The Best Air Conditioners to Cool Down Your Space, According to an HVAC Expert

Ah, nothing better than a cool breeze. 

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lead gen air conditioners
Courtesy of Amazon

Summers in the South take heat, humidity, and stickiness to a whole other level. While we have a lot of respect for those who lived in these conditions without air conditioning, there's nothing better than the feeling of icy, cool air on your skin after being outside in the heat.

Whether you want a movable air conditioning unit or a permanent solution like central air conditioning or a mini split system, here's everything you need to know about purchasing the right air conditioner for your home.

What to Consider When Choosing The Best Air Conditioner for Your Home

According to Jose De La Portilla, National Training Manager at Samsung HVAC, you want to choose an air conditioner that offers both comfort and energy efficiency. "When considering comfort, it is important to not solely think about temperature," De La Portilla says. "Comfort includes the humidity in the room, the rate air is entering the room, and added noise caused by the system. All three play important roles in how comfortable a room is to the occupant."

In terms of energy efficiency, he says homeowners should strive for the highest level of energy efficiency that fits within their budget. "A system with high energy efficiency will have a higher upfront cost than less efficient systems; however, energy efficient systems cost less to run in the long run." De La Portilla adds that many air conditioning systems qualify for rebates, which can help offset the installation cost.

The Best Air Conditioners:

What Size of Air Conditioner Do You Need?

Along with comfort and energy efficiency, it's important to take the size of your space into consideration. The cooling capacity of AC units, which are expressed in BTU (British Thermal Units), typically range between 5,000 and 20,000 BTU. To select the proper BTU level of window and portable air conditioners, multiply the room's square footage by 25—the larger the room, the higher the BTU you'll need. Because homes experience different amounts of shade and sun, use that number as a guide to buy an AC unit that will effectively cool down your space.

Central air conditioning units are measured by their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and tonnage. The SEER is the cooling output of central air conditioners for a typical cooling season compared to the total electric energy consumed during that same time. AC units with a SEER rating of 14 to 16 should provide superior cooling for most home sizes and climates. The term "ton" refers to how much heat a central air conditioner can remove in one hour. One ton equals 12,000 BTUs of cooling capacity. To calculate the tonnage you need, multiply your home's square footage by 25 and divide the total by 12,000. Most residential central air systems range from 1.5 to 4 tons—if you need an AC unit with higher tonnage, you'll likely need to install multiple systems.

What Air Conditioner Type Do You Need?

There are different types of air conditioners to fit your needs, including portable, window, ductless mini split, and central air conditioning units. Portable and window air conditioners work well in small areas, and mini split systems and central air conditioning are best for larger spaces. Prices vary depending on the size, special features like built-in WiFi, and whether or not you need professional installation. Need an extra breeze? Consider adding fans around your home to achieve the ultimate cooling effect.

According to De La Portilla, mini split air conditioners are the best choice for warm and humid climates. "Their low energy consumption is a huge benefit because of the number of hours they will be required to run each year," he says. "The key is the variable capacity inverter driven outdoor unit. Because the [South] is warm and humid for a large portion of the year, the homeowner will want an HVAC system that will cost very little to run continuously. Also, mini split systems will run longer than a portable or window air conditioner. That longer runtime will remove more humidity from the air making the space more comfortable." Want more information? You can get quotes and recommendations from a local HVAC professional.

How Long Do Air Conditioners Last?

For portable and window air conditioners, you can expect a lifespan of about 10 years. HVAC systems like central air conditioning and mini split systems last between 15 and 20 years.

Ready to purchase the best air conditioner for your space? Keep scrolling to learn more about our favorite AC units, including affordable air conditioners on Amazon and splurge-worthy HVAC systems from The Home Depot and Samsung.

Best Overall Air Conditioning: Whynter Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner

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Courtesy of Amazon

For rooms up to 500 square feet, Whynter's Dual Hose 14,000 BTU air conditioner is a solid choice. Thousands of Amazon shoppers recommend this portable air conditioner because of its dual-hose design, low noise level, and superior air distribution—not to mention, its sleek look. Advanced technology allows the air conditioner to collect and recycle moisture to produce cool air, and its two hoses continuously pull in fresh air from outside while venting out hot air. Dual-hose air conditioners like this one provide more energy efficiency and cool areas more quickly than single-hose versions. Three operational modes—air conditioner, dehumidifier, and fan—let this unit serve multiple purposes. The windowless air conditioner comes with a protective cover, five-foot exhaust hose, and remote control.

Buy It: $520.71 (orig. $599.99);

Best Portable Air Conditioner: Midea 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner

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Courtesy of Amazon

Midea's 3-in-1 air conditioner is suitable for cooling spaces between 150 and 330 square feet, depending on which unit size you choose. Each unit (besides the 8,000 BTU air conditioner) is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant , so you can use your smart device to switch modes, adjust temperatures, set timers, and more. Don't have either of these voice control devices? This unit also comes with a handy remote control. The air conditioner is easy to move from place to place with its built-in wheels, and it's a breeze to clean thanks to a reusable filter. To install, simply attach the hose to the included airtight window bracket and turn the AC unit on.

Buy It: $562.94;

Best Window Air Conditioner: LG Window-Mounted Air Conditioner

lead gen air conditioners
Courtesy of Amazon

With nearly 6,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, the LG 12,000 BTU air conditioner is a customer favorite for many reasons. The window air conditioner is Energy Star-certified, effectively cools medium-sized rooms, and is "remarkably quiet," according to one buyer. A shopper also writes that this AC unit saved them over $150 on their first month's electricity bill post installation. At 15 inches tall, the window air conditioner fits most window sizes and cools rooms up to 550 square feet. Plus, you can use the remote control to adjust the temperature, timer, and fan speed from your bed.

Buy It: $409.95;

Best Small Air Conditioner: Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner

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Courtesy of Amazon

Small rooms call for a compact air conditioner, and this one by Black+Decker is a pint-sized powerhouse. The 5,500 BTU portable air conditioner works well in spaces up to 250 square feet, including apartments, dorms, attics, and even campers. You can install it to vent through a window or through a wall into another room that you're OK with getting warm. Weighing about 50 pounds, it's light enough to transport for on-the-go use. It features a sleep mode, energy-saving timer, three fan levels, and a dehumidifier for humid conditions.

Buy It: $354.99 (orig. $379.99);

Most Quiet Air Conditioner: Midea U Inverter Window Air Conditioner

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Courtesy of Amazon

For light sleepers, a loud AC unit can be a nightmare. Midea's U Inverter air conditioner is designed to be nine times quieter than other AC units. Not only does its U-shaped installation help it operate quietly, but it also lets you open your window when it's not running. The 10,000 BTU window air conditioner cools down areas up to 20 feet away and has digital touch controls as well as voice control through Alexa and Google Assistant. Best of all, it earned Energy Star's Most Efficient 2020 certification.

Buy It: $419;

Best Mini Split Air Conditioner: Samsung HVAC Quantum 2.0

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Courtesy of Samsung

Looking for a mini split air conditioner? Samsung's Quantum 2.0 is a smart pick—literally. Featuring built-in WiFi, the air conditioner lets you use your voice to adjust a variety of settings. Plus, you can download this SmartThings app to check the status of your air conditioner and access detailed information like your AC unit's energy consumption. (Note: The app is designed for Samsung smartphones.) You can also manually turn the Quantum 2.0 on and off with a single-touch power button. Mini split air conditioners, like this one, need to be installed by a professional Samsung HVAC contractor in your area.

Buy It: price varies;

Best Central Air Conditioner: MrCool Signature 3-Ton Air Conditioning System

Signature 3-Ton 15.5 SEER 8.5 HSPF Complete Split Air Conditioning Heat Pump System
Courtesy of Amazon

This best-selling 3-ton heat and AC unit by MrCool is an excellent choice for those wanting to both cool and heat their entire home. Featuring a 15.5 SEER rating, the central air conditioner is efficient yet not too expensive. It comes with four screw louver panels, a raised coil, corner-mounted controls, and 45 offset valves for easy operation and service. The unit's louvered design and galvanized steel construction helps it withstand wear and tear from bad weather. Plus, the AC unit has foil-faced insulation, which traps heat in the winter and keeps it out in the summer.

Buy It: $2,320;

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