It may be the winter, but it's never too early to think about the best smart air conditioners.
If you don't have central air conditioning, chances are you need a window air conditioner to keep things cool. In recent years, companies have added smarts to these systems, so you can can control them from your smartphone.
But, an additional benefit of smart air conditioners is that you can connect them to other sensors and smart home devices to keep things even cooler. For example, you could program your smart home system to turn on the air conditioner, lower your shades and turn on your lights at a particular time or when the temperature inside gets too hot.
But how do you choose a smart air conditioner that will suit your needs? Our guide will help you pick the best one.
What are the best smart air conditioners?
For the purposes of this story, we focused on smart air conditioners for windows, as they're the most common type. If you have central air conditioning, we recommend you check out our picks for the best smart thermostats, which can help you cool your house and keep your energy bill down.
The best smart air conditioner for most people is the LG Dual Inverter Smart Air Conditioner. It has a sleek design, isn't very loud, and can cool your house or room very efficiently.
LG offers its Dual Inverter smart air conditioner in a range of sizes, from a small 9,500-BTU model to a 22,000 BTU version that's powerful enough to cool an entire floor of a house. It uses LG's Dual Inverter technology, a variable speed compressor that the company claims is more efficient than compressors found in other air conditioners. LG's smart air conditioner also works with Alexa and Google Assistant; about the only thing we didn't like was LG's app, which was pretty basic.
For smaller rooms, the Midea U is the best smart air conditioner. The Midea U has an innovative U-shaped design that not only makes it more secure in your window, but has better insulation, and lets more light in than traditional window air conditioners.
If you already have a window air conditioner and want to make it smart, we recommend the Sensibo Sky. This small, coaster-size device costs around $100, can be controlled from your smartphone, and can be used to send commands via infrared to your air conditioner to turn it on and off, and adjust the temperature.
When you have to cool a large area—say, several rooms on a single floor—then you should consider LG's Dual Inverter smart air conditioners. These models range in size from a 9,500-BTU model (good for 450 square feet) up to a massive 22,000 BTU model, good for 1,300 square feet.
All models use what LG calls a dual-inverter compressor, which continually adjusts its speed, rather than turning on and off like a traditional compressor. LG says this technology should provide energy savings of up to 25% and make the device quieter than most air conditioners. This model comes with a remote control, works with Alexa and Google Assistant, and can be controlled via the LG SmartThinQ app. In our LG SmartThinQ window air conditioner review, we were pleased with its performance, but noted that LG’s app needed work.
The Midea U Inverter Window Air Conditioner gets its name from its unique "U" shape. That's right, there's a large slot in the middle of this smart air conditioner, which allows you to slide your window up and down. Not only does this feature let you open your window to allow fresh air in, but when your window is closed, it provides a much more effective barrier, so your air conditioner doesn't have to work as hard to keep your room cool.
Because of this design, the company also claims that the Midea U is quieter and more efficient than similar window air conditioners. The Midea U can be controlled from a smartphone app, or with Alexa or Google Assistant. It comes in three models: 8,000 BTUs, 10,000 BTUs, and 12,000 BTUs. In our Midea U smart air conditioner review, we really liked its quiet operation and innovative design, but did note that it's trickier to install than other window air conditioners.
Frigidaire's line of Gallery Cool Connect Smart Room Air Conditioners includes 6,000, 8,000, 10,000, and 12,000-BTU models, and are designed to cool rooms from 250 square feet up to 550 square feet for the largest model. The 10,000- and 12,000-BTU models have an especially sleek design, with a metal mesh grille and LEDs to show you the current temperature.
These air conditioners work with Alexa and Google Assistant (you can also control the appliance via Frigidaire's smartphone app). They have a three-speed fan and an antibacterial mesh filter, and it comes with a remote control. It also has an auto-shut-off feature to save you energy. Other features include a scheduling assistant and a sleep mode.
Starting with the smallest 8,000-BTU unit, GE's smart air conditioners are meant for more modestly sized rooms, which makes them best for apartments. While not as sleek-looking as those models from LG and Frigidaire, GE's models are reasonably priced, and work with HomeKit.
These smart air conditioners are also compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT, making them one of the most connected there is. In addition, they come with a remote, have a three-speed cooling fan and can be controlled via GE's Appliances app (Android and iOS).
If you already have a working air conditioner, there's no reason to go out and spend hundreds of dollars to get a smart model. The Sensibo Sky can make your "dumb" air conditioner smart, by sending commands via infrared to turn your air conditioner on and off; you can control the Sensibo Sky from an app on your smartphone, and set timers and rules for when the air conditioner should run.
In our Sensibo Sky review, we liked that it has a geofencing feature; it can sense when you're getting near home, and start up the air conditioner to cool things down for when you arrive. Conversely, it can automatically shut off your A/C when you leave the house. The one thing we wish it had, though, was a display on the device itself.
The Cielo Breez Plus is another good option for making your air conditioner smart. The Breez Plus also sends signals via infrared to your A/C unit, and can be controlled from a smartphone app, or with Alexa or Google Assistant.
One thing we also like about the Cielo Breez Plus is that it has not just a large display, but controls on the device itself to let you adjust the temperature, so you don't have to pull out your smartphone to make it cooler. You can also control the A/C's fan speed, set temperature range locks, and see your energy usage history.
Cielo also makes the Cielo Breez Eco ($68), which lacks a display or physical controls other than an on/off button.
Like the Sensibo Sky, the Sensibo Air can control your "dumb" air conditioner via infrared commands, letting you program it via a smartphone app. However, the Sensibo Air has an extra feature: A separate room sensor that not only measures temperature and humidity, but also detects your presence. That way, you can program the Sensibo Air to turn off your air conditioner when no one's in the room.
It's a smart addition that will help save you money over the long run, even if the Sensibo Air is more expensive than other air conditioner add-ons.
What to look for when buying a smart air conditioner
Above all else, you should base your buying decision on two things: BTUs and energy efficiency. Air conditioner "sizes" are determined by their BTU cooling capacity. You want a unit that's just powerful enough to cool your room or area. If you get an air conditioner that’s too large, it’ll chill the room before it’s able to remove the humidity, leaving you cold and clammy.
This chart from Energy Star shows how many BTUs you need in terms of room size; the organization also has a handy calculator on its site for calculating your room size.
Energy Star also lists other guidelines for determining the proper size for an air conditioner in your room. For example, if the room gets a lot of sun, you should increase the capacity of your choice of air conditioner by 10 percent; if the room is heavily shaded, decrease the capacity by 10 percent.
You also want to look for units with a high energy-to-efficiency ratio (EER) — that is, the amount of energy needed to cool a room. The higher the EER, the better. You should be able to find this information in the product listing or the packaging. You also want a unit with a good Energy Star rating, another indicator of energy efficiency.
|Room Size (square feet)||BTUs|
|100 to 150||5,000|
|150 to 250||6,000|
|250 to 300||7,000|
|300 to 350||8,000|
|350 to 400||9,000|
|400 to 450||10,000|
|450 to 550||12,000|
|550 to 700||14,000|
|700 to 1,000||18,000|
|1,000 to 1,200||20,000|
|1,200 to 1,400||23,000|
|1,400 to 1,500||24,000|
|1,500 to 2,000||30,000|
|2,000 to 2,500||34,000|
How much does a smart air conditioner cost?
Because they're relatively new smart air conditioners are a bit more expensive. For example, a smart Frigidaire 8,000 BTU AC costs $329 on Amazon, whereas a nonsmart 10,000 BTU Frigidaire model costs about $30 less. Still, the price difference is becoming narrower. That being said, it's not such a huge difference that you should toss out a perfectly good air conditioner just to get one that has some smarts.
Air conditioner types
Apart from central AC systems — which you would control using a smart thermostat such as the Ecobee SmartThermostat — there are four types of air conditioners from which you can choose. Each has its benefits and trade-offs.
Portable air conditioners: These units are each about the size of a small suitcase and have large exhaust tubes that you must stick out a window. They're the easiest to install, but they are by far the least efficient type of air conditioner.
In-window air conditioners: Perhaps the most common type, these air conditioners simply slide into an open window. After portable units, they're the easiest to install, but they will block the lower part of your window and prevent you from opening that window. Also, you have to block the gaps on either side of the air conditioner to prevent hot air from entering and cold air from escaping.
In-wall air conditioners: Very similar to in-window units, these get inserted through an opening in your wall. They're generally more expensive than in-window units and may require professional installation — especially if you need to cut a hole in a wall of your house — but they won't take up valuable window space, and they allow less air leakage.
Ductless air conditioners: Also known as split air conditioners, these have an indoor section connected to an outdoor unit by a small pipe. While they're the most efficient of the different types listed here, they're also the most expensive to install; you'll need a professional. And the appearance of the indoor section can be polarizing.