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

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.

Credit: FrigidaireCredit: FrigidaireIn 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.

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.

Air Conditioner Types

Apart from central AC systems — which you would control using a smart thermostat such as the Ecobee4 — there are four types of air conditioners from which you can choose. Each has its benefits and trade-offs.

Portable: 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: 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.

Credit: LGCredit: LGIn-wall: 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.

Split units: Also known as ductless 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: Our Favorite Smart Home Gadgets and Systems

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.

Smart Home Compatibility

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.

Credit: KenmoreCredit: KenmoreMore 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: KenmoreCredit: KenmoreKeep 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. These devices are also a good option if you're buying a smaller air conditioner, as many of these smart features have yet to filter down to the smaller air conditioners themselves.

MORE: 20 Alexa Skills For Your Smart-Home Devices

While we have not evaluated these air conditioners, here are some options for smart window air conditioners.


Small Bedroom or Den (5,000 to 7,000 BTUS)


Frigidaire 6,000 BTU ($259)

This 6,000 BTU air conditioner works with Alexa and Google Assistant and has an EER of 12.2. However, reviewers on Amazon (where the device has an average rating of 3 stars) say that while it's quick to cool a room, its smart features don't always work, and the unit has trouble connecting to Wi-Fi.


Master Bedroom (7,000 to 9,000 BTUs)


GE AHP08LX ($279)

This 8,000-BTU unit is designed for rooms that are from 250 to 350 square feet. It has an EER of 12. Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT, GE's model can also work with Apple HomeKit, a first for window air conditioners. While it has only about 20 reviews on Lowes, this air conditioner has an average rating of 4 stars.


Kenmore Smart 04277087 Room Air Conditioner ($279)

Kenmore's 8,000-BTU unit has an EER of 12.1 and works with Alexa and Google Assistant. While it has just 46 reviews on Amazon, the Kenmore's average rating is 3.5. Fakespot, a ratings-analysis site, says that more than 80 percent of these ratings are high-quality. This model is also available in 10,000; 15,000; and 24,500-BTU sizes.


Frigidaire Cool Connect 8000 BTU ($329)

Frigidaire's model has an EER of 12 and is meant for rooms that are up to 350 square feet. In addition to having a remote control, it also works with Alexa and Google Assistant. On Best Buy's site, this Frigidaire has an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 in 49 reviews.


Living Room, Dining Room (9,000 to 13,000 BTUs)


GE AHP10AX ($349)

GE's 10,000-BTU model is meant for rooms that are from 350 to 450 square feet. It has an EER of 12.2. Like GE's 8,000-BTU model, this one also works with Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT and HomeKit. Its average rating on Lowe's is 3.5 stars (out of 5); users complained that the unit's fan is loud. GE also sells a 12,000-BTU unit though Home Depot.


LG SmartThinQ 14,000 BTU Dual Inverter Smart Wi-Fi Enabled Window Air Conditioner ($449)

This 14,000 BTU model, designed for rooms of around 800 square feet, has an EER of 11.2. This model 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 up to 25 percent energy savings. This model also works with Alexa and Google Assistant.


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