Consumer Reports names best window AC units

You don't have to pay a lot for a top rated model

When the weather gets hot, that's when your 20-year-old air conditioner is going to fail.

Kayla Blackwell, of Avondale, was dealing with no power in her apartment for the second day in a row because her old AC draws too much electricity and trips the circuit breaker in the basement.

"It just went out again, after it went out yesterday till 10:00 p.m.," Blackwell said. 

A building maintenance supervisor had to come out twice to restore power, but couldn't guarantee the old window unit wouldn't knock out the breaker again.

So if your window unit is running too warm, tripping breakers or just won't cool at all, our partners at Consumer Reports magazine have just released the results of their latest tests.

Consumer Reports Test Results

Consumer Reports groups air conditioners into three main sizes based on BTUs and the size of the room needing cooling, which you’ll also find listed on most air conditioners. SMALL A/Cs are best for rooms that are 100 to 300 square feet; MEDIUM A/Cs are for 250 to 400 square feet; and LARGE A/Cs should cool rooms of 350 to 650 square feet.

None of that matters if the air conditioner doesn’t perform well. That's why, in Consumer Reports’ special lab, window air conditioners must lower the temperature inside to a set point of 75 degrees.

Another factor in CR’s scoring: an accurate thermostat. How accurate it is saves you money. If the air conditioner is thinking that it’s still trying to hit 75 degrees even though it’s actually at a room temperature of 71 degrees, it’s running longer than it needs to and wasting electricity. The best air conditioners in Consumer Reports’ tests can cool a room in about 15 minutes or less, keep the temperature consistent and—the best part—don’t necessarily cost more money, either.

Top-rated Models

For small rooms, consider the Amana AMAP061BW for $200. For a medium-sized room, Consumer Reports recommends the GE AHS08LX for $250, available at Lowe’s. And for rooms at least 350 to 650 square feet, the LG LW1216ER for $350 is a winner.

Consumer Reports says consider an A/C with a programmable setting or timer, or one that’s WiFi-enabled so you can come home to a cool house.

And remember, whether you’re buying a new air conditioner this year or maintaining an older one, be sure to clean the filter once a month. The cleaner the filter, the less work the unit has to do and the longer it will run, which will save you money.

And that way you don't waste your money.

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"Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").

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