How To Choose Best AC For Home

The Four Best AC Systems for Your Home - Use this AC Sizing Chart To Match Your Needs.

To Choose the Best AC Unit for Home – You must determine the square footage of the single room (or whole house) you want to cool, along with the number of rooms you need to cool, your budget, and your energy efficiency goals.  Once these facts are determined, selecting the best home air conditioner is easy.  Let’s do that together;

1) Estimating BTUs:  How Much Cooling Capacity Do I Need For My Home?

BTUs (British Thermal Units) measure how much energy your air conditioner uses when removing heat from your home – over one hour.

The Level of BTUs in AC Units is an important measurement that will help you determine the kind of air conditioner you need for your home size.

See this AC Sizing Chart to use your square footage and zone location to determine the proper AC for your home.

2)  What is the Best Type of Air Conditioner for My Home?

These are the Four Most Popular Types of Air Conditioners* for homes:

  1. Window Air Conditioner – (Least Expensive – Limited to One Room)
  2. Portable Air Conditioner – (Portable on wheels – Best For Multiple Room Use)
  3. Mini-Split (Ductless) AC – (Best For Apartments and Large Rooms)
  4. Central AC – (Most Expensive – Best for Large Homes or Multi-Story Homes)

*Variations of less popular air conditioning options include; Heat pumps, Smart Air Conditioners (Functions controlled by Smart Phone App), and Geo-Thermal systems.

However, this article will focus on the four best types of AC used in homes across the U.S.

There are many different types of air conditioners on the market, each with advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s look at the top-rated air conditioners and determine What Size AC you require and Which Type of air conditioner is best for your needs:

1)  Window Air Conditioners

Window AC units are typically the Least expensive Air Conditioners to buy but deliver the least efficiency and lowest cooling capacity. 

The Best AC Wall Units – like the Midea 8,000 BTU Window AC unit, will include an insulated window trim kit, quiet operation (for conversation, and sleeping), and a remote control or App for your smartphone.

Homeowners with some DIY experience (and a Helper) – can install a Window Air conditioner in less than 30 minutes.

How To Install a Window Air Conditioner:


  • Window Air Conditioners: Window air conditioners are the most affordable and common type. They are the most inexpensive to buy and easy to install – but cheaper models can be noisy and will only cool smaller rooms.
best window ac unit
Window Air Conditioner – Best Home Gear

“BTU Requirements For Window Air Conditioner” By Room Size

  • 150 to 350 square feet: 5,000 to 8,000 BTU
  • 350 to 550 square feet: 8,000 to 12,000 BTU
  • 550 to 1,050 square feet: 12,000 to 18,500 BTU
  • 1,050 to 1,600 square feet: 18,500 to 25,000 BTU


  • Low Cost
  • Best Small AC Unit
  • Easy to Install
  • Requires No Floor Space


  • Limited Use to One Room
  • Some HOAs and Apartments Don’t Allow Window AC units – Check before you Buy!
  • Loud operation on Cheaper Models (Some Models provide a Decibel (DB) rating. Look for DB42 or under)
  • Requires Proper Window Type for Installation. (Use for Double Hung Windows – Not Casement/Crank windows) 

Editors Choice “Midea” – 8,000 BTU “Smart” Air Conditioner

Midea 8,000 BTU U-Shaped Smart Inverter Air Conditioner –Cools up to 350 Sq. Ft., Ultra Quiet with Open Window Flexibility, Works with Alexa/Google Assistant, 35% Energy Savings, Remote Control

See our Pick for the Best “Window Air Conditioner.” 


2)  Portable Air Conditioners

Portable AC units are inexpensive and can easily be moved from room to room.

There are two types of portable air conditioners; Ventless and Vented. Having installed a vented AC unit in our Sunroom – I can verify they work with temperatures reaching over 90 degrees in the summer. 

Video How To Install a Portable AC – Vented outdoors:


To vent a portable Air conditioner, you will need to install an AC window kit with an exhaust hose shown below:

Portable AC with Exhaust Hose Kit
Vented Portable Air Conditioner – Best Home Gear

Beware of Portable AC Models sold as “Ventless” Portable Air conditioners. These Evaporator Coolers (or Swamp Coolers) use a “water evaporator” pump (not air conditioning) to introduce cool air into a room. 

Evaporator air coolers do not remove humidity or warm air from a room, as a portable air conditioner does, but they may be a “best option” for those without window access to vent hot air outdoors.

  • Portable air conditioners: Portable air conditioners are an excellent option for people who don’t have the option of installing a window unit. They are more expensive than window units but also more versatile. 
  • Best RV AC Unit: A window air conditioner won’t work in an RV because RVs don’t offer typical window configurations.  We recommend a portable air conditioner for RV use but ensure it is in place during travel.  After all, portable ac units are “on wheels.
  • Best 10,000 BTU Air Conditioner:  Based on our reviews, a Portable AC unit is the best 10,000 BTU AC unit to consider. But remember, they are fairly loud to operate, so if you’re a light sleeper, opt for a smaller unit or even a small AC for the bedroom (use).

“BTU Requirements For Portable Air Conditioner” – By Room Size

  • 150 to 350 square feet: 5,000 to 8,000 BTU
  • 350 to 550 square feet: 8,000 to 12,000 BTU
  • 550 to 1,050 square feet: 12,000 to 18,500 BTU
  • 1,050 to 1,600 square feet: 18,500 to 25,000 BTU



  • More Expensive than Window AC Units
  • Prevents use of Window (For Vented Portable AC Unit only)
  • Loud. Similar or louder than Window AC Units

Editors Choice “Whytner” – 14,000 BTU Portable AC/Dehumidifier/Fan

Whynter Portable Air Conditioner 14,000 BTU with Dual Hose Dehumidifier & Cooling Fan for 500 Sq Ft Rooms, Includes AC Unit Window Kit, ARC-14S (9,500 BTU SACC)

See our Pick for the Best “Portable Air Conditioner.”



3) Mini-Split Air Conditioner

The Mini-Spit or “Ductless” Air Conditioner system is another popular type of air conditioning system. Mini Splits are wall-mounted, highly efficient, and cool, much larger rooms of up to 1,500 square feet.

mini split ac unit image - best home gear
Mini-Split (Ductless) AC Unit – Best Home Gear

Mini/Ductless AC Systems are sleek wall-mounted units that complement most home decors and cost significantly more than Window or Portable AC units (But less than Central AC), with prices ranging from $800 for 12,000 BTUs up -to $2,200 for 30,000 BTUs (Labor not Included).

The best Mini Split air conditioners include Heating and Cooling performance options and are the most energy-efficient AC to own – while still delivering up to 30,000 BTUs of cooling performance.

The best Mini Split systems usually require professional installation with refrigerant lines connected to an exterior AC condenser, wall-mounted brackets, and electrical wiring inside a home – we highly recommend hiring a licensed HVAC contractor.

mini split ductless ac condenser image - best home gear
Mini Split AC Condenser –
  • Ductless mini-splits: Ductless mini-splits are a newer type of air conditioner that is becoming increasingly popular. They are more expensive than window or portable units, but they are also more efficient, and they can be installed in any room, even if there is no window.

“BTU Requirements For Mini-Split Air Conditioner” – By Room Size

  • 150 to 250 square feet: 6,000 BTUs
  • 300 to 350 square feet:  7,000 BTUs
  • 350 to 550 square feet: 8,000 to 12,000 BTUs
  • 550 to 700 square feet: 14,000 BTUs
  • 1,000 to 1,200 square feet: 21,000 BTUs *

*Note:  Mini-Split/Ductless AC Systems can be installed in “Mulitple Zones.”  With this option, your professional can install a wall-mounted Mini-Split unit in every room required, then connect it to an appropriately sized outdoor AC condenser. 


  • Wall Mounted – Saves Floor Space
  • Quiet AC Unit to Run
  • Most Energy Efficient AC 
  • Dependable Air Temperature Control
  • Include Heat Pump for Heating Season


  • Significantly More Expensive than Window AC or Portable Units
  • Requires Professional Installation
  • Not Designed to Cool Entire Home

Senville “Leto”:  12,000 BTU “Smart” Mini-Split System

Senville LETO Series Mini Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump, 12000 BTU 110/120V, Inverter, Works with Alexa, SEER2 20.8, 1 Ton, White




4)  Central Air Conditioners

Central Air Conditioners are the most expensive but practical Air Conditioning system for any home. Central AC units require an exterior AC condenser, which circulates cool air through the home via a forced air system.

A licensed HVAC Professional is required to install a Central Air Conditioning System.

Central AC Unit Image - Best Home Gear
Central Air Conditioning Installation –
  • Central air conditioners: Central air conditioners are the most expensive type of air conditioner, but they are also the most efficient. They cool your entire home, so they are a good option for large homes or homes with multiple levels.

BTU Requirements:  Central Air Conditioning Systems 

Central Air Conditioning Systems are typically installed in significant, multi-story, single-family homes. 

Because of the demand for this cooling system, it is essential to know the recommended BTU Range – based on the Zone you live in and the size (SEER rating) your home requires.

Once you know the Square Footage of your home and the U.S. “ZONE” you live in, Use this AC Selection Tool to determine your House’s Air Conditioning Requirements.


  • Highly Efficient AC System
  • Quiet Operation
  • Full Distribution to all (Ducted) Rooms in Home
  • Dependable Air Temperature Control
  • Controlled by Central Thermostat


  • Significantly More Expensive than Mini Split Systems
  • Requires Professional Installation
  • Highest Cost AC System
  • Requires Outdoor Air Condenser Location
  • Requires Separate Forced Air (Furnace) System for Heating

If you are curious about what size (SEER Rating) best suits the size of your home and your budget, check out the “Before You Buy a Central Air Conditioner (Video) below:


Our Pick for the Best “Central AC Unit (or See a highly-rated local HVAC Contractor)

Goodman- 2.5 Ton/36,000 BTU – 14 SEER Air Conditioner

Goodman 3 Ton 14 SEER Air Conditioner GSX140361


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:  What are the 4 Types of Air Conditioners For a Home?

A:  The four best air conditioners for a home are Window, Portable, Mini-split, and Central air conditioners.

Q:  What Is a “SEER Rating” for Air Conditioning?

A: SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio in the heating and cooling industry and is reserved for describing Mini-Split and Central Air Conditioning systems only.

SEER rating defines the required cooling output of an AC system over an average cooling season, divided by the total energy used.

The short answer: SEER ratings reflect how much money is spent running an air conditioning system over an entire cooling season and its maximum cooling efficiency.

Mini-Splits deliver an average SEER rating of 15-18, whereas Central Air conditioners average about 16 SEER. More expensive central air systems can deliver up to 23 SEER.

To estimate the cost of an Existing AC system vs. a New one, you can use the SEER Savings Calculator from Seer Savings dot com.

Q:  How Much Electricity Do Air Conditioners Use?

A: Electrical usage for air conditioners varies based on the Type and Size of the Air Conditioner you are considering.

Window Air Conditioners use between 500 and 1400 watts depending on the AC unit size required, 400 or 1000 square feet, respectively, for the wattage shown above. Determine the size of the room you wish to cool, by multiplying the width x length of the room. Then buy the best AC wall unit for that size of room*.

*Room Size Example: The bedroom is 10 feet x 8 feet = 80 square feet, under 150 square feet.  In this example, your best AC window unit would be a 5,000 BTU air conditioner.

Portable air conditioners use between 2500 and 4000 watts per hour, depending on the size of the portable AC unit.

Mini-split air conditioners use 700-2000 watts per interior unit per hour. Mini-Split Air Conditioners, which are “ductless,” use one outdoor unit (condenser) and are connected to one single or multiple interior wall-mounted air conditioners.  Mini-splits are designed to cool one room per mini-split interior unit.

Central air conditioners are the most energy-efficient AC types you can own and operate. A Central AC system will use approximately 1,000 watts of electricity per Ton* (or Size).

*Central air conditioners are typically installed in 2, 2.5, and 3-ton cooling capacities. For example, a (2-ton) central air conditioner requires approximately 2000 watts of cooling capacity per hour of runtime.

Note:  The Best Type of Central Air Conditioning System would be manufactured with high-efficiency features, reducing the operation time and improving cooling efficiency.

Conclusion:  What to Look For Buying an Air Conditioner:

  • BTU rating: The BTU rating measures an air conditioner’s cooling capacity. The higher the BTU rating, the more influential the air conditioner.
  • Energy efficiency: Air conditioners are rated on a scale of 1 to 15, with 15 being the most efficient. The more efficient the air conditioner, the lower your energy bills.
  • Noise level: Air conditioners can be noisy, so choosing one quiet enough for your comfort is essential.
  • Features: Some air conditioners have additional features, such as remote controls, timers, and dehumidifiers. Consider which features are important to you before making a purchase.

With so many different air conditioners on the market, choosing the right one for your home can be difficult. Considering your needs and budget, you can find the perfect air conditioner to keep you cool and comfortable all summer.

Additional Tips for Choosing the Best Air Conditioner for Your Home:

  • Get multiple prices from different retailers online or in big box stores.
  • Search Online to find the best place to buy a room air conditioner (window or portable).
  • Hiring a professional is the best way to install a Mini-Split or Central AC System.
  • Read the reviews of different air conditioners before making a purchase.
  • Ensure the air conditioner is the right size for cooling one room or an entire home.
  • Consider Air conditioning energy efficiency (Watts used or SEER Rating for Central AC)
  • Choose an air conditioner with the features most important to you.

References & Further Reading

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear, and uses his 25+ years experience in Commercial and Residential Construction Management to author and publish the work for this website. In addition to publishing Best Home Gear; Kevin enjoys the outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, and completing DIY projects at his Home and Garden.

Thanks for Visiting Best Home Gear - Your One-Stop-Shop for Expert DIY Guides, and the Best Products and Equipment Reviews for Your Home.

Image of Kevin Carroll, author and publisher @
Author and Publisher for Best Home Gear

Kevin is the Author, and Publisher @ Best Home Gear, which he began In 2018.

As a Professional in Construction, Real Estate and Property Management, Kevin uses that experience to publish Useful Articles, and help homeowners improve (DIY) their own homes, lawns, and outdoor spaces.

Thanks for Coming, Please leave us a Comment, and Enjoy the Site!

Note: as an Affiliate we may earn from qualifying purchases. Disclosure statement.


Popular Now