When summer heat settles in, there's no solace like the ice-cold embrace of air conditioning. For consumers without the luxury of central air, a window air conditioner brings comfort for less and may even be the best option for a small space. Cheapism.com's top picks for 2015 cost no more than $300 and come with convenient features such as a remote control, 24-hour timer, and energy saver mode. Most are Energy Star qualified, which means they meet government standards for efficiency and cut utility bills an average of $85 over their lifetime. They range from 5,000 to 10,000 BTUs, or British thermal units per hour, a measure of cooling capacity. Larger rooms call for more BTUs; an air conditioner that's too small -- or too large -- won't efficiently cool a space. Most of the air conditioners featured here are available in a range of sizes with slightly different model numbers, which are priced accordingly.
6 Best ACs for Beating the Heat on a Budget
This 5,200-BTU air conditioner is best for spaces under 165 square feet. Although it comes in just shy of current Energy Star standards, the Kenmore 70051 is a small unit that incorporates an impressive number of energy-saving features. These include an energy saver mode, in which the AC powers down when the room reaches a set temperature and kicks in only when necessary; a reminder light that comes on when the filter needs cleaning; and a sleep mode, which slowly increases the temperature during the night and lowers it again when it's time to wake up. This Kenmore product is sold through Sears, where hundreds of customer reviews award it high marks.
New for 2015, this 6,050-BTU window air conditioner is still trickling into stores but has already earned expert testers' stamp of approval. The GE AEM06LT also rides the coattails of its predecessor, the GE AEM06LS, a Cheapism top pick in 2014. The newer unit has nearly identical features, including a 24-hour timer and digital display with remote control, but has been updated to comply with the latest Energy Star requirements. The GE AEM06LT should easily dispel heat in spaces up to 250 square feet.
This 8,000-BTU air conditioner impresses expert reviewers and delivers robust cooling performance in rooms up to 350 square feet. The Frigidaire FFRE0833Q1 is Energy Star qualified and features lots of extras not often seen on budget models, such as a clean air ionizer, sleep mode, and a temperature-sensing remote control. The remote thermostat allows the AC to adjust based on the temperature across the room, which may be warmer than the air directly in front of the unit.
This is a just-launched 2015 model that has earned an Energy Star under the latest and strictest guidelines. Although the LG LW1015ER is too new to have generated any user feedback online, glowing reviews for last year's LG LW1014ER should ring true for this nearly identical model. The 10,000-BTU air conditioner has enough power to cool 450 square feet or more. One notable feature is auto restart, which restores the most recent settings after a power outage.
At only 5,000 BTUs, this Frigidaire model is small but mighty. It has generated very good reviews from users and consumer product experts for relatively low noise levels, easy installation, and speedy cooling. The Frigidaire FFRE0533Q1 lays claim to an Energy Star with efficient operation, a filter check reminder, and energy saver mode. Otherwise the features are pretty basic; for example, this unit has two fan speeds where the others have three. This air conditioner is recommended for rooms that measure 150 square feet or less.
The LG LW8015ER boasts solid construction and effectively cools spaces up to about 350 square feet, on the strength of 8,000 BTUs. This air conditioner features an Energy Star and auto restart after a power outage, along with other standard features. Like the 10,000-BTU LG model, this air conditioner is fresh off the assembly line. It has racked up less than a handful of reviews online, but praise for last year's LG LW8014ER -- a less efficient model built with same chassis -- undergirds this pick.