A decibel measures how the human ear perceives sound. The higher the decibel level, the louder the device. A whisper registers at around 10 decibels, while a symphony orchestra is significantly higher, or 120 decibels. For every increase of 10 decibels, the sound multiplies by a factor of 10. For example, a 60-decibel air conditioner is 10 times louder than a 50-decibel unit.
Low and High Settings
A 5,000-Btu air conditioner offers both high and low speed settings that differ in noise level. The quietest option is the lowest speed, which is approximately 4 to 5 decibels quieter, depending on the model. Higher-end window air conditioners offer multiple speeds.
Frigidaire, LG and Soleus are three of the most commonly sold window air conditioner brands on the U.S. market. The Frigidaire 5,000-Btu air conditioner, model FRA054XT7, produces a noise level range of 53 to 57 decibels, while Soleus' 5,000-Btu air conditioner, model SGWAC05SM, offers a range of 55 to 62 decibels. LW5011, a 5,000-Btu model by LG, produces between 52 and 56 decibels.
Window air conditioners make a splashing sound that is normal and part of the condensation cycle. Comparison shopping increases your chances of finding a quieter 5,000-Btu air conditioner. Look for the decibel rating for low and high speeds in the product specifications. Stores may also operate various air conditioners as floor models so that you can listen for yourself. Models with multiple speeds offer the most noise control.