How to Choose the Right Smart Home
Air conditioning is essential in the summer, but cooling your home can really jack up your energy bill. When I lived in New York City, I’d often bolt out of the house in the morning, forgetting to turn off my window unit. If I had a smart air conditioner, I would have been able to turn it off or enable Energy Saver mode from my desk in the office.
Smart ACs may be more expensive than traditional units, but they can potentially save you money on your energy bill in the long run. Plus they’re just a lot more convenient all around. We’ve rounded up the best smart ACs we’ve tested to help you select the best one for your needs.
What Makes an Air Conditioner Smart?
To be considered smart, an air conditioner needs to have a Wi-Fi radio so it can connect to an app, allowing you to control and monitor it from your phone or tablet. No matter where you are, smart air conditioners let you do things like adjust the target temperature, change the fan speed, and turn them on and off. Many also let you set a cooling schedule, so they will kick on at a designated time. And some offer support for Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant voice commands.
The GE AHC08LY, our current Editors’ Choice in the category, even offers energy usage reports, and can use your phone’s location services to cool down rooms before you arrive. That way, you’re not wasting energy—and money—cooling an empty room when you aren’t there.
Selecting the Right Size
Before purchasing any air conditioner, it’s important to figure out what size unit you need. If it’s too small, it will have to work harder to reach the target temperature, wasting energy. If it’s too big, it will cool the room before sucking out moisture, leaving you feeling clammy.
Figuring out the correct size AC for your room involves some math, but it’s pretty easy. First, measure the length and width of the room you want to cool, then multiply those numbers to calculate the square footage.
In general, you want 20 to 25 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of cooling power for every square foot. So, multiply the square footage of your room by 20 to get the minimum size air conditioner that will work in your space. If your room is 500 square feet, for instance, you’ll want an air conditioner with 10,000 BTUs. If you have high ceilings and large windows, you may need more cooling power.
Energy Star recommends increasing capacity by 10 percent if the room is very sunny, reducing it by 10 percent if it’s heavily shaded, adding 600 BTUs if more than two people regularly occupy the room, and increasing capacity by 4,000 BTUs if the unit is located in a kitchen.
Portable vs. Window ACs and Other Options
When selecting a smart air conditioner, you’ll need to decide whether you want a portable or window unit. Both have their pros and cons. Portable units can be moved from room to room, but they take up floor space, and require a bulky exhaust hose. Window units can be a pain to install and block out your view, but are far more discreet than portable units.
Another option is to purchase a retrofit device to make your basic air conditioner smart. If you already have a working AC, you might want to consider a device like the Sensibo Sky, which brings remote phone control and other connected features to your old traditional unit. It works with various types of ACs, and was easy to install in our testing.
Meanwhile, if you need something to keep you cool without necessarily bringing down the temperature in an entire room, you might want to consider a device like the Evapolar Personal Air Cooler. It’s not an air conditioner, but it keeps you comfortable using evaporative cooling, and it doubles as a humidifier. It’s perfect for hot, dry office buildings.
How Wet Test Smart Air Conditioners
We test smart air conditioners in our actual homes, taking into account factors like app experience, cooling performance, design and specs, ease of installation, modes, operating volume, and support for voice commands and scheduling. When determining our ratings, we also consider whether a unit is Energy Star certified and/or reports on power usage.
We provide detailed analysis of each of the smart AC units here in our reviews, so be sure to check them out. And we will update this roundup often as we test new models, so check back soon.
If you’re in the market for other smart home devices, we can help you select the right one that first your needs. Whether you’re looking for a connected light bulb, security camera, or thermostat, check out the best smart home devices we’ve tested for every room in the house.
GE Energy Star 115-Volt Electronic Room Air Conditioner (AHC08LY)
Pros: Supports Alexa, Google, and Siri voice commands.
Works with HomeKit and IFTTT.
Reports power usage.
Location-based temperature settings.
Installation requires some heavy lifting.
Bottom Line: The GE AHC08LY is a very smart window air conditioner that connects to your home Wi-Fi and supports HomeKit, IFTTT, and multiple voice services.
It also tells you how much power it’s using and will adjust its temperature based on your location.
Frigidaire Cool Connect 8000 BTU Smart Room Air Conditioner
Pros: Sleek design with capacitive buttons.
Multiple scheduling options.
Unit doesn’t display current temperature.
No support for IFTTT or third-party devices.
Lacks usage reporting.
Frequent communications issues in app in testing.
Bottom Line: Frigidaire’s good-looking Gallery Smart Room Air Conditioner is one of very few app-enabled window ACs currently available.
You can control it from afar, it cools quickly, and is one of the best-looking window units we’ve seen.
But it’s expensive and has some usability issues.
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