Best air conditioner buys for the hot summer ahead

Best air conditioner buys for the hot summer ahead

A hot summer forecast—and air-conditioner prices that are going up with the mercury—could mean an early run on window units. But you needn’t wait and sweat it out: Consumer Reports testers just named 15 top room air conditioners that include several small and mid-sized models priced at around $ 200 or less. But the volume of some we tested could keep you up at night. And a few might have you struggling with less-than-intuitive controls.

Small-space winners. Small air conditioners are best for spaces no larger than about 300 square feet. The Frigidaire LRA067AT7, a CR Best Buy at $ 170, cooled consistently and quietly in our temperature-controlled chamber. But you may want to think twice about the relatively raucous Frigidaire FRA054XT7, $ 175, if you’re a light sleeper. Its thumb wheel control for venting air also proved slower and harder to use than the usual lever.

Mid-sized money-savers. Air conditioners this size cool spaces up to roughly 400 square feet. The Sharp AF-S85RX, $ 200, sold at Costco, is one of two CR Best Buys in this group and can handle these larger areas for about the same price as many smaller units. The Sharp is also relatively light–a plus when hoisting a room air conditioner into the window for summer cooling, and lifting it out again for winter storage. Another winner, the LG LW8010ER, $ 220, had impressive power for cooling and moisture removal that was compromised only by a little more noise at high speed.

Large and in charge. Got between 350 and 650 square feet to cool? The Frigidaire FRA106CV1, $ 320, is a new CR Best Buy among large air conditioners. It’s cooling performance was excellent and it recovered well under brownout conditions. But it was middling for noise so you may not want to install it close to where you watch television. Another CR Best Buy, the LG LW1210ER, also $ 320, offers lots of cooling power but it too was noisy at high speed and weighs 82 pounds, the most for the large units we tested.

For more efficient cooling determine how many square feet you need to cool—too many BTUs can make a room cool, but it will still feel clammy because not enough moisture is being removed from the air. For more on how to keep cool, read our report, Air conditioners that keep you and your wallet cool.

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