Memorial Day weekend has arrived and it's time to set summer in motion. ...
Energy Star Air Conditioners
Air Conditioners Features
There are dozens of cheap AC models to choose from, many with similar assortments of features. The most important distinguishing characteristics of budget air conditioners are capacity, measured in BTU (as discussed on the previous page); energy efficiency; and the number of cooling modes and fan speeds.
Energy Star Air Conditioners.All air conditioners these days incorporate energy efficient technology. Many receive an Energy Star label, which indicates they are at least 10% more efficient than the minimum standard set by the federal government for their size and design. The critical number to note is an air conditioner's energy efficiency ratio, or EER, which takes into account the BTU and wattage (the amount of electrical power used). The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit. Energy use drops 1% for each 0.1 increase in the EER, according to Consumer Reports. Budget air conditioners generally carry an EER of at least 9.7 and Energy Star air conditioners start at about 10.7. All the units on our list are Energy Star air conditioners.
An Energy Star label has little impact on price. While Energy Star air conditioners are usually more expensive than equivalent, less efficient models, the extra money often buys a few additional features as well. For example, the Energy Star qualified Frigidaire FRA054XT7 has an EER of 10.7 and starts at $159, while the Frigidaire FRA052XT7 has an EER of 9.7 (too low for an Energy Star label) and starts at $100. Both have a capacity of 5,000 BTU, but the Energy Star model also comes with features including a remote control, a 24-hour on/off timer, and an energy saver mode, while the cheaper model has mechanical controls.
An Energy Star air conditioner also saves money on utilities; exactly how much depends on factors such as the unit's capacity, the number of hours it's used, its position relative to the sun, and, of course, the local price of electricity. In any case, the government requires that the savings from an Energy Star air conditioner eventually make up for any difference in cost, according to the Energy Star website. Consumers who purchase Energy Star air conditioners may also be eligible for rebates and sales tax exemptions or credits. Check the Energy Star site for any special offers available in your area.
AC Fan Speeds and Cooling Modes.Inexpensive models usually feature two or three AC fan speeds and cooling modes. On the cheapest models, including the 5,000 BTU Frigidaire FRA054XT7, two fan-only speeds and two cooling options are the norm. Thrifty shoppers looking for ACs with more cooling flexibility typically have to pay the price; however, the Kenmore 70051 offers three AC fan speeds and three cooling modes -- and a slightly higher capacity -- for a slightly lower price than the FRA054XT7. The mid- to large-capacity air conditioners on our list, which range up to 10,000 BTU, are pricier but generally provide even more functionality.
The standard AC fan speeds are low, medium, and high. The Haier ESAD4066 also comes with a quiet mode. Frigidaire equips many models with a variable-speed fan that adjusts automatically (or can be adjusted by the user). Users note in reviews that a high AC fan speed cools a larger area, while a low speed produces less noise. The cooling modes are high, low, and, depending on the manufacturer and model, some combination of dry, fan only, energy saver (meaning the fan shuts down with the compressor and periodically restarts to check the temperature until the compressor is needed again), and sleep (meaning the temperature rises automatically and incrementally to a desired level and holds steady all night).
The energy saver setting is found on numerous cheap AC models, including all our picks. Some users opt not to use it, however. In reviews of last year's version of the LG LW8012ER at Home Depot, one user complains of being unable to sleep through the constant on and off. Another prefers to set the unit to high and let it run continuously. Sleep mode is available on the Kenmore 70051 and the Frigidaire LRA074AT7, FRA086AT7, and LRA107BU1. Users posting reviews of the Kenmore 70051 at Sears appreciate the money and energy savings from the gradual increase in temperature, which also keeps them from waking up cold in the middle of the night.
Don't Bother Cheap Air Conditioners
Haier ESAD4066 Review
Friedrich CP08F10 Review
Frigidaire FRA054XT7 Review
Frigidaire FRA086AT7 Review
LG LW1012ER Review
Kenmore 70051 Review
Frigidaire LRA074AT7 Review
LG LW8012ER Review
Frigidaire LRA107BU1 Review
Frigidaire FAX054P7A (5000 BTU)
Haier HWR05XC7 (5200 BTU)
Haier HWR08XC7 (8,000 BTU)
This summer enjoy the outdoors without the bugs. We suggest several make-at-home deterrents to pesky insects.
Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner and so is the start of grilling season! See our list for economical meats and ways to prepare.