Last summer was a scorcher and underscored the need for a capable air conditioner. In Consumer Reports tests of new window units we found a $100 model that hums along most the time and a top-rated $800 unit that’s not only cool and quiet, but stylish as well. Of course, you don’t have to spend that much to keep comfortable—nine of the 14 models we recommend cost $285 or less.
Big values for small spaces. Small air conditioners are the fastest selling so we were intrigued by LG’s compact LW5011 ($100) and its claims that “less really can do more.” Weighing less than 40 pounds, it’s easy to haul home and install. Unfortunately, it’s also a lightweight when the electrical grid is under heavy demand—in other words, when you need it most—so we couldn’t recommend it. All six of the small air conditioners we recommend got gold stars under brownout conditions.
Thinking outside the beige box. With front panels in such colors as Pink Diamond and Cobalt Blue, the Friedrich Kuhl ($800) has both style and substance. In fact, it was our top-scoring model due to its quietness, flexible airflow and overall comfort. If you don’t need a window unit that matches the drapes, we found a $180 Sharp that’s a much better value.
Temperatures rising; prices stay steady. Prices for the five large window units we recommend are in the same range as last year’s best performers. Combine that with a possible rebate from the manufacturer or your state or local utility (check www.dsireusa.org) and you can get a lot of cooling power for not much money. Two LG units top our recommended list but at up to $170 less, a $250 Frigidaire is also a good value although a bit noisier.
Don’t let a good price entice you into buying a unit that’s too big—it will cool without removing enough humidity, leaving the room cold and clammy.
—Mary H.J. Farrell