If you need to cool a small room of 150 square feet or less, we found decent reviews for the 5,200-BTU Kenmore 70051 (*Est. $160). In one comparison, this low-priced window unit performs better than some air conditioners that cost twice as much, and it even has most of the upgraded features like an energy-saving timer found in more expensive choices. Most users who post reviews at Sears.com are satisfied. One especially likes being able to change the temperature in one-degree intervals.
Although most owners say this is a reasonably quiet air conditioner during normal operation, their biggest complaint is that the unit beeps very loudly -- one describes it as "ear-piercing" -- when they change a setting or adjust the temperature. Users also complain that the airflow directs only to the right, a possible deal-breaker depending on the unit's intended location. Still, if you can deal with the loud beeps, the Kenmore 70051 looks like a good bet.
The runner-up Frigidaire FRA052XT7 (*Est. $135) may save you a few dollars up front, but it's not Energy Star-rated and the extra electricity it uses could wipe out those savings over time. At 5,000 BTU it packs a bit less cooling power than the Kenmore, and it has fewer features -- you won't get a remote control or an energy-saving timer. Still, this basic unit's low price attracts lots of buyers at Walmart.com and Amazon.com, and positive reviews from owners who say it cools their small rooms just fine. And if you have really small windows, this little Frigidaire could be the only air conditioner that fits. It's just 16 inches wide and 12 inches tall vs. the Kenmore 70051's 18.5-by-12.5-inch size.
For a bigger room of 150 to 250 square feet, the Frigidaire LRA074AT7 (*Est. $160) costs and performs almost identically to the Kenmore 70051 but can cover a bit more square footage. Experts and most owners say it does a great job of cooling, sips electricity and is quiet to boot, although a few users report that their units rattle. The LRA074AT7 also does a poor job of aiming airflow to the right. It's sold only at Lowe's, where more than 250 owners give it mostly good reviews and an overall rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars.
For those with a still larger space of about 350 square feet, the 8,000-BTU LG LW8012ER (*Est. $220) is worth considering. It's too new to have attracted much feedback at the time of this update, but its very similar predecessors -- the LW8010ER and LW8011ER -- are top picks in one expert test that calls them outstanding at cooling, easy to use and very quiet on low speed. The noise kicks up a bit at high speed, but a handful of owners give the LG unit 4 out of 5 or a perfect 5 stars, saying they're pleased with its quietness and efficiency. One praises the LW8012ER's "quality construction;" another says this is the second LG air conditioner he has bought, and the first one "still runs like new" after five years. Others appreciate the LG's features, including a remote control and 24-hour timer. However, LG has cut its warranty from five years down to one year on this newer model.
The Frigidaire FRA086AT7 (*Est. $245), and the similar Lowe's-exclusive LRA087AT7 (*Est. $210) and Best Buy-exclusive FRA085AT7 (*Est. $230), also deserve a look in this size range. This AC unit receives largely positive reviews from owners, but one expert testing organization says it's noisier and harder to use than the LG.