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The Best Window Air Conditioner

Updated

After three months of research and extended testing, we’ve confirmed that the is the best window air conditioner for raw cooling power. The Frigidaire is relatively inexpensive, and at only 53 pounds it鈥檚 easier to lift into your window during installation than the competition. If you want a quiet unit for the bedroom, the is a great option.

Our Top Choices

Top Pick


Frigidaire

FFRE0833U1

Quietest AC Unit


Friedrich

Chill CP08G10B

After three months of research and extended testing, we’ve confirmed that the is the best window air conditioner for raw cooling power. The Frigidaire is relatively inexpensive, and at only 53 pounds it鈥檚 easier to lift into your window during installation than the competition. If you want a quiet unit for the bedroom, the is a great option.

What is the size of the room you need cooled in square feet?
Is your room heavily shaded?
Does your room get direct sunlight?
How many people regularly occupy the room?
Is the unit used in a kitchen?
Pick one:

You Need A
BTU
Air Conditioner

Table of contents

Compare the best window air conditioners

lineup of the three best window air conditioners

ProductPriceLoudest Noise (dBA)Thermostat Accuracy
Cooling Performance
$$600.5 degrees hot5/5
$$$$512.0 degrees hot4/5
$$$590.4 degrees cold3/5

1. Best overall: Frigidaire – FFRE0833U1

Frigidaire AC

The 8,000 BTU Frigidaire – FFRE0833U1 is our favorite air conditioner for beating the summer heat. In our testing it ranked top for performance and it was the easiest to install, and it has some cool features that you can鈥檛 get anywhere else.

Frigidaire has a long pedigree going back to in 1915. They鈥檝e been doing room air conditioning for a long time, and their products continue to shine. This is a 2018 update that was just released as we started our research for this review, and it鈥檚 encouraging to know that this is an updated design, though it doesn鈥檛 seem like any significant features have changed over the from 2016.

Best Overall: Frigidaire - FFRE0833U1 8,000 BTU

Quick cooling and easy installation make this model impossible to ignore. Frigidaire knows how to build an AC, but they鈥檙e also competitive on price. Pick a model that鈥檚 the right size for your room and you鈥檒l have the best performance you can get.

The real distinction between these models is performance. We used a聽Kill-A-Watt electricity meter to monitor performance, and the Frigidaire draws about 34 watts more electricity than the LG on high, but cooled our room at an average of -2.7 degrees per minute instead of just a -1.4 degree change for the LG.

That change in cooling performance should more than offset any difference in power draw, and the efficiency rating for both machines is the same, which indicates that official lab testing shows that they move the same amount of heat per watt of power used. In our small testing room, we just got our cool air much more quickly with the Frigidaire.

This also means a bit wider of a thermostat overshoot than LG: The lowest temperature we saw with the thermostat set to 70掳 was 67.6掳, compared to 68.5掳 for the LG. Most of us aren鈥檛 trying to maintain a specific accurate temperature so much as to cool a room quickly and efficiently, so we won鈥檛 count this as a major fault, but it鈥檚 something to note.

Frigidaire鈥檚 most interesting feature is a 鈥渞emote sensing鈥 thermostat that uses the temperature of the remote to trigger the air conditioner, rather than the air in front of the window.

This means that if you have a big picture window or other hot-spot you鈥檙e trying to cool, you can help keep the Frigidaire from shutting off before you鈥檙e ready to give up the cool blast. We found this far more useful than the Wi-Fi features offered by LG. The only letdown is that the sensor on the remote reads about 4 degrees too hot, which means it would probably run for longer than it needs to if you鈥檙e trying to reach a specific temperature like 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Frigidaire window air conditioner is solid but also subtle. The fan makes noise when it blows, but it鈥檚 a consistent enough sound that we had to recheck a bunch of times to be sure the compressor was running. This AC is 1 dBA louder than the LG at max output, but the fan noise is smoother.

The airflow from the fan is strong, and the air it blows is cold, so at a price that鈥檚 the same or better than the competition, it鈥檚 hard to imagine a compelling reason to pick a different model.

The 8,000 BTU capacity we tested is the most popular size since it covers the widest range of common room sizes. If you鈥檙e cooling a space smaller than 250 square feet, check out the If you’ve got a suitable window in a big room that’s 300-450 square feet, look for the . There’s even a for rooms bigger than 500 square feet.

Key takeaways:

  • Frigidaire’s 8,000 BTU FFRE0833U1 is a great air conditioner on every count, though the others may beat it on a few details.
  • Top performance in our testing means this will keep you smiling with quick relief.
  • The fan is loudest by a hair, but it鈥檚 a smooth and consistent sound.
  • The 鈥渞emote sensing鈥 feature means this model can be a bit better at cooling your whole room consistently.

2. Quietest AC unit: Friedrich – Chill CP08G10B

Friedrich

The Friedrich – Chill CP08G10B is the 8,000 BTU model of the company鈥檚 most popular line, and it鈥檚 a step up from our top pick in luxury and quality, though not in absolute performance.

When we talk about luxury in an air conditioner, we鈥檙e talking about more than just good-looking industrial design (though Friedrich has that, too). The big factors for comfort are noise and temperature stability, and this AC has both.

Even at full blast, Friedrich鈥檚 noise level on this 8,000 BTU model is well below the 55 dBA level where an appliance starts to compete with you when you鈥檙e having a conversation in the room.

Quiet Pick: Friedrich - Chill CP08G10B

This is a more expensive air conditioner, but it鈥檚 scary how quiet it is. The slower-moving air won鈥檛 cool down your room as quickly, but it will keep the temperature steady without distracting you.

With the compressor off and the fan on low, the measured average was 47 dBA, and that鈥檚 quieter than most oscillating room fans. It鈥檚 a smooth, consistent background noise even when the compressor kicks on, which makes this design perfect for a large bedroom. (Go for the if you鈥檝e got a 150- to 300-square-foot room, or the to suit smaller rooms.)

The Friedrich thermostat was technically the least accurate we tested, with an average temperature of two degrees hotter than the set 70 Fahrenheit compared to half a degree either side for the other models. It had far less 鈥渟wing鈥 from hot to cold when run over a long period of time, though. The Friedrich would run whenever the room hit 73 and cool until it got just above the set 70, compared to a 6-degree swing with the Frigidaire. So long as you鈥檙e buying a unit that鈥檚 the right size for your room, that鈥檚 just about as perfect as it gets.

Friedrich was also the only manufacturer to make provisions for installing their units through-the-wall rather than in a window. The outer shroud comes right off when you remove four screws, so you can pre-install all of the screws and braces before you add the weight of the actual machine.

This is a good thing, because it鈥檚 11 pounds heavier that the Frigidaire, and quite a bit longer so that the exhaust fan can clear the sides of a through-the-wall install. The install hardware also includes adjustable leveling feet so that you can be sure the condensation will drain properly.

Friedrich also includes an auto-swing fan option for those who don鈥檛 like having all their cold air focused on one spot. How useful this is will depend on your room, but it鈥檚 good to have the option.

The Friedrich remote doesn鈥檛 have the fancy remote-sensor thermostat that makes Frigidaire鈥檚 AC more flexible, but they did include a wall mounting bracket so your remote won鈥檛 get buried in a drawer.

Friedrich鈥檚 air conditioners don鈥檛 have built-in Wi-Fi, and they鈥檙e definitely more expensive. The Texas-based company is competing to offer you exactly what you need with design that does its job quietly and efficiently. They鈥檝e accomplished that and still managed to come in well under the list price of Frigidaire鈥檚 (which should also be quiet).

Key takeaways:

  • The is the quietest model we鈥檝e tested, about half as loud as the competition.
  • Cooling performance isn鈥檛 as quick as our top pick, but it will keep your room鈥檚 temperature steady.
  • This is a more expensive AC unit, but not as expensive as Frigidaire鈥檚 premium-label Gallery model.
  • The through-the-wall installation option is unique in residential window units.

Another finalist we tested

LG – LW8017ERSM

LG
The is not a bad air conditioner by any means. If you can鈥檛 find the Frigidaire and can鈥檛 afford the Friedrich, this is a solid replacement pick. The two things that kept this air conditioner from a recommendation are noise and performance.

Strictly speaking, this makes less sound energy than our top-pick Frigidaire. The difference is most pronounced on the lowest fan setting, where the sound level drops to 50 dBA when the compressor turns off. When the compressor turns back on, though, that goes up to basically the same level as the Frigidaire. That means the sound of the compressor turning on and off will be more noticeable, which is more jarring even if the average sound level is lower.

The fan noise from the LG is also slightly more irritating than the Frigidaire鈥檚, with a very slight-but-consistent buzzing or ticking quality to the drone of the fan. It鈥檚 not bad enough that we think it鈥檚 a broken part or obstruction, but it鈥檚 noticeable.

For performance, the LG is steady and stable enough to compete with the Friedrich, but it can鈥檛 keep up with Frigidaire. LG only managed an average temperature change of -1.49 degrees per minute in our small-ish test room, meaning if you come home and it鈥檚 90 degrees in your house, it鈥檒l take even longer to cool the 300-square-foot room this unit was designed for.

Slower performance can be an advantage if you鈥檙e more concerned with pulling moisture out of the air than with cooling off, but all of these models have a 鈥渄ry鈥 mode, which will accomplish that very nicely by slowing down the fan. The fact that air conditioner is lighter and easier to install basically seals LG鈥檚 fate for this round.

How we selected finalists to test

This is a tricky category to research. Retailers often keep dozens of listings for each manufacturer, and they don鈥檛 make it immediately clear which models are current-year updates or what the other differences might be.

We combed through retailer listings and called a few sales representatives to decode the model numbers for top air conditioner brands to find the most recent models. We considered testing some old models that had been well-reviewed by other publications, especially the Haier – Serenity model , but even that model is now discontinued and out of stock.

We only tested models current for the 2018 season, no old stock or discontinued models. If you see more customer reviews of other models from the same manufacturers that have different model numbers, that’s the reason. Hopefully these models will remain easy to find for a while. Pricing will change throughout the year, but typically the up-to-date design is actually cheaper to buy.

Our testing picks centered on brands with a proven track record of making reliable and high-performance air conditioners. Older versions of the machines we tested have all won awards from sites like or .

We only tested models that meet the . This label means the product is at least 10 percent better than the mandated minimum efficiency and can move at least 12 BTUs of heat out of your house for every watt-hour of electricity. These models also have an 鈥渆nergy-saver鈥 mode that turns the fan off when it鈥檚 not actually working to maintain the set temperature.

Our typical strategy for choosing products includes sifting customer reviews and owner discussion groups to see if people have had problems with a particular model. That strategy wasn’t as easy to implement here, since we鈥檙e picking a model that鈥檚 brand-new and two others that don鈥檛 have nearly as many reviews as older models from the same companies. Appliance reviews are also especially tricky with air conditioners, since so much about the unit鈥檚 performance can change depending on what room you put it in. These brands all have a great track record with past units, though.

How we tested

Installation

We tried to follow the installation instructions as best we could and managed to do a one-man install of each unit without losing any parts or dropping any of the units out the window. Installation wasn鈥檛 identical, as each model uses a slightly different method for centering, sealing and securing the windows, but you could probably swap the parts from one install kit to another without problems.

Curiously, the LG and Friedrich units come with very similar installation booklets. There鈥檚 almost certainly some relationship between these Texan and Korean companies, despite all the differences in the actual performance and features of their air conditioners.

Frigidaire easily wins our pick for easiest install just on account of how much more compact it is. Friedrich鈥檚 install kit is the most complete and versatile if you鈥檝e got a tricky situation like a through-the-wall install, and it was nice that the outer 鈥渟leeve鈥 housing could be completely secured before we slid the heavy internals into place. For most people, though, the easy-to-lift Frigidaire is the way to go (53 pounds compared to Friedrich鈥檚 64).

Performance test

WindowAC cooling test

After installing each air conditioner in a 115-square-foot bedroom, we ran it in the hottest and most controlled environment we could create. We started each test by running two space heaters and the apartment鈥檚 central heating to get the room up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then letting it stabilize at 85 each time before powering on the AC. Outside temperatures during testing were between 65 and 70 degrees.

We tested these air conditioners in March rather than July or August, but we were happy to see that our controls gave a stable and consistent performance comparison with similar conditions across the three tests.

We logged the temperature and humidity in the room with an for an hour after turning on each air conditioner to see how it would respond to the initial heat and how it would cycle after that initial drop to maintain a steady temperature.

Performance, as expected, was quite similar, but not identical between the three models. These are all capable of cooling the rated 350-square-foot room, but in repeated testing we could see that the Frigidaire is able to respond more quickly and bring down the room temperature right away when you turn it on.

Humidity performance

As previously mentioned, if you鈥檙e running any of these air conditioners in a room that鈥檚 smaller than what they鈥檙e designed for, you鈥檒l get a damp, humid environment if the air cools off too quickly. Fortunately, each one also has a 鈥渄ry鈥 operating mode that runs the AC for longer and at a slower fan speed to pull out more moisture.

If you鈥檙e running an AC in an extra-humid climate and your room is on the smaller edge of the room-size categories, the fact that the LG and Friedrich air conditioners are a little bit slower to cool means that your humidity and comfort level will be a little bit more stable on the full-blast AC mode. They鈥檙e rated for an extra 0.3 pints per day of water removed from your air, though the specifics of how well each model will do can change depending on what settings you choose.

Noise testing

Window AC noise test

We ran each air conditioner in the same room using the same sound pressure measurement equipment: a PC running with a calibrated measurement mic mounted to a stand six feet away from the window. We measured using the standard 鈥淎鈥 weighting scale, which means the system factors an annoying high-pitch whine more heavily than a low-pitch rumble.

The sound of the compressors turning on in all of these units was less dramatic than we expected, and the fan noise made up the biggest difference between them. We鈥檇 say that these are all good performers with only 60 dBA at the maximum.

Strictly speaking, Frigidaire is the worst performer by the numbers, but the quality that doesn’t come across on this chart is a slightly-annoying ticking or buzzing that comes from the fan on the LG. If you need a quiet fan setting but don’t want to shell out for the Friedrich, the LG is an alternative; we think the smoother-though-louder sound of the Frigidaire’s fan is better for most people.

We were expecting to see better noise performance with the more expensive Friedrich – Chill air conditioner, but the actual difference in testing was shockingly good. If you鈥檙e installing a window unit in a bedroom and you can afford to spend a little bit more, the 7 dBA difference will seem about half as loud. (On the logarithmic decibel scale, sound doubles in perceived loudness every 10 dB.)

Comfort and accuracy

Tracking the performance of each air conditioner over our tests also means that we can compare the consistency and accuracy of the thermostats they use to turn the compressor on and off.

The Friedrich thermostat was the least accurate, with an average temperature of two degrees hotter than the set 70 degrees, but it also had the least 鈥渟wing鈥 from hotter to colder than the set temperature, running whenever the room hit 73 and cooling until it got just above the set temperature.

How to pick a window air conditioner

Window air conditioners are the most economical way to cool a room. Portable air conditioners are popular because they’re versatile and can vent out of almost any window, but window-specific units are typically 30 percent more efficient, since all the heat-generating parts of the air conditioner sit outside your house. They’re also much easier to install than a wall-mounted “mini-split” system.

Choosing a cooling capacity that鈥檚 right for your room is crucial for long-term comfort and reliability. Your Best Digs works and tests in the mildly dry climate of Southern California, so we sought out an expert from more humid regions to get the scoop on humidity and AC performance.

Richard Ciresi, owner of in Louisville, says that oversized AC units are a big problem. 鈥淔irst,鈥 Richard says, 鈥渉eating and air conditioning units are sized for the hottest and coldest days of the year. On a moderate day they often don鈥檛 run long enough to remove the excess moisture from the air.

鈥淪econd, some homeowners and even some contractors still believe in the ‘bigger is better’ concept, which further exacerbates the problem.” We asked Richard if the opposite is true with AC units that are too small, and it is!

鈥淎n undersized unit,鈥 he says, 鈥渕ay not be able to lower the ambient temperature to the desired set point on extremely hot days, but moisture removal will be improved. You鈥檙e better off both health- and utility-wise with a slightly warmer, dry home than the damp ‘cave-like’ conditions that occur when the equipment is oversized.鈥

How to install a window air conditioner

The biggest variable in window unit installation is going to be your window. Almost all of the window air conditioners available are designed for 鈥渄ouble-hung鈥 windows with vertical window sliders. The slider pane rests behind a bracket and provides a stable and secure brace to keep the air conditioner from falling out of your window, and in most windows it鈥檚 easy to fill the gap on either side of your AC unit with the included expanding baffle 鈥渨ing鈥 curtains. Minimum size requirements are important to note but are not hard to match with most windows.

The install is pretty simple. Most window sills should be able to support the air conditioner without extra steps, though the kits include brackets or suggest ways to add bracing if you鈥檝e got a storm window that prevents the AC unit from sitting right. One important step to note is making sure that your air conditioner tilts down slightly at the back, since that鈥檚 how it drains excess water outside instead of onto your floor.

Installing air conditioner

Once you get the included foam sealing tape in place and attach the wings that will fill gaps on the sides, hoisting the unit into place is the hardest part. (We like that the Frigidaire is only 53 pounds, it鈥檚 definitely the easiest to lift out of the box.) Resting a bit precariously in the frame as you steady it with one hand (or a helper), the air conditioner is secure as soon as you slide the inside window sash into place to brace it.

After that, it鈥檚 just a matter of adding stop-braces to make sure nobody accidentally opens the window. It’s also recommended that you finish up with insulating panels and tape to close any gaps and make sure your cold air doesn鈥檛 get out.

Installing a sliding or casement window air conditioner

In comparison, to stay secure in a horizontal sliding window, the unit has to use some sort of brace or shelf against your exterior wall. There鈥檚 also going to be a big gap above the air conditioner that you鈥檒l have to fill. Install kits included with slider-window AC units vary in how complete they are, but even the best kits require a lot of measuring, drilling holes and sawing a plastic window insert to size.

Casement windows that pivot open on a hinge with a crank are even more complicated to fit, though air conditioners designed for horizontal slides are often also designed for casement windows.

If you鈥檙e set on a window air conditioner for your slider window, a purpose-built model is going to be easier to work with than adapting a regular window air conditioner. We wouldn鈥檛 blame you for trying to come up with a DIY solution, though; models for horizontal sliders come at double the price, and they aren鈥檛 updated as frequently. ()

Through-the-wall installation is even less common, but Friedrich designed their (our pick for best quiet air conditioner) to work equally well in vertical sliding windows and through-the-wall installation by making it easy to slide the outer housing on and off and keeping the vents at the back of the unit.

The bottom line

If you don鈥檛 have central air conditioning, installing a window unit can be a cheap way to get some relief in one room. A window unit is always going to be more efficient than a portable, and if you鈥檝e got a vertically sliding window, then a window air conditioner is easy to install.

Air conditioners are tested for efficiency and the performance labelling is pretty tightly regulated, so the biggest differences you鈥檒l find are in noise level. The very quietest model we found is the , if you can afford to spend about 60 percent more than you would for most models in this size.

Frigidaire has this recommendation locked up, though. The is easier to install and delivers the best cooling performance when you need it. The smooth-sounding fan isn鈥檛 technically as quiet as LG鈥檚, but we prefer it, and the second thermostat on the remote is just plain brilliant.

Best overall: Frigidaire - FFRE0833U1 8,000 BTU

This isn鈥檛 the quietest air conditioner you can buy, but for a great price you get top performance and an easier install. This model (or the 5,000 BTU model for a smaller room) should definitely be first on your list.

Daniel Jackson, Writer

Daniel is a Canadian farm boy who grew up to be a nerd with a literature degree and too many hobbies to count. He emigrated from Canada to California in 2013, and now writes for Your Best Digs full-time. Daniel remains unapologetic about Canadian spelling, serial commas, and the destruction of expensive travel mugs.