Consumer Reports’ top window air conditioners can help you save at the store and at home.
Several cost well under $200, and almost all meet federal Energy Star standards. But tests of more than 30 models also show that some air conditioners are noisier and harder to operate. And some could make you boiling mad the next time there’s a brownout.
Smart picks for small spaces. Small air conditioners cost the least and sell the most. The Kenmore 70051, $150, and Frigidaire LRA074AT7, $165, are Best Buys. Though the Friedrich Chill CP05G10, $250, kept working when Consumer Reports’ testers dropped the voltage to simulate brownout conditions, its pricier sibling, Chill CP06G10, struggled. The LG LW5011, $100, fared worse.
Midsized models with muscle. Paying $800 for the top-scoring Friedrich Kuhl SS08M10, buys the quietest midsized model tested. But two Best Buys, the Sharp AF-S85RX (Costco), $180, and the LG LW8010ER for $200 cooled comparably and almost as quietly.
Large models with lots of value. Two Best Buys, the Frigidaire LRA107BU1, Lowe’s, $280, and Kenmore, 70101, $285 deliver superb cooling and brownout protection at a relatively low price. Paying more doesn’t guarantee better performance.
Here are other tips:
Size up your needs. Determine how many square feet you need to cool. Buying more air conditioning than you need can make the space cool but clammy.
Assess the airflow. Consumer Reports’ ratings show which air conditioners are better at directing air to the left or right.
Check the warranty. Frigidaires sold at Lowe’s come with a five-year warranty, but it’s just one year for similar models at other retailers.
Consider convenience. Make sure you can easily access the filter for cleaning
Consumer Reports air purifiers
The Hoover company says its WH10600 air purifier, $160, is a “premier product.” It has a multistage filtration system and an ultraviolet bulb for germs, and automatically adjusts the fan speed to the appropriate setting for the current dust level. But the Hoover was lousy at removing smoke, pollen, and dust at any speed and is the lowest rated air purifier.
It’s also a prime example of brand name and bells and whistles meaning little when it comes to air purifiers.
The very best portable models tested were effective at cleaning the air of dust, smoke, and pollen at high or low speed. For whole-house purifiers, recommended models including Lennox Healthy Climate HC16, $300 (installed) did best at filtering dust and pollen without impeding airflow of forced-air heating and cooling systems.
The worst models weren’t terribly effective at any speed. The LightAir IonFlow 50 Surface, $300, did almost nothing. It remains a Don’t Buy: Performance Problem.
How to choose
You might need an air purifier if basic steps such as banning indoor smoking, keeping pets from bedrooms, removing carpets, and opening windows aren’t enough.
If you want a purifier and don’t have a forced-air system, consider a large portable. In addition to removing more particles at high speeds, the better large models also did well at lower, quieter speeds. Some capable portables include two Best Buys: the Whirlpool AP51030K, $300, and the Hunter 30547, $260.
Weigh features carefully. Most air purifiers have an indicator light that tells you when to clean or replace the filter. But some turn on based on length of time the unit has run, not how dirty the filter is. Skip odor-removal features.
Check the certifications on the box. They tell how well a model filters particles at its highest speed. The certifications allow up to 50 parts per billion of ozone, a respiratory irritant. Consumer Reports advises against models that produce any ozone, even if they are effective cleaners.