What Are Smart Air Conditioners (and Are They Worth It?)

Credit: Frigidaire

(Image credit: Frigidaire)

Those who live in apartments or older houses without central air conditioning need to use window, wall or split AC units to keep their abodes cool when temperatures rise.

In recent years, companies have added smart air conditioners to the mix; you can control these units using your smartphone, and they can also connect to other smart home systems. So, 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.

At its most basic, a smart air conditioner allows you to monitor and control the device using your smartphone or tablet. So, while you're in your home, you don't need to reach for the remote to adjust the temperature. If you're away, you can use your smartphone to make sure the system is off or turn it on to keep your pets cool on a particularly hot day.

But how do you choose a smart air conditioner that will suit your needs? Our guide will help you pick the best one for your home.

Credit: LG

(Image credit: LG)

More than that, though, a smart conditioner should also be able to connect with other smart home systems. Most smart ACs can work with either Alexa or Google Assistant, meaning you can control these air conditioners by voice, provided you have a smart speaker. However, you should also be able to set up a scenario in which, for example, the air conditioner will turn on along with your lights when you arrive home.

Credit: Kenmore

(Image credit: Kenmore)

Keep in mind, though, that smart air conditioners are still relatively new, so you'll pay a premium for these features. 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.

If you already have an air conditioner and want to control it remotely, you can choose from a number of smart home devices that will help keep your home cool. Some of these, such as the Cielo Breez and the Sensibo Sky, have built-in thermostats and will send commands to your air conditioner via infrared signals. Most of these devices cost around $100 and are good options if you're buying a smaller air conditioner.

MORE: The Best Alexa Skills for Your Smart-Home Devices

After looking at a number of review sites, such as Wirecutter, as well as retail chains, such as Lowe's, Home Depot and Best Buy, we feel these are the best smart, window-based air conditioners for rooms of all sizes.

The Best for Small Rooms

Frigidaire Cool Connect FGRC064WA1 (Credit: Frigidaire)

(Image credit: Frigidaire Cool Connect FGRC064WA1 (Credit: Frigidaire))

Frigidaire Cool Connect FGRC064WA1

BTUs: : 6,000 | Room size: 250 square feet | Energy Efficiency Ratio: 12.2 | Size: 18.5 x 17.8 x 13.4 inches | Works with: Alexa, Google Assistant

This 6,000-BTU air conditioner works with Alexa and Google Assistant (you can also control the appliance via Frigidaire's smartphone app). It has 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.

Best for Medium-Size Rooms

GE AHP08LX (Credit: GE)

(Image credit: GE AHP08LX (Credit: GE))

GE AHP08LX

Best for medium-size rooms

BTUs: : 8,000 | Room size: 350 square feet | Energy Efficiency Ratio: 12.1 | Size: 23.6 x 22.6 x 15.9 inches | Works with: Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit

Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT and now HomeKit, this GE air conditioner is one of the most connected there is. In addition, it comes with a remote, has a three-speed cooling fan and can be controlled via GE's Appliances app (Android and iOS).

Best for large rooms

GE AEC10AY (Credit: GE)

(Image credit: GE AEC10AY (Credit: GE))

GE AEC10AY

Best for large rooms

BTUs: : 10,250 | Room size: 450 square feet | Energy Efficiency Ratio: 11.5 | Size: 21.3 x 19 x 14.8 inches | Works with: Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit

This 10,000-BTU window unit from GE is designed to cool large areas, such as a living room or dining room. It comes with a remote but can also be controlled via GE's smartphone app, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri through HomeKit. It has three fan speeds and is designed to shut off automatically when the correct temperature is reached. 

GE has also added geolocation to this model, as well as its other smart window air conditioners; this means that they can automatically turn on when you're arriving home, so that your house starts cooling down before you get there. And, while you're away, it will keep the air conditioner at a different preset temperature, to save you money on your electricity bill.

Best for whole floors

LG LW1517IVSM (Credit: LG)

(Image credit: LG SmartThinQ (Credit: LG))

LG LW1517IVSM

Best for cooling whole floors

BTUs: : 14,000 | Room size: 800 square feet | Energy Efficiency Ratio: 14.7 | Size: 24.8 x 23.6 x 20.7 inches | Works with: Alexa, Google Assistant

This 14,000-Btu model, designed for rooms of around 800 square feet, has 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. When we reviewed the LG SmartThinQ window air conditioner, we were pleased with its performance, but noted that LG’s app needed work.

Air Conditioner Types

Apart from central AC systems — which you would control using a smart thermostat such as the Ecobee (5th Gen) — 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.

What size air conditioner should you get?

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.

Room Size (square feet)
BTUs
100 to 1505,000
150 to 2506,000
250 to 3007,000
300 to 3508,000
350 to 4009,000
400 to 45010,000
450 to 55012,000
550 to 70014,000
700 to 1,00018,000
1,000 to 1,20020,000
1,200 to 1,40023,000
1,400 to 1,50024,000
1,500 to 2,00030,000
2,000 to 2,50034,000

The chart above 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.

MORE: The Best Smart Home Gadgets

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.