Now that things are starting to get warmer, it's time to start thinking about getting one of the best smart air conditioners before it gets too hot.
Just like a traditional air conditioner, a smart air conditioner goes in your window and cools your room or house. However, a smart air conditioner is also connected to the cloud, which means you can control it from your phone. A smart air conditioner also lets you connect it to your other smart home devices, so you can control it with Alexa and Google Assistant, or program it so that it turns on if you turn on your lights or lower your window shades. You can also set it to change temperature if you're leaving or arriving back home, so it's not cooling your house while you're away — and wasting energy.
This guide is divided into two sections: Smart window air conditioners — which are Wi-Fi connected — and smart air conditioner controllers. The latter are small devices, usually around $100, that can turn older air conditioners into smart A/Cs, so you can monitor and control them remotely. This can be more economical than purchasing a brand new air conditioner.
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.
GE has recently launched its own line of U-shaped air conditioners which hang below the window; this not only gives you a nice view outside, but also is better at insulating, as it relies on your window, rather than flimsy plastic baffles. The GE Profile Clearview window air conditioner is available in three sizes: 6,100, 8,300, 10,000 and 12,000 BTUs; the latter two use inverter technology, which is both quieter and more efficient than other air conditioners. Stay tuned for our review.
Be sure to check out the best air conditioner deals, as well as what to look for when buying an air conditioner.
The best smart air conditioners
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.
Like the LG and the Midea, this Hisense window air conditioner uses an inverter compressor, which not only makes it very efficient — one of the most efficient we've tested — but also one of the quietest window air conditioners, too. In our tests, we heard more noise coming from outside our home than we did from the Hisense A/C.
The Hisense comes in just two sizes — 8,000-BTU model that costs $399, and can cool rooms around 350 square feet in size, and a 14,000-BTU model for 700-square-foot rooms — so it's not the best if you have a lot of area to cover. But for small rooms where you place a premium on noise (or the lack thereof), the Hisense smart window air conditioner is definitely worth your consideration.
Read our full Hisense smart window air conditioner review.
One of the biggest issues with traditional window air conditioners is that they're, well, ugly. If you're going to be staring at something all summer long as it cools your apartment, it should at least look nice. Enter the Windmill, which is attractive as it is performant.
The Windmill has a large grille in the front with a subtle vent at the top which directs cool air up toward the ceiling, so it can then filter down throughout your room. The Windmill's surrounding baffles are a solid piece of plastic, rather than the accordion-style that's so common on many window AC units. We found that the Windmill was effective at cooling our apartment, but it has a lower energy-efficiency rating than the Midea U and the LG. And, as the Windmill only comes in two sizes, it's best for smaller spaces.
Read our full Windmill air conditioner review.
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).
In general, portable air conditioners aren't as efficient as in-wall or window units, but they can be handy if you can't install one of those other models. The Honeywell Smart Wifi Portable air conditioner pulls double duty as it can not only cool down your room, but it can also act as a dehumidifier.
This model weighs just about 63 pounds — standard for this size — but has a set of wheels on the bottom so you can move it from room to room. Not only can you control it from your phone (and with Alexa), but it also keeps tabs on outdoor weather conditions and adjusts itself automatically. It also has thermal overload protection and a washable filter.
Smart air conditioner controllers
The devices listed below are wireless accessories that connect to the internet, and let you control older non-smart air conditioners remotely. You use an app on your phone, which sends the command through the cloud to the accessory, which then sends the command to your air conditioner. Most older air conditioners that have a remote should work with one of the options below, but check to make sure it's compatible before purchasing.
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 liked 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.
How we test the best smart air conditioners
First thing's first: An air conditioner — smart or not — has to be able to cool down a room quickly and efficiently. To test a smart air conditioner, we set it up in a home or apartment and see how quickly it cools a room to a set temperature. Because we can't control for outside temperatures, this is a somewhat rough estimate, but gives us a good sense of how well it performs.
While it's cooling, you don't want to be annoyed by the noise it makes, so we also use a sound meter to determine how much noise a smart air conditioner puts out while it's at its max and minimum power. We've found that the newer models, which use inverter technology, tend to be quieter than older models that use compressor technology.
Speaking of which: We also take into account the Energy Efficiency Rating of a smart thermostat in our ratings. Here too, the inverter-style units are often much more efficient. That means you'll be spending less money on your cooling bill in the summer.
Because these are smart thermostats, we also take a look at their apps to see how easy they are to program and connect with other smart assistants, such as Alexa.
Last — but not least — we also look to see how easy an air conditioner is to install in a window. Because you'll be putting it in and taking it out each year, it should be easy to mount and remove.
What size air conditioner should you buy?
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.
Types of air conditioners
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.