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Buying Guide for Window AC Units: Everything You Need to Know



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Colin West McDonald / CNET

Whether it's an upstairs office stuffy in summer or your entire apartment without central air, a window air conditioner can make a warm space livable. And in 2020, retrofit AC units will come with all kinds of quality of life features that the devices of yesteryear never dreamed of.

We wrote about buying standard window air conditioners in the past, but what about these smarter models? If you want voice control or planning from your smartphone, here is the perfect smart window air conditioner.

Read more : What to look for in a portable air conditioner

A quick breakdown of the base

Before thinking about smarts, you want to know what you need from your new AC unit. The most fundamental question: how well does a room cool?

Air conditioners with window units are all classified with British thermal units ̵

1; usually ranging between 5,000 and 12,000. BTUs are a measure of energy that essentially tells you how effectively a device can lower the temperature in a given room. In general, you want 20 BTU for every square foot you want to cool (although other factors, such as a vaulted ceiling or shade cover, can push the final estimate up or down a little).

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The EPA's Energy Star website provides tools for calculating the BTUs required for a given room.


Energy Star

Aside from the basics, here are the other important features you may be looking for: scheduling features, eco modes, and Wi-Fi connection. Each of these elements allows you to personalize your experience with a window AC unit, whether you set timers and control the unit remotely or by adjusting the overall power consumption.

Finally, some air conditioners are portable, which means you can drive them around your house and attach them to different windows if necessary. Portable models are generally more expensive, take up floor space and perform worse than their window counterparts. But if you shouldn't have window units in your apartment or if your windows simply can't contain a traditional appliance due to their design, a portable air conditioner might be something to think about.

The second big question: where can you buy a window AC unit? You can usually find air conditioners in stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart. Online, all those stores – along with Amazon – offer quite extensive catalogs of window units.

If you're interested in a portable air conditioner, check out our full guide on how to buy the best. [19659017] Small Rooms

For a small room (i.e., 150 square feet or less), a 5000 BTU model should work well. Overall, smaller devices like these often have less smart features built in, and that means you can get well-reviewed models, like this $ 140 GE GE window unit relatively inexpensively. However, if you definitely want the smarts, don't just buy a higher BTU model without seriously thinking about it: yes, a 12,000 BTU unit cools that upstairs office faster than a less powerful unit, but it will do too quickly to dehumidify the room – leaving it uncomfortably damp.

If you decide Wi-Fi features are a must – even for a super small room – consider an 8,000 BTU model, such as LG & # 39; s Window Smart Air Conditioner with Remote Control . You can turn it to a low setting so it doesn't leave your room too humid, and it still has voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant and remote control via a smartphone app.

Medium Rooms

When it comes to slightly larger rooms – especially rooms in the 340 square foot range – 8000 BTU window units are your best bet. These typically cost a little over $ 200 for bare models like this Window Air Conditioner from Cool Living.

Smart 6000 BTU air conditioners have been around for a number of years now: we have one of the earlier smart AC units, from Quirky and GE, in 2014. So if you are looking for something with Wi-Fi connectivity, you can easily find well-reviewed options, such as the aforementioned LG Window Smart Air Conditioner with Remote Control exactly for $ 300. These devices come with extras such as smartphone or voice control from Alexa or Google Assistant, as well as more powerful scheduling buttons.

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Smart speakers like Alexa and Google Assistant can help control some newer AC units.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Large rooms

If you have a large room or want to cool a small apartment with a single AC unit, you need something with a little more power. 12,000-14,000 BTU units can cover square footage between 550 and 800, and they often have additional features such as energy-efficient settings, low-decibel settings, and built-in ionizers.

There is a wide price range for powerful air conditioners. . If you want a basic cooling unit, you can find one for just under $ 400, such as Cool-Living & # 39; s Base Model . On the other hand, devices like LG's $ 550 Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner bring not only voice and smartphone control but also a washable filter, a volume of 43 decibels (which is quieter than many refrigerators) and energy-efficient "eco" setting.

Another option is to look for devices with built-in ionizers, such as Frigidaire's 12,000 BTU Cool Connect Smart Window Air Conditioner that retails for $ 490. It offers coverage up to 550 square feet and features remote controls via an app. But more interestingly, the built-in ionizer removes pollen and other impurities from the air.

Finding the Right Device for u

The 2020 window air conditioners are different beasts than you grew up with. They are more efficient, more powerful and smarter. So the big question isn't necessarily which device is best : it's which device is best for you ?

If seasonal allergies are a problem for you every spring, as they are for me, perhaps a built-in ionizer is more important than voice control. But if you plan to work from home more, given the coronavirus pandemic, planning and remote control on your phone might be the crucial feature.

So take the time to think about what you want and let us know in the comments what you're looking for in a window air conditioner.


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