Need a cheap window air conditioner? Fortunately, there are plenty on the market, many of which are solid performers. Just because you're on a budget, it doesn’t mean you need to compromise on cooling. Instead, it’s helpful to be realistic with your search by knowing what to expect in your price range.
It’s wise to begin your search for a window air conditioner with a checklist of features to compare. Here’s a roundup of what you need to know, with a few recommendations along the way.
If you’re wondering what the differences are between cheap versus premium window air conditioners, here’s a quick breakdown: Premium window air conditioners are feature-rich and offer more in the way of cooling customization. Many of them are equipped with heating functions, like this model. Units at this price point are often made by reputable manufacturers that offer more extended warranties and stand behind their products.
Cheap window air conditioners, on the other hand, stick to basic features. Only a handful will have heating functions or high-tech features. Some cheap units aren’t made well and have cheap or ill-fitting components, so they may have shorter lifespans than premium units.
The average person can install window air conditioners with a basic set of hand tools, such as screwdrivers. As a bonus, many of these units come with mounting equipment, so you don’t need to spend extra on them.
The key to finding the best cheap window air conditioner is choosing a unit that is the right size for your space. The easiest way to determine size is by taking the room’s square footage and multiplying it by 25. If you’re wondering why it’s 25, it’s because you need roughly 25 BTUs (British Thermal Units) to cool each square foot of space.
For example, take a room that measures 200 square feet. Two hundred times 25 gives you 5,000. Therefore, you’ll need an air conditioner that is listed as 5,000 BTUs.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t opt for a window air conditioner that is significantly larger than the product of this equation. If you do, it’s counterintuitive. The unit will cycle off and on instead of running continuously, and it may throw off the space’s humidity level.
All window air conditioners are designed to jut out from your window. Unfortunately, there aren’t many cheap air conditioners designed to be low-profile, so expect them to have sizable footprints. However, if you are willing to increase your budget to mid-range units, the MIDEA U-Inverter Window Air Conditioner is a popular compact option.
Most window air conditioners, including cheap ones, have limited warranties. Depending on the manufacturer, they may cover the unit for anywhere from 30 days to 10 years. There may be separate warranties for parts and labor.
Having a warranty doesn’t guarantee that the manufacturer will replace your air conditioner or parts. Warranty claims are generally handled on a case-by-case basis, and you’ll need to provide proof of purchase for the claim. However, to expedite claims, you may wish to register your air conditioner on the manufacturer’s website.
Because window air conditioners range from $200-$1,000, we consider the “cheap” range to be any unit priced $350 or less. We don’t recommend dipping below the $200 price point unless you have to. Some consumers report these units may not be reliable.
Cheap window air conditioners usually have a limited number of cooling and fan speeds. The most basic units only have two options, whereas a handful may offer three to five.
Displays vary considerably in cheap window air conditioners. Some are basic with a couple rotary dials, such as the Frigidaire Window Air Conditioner with Mechanical Controls. Several options, like this other Frigidaire model, have simple LED panels. A few units with contemporary curb appeal have sleek touch panels, such as TOSOT Window Air Conditioner.
Most cheap window air conditioners come with remotes for convenient operation, like this RCA model. They show almost all information seen on the unit’s onboard display. However, some of these remotes lack alerts for filter changes or malfunctions.
You’ll find a few cheap window air conditioners equipped with dehumidifiers, such as MIDEA EasyCool Window Conditioner. Consumers often invest in these units if they live in humid areas or if their homes have higher humidity levels.
Window air conditioners make considerable noise. When you’re shopping on a budget, finding a unit that offers quiet operation may be more challenging. One option is Emerson Quiet Kool Window Air Conditioner, whose quiet mode operates at 50 dBA.
Some cheap window air conditioners have timer settings, in which you can set them to turn off after a set amount of time. Generally speaking, you’re limited to either 30- or 60-minute options in many units.
It’s not unusual for cheap window air conditioners to have an economical feature like an energy-saving mode. These units save energy by turning off fans when the compressor isn’t operating.
A handful of window air conditioners within this price range come with the Energy Star certification, like this LG window air conditioner. Units like this one meet high standards for saving energy without compromising on quality in performance.
Surprisingly, there are a few smart window air conditioners within the $350-and-less price range.
LG Wi-Fi Smart Window Air Conditioner and Toshiba Smart Air Conditioner, for example, are both controlled via apps. They’re also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant. Another option is GE Smart Window Air Conditioner, which you can control with more than one GE app.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.