Best energy-efficient air conditioners of 2022

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Published Jun 17, 2022 1: 00 PM

Nobody wants to be stuck at home sweating on a hot summer day. If you don’t have an air conditioner, it can be difficult and costly to keep cool. A high-efficiency air conditioner will keep your home cool and your utility bills low. Listen. It’s likely that you are reading this right now, or soon. Let us help you choose the most energy-efficient air conditioners that are right for you.

How we picked the best energy-efficient air conditioners

I live on the bottom floor of a small apartment without central air conditioning. It can get hot in the summer, with temperatures in our bedroom generally hovering around 80 degrees. This is not conducive for sleep, and our standing fans don’t offer much relief. In other words, my air conditioner is very important. I take the purchase of a new air conditioner very seriously.

Our selections are the product of hours of research, including personal experiences, peer suggestions, user impressions, and the foundation we used for Popular Science‘s previous air conditioner guides, including the best window air conditioners and the best portable air conditioners. I personally have over 10 years of experience covering consumer electronics for Popular Science, CNN Underscored, Gear Patrol, and XDA Developers, among others.

What to consider when picking from the best energy-efficient air conditioners

It’s easy to get confused when choosing an air conditioner. It’s one those appliances we don’t think too much about until it stops working. It is important to understand the basics of AC units before you can choose the most energy-efficient unit for your home. Knowing the pros and cons and energy ratings of various air conditioner types will help you make informed decisions about cooling power and energy consumption. We also considered noise level and smart features, which can make a big difference in the overall experience.

One programming tip: Although central air can keep a home cool, it is complicated to install. You should consult professionals, including a contractor. This guide will focus on portable and in-window air conditioners. These units can be purchased as a cost-effective and quick way to cool a home or room.

Window units vs portable air conditioners

Window AC units and portable AC units offer approximately the same cooling power for about the same price. They operate in different ways which could make one work better for you. Before you make your purchase, it is important to know which type of air conditioner you need.

In-window air conditioners must be installed in windows. Often, a bracket is used to prevent it from falling out. Depending on the model, you may be allowed to leave your AC in place year round. Or, you may need to remove and reinstall it each year. In-window ACs are quieter than portable units and take up less space in your home once they’re installed.

A portable air conditioner, by contrast, is much easier to transport and must be located within close proximity to a window. To vent moisture and exhaust, simply plug it into an outlet. Portable ACs can vent their exhaust through a flexible hose. This allows you to cool down a room using a smaller window than an in-window model.

Before you buy an air conditioner, make sure you know where it can be installed. We recommend a window unit over an AC portable, but there are many logistical factors that could lead you to choose the other option.

How much power do you need?

Air conditioners are available in many sizes. They vary in cooling capacity. You will need to measure the space in which you want to cool the home or room to determine the size of the air conditioner you need. To determine how many square feet your AC will cover, measure the space. Energy Star’s buying guide features a geometry refresher to help people calculate a room’s area specifically for this purpose.

Once you have determined the area, you can calculate how much cooling power your air conditioner will need. The British Thermal Units (also known as BTUs) are the unit used by appliance manufacturers to measure AC cooling power. According to Consumer Reports, you need 20 BTUs per square foot for the area you want to cool down. However, the amount of cooling power you require may be different than what is shown in this calculation. This depends on factors such as room size and sun exposure.

A 5,000 BTU air conditioner should have enough power to effectively cool 100-150 square feet, which is more or less the standard bedroom size in homes and apartments. To cool more than a single room, your power requirements climb: Realistically, you want 12,000-14,000 BTUs to cool 550-700 square feet.

There may be some factors that make it difficult to use an air conditioner that is large enough for your space. Your window might be too small or too narrow to accommodate a large unit. It is possible to adjust the size of your air conditioner, but it may not always be possible. A large air conditioner might use more power to cool a smaller space than it needs.

Understanding energy-efficiency ratings

No matter what you do, your AC conditioner will use a lot. For a variety reasons, we recommend choosing an air conditioner that is energy efficient. This includes saving money and minimizing the environmental impact of keeping cool. There are a variety of energy efficiency ratings for air conditioners. These ratings indicate the thresholds at which they can consume power rather than guzzling it. This guide will focus on three energy standards: the Energy Efficiency Ratio, Combined Energy Efficiency Ratio and Energy Star certification.

The Energy Efficiency Ratio is a measure of the air conditioner’s output per an hour in British thermal units (BTUs) and the AC’s power draw in watts. The EER is used for assessing the system’s efficiency. A higher rating means a more efficient system. For example, let’s say a 12,000 BTU air conditioner is powered by 1,000W. For every 1W of energy provided to the AC unit, we will get 12 BTU of cooling effect in return. That’s better than a 12,000 BTU unit powered by 1,400W, which would result in a less efficient rating of 8.57.

Combined Energy Efficiency Ratio (CEER) is a standard set by the Department of Energy (DOE) in 2014 that rates the energy efficiency of window-based air conditioners. This ratio measures the cooling capacity output in BTUs relative to electricity use and standby/off mode power consumption.

Some of the best air conditioners also have an Energy Star rating, indicating that they meet federal guidelines for energy efficiency and use 10 percent less energy than an AC unit that isn’t Energy Star-certified. An Energy Star-certified air conditioner is the best choice. Although central AC systems and window units have Energy Star ratings, portable units are not Energy Star-certified.

How loud is it?

All air conditioners are loud. It’s impossible to avoid it. However, that’s all that makes it more important to choose an AC that is as quiet as possible. An AC’s estimated noise level is measured in decibels (dB) to show how loud it can be at peak performance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, air conditioners often operate around 60 dB, which is “comfortable” to listen to over a sustained period. That said, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends limiting exposure to indoor noises above 45 dB. These statistics do not take into account your tolerance for ambient noise. Ultimately, the best advice we can give is that you should look for an AC that runs quietly, especially if you’re buying an AC that you want to last, and avoid any unit that hits above 60 dB.

Are there smart features?

Like many modern appliances, modern air conditioners have nuanced controls and internet enabled “smart” capabilities. For example, you can set temperature and schedules, or control the device using a smartphone app. These functions make your air conditioner easier and more efficient. These features are considered luxuries and may not be available on lower-priced units.

The best energy-efficient air conditioners: Reviews & Recommendations

If fans are not enough to keep you cool, an air conditioner may be the best option. Let’s now talk about the most energy-efficient air conditioners available.

Best overall: Midea U-Shaped Air Conditioner (MAW08V1QWT)

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it was chosen : Thanks to its unique U-shaped design, the Midea U will quiet cool down your space.


  • Type: Window
  • Energy efficiency: 15 CEER
  • BTUs: 8,000
  • Energy Star certified: Yes
  • Estimated noise level: 42 dB (low) – 47 dB (high)


  • U-shaped design
  • Quiet operation
  • Support for smart features


  • Difficult installation process

Most window air conditioners have a box-style appearance. The Midea U-Shaped AC Conditioner is a different approach. It has a slot between the vents and the housing that houses most of its hardware. This shape allows you to close your window and keeps most of the noise from your home. You can also open and close your window without worrying about the unit falling out.

The Midea U also uses an inverter technology to better regulate energy flow based on demand. It received an extremely high 15 CEER score, which is incredible when you consider that most efficient units score an 11 or 12.

Lastly, the Midea U has smart features that allow you to set recurring schedules. It’s also compatible with Alexa or Google Assistant so you can turn the unit on and off with your voice.

It can be difficult to find an in-window AC unit that is both stylish and efficient. The Midea U was a rare and exciting appliance.

Best window: LG Dual-Inverter 18K (LW1817IVSM)

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The LG LW1817IVSM is quiet, energy-efficient, and supports smart functionality.


  • Type: Window
  • Energy efficiency: 14.7 CEER
  • BTUs: 18,000
  • Energy Star certified: Yes
  • Estimated noise level: 44 dB (sleep mode) – 59 dB (high)


  • Quiet operation
  • Capable of cooling off large spaces
  • Smart feature support


  • Pricey

If you need a powerful air conditioner that cools a whole apartment or floor of your home, the LG LW1817IVSM is a high-powered window unit. It is quieter and more efficient than our top pick because it uses inverter technology. It provides 25-percent more energy savings than the Energy Star certification requirement. It has a CEER of 14.7 and pumps out up to 18,000 BTUs, allowing it to cool spaces up to 1,000 square feet. Meanwhile, it keeps comparatively quiet, hitting just under 60 dB at high power and shushing down to just 44 dB in a specialty sleep mode.

In addition, the LW1817IVSM supports a smartphone app that allows users to set schedules and turn the unit on or off remotely. It supports Alexa and Google Assistant for handsfree control. These features make LG’s air conditioner simple to use. You can simply keep cool and not have to fiddle with settings.

Best portable: Whynter ARC-14S

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Whynter ARC-14S portable air conditioner features a slick design and convenient auto-drain technology.


  • Type: Portable
  • Energy efficiency: 11.2 EER
  • BTUs: 14,000
  • Energy Star Certified: N/A
  • Estimated noise level: 56 dB


  • Slick design
  • Capable of cooling large spaces
  • Auto-drain technology


  • Loud

Portable air conditioners often don’t meet the same specs as window units, but the Whynter ARC-14S comes close. It offers a respectable 11.2 EER rating while pumping out an impressive 14,000 BTUs of cooling power. This makes it one the most energy-efficient portable air conditioners available.

It also has some useful features like an auto-drain function, which recycles moisture to create cool air. This will not only keep your room cool but also saves you the hassle of emptying a moisture tank (a common feature in portable AC units). It also has a dual exhaust design that improves its ability to cool your room. As far as portable air conditioners go, the Whynter ARC-14S hits all the right notes with its design, features, and energy efficiency.

Best design: Windmill AC

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it was selected :The Windmill Air has a beautiful design and an app that allows you to control the AC unit remotely.


  • Type: Window
  • Energy efficiency: 11.9 CEER
  • BTUs: 8,300
  • Energy Star Certified: No
  • Estimated noise level: 50 dB (low)


  • Great design
  • Smart home features
  • Easy to install


  • Unable to control the direction of the fan
  • Not energy star certified

Air conditioners can be a nuisance. They are bulky, heavy, and can hang out of our windows or take up space in our rooms. The Windmill is a more aesthetic AC unit. It has rounded corners and a pleasing front vent. Windmill prides itself in making the installation process simple and includes step-by-step instructions.

The Windmill Air has an app that allows you to turn it on/off remotely and set it to one or three modes. You can also use your voice with support from Alexa and Google Assistant. There are two versions of the Windmill Air: a larger 8,300 BTU and a smaller model that hits 6,000 BTU. The larger model is more efficient and can cool more space. While it isn’t all that quiet (54.5 dB), a decent 11.9 CEER rating makes a strong pick.

Best budget: Frigidaire FFRE053WAE

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Frigidaire FFRE053WAE offers quiet operation, a programmable timer, and impressive energy efficiency at an affordable price.


  • Type: Window
  • Energy efficiency: 12.1 CEER
  • BTUs: 5,000
  • Energy Star Certified: Yes
  • Estimated noise level: 50 dB (low) – 56 dB (high)


  • Affordable
  • Programmable timer
  • Quiet operation


  • Noisy on high

The Frigidaire FFRE053WAE includes everything you need in a basic air conditioner for a small room. It has a remote control and programmable timer. It’s Energy Star certified, efficient, and has a remote control. The unit is also relatively quiet on low at 50 dB but gets relatively close to our noise limit of 56 on high. This air conditioner is also affordable, despite not being very powerful. This air conditioner is not recommended for cooling large rooms. If 5,000 BTUs will get the job done, then this is a very strong choice.


Q: How much money will an energy-efficient air conditioner save me per year?

According to the Department of Energy, an air conditioner with an Energy Star rating can save you an average of $70 per year compared to older, less efficient air conditioners. Although it may not seem like much, it adds up over time. Modern air conditioners can be programmed to cool on a set schedule. This will help you save even more money.

Q: How cool should my space be if it’s 100 degrees outside?

For the most energy efficiency, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends residents set their indoor temperature to 78 degrees when they’re asleep during the summer months. When you go out, you should set the temperature to 85 degrees. When you’re sleeping, a balmy 82 degrees. These are only recommendations for people who have central air and can cool their homes to a certain temperature. They don’t consider your personal preferences.

Q: Is it more energy-efficient to leave an air conditioner on all day?

The short answer is yes, it is more energy-efficient to leave your air conditioner on all day. The long answer is more complicated. The most effective way to run your air conditioner is to program it to keep your space at a specific temperature throughout the day, whether it’s the suggested 78 degrees or slightly cooler.

Surprisingly, the worst thing you can do is turn the air conditioner off completely. Although it saves power, the air conditioner will still have to work harder to maintain your space’s temperature when you need it again.

Final thoughts on the best energy-efficient air conditioners

As temperatures rise in the summer months, air conditioners can make the difference between a cool and sweaty summer. It can be difficult to choose the most energy-efficient air conditioners, but it will be worth it if you don’t have heat waves. No matter what style you choose, our energy-efficient options will keep you cool and help you save money.

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