Please recommend an air conditioner!
May 26, 2012 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I need a recommendation for a window air conditioner unit. Preference: as quiet and energy efficient as possible.

It's difficult to find reliable reviews for air conditioners, for some reason. I'm turning to AskMeFi before I shell out $20 for a subscription to Consumer Reports.

We need something in the 8000-10000 BTU range. We're willing to pay more for a unit that is super efficient (to keep the electricity bill down) and as quiet as possible. (I recognize that it's impossible to buy a silent air conditioner, but I'd like to be able to watch TV without turning the volume up full blast.)

We live on the top floor of a Brooklyn brownstone, and it gets hot up here in the summer. All of the warm air from the rest of the house seems to rise up into our apartment, and I don't think the insulation in the ceiling is all that great. One room has a skylight, which lets the sun shine directly into the apartment—this is almost always awesome, but I suspect that it contributes to the heat problem in the summer. Any other tips for keeping an apartment like this one cool (fans? better insulation on the doors?) would be appreciated.
posted by aparrish to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I need a lot of background noise because of my stupid ear problems, and my 10k btu Frigidaire window unit is too quiet for my needs unless it is on its highest setting, so it might be a pretty quiet one? I also have a 12k Sharp that is slightly louder.

Definitely cover up that skylight in the summer. You can get an electronic sliding shade over it or just be lazy like me and tape a trash bag over it.
posted by elizardbits at 10:50 AM on May 26, 2012

I loved my 7800 BTU Kenmore model 580.76081 so much I bought a second one (for another room). Super efficient, reasonably quiet, very reliable, and cooled the bejesus out of a large bedroom. It was VERY well reviewed, which was why I bought in the first place.

That model's no longer made, but if you see decent reviews for whatever's replaced it, I'd assume they've continued the goodness.

Also, consider an attic fan or vent. Very inexpensive, and makes a huge, huge diff.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:00 PM on May 26, 2012

If you own I'd recc a split unit. More efficient, quieter.
posted by JPD at 12:29 PM on May 26, 2012

GE models often get high marks from Consumer Reports. I have a smaller unit that's pretty quiet.

BTW, CR is well worth subscribing to, but I'm sure your library has it for free.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:04 PM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: For energy efficiency, those yellow tags with the rating are done according to government specs, so they are accurate for the current model year (i.e. against everything else on the market).

The skylight is, of course, something that was designed to be opened in summer, letting out that heat. Short-circuiting that intent means you have to adapt somehow. The heat will rise short of retrofitting the wall structure -- the plaster, lath, and studs all are heat conveyors.

I would concentrate on covering up your windows better and, if possible, installing ceiling fans. As for an AC, make sure that the BTU is correct for the space you have in mind. A bigger box will actually be less efficient at removing humidity, which is what an AC is best at (the cooling is a secondary effect).
posted by dhartung at 1:49 PM on May 26, 2012

aparrish, I'm glad you asked because I'm in a similar situation. And also in Brooklyn!

I have one room that's about 500 sq. ft. and another that's about 100 sq. ft., both with very high ceilings (13-14ft!) I bought a 14,000 BTU unit for the main room (portable, not window, since I have planter boxes). The net result is that it does nothing. If I close my windows and run it on a day like today (75 degrees), it ends up being like 80 in my apartment. I don't know if it's the new ozone-safe refrigerant or if this is just a bad unit (highly reviewed on Amazon and in the $500 range), but the air that comes out is only 55-60 degrees and pretty much does nothing in my large room. (It's, though I paid less than that.)

This is all while sucking 1200W, BTW. (At $0.22 a kilowatt*hour, this works out to $80 a month if used 12 hours a day. So, not a cheap way to do nothing.)

I moved it into my small room and it performs well. So my rule of thumb with the new ozone-safe refrigerant is 14,000 BTUs per 100 square feet. YMMV.

My next step is to determine whether I'm going to spend the summer with a 100 sq. ft. apartment and a 500 sq. ft. closet, or if I'm going to spend a lot of money on A/C. Considering my apartment is almost unusably hot with all the windows open today, I'm probably going to opt for the former.

BTW, I pay for Consumer Reports and there are no reviews for portable AC units, only window units. And they recommend units based on noise and airflow, not output air temperature or power use. So it's essentially useless for actually choosing an AC that cools.

Anyway, good luck in your endeavor.
posted by jrockway at 3:01 PM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: Don't get an overpowered unit. It will cool only intermittently, leaving humidity in the air that a well-matched or slightly underpowered unit will pull out.

Your local library will have Consumer Reports. This time of year, the reference librarian will have the AC issue close at hand.

I have a Friedrich. You pay extra for the name, but it's quiet and has lasted 5 years now with no problems.

A strategically placed fan can circulate air around the room or blow it over your desk or bed. Vornado fans are expensive but durable and very quiet at their slowest setting. With a fan, my wife and I sleep comfortably with the AC set to 80.

Air-Wave, 2421 Jerome Avenue, the Bronx, 212-545-1122 has been recommended as a reliable maintenance service.
posted by KRS at 2:42 PM on May 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, everyone!
posted by aparrish at 2:14 PM on May 31, 2012

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