“cheapism helps you find the cheapest "best buys"” — lifehacker
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Air Conditioners
  2. Air Conditioner Reviews
  3. Energy Star Air Conditioners
  4. Air Conditioner Features
  5. Air Conditioner Deals
  6. Discount Air Conditioners Features Comparison Table

Air Conditioner Features

The features found on cheap window air conditioners depend on the model and maker, but several are common to the best models. When shopping, look for a remote control, a reusable filter, and an AC timer that turns the unit on or off at a preset time.

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Almost all ACs have moveable louvers to direct the air flow, although users say they aren't particularly effective. Air conditioners also vary in their capacity, measured in BTUs, which is discussed in the introduction to this buying guide and is not addressed further here.

Air Conditioner Controls.

The electronic guts of today's air conditioners support money-saving and user-friendly features, including digital displays, remote controls, and thermostats that maintain precise temperatures. Manufacturers still make a few models with mechanical controls -- the Frigidaire FRA052XT7, for example -- which cost less and provide less functionality.

The slightly higher prices don't seem to faze consumers, who appreciate the versatility of electronic air conditioner controls. Thermostats, for example, take the guesswork out of temperature regulation -- the unit can be set to a specific temperature instead of the meaningless number stamped on a mechanical dial.

But don't expect perfection with electronic controls on cheaper window air conditioners. Some users gripe that the temperature display on the Frigidaire models we researched shows the set temperature rather than the current room temperature. A helpful hint concerning the Frigidaire FRA065AT7 posted on Amazon: switch to the fan-only mode to display the actual room temperature. Another thing that users find annoying about electronic air conditioners controls is the loud beep many models emit when the temperature setting is changed. One review at Walmart of a Frigidaire AC asserts the beep is loud enough to wake napping children and several users note that you can disable the buzzer on some models if you don't mind nullifying the warranty.

A remote control is increasingly standard issue with electronic ACs and often hailed in consumer reviews as a big plus. Users like being able to adjust the unit at night without getting out of bed or while lounging on the couch on the other side of the room. Remote functions vary by model; in addition to on/off, options may include time delay, fan speed and/or cooling mode. Some remotes are even equipped with a thermostat that can sense the temperature in another part of the room so the AC adjusts accordingly. One review at Amazon says that particular air conditioner control is the best thing about the Frigidaire FRA086AT7 (starting at $210); the same feature shows up on the Frigidaire LRA107BU1.

Review continues below

AC Timers.

Another practical feature is an automatic on/off AC timer. This money-saving convenience means frugal consumers can return to a cool home after being gone all day and eliminates the worry about forgetting to turn off the air conditioner when leaving. All the models on our list give users a 24-hour window. Several users of the Frigidaire models lament that you can't set this = air conditioner control to turn the unit on or off more than once in a 24-hour period and must reset it each day.

Air Conditioner Filters.

Every air conditioner has a filter to sift out dust, dirt, and smoke. These days most budget models have reusable filters that can be quickly and easily removed, rinsed or vacuumed, and reinserted; the recommended cleaning frequency is every two to four weeks. Some -- the Frigidaire FRA054XT7, FRA065AT7, FRA086AT7, and LRA107BU1, among them -- are fitted with anti-bacterial filters. The Frigidaire FRA065AT7, FRA086AT7, and LRA107BU1 feature an indicator light that goes on when the filter needs cleaning, as does the Kenmore 70051.

Adjustable Louvers.

Cold air flows out the top or the front of window air conditioners and all have louvers that can be adjusted to direct the air flow up and down, and/or left and right. On some models, however, adjusting the louvers seems to have little effect. About the only quibble one user has with the Frigidaire FRA086AT7, according to comments posted at Amazon, is that no matter how far you rotate the louvers, most of the air blows straight ahead. And one review of the Haier ESA406M warns against buying this model if windows sit low to the floor because the air flow controls don't angle the cool air upward.

by Gina Briles (Google+ Profile)

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