Room air conditioners just got cheaper to run, thanks to stricter standards that require Energy Star models to use at least 15 percent less energy than the minimum allowed. That can save you about $90 over the life of the unit. And tougher standards will affect all models manufactured for next year’s cooling season. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports' new comfort tests show that this year’s best room air conditioners can help you chill more quickly and quietly right now.
Our new tests now include how well the models cool the area they’re sized for. The small GE AEM05LS, a CR Best Buy at $210, and large LG LW1214ER, $350, aced those comfort tests. So did the GE AEM12AS, $390. But failure to restart itself after we reduced the voltage in our brownout test makes it a bad choice where power is iffy.
Most of our picks, when set on low, were about as quiet as a dishwasher. The Friedrich Kuhl SQ05N10B, $575, proved whisper quiet. It’s also the first room air conditioner we’ve tested that let’s you turn it on from your smart phone or tablet before you get home. The noisiest of the bunch was the GE AEM08LS, $270, but it had very good scores for comfort and is excellent in brownout conditions.
Check the results of our latest air conditioner tests for a model that fits your needs. But don’t buy too big. A smaller air conditioner that hums steadily along is more efficient and better at dehumidifying than a larger one that cycles on and off. Figure on 20 British thermal units (Btu) for each square foot you’re cooling and then factor in more if you have high ceilings, large doorways or windows, and if the room is in direct sunlight. Here are recommendations from Energy Star on how to properly size an air conditioner.