Room air conditioners that keep their cool

Consumer Reports' tests of window and portable air conditioners

Published: April 27, 2015 03:45 PM

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The latest batch of room air conditioners in Consumer Reports' tests meet tougher energy requirements so in addition to keeping you cool they help you keep your cool over rising utility bills. Small window air conditioners are the biggest sellers and we found five to recommend that cost in the $200 range. We also tested more than a dozen portable air conditioners but unfortunately, most struggled to cool a room. Here are the details.

Quirky Aros

Window air conditioners

Small. Our top small window air conditioner, the GE AEM05LS, $210, gets excellent marks for cooling a room of 100 to 300 square feet, is fairly quiet, and bounced back from brownout conditions when power is iffy. And at that price we named it a CR Best Buy, which combine performance and value. Four other small GE models made our top-picks list including the GE AEH06LS, $160, from Sam's Club,  and the GE AEL06LS, $180 from Home Depot. We also like the Friedrich Kuhl SQ05N10B but at $580 it costs almost three times as much as the others. If you like that brand, consider the Friedrich Chill CP05G10, $220. It's a little noisier than the Kuhl but quiet enough.

Almost all the room air conditioners in our tests have digital controls and remotes. We did test three small units with mechanical dial controls and although they get very good scores for comfort, none performed well enough on our ease of use tests to make our list of picks.

Medium. GE also tops our tests of mid-sized air conditioners, which cool rooms of 250 to 400 square feet, followed closely by the LG LW8014ER, $240, a CR Best Buy, and the Friedrich Kuhl SQ08N10, $700. We also took a look at the Quirky Aros, $250, made in part by GE, and it was indeed a little quirky. The air blows out the top instead of toward you, which is a nice option if you're sitting in front of it. And the Quirky Aros has a sleek, modern look with solid rather than accordion-style side panels. But its scores for noise and energy efficiency were lackluster.

Large. The same brands dominate our picks of large air conditioners, which cool 350 to 650 square feet, with the LG LW1214ER, $350, and Friedrich Chill CP10G10A, $400, leading the pack followed closely by the GE AER10AT, $250, a CR Best Buy.

Friedrich ZoneAir P12B

Portable air conditioners

If you live in an apartment that doesn't allow window air conditioners or have casement or another type of window that can't accommodate a window unit, your only option may be a portable air conditioner. We tested three small and 13 large portable air conditioners and the best got a score of 55 out of 100. The worst scored 27. But if you absolutely need one, the bigger units (9,000 to 15,500 BTU) were marginally better than the small (5,500 to 8,500 BTU) and the dual hose models bested single hose units.

Try the Friedrich ZoneAir P12B, $600, if you have no other choice. But like the other portables in our tests, we found that most operate at only 60 percent of their claimed capacity. For more good cooling choices, see our full air conditioner Ratings and recommendations.

—Mary H.J. Farrell (@mhjfarrell on Twitter)

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