Best Inexpensive Air Conditioners Under $300

By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com

The past month has brought record-high temperatures to three U.S. cities, according to Weather Underground, and there are surely more to come. The cold is one thing: There's always another layer to put on or extra log to throw on the fire. But when it's hot, there's only so much clothing one can take off in civilized company. Thankfully there's air conditioning (or as a character in the film Dogma put it, there is "no pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater ... than central air"). For those without central air and only a limited budget, a window air conditioner will have to suffice, and may even be the best option for a small space.

Keep cool this summer with an air conditioner.

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A key term to know before buying an air conditioner is British thermal units, or BTUs. A BTU is the amount of energy needed to change the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit and is used to measure the power of an AC unit. Energy Star, an Environmental Protection Agency program, provides a chart for matching the size of your space to the number of BTUs you need.

Another thing to keep in mind when purchasing an air conditioner: Beyond the initial price, there will be electric bills to pay. Look for an AC that's Energy Star-rated, which means it exceeds government standards for energy efficiency by at least 10 percent. Certain features also help save energy. If you get a unit with a sleep mode, you can set it to slowly increase the temperature after you fall asleep and cool it down again before you wake up. An energy-saver mode powers down the AC when the room reaches a set temperature and prompts it to kick in again only when necessary. With a timer, you can set the AC to automatically turn off, in case you forget when you leave the house, or turn on before you arrive home.

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With that, here are Cheapism's picks for best window air conditioners under $300.

The Kenmore 70051 (starting at $170) has a variety of features, including sleep mode, energy-saver mode, a 24-hour on/off timer, and an indicator for when the filter should be cleaned. Users who have posted reviews online comment on the easy installation and quiet operation, aside from some beeping when they push the buttons on the electronic control panel. This 5,200 BTU unit has three fan speeds and is recommended for rooms as large as 165 square feet.

The Frigidaire FRA065AT7 (starting at $170) lets users change options from afar with a remote control and choose among three fan speeds, an energy-saver mode, a sleep mode, and a 24-hour timer. An automatic restart feature restores settings after a power outage. The 6,000 BTUs represent a lot of power for the price point -- enough for a 216-square-foot room, according to the specs -- and reviewers report that this air conditioner effectively controls the temperature.

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The LG LW8012ER (starting at $219) and the slightly newer LW8013ER model boast three cooling and fan speeds, a remote control, auto restart after a power failure, and a timer. Their 8,000 BTUs can keep up to 350 square feet cool, or maybe even more, judging by some online reports. Noise is a common issue among units with this amount of power, but many reviews note how quiet this air conditioner is.

The Frigidaire LRA107BU1 (starting at $279) has a 24-hour timer, sleep mode, energy saver mode, and a remote control. It alerts users when the filter needs cleaning and restarts with saved settings after a power outage. This is a 10,000 BTU unit that can cool up to 500 square feet. There are three fan speeds, but reviews suggest you may not even need the highest one to keep a large room cool, and the low speed keeps noise to a minimum.

With that, here are Cheapism's picks for best window air conditioners under $300.


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