10 Air Conditioners That Beat the Heat on a Budget

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COOL YOUR SPACE FOR A COOL PRICE

As summer heats up, keeping costs down doesn't have to mean sweating it out inside. If you don't have central air, or one room gets warmer than the rest, it's time to consider a window air conditioner. Cheapism.com's research into the best cheap air conditioners turned up models from well-respected brands that get the job done for less than $300. This roundup also includes a trio of slightly pricier choices, including a smart air conditioner, as well as an ultra-quiet through-the-wall unit and a portable model for anyone who can't or would rather not install a window AC.
Photo credit: Courtesy of homedepot.com

GE AEL05LV

Good 5,000-BTU Air Conditioner
Price: $129 | Buy it from Home Depot

Pros:

  • Users say it does a great job cooling down a small room, especially for the price.
  • Dial controls allow for simple operation.
  • Installation is reportedly quick and painless.

Cons:

  • At 5,000 BTUs, it's underpowered for any space larger than about 150 square feet.
  • Lacks extra features such as timer, remote control, or energy-saver mode.
  • Only two fan speeds and two-way air direction.
  • Not Energy Star-certified and costlier to run than similar models.

Takeaway: The GE AEL05LV is the air conditioner to beat for buyers who want to pay bottom dollar without sacrificing performance. Although it lacks bells and whistles, some users appreciate and even prefer the simplicity.

Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

FRIGIDAIRE FFRE0533S1

Best 5,000-BTU Air Conditioner
Price: $179 | Buy it from Walmart

Pros:

  • Energy Star-certified and cheaper to run than any other unit on our list, at an estimated average of just $37 a year.
  • Light enough for one person to easily install; narrow frame fits in tighter windows.
  • Has features that other small air conditioners lack, including a timer, remote, and energy-saving mode.

Cons:

  • Some owners complain that the energy-saver mode lets the room get a little too warm.
  • At 5,000 BTUs, this model cools only about 150 square feet.
  • Filter can be hard to re-insert after cleaning, reviewers say.

Takeaway: For anyone who needs a window air conditioner to cool down a small space such as a bedroom or an office, the Frigidaire FFRE0533S1 is hard to beat. It's extremely efficient and offers some nice conveniences in a category that often features more basic models.

Photo credit: Courtesy of homedepot.com

GE AEL08LV

Good 8,000-BTU Air Conditioner
Price: $239 | Buy it from Home Depot

Pros:

  • Most reviewers are happy with the performance in medium-size rooms.
  • Energy Star-certified.
  • Installation is quick and painless, reviewers say.

Cons:

  • A fair number of reviewer complaints for excessive noise; similar GE model gets poor marks for noise in expert tests.
  • Energy-saver mode gets mixed reviews; some say it causes unit to cycle on and off too often.

Takeaway: The GE AEL08LV is a workhorse of an air-conditioner, with an 8,000-BTU capacity for cooling up to about 350 square feet. Consumer product experts who tested a Walmart-exclusive version (AEW08LV) give it very high marks for quick cooling. This air conditioner is also a snap to install, thanks to GE's EZ-Mount system, which allows for fast installation in most standard windows.

Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

FRIGIDAIRE FFRE0833S1

Best 8,000-BTU Air Conditioner
Price: $239 | Buy it from Walmart

Pros:

  • Eight-way air direction control distributes cooled air evenly throughout the room instead of blasting it in one or two directions.
  • Extra features include energy-saving mode, sleep mode, clean-air ionizer, and temperature-sensing remote control.
  • Energy Star-certified for efficient operation.
  • Evenly distributed weight and small chassis help speed installation, experts say.

Cons:

  • Some user reviews mention loud fan operation and occasional rattling; experts confirm it's louder than other units.
  • Experts say this model tends to blow air to the right even if users direct it elsewhere.

Takeaway: As long as noise isn't a primary concern, the 8,000-BTU Frigidaire FFRE0833S1 is the best choice to effectively cool rooms up to 350 square feet for less than $300. It also offers some conveniences over similar models, including a sleep mode, a remote that can monitor the temperature anywhere in the room, and eight air-direction options compared with two or four.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

FRIGIDAIRE FFRA1022R1

Good 10,000-BTU Air Conditioner
Price: $269 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:

  • 10,000 BTUs of cooling power for spaces up to about 450 square feet.
  • Eight-way air direction distributes cooled air evenly throughout the room instead of blasting it in one or two spots.
  • Many reviewers find this air conditioner relatively quiet, especially for the size.

Cons:

  • Not Energy Star-certified, and the least energy-efficient air conditioner on our list, with estimated average operating costs of $83 a year.
  • Some owners complain that energy-saver mode lets the room get a little too warm.

Takeaway: Although it isn't quite as efficient as our other picks, the Frigidaire FFRA1022R1 can cool down a larger space effectively -- some reviewers say it almost makes their space too cold. Eight-way air direction makes it easier to point the air where it's wanted.

Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

LG LW1016ER

Best 10,000-BTU Air Conditioner
Price: $299 | Buy it from Walmart

Pros:

  • Receives high marks for cooling rooms quickly and quietly.
  • 10,000-BTU capacity is enough for spaces up to about 450 square feet.
  • Energy Star-certified for efficient operation; costs less to operate than other similar-size models.

Cons:

  • Reviewers say the instruction manual leaves much to be desired, leading to installation headaches.
  • The remote control's range is too short, some say.

Takeaway: Efficiency and cooling power make the LG LW1016ER a solid pick for anyone who wants to drop the temperature in a larger space without spending a mint on an air conditioning unit or utility bills. Most reviewers say it's also relatively quiet, especially for its size.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

FRIGIDAIRE GALLERY COOL CONNECT FGRC0844S1

Best 'Smart' Air Conditioner Under $300
Price: $297 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:

  • A streamlined modern look and sleek LED controls make this air conditioner a great pick for buyers who prefer something with more aesthetic appeal.
  • Wi-Fi-enabled controls allow an extra layer of convenience, letting users operate the unit remotely.
  • Boasts extra features including sleep mode, eco mode, custom scheduling, clean-air ionizer, and remote control.
  • Energy Star-certified for efficiency.

Cons:

  • Extra features and better design boost price compared with other 8,000-BTU units.
  • Some buyers and experts report problems with Wi-Fi connection.
  • Integration with other smart-home platforms is limited to Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant.

Takeaway: Air conditioners don't typically inspire descriptors such as "classy," "elegant," or "smart," but the Frigidaire FGRC0844S1 bucks that trend with its sleek design and smart-home connectivity. Buyers laud the convenience of controlling the unit with their phones, making it easy to create a custom schedule compatible with busy lives.

Photo credit: Courtesy of lowes.com

FRIGIDAIRE GALLERY QUIET TEMP FGRQ08L3T1

Best Quiet Window Air Conditioner Under $300
Price: $299 | Buy it from Lowe's

Pros:

  • Experts and owners say this air conditioner is ultra-quiet, making it a good pick for bedrooms or other rooms where too much noise would be distracting.
  • Energy Star-certified for efficient operation.
  • Extra features include energy-saving mode, sleep mode, and remote control.

Cons:

  • More expensive than other air conditioners with the same 8,000-BTU cooling power.
  • Fairly basic functioning allows air to be directed only two ways.

Takeaway: Buyers willing to pay a premium for a quieter air conditioner should take a look at the Frigidaire FGRQ083LT1, which many reviewers say is silent enough even for the bedroom of a light sleeper. Just know that a little cooling power might be sacrificed along with those extra bucks.

Photo credit: Courtesy of sylvane.com

FRIEDRICH CHILL CP08G10B

Best Quiet Window/Wall Air Conditioner
Price: $369 | Buy it from Sylvane.com

Pros:

  • Option to install the unit through a wall rather than take up valuable window space.
  • Praised by experts and consumers for low noise level; good for bedrooms.
  • Energy Star-certified for efficient operation.
  • Extra features include remote control, "air sweep" swing louvers that help distribute cooled air evenly, and anti-intrusion technology that helps prevent the unit or side panels from being kicked in.

Cons:

  • Much pricier than other 8,000-BTU air conditioners.
  • Heavier, more cumbersome design may make DIY installation difficult, experts caution.

Takeaway: Buyers willing to pay a premium for a quiet, versatile air conditioner should take a look at the Friedrich Chill CP08G10B. The ability to install this unit through the wall if necessary is attractive for consumers looking to limit light blockage or cool a room that may not have windows at all. This is also an energy-efficient choice that won't put too much stress on utility bills.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

HONEYWELL MN10CES

Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioner
Price: $392 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:

  • Portable air conditioner doesn't block light from windows; offers an alternative when a window unit isn't an option.
  • Also functions as a dehumidifier.
  • Installation requires little special know-how.

Cons:

  • Reviewers say this 10,000-BTU unit isn't nearly as powerful as window air conditioners with similar cooling capacity.
  • Experts give it mixed reviews for noise compared with other portable air conditioners.
  • Exhaust hose must still be vented through window, limiting where the air conditioner can be placed.

Takeaway: Sometimes installing a window air conditioner just isn't the cards. That's when a portable air conditioner like the Honeywell MN10CES comes in handy. This model is one of the best values out there, and owners say it does a good job of cooling a small room -- just don't expect the power of a window unit.