These bestsellers start at $138.
In the thick of summer, nothing is more refreshing than feeling the cool breeze bursting out of an air conditioner to wick away sticky sweat. Before the temperatures really start to rise, it's a good time to think about buying a new air conditioner. And if you already own one, it's worth considering whether you need to upgrade your model, as many people buy the wrong size for their home.
Whether you're looking for one that's energy efficient or has a variety of cooling modes, we rounded up the best air conditioners out there. But before you delve into the list, here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for a new air conditioner.
Should you buy a window air conditioner or a portable unit? If you have limited space, you're better off purchasing a window air conditioner because it actually takes up less room than a portable one and won't be in your way. While you can easily move portable air conditioners around, they require an exhaust hose that you must install through a window, which ends up eating up even more space.
How do I find the right size air conditioner for a room? All air conditioners list their cooling capacities, which come in the form of British Thermal Units (BTUs). The number of BTUs an air conditioner has corresponds to the square footage of the room it's cooling. In general, the higher the amount of BTUs, the bigger the room. For every 20 BTUs is one square foot. Window air conditioners usually have a range of 5,000 to 12,000 BTUs. It's important to buy the right size air conditioner for your room so you don't rack up a crazy energy bill. You also want to keep in mind how much sun a room gets and whether it's heavily shaded. If the room is mostly shaded, reduce the capacity by 10 percent and if it's sunny, increase capacity by 10 percent. Here's a quick guide from Energy Star on how to compare your room size to the BTU rating:
5,000 BTUs: 100 to 150 square feet
6,000 BTUs: 150 to 250 square feet
7,000 BTUs: 250 to 300 square feet
8,000 BTUs: 300 to 350 square feet
9,000 BTUs: 350 to 400 square feet
10,000 BTUs: 400 to 450 square feet
12,000 BTUs: 450 to 500 square feet
How do I know if an air conditioner is energy efficient? Look for an air conditioner with an Energy Star sticker, which certifies that it can help you save energy. All air conditioners with the Energy Star sticker guarantee that they use 10 percent less energy. The Energy Star sticker also means that the air conditioner is made with better materials to improve insulation and therefore reduces the amount of time it needs to cool a room. Some Energy Star air conditioners give you the option to turn it off remotely with your phone or computer and schedule temperature changes, so you don't use more than you need to.
Air conditioners also come with an energy efficiency ratio (EER), which is the number of BTUs to watts. The higher the EER rating, the more energy efficient your air conditioner is.
What other air conditioner features should I consider? Some air conditioners come with a remote controller, energy saver function, timer, a fan, and a variety of cooling speeds, from high to low. There are also air conditioners that come with a heat pump (more on that later).
Now that you know what to look for when buying an air conditioner, here are the best ones out there.