If you're wondering what products are typically at their lowest price this month, wonder no more. Consumer Reports product research experts, who track prices all year long, have compiled a list of items that are typically discounted most deeply in August.
Our tough lab tests also result in smart shopping tips that will help you find the models that are right for you.
August is one hot month, so you'll probably be relieved to hear that retailers consider this the end of the season for air conditioners, and put them on sale–despite the fact that it's also the peak shopping month for these chill boxes.
Size it correctly. An air conditioner that's too small won't do a good job cooling a room. One that's too big cools the area so quickly that it doesn't have time to remove enough moisture, so it leaves you with a cold, clammy space.
Note the noise. Models that scored excellent or very good in our noise tests (we measure how loud they are on both low and high settings) are so quiet that the only sound you might hear is the fan running. But air conditioners that scored only fair for noise could disturb light sleepers when set on low and are distracting on high.
Backpacks and other back-to-school items
Just in time for back-to-school shopping, you'll find great deals on backpacks. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children wear a pack with two straps because a backpack with a single shoulder strap across the body does not distribute weight evenly.
Keep comfort, convenience, and safety in mind. Features to look for include wide, padded, contoured shoulder straps, an abdominal strap, and reflectors or reflective fabrics on the pack to add visibility when kids travel to and from school at dusk or dawn.
Check the fit. Ideally, the bottom of the backpack should align with the curve of the lower back, and not fall more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack's shoulder-strap anchor points should also rest 1 to 2 inches below the top of the shoulders. These additional shopping and fitting tips will help you find the right backpack for your child, and check out our backpack buying guide.
August is also the month when you can find great sales on dehumidifiers, which can take that sticky feeling out of a damp basement or crawl space. Humidity is not just uncomfortable; levels above 50 percent can breed dust mites, mildew, and mold, which may worsen allergies and asthma. Our dehumidifier buying guide and Ratings show that the best dehumidifiers aren't necessarily the highest priced.
Consider where it will go. Noise is a concern in living spaces. Our noise measurements from four feet typically range from about 55 to 67 decibels for the models we test. That's about the difference between the sound of loud conversation and the din of street traffic.
A new model may save you money. Because of new federal energy standards, almost every dehumidifier in our latests tests scored very good or better for energy efficiency. That means you'll see savings in operating costs compared with older dehumidifiers.
Many items are discounted toward the end of a season. With fall on the horizon, you're likely to find great deals on outdoor furniture. Patios, porches and decks are being turned into “outdoor rooms” with places to cook, dine or just enjoy the garden. Buying the right furniture can help you transform your outdoor space into a place you’ll want to hang out until winter's chill forces you indoors. Some well-made sets are reasonably priced, but you do have to know what to look for in outdoor furniture.
Consider the material. For example, choose untreated natural wicker only if it will be protected from the elements. Otherwise go with outdoor plastic wicker. Resin plastic is a good choice for poolside or in salt air, but strong winds can knock lightweight pieces around, so choose sturdy chairs, and ones that are wider, allowing guests to get comfortable.
Try it out. Before you buy sit in the chairs and pull them up to the table. Check that the seat height is fine, and your knees don’t touch the table. You’ll want chairs that are roomy with comfortable armrests. Cushions should be well padded, water resistant, and fit well. And be sure the legs of the table don’t get in the way.
If the weather in your area is hot and sticky now, you might find it rather pleasant to contemplate the snowstorms in your future. Need some help clearing away the white stuff? You'll find great deals on snowblowers this month, although the deepest discounts will likely be on last year's models.
Don't fall for sales pitches. Manufacturers and retailers also push bigger engines--typically expressed in cubic centimeters of piston displacement (ccs)--and wider clearing swaths. But as our Ratings show, size isn't everything when it comes to snow blowers. Some smaller machines can out-clear and out-throw the big boys for less money.
Look for important features. For example, it's a good idea to check out floor samples. Make sure you're comfortable with the height of the handle and with the chute adjustment. Look for a critical safety feature that stops the spinning auger or impeller when you release the handlebar grips. For more tips, see our snow blower buying guide and Ratings. And stay cool with our snow clearing tips in the video below.