Window air conditioners aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing appliances, but when the heat is on, they’re often the only option if you want to keep cool.
Consumer Reports just tested dozens of air conditioners. While not much has changed in how they’re installed, there is a newer A/C with a U-shaped design that allows you to open and close your window without the heavy unit falling out -- the U hangs over each side of the sill, with the window coming down into the space created in the center of the U. Installation is a little different from a traditional window A/C, however; it needs a special bracket to be installed first. Once you do that, you can slide the A/C into place, and the window closes down into the U-shaped groove. Just note that you might not be able to fit some windows with the screen.
And now the important question: Can it cool a room? CR testers cranked up the air temperature in a special chamber heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then measures how long it took a window A/C to cool the room by 10 degrees. Most of the window air conditioners do a pretty decent job. The best can do it quickly and quietly. And that’s where two of the U-shaped units from Midea stand out, earning top scores for cooling and noise in CR’s tests.
Consider the Midea U-shaped MAW08V1QWT for medium-size rooms of about 250 to 400 square feet. And for larger spaces, CR recommends the Midea MAW12V1QWT U-shaped unit. If you only need to cool down a small space—anything under 300 square feet—the conventionally shaped LG LW6019ER will get the job done for about $280.
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If your space can’t accommodate a window A/C, CR also tested portable air conditioners. These typically cost more and don’t perform as well as window units. To help you choose one that’s the right size for your space, take a look at the BTU/HR sticker on the box provided by the Department of Energy on the box. This is often more realistic than the manufacturer’s BTU/HR. range.