There's no need to sweat it out in hot weather, even if you're on a budget. There are plenty of highly rated air conditioners around $300 or less that can cool a room to a comfortable level and keep it that way. To help choose the best air conditioners, we considered test results and professional feedback from Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, and Top Ten Reviews, among others. However, some manufacturers release new models every year (with relatively minor updates), so often there is not a lot of expert input on current models. To see how newer units fare, we scoured hundreds of consumer reviews on manufacturer and retailer sites, including Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart, Best Buy, and Target.

These user and expert reviews pointed us to models with 5,000 BTUs to 10,000 BTUs of cooling power from respected brands like Frigidaire, GE, and LG. All are easy to set up, and many offer a range of popular features, such as a remote controls, thermostats, and timers. We fleshed out our list of favorites with two Wi-Fi-enabled “smart” ACs, a model that can be used in a window or as a through-the-wall unit, and a portable air conditioner for convenient cooling in any room.

Note: 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.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

See full Buying Guide

Our Top Pick

LG LW8016ER
Our Picks
LG LW8016ER

Pros:

  • Cools quickly, holds consistent temperature, pulls lots of moisture from the air, and runs efficiently, according to reviews.
  • 8,000 BTUs should cover midsize rooms up to 340 square feet.
  • 3 cooling speeds and 3 fan-only speeds; auto-cool, dehumidify, 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 certification and very high 12.1 energy efficiency ratio (EER).

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: The LG LW8016ER has been kicking around for a few years, but it continues to claim strong support from users for overall performance and manages to take the top spot on Wirecutter's 2019 list of best air conditioners. With this cool customer, 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 affordable LG AC is fairly generous, and it includes a dehumidify function that users appreciate, as well as a few less-common extras that reviewers at Wirecutter suggest may prove equally valuable (like a drain plug in the back for removing excess condensation). About the only issue with this highly praised air conditioner is the noise. Some reviewers consider it fairly loud even as others assert that this model is the quietest ever. For those willing to pay a bit more for the very latest edition, the LW8018ER, prices start around $350. This upgrade boasts 8,200 BTUs and even greater efficiency, with an impressive 12.5 combined energy efficiency ratio (CEER).

Frigidaire FFRA051WAE/WA1

Pros:

  • 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 48 pounds.
  • Washable antibacterial mesh filter.
  • Generous warranty: 5 years on the sealed system and 1 year on parts and labor.

Cons:

  • Mechanical controls mean fewer features.
  • Only 2-way air-direction control.
  • No Energy Star certification; energy-efficiency ratio (EER) of 11.1 falls short of some models in its class.
  • Newer model with relatively few reviews on retailer websites.
  • Scattered reports that the previous model had a short lifespan.

Takeaway: The Frigidaire FFRA051WAE/WA1 is the newer version of the Frigidaire FFRA0511R1E, a simple budget model popular with experts and consumers alike. Prized for its relatively diminutive size (16" W x 12" H x 15.3" D), this compact air conditioner is particularly well-suited for homes with tiny windows — a notable advantage cited by owners of the previous model. Consumers say the AC cools smaller bedrooms, studios, workshops, and even a few RVs in a matter of minutes — and keeps them cool — without making too much of a racket. Of course, the mechanical controls are a bit “old school,” and you won't find features like a remote control, timer, energy-saver mode, or clean-filter alert here. But given the low cost, few buyers seem to mind. User reviews pertaining to this exact model (which sells as the FFRA051WAE at some retailers and the FFRA051WA1 at others) are limited, but those we found are quite positive overall — not surprising, as changes from the earlier model are quite minimal and should only improve functionality. This Frigidaire air conditioner sports a bit tiny bit more amperage and a more eco-friendly and efficient refrigerant than its predecessor.

LG LW6019ER

LG LW6019ER Review

Pros:

  • 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.
  • 4-way air direction.
  • Electronic controls with remote; thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.
  • Washable filter; clean-filter alert.
  • Energy Star certified; CEER of 12.4 bests other air conditioners in its class.

Cons:

  • New to market, this unit has yet to amass user feedback.
  • 1-year warranty on parts and labor is on the short side.

Takeaway: This particular line of LG air conditioners continues to earn solid marks from reviewers, and one version or another appears on most lists of the best air conditioners. Affordable, capable, and relatively quiet cooling are the hallmark of these consumer favorites, and the particularly high energy efficiency of the most recent models places them at the top of the heap when compared with the competition. The LG LW6019ER actually exceeds Energy Star requirements, besting standards for efficiency by 12.73% as opposed to the mandated 10%. While the lack of owner reviews for this new model would normally keep us from offering a wholehearted endorsement, what we saw of its performance in testing by Consumer Reports suggests that an unequivocal thumbs-up is well merited. Skeptical shoppers who would prefer a model with a proven track record might consider the LG LW6017R ($219 at Home Depot ). This older, cheaper 6,000 BTU LG air conditioner is still quite popular and has many of the same features, but you'll sacrifice the Energy Star rating and some of the cooling power in the swap.

Frigidaire FFRE0833U1

Pros:

  • 10,000 BTUs cover up to 450 square feet.
  • 3 fan-only speeds and 3 cooling speeds; auto, eco, and sleep modes.
  • Electronic controls with built-in thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.
  • 6-way air-direction control bests many other models.
  • Remote can sense the room temperature wherever it's placed and signal AC to adjust accordingly.
  • 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.

Cons:

  • Remote’s thermostat is not entirely dependable and can be inaccurate, according to reviews.
  • Scattered griping about excessive noise.

Takeaway: It’s not the most recent model, but the Frigidaire FFRE1033U1 stands out for delivering the same high level of performance as its predecessors in a line of Frigidaire ACs that are longtime top sellers. Its close cousin, the 8,000 BTU Frigidaire FFRE8033U1, is recommended by testers at Wirecutter as a runner-up choice for best air conditioner of 2019, and reviews for this larger model are similarly positive. It’s loaded with the features most users want, for a comparatively reasonable price. Owners report that this Frigidaire air conditioner is easy to operate and install and cools large rooms, or even multiple rooms, in a flash. An optional 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). The very latest 10,000-BTU models from Frigidaire include the FFRE103WAE/WA1 and the FFRE103ZA1, but these tend to be harder to find. There are also few reviews and too many small differences between models to confidently assess their relative merits. Prudent shoppers will most likely prefer to go with the tried-and-true FFRE1033U1.

LG LW8017ERSM

Pros:

  • 8,000 BTUs cover up to 340 square feet.
  • 3 fan speeds and 3 cooling speeds; auto-cool, dehumidify, and energy-saver modes.
  • 4-way air direction.
  • Electronic controls with remote; thermostat and 24-hour timer; auto restart.
  • Wi-Fi connection allows control and customized scheduling with smartphones, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.
  • Washable filter; clean-filter alert.
  • Energy Star certified; 12.1 EER.

Cons:

  • Newer model with somewhat limited user feedback.
  • Reviews suggest installation may be a bit challenging.
  • Some say app set up can be time-consuming and a bit glitchy at first.
  • Many complaints about noise and rattling.
  • 1-year warranty on parts and labor is on the short side.

Takeaway: Like many reviewers, we're not necessarily convinced that Wi-Fi connectivity is entirely worth the extra cost when it comes to air conditioners, but the comparatively low price of the LG LW8017ERSM certainly makes it an attractive choice. It's widely popular with experts and has earned Top Ten Reviews' endorsement as the all-around best air conditioner of 2019. With the same base features and specifications as our best value pick, the LG LW8016ER, the smart LW8017ERSM earns points for its admirable ability to keep rooms comfortable on top of giving tech geeks a thrill. Users claim it can even cool well beyond the 340 square feet suggested. While some complain that the app is not entirely up to snuff, and setup could certainly be less cumbersome, others appreciate the intuitive interface. Regardless, the customized control that Wi-Fi connectivity offers (even if it's not perfect) is a nice addition to an already attractive package — especially when this smart AC can sometimes be found for less than its "unconnected" LG cousin.

Frigidaire FGRC084WA1

Pros:

  • 8,000 BTUs for cooling up to 350 square feet.
  • Wi-Fi enabled for control with mobile devices and 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; filter-check light; optional ionizer.
  • Energy Star; 12.0 EER; insulated side panels for greater energy conservation.
  • 5-year warranty on the sealed system; 1 year on parts and labor.

Cons:

  • New model with limited reviews.
  • Complaints about app functionality have been persistent with this line.
  • Current user feedback suggests that noise level remains an issue.

Takeaway: Users say it’s hard to resist the stylish, svelte appeal of a Wi-Fi-enabled Frigidaire Gallery air conditioner. Look on virtually any list of recommended smart air conditioners and you’re bound to find the “Cool Connect” making an appearance, usually toward the top. Although experts and users report that connectivity may be hit or miss (which is true for smart ACs in general), and some say the app feels dated, it’s generally agreed that the ability to program this AC from afar to ensure a return to a pre-cooled home can make warm-weather days so much more tolerable. The Frigidaire FGRC084WA1/WAE is the very latest model in the line, and while user reviews for this version are sparse, what we’ve seen suggests that it delivers similar, if not improved, performance compared with its predecessor. (This model uses a more efficient refrigerant, and it’s got about half an amp and 5 more watts of power than the Frigidaire FGRC0844U1.)

Honeywell MN10CES

Pros:

  • Provides effective, fast, and relatively quiet cooling on hot days, users say.
  • 10,000 BTUs covers up to 450 square feet.
  • Air conditions and dehumidifie; 3-speed cooling and fan-only settings.
  • 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.
  • Fairly easy to maneuver; just over 60 pounds and mounted on caster wheels.
  • Available in multiple colors, including white, black, and black/silver.
  • 5-year warranty on the sealed system; 1 year on parts and labor.

Cons:

  • Scattered complaints about product failure after a couple of seasons.
  • Lacks some desirable features, including sleep mode, energy-saver mode, and auto-restart.
  • No Energy Star certification; no EER/CEER information available.

Takeaway: Portable air conditioners are an option for buyers who have windows (or landlords) that won't allow a window air conditioner, worry about installation headaches, or want the option of using a single unit across multiple rooms as needed. Convenience, affordability, and a user-friendly design are the greatest strengths of the Honeywell MN10CES, along with its chilling chops. Setting up this Honeywell portable air conditioner (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. Users also report that large rooms cool down without a struggle. But, buyer be warned: In general, portable air conditioners tend to be less energy efficient than window air conditioners. They also draw criticism for being underpowered — in fact, new government testing procedures for these types of units suggest maximum BTU levels that are much lower than previous ratings. So it may not be wise to trust coverage area estimates, and sizing up may be necessary.

Friedrich Chill CP08G10B

Pros:

  • 8,000 BTUs provide very cool and efficient chilling for midsize rooms (up to 350 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.
  • Allows installation in a window or wall (comes with a wall sleeve); slide-out chassis with anti-intrusion design (unit cannot be kicked in).
  • Washable anti-microbial filter.
  • Energy Star; 12.2 EER is among the best in its class.
  • Quieter than many other ACs, according to users.
  • 5-year warranty on the sealed system; 1-year limited warranty on parts.

Cons:

  • Pricier than many other 8,000-BTU air conditioners.
  • Heavier, more cumbersome design may make DIY installation difficult, experts caution.
  • Lots of exclusion clauses and caveats in the warranty, and some owners have found the manufacturer support lacking.

Takeaway: This Friedrich air conditioner can be mounted in a window or installed through the wall if necessary — an option that’s attractive for homeowners looking to limit light blockage or cool a room that may not have any windows. Effective performance and quiet operation are hallmarks of the Friedrich brand, and comparative testing done by product review site Your Best Digs bears that out. Pitted against two top-rated Frigidaire and LG air conditioners, the Friedrich Chill CP08G10B proved very consistent in its cooling, adjusting quickly to temperature swings. It was also by far the most “chill” when it came to noise level. In user reviews many boast that it’s among the quietest ACs they’ve ever had, and it’s frequently recommended for use in bedrooms. It’s true that this Friedrich AC costs a bit more than typical competitors, but for a through-the-wall air conditioner, the price is not unreasonable, and many purchasers say the build quality is a step above the rest.

Buying Guide

What We Considered

Above all, consumers want air conditioning units with the power to effectively cool whatever space they've been assigned. Buyers also appreciate models that are energy-efficient and have some extra features that make them easy to use. There are concerns about noise, an irritant that plagues even the best room air conditioners. Other considerations include installation and durability.

Cooling Capacity

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 rise well above the $300 mark.

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. For instance, an air conditioner that's too big won't be as effective because it will cool the space before it can remove the humidity, leaving the air feeling clammy.

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 models on our list. Some reviewers even say our picks cool spaces much larger than expected, especially with an assist from well-placed fans.

Energy Efficiency

All air conditioners these days incorporate energy-efficient technology and many have Energy Star certification, which requires that they use at least 10 percent less energy than comparable models. Another technical specification to note is the energy efficiency ratio, or EER, which takes into account the air conditioner's capacity and the amount of electrical power it requires. The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit and the higher the energy cost savings. CEER, the combined energy efficiency ratio, reflects a newer standard that assesses a unit's efficiency while running and when it's plugged in but not in operation. It's worth noting, however, that the efficiency of any given window air conditioner also depends on factors such as capacity, environment (e.g., sun exposure), how much it's used, and proper maintenance.

Energy Star-certified units also must provide a visual reminder to check, clean, or replace the air filter. This generally takes the form of an LED light labeled "filter reset" or "clean filter." An AC can't operate efficiently if the air filter is clogged with dust, dirt, and soot, so the filter must be rinsed or vacuumed and reinserted periodically. If there is no filter-life indicator, users must remember to clean the filter at least every 30 days, or as the owner's manual instructs.

Controls

Buyers don't expect many bells and whistles on inexpensive air conditioners, but they do appreciate a few convenience features and controls that make it easier to keep the room temperature comfortable.

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. Of course, some remotes have more functionality than others, and in addition to simple power buttons options may include the ability to adjust the fan speed, change the cooling mode, or engage time delay or other advanced features.

While some users actually like the simplicity of old-school dial controls and appreciate the lower prices on these units, many inexpensive air conditioners these days come equipped with digital displays and thermostats that help them to maintain more precise temperatures. Most of our picks also have a 24-hour timer, which lets frugal consumers avoid wasting energy by allowing them to wait 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.

In addition to cooling and fan-only modes, all the best 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 can allow the 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.

Noise

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, and 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 specifically designed to run quietly.

Installation

Cost-conscious consumers often undertake DIY installation rather than pay a professional. Although users' experiences vary, reviews often say it's easy to install the models we favor in less than 30 minutes. Note that the higher the capacity, the heavier the unit. A 10,000-BTU window air conditioner might weigh 75 pounds, while a 5,000-BTU model might be closer to 40 pounds. Although many reviewers say they managed to install a bigger unit just fine on their own, a second set of hands might ease the process.

Reviews indicate a few other ways manufacturers can ensure smooth installation. One feature buyers appreciate is a slide-out chassis, which lets them install the frame for the AC before sliding it inside. Side curtains that slide in instead of screwing on save a few more minutes of labor. Also appreciated are adjustable panels that extend to fit a variety of windows, making the air conditioner easier for do-it-yourselfers to handle. All the models on our list come with an installation kit.

Durability

According to most sources, the average life expectancy of an air conditioner is about 10 years  with proper maintenance. Most budget-priced window air conditioners come with a one-year warranty and a few brands offer up to five years for the sealed system and one year for parts and labor. All but a handful of users seem satisfied that the air conditioners we picked are working as they should. Longevity issues crop up mainly in reviews of the cheapest models with the lowest capacities. One easy way to avoid a headache may be to buy a model that's available in a bricks-and-mortar store. Consumers who purchase window ACs online often report that they arrive with dents sustained during shipping or bent or broken parts.