Low prices and high efficiency make room air conditioners an inexpensive alternative to central air for cooling one or two rooms. Some 5,000- to 6,000-Btu units now cost less than $150. Our air-conditioner guide will help you choose what's right for you.
All the models we tested meet the 9.7 Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) now required for small and medium-sized models below 8,000 British thermal units (Btu) per hour, and the 9.8 EER required for larger, 8,000- to 13,999-Btu models. Most also meet or exceed the 10.7 EER needed to qualify for Energy Star. And all now have electrical plugs that help prevent fires by shutting down if the power cord is damaged.
Find out whether replacing your air conditioner makes sense by using the savings calculator on the room air conditioners page at www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=roomac.pr_properly_sized. (Every 0.1 increase in EER translates into about a 1 percent drop in electricity use.) Also keep the following in mind:
Size it correctly
An air conditioner that's too small won't do a good job cooling a room. One that's too big cools the area so quickly that it doesn't have time to remove enough moisture, so it leaves you with a cold, clammy room.
Note the noise
Models that scored excellent or very good in our noise tests are so quiet that the only sound you might hear is the fan running. But air conditioners that scored fair for noise could disturb light sleepers when set on low and are distracting on high.
Factor in the window location
Air conditioners generally do a better job blowing air in one direction than in the other. That can be a problem if your window isn't centered on the wall. To uniformly cool a room, you'll need to direct air to its center, so check whether your A/C needs to blow air to the right or to the left.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.