entire room and move air up to 26 feet
- 12.3 is on the higher end for a portable AC/heater
- Inverter technology delivers quiet (42 dB on low cooling) and efficient operation
- Voice control option is convenient and unique for a portable AC/heater
- Heavy model requires extra effort to move from one floor to another
Get the Midea Duo air conditioner at Lowe’s or Walmart.
Anyone hunting for a window unit that looks good and keeps the noise to a minimum will want to consider the Windmill 8,000 BTU smart air conditioner. This model features a modern design that looks great in the window, and it comes with solid foam side panels that are customizable for a clean look. These panels also help, along with the inverter technology, to keep this unit quiet, running at noise levels as low as 42 dB.
The Windmill comes with several features as well. It has a digital remote control and a clean control panel on the front of the air conditioner. It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or simply the Windmill app. It’s not quite as efficient as other inverter air conditioners, but it’s not a utility sapper either.
During our test, we liked the look of the Windmill. First, it has a clean, modern style that doesn’t detract from the interior of the home. Then, rather than flimsy accordion side panels, the foam covers really clean up the look. On top of that, it was very quiet, and rather than blowing air straight out, it pointed it upward to better facilitate the cooling process.
- BTU rating: 8,000
- Room size: 350 square feet
- CEER: 11.6
- It runs as quietly as 42 dB for barely audible cooling
- It has a modern design with foam side panels, providing a clean look
- It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or the Windmill app
- Not as efficient as some other inverter-type air conditioners
Get the Windmill air conditioner at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Wayfair.
This 14,000 BTU portable unit from Whynter is a mobile and powerful pick to cool down rooms of up to 500 square feet. It features three operating modes (cool, fan, or dehumidify) to keep indoor air comfortable. A dual-hose design allows for a separate intake and exhaust hose, increasing airflow and efficiency to provide quick cooling. Convenience features include a simple setup, a 24-hour programmable timer, and a filter system with a prefilter and activated-carbon filter.
Maintaining this AC unit is easy. Auto-draining technology helps drain condensation automatically, and a washable prefilter is easy to clean to keep the air fresh. Running at around 56 dB, this air conditioner is reasonably quiet for a portable unit. However, it’s also quite heavy—weighing 73 pounds—so it may be best for 1-floor homes. It also has a very low CEER of just 7.69.
While it’s a bit of an armful, we found that the wheels were a big help with moving it about. It set up quickly in our 600-square-foot room (slightly larger than it’s rated for) and it had the ability to cool the room in just 10 minutes. We also appreciated its slim design, a great difference from bulkier, more traditional portable air conditioners.
- BTU rating: 14,000
- Room size: 500 square feet
- CEER: 7.69
- Wheeled design makes it simple to move from room to room
- 3 operating modes (cool, fan, or dehumidify) provides some flexibility
- Dual-hose design pulls fresh air from outside while exhausting warm, moist air
- At 73 pounds, this portable unit is quite heavy
- The CEER rating is fairly low, which is common for large portable air conditioners
Get the Whynter air conditioner at Amazon or The Home Depot.
The SoleusAir over-the-sill air conditioner offers quiet, cooling comfort without spoiling the view. This saddle-shaped air conditioner rests on the window sill and hangs below it, so it only blocks about 4 inches of window. This newer-style design provides plenty of natural light while also giving users the ability to open the window when they like. Plus, because the compressor is outside, this unit runs quietly—as low as 38 dB. It also features an inverter design that allows it to be more energy efficient than many other models with a CEER of 12.1.
In testing, we found that installation was relatively easy, despite its hefty weight of 67.7 pounds. We also appreciated having a nearly fully functional window, and the unit even proved compatible with our window’s locking system. The display and remote control were also very easy to use. We set it up in our office and enjoyed that it was so quiet that we could run it during conference calls. The display and remote control are also very easy to use. Our only objection is that it’s rather large for a 6,000 BTU unit, but other than that, we found it to be a very capable air conditioner, particularly for smaller rooms.
[Editor’s note: Since we tested this model, SoleusAir released an upgraded version of this model that includes Wi-Fi capabilities, which we hope to test soon.]
- BTU rating: 6,000
- Room size: 275 square feet
- CEER: 12.1
- Once installed, it blocks just 4 inches of window, leaving room for light and the ability to open the window
- Inverter technology helps it run efficiently (12.1 CEER) for reduced energy consumption
- Runs at volumes as low as 38 dB for quiet spaces
- Heavy for a 6,000 BTU unit at 67.7 pounds
Get the SoleusAir air conditioner at Amazon.
Those in search of a quiet air conditioner with the power to cool larger rooms may want to consider the Midea 12,000 BTU window air conditioner. Like the 8,000 BTU model listed above, it also features a U-shaped design, so most of the noise remains outside. It can run noticeably quieter on the inside while still cooling rooms up to 550 square feet in size. It also has three modes from which to choose, including fan, cool, and dehumidifier.
This unit comes with a bracket that adjusts to fit the window and the house, as well as various foam pieces of different thicknesses to seal out noise and the elements. This unit also includes a remote control, a downloadable app, and Wi-Fi compatibility.
We found that this 12,000 BTU U-shaped air conditioner quickly, efficiently, and quietly cools large rooms. It sits on the same bracket as the smaller units so it installs securely, though it is pretty heavy at nearly 60 pounds. The app and remote control are very easy to use, and when the unit kicks on, it’s barely noticeable unless you feel the breeze. We loved that it allowed plenty of light in around the air conditioner and that we could open the window if we wanted to.
- BTU rating: 12,000
- Room size: 550 square feet
- CEER: 15
- U-shaped design keeps noise outside while the air conditioner runs smoothly and quietly inside
- Included brackets are very secure, making installation much safer than traditional window units
- App is easy to use and remote has a built-in digital screen to see settings easily
- Comparatively heavy at 58.86 pounds; weight makes installation challenging
Get the Midea 12,000 BTU air conditioner at Amazon.
With plenty of smart features and a clean design, the Hisense air conditioner offers convenient cooling in an aesthetically pleasing package. This tech-friendly unit supports Wi-Fi and can connect with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa with the ConnectLife app, allowing you to set up schedules or adjust the air conditioner from your phone. It also comes with a remote control to adjust settings and fan speeds. As for its cooling power, this air conditioner features an 8,000 BTU output and can cool rooms up to 350 square feet.
During testing, we found a lot to like about the Hisense. Installation was quite straightforward as there were no tricky brackets to mount, and once installed, we liked the modern look of the control panel and grill. Programming it with the ConnectLife app was also simple, and we liked that the app enabled us to set schedules, adjust temperatures, share access, and check on the air conditioner. It easily cooled our uninsulated office, which feels almost as hot as a greenhouse, in about 10 minutes.
On the downside, it was slightly loud (58 dB on low and 70 dB on high) and the buttons on the control panel don’t depress, so it was sometimes hard to tell if an adjustment registered. Overall, however, it produced plenty of cold air to refresh a room.
Read our full review: Hisense 350-Square-Foot Window Air Conditioner
- BTU rating: 8,000
- Room size: 350 square feet
- CEER: 12
- App allows users to control, schedule, and adjust the air conditioner from a phone
- Clean and modern-looking grill and control panel; one of the more attractive window units
- Smart control with app is convenient and works with Google or Alexa
- No push buttons on the control panel for a tactile feel so adjustments aren’t intuitive
Get the Hisense air conditioner at Lowe’s.
When it comes to cooling rooms without back-breaking window-unit installation, the LG 10,000 BTU air conditioner might be the best option. This portable unit features smooth rolling wheels so you can move it from room to room easily as well as an extendable hose and window vent that allow it to work in almost any window. While it’s not considered energy efficient (7.9 CEER), it does have the output to cool up to a 500-square-foot room.
This model has plenty of built-in features, including a digital remote control and Wi-Fi compatibility. You can cycle through the different settings or set timers with the remote or the LG ThinQ app, or you can use Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
Portable air conditioners are always fairly easy to set up, and we found this model took the cake during testing. The window panel snapped together in seconds, and the hose locked in place, allowing us to install it in less than a minute without any heavy lifting. It was very quiet for a 10,000 BTU AC (we measured it at 60 dB), and the app and remote were easy to use. The biggest downside is that we had to drain the condensation from under the unit, which required a shallow cookie sheet.
- BTU rating: 10,000
- Room size: 500 square feet
- CEER: 7.9
- Easy to roll from room to room or from storage to the window
- Simple to set and adjust the unit with included remote or with app
- Runs at a reasonable volume of about 60 dB, which is good for a large portable unit
- Does not have a built-in condensation evaporator, so users will have to drain their units
Get the LG air conditioner at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or Best Buy.
What to Consider When Choosing an Air Conditioner
While there are several air conditioner types and models from which to choose, the best air conditioners share the same features: They are efficient, reliable, and run without making too much noise. When shopping for an air conditioner, consider the size of the unit and the size of the intended room as well as the unit’s energy efficiency, installation process, and noise level.
Size of AC
One of the most important things to do before purchasing a unit is to ensure that there’s enough space to install it. The size of the unit will depend on the type. Starting with nonpermanent options, wall units are small enough to sit in a window, while portable air conditioners are larger. Portable units usually measure 2 to 3 feet tall and a couple of feet wide.
Permanent air conditioners can have even larger components, which is part of the reason why they require professional installation. Most built-in units are smaller in size, just a bit larger than a wall unit, but when it comes to ductless mini-split and central AC systems, some units can be larger than a washing machine.
Room Size and Location
Air conditioners measure their cooling capacity by room size, which makes square footage one of the most important factors to consider when shopping. To choose an appropriate air conditioner, measure the square footage of the room that needs cooling and compare it to an air conditioner BTU rating chart. BTU is used to measure cooling capacity, or how effectively an air conditioner can cool a room.
Try to find the closest BTU for the room size, and round up only when needed. Underpowered air conditioners may fail to cool the room, while overpowered options might cycle on and off too quickly.
Other factors include the area’s climate, the room’s location, and sun exposure, ceiling height, and room traffic (more people will mean a warmer room). These factors will affect how often or how long the unit needs to run. For rooms with a lot of sunlight, choose an air conditioner with a 10 percent higher BTU level than recommended for the room size.
For many shoppers, energy efficiency tops the list of concerns when buying a new air conditioner. The best way to find an energy-efficient air conditioner is to pay attention to its energy ratings.
Energy Efficient Rating (EER) is a measure of the cooling capacity per watt of energy used. An EER of 9 is above average, and an EER of 12 is considered excellent. The higher the rating, the more efficient, which means lower electricity use and emissions. CEER is a newer, similar rating system that also takes into account standby power consumption. A CEER rating of 10 or above is considered good.
The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) expresses how efficiently the air conditioner cools over an entire cooling season. A SEER rating over 15 is considered efficient. Again, the higher the SEER, the more efficient the air conditioner.
A unit with Energy Star certification uses less energy (up to an impressive 20 percent less) than typical air conditioners of the same type.
When it comes to setting up an air conditioner, the installation process varies depending on the unit type. Some air conditioners like window and portable models are perfectly suited for a DIY setup, while built-in, ductless mini-split, and central systems warrant a call to the professionals. Make sure to account for installation costs when budgeting for a new air conditioner.
Regardless of the air conditioner type, it’s important to make sure that the home is well suited for the installation process beforehand. For example, ensure that a window or portable air conditioner will work for the window type or choose an appropriate wall to mount a built-in air conditioner.
A loud air conditioning system can be disruptive and annoying, especially when running at night. These units run for hours or days at a time, which can add to the existing noise level in a home. The best air conditioners are quiet and don’t whir, clunk, or whine every time the unit switches on.
One way to measure an air conditioner’s noise level is to check the decibel rating. Most air conditioners make between 40 to 70 dB of noise. To put it in perspective, a whisper is around 30 dB, while a normal conversation is around 60 dB.
Also, keep in mind where the air conditioner is installed; a loud indoor AC unit will be more disruptive than a noisy outdoor unit. Some air conditioners feature a quiet mode, which runs at a lower setting for quieter operation.
Air conditioners can include a wide range of convenient features. For year-round temperature control, some units double as a dehumidifier or heater to accommodate cooler weather conditions.
Some features make the air conditioner easier to control. Basic options include remote controls, programmable timers, multistep filters, and various operating modes like eco-friendly or quiet operation. Higher-tech options can include smart-home capabilities. Like many new appliances, some air conditioners come with smart-home features. These units allow consumers to use features such as voice commands, remote control, schedules, and timers from a connected smart device.
Types of Air Conditioners
There are various types of air conditioners available; the best choice depends on budget, available space, and whether it’s a temporary or permanent fix. Some air conditioner types listed in this guide offer dual cooling and heating, which is a great option for those who need temperature control year-round. Read on to learn more about the different types of air conditioner units.
Window air conditioners are a popular pick because they’re affordable, easy to install, and relatively efficient. These compact units are designed for single- or double-hung windows, although some units can also install into sliding windows with a little modification.
A window AC is the best option for those looking for a cost-friendly, temporary option. Most window units are secured by a partially open window or a wall frame. Window models tend to be more efficient and affordable than portable units, not to mention less bulky.
Although most window units include side panels to ensure a good fit, there is potential for air loss around the unit, making them less efficient than permanent options. For example, most window AC units prohibit the window in which the unit is installed from opening or closing. This means the window can’t be used for airflow on cooler days.
Portable air conditioners tend to be bulky, expensive, and relatively inefficient, but they have one major draw: mobility. These wheeled units are easy to install and can be set up in any room with a power outlet and a suitable window or sliding door for venting.
Portable air conditioners are well suited for those who don’t want to install a permanent unit, such as infrequent AC users, renters, and those who don’t have suitable windows for a window AC unit. Most models include a venting kit for double-hung or sliding windows, but it isn’t impossible to find a solution for a sliding door or casement window.
While portable units offer mobility, portable air conditioners are still relatively heavy, weighing around 50 to 100 pounds. They’re ideal for wheeling from room to room as needed, but they take effort to carry up and down a flight of stairs. So, 2-story homes may require more than one unit.
Also known as through-the-wall air conditioners, built-in AC units install through an opening in an exterior wall. Unlike window and portable units, built-in AC units are permanent fixtures that usually require professional installation. They’re ideal for those who don’t have a central cooling system (or have a room or two that don’t connect to the system) and for those looking for a permanent cooling option.
Built-in air conditioners tend to be costlier than nonpermanent options, but they are more attractive and efficient. There’s no bulky unit to store indoors or hang from a window, freeing up floor and window space, and they’re always ready to switch on at a moment’s notice. Since these units are built into the wall, they create a better airtight seal than window or portable units for more effective cooling.
Ductless mini-split air conditioners are among the most popular permanent options. These units are sleek and compact and allow for more flexibility with placement compared to window, portable, and built-in systems.
Ductless mini-split systems feature two parts: a condenser that sits outside and one or more wall-mounted blower units that sit inside, joined by refrigeration lines. This setup requires professional installation but allows for more flexible placement, which is a huge advantage over window, portable, or built-in units. Another benefit is that they don’t require any ductwork, unlike traditional HVAC systems. Ductless mini-split systems are an efficient option, and many offer benefits like multistage air filtration.
Unlike the air conditioner types described above, which are often installed in one or a handful of rooms, central air conditioning systems are designed to cool the entire home. These systems are the most efficient option for very hot climates, where full-home cooling is necessary for hot summer months.
Central systems can involve both indoor and outdoor components (like air handlers and condensers) and require an air-duct system to distribute cool air. This means they can be a significant investment, especially in homes without pre-existing ducts, and will require professional installation. Ensure there is enough space in the backyard, attic, or basement for all the components. Installation is more straightforward in homes with an existing HVAC system.
Still considering the best air conditioner type and model for your home? Read on to find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the best air conditioners, as well as some maintenance tips for your new unit.
Q. How do I clean my air conditioner?
To clean an air conditioner, start by unplugging the unit and removing the outer case. Use a vacuum to remove any dust inside the unit and wipe down safe components with a mixture of water and mild dish detergent. Make sure to clean or replace the filter as recommended by the manufacturer.
Q. How often does the freon need to be refilled in my AC?
You should not need to refill the freon in an AC unit; if your AC seems to be running low, there might be a leak that needs fixing.
Q. What type of AC unit is the best for my house?
The best type of AC for your home depends on several factors, including whether you want a nonpermanent or permanent option, whether you want to cool a room or the entire home, how often you will use the AC, and your budget.
Q. What are BTUs?
BTU stands for British thermal units and is a measurement of thermal energy. When it comes to air conditioners, the BTU rating indicates how much energy is used to remove heat from the air, or how quickly the air conditioner can cool a room.
Q. What is the SEER rating?
The SEER rating measures cooling efficiency; a higher SEER rating means a more efficient air conditioner. It is measured by calculating the cooling output divided by the energy used over an average cooling season.
Q. What is the average lifespan of an AC?
A good air conditioner unit should last 15 to 20 years with proper maintenance.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Tom Scalisi is a full-time DIY and construction writer for many of the largest websites in the industry, including BobVila.com, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Forbes. He has plenty of experience installing, using, and maintaining window air conditioners to cool his otherwise stuffy 70-year-old home without central air.
Additional research provided by Jasmine Harding.