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As summer rolls in and in-house temperatures rise, air conditioning can be a godsend. Whether you have one of the best portable air conditioners, one of the best window air conditioners or a system that handles your whole home, being able to cool your home to fight the extreme heat is something you can’t put a price on — except you can, and the energy companies do. For this reason, it’s a smart idea to consider opting for an energy-efficient air conditioner. Not only can they help keep those costly energy bills down, but they also deliver a few other noteworthy benefits. Read on to find out more about what makes an air conditioner energy efficient and SPY’s top picks for the unit for your needs.
Benefits of Using an Energy-Efficient Air Conditioner
The biggest benefit of any air conditioner is the ability to cool the air in your home — period. But beyond this, there are plenty of other factors to consider. How much money it costs to run and how quickly and effectively it can cool a space are worthwhile questions. How an air conditioner is installed in your home can also make a big difference. In terms of energy-efficient air conditioners, here are some of the top benefits of choosing one:
- Environment Impact: The general principle of using less energy to achieve the same outcome is good. Regarding environmental impact, air conditioners using less energy to achieve your needs put less demand on the power grid.
- Energy Bills: It’s pretty simple: Less energy used = Lower energy bills. An energy-efficient air conditioner uses less energy while giving you the same cooling outcome as less efficient devices.
- Advanced Technology: Devices which boast greater energy efficiency are often more advanced than devices that don’t. This results in air conditioners with more desirable features, such as smart apps, voice controls, or remote-responsive temperature adjustments.
- Fewer Repairs/Longer Lifespan: Energy-efficient air conditioners put less demand on their internal mechanics. By running less energy, cooling is more gradual and less vigorous, putting less strain on components. This leads to fewer repairs and a longer lifespan for your air-conditioning device.
If you’re wondering whether an energy-efficient air conditioner is worth your consideration concerning the environment, it’s worth asking what the impact of air conditioning on the environment is in the first place.
Are Air Conditioners Bad for the Environment?
Air conditioning is not great for the environment, in the same way that any energy-intensive appliance contributes to our nation’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, air conditioners can emit some harmful gasses.
Let’s start with the gasses. While the original gasses, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which deplete the ozone layer and function as a greenhouse gas, are no longer used in air conditioning devices, the bad news is that their replacements aren’t much better. A slight positive is that the newer hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) eliminate the ozone-depleting element. However, their ability to absorb infrared radiation and block naturally escaping heat is greater than their predecessors, meaning they’re still doing plenty of damage. There is some hope that in the future, these gasses will be replaced by newer, climate-friendly alternatives, but for now, there isn’t much the average consumer can do about this.
In terms of something you can realistically look to make a difference to as a homeowner, it’s power consumption. According to the EIA, more than 15% of residential electricity consumption came from air conditioning. Of course, where you live, and your climate makes a big difference in how often you need to switch your A/C on. But with average temperatures going up, this frequency will likely only rise in the future. For obvious reasons, opting for an energy-efficient air conditioner can benefit you and the environment.
What Does Energy Star Mean?
A product to earn an energy star rating must meet a strict set of energy efficiency criteria. These criteria are set by the US Environmental Protection Agency or the US Department of Energy. Generally speaking, this rating indicates the product uses less energy than standard products, resulting in less power usage and lower energy bills for consumers. If you’re interested in the exact criteria products have to meet, you can check them out here.
What Is a SEER Rating (and EER)?
In addition to energy star ratings, recommendations and certifications, a common figure you’ll see alongside air conditioners is a SEER/EER number. These figures are ratios calculated using a standardized formula to let consumers easily compare air conditioning units in terms of energy usage. A higher SEER/EER number indicates a device capable of producing better results using less energy.
And if you’re wondering what the difference between a SEER and an EER is, EER values are used for window air conditioners and portable units, while SEERs are for central air conditioners. It’s also worth noting that, generally speaking, portable air conditioners are less energy efficient than window or whole-house A/C devices.
1. LG Electronics Smart Window Air Conditioner
This LG Electronics Smart Air Conditioner can do the job if you’re looking for a smartly designed, energy-efficient window-mounted. It comes in sizes ranging from 8,000 to 23,500 BTUs, with every option sporting LoDecibel operation capabilities to run as quietly as 44 decibels. They also incorporate smart technology, allowing users to control their devices through the LG ThinQ app or a voice-enabled assistant. Energy-wise, these devices are 35% more efficient than the level required for an energy star certification. Furthermore, it’s supplied with everything you need for window installation and has the backing of more than 1,500 five-star ratings from The Home Depot customers.
2. Midea U-Shaped Window Air Conditioner
This Midea U-Shaped Window Air Conditioner is another window-mounted device that runs quietly, powerfully and energy efficiently. It’s available in 8,000, 10,000 or 12,000 BTU models, delivering around 35% savings on your energy bills over many competitors. Each device also sports a U-shaped design, making it possible and convenient to open the window on cooler days. The impressively reviewed air conditioner can also run at an ultra-quiet, 42 dB noise level, be controlled via the MideaAir app or your voice (voice-enabled assistant required) and push cool air up to 20 feet into any room.
3. TCL 6W3ER1-A Home Series Window Air-Conditioner
At under $175 and with 5,000 BTUs of power (suitable for rooms up to 150 square feet), this TCL 6W3ER1-A Home Series Window Air-Conditioner is the budget-friendly choice for cooling your home. And while it may not be the most energy-efficient device on our list, it still boasts an EER of 11, ensuring you’re still likely to save money on your energy bills. In its quietest mode, the device runs at 50 decibels. Furthermore, the device sports user-friendly, mechanical knobs for easy control and two four-way directional vents for tailored, precision airflow.
4. Keystone Energy Star Air Conditioner
With six device sizes to choose from, there’s a Keystone Energy Star Air Conditioner to cool any room between 150 and 550 square feet in size. The high EER values help keep your energy bills down, while a temperature-sensing LCD remote control lets you see and adjust settings from anywhere inside the room. Adjustable, four-way air flow, three fan speeds, three cooling levels and an automatic cooling setting round out this air conditioner’s convenient and flexible cooling functions.
5. Whirlpool Energy Star Window AC Unit
With its 12.1 EER rating, compact, in-window design and sub $450 price tag, this Whirlpool Energy Star Window AC Unit is a solid option for cooling rooms up to 450 square feet in size. The device features a built-in timer which allows users to customize cooling times, while an easy-to-remove and washable filter make maintaining and cleaning it simple. Users can choose a range of cooling speeds, an eco mode and a sleep mode for tailored cooling. You’ll also find eight-way directional air louvers to direct airflow exactly where it’s wanted. Additionally, if you need to cool a bigger or smaller room, this air conditioner comes in models ranging from 8,000 to 24,000 BTUs.
6. Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner
MOST POPULAR PORTABLE
The Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner is a popular device that can cool up to 350 square feet of space. The air conditioner’s built-in 24-hour timer allows you to set the device to run only when needed, helping to prevent wasted energy. You can also choose between several fan levels and switch on a humidifying function if you want to dry your air simultaneously. However, one thing worth noting is that the 8.69 EER is significantly lower than the window-mounted devices featured on our list. And while helpful, portable devices are generally less energy efficient than their competitors, even if they have more than 24,000 five-star ratings from customers who love what they can do.
7. Whynter Elite Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
MOST EFFICIENT PORTABLE
The Whynter Elite Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner is another portable device that can be moved from room to room or place to place as your needs require. In addition to cooling, this 12,000 BTU air conditioner can also heat or dehumidify. It’s suitable for spaces up to 400 square feet and registers a 13 SEER value, making it one of the most energy-efficient, non-window-mounted options available. Users can switch between the device’s modes and settings using the front-facing control panel. Furthermore, it runs at a pleasantly quiet 52 decibels, has a 24-hour programmable timer and offers complete thermostatic control between 61 and 89°F.
8. Goodman GSX140361 Air Conditioner
BEST WHOLE HOME CONDENSER
If you’re looking to cool your whole home and not just a single room, it may be worth considering a more powerful, whole-home device, like the Goodman GSX140361 Air Conditioner. While it does require professional installation, the convenience and resulting cooling will feel more integrated and less in the way than window and portable devices. This three-ton air conditioner can cover small to medium households and boasts a 14 SEER rating, making it a notably energy-efficient device. The outdoor-based unit also runs at only 73 decibels and comes pre-charged for up to 15 feet of piping inside your home.
9. MRCOOL DIY Gen-3 Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner
The MRCOOL DIY Gen-3 Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner is an impressive device worthy of your consideration. Not only is it the most energy-efficient device on our list, with a SEER of 20, but it also comes in a pre-charged, do-it-yourself kit, making home installation possible. The dual-unit set is reliable, energy-star rated for year-round use and capable of delivering both warming and cooling to your home. This 18,000 BTU device can also be controlled with the accompanying smartphone app, Alexa, or Google Assistant. Furthermore, it runs surprisingly quietly (32 dBA) and includes a Follow Me Function, which automatically adjusts settings from readings taken inside the remote control.