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Best In-Wall Air Conditioners
Why Buy a Wall Air Conditioner?
If you are facing a long, hot summer, you’re probably eager to keep your abode cool and comfortable when it’s steamy outside. You have multiple options that vary in price and effectiveness. At the very low end of the price spectrum, you could get a few fans and tough it out. That's pretty hard if you live in an unforgiving climate with a serious summer. Or you could get a whole-house air conditioner. That requires professional installation and costs thousands of dollars, though, even at the low end.
Somewhere between those two extremes are some other great options to consider, including wall air conditioners. Wall air conditioners, also known as through-the-wall or in-wall air conditioners, are designed to be a long-lasting fixture in your home. These air conditioners are mounted into a hole in the wall and permanently attached to your house. Therefore, these systems are best if you plan on staying in the same location for years and a central air system is not an option for you. It's important to note, however, that these wall AC units are only designed to keep one room, two at most, comfortable during warm seasons. They cost less than a central air conditioning system but also offer less coverage.
The most distinguishing element between wall-mounted air conditioners and other wall mount AC units is their permanence. Installation costs of wall air conditioning units can be quite high, though not as pricey as a whole-house system. The installation process to replace an existing wall air conditioner is much simpler, and you can install one of these units yourself. However, if you are not replacing an existing wall air conditioner unit, you have to cut a hole through a wall, which can be expensive or time-intensive. If you are not comfortable cutting a hole in the wall yourself, you should look for a local contractor to help you install the unit.
Wall Air Conditioners: Our Verdict & Recommendations
During our evaluation process, we found that the Frigidaire FFTA1244S2, the Frigidaire FFTA1233Q1 and the GE AJCQ12DCG are the three best wall air conditioners available today.
The Frigidaire FFTA1233Q1, the Gold Award winner, has impressively high numbers for its energy efficiency, airflow and moisture removal. You will be able to feel the difference when you use this air conditioner for a summer to keep cool and comfortable. Then you will feel it again when you open your energy bills, which will be noticeably low.
The Frigidaire FFTA1233S1 is another great option and our Silver Award winner. With the second highest maximum airflow of the units in our review, this one really gets the air moving in a stale room. It also has a nice long compressor warranty that inspires confidence in the product.
The Bronze Award winner, the GE AJCQ12DCG, is very efficient at cooling and removes a lot of moisture from the air. Humidity reduction can improve coolness in a noticeable way.
These three units share a few elements, such as great cooling abilities and excellent designs. This combination sets these three models apart from other units and makes them the best wall air conditioners on the market.
Are Wall Air Conditioners Right for You?
Wall-mounted air conditioners have some elements in common with other AC units, such as the cooling process, multiple operation modes and level of installation. However, some air conditioning units are better for certain situations. The defining element that sets wall air conditioners apart from other designs is the fact that they are meant to be permanent house fixtures. Before you get a wall air conditioner, make sure you want it for at least several years, because once it is installed you'll want it to stay there. If you're not sure whether you want a permanent house fixture or not, you should consider a different type of AC unit to cool your home.
Window air conditioners are as close to a wall unit as possible without being permanent solutions in your house. These units have the efficiency of wall models but a more portable design that allows you to remove the unit when the seasons change. As the name implies, these models sit inside a window frame, acting like a wall unit, but they don't have an extensive installation process. If you're interested in this type of AC unit, check out our reviews on window air conditioners.
If you live in an apartment or a condo that doesn’t allow in-wall or window AC units, take a look at our portable air conditioner reviews. These units are the epitome of portable cooling, allowing you to move them from room to room throughout the day. If you spend most of your afternoons in the kitchen or living room, you can set up a portable air conditioner in one of these rooms to keep you cool. As evening starts to set in, you can quickly and easily move the air conditioner into the bedroom to control the temperature as you get ready for bed.
If you are looking for an air conditioning unit to cool your entire house, a wall air conditioner is not your best bet. Central air systems are the best way to effectively and efficiently cool your entire house without breaking the bank each month on your power bill. If you're interested in a whole-house air conditioner, check out our reviews on central air systems.
Wall Air Conditioners: What We Evaluated, What We Found
During our evaluations of wall-mounted air conditioning units, we considered the cooling ability and energy efficiency more heavily than other features. The first and most important thing these units should do is regulate the temperature and keep you comfortable. If an air conditioner can’t perform this function, then it isn't worth purchasing. Therefore, we heavily considered each unit's ability to move air through a room, operate in different modes and work effectively.
We also considered each unit's energy efficiency and determined the estimated cost to own and operate each unit based on a three-month period with eight hours of use per day. This element is vital to lower your electric bills each month and reduce energy use. We also considered ease of use during our evaluation, such as each unit's modes of operation. Every unit we reviewed includes a remote control and a programmable timer, convenient features that allow you to control the air conditioner from across a room and set it to turn on and off at specific times.
Although you only need to install a wall AC unit once, it's a good idea to look at how heavy a unit is before installing it. The average weight of the wall air conditioners we reviewed is about 80 pounds, so these aren't the lightest appliances to install by yourself.
What Should You Look for in a Wall Air Conditioner?
While looking for the best wall air conditioner, you want to look for certain elements to make sure you are getting the right unit for you. The first and foremost element to consider is its ability to keep you cool and comfortable. The next thing to consider is energy efficiency, especially if you want to save some money. Finally, look for units that have numerous operation modes, allowing you to change the settings to make the room as comfortable as you need.
An important thing to consider when looking for a wall air conditioner is the size of the room you want to cool. All air conditioning units are rated in Btu (British thermal units), which tells you the ideal size of room to install the unit in. Essentially, you want to find a wall air conditioner that is just as powerful as it needs to be. You basically want to follow the Goldilocks rule: not too large, not too small, but just the right size. Typically, an air conditioner that produces 8,000 Btu can cool a room up to 350 square feet, whereas a unit that produces 15,000 Btu can cool a room up to 900 square feet.
The next thing to consider is how much air an AC unit can blow through the room. This is indicated by the model's maximum airflow, measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm). The higher the cfm, the more air is pushed through the unit into the room.
Some cooling capabilities are related to maintenance and proper use, especially as time goes on. Running the unit when the air outside is already cool can cause a through-wall air conditioner to freeze up. So can a dirty filter. Other issues like furniture in a room can impact cooling capabilities too. It's important to position furniture to allow air to flow freely.
Energy Costs & Certifications
One thing you have to consider when purchasing any large appliance is how energy-efficient the product is. This also determines how much you can expect to spend on electricity. Every air conditioner we reviewed has an energy efficiency ratio (EER). The higher the EER, the more efficient the air conditioner is. The average EER of wall air conditioners is 9.5, so for an energy-efficient unit, look for an air conditioner with an EER of 9.5 or higher.
You may also want to consider the annual cost of each unit. We determined the annual energy cost of wall air conditioners based on using the unit eight hours a day for three months, which is an industry-standard formula. Your annual energy cost completely depends on how often you use the unit and how much you pay for electricity (the national average is 12 cents per kilowatt), so your overall energy cost may vary from our estimate.
You should also look for a wall-mounted air conditioner that provides multiple operation modes, including cooling and fan-only modes. This allows the unit to make you comfortable in a variety of situations.
For example, if you live in a humid environment, you should look for a unit that features a dehumidifying mode, which pulls excess moisture out of the air. This element is found in many wall air conditioners. If you plan on using an air conditioner while you sleep, you should consider a model that has a sleep mode, which gradually raises the temperature during the night to keep you comfortable and help you save energy.
Contributing Writer: Linda Thomson