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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 Reviews

Consumers who post air conditioner reviews are concerned primarily with a unit's cooling performance. Noise surfaces frequently in assessments of air conditioners, usually in a negative context.

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We also noted that consumers want units that are easy to install and expect them to last through many a long, hot summer.

Cooling Performance.

Air conditioner reviews indicate that frugal consumers are generally satisfied with the cooling prowess of budget models, regardless of size (i.e., BTUs). From smaller AC models such as the Frigidaire FRA054XT7 (starting at $139) and Kenmore 70051 (starting at $170) to larger products such as the LG LW1012ER (starting at $250) and Frigidaire LRA107BU1 (starting at $279), our picks are frequently praised in air conditioner reviews for their ability to cool a room quickly and keep the air nicely chilled.

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But such assessments are not universal, and some users pan models others recommend. Even models extolled by most users as the best air conditioners get dinged by dissatisfied purchasers who assert that the units don't sufficiently cool the square footage they claim to be able to handle. For instance, in air conditioner reviews at Home Depot, one user raves that the 8,000-BTU LG LW8011ER -- last year's version of the LW8012ER -- cools a 750-square-foot great room when the outside temperature is in the mid-90s while another reports that the AC can't push the temperature below 82 degrees in a 200-square-foot room. Such disparity is on full display in comments about the Haier ESA406M (starting at $180), which failed to make our list of top picks. Some reviews posted at Walmart say it keeps smallish bedrooms cool in 90-plus-degree heat while others gripe about jumpy thermostats and woefully weak cooling.

Consumers hoping to get more bang for their buck have found ways to maximize the effectiveness of inexpensive units. A user who posted comments about the now-discontinued Frigidaire LRA074AT7 placed a fan in the doorway and another in the hall to draw the cool air from the 6,500-BTU model into other areas of the house. And quite a number of reviews note that a small window unit in a bedroom means a home's central air conditioning system doesn't have to run at night.

AC Noise.

The one aspect of performance that generates the most negative comments in air conditioner reviews concerns noise. Both users and owner's manuals caution that improper installation may cause vibration, rattling, and other annoying sounds. The design and engineering of a given model as well as new energy-efficient technology are partly to blame. Frigidaire and Haier actually specify common noises in their manuals, but consumers still complain about rushing air, the thwack of the fan splashing against water in the drip pan, or the thunk and click of the compressor cycling on and off. We read posts that likened the disconcerting sounds to a lawn mower and a motorboat.

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Even satisfied users who posted air conditioner reviews at Lowe's complain about noise from the Frigidaire LRA087AT7, a not-quite twin of the FRA086AT7, one of our picks. Some assessments of the Kenmore 70051 at Sears reveal that consumers can't get past the very loud beep the unit emits when it powers up or down or settings are changed. The GE AELO6LQ seems free of this problem, according to AC reviews, although some users grouse about low-level operating noises.

But how noise is actually heard and described is notoriously subjective. For example, several air conditioner reviews of the Frigidaire LRA107BU1 say the hum is no louder than a box fan or central AC but another compares noise from the fan to a helicopter, insisting that it's nearly impossible to sleep, much less have a conversation, when the unit is on. Assessments of the LG LW8012ER (starting at $219) at Home Depot are likewise mixed on the subject of AC noise. Then there's the reviewer who bought the Frigidaire FRA054XT7 as a gift for his sister and reports in a post at Amazon that she's pleased at being able to hear the TV when the AC is running.

Air Conditioner Installation.

Cost-conscious consumers often undertake DIY installation rather than paying a professional. Although users' experiences vary, air conditioner reviews often say installing the "best" and "good" models we researched is a snap and accomplished in less than 30 minutes. Note, though, that the higher the capacity, the heavier the unit; the 5,200-BTU Kenmore 70051, for example, weighs 42 pounds compared with the 62-pound, 10,000-BTU LG LW1012ER.

A word of caution: Not all windows are alike and even the clearest instructions may not suit every window frame. (Cue the Haier ESA406M, according to several purchasers, who report the set-up kit is quirky and balancing the unit is a chore). So be prepared to improvise. If you're planning a DIY job, keep some plywood, two-by-fours, foam insulation, and weather stripping at the ready.

AC Durability.

The life expectancy of an air conditioner is about 10 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Most budget-priced window air conditioners come with a one-year warranty for parts and labor and up to five years for the sealed system.

Durability issues crop up mainly in reviews of the cheapest models with the lowest capacities. For example, a report posted at Amazon says the Frigidaire FRA054XT7 stopped working after five months and another says the control panel never worked and the unit could be operated by remote control only. An air conditioner review of the Kenmore 70051 reports that the unit did fine for a year but then ceased cooling effectively and on some days failed to turn on. We also read some gripes about limited (as in two or three months) durability for the LG LW8021ER and complaints about serious water build-up in the Haier ESA406M due to a design that doesn't allow adequate drainage.

by Gina Briles (Google+ Profile)

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