Air conditioners work by pulling hot air from inside the home outside. Central air conditioners circulate air throughout the whole home, while portable, wall and window units only circulate air in a small area of the home. Air conditioners tend to last 10 to 20 years with routine maintenance and care.

When shopping for an air conditioner, it’s important to consider:

  • The size of their home
  • Their frequency of use
  • Where they want the air conditioner unit located
  • Energy efficiency
  • Additional features, such as Wi-Fi or a smart display

Top 9 Best Rated Air Conditioners

Haier is an international company that sells wall, ductless, PTAC and portable air conditioners to homeowners around the world. As a company, they have a commitment to sustainability and community.
LG sells portable, window and wall air conditioners to homeowners. They also sell accessories such as remote controls and 24-hour timers to improve your air conditioner’s accessibility and performance.
Carrier’s innovation in heating and cooling technology dates back to 1881. They offer homeowners smart technology with professional installation along with energy audits to help them stay cool and save money.
GE is a global industry leader that has been providing advanced technology in homes and businesses for over a century. They sell wall and window air conditioners for homeowners in addition to commercial air conditioners.
Trane has been innovating in heating and cooling technology since 1910. They specialize in home air solutions and continuously work to improve and advance their heating and cooling systems for homeowners.
Frigidaire has been a major innovator of home technology since it was bought by General Motors in 1918. Their focus on energy-efficiency and smart technology promotes sustainability and helps homeowners save money.
Lennox got its start in 1895 as a furnace manufacturer and introduced air conditioners to its customers in 1952. It is headquartered in Texas and offers homeowners energy efficient, money saving options on air conditioners.
Goodman Manufacturing has been building heating and air conditioning equipment since 1982, including ductless and central air conditioning for homeowners. Their units are sold by independent contractors across the country.
Kenmore has been providing innovation for homeowners since 1913. They sell single and multi-room air conditioners, which consumers can buy online or at their local Sears store.

The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

Want your company to be on this guide?

What features matter most?

A/C unit size

AC unit size

Your A/C unit needs to be the right size to make sure your system has time to run through a full cycle without running constantly. An air conditioner’s capacity is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), which measures how much heat it takes to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. In heating and cooling terms, one ton is equal to 12,000 BTUs. The size of A/C unit you buy will be based on a few factors.

  • Where you live: Location matters when it comes to picking out the right air conditioning unit for your home. For instance, a 1,000 square foot in the southern United States will need a larger A/C unit than a home of the same size in a northern state.
  • Size of your home: A larger home will need a larger A/C unit than a smaller home to make sure the system runs efficiently and cools down the entire house.  Small homes, including small apartments and condos, might do well with a window unit as opposed to a central air conditioning system.
  • Ceiling height: Measurements that size A/C units generally assume the home has eight-foot ceilings. If your home has cathedral ceilings, or ceilings that are higher than eight feet tall, you might need a bigger unit.

Price

When it comes to pricing your A/C unit, more expensive isn’t always better. There are a lot of factors that go into the price of an A/C unit that has nothing to do with quality.

  • Size: In general, smaller A/C units are less expensive than larger ones because they are a small capacity. However, this doesn’t mean you should opt for a smaller unit than you need. You may save some upfront costs, but you will end up paying more each month since a unit that is smaller than you need will be less energy efficient.
  • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER): The SEER ratio determined by dividing an A/C unit’s total cooling output during a season by its total electric energy output. A higher resulting number will mean better performance. Units range from 13 to 27 SEER and are presented on a large yellow tag in stores. Units with higher SEER tend to cost more upfront than units with low SEER, so whether to invest in a more energy-efficient unit will depend on where you live. If you rarely use your A/C, you  may never recoup the added upfront cost associated with a high SEER rating.
  • Installer: How much you pay for installation will vary from company to company, so one of the most important factors for saving money on an A/C unit is to find an installer who will do the job well for the least amount of money. Read reviews, ask for references and get free quotes from reputable local installers. Paying less for installation isn’t worth it in the long run if the job isn’t done properly.

Installation

AC installation

When installed correctly, your air conditioner should run smoothly for years with minimal maintenance. When installed incorrectly, however, your air conditioner will run inefficiently, costing you extra money and headaches over the course of its lifetime. There are several important factors to consider when choosing an installer for your A/C unit.

  • In-home estimates: A good contractor will give you an estimate only after coming to your home to see the specifics of what you need done. Don’t trust a contractor who claims to offer over-the-phone estimates. Your in-home estimate should be a written bid that includes details such as what equipment needs to be installed, what work needs to be done and the total cost including labor.
  • National affiliation: Most residential air conditioner contractors are affiliated with organizations such as Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) or the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). The organizations’ websites will provide information on affiliated contractors in your area.
  • Certification: Make sure your contractor and/or technician is certified by the North American Technical Excellence (NATE) and/or partnered with ENERGY STAR. NATE’s certification requires testing of real world working knowledge of HVAC systems. While NATE does not directly supervise or work with technicians once they are certified, certified NATE technicians have been properly trained and tested on HVAC systems.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficient air conditioners are a relatively recent development, so if you’re replacing a 20 year old air conditioner, chances are this is new to you. A more energy efficient air conditioner will cost more upfront, but it will save you money over the long run. If you live in a hot climate that uses A/C regularly, you will likely save money by investing in a more energy efficient unit upfront. If, however, you live somewhere that rarely or only seasonally uses A/C, then a less expensive and less energy efficient system might make the most sense. Energy efficiency is measured in two ways: Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) and Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).

  • EER: EER has been used since the 1970s to measure energy efficiency. It is calculated by using a constant outside temperature of 95 degrees, a constant inside temperature of 80 degrees and a 50 percent humidity level. Because its calculations are based on constant temperatures, and don’t take seasonal differences into account, EER is an objective measurement that can help you directly compare two different HVAC systems. However, it is generally not advertised and is used more by technicians during install than by salespeople for marketing.
  • SEER: The SEER is the rating listed on the bright yellow tag on new HVAC units. It differs from EER in that, rather than using a constant indoor and outdoor temperature, it is calculated using the average over an entire cooling season. It does use a constant indoor temperature, like EER, but it calculates various outdoor temperature that range from the 60s to over 100 degrees. Additionally, SEER includes US household energy uses and expenditures averages into its calculation.

Maintenance

AC maintenance

Air conditioners can last up to 20 years or longer with the right preventative and routine maintenance. Homeowners should consider having a professional inspection every spring and fall, and can do their own preventative maintenance year-round to keep their unit running smoothly.

  • Air filters: The right air filter can make all the difference when it comes to maintaining your air conditioner. Spend a little extra for a high efficiency pleated filter, which will trap even the tiniest particles, including bacterial. Check your filters monthly, and plan on changing them at least every 90 days.
  • Spring and fall cleaning: Make a point to semi-annually do a thorough cleaning around your outdoor A/C unit. During this time, clear away any leaves and branches that have accumulated. Additionally, make sure your grass clippings stay clear of your unit. Finally, check to make sure your unit is still on level ground.
  • Keep most vents open: Some people like to close vents in unused rooms to save on electric costs, but don’t close any more than 20 percent of the vents in your home. Closing too many vents can cause pressure to build up in your ducts, which can lead to serious problems like leakage, mold and mildew. Additionally, your A/C will actually end up working overtime because of the pressure, so you won’t really save any money.

Additional features

Your basic air conditioner will do its job of cooling down your house and filtering hot air outside. But a lot of air conditioners have added features that can add convenience to your life and keep your home’s environment healthy.

  • Wi-Fi enabled: If you’re ready to turn your home into a smart home, you can start by investing in a Wi-Fi enabled air conditioner. These units are connected to an app so you can monitor your air conditioner remotely through your mobile device.
  • Smart display: An air conditioner with a smart display makes it easy to see the temperature. Additionally, it will alert you when you need to clean your filters and when it detects leaking coolant.
  • Filter sterilization: People with moderate to severe allergies will appreciate an air conditioner with filter sterilization for allergies. This feature removes every dust particle, even the tiniest ones, from the air in your home, along with allergy and viral disease causing microbes.

What are different types of air conditioners?

Portable

These are free-standing, easy to move air conditioners that you can move from room to room. Because they need to vent hot air somewhere else, portable air conditioners are generally set up in windows and come with their own window kit. These are ideal for people who live in small spaces and/or only use air conditioning sporadically. They can be the most cost-efficient option since they only cool off one particular area instead of an entire home space. Some options even work double-duty by including heat so you can use it year-round.

Window

Traditionally found in college apartments and dorm rooms, today’s window air conditioners are energy efficient, quiet and overall easy on the eyes. They can be installed in any room with a window that leads to the outside and works by filtering hot air from inside outside through the window. Window air conditioners tend to feature a fan option, heater and programmable timer. They are an efficient and economical option for small spaces.

Wall

Wall air conditioners look similar to window units with the exception that they are mounted on an outdoor wall and therefore filter hot air outside through the wall instead of a window. They tend to be more energy efficient than window units because they create an airtight seal that keeps hot air outside. One main difference is that these units are actually built into the wall, whereas window units can be installed and taken down. They are therefore a more permanent option than window units.

Ductless mini-split

Unlike portable, window or through the wall units, the ductless mini-split model is not an actual unit that can be installed in one room or another. They are capable of cooling more than one room at a time, similar to central units, but they don’t require ductwork. They are made up of two main parts: a large condenser unit that needs to be installed outside and one (or more) compact blower units that can be mounted on the wall or ceiling. These mounted units are placed strategically inside the rooms or zones you want and can be controlled separately, so you can only cool the spaces you are using to save energy costs.

Central

Central air conditioning units are popular for homeowners who need to cool several rooms at the same time. These systems are fully ducted, making them a more expensive option than portable or split units but can be the best choice overall for larger homes. They work by first extracting warm air from all over your house to cool at a central point and then distributing that cool air to your house through a series of vents and ducts. The hot air is then filtered outside.

Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC)

Commonly found in hotel and motel rooms, senior living facilities, hospitals, condominiums and apartment buildings, PTACs are an all-in-one air conditioner/heating unit. They are commonly installed in walls and windows.

Who's it for?

Homeowners

Homeowners will likely want to invest in central air conditioning, since it can cool down their entire house at the same time.

Apartment dwellers

People who live in apartments will enjoy the convenience and efficiency of a portable or window air conditioning unit so they can cool off wherever they are without wasting energy cooling off their entire living space.

Senior citizens

Senior citizens are at higher risk for heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses, making it necessary for them to have quick and easy access to an air conditioner. A ductless air conditioner unit is easy to install and maintain and is ideal for smaller living spaces. A portable unit can also work well for senior citizens who only need to cool a small space.

People who live in hot climates

A reliable air conditioner is a must for anyone living in a hot climate to prevent illnesses that can result from overheating.

Businesses

Businesses need a commercial air conditioner to keep their employees happy and their offices and equipment cool. Hotels, hospitals, apartments and condominiums will benefit from PTAC systems to cool individual rooms.

Company reviews

  • Lennox

    What began in 1895 as a one-man operation building and selling steel furnaces has since transformed into one of the largest manufacturers of air conditioners in North America. Lennox introduced central air conditioning systems to its customers in 1952. Now based in Texas, Lennox maintains manufacturing and distribution facilities all over North America. Find their products through a network of over 6,000 independent Lennox Dealers.

    • Best for Lennox is best for homeowners interested in saving money by investing in solar technology, also those who are interested in zone control.
  • Frigidaire Air Conditioner

    After manufacturing early versions of electric refrigerator in 1916, The Guardian Frigerator Company was bought and renamed Frigidaire by General Motors in 1918. Since then, Frigidaire has been a major innovator of home technology, including introducing the first color-matching appliances, the first home chest freezer and the first automatic ice dispenser. Today consumers appreciate Frigidaire’s focus on energy-efficiency and smart technology along with their versatile selection of air conditioners.

    • Best for Frigidaire’s wide selection of air conditioners means they are a great option for homeowners, apartment dwellers, senior citizens and business owners.
  • Trane

    Dating back to 1910, Trane has a long history of innovation in the heating and cooling industry. One of their founders invented the convector radiator in 1923, and in 1938 the company introduced the industry’s first hermetic, centrifugal refrigeration machine. Today, homes and businesses alike rely on Trane’s proven track record as an innovative company that provides reliable, energy efficient heating and cooling year-round.

    • Best for Those looking for a central air conditioning system who are also concerned about air quality.
  • Carrier Heating & Cooling

    Carrier has been innovating cooling technology since 1881, when Willis Carrier invented the slide rule, a circular calculating instrument that was the foundation of the invention of modern air conditioning. Carrier has continued its tradition of innovation in the fields of refrigeration and air conditioning, including introducing a more efficient refrigeration solution for retail grocery stores and expanding into the industry of sports complexes.

    • Best for Homeowners looking for central air conditioning.
  • GE Air Conditioners

    General Electric is an internationally recognized leader in digital technologies. In addition to innovating, developing and selling technology around the world, GE has also provided billions of dollars in financing for other businesses to use for growth.  GE has air conditioning solutions for both homes and businesses.

    • Best for Businesses, hospitals, hotels and homeowners who need a wall or window air conditioning unit.
  • LG Air Conditioner

    LG specializes in bringing the latest technological advancements into consumer’s homes. They sell portable, window and wall air conditioners along with accessories to improve your air conditioner’s accessibility and performance.

    • Best for LG’s air conditioners are best for homeowners and apartment dwellers who are looking for portable, window or wall air conditioning units.
  • Goodman Manufacturing

    Goodman Manufacturing has been building air conditioning and heating equipment since 1982. They are sold to homeowners by independent contractors across the country. As a member of the Daikin Group, they also sell Daikin HVAC systems commercially.

    • Best for Homeowners of medium to large sized homes, who want either a central or ductless split air conditioning system.
  • Haier Air Conditioner

    Haier is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Haier Group. As a global company specializing in consumer electronics, Haier is recognized for their commitment to sustainability and community. They sell wall, ductless, PTAC and portable air conditioners.

    • Best for International users, homeowners and apartment dwellers.
  • Rheem

    Rheem Manufacturing Company was founded in 1925 in Emeryville, CA. Today, it is the world’s only manufacturer that produces heating, cooling, water heating, pool/spa heating and commercial refrigeration products.  In addition to their other products, Rheem specializes in central air conditioners for homes and businesses.

    • Best for Homes and businesses that need central air conditioning.
  • Kenmore Air Conditioners

    Kenmore has been improving the lives of consumers since it was first introduced on sewing machines in 1913. Today, Kenmore continues to provide comfort and convenience for homeowners with their Kenmore, Kenmore Elite and Kenmore Pro brands. Buy their single and multi-room air conditioners online or at Sears stores around the country.

    • Best for Apartment dwellers and homeowners who need an air conditioner that will only cool off a small space.