The cooling season is drawing closer. Soon, everyone will be shopping for an air conditioner, fan, or mini-split.
If you want a single AC for the entire home, you’ll need to find a high-capacity model. Often, you need to pair two of these powerful units to serve the entire home, though some extra-large models are powerful enough to serve a small home without extra help.
Finding the right high-capacity air conditioner requires that you understand a few things about AC sizing, with a specific focus on BTU ratings. Fortunately, it’s a fairly straightforward topic.
The following are five of the highest-rated air conditioners to consider. Obviously, there are several AC systems with higher BTU ratings. But, we’ve considered a few other things. First, we’re only interested in domestic (home-use) ACs. Typically, the more powerful 40,000-96,000+ BTU air conditioners are explicitly for industrial use.
More importantly, remember that for split systems, each indoor air handler is rated separately. Therefore, even a 3-zone split system where each air handler is rated 12,000 BTU is a 12,000 BTU system rather than a 36,000 BTU system.
We’ve tried to include the different air conditioner varieties, including window, portable, and split systems.
What is BTU?
BTU is short for British Thermal Units. It’s a measure of energy. One British Thermal Unit is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a pound of water by 1˚F.
BTU is most often used in reference to heating and cooling appliances to denote the British Thermal Units that the appliance can remove or add to the air in an hour.
For instance, a 10,000 BTU air conditioner can add 10,000 British Thermal Units of cool air to the air per hour.
Why is the BTU Rating Important?
It’s really simple. When heating or cooling a space, you need to add a certain amount of heat or cool air to raise the temperature of the space to the desired level.
For example, in the hot summer conditions, you need to add approximately 20 BTU of cool air for every square foot to lower indoor temperatures to comfortable levels, ideally 74 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much or too little cooling would come with significant downsides.
Challenges Associated with Small ACs
Adding too little cool air to the room often means that you can’t lower the indoor temperatures to the desired level. If you’re required to add 20 BTU per square foot but only add 15 BTU per square foot, the room will not be cool enough for comfortable living.
This can present two challenges;
- The AC will run longer: Assuming the thermostat is set to standard 74-76˚F, the smaller AC will need to work longer to achieve the desired setting. If it’s an inverter air conditioner, designed to cycle on and off to save energy, the off cycles may never arrive. Longer running hours may result in faster wear and tear and shorter appliance life.
- The AC works harder: Aside from working longer, the air conditioner will also work harder to achieve the desired temperature levels. For instance, the fan will rotate at maximum capacity at all times. For ACs with multiple speed settings, it’s also likely to run at the maximum speed throughout. This, too, can result in faster wear.
Challenges Associated with Overly Large ACs
An unnecessarily large air conditioner (more BTUs than needed) may seem like a good thing at first. Although you’ll reach the desired cooling levels without trouble, the question is how efficiently?
If you need 20 BTU per square foot but instead bring in an equivalent of 30 BTU per square foot, the extra 10 BTU would go to waste. Right? Moreover, the following issues are likely;
- Overcooling: This especially true if you’re using a single-speed air conditioner that’s either off or on at 100% capacity. It may quickly become too cold inside the house. Fortunately, a thermostat easily solves this problem.
- Too much on–off cycling: Inverter air conditioners are an even better choice for cooling because they cycle ON-OFF for efficient cooling with minimal energy wastage. But then, there’s another problem. When the air conditioner is too large, it will reach the desired temperatures quickly, resulting in too frequent ON-OFF cycles, which is bad for your air conditioner.
- Over dehumidification: Finally, remember that air conditioners also dry the air. Alongside heat, they also remove excess moisture from the home. If the AC is too large, it may remove moisture faster than the moisture can be replaced, resulting in dry indoors. Dry indoor air is bad for your skin, nose, mouth, and throat.
How Many BTUs do you need?
This big question, therefore, becomes, how many BTUs do you need? We’ve already mentioned that 20 BTU per square foot is the US’s average requirement when air conditioning. If you don’t have time for lengthy calculations, feel free to stick to this ratio.
For the average 2,600 square foot home, you’ll need roughly 52,000 BTUs. There are a few central air units that deliver that much cooling without additional help.
However, in most cases, you’ll need two or three window units or mini-splits, rated 24,000 BTUs to 36,000 BTUs, to achieve that target. Larger homes will need larger units.
The only downside of using the flat 20 BTU per square foot approach is that not all applications are the same. Two rooms may have different ceiling heights, one higher and the other lower than standard. They may also differ in insulation. Obviously, the one with poorer insulation needs more air conditioning because it loses most of the cool air.
To compensate for these differences, home cooling experts recommend that you make adjustments as follows;
- If the room is heavily shaded, reduce the air conditioning capacity by 10%.
- If the room is directly exposed to the sun, increase air conditioning capacity by 10%.
- If you intend to use the appliance in the kitchen, increase the BTU value by 4,000 BTU.
- If the home/room will house more than two people at any given time, add 600 BTU for every additional person.
The Highest BTU Air Conditioners Reviews
1. Frigidaire FFRH2522R2 Window-Mounting Air Conditioner
To start us off is this reliable 25,000 BTU window air conditioner from Frigidaire – the model FFRH2522R2. It’s a heavy-duty 23-volt slide-out chassis air conditioner with a built-in heat pump that provides 16,000 BTU.
The internal dehumidifier function, meanwhile, removes moisture at a rate of 8.0 pints/hour. These performance figures make it the ideal AC, dehumidifier, and supplemental heat solution for homes up to 1,600 square feet.
Three cooling speeds and three heating speeds mean you can customize the heating and cooling to meet your unique needs. Effortless clean filters ensure that impurities and other airborne particles are prevented from entering the room. The mesh filter is washable with tilt-out access. A check-filter alert that reminds you to clean and replace the filter.
Ready-Select electronic control is another standout feature of the model FFRH2522R2 AC. The function allows you to select controls with the touch of a button. At night, Sleep Mode gradually adjusts the temperatures for energy-efficient performance and sound sleep. There’s also a 24-hour timer for worry-free programmable air conditioning.
The 490-watt air conditioner uses a full-function remote for convenient control. The window mounting kit is included for quick installation and a reliable warranty (1-year on parts and 4-year on the sealed system) included for your peace of mind. It’s designed for 31-42-inch windows.
- Powerful 25,000 BTU air conditioner
- Multiple modes, e.g., energy-saver, fan-only, auto–fan
- Washable mesh filter
- 1-year parts, 4-year sealed system warranty
- Requires 230V wiring
- No app/smart controls
2. Frigidaire FFRE2533U2 Window-Mounted Heavy-Duty Air Conditioner
The model FFRE2533U2 Frigidaire is near-similar to the earlier option, the model FFRH2522R2. The main difference is that the first option also functions as a supplemental heater, while this second option doesn’t. Otherwise, both are powerful 25,000 BTU window-mounted air conditioner systems. Also, both are only available in white.
Low power startup and operation conserves energy to save you money, while the Ready-Select electronic control allows you to set comfortable preferred cooling levels. A convenient temperature readout display shows the set temperature. You can easily change or adjust the temperature settings via the included temperature-sensing remote.
The unit has a fan mode for fan-only operation and also operates a dehumidifier. The fan mode has three cooling settings, while the dehumidifier mode allows you to remove up to 10.3 pints of moisture per hour.
In total, you get an 8-way comfort control appliance that guarantees the ultimate comfort no matter the season. It’s best for 30-41-inch windows and spaces up to 1,600 square feet.
The unit requires 230V electrical wiring and will not operate with a standard 115V power outlet. A 1-year parts and 4-year sealed system warranty backs every purchase.
- Powerful 25,000 BTU cooling
- Doubles as humidifier and fan
- Ideal for up to 1,600 square feet
- Efficient 10.3 EER performance
- Requires 230V wiring
- Requires professional installation
3. SEVILLE SENA 24HF/IF Floor Mounted Mini Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump
Split system air conditioners have become increasingly common lately. If you’re looking for a high-BTU single-zone unit, the SENA 24HF/IF from SEVILLE would be an excellent acquisition.
It’s one of the most advanced and high-end concealed duct units, providing you with a variety of air conditioning features while also offering supplementary heating.
The 20 SEER split system uses ultra-inverter technology for cooling up to -22˚F at 75% efficiency. It’s also rated 12.5 EER. The built-in heat pump, meanwhile, is rated 12.5 HSPF4 and 10.6 HSPF5. You may also want to know that the entire appliance is Energy Star certified. At 44 dB (in High speed), t’s impressively quiet for its size.
Other key features of the SENA 24HF/IF include self-cleaning mode, a built-in dehumidifier function, and a self-diagnosis system. It also features built-in leak detection that sounds an alarm in case of a refrigerant leak. The antimicrobial silver ion filters remove any foreign air particles for the highest indoor air quality.
The product arrives complete with the installation kit, including the required 16-foot copper line set and wiring harness. However, you’ll need 230V wiring as it doesn’t use the standard 115 household wiring. It’s ETL Intertek and AHRI approved. A 2-year parts and 7-year compressor warranty backs the purchase.
- Convenient remote control
- It doubles up as a dehumidifier and fan
- ETL Intertek, AHRI, and Energy Star Certified
- Installation kit included with a pre-charged line set
- 2-year parts, 7-year compressor warranty
- Requires 230V wiring
4. LG LW246HR 23,000 BTU 230V Heat Window-Mounted Air Conditioner
Window air conditioners are undoubtedly the most powerful AC systems after central systems, and this LG model is another high-BTU option you want to consider strongly.
It stands out for several seasons. For one, it’s rated 23,000 BTU, making it ideal for large spaces, up to 1,560 square feet. The AC runs very efficiently at 9.8 CEER.
Additionally, it features heating, dehumidifier, and fan-only modes. The 23,000 BTU heating function makes an excellent supplemental heat source for spaces up to 550 square feet, while the dehumidifier removes moisture at 6.5 pints/hour. The powerful 560 CFM fan-only mode can help remove foul odors and moisture from the room.
Other key features of the model LW246HR include washable, re-usable filters, filter check reminders (LED light alerts), and a 24-hour on/off timer that allows you to program the air conditioner as you wish. The 2-speed (Low and High) fan and auto-restart feature that resumes AC operation at the previous settings following a power outage are other important features.
The air conditioner is designed for 29-41-inch windows and arrives with a convenient and straightforward installation kit for quick, easy installation. A 1-year parts/labor warranty backs each purchase.
- It’s a powerful 23,000 BTU air conditioner
- Ideal for spaces up to 1,500+ square feet
- Doubles up as dehumidifier, heater, and fan
- Washable filter, with filter check reminders
- Auto-restart function
- A tad loud at 64 decibels
- Only a 1-year warranty
5. De’Longhi Pinguino Deluxe 3-in-1 Portable AC, Dehumidifier, and Fan
Finally, we also thought it wise to include a portable option on the list, and what better option than the model PACEX390LVYN from De’Longhi? This 83-pound, 14 x 16.3 x 31.5-inch unit is one of the most value-for-money air conditioners. It is smarter, quieter, and more personalized than competitors while also guaranteeing a more powerful performance.
The three-in-one air conditioner, dehumidifier, and fan is equipped with BioSilver filters to help prevent mold and mildew growth. The filters also reduce odors.
It also features non-drip technology to automatically recycle condensation within the unit and prevent any leaks. Features like Eco Real Feel help reduce energy consumption by up to 30%.
The attractive design and soft-touch interface are other valuable attractions. You can control all the settings from the touch control panel, with the soft-touch buttons guaranteeing an enjoyable experience. Remote control is also available thanks to the included LCD remote. You can conveniently control the fan speeds, noise (up to 4dbA), and 24-hour timer from the remote.
Castor wheels and integrated handles make it easy to move the air conditioner from one application to the next. The 14,000 BTU (rated 6,800 BTU for the new DOE guidelines) is ideal for up to 700 square feet.
- Smart, tough controls
- Extremely quiet operation
- Features mobility wheels and handles
- Ideal for up to 700 square feet
- 2-year limited warranty
- No Bluetooth/app control
Other Considerations When Buying an Air Conditioner
Although BTU sizing is just one of several factors you need to consider when shopping for an air conditioner, it’s one of the more important considerations. This is especially true when shopping for an AC for a large room.
Besides the cooling capacity in BTU, you also need to consider the following factors when shopping for an air conditioner;
There are five main types of air conditioners, i.e., central, window, wall, mini-splits, and portable models. Which option makes the most sense for your application? Keep in mind that wall and window air conditioners require professional installation.
High-BTU air conditioners are naturally likely to consume a lot of power. But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to find an energy-efficient model. Specifically, check for EER and SEER ratings. EER ratings above 11 and SEER ratings above 16 would be a good start.
Most large air conditioners can function as dehumidifiers and fans. More importantly, some models allow you to utilize these features independent of the air conditioning, such that you can run the humidifier alone to remove excess moisture without engaging the air conditioner module.
115V or 230V wiring?
Ideally, you want a 115-Volt (usually 110V-120V) because they don’t require new electrical wiring. You can plug the unit into the standard home outlet, and you’re good to go. If you buy a 230-Volt model, you need a special 230-Volt outlet for the AC. Never plug a 230V Ac into a 115V outlet.
Finding the right high-BTU air conditioner shouldn’t be a problem. There are endless options from multiple manufacturers to choose from, with some rated as high as 84,000 BTU or higher. What’s important is making sure that you’re getting the right size. Just as an air conditioner too small for the application poses problems, so does one that’s too big for the job.