More affordable and practical than central air, and a huge leap from an oscillating fan simply blowing hot air around, a solid air conditioner can be a saving grace. Though on the surface they may all look the same, window ACs bring a good bit of nuance. Even those boasting the same cooling capacity (measured in British Thermal Units) will differ in terms of how long they take to cool a room, the features they offer and ease of installation.
Over the course of a month, we tested six of the top models currently on the market (all with a cooling capacity of 8,000 BTU, the ideal option for a mid-sized room). Keeping those aforementioned nuances top of mind, after all was said and done, two stood out from the rest:
The Midea’s U-shaped design is more than just a funky aesthetic choice. Not only does it make installation of this appliance a cinch, but it keeps the compressor outside with the window acting as a noise barrier, so it’s much quieter compared to the other ACs we tested. It cooled the room not only more quickly than any other AC we tested, but also more effectively thanks to a motorized vent that automatically moves to waft cold air throughout the room. Though not the cheapest option, the Midea was far and away the best AC we tested.
LG’s LW8016ER is a bare-bones unit. There’s no fancy design or smart functionality. It simply performs the primary function of any AC: It cools a moderate-sized room quickly, rivaling much more expensive units. The 8,000 BTU AC is $279.99, and is the perfect option for those looking for a classic, easy-to-use AC that effectively cools a room.
Best overall window AC: Midea U-Shaped Window AC ($359.99; amazon.com)
What might seem a tad ostentatious at first, Midea’s U-shaped design actually serves as an effective upgrade to the classic box-shaped ACs we’ve seen in windows for eons. That design delivers more than surface-level aesthetics: It also reduces noise and aggravation.
Installation is much less backbreaking than with any other AC we popped in our windows. Although like most standard ACs, you’ll want to have a partner to help heave this 55-pound unit into place. But you’ll save some effort with the Midea, as it doesn’t require the traditional left and right pull out sides that need to be drilled into the window. You’ll screw the T-shaped bracket into the bottom of the window frame, but then installation of the unit is simply centering the Midea on the bracket, closing the window and popping in the included insulation on either side. (The Midea got bonus points for including more shapes and sizes of insulation than any other AC.)
Since the window is able to close more and the compressor sits outside, the Midea is noticeably quieter inside the room; its high fan mode made about as much noise as the low fan mode on other ACs we tested. Put simply: There’s a smaller window of entry (pun most certainly intended) for sound to enter the room. You’ll hear it, but at most, it’s a slight hum, a notable improvement over the loud roar of most units when the compressor kicks in. And to ensure our ears weren’t deceiving us, we measured all the ACs with a decibel meter, and the Midea registered the lowest reading.
We were able to cool an 80-degree room to 68 within 45 minutes on “Auto” mode. A majority of the other ACs we tested, including our budget pick, took an hour or more to reach this threshold. There also wasn’t much of a wait for the Midea to actually start cooling the room. That’s a big plus, especially on sweltering nights when you don’t want to wait another minute for cooling relief. The compressor kicks in almost instantaneously, compared with the others that could take a few minutes.
The Midea’s cooling prowess is aided by its main vent, a motorized flap that will automatically move up and down to cool your entire room. It feels like something out of “Space Odyssey,” but it’s more effective at cooling since the airflow isn’t static.
Holding the unit’s Wi-Fi button pairs the Midea with its companion app, which is the best of the models we tested and works on both Android and iOS. The app enables you to control the temperature, set the mode and adjust the top flap for airflow. You can even sync the Midea with Amazon Alexa, so if you have an Echo or an Alexa-enabled smart speaker, you can ask Amazon’s assistant to turn on the AC or raise the temperature.
Runner up with a classic design: LG LW8016ER ($279.99; homedepot.com)
The LG LW8016ER may sport the age-old box design — no bells and whistles here — but it still offers everything you need in an AC.
Installation is classic window AC: You’ll install the left and right side with four screws (two on each side) and then lift the LG LW8016ER into place. As with any AC, they weigh about 50 to 60 pounds (this LG weighs 58 pounds), so we’d again recommend a team lift. And you’ll need to hold the AC as you close the window on top of it.
Once in place, this LG unit performed just as well as the smarter, more expensive ACs we tested. As we tested all the ACs, we let the room hit 80 degrees before switching the AC on. The LW8016ER took about an hour to reach 68 degrees on “Auto” mode. While this LG was a bit slower at cooling a room than the Midea, it was pretty much on par with all the other models we tested.
It’s not as loud as some of the other units in our testing pool, but it’s certainly not quiet, as you’ll hear the fan and compressor going. It also rattled the window and its frame in our tests, adding to the noisiness. We recommend the unit’s eco-mode overnight, since it’s a bit more judicious with the fan speeds, though this doesn’t dampen the sound all that much. As with the Midea and other ACs tested, we recorded the noise level with a decibel meter. The LG was on the lower end, but still resulted in more noise being captured compared to the Midea.
Since no smart features are built in, controlling the unit is limited to the set of buttons on the LG LW8016ER or its tiny remote. Several modes are available, including a timer. The remote is infrared, so you’ll need to point it at the AC, but it’s actually quite handy and gives you access to the core controls. It’s perfect for when you don’t want to get out of bed to make adjustments.
While the LG doesn’t feature a motorized vent, the main one has two swivel handles that allow you to adjust it top-down or side-to-side. It’s easier and smoother to control compared with others, which allows you to make more minute adjustments as to where the air will flow: old-school functionality at its finest.
After deciding on our testing pool for window ACs, we focused on designing a testing protocol that would focus on real-world use cases. All the units we tested were 8,000 BTU in order to compare apples to apples.
We broke the categories down as such:
The top 2 window ACs to keep you cool all summer
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