The Best Window Air Conditioning Units for Every Budget

As temperatures rise, beat the heat with a window AC unit. Check out these top-rated models with features like quiet operation for bedrooms and stylish clear panels so the whole window isn't blocked.

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Updated on April 06, 2023

Our Top Window AC Unit Picks

The dog days of summer are coming and fans will only cool so much. If your home doesn't have an HVAC system, you've still got several cooling options. Window AC units are great for rentals where you don’t have an HVAC or can’t install a more permanent cooling system, but not all window AC units are the same. Take a look at our handy guide before shopping to make sure you get the best unit for your space and wallet.

What to Look For When Shopping for a Window AC Unit

Room Size + Power

The most important thing to consider when shopping for a window unit is power. For room size, look at the model’s British Thermal Unit or BTU, which refers to the amount of energy needed to cool a room and how quickly. Manufacturers will typically include a square footage number with the BTU listed to indicate if the model is good for cooling a big or small room. For example, you don’t want to buy a unit that is only meant for 250 square feet to cool a large living room. A good rule of thumb for a bedroom or living room is 8,000 BTU, but for a studio or a tiny bedroom, 5,000 BTU is just fine. For larger living rooms or a family den, look at units over 10,000 BTU.

Window Size

Another important thing to note before buying is your window's size. Measure the height and width inside the frame, not including the frame. Most often than not, a window will be wider or taller than the window AC unit. That's OK. Nearly all window AC units come with an installation kit that features multiple panels or "curtains" to get a snug fit and ensure your entire window is sealed off.

Noise Level

With such a variety of sizes and BTUs, air conditioners can get noisy. While that can be annoying, exposure to loud sounds can also cause hearing damage. It's important to check the decibels, or the dB level, when shopping for a new window AC unit. According to the CDC, "Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears." For a quiet window AC unit, or any appliance for that matter, a good rule of thumb is to look for a dB number in the low 40s.

How Window AC Units Work

If you're used to a home with an HVAC system, a window AC unit is much more streamlined. The unit's motor-powered fan sucks in hot, humid air from a room and pushes it outside. At the same time, new, chilled air is recirculated back into a room. For this to work, the unit must vent air outside which is why these AC units are mounted and installed in a window. If you don't have a window to use or your lease or HOA laws forbid window windows, a portable AC unit is a great alternative.

Best Overall Window AC Unit

Ranking the best of the best window AC unit means checking multiple boxes, and this LG unit is a great MVP. It's under $300, making it one of the more affordable units on our list. It's 8,000 BTU, which is pretty average cooling power for a bedroom or small living room, and it's got a lot of cool bells and whistles as it uses LG's ThinQ technology. That means like other LG appliances, you can control it from anywhere. For sleeping, it's not the quietest on our list, but it's close. All in all, this is a solid buy if you're a window AC newbie.

Best Quiet Window AC Unit

If you're shopping for a window AC unit for the bedroom, you want to look for the unit's decibel output. A more powerful window unit may cool a room quickly, but power often means more noise — loud, annoying noise. That's not a good feature when you're trying to sleep. This Midea unit has a cult following with over 10,000 reviews on Amazon alone. It promises to be nine times quieter than normal units with an extremely quiet operation as low as 42 dB. With a dB that low, it would also be a great option for a kid's room or nursery.

Best Budget Window AC Unit

On a strict budget? We spotted this top-rated Midea for under $200, which is rare for a window unit. The catch is that it's only 5,000 BTU so it's best for small offices, bedrooms or studio apartments.

Best Smart Window AC Unit

Smart often means high-tech, and we think the Windmill AC is certainly teched out with app and voice control. Smart should also mean easy, as in easy to install, and let's be honest: Installing window boxes can be a real pain. That's not the case with Windmill. Shoppers praise this brand in glowing reviews for its fast and easy-breezy setup.

Best Window AC Unit for Large Rooms

If you have a large family den and a large family (more people and pets = more body heat!), you need more power than the average 8,000 BTU unit. So, we recommend this monster truck AC by Frigidaire with 25,000 BTU. Now, reviewers are quick to note that this baby is heavy, so don't try to install this one by yourself. All of that cooling power means a way more heavy-duty unit.

Best Energy Efficient Window AC Unit

Just like with any HVAC unit or portable AC, you want an air conditioner that works efficiently and can save you money in the peak summer cooling months. This Frigidaire is more expensive than other 8,000 BTU models, but you'll get your money back in annual energy savings up to 46% over a standard air conditioner. The unit features new inverter technology to cool a room more consistently with better, more thorough airflow. And it lives up to the brand's claims as it recently won the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient award.

Best Stylish Window AC Unit

Yes, that's a window AC unit, and it's gorgeous — gorgeous! What makes July different is the customization and the color. You can choose from front panels such as powder blue or serene green or this super stylish wood. Yes, wood paneling on an AC unit. But here's where July really has other window units beat in the design category. The installation kit features clear curtains so you don't have to sacrifice your whole window for a box. Even having just a couple of inches of sunlight back can really make a difference in an apartment!

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