Extreme temperatures during summer is not only uncomfortable but also dangerous to your health and those around you.
The best air conditioner for apartment is, therefore, a must-have if you want to keep your space cool and comfortable. Thankfully there are all kinds of ACs to suit your budget, space, and needs.
Like all household appliances, specifications and reviews a specific product has are important in choosing the best apartment air conditioner.
Reading through AC specs and other customers’ reviews, however, is frustrating and time-consuming, which is why we have created this definitive guide to help you make the right decision without spending so much time.
Which Type of Air Conditioner is Best for an Apartment?
There are at least five air conditioner categories. These are central air systems, ductless mini splits, window air conditioners, through-the-wall systems, and portable air conditioners.
The best option for your apartment will depend on several factors, including the apartment’s size, whether you rent or own it, whether you already have a primary air conditioning system, and your budget.
Let’s discuss the five options in detail to try to match each category of ACs with the ideal customer.
Central Air Systems
The central air conditioner is the first line of defense against the hot, sweaty summer weather. If you’re buying the first air conditioner for your apartment, you should consider a central system.
It comprises two main components, the condenser unit, and the evaporator unit. The condenser unit sits outside and helps dump hot air outside the house. Meanwhile, the evaporator unit typically rests on the furnace and primarily helps release cold air into the home.
A couple of things set the central air conditioner apart from the rest.
- It links with the furnace system and even takes advantage of the furnace filter to clean the air inside your home.
- It uses the home’s primary duct system to deliver cool air throughout the home. A dedicated fan inside the AC is tasked with forcing the cool air into the duct system.
- It’s large, powerful, and purposely designed to serve the entire house. This is unlike other air conditioner systems designed for single rooms, even if it is a small house.
Pros and Cons of Central ACs for Whole Apartment Cooling
- Large and powerful, ideal for whole-house cooling
- Leverages the home’s ductwork to deliver cooling throughout the house
- Reduced noise as the condenser sits outside the house.
- Long manufacturer warranties, some up to 7+ years
- Heavily relies on the furnace system
- Installation is complicated and often expensive
Verdict: Central air conditioners are the best choice for apartment air conditioning. They are the best suited for whole-house, multi-room cooling.
Ductless Mini Splits
The rest of the options on this list work best if you already have a central air conditioner, though it’s not a must. And, at the top of the list are ductless mini-split units.
Ductless mini-split systems also comprise two components, a condenser/compressor that sits outside the house and an indoor air handler. The condenser unit is where the magic happens as heat is extracted from the hot air collected from the house and dumped outdoors.
Meanwhile, air handlers are tasked with gathering hot air for cooling and dispersing the cool returning air throughout the house.
Four qualities stand out about ductless mini-split units;
- They are ductless: Unlike central air conditioner systems, ductless units eliminate the duct system instead of relying on the air handlers to deliver cool air in various rooms.
- Incredible energy efficiency: Ductless mini splits are by far the most energy-efficient of air conditioners. The elimination of ductwork reduces energy consumption by up to 40%.
- Single or multi–split options: This is actually what makes ductless mini splits a worthy choice for apartment cooling. A multi-split system with multiple air handlers can conveniently serve multiple rooms in the house.
Pros and Cons of Ductless Mini Splits for Apartment Air Conditioning
- Multi-split models are designed for multiple rooms.
- Incredible energy efficiency means cost savings.
- They’re some of the most modern AC solutions.
- Convenient remote and smart controls
- They are about 30% more expensive than central air systems
- Short cycling is an ever-present concern
Verdict: Ductless mini-split air conditioners are the next best option for apartment cooling after central air systems.
Window and Through-the-Wall Air Conditioners
Window and through-the-wall air conditioners are small air conditioners designed to sit on the window or through the wall, respectively.
Window-mounted models install in the window space and cool spaces by extracting hot air from the house and passing it over ice-cold condenser coils. Through-the-wall models also pass hot air over condenser coils. But unlike window units, they are installed in a hole bored through the wall.
Features that characterize window-mounted and through-the-wall air conditioners include;
- Installation method: Window air conditioners install on the window while through-the-wall models sit in the middle of the exterior wall.
- Easy installation: Window air conditioners are especially easy to install. You can easily buy one for every room in the home with a window and install all of them on your own.
- Lower prices: Pound-for-pound, window and though-the-wall air conditioners are only bettered by portable air conditioners in affordability.
Pros and Cons of Window and Through-the-Wall ACs for Apartment Cooling
- More affordable than central and mini-split units
- Far easier to install, especially window ACs.
- Zero ductwork means improved energy efficiency.
- Fairly good warranties, often up to 5+ years
- You need one for every room in the house
- Window models obstruct the window
Verdict: Window and through-the-wall air conditioners aren’t perfect choices for whole-apartment air conditioning. It’s hectic and too costly to install one in every room.
Portable Air Conditioners
Finally, you can also choose a portable air conditioner for apartment air conditioning. These units work like any other air conditioning system. They comprise a condensing unit with refrigerant that extracts heat from hot air. The now-cool air then released back into the house, creating a relaxing environment.
Portable air conditioners come in many different shapes and sizes. Some models are also designed for specific areas of the home, such as the kitchen and bedroom.
Three essential qualities define the average portable air conditioner;
- Size: Portable air conditioners are the smallest, on average, of all the options on this list. This makes them better suited to single room cooling.
- Mobility: No air conditioner is as portable as the room air conditioner. These units even have handles and caster wheels so that you can move them from room to room and application to application without a fuss.
- Convenience: If there’s a quality that makes portable air conditioners a practical choice for apartment air conditioning, it’s their ease of use. Portable air conditioners have the most intuitive features and controls.
Pros and Cons of Portable ACs for Apartment Air Conditioning
- Extreme flexibility and portability
- Wide range of choices to fit each room
- Intuitive features and independent controls
- No installation means increased convenience.
- You need to buy one for every room
- Low capacity (BTU) means you may need many units
Check the best portable AC for large rooms
Best Air Conditioner for Apartment FAQs
How Much Does it Cost to Air Condition an Apartment?
According to the US Department of Energy, the average cost of air conditioning in an apartment for a year is just under $550.
However, actual costs differ from one AC to the next, based on AC type, BTU size, and energy efficiency. Central air systems naturally consume more electricity, leading to higher power bills. Window and through-the-wall models also use quite a bit of power.
More importantly, higher capacity (BTU) air conditioners consume more power than low BTU models. Low-efficiency models are also more costly to run. In the end, you may spend well below the $550 or well over $1,000 on air conditioning alone in a year.
How Much Does an AC Cost Per Month in an Apartment?
Roughly $46 if we use the Department of Energy figures that say the average household uses about $550 per year on cooling.
Keep two things in mind, though. First, this is the national average. Every home uses air conditioning appliances differently, thus will get a different bill. Secondly, this is the average for all the 12 months in a year, even when you don’t use the air conditioner.
To determine the actual cost of air conditioning in a cooling month, divide the whole-year cost by the average number of cooling days in a month and multiply the value by 30. It comes to ($550/125)*30 = $132.
How Many BTUs Do I Need to Cool a 2-Bedroom Apartment?
On average, you need 23,660 BTU to cool a two-bedroom apartment in the US. This is the national average. The actual value may vary from house to house.
This calculation uses the average size of a newly-built two-bedroom apartment in the US as stated by Statista, i.e., 1,183 square feet. Experts recommend that you add 20 BTU of cool air for every square foot to raise your indoor temperatures to healthy levels. Therefore, to determine the BTUs required to cool down the average 2-bedroom apartment, multiply 1,183 by 20.
How Can I Cool My Apartment with One Air Conditioner?
Yes. You can cool your entire apartment using a single air conditioner. But not with just any type of air conditioner.
Even if you disregard size, the only two air conditioner types designed for whole-house cooling are central AC systems and multi-split air systems with multiple air handlers. Window models, through-the-wall systems, and portable air conditioners are explicitly designed for single room applications.
How Can I Cool Down My Top Floor Apartment
You can consider several tricks, including closing the blinds, keeping the doors open, turning your ceiling fans counter-clockwise, and setting up floor fans. Installing an attic fan may also help. Here are other tips to cool an apartment in summer.
Air Conditioner for Apartment With No Windows
1. PIONEER Air Conditioner WYS020GMHI22M2 Multi-Split Heat Pump
I’ve included this air conditioner for people who want to cool and heat multiple rooms in their apartment. It’s called a multi-zone mini-split system. It has one outdoor unit and two or more air handling units that allow you to control the temperature of a room individually.
PIONEER WYS020GMHI22M2 is a dual-zone mini split, which means it can cool two rooms separately. If you want to control the temperature of more than two rooms, you can choose a trio split, quad-zone split, or quint split.
One of the reasons you should pick PIONEER WYS020GMHI22M2 is its price. This is one of the most affordable multi-zone splits on the market that offers flexibility in both cooling and heating. The cooling capacities are 4,197 BTUs and 19,900 BTUs. The heating capacities are 2, 225 BTUs, and 23, 475 BTUs. You can use one indoor air handler in a much smaller room and the other in a slightly large room.
Efficiency is another important factor, and nothing beats ductless air conditioners. PIONEER WYS020GMHI22M2 21.3 SEER efficiency, 10 HSPF efficiency, and inverter technology, which will reduce your energy bills in the long run. It’s also listed for energy efficiency by AHRI and safety-tested and approved by ETL.
Other features you’ll love include permanent washable air filters, wireless internet worldwide remote access and programming module option, and installation kit.
2. Pioneer Air Conditioner WYS012A-19 Ductless Inverter+ Mini Split Heat Pump
If I were to recommend only one type of ac for apartments, it would be a ductless mini-split system. These units are energy efficient, easy to install, require very little maintenance, and long-lasting.
One of the best ductless air conditioner brands is Pioneer. Their products have gained popularity and reviews from Amazon. For small apartments, the Pioneer WYSO12A-19 is a good option. It offers 12,000 BTUs of cooling and heating that’s enough for rooms up to 500 square feet.
If you’re looking for a quiet AC, then this would be another reason to go for ductless mini-splits. That’s because the compressor, which is the loudest part, is located outside, and you’ll hardly hear it running. The fan speeds are also quiet even on the highest setting.
This unit offers a smart optional WiFi control using the Pioneer USB WiFi Dongle. That means you can connect the unit to your smartphone or tablet and operate it from anywhere. The accessory plugs directly into the air conditioner and provides you with monitoring, remote control, scheduling, and more.
While this unit is easy to install, that is only possible for someone who has basic DIY skills. Otherwise, it’s only prudent to hire a professional HVAC technician who can make sure it’s not only appropriately installed but also performs to its maximum capabilities.
Best Portable Air Conditioner For Apartment
3. Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
If you are looking for a tested and tried unit, the Whynter ARC-14S AC. It’s an award-winning unit that was voted the best by Good Housekeeping and had the highest score from a test carried by Consumer Report in 2019.
It’s a multifunctional unit that not only air conditions. It also dehumidifies and circulates air in the room during those days when air conditioning isn’t necessary. It’s ideal for rooms up to 500 square feet.
This is an easy-to-install unit thanks to the included installation kit. After installation, you can enjoy comfort by taking advantage of the remote control and the digital display to adjust the temperature and other settings.
Its full thermostatic control and the 24-hour programmable timer ensure uninterrupted comfort in the unforgiving summer heat. Moreover, it has a patented auto drainage system that uses and recycles moisture automatically to produce cool air.
Maintenance is an essential factor to consider when choosing an air conditioner. Whynter ARC-14S is easy to maintain as it comes with a carbon air filter, washable pre-filter, and a user-friendly manual. Move it wherever you want quickly on its rolling casters.
The only problem that I find may not sit well with most people is that the filter may sometimes clip into the unit, allowing air leaks. This can result in the AC heating the room rather than cooling it. However, you can rectify this issue by making minor modifications with duct tapes.
4. Black + Decker BPACT14WT Portable Air Conditioner
This is one of the affordable portable air conditioning units for apartments. With 14,000 BTUs of cooling power, Black + Decker BPACT14WT is recommended for spaces that measure between 300-350 square feet.
Like many other modern portable air conditioners, it has an inbuilt dehumidifier that reduces humidity levels as well. This important because excess humidity encourages the growth of mold and mildew and causes metallic items to rust.
You don’t have to be physically available to turn it on or off and adjust the temperature setting. You can set and forget about it using the thermostat and timer. This will help you to come to an air-conditioned room or not to worry when you have forgotten to turn it off when you leave the house.
Portable ACs are easy to install, and this is no exception. It comes with a complete installation kit and manual. Once set up, the remote and LED electronic controls make operation smooth. You can also move the unit from one room to another using the 4 casters wheels and side carrying handle.
You don’t have to worry about your energy bills. With a high Energy Efficiency Ratio and a sleep mode, the ac will operate without increasing your cooling bills. It’s also environmentally friendly and automatically restarts after a power outage.
A few negative things that you must be aware of about this ac is that it’s suitable for double-hung or sliding windows but not crank windows. It’s also noisy, emitting 75dB on high setting. The compressor also experiences a 3-minute delay due to the microprocessor.
Best Window Air Conditioner for Apartment
5. LG LW2516ER Window-Mounted Air Conditioner
If you’re looking for a window air conditioner to climate-control a large apartment, try LG LW2516ER. It provides 24,500 BTU of cooling power that’s enough to cool rooms up to 1560 square feet. It also removes up to 7. 7 pints per hour, keeping your room cool and maintaining a comfortable level of humidity.
This energy star rated ac has an Energy Efficiency Ratio of 10.3, it will operate without increasing your energy bills. It also has other energy-saving features, including energy saver mode and a 24-hour timer that will reduce your yearly cooling costs.
The complete set kit and manual ensure its easy installation. Once set up, the remote control or the control panel allows you to operate the unit smoothly. You can customize the speed setting to attain your preferred level of comfort.
Despite all the positive reviews and user-friendly features, LG LW2516ER is noisy, with a decibel rating above 60dB. While most window air conditioners are not quiet, you can use other types of air conditioners. Also, it doesn’t use the standard 115V electrical outlet. Instead, you will need a 230V power outlet.
6. Koldfront WAC12001W Heat/Cool Window Air Conditioner
Koldfront WAC12001W allows you to create a comfortable environment all year long in apartments between 400 to 550 square feet. The air conditioner provides 12,000 BTUs while the heater provides 11,000 BTU. However, the heater should only be used to supplement an already existing source of heat.
Looking at the energy efficiency ratio (EER) 10.9, it is easy to see why this product is one of our favorites. The energy-saving features include an adjustable thermostat, 24-hour timer, sleep mode, and energy saver mode.
Koldfront air conditioner fits seamlessly on windows between 16.5″ to 36″ with a minimum height of 16″. It’s easy to install and requires an input voltage of 208/230V.
After installation, you can start operating the unit from the onboard control panel or the included remote control. The 3-fan speeds and four-way air directional louvers let you customize the rate of airflow and where it’s directed the most.
As with all air conditioning systems, the Koldfront WAC12001W air conditioner has its cons. The 88.4 lbs weight could be too much for one person to handle during installation. Another downside is the required special 230V electrical unit as the standard 115V outlet is not compatible.
Air conditioning an entire apartment is no mean task. Although you can easily find a unit to cool the entire area, the upfront costs tend to be high. Moreover, insulation and AC efficiency can combine to drive the eventual cooling costs up substantially.
So, begin by buying the right air conditioner. A good air conditioner is adequately sized, efficient, and easy to use.