Best Air Conditioners

Learn what to consider when shopping for an AC on a budget. Our guide to the best cheap air conditioners under $300 offers window units with cooling power from 5,000 BTUs to 10,000 BTUs, and coverage from 150 to 450 square feet. As bonuses, we also include a "smart" AC, a portable AC, and one thru-wall air conditioner.

What We Considered

Air conditioners are especially susceptible to a problem that plagues appliance reviews: Once they receive a large amount of feedback, manufacturers tend to discontinue them in favor of newer models. Some manufacturers release new models every year, although the updates are relatively minor. There is less expert commentary in this category that applies to current models. The most helpful assessments come courtesy of consumers reviewing their purchases on retailer websites including Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Abt, AJ Madison, and manufacturers' web pages. We also considered applicable expert feedback from Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, TopTenReviews, and The Spruce.  

We Looked At

Our research found that among cheap air conditioners, low price is no bar to effective cooling. The occasional lemon aside, users seem more than satisfied with the performance of the budget ACs on our list. Some reviewers even say the air conditioners cool spaces much larger than expected, especially with an assist from well-placed fans. In general, though, buyers are likely to be happiest if they follow the sizing guidelines.

No window air conditioner is immune to complaints about noise. Some reviews and owner's manuals caution that improper installation may cause vibration, rattling, and other annoying sounds. However, the design and engineering of a given model, as well as new energy-efficient technology, are also partly to blame. Some manufacturers specify common noises in their manuals, but consumers still complain about rushing air, the thwack of a fan splashing against water in the drip pan, or the thunk and click of the compressor cycling on and off.

Of course, whether a particular air conditioner is "noisy" is notoriously subjective, but some models are described by a critical mass of reviewers as too loud to tolerate, with excessive vibration and sounds likened to "the lowest note of a contrabassoon." We rejected air conditioners with excessive noise complaints. If noise concerns are truly paramount -- say, if you're a light sleeper choosing an air conditioner for a bedroom -- it may be worth splurging on a more expensive model designed to run quietly.

Buyers don't expect many other bells and whistles on inexpensive air conditioners, but they do appreciate controls that make it easier to keep the room temperature comfortable. Nice-to-have features include a digital display and thermostat that maintains a precise temperature. Manufacturers still make a few air conditioners with mechanical controls, which cost less but provide less functionality. Reviews indicate that many users actually like the simplicity of old-school dial controls and appreciate the lower price.

Most of our picks have a 24-hour timer, which lets frugal consumers avoid wasting energy by waiting to cool their space until right before they come home. Buyers looking for even more control over a window AC unit may want to consider a "smart" air conditioner that connects to a home Wi-Fi network for remote operation with a smartphone or tablet. This allows detailed custom scheduling that is worth a premium to many users.

A remote control is increasingly standard issue and often hailed in consumer reviews as a big plus. Users like being able to adjust the AC at night without getting out of bed or while lounging on the couch. Remote functions vary by model; in addition to a power button, options may include time delay, fan speed, and cooling mode. Some remotes are even equipped with a thermostat that can sense the temperature in another part of the room and signal the AC to adjust accordingly, although testers sometimes question their efficacy.

The best inexpensive air conditioners feature three fan speeds (low, medium, and high), but two speeds are common on smaller units. Reviewers note that there's a tradeoff with fan speeds: A higher speed cools a larger area, but a lower speed produces less noise.

In addition to cooling and fan-only modes, all the best cheap air conditioners include an energy-saver mode, in which the compressor cycles on intermittently, only as needed. Most reviewers appreciate this feature, but some note that it allows a room to become too warm. Less common is a sleep mode, in which the temperature rises automatically and incrementally, and then holds steady until morning. Frigidaire is notable for including this feature even on low-cost air conditioners.

Our Top Pick

Frigidaire FFRA0511R1

Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 Review

Our Picks
Frigidaire FFRA0511R1

Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 Review

The relatively diminutive size of this Frigidaire air conditioner (16" W x 12" H x 15.3" D) is particularly well-suited for homes with tiny windows, a feature many reviewers mention with apparent relief. They say it cools smaller bedrooms, studios, and even workshops in a matter of minutes — and keeps them that way — without making a racket. Mechanical controls, rather than electronic controls, help keep the price in low-budget territory. Users also sacrifice popular features like a remote control, timer, energy-saver mode, and clean-filter alert, but few seem to mind. A digital version, the Frigidaire FFRA0522R1, is available for about $40 more.

  • Cools up to 150 square feet quickly and effectively for a unit with just 5,000 BTUs of cooling capacity, reviewers say.

  • 2 fan-only speeds in addition to high and low cooling modes.

  • 7 temperature settings and auto restart.

  • Very easy installation, users report; compact and relatively lightweight at 41 pounds.

  • Washable antibacterial mesh filter.

  • Generous warranty: 5 years on the sealed system and 1 year on parts and labor.

  • Mechanical controls mean fewer features.

  • 2-way air direction control is slightly limited.

  • No Energy Star certification; energy-efficiency ratio (EER) of 11.1 falls short of some models in its class.

  • Scattered reports about short lifespan.

Frigidaire FFRE0633U1

Frigidaire FFRE0633U1 Review

An enthusiastic testing-based endorsement from TopTenReviews, plus strong reviews for its predecessor, the FFRE0633S1, earn the Frigidaire FFRE06SSU1 a top spot on our list. This full-featured model comes in a relatively small package but manages to provide significant cooling relief on sweltering days. It's also easy to install, users say. Features like the 8-way airflow and sleep mode are unusual in this price bracket, as is the five-year warranty on the sealed system. The built-in ionizer, which catches airborne contaminants with positive and negative ions, is another extra that may appeal to allergy sufferers. Use of the ionizer is optional, which is good, as some experts aren't convinced of the efficacy or overall health safety of such devices.

  • Runs quietly and delivers 6,000 BTUs to chill rooms up to 250 square feet, users report.

  • 3 cooling plus 3 fan-only speeds; auto, eco, and sleep modes.

  • Electronic controls with remote; 24-hour timer; auto restart.

  • 8-way air direction control beats competing models.

  • Washable antibacterial mesh filter; clean-filter alert; built-in ionizer.

  • Energy Star and 12.1 EER; very low cost to operate (estimated at $47 per year).

  • 5-year warranty on the sealed system; 1 year on parts and labor.

  • At 18.5 inches wide and 45 pounds, it's slightly larger and heavier than the other compact, small-room ACs we recommend.

  • Newer model, so no information on longer-term performance and durability.

Frigidaire FFRE0833U1

Frigidaire FFRE0833U1 Review

An updated model in a line of Frigidaire ACs that are longtime top sellers, the FFRE0833U1 seems on track to deliver the same high level of performance. It's also loaded with features while bearing a price tag well under $300. Users report that it cools bedrooms in a flash (even at the apex of an A-frame house) and performs well in large rooms even on eco-mode. It also removes more moisture from the air than its predecessor. The ionizer gives the filter a boost by actively pulling contaminants from the air, which may be a boon to allergy sufferers (although some doubt the claimed benefits of this technology). Durability is impossible to assess at this stage, so risk-averse shoppers may prefer to go with the earlier — although not quite as feature-rich — FFRE0833S1 (est. price: $249; buy it from Home Depot).

  • 8,000 BTUs for coverage up to 350 square feet.

  • 3 fan-only speeds plus 3 cooling speeds; auto, eco, and sleep modes.

  • Electronic controls with remote; built-in thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.

  • 6-way air direction control bests many other models.

  • Washable anti-bacterial filter; filter-change alert; optional ionizer.

  • Energy Star; 12.1 EER.

  • 5-year warranty on the sealed system; 1 year on parts and labor.

  • Weighs just 53 pounds, 5 pounds less than our other 8,000-BTU pick.

  • Newer model with few reviews.

  • Scattered griping about excessive noise.

LG LW1016ER

LG LW1016ER Review

User reviews indicate that this 10,000-BTU LG window AC is the one to buy if relatively little noise from the fan and compressor is a high priority. Quick and effective cooling, coupled with low cost, are additional criteria that the LG LW1016ER satisfies. The few blemishes on an otherwise strong record involve installation struggles and spotty reports of a very short lifespan. For the most part, however, hundreds of owners have been more than happy with their purchases; 5-star ratings constitute more than half the responses across retailers.

  • Leaves a chill in the air even on low, and beats the competition for quiet operation, according to reviewers.

  • Cools rooms up to 450 square feet.

  • 3 cooling speeds and 3 fan-only speeds; auto-cool, dehumidify, and energy-saver modes.

  • 4-way air direction.

  • Electronic controls with remote; thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.

  • Energy Star and 12.1 EER; comparatively low operating costs (estimated at $80 yearly).

  • Washable filter with light to alert when it needs cleaning.

  • Slide-out chassis to aid in installation and removal.

  • Some owners gripe about unclear instructions presenting setup challenges.

  • Heavy, at 74 pounds.

  • Short 1-year warranty on parts and labor.

LG LW6017R

LG LW6017R Review

A solid majority of reviewers give this LG air conditioner a thumbs-up for discharging plenty of cold air to quickly chill a small or midsize room — even one with a wall of windows. Most users say they get their money's worth from this model, although some voice dissatisfaction with what they consider inadequate power or excessive noise. The LW6017R is a relatively new model from LG and has amassed just slightly more than 300 reviews. Based on those and the performance of predecessors, we feel confident recommending this iteration.

  • 6,000 BTUs provide coverage for up to 260 square feet.

  • 3 fan speeds and 3 cooling speeds; auto-cool, dehumidify, and energy-saver modes.

  • Electronic controls with remote; thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.

  • Washable filter; clean-filter alert.

  • Sufficiently quiet for many reviewers.

  • Lightweight, at 39.6 pounds.

  • Some grumbling about insufficient cold-air output.

  • Scattered complaints about the location of the display panel, which is hard to see if the unit is elevated.

  • Air output can be adjusted in only 2 directions.

  • No Energy Star; 11.5 EER is lower than some other models.

  • 1-year warranty on parts and labor is on the short side.

LG LW8016ER

LG LW8016ER Review

The LG LW8016ER has been kicking around for a few years and continues to claim strong support from users for overall performance. Once a room arrives at the desired comfort level — a state quickly reached — reviewers say it stays that way. For the price, the feature set on this LG AC is fairly generous, though standard for the category overall, and it includes a dehumidify function that users appreciate. About the only outstanding issue concerns the noise; some reviewers consider it fairly loud even as others assert that this model is the quietest ever. For those who want the very latest edition and 8,200 BTUs, you'll pay about $290 for the LW8018ER.

  • Cools quickly, holds consistent temperature, pulls lots of moisture from the air, and runs efficiently, according to reviews.

  • 8,000 BTUs; coverage up to 340 square feet.

  • 3 fan speeds; cool, dehumidify, fan-only, and energy-saver modes.

  • Electronic controls with remote; built-in thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.

  • 4-way air direction.

  • Washable filter; filter-check light.

  • Energy Star and 12.1 EER suggest a low operating cost.

  • 4-foot power cord is 2 feet shorter than most competing models.

  • 1-year warranty on parts and labor is relatively short.

  • Some complaints about noise.

GE AHS10AX

GE AHS10AX Review

The GE AHS10AX packs a surprising punch, many reviewers say, cooling off a large space with a force greater than its 10,000 BTUs would suggest. Some tell of saving on utility costs by running this unit rather than the whole-house AC. Others laud the efficiency of the energy-saver mode. Despite a bit of grousing about the noise level and a thermostat that doesn't always register the room temperature accurately, this new addition to the GE air conditioner lineup delivers solid performance at a value price. It's offered exclusively at Lowe's.

  • Blasts chilled air and pulls out plenty of moisture, leaving rooms feeling comfortably cool, reviews say.

  • 10,000 BTUs for coverage up to 450 square feet.

  • 3 speeds, with auto cool; 3 fan-only settings; energy-saver mode.

  • Electronic controls with remote; thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.

  • 4-way air direction control.

  • Washable mesh filter; alert light signals filter should be changed.

  • Energy Star; 12.2 EER is the highest among our top picks.

  • Lightweight for a higher-capacity model (just 60 pounds).

  • Too loud for some users.

  • Some reports suggest the thermostat is not entirely precise.

  • 1-year warranty.

Other Products We Reviewed

lg ken70lg

Kenmore 70051 Review

Buy it from Sears.

Users posting Kenmore 70051 reviews at Sears praise this model for being easy to install and use. About the only knock against this model is the annoying beep it emits when you change the settings. According to a review on Buzzillions, the beep is so loud it scares the user's pets.

The Kenmore 70051 (starting at $170) handily qualified for Energy Star certification under the old standards, with an energy efficiency ratio of 11, and very nearly hits the new benchmark of 11.2. A user posting a Kenmore air conditioner review on Buzzillions confirms that this model uses less power than you might think for a unit of its size. Unlike other models we looked at in the 5,000 BTU range, the 5,200 BTU Kenmore 70051 offers three fan and cooling speeds, plus a sleep mode. It also comes with an energy saver mode, a 24-hour on/off timer, and a filter check. It's covered by a one-year limited warranty and a five-year limited warranty on the sealed system.

The Kenmore 70051 has the most impressive feature set we've seen for its price and size. On balance we think it's the best choice for rooms up to and even slightly larger than 150 square feet.

lg 060215 ge aem06lt 250

This air conditioner is a new model for 2015 and not yet widely available at retail. However, consumer product experts have already subjected this unit to comparative testing. Their GE AEM06LT review cites high scores for comfort, noise, and performance in brownout conditions (i.e., high temperature and low voltage). A couple of 5-star reviews on the manufacturer's website marvel at how quickly a room -- or two -- reaches a comfortable temperature. The cooling capacity is 6,050 BTUs, which suits spaces up to about 250 square feet.

Owners can adjust the GE AEM06LT (starting at $220, Amazon) using four-way louvers and electronic controls with a choice of three fan speeds, either in cooling mode or fan-only. There's also a remote control, a 24-hour on/off timer, and an energy saver mode that cycles the unit off when a set temperature is reached, saving electricity. This Energy Star-certified air conditioner meets the most recent government standards with an energy-efficiency ratio, or EER, of 11.2 and a combined energy-efficiency ratio, or CEER, of 11. The unit weighs 46 pounds and fits in a window with an opening between 22.5 and 38 inches wide and at least 13.5 inches high. It comes with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

Expect this air conditioner to take on slightly different model numbers depending on where it's sold (e.g., the previous version, model No. AEM06LS, was identified as AEH06LS at Sam's Club, AEL06LS at Home Depot, and AEZ06LS at Walmart). Such models may have different features, so take a close look at the specs, but the prices may be up to $50 lower.

lg frigidaire ffre0533q1 250

Frigidaire FFRE0533Q1 Review

Buy it from Searsor Amazon.

This 2014 model hasn't garnered a ton of online feedback, but existing Frigidaire FFRE0533Q1 reviews are favorable. In a hands-on test, consumer product experts give this 5,000-BTU air conditioner high marks for quickly and accurately cooling a room to a set temperature without making too much noise, on either the high or the low setting. They especially commend its performance under conditions of extreme heat and low voltage. The unit automatically restores the most recent settings following a power outage.

Most Frigidaire FFRE0533Q1 reviews on Amazon come from customers who have received this relatively new product for free through the Amazon Vine program. These reviewers may be swayed by the fact that the cool air is coming gratis, but many of their comments are highly specific and helpful. A couple convey a high regard for the quality and durability of Frigidaire-brand products in general.

The Frigidaire FFRE0533Q1 (starting at $172, Amazon) is rated for up to 150 square feet and seems to be well-suited to a bedroom. One reviewer marvels at how well it cools a second-floor room with cathedral ceilings. Another reports that it effortlessly handles a 200-square-foot space that houses a large, heat-generating computer.

This air conditioner is Energy Star certified under new standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency. Its energy efficiency ratio of 11.2 translates to a lower electric bill than a conventional air conditioner would generate. This unit has electronic controls for setting a precise temperature, as well as a remote control for adjusting the AC from across the room or without getting out of bed. There are two fan speeds, four-way air direction, and features including a 24-hour timer, antibacterial filter, and clean filter alert. The window unit fits into a space 23 to 36 inches wide and 13 inches high. User reviewers have found the installation easy and instructions clear.

The Frigidaire FFRE0533Q1 comes with a full one-year warranty and a five-year warranty on the sealed system. It carries a higher price tag than the winner in our 5,000-BTU bracket, the Kenmore 70051, which is more adjustable and includes a sleep mode. Still, the Frigidaire FFRE0533Q1 meets the most recent standard for Energy Star qualification and should save a bit of money in the long run.

lg lg lw8015er 250

The 8,000-BTU LG LW8015ER (starting at $239, Amazon), a 2015 model, is still trickling onto retail shelves. However, its indistinguishable predecessors (which differ in little more than model number) leave a legacy of positive feedback. LG LW8014ER reviews on the Home Depot website remark on the ease of installing the 2014 version, the variety of settings, and the stylish appearance. In a review of an older model on the manufacturer's website, one user reports that the unit put a 12,000-BTU air conditioner to shame. The manufacturer recommends this AC for spaces up to 340 square feet. At 8,000 BTUs, the LG LW8015ER is powerful enough that gripes about noise do pop up in reviews, but we found that to be true with any air conditioner this size.

A couple of consumers mention in reviews that they've owned similar LG units for five years and counting, and other reviewers comment on the high quality of the construction. The LG LW8015ER is an Energy Star-qualified unit with an energy-efficiency ratio of 11.3 and a CEER of 11.2. It features auto restart after power outages, energy-saver mode, and a 24-hour timer. Users can remotely control the temperature, timer, and fan speed. One disappointment is the lack of a sleep mode on this air conditioner.

The LG LW8015ER is backed by a one-year warranty on parts and labor. Despite a scarcity of reviews for the current model, LG's 8,000-BTU air conditioner remains a smart purchase.

lg 060215 rca race8001 250

RCA RACE8001 reviews are mixed. Most users seem satisfied with the cooling performance of this 8,000-BTU window air conditioner, but others complain that it's difficult to control. In a review on Amazon, a customer laments that adjusting the louvers doesn't change the direction of the airflow. Reviews on the Walmart website paint a picture of an air conditioner that emits only freezing air at full blast; there's little distinction among the fan speeds and no way to reduce the noise. Although complaints about noise are common, an unusually high percentage of reviewers (about a third) mention that the RCA RACE8001 is loud.

The RCA RACE8001 (starting at $229, Amazon) has three fan speeds and modes. It also features a sleep function, which gradually ups the temperature during the night, and auto restart, which restores the most recent settings after the power goes off. This air conditioner has an energy-efficiency ratio of just 10.8 and lacks an energy saver mode, both of which prevent it from qualifying for Energy Star certification.

Despite a largely unchallenged ability to cool down a room up to about 350 square feet, the RCA RACE8001 has little else to recommend it to budget buyers. It lacks crucial features such as an energy saver function, it's not nearly efficient enough to meet Energy Star requirements, and many users find the noise level off-putting. With so many good cheap options available, this lackluster unit doesn't make our cut.

lg 060914 frigidaire ffre0833q1 250

Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 Review

Buy it from Searsor Amazon.

The most useful Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 review we read comes from The Sweethome, which conducted a comparative test of this 8,000-BTU model and our other recommended air conditioner with the same cooling capacity, the LG LW8015ER. The Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 (starting at $216, Amazon) costs more but comes with extra conveniences that add value for the money. The site's testing showed this air conditioner to be more efficient than its competitor. It's also 8 pounds lighter, which may make installation a little bit easier. This window unit can fit into an opening 23 to 36 inches wide and 14 inches high and cool an area up to 350 square feet.

Some Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 reviews on Amazon come from Amazon Vine reviewers who have been selected to receive the product for free for the purpose of posting their feedback. Although a grain of salt may be in order, these are generally detailed reviews that acknowledge some negative aspects of the air conditioner, noise chief among them. It's been measured at between 52 and 63 decibels, depending on the setting and who's doing the measuring, a range roughly similar to human conversation.

One standout feature of the Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 is a thermostat in the remote control. This allows the air conditioner to adjust based on the temperature across the room, making for more precise cooling than would be possible with a thermostat only in the main unit. The settings include sleep mode, energy saver mode, and a 24-hour on/off timer. The unit has electronic controls and three fan speeds, whether on fan-only or cooling mode. The louvers can direct cool air eight different ways. In the event of a power outage, the unit automatically resumes operating at its previous settings. An antibacterial filter and clean-air ionizer trap impurities and an alert reminds users to clean the filter.

The Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 may cost a bit more at the outset than other cheap 8,000-BTU models, but it teems with useful features and promises unbeatable efficiency, saving money on electricity in the long run. This air conditioner qualifies for Energy Star certification under new standards that took effect in October 2013, with an energy-efficiency ratio of 11.3. It also comes with a full one-year warranty and a five-year guarantee for the sealed system.

lg 060215 lg lw1015er 250

The LG LW1015ER is too new to have generated any online reviews, but the 2014 model, the LG LW1014ER, maintains a high rating on the Home Depot website, and previous generations have been equally well received. The LW1015ER (starting at $269, Amazon) features only minor changes, which inspires confidence that its functionality and cooling performance will live up to top-rated older models.

With a 10,000-BTU cooling capacity, the LG LW1015ER should be able to handle an area up to about 450 square feet. That's why a user posting a review of a previous model at Home Depot was amazed to find that it quietly and effectively cooled 900 square feet. Another user says a 10,000-BTU LG air conditioner made a hot kitchen feel like a freezer and cooled the living room as well. The 2014 LG LW1014ER received similarly positive consumer feedback. One reviewer gave it credit for cooling an entire floor of his home, although he didn't specify the square footage.

LG LW1014ER reviews mention easy installation, relatively quiet operation, and convenient features. We don't anticipate that the LW1015ER will differ in these areas, as the units are nearly identical. The LW1015ER earns an Energy Star label with an impressive energy-efficiency ratio of 11.3 and a CEER of 11.2. It features an energy-saver function, automatic restart after a power outage, a remote control, and a programmable 24-hour timer. This air conditioner comes with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

The bottom line: The LG LW1015ER matches or exceeds the features of its predecessors and promises to measure up to their highly rated performance, as well.

lg 060215 frigidaire lra107bu1 250

In Frigidaire LRA107BU1 reviews at Lowe's, users praise the unit's high quality and durability. The cooling power of an equivalent 10,000 BTU model, the Frigidaire FRA106BU1, impresses consumers posting reviews on Newegg. One user marvels that this AC can cool a 500-square-foot room without even using the highest fan speed. Consumers posting reviews on Amazon like the clean air ionizer (one of them has allergies) and full-function remote control. The remote even includes a thermostat that reads the temperature in other parts of the room so the AC can adjust accordingly.

In addition to those special features, the Frigidaire LRA107BU1 (starting at $299) boasts a clean filter alert, low-voltage restart, a 24-hour timer, sleep mode, and energy saver mode. It qualifies for an Energy Star label with an EER of 10.8. It's backed by a two-year full in-home warranty and a five-year warranty on the sealed system.

With that impressive feature set and almost all positive reviews, the Frigidaire LRA107BU1 earns our vote for rooms measuring about 500 square feet.

As long as noise isn't a primary concern, the 8,000-BTU Frigidaire FFRE0833S1 is the best choice to effectively cool rooms up to 350 square feet for less than $300. It also offers some conveniences over similar models, including a sleep mode, a remote that can monitor the temperature anywhere in the room, and eight air-direction options compared with two or four.

  • 8-way air direction control distributes cooled air evenly throughout the room instead of blasting it in one or two directions.

  • Extra features include energy-saving mode, sleep mode, clean-air ionizer, and temperature-sensing remote control.

  • Energy Star-certified for efficient operation.

  • Evenly distributed weight and small chassis help speed installation, experts say.

  • Some user reviews mention loud fan operation and occasional rattling; experts confirm it's louder than other units.

  • Experts say this model tends to blow air to the right even if users direct it elsewhere.

Frigidaire FFRE0533S1

For anyone who needs a window air conditioner to cool down a small space such as a bedroom or an office, the ultrFrigidaire FFRE0533S1 is hard to beat. It's extremely efficient and offers some nice conveniences in a category that often features more basic models.

  • Energy Star-certified and cheaper to run than any other unit on our list, at an estimated average of just $37 a year.

  • Light enough for one person to easily install; narrow frame fits in tighter windows.

  • Has features that other small air conditioners lack, including a timer, remote, and energy-saving mode.

  • Some owners complain that the energy-saver mode lets the room get a little too warm.

  • At 5,000 BTUs, this model cools only about 150 square feet.

  • Filter can be hard to re-insert after cleaning, reviewers say.

Frigidaire FFRA1022R1

Although it isn't quite as efficient as our other picks, the Frigidaire FFRA1022R1 can cool down a larger space effectively -- some reviewers say it almost makes their space too cold. Eight-way air direction makes it easier to point the air where it's wanted.

  • 10,000 BTUs of cooling power for spaces up to about 450 square feet.

  • 8-way air direction distributes cooled air evenly throughout the room instead of blasting it in one or two spots.

  • Many reviewers find this air conditioner relatively quiet, especially for the size.

  • Not Energy Star-certified, and the least energy-efficient air conditioner on our list, with estimated average operating costs of $83 a year.

  • Some owners complain that energy-saver mode lets the room get a little too warm.

GE AEL08LV

The GE AEL08LV is a workhorse of an air-conditioner, with an 8,000-BTU capacity for cooling up to about 350 square feet. Consumer product experts who tested a Walmart-exclusive version (AEW08LV) give it very high marks for quick cooling. This air conditioner is also lauded for being a snap to install, thanks to GE's EZ-Mount system, which allows for fast installation in most standard windows.

  • Most reviewers are happy with the performance in medium-size rooms.

  • Energy Star-certified.

  • Installation is quick and painless, reviewers say.

  • A fair number of reviewer complaints for excessive noise; similar GE model gets poor marks for noise in expert tests.

  • Energy-saver mode gets mixed reviews; some say it causes unit to cycle on and off too often.

GE AEL05LV
  • Users say it does a great job cooling down a small room, especially for the price.

  • Dial controls allow for simple operation.

  • Installation is reportedly quick and painless.

  • At 5,000 BTUs, it's underpowered for any space larger than about 150 square feet.

  • Lacks electronic features such as a timer, remote control, or energy-saver mode.

  • Only 2 fan speeds and 2-way air direction.

  • Not Energy Star-certified and costlier to run than similar models.

LG LW6015ER

While nearly all window air conditioners are subject to some noise complaints, the LG LW6015ER seems to inspire more intense criticism than others. Testing by consumer product experts confirms that it's not the quietest air conditioner, and users warn of not just noise but vibrations, too.

  • Most reviewers say this 6,000-BTU unit cools down a small room very quickly.

  • Energy Star-certified for efficient operation.

  • Includes features absent from many other small air conditioners, such as a timer, remote, and energy-saving mode.

  • Many reviewers complain of excessive noise and vibration; ho-hum marks for indoor noise in expert testing.

  • Only 2-way air direction.

Frigidaire FGRC0844S1

Air conditioners don't typically inspire descriptors such as "classy," "elegant," or "smart," but the Frigidaire FGRC0844S1 bucks that trend with its sleek design and smart-home connectivity. Buyers laud the convenience of controlling the unit with their phones, making it easy to create a custom schedule compatible with busy lives.

  • A streamlined modern look and sleek LED controls make this air conditioner a great pick for buyers who prefer something with more aesthetic appeal.

  • Wi-Fi-enabled controls allow an extra layer of convenience, letting users operate the unit remotely.

  • Boasts extra features including sleep mode, eco mode, custom scheduling, clean-air ionizer, and remote control.

  • Energy Star-certified for efficiency.

  • Extra features and better design boost price compared with other 8,000-BTU units.

  • Some buyers and experts report problems with Wi-Fi connection.

  • Integration with other smart-home platforms is limited to Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant.

Frigidaire FGRQ08L3T1

Buyers willing to pay a premium for a quieter air conditioner should take a look at the Frigidaire FGRQ083LT1, which many reviewers say is silent enough even for the bedroom of a light sleeper. Just know that a little cooling power might be sacrificed along with those extra bucks.

  • Experts and owners say this air conditioner is ultra-quiet, making it a good pick for bedrooms or other rooms where too much noise would be distracting.

  • Energy Star-certified for efficient operation.

  • Extra features include energy-saving mode, sleep mode, and remote control.

  • More expensive than other air conditioners with the same 8,000-BTU cooling power.

  • Fairly basic functioning allows air to be directed only two ways.

Friedrich Chill CP08G10B

This 8,000-BTU Friedrich air conditioner stands out for unusual versatility, at least for the price. The Friedrich Chill can be mounted in a window or set up as a through-the-wall air conditioner and features a power cord that runs out of either side, an arrangement that overcomes outlet location constraints. Reviewers also welcome the anti-intrusion design and the option of using this model as a dehumidifier. Quiet operation and effective cooling are performance highlights and hallmarks of the Friedrich brand, while the build quality merits special mention in many users' reviews.

  • 8,000 BTUs provide very cool and efficient chilling for midsize rooms (up to 325 square feet), reviewers write.

  • 3 fan speeds; cool, dehumidify, fan-only, and money-saver modes.

  • Electronic controls with full-function remote; thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.

  • 4-way air direction control, with auto-swing louvers for even better circulation.

  • Slide-out chassis with anti-intrusion design (unit cannot be kicked in); easy installation in window or wall (comes with wall sleeve), reviews say.

  • Washable anti-microbial filter.

  • Energy Star; 12.2 EER is among the best in class.

  • Quieter than many other ACs, according to users.

  • 5-year warranty on the sealed system; 1-year limited warranty on parts.

  • Scattered reports of malfunctions, most dating back several years.

  • Lots of exclusion clauses and caveats in the warranty, and some owners have found manufacturer support lacking.

Honeywell MN10CES

Convenience and a user-friendly design are the greatest strengths of this Honeywell portable air conditioner, along with its chilling chops. Setting up the Honeywell MN10CES (which comes with a window venting kit and hose) is a breeze, reviewers say, and doesn't deter them from moving the unit into and out of rooms or storage as needed. They also report that large rooms cool down without a struggle. The MN10CES is cool on style, too, and available in a variety of colors, including white, black, and black/silver. But, buyer be warned: While most owners award points for dependability, some tell of breakdowns after just a few years of service.

  • Provides good, fast, and relatively quiet cooling on hot days, users say.

  • 10,000 BTUs for coverage up to 450 square feet.

  • 3-in-1 functionality: air condition, dehumidify, and fan-only settings (3 speeds).

  • Continuous drain option for the dehumidifier and auto evaporation — no drip pan or water tank required.

  • Electronic controls with remote; thermostat and 24-hour timer.

  • Washable filter; filter-check light.

  • Mounted on caster wheels and weighing 66 pounds, it's fairly easy to maneuver.

  • 5-year warranty on the sealed system; 1 year on parts and labor.

  • Scattered complaints about product failure after a couple of seasons.

  • Lacks some desirable features for the price, including sleep mode, energy-saver mode, and auto-restart.

  • No Energy Star certification or energy guide documentation; portable air conditioners tend to be much less energy efficient than window units.

The Haier HWF05XCR is a basic air conditioner designed to appeal to frugal consumers who don't want to spend a penny more than necessary to cool their space. Unfortunately, some buyers say you get what you pay for here, warning that the unit stops functioning properly in fairly short order.

  • Most buyers say this 5,000-BTU air conditioner does a solid job of cooling down small rooms.

  • Easy to install; dial controls are simple to use.

  • Several reviewers express durability concerns, saying the unit blew cold air for only a short period before stopping.

  • Lacks any extra features such as a timer, remote control, or energy-saver mode; only two fan speeds and two-way air direction.

  • No Energy Star certification, and costlier to run than similar models.

  • At 5,000 BTUs, it is underpowered for any space larger than about 150 square feet.

Frigidaire FGRC0844U1

Users say it's hard to resist the stylish, svelte appeal of the Frigidaire FGRC0844U1, especially when coupled with smart functionality. Although a few users report that connectivity may be hit or miss, most say the ability to program this Wi-Fi AC to suit their needs and control it from afar makes warm-weather days so much more tolerable — as does strong, quick, and quiet cooling. Because reviews for this new model are sparse, it's hard to know whether the wonky thermostat that was an issue with the previous model has been improved, but shoppers keen to build out their homes' smart capabilities while sticking to a budget might give Frigidaire's Cool Connect smart AC serious consideration.

  • 8,000 BTUs for cooling up to 350 square feet.

  • Wi-Fi enabled for control with mobile devices and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, in addition to a remote.

  • Programmable and customizable for individual scheduling.

  • 3 cooling speeds and 3 fan-only settings; auto-cool, eco, and sleep modes.

  • 4-way airflow with slanted louvers (for circular direction).

  • Washable antibacterial mesh filter with filter-check light; built-in optional ionizer.

  • Energy Star and 12.0 EER; comes with insulated side panels for greater energy conservation.

  • Comparatively lightweight, at 53 pounds.

  • 5-year warranty on the sealed system; 1 year on parts and labor.

  • New model with limited reviews.

  • Complaints about inaccurate thermostat and temperature display in reviews of this model's predecessor.

  • Scattered reports about a weak wireless receiver.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Room Air Conditioner

If stuffy rooms are making you sweat, here's some news that might cool you off: There are plenty of highly rated and low-cost air conditioners out there. Prices for room air conditioners start around $100 and rise well beyond $2,000. The higher end of the market is populated mostly by built-in models that do double duty chilling and heating large spaces. But for less than $300, it's possible to buy a window air conditioner that's powerful enough to blast frigid air into a small, large, or mid-size room. Depending on the layout of the living space and its relation to the sun, a cheap air conditioner can cool an even larger area. Quite a number of reviewers note that, with a small window unit in a bedroom, they don't have to pay to run central air conditioning at night.

Brands that manufacture budget-friendly air conditioners include Frigidaire, Haier, LG, and GE. Frigidaire is the dominant budget label, followed by LG and GE. Carrier and Friedrich are best known for pricier and larger-capacity units.

The capacity of an air conditioner indicates the size of the area it can cool effectively. It's measured in BTUs, or British thermal units per hour. (A BTU is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.) The more powerful the air conditioner, the larger the coverage area and the higher the price.

The cooling capacity of cheap air conditioners ranges from 5,000 BTUs, for small rooms up to 150 square feet, to 10,000 BTUs, for rooms measuring up to about 450 square feet. At 12,000 BTUs (which can cool 550 square feet), prices bust through the Cheapism ceiling.

Before you start shopping, measure the room and the window in which you plan to install the AC. Rooms with high ceilings, direct afternoon sun exposure, and/or minimal insulation may need the oomph of a few extra BTUs. It doesn't pay to buy an air conditioner with excess or insufficient capacity, experts say. A unit that doesn't match the space will perform poorly and inefficiently.

A couple of other things to keep in mind: Air conditioners from the same manufacturer often differ slightly in model number and features depending on the retailer. Be sure to check the specs carefully before buying one of these alternatives. Also, most cheap air conditioners are designed for double-hung windows; options are limited with casement or slider windows.

Portable vs. Window Air Conditioners

Portable air conditioners are an option for buyers who have windows or landlords that won't allow a window air conditioner, are worried about installation headaches, or want the option of using a single unit across multiple rooms as needed. In general, users shouldn't expect the same cooling power they would get from an equivalent window unit. Portable air conditioners tend to draw frequent criticisms for being underpowered. Consumer Reports even suggests they should be a last resort, noting that they offer only marginally better performance than a fan. Keep in mind, also, that these units have an exhaust hose that still must be vented through a window.

Features Comparison

Sort by:
Review Score:
Product Title
Cooling Capacity
Fan Speeds
Air Direction
Controls
Energy Star/Energy Efficiency Ratio
Product Title
Cooling Capacity
Fan Speeds
Air Direction
Controls
Energy Star/Energy Efficiency Ratio

Frigidaire FFRA0511R1

$136
5,000 BTUs
2
2-way
Manual dial: 7 temperature settings
No; 11.1 EER (est. avg. $44/year)

Frigidaire FFRE0633U1

$190
6,000 BTUs
3
8-way
Electronic: Remote, auto fan, 24-hr. timer, sleep mode, energy saver, ionizer
Yes; 12.1 EER (est. avg. $48/year)

Frigidaire FFRE0833U1

$240
8,000 BTUs
3
6-way
Electronic: Remote, auto fan, 24-hr. timer, sleep mode, energy saver, ionizer
Yes; 12.1 EER (est. avg. $65/year)

LG LW1016ER

$299
10,000 BTUs
3
4-way
Electronic: Remote, auto fan, 24-hr. timer, energy saver, dehumidify
Yes; 12.1 EER (est. avg. $80/year)

LG LW6017R

$179
6,000 BTUs
3
2-way
Electronic: Remote, auto fan, 24-hr. timer, energy saver, dehumidify
No; 11.5 EER (est. avg. $51/year)

LG LW8016ER

$219
8,000 BTUs
3
4-way
Electronic: Remote, auto fan, 24-hr. timer, energy saver, dehumidify
Yes; 12.1 EER (est. avg. $65/year)

GE AHS10AX

$299
10,000 BTUs
3
4-way
Electronic: Remote, auto fan, 24-hr. timer, energy saver
Yes; 12.2 EER (est. avg. $80/year)