The Best & Least Expensive Air Conditioner

Air conditioners have helped people stay cool, calm and comfortable for decades.

Portable Unit

Price alone should not determine the type of air conditioner you buy.Price alone should not determine the type of air conditioner you buy.
The best air conditioner is a matter of personal choice; however, some have been shown to outperform others. Those looking to purchase an air conditioner should know how much space they are looking to cool, how often they intend on using the unit and what budget constraints they may be under.

The EdgeStar Koldfront PAC8000S portable air conditioner was ranked as one of the three best portable air conditioners of 2011 by Consumer Search. Of the three ranked, the EdgeStar Koldfront was the cheapest, with an estimated starting price of $300. This particular model features a dehumidifier, three fan speeds, and is operated by a remote control. The overall depth of the EdgeStar is 13.3 inches, the overall width is 19.3 inches and the overall height is 24.8 inches. This model has not been Energy Star-rated. Consumers will receive a 90-day warranty for labor and a one-year warranty for parts.

Window Unit

The Energy Star-rated Kenmore 76081 has an estimated starting price of $200 as of 2011, and can cool a 400-square-foot room. Temperature settings are altered by a remote control. This window unit air conditioner features three fan speeds, though some consumers have complained that it doesn't fit every window style. Owners will receive a one-year parts and labor warranty. The overall width of the unit is 20.09 inches, the overall height is 13.88 inches and the overall depth is 17.63 inches. For those looking to cool a smaller room -- 200 square feet -- Consumer Search recommends the 6,000-BTU Kenmore 75062. This model has an estimated starting price of $250 as of 2011.

Larger Unit

For those looking to cool a larger space -- 1,170 square feet -- the Frigidaire FAM18ER2A is the way to go. With an estimated starting price of $600 as of 2011, the Frigidaire FAM18ER2A comes equipped with a quick mount window kit, an energy saver mode and a sleep mode. For those looking to spend a little less and cool less space, the Kenmore 75121 is the way to go. With an estimated starting price of $300 as of 2011, the Kenmore 75121 can cool a 600-square-foot room, has been Energy Star-rated and features three cooling fan speeds. The overall width of the unit is 23.63 inches, the overall height is 14.97 inches and the overall depth is 22.17 inches.

Central Air

Those looking to purchase a central air conditioner, or replace an existing one, should purchase a minimum-efficiency model. These models have an estimated starting price of $2,500 as of 2011. Models with a seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) between 13 and 14.5 are recommended by both experts and contractors, according to Consumer Search. Although minimum-efficiency air conditioners have a lower starting price, they are more expensive to operate than mid-range or high-efficiency air conditioner units. Minimum-efficiency air conditioner units are best for rental units and for those who do not plan on running the unit too often.

About the Author

Based in California, Noel Shankel has been writing and directing since 2002. His work has been published in "Law of Inertia Magazine." Shankel has a Bachelor of Arts in film and writing from San Francisco State University.