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.
Cheap Air Conditioners, Best Cheap AC
Cheap Air Conditioners Buying Guide
If the price of things you want -- or need -- these days is making you sweat, here's some news that might cool you off: There are plenty of cheap air conditioners on the market that should appeal to thrifty shoppers. For less than $300 you can buy a cheap air conditioner that fits in a window or through the wall and is powerful enough to blast frigid air into small to mid-size rooms.
Prices for room air conditioners start at about $100 and rise well beyond $2,000. The higher end of the market is populated mostly by built-in (and some window) models that do double duty chilling and heating large spaces. Most AC manufacturers produce a range of models designed to cool (and sometimes heat) one or two rooms. Major producers of cheap air conditioners include Frigidaire, Haier, LG, Kenmore, GE, and Sharp. Carrier and Friedrich are best known for pricier and larger capacity units, but we did find a few Friedrich models that came in below the $300 ceiling we set.
AC capacity indicates the size of the area a unit can cool. The more powerful the air conditioner, the greater the area -- and the higher the price. AC capacity is measured in BTU, or British thermal units. A BTU is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. The cooling capacity of cheap air conditioners ranges from 5,000 to 12,000 BTU -- ideal for rooms up to about 550 square feet. Larger rooms require greater AC capacity, but the cost of a larger unit is higher than frugal consumers may want to spend.
So, before you start shopping, the first thing to do is measure the room where you want to use a cheap air conditioner. (If you're planning to buy a window unit, be sure to measure the window as well.) Rooms with high ceilings, direct afternoon sun exposure, and/or minimal insulation may need the oomph of a few extra BTUs. Keep in mind that it doesn't pay to buy an AC with excess or insufficient capacity. A unit with an AC capacity that is too high or too low for the space will perform poorly and inefficiently. (Try this online calculator to get a better sense of how much AC capacity you need.)
For small rooms up to 150 or 200 square feet, our favorite cheap air conditioners are the 5,200 BTU Kenmore 70051 (starting at $160) and the 5,000 BTU Frigidaire FRA054XT7 (starting at $159). For rooms up to 250 or 300 square feet, we like the 6,500 BTU Frigidaire LRA074AT7 (starting at $159). The 6,000 BTU Haier ESAD4066 (starting at $243) falls short on durability and customer service.
With 8,000 BTU, the LG LW8012ER (starting at $219) and Frigidaire FRA086AT7 (starting at $222) can cool up to about 350 square feet. The 7,800 BTU Friedrich CP08F10 (starting at $275) is slightly less powerful yet quite a bit more expensive despite offering comparable features. The 10,000 BTU Frigidaire LRA107BU1 (starting at $269) and LG LW1012ER (starting at $279) can handle up to about 500 square feet.
A couple of other things to keep in mind: First, most cheap air conditioners are designed for double-hung windows; options are limited if you have casement or slider windows. Also, cheap air conditioners from the same manufacturer often differ slightly in model number and features depending on the retailer. For example, the Frigidaire FRA086AT7 is comparable to the FRA085AT7, available at Best Buy, and the LRA087AT7, which is exclusive to Lowe's.
Best Cheap Air Conditioners
This 5,200 BTU Energy Star unit boasts an energy efficiency ratio of 11 and a price that belies its feature set, which includes three fan speeds and cooling modes, a 24-hour on/off timer, sleep mode, energy saver mode, and an indicator light that reminds users to clean the filter.Read more »
This 6,500 BTU model gets consistently high marks in reviews by experts and users for its features and quiet, effective operation. It's exclusive to Lowe's and comes with an Energy Star label and a five-year full in-home warranty.Read more »
|Buy it from Lowe's|
Users praise LG's 8,000 BTU Energy Star unit for its cooling performance, although some say it could be quieter. Many applaud this air conditioner's quality and efficiency.Read more »
|Not ready to buy?|
Good Cheap Air Conditioners
Despite a few reports about durability problems and fewer fan speeds and cooling modes than the comparable Kenmore model, this 5,000 BTU Energy Star unit garners praise from experts and users alike.Read more »
|Not ready to buy?|
Even users who complain this 8,000 BTU model is too noisy are impressed with its cooling performance. It boasts an Energy Star label and a remote control with a thermostat.Read more »
|Not ready to buy?|
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)
Mid-May is the perfect time to hunt for an apartment or a temp job. ...
Check out our roundup of low-cost beach gear to help all members of the family enjoy frolicking in the sand and water.