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Best Air Conditioner For Apartment in 2021

Looking for an air conditioner for your apartment? There are some great units for you to choose from, so let’s take a look at some of the best!

Without an air conditioner, the air in your apartment can get uncomfortably warm during those hot summer months, and sometimes unbearably so. An air conditioner can solve that problem, blowing cool, crisp, and refreshing air through your home.

This review and buying guide will help you find and choose the best air conditioner for your apartment. Keep reading for the buying guide section, or use this convenient table of contents to skip ahead to the reviews.

I’ve been installing and working with air conditioners for over 10 years, working as a licensed Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) specialist. I’ve used my knowledge and expertise to review some of the best air conditioners for an apartment to help you find the perfect unit for your home.

But not all air conditioners are suitable for an apartment. Even the ones that are suitable have their pros and cons that you should understand and consider before you go shopping.

Let’s find the best air conditioner for your apartment together! Just keep reading, and I’ll go through everything you need to know.

Air Conditioner For Apartment Buying Guide

So, you’ve decided to invest in an air conditioner for your apartment. That’s a great decision! You’re taking the first steps towards the complete home comfort an air conditioner will bring.

But before you rush in and buy the first unit you come across, let’s consider what you want from your apartment air conditioner. How often do you plan to use it? Do you need to cool multiple rooms or just one at a time? Are there any building limitations that could limit your choices? These are the sort of questions that this buying guide will help you to answer! 

Types Of Air Conditioners

There are different types of air conditioners to choose from when buying one for your home, but not every type will meet your needs or fulfill your expectations. That’s why it’s important to first understand what each type can and can’t do and how they are best used to maximize cooling and comfort in your home.

Central Air

If you’re a tenant, it’s unlikely that your landlord will allow you to install central air conditioning. Even if they do, central AC installation is a complex job, and it can cost thousands of dollars. 

There are better apartment air conditioning solutions out there that don’t always require landlord permission and don’t need extensive installation work.

Mini-Split

A ductless mini-split is great for an apartment since it requires only basic installation. This two-part system can deploy one or multiple indoor units that are connected to a single outdoor unit. 

Each indoor unit has a thermostat, so you can alter temperatures in different rooms individually from each other. A mini-split system is also capable of cooling large areas quickly and evenly, so you can cool the whole apartment at once.

They may be more expensive than other types of air conditioners, costing between $750 and $5000 without installation, but that depends on how many indoor units you’re going to use. They’re als very energy efficient, so you’re likely to eventually recoup a good amount of that outlay through reduced energy bills.

If you and anybody else you live with prefer different levels of cooling, this could be a great option for your two-or-more bedroom apartment. 

Portable

Portable air conditioners are easy to move around, and they don’t need any installation.

The downside is that they can only cool one area at a time, and they’re noisy too. The noise makes them less than ideal if you plan to cool your bedroom overnight while you sleep. 

However, their zero installation costs are a big plus, and they’re well-suited if you live alone and only need to cool one room at a time as you move around your apartment. 

Window AC

Window air conditioners are the cheapest type around today. A basic window unit can cost as little as $100, and the high-end models cost no more than around $600. 

You’ll need a suitable window opening that can accommodate a window AC unit. Most models are designed to fit horizontally sliding windows, and the dimensions of the unit have to fit within those of your window. 

There are window units designed to fit vertical windows, but these can cost between $100 and $200 more than a standard model. You’ll also need to install outside mounting support so the unit doesn’t fall and injure anybody below, which is a potential issue if your apartment is higher up.

As long as you’re looking to cool a single, small room in your apartment and you have a window that matches the criteria needed, a window air conditioner is a solid budget option.

Which Type Is Right For You?

Now that we know the different types of air conditioners and how they operate, it’s time to apply this knowledge to your specific needs. After all, the best air conditioner for your apartment is the one that best meets and exceeds these expectations.

Apartment Size

One of the most important factors that will influence your decision when choosing an air conditioner is the size of your apartment. Not all air conditioners are designed with the capacity to cool larger spaces, and buying a unit that’s too small means you won’t be able to effectively cool down your apartment.

But simply buying the biggest you can find means you’ll be needlessly wasting power on an oversized machine, and your energy bills will skyrocket!

To avoid either situation, let’s look at some common apartment layouts and the type and size of air conditioner that would best suit them.

Studio Apartment

A studio apartment containing a single room of around 500 square feet will need 10,000 BTU or more. A window air conditioner or portable air conditioner will manage this effectively. 

1-Bedroom Apartment

A 1-bedroom, 700 square feet small apartment consisting of a couple of rooms will need at least 14,000 BTU. A window air conditioner or portable air conditioner will manage one room at a time, but consider a mini-split an extra indoor unit to cool your living space and bedroom.

2-Bedroom Apartment

You’ll need 22,000 BTU for a 2-bedroom apartment of around 1,100 square feet. Since that would require multiple window AC units or portable AC units, a multi-zone mini-split system may be the most suitable option here.

How To Calculate AC Cooling Capacity For Your Apartment?

The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured by the British Thermal Unit (BTU) rating. The higher the rating, the more effective an AC unit is at cooling a larger space, more quickly, than a unit with a smaller rating.

Calculate the cooling capacity you need by measuring the square footage of each room (length x width), and adding these together for the total size of your apartment in square feet.

Once you have this, use the simple metric that 1 square feet = 20 BTU of cooling power. If your apartment is 1,000 square feet, then 1,000 x 20 = 20,000 BTU needed.

Check this convenient table below for a rough calculation of the BTU needed for different apartment sizes.

Apartment SizeMinimum BTU neededRecommended BTU
400 sq ft8,000 BTU10,000 BTU
600 sq ft12,000 BTU14,000 BTU
800 sq ft16,000 BTU18,000 BTU or 2 x 10,000 BTU units
1,000 sq ft20,000 BTU22,000 BTU or2 x 12,000 BTU units
1,200 sq ft24,000 BTU26,000 BTU or2 x 13,000 BTU units
1,500 sq ft30,000 BTU34,000 BTU or3 x 12,000 BTU units

Building Limitations 

If you rent your apartment, make sure you get permission from your landlord before installing any type of AC and check if the apartment has the electrical capacity needed to run that AC unit.

Window air conditioners and mini-split units need an engineer to be able to reach the outside of your apartment to install the system.

If your apartment is high up or is difficult to reach, it may be tough or even impossible to install or service, in which case a portable AC unit is a better option.

How Climate Type Can Affect Your Decision

If your climate is typically humid, a portable AC unit may not be the right solution for you. It cools a room using evaporating water that adds extra humidity to the air. That’s great if you live in a dry climate, but not you already live in a humid environment.

If your climate is warm in summer, but especially cold in the winter, a mini-split may be a good investment since it can provide hot air throughout your apartment when needed.

Extra Features To Look For

Some portable air conditioners need water residue created by absorbing humidity from the air to be periodically emptied. But some models have auto-evaporating technology pre-installed to save you this hassle, so look for a portable AC unit with this feature.

Some air conditioners also work as air purifiers or dehumidifiers, which is a great health benefit if you live with kids or pets. Mini-split systems can also work as heat pumps, providing warm air to your apartment in the winter.

Air Conditioner For Apartment Reviews

Picking a specific unit can be daunting, given the sheer number of air conditioners on the market today. But don’t worry! I’ve reviewed and compared some of the best air conditioners for your apartment to get you moving in the right direction.

Best Overall 2021

Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU
Editor’s choice
B0028AYQDC
Check price on Amazon
Features
Very quiet
High BTU output of 14,000
Thermal overload protection

Most portable AC units compromise on cooling output for portability, but not this one. It may not be enough to cool an entire house, but its powerful 14,000 BTUs of cooling capacity will easily cool a room up to 500 sq ft – enough for a whole studio apartment or a large open plan living room. 

Its lightweight and ergonomic design make it easier to move around than other portable units, which is good news if you live in a duplex. It operates very quietly at under 56 decibels, almost as quiet as a refrigerator, so it’s perfect if you want to cool your bedroom while you sleep.

However, these advantages come at a cost. It’s expensive upfront and less energy efficient than other portable units, so your energy bills will be higher. 

If you don’t mind paying more, then this is not only one of the best portable air conditioners out there, but one of the best air conditioning units of any type for an apartment. 

What We Like:

  • High BTU output of 14,000
  • Cools a room up to 500 sq ft
  • Very quiet
  • Thermal overload protection

What We Don’t Like:

  • High upfront cost
  • Low energy efficiency

Best Window Air Conditioner

Frigidaire, White Energy Star 5,000 BTU
Runner up
B08G1VM7R7
Check price on Amazon
Features
Energy efficient
Washable air filter
2 different cooling speeds

This window air conditioning unit is a great choice for cooling a small room of up to 150 sq ft. Its compact design and adjustable side panels mean it can easily fit into your window without taking up valuable floor space or blocking too much natural light.

The two fan speeds are enough for a small area, so reaching your target temperature shouldn’t be a problem. Not all window units are Energy Star certified as this one is, using less electricity than other window units of the same size, so you’ll lower your monthly energy bills.

Sleep mode makes this perfect for overnight bedroom cooling since it will automatically raise the temperature in hourly increments of 0.5- 1.0 degrees as the colder night sets in.

This is one of the best window air conditioners I’ve come across, so if you need a cooling solution for a room size of up to 150 sq ft, this is an efficient, effective, budget-friendly option.

What We Like:

  • Cool air in a single room up to 150 sq ft
  • Washable air filter
  • 2 different cooling speeds
  • Sleep mode
  • Energy efficient

What We Don’t Like:

  • Low BTU output

Best Mini-Split Air Conditioner

Senville Leto Series, 24,000 BTU
Runner up
B00UV3LH4Y
Check price on Amazon
Features
Very quiet
Turbo-fan mode
Models between 9,000 and 30,000 BTUs

Senville may not be the best-known brand in the US, but they produce some of the best air conditioning units relative to price and performance.

This particular mini-split offers 24,000 BTUs, enough to cool a large 2-bedroom apartment, but Senville manufactures the same unit with outputs between 9,000 and 30,000 so you can find one that’s right for you.

There are three cooling speeds to choose from for accurate regulation of your desired temperature, and a turbo-fan mode for exceptionally hot summer days. 

Unfortunately, the unit chews through electricity, so it isn’t the best choice if you’re looking to keep your energy bills down or you’re concerned about your impact on the environment.

Its affordability and cooling capacity do make it a great choice if you want the luxury of central AC without the hassle and cost of installation.

What We Like:

  • Models between 9,000 and 30,000 BTUs
  • Three fan speeds
  • Turbo-fan mode
  • Very quiet
  • Remote control

What We Don’t Like

  • Requires 208-230 watt voltage

Best AC With Smart Features

LG 8,000 BTU Smart Wi-Fi Portable AC
Runner up
B094WZJTP4
Check price on Amazon
Features
Remote control
Multiple fan speeds
Hot air exhaust hose

This portable unit has some awesome smart features thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi. It can be connected to your smart home products for easy voice-commanded control, but there’s a good old-fashioned remote control too, so you can control your cool air from anywhere in a small apartment.

As with most portable units, this unit will cool a single room of around 350 sq ft, but the simple addition of wheels (a surprisingly uncommon feature in a portable unit) makes it easy to move the unit around your apartment.

The Sleek black design means you won’t need to hide it out of sight, and an outdoor exhaust hose vents hot air through a window so you’re just left with cold air for maximum cooling effects. However, it can be noisy, running at close to 70 decibels – the same level as a vacuum cleaner. That’s not great if you’re trying to sleep or watch TV. 

It’s one of the best air conditioners for cooling a small space if you like the convenience and comfort of added smart features.

What We Like:

  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Remote control 
  • Multiple fan speeds
  • Hot air exhaust hose
  • Sleek design

What We Don’t Like:

  • Noisy

Who Can Install Air Conditioner For My Apartment?

Each type of apartment AC unit has a different level of installation required.

Portable AC units can be unboxed, plugged into the mains supply, and you’re ready to go. 

Window units require some installation but could be easily managed between 1 or 2 people if the outside of your apartment is easily accessible.

Mini-split AC’s don’t require complex ductwork to operate, but unless you have some experience with HVAC installation, I recommend using a professional engineer for installation since it involves some electrical wiring and drilling into your walls. You could also void your warranty if you attempt DIY installation.

Air Conditioner For Apartment: Frequently Asked Questions

Can A Portable Air Conditioner Cool An Apartment?

A portable air conditioner is a great solution for cooling an apartment since they don’t need any installation, and most models have enough cooling capacity for a whole studio apartment or a larger room of around 500 sq ft.

Can I Install An Air Conditioner In My Apartment?

If you don’t own your apartment, you’ll need permission from your landlord before attempting the installation of an AC in your apartment. This isn’t an issue with a portable air conditioner since it doesn’t require installation.

My Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading my review of the best air conditioning units for an apartment. They’re a great starting point when looking for your perfect AC unit. 

The Whynter ARC-14S is my best overall choice since it offers enough power for a whole open-plan small apartment while remaining quiet and portable. 

Window units like the Frigidaire 5,000 BTU are perfect for cooling a single small room like a bedroom, and a mini-split such as the Senville Leto Series provides the benefits of central AC without the extensive installation.

Using your newfound knowledge, you’ll be able to go out and make a well-informed purchase!