Which window ACs cool best?

Consumer Reports puts units to challenging test

SAN ANTONIO – Just in time for triple-digit temperatures, Consumer Reports put window air conditioners to the test.

Consumer Reports groups air conditioners into three main sizes based on BTUs and the size of the room that needs cooling, details that are listed on most air conditioners.

Small air conditioners are best for rooms that are 100 to 300 square feet, mediums for rooms 250 to 400 square feet and large units should cool rooms of 350 to 650 square feet. 

None of that matters if the air conditioner doesn't perform well. 

That's why, in a Consumer Reports' special lab, window air conditioners must lower the temperature inside to a set point of 75 degrees. It's a challenge because the room is 90 degrees and has 60 percent humidity. 

Another factor in the scoring is an accurate thermostat. How accurate it is saves you money.

"If the air conditioner is thinking that it's still trying to hit 75 degrees even though it's actually at a room temperature of 71 degrees, it's running longer than it needs to and wasting electricity," said Consumer Reports tester Chris Rangan.

The best air conditioners in Consumer Reports' tests can cool a room in about 15 minutes or less, keep the temperature consistent and don't necessarily cost more than others.

Consumer Reports Recommendations:

  • Small room:  Amana AMAP061BW for $200
  • Medium room: GE AHS08LX for $250, available at Lowe's
  • Large room:  LG LW1216ER for $350  

Consumer Reports says consider an air conditioner with a programmable setting or timer, or one that's Wi-Fi-enabled so you can come home to a cool house. 

Finally, remember: Whether you're buying a new air conditioner this year or maintaining an older one, be sure to clean the filter once a month. The cleaner the filter, the less work the unit has to do and the longer it will run, which will save you money. 

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