Most and Least Reliable Room Air Conditioners

CR's reliability survey on window and portable ACs delivers good news for shoppers

CR engineer tests one of the most reliable air conditioners.
Chris Regan, a Consumer Reports senior project leader, tests a window air-conditioning unit.
Photo: Brian Finke

As temperatures rise, a broken air conditioner can make tempers flare. So it’s good news that a Consumer Reports survey of its members shows that room air conditioners—both window and portable—are among the most reliable products we test.

In fact, all nine brands of window air conditioners and 3 of 7 brands of portable ACs in the survey earn our highest mark—a rating of Excellent—for predicted reliability. (The other four portable brands also receive a favorable mark—a Very Good rating.) That means you’re likely to get an air conditioner that lasts when you buy one from Amana, Danby, DeLonghi, Friedrich, Frigidaire, GE, Haier, Hisense, Honeywell, Kenmore, LG, Whirlpool, or Whynter.

To calculate predicted reliability, we ask our members about the products they own, then crunch that data to make projections about how new models from a given brand will hold up over time. We also ask members how likely they are to recommend their air conditioner, and we use the information to rate brands for owner satisfaction.

More On Air Conditioners

We integrate the survey data with results from our lab tests into the Overall Score that you’ll see in our air-conditioner ratings charts. In the lab, we test every air conditioner on how quickly it cools a room, how it holds up under low-voltage conditions, how easy it is to operate, and how quietly it runs.

But how do you narrow your choices when so many brands get favorable reliability ratings?

“With such a universe of good options, consumers should take a closer look at our owner satisfaction ratings,” says Simon Slater, manager of product survey research for Consumer Reports. 

Overall, 88 percent of the room air conditioners purchased by our members eight to 10 years ago are still in use. But two-thirds of the room ACs in our survey were purchased in the past three years. This suggests that despite their apparent longevity, many consumers tend not to keep them very long.

CR members can read on for the details on the most and least reliable brands of window and portable air conditioners, along with ratings and reviews of models that earn top marks in our survey and in our lab tests.

Keep in mind that because of turnover in the marketplace, not every brand we test appears in our survey and vice versa. The brands that do appear in the survey are those that our members purchased over the last 10 years.

Need central air? Read about the most and least reliable central air-conditioning systems.

Window Air Conditioners

Of the nine window unit brands covered in the survey, only Friedrich earns a Very Good rating for satisfaction. Four brands earn a middling rating of Good, and four earn an unfavorable rating of Fair. (None received a Poor rating.) The four brands that receive a Good rating for satisfaction are Kenmore, Frigidaire, LG, and GE. Those that rate one notch lower, Fair, are Danby, Whirlpool, Amana, and Haier. (Currently, our ratings don't include models from Danby or Haier.)

Satisfaction by size. Whether or not a member is likely to recommend a window air conditioner seems to track by its size, measured in Btu. That’s probably because larger units provide more cooling. Of our members who own small air conditioners (5,000 to 6,500 Btu), 41 percent are extremely likely to recommend them. For large window units (9,820 to 12,500 Btu), more than half—54 percent—are extremely likely to recommend them.

The three window units featured below combine Excellent or Very Good performance for comfort with top-notch predicted reliability.

Window Air Conditioners Rated
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