Sears Knowledge Center

Air Conditioner Buying Guide

Adequate cooling for every home

Air conditioners can greatly improve the comfort level in a home, especially during scorching summer days. And with today's models, you can find practically any type of air conditioner to suit your needs, whether you need to cool the entire home or a single room. Knowing which air conditioner will work best for your home is the hardest part, so it helps to have a little direction before attempting to buy one.

Why buy a new air conditioner?

  • Most newer air conditioners, especially central air conditioners, are built to run more efficiently than older models. They're not only better for the environment, they're better for your wallet as well.
  • There are many different types of air conditioners for cooling various spaces. Use a central air conditioner to cool your home, or a portable air conditioner to cool a room.
  • A new air conditioner will likely come with more improved technology than an old one. For instance, some units alert you when it's time to change the filter, some have timers so you can schedule when they switch on and others have improved filtration to rid your home of more allergens.


What air conditioner BTU rating do you need?

An air conditioning unit's BTU (British thermal unit) rating refers to the unit's power level and how much cold air it can produce. When it comes to air conditioner BTUs, more isn't always better. You'll want to match the BTU level to the square footage of the space you're trying to cool to optimize energy efficiency.

Square Footage BTUs
100-150 5,000
150-250 6,000
250-300 7,000
300-350 8,000
350-400 9,000
400-450 10,000
450-550 12,000
550-700 14,000
700-1,000 18,000
1,000-1,200 21,000
1,200-1,400 23,000
1,400-1,500 24,000
1,500-2,000 30,000
2,000-2,500 34,000

Features of new air conditioners

Technological features

  • Remote control operation for ease of use
  • Check filter light reminds you when it's time to replace the filter
  • Central air conditioning connects to your ductwork and circulates cool air throughout the home while expelling warm air outside
  • Central, window- and wall-mounted air conditioners run quieter than older models
  • Mini-split air conditioners provide ductless cooling power for multiple rooms in the home without requiring ductwork alteration

Multiple functions

  • Central air conditioners and some window- and wall-mounted units have cooling and heating features so you don't have to buy a separate heating unit
  • Eliminate moisture from the air to prevent mold and mildew growth
  • Better filtering to reduce pollen, dust mites and other airborne particles
  • Portable air conditioners cool small rooms and can also act as dehumidifiers

Energy Efficiency

  • ENERGY STAR® rating is a government standard of energy efficiency
  • A yellow EnergyGuide label can help you see the energy efficiency of air conditioners without an ENERGY STAR certification
  • Energy-efficient air conditioners cool the home while using less energy than traditional air conditioning units
  • Schedule when your air conditioner runs with 24-hour on/off timers
  • Fan-only operation for nighttime use saves more energy

Types of air conditioners  

Portable air conditioners

These air conditioners cool a small space and can be moved from room to room.

  • Price range: $300-$700
  • Height range: 24-34 inches
  • Width range: 12-22 inches
  • Weight range: 44-84 lbs
  • Power range: 5,000-14,000 BTU

Portable air conditioners are best for…

Apartments and other rental spaces: Renters are all too familiar with the annoyance of being unable to customize a living space. A portable air conditioner allows you to cool a rental without damaging or modifying the space.

Allergy-sufferers: Mold, mildew and dust mites are the enemies of allergy-sufferers, and they thrive in overly humid environments. Portable air conditioners remove moisture from the air, limiting the growth of allergens and relieving allergy woes.

Window air conditioners

These are mounted in the window and cool a single room or the entire floor of a home.

  • Price range: $130-$800
  • Height range: 12-24 inches
  • Width range: 14-29 inches
  • Depth range: 11-31 inches
  • Power range: 5,000-28,500 BTU


Window air conditioners are best for…

Affordable cooling: Window air conditioners are relatively inexpensive to buy, install and maintain. If you want to cool your home without breaking the bank, a window air conditioner is the best option.

Those who prefer low-maintenance appliances: With other types of air conditioners, you may have to clean ducts and coils or drain water containers. Window air conditioners simply require changing the filter once a month and vacuum the inside of the unit.

Rental spaces: Because window air conditioners can simply be placed in a window (though some units require brackets) they're a good option for adding more cooling without modifying rental spaces.

Wall air conditioners

These air conditioners are built into the wall and provide ample cooling power without taking up window space.

  • Price range: $540-$5,050
  • Height range: 7-24 inches
  • Width range: 24-63 inches
  • Depth range: 6-21 inches
  • Power range: 7,300-54,000 BTU

Wall air conditioners are best for…

Do-it-yourselfers: Installing wall air conditioners takes some minor renovation work, like removing part of the wall, cutting out studs and securing brackets to the outside of the home.

Owners of older homes: Some older homes require significant ductwork, or don't use ducts at all, to accommodate central air conditioners. With mini-split systems, an outside unit is used to run one or more indoor units, providing cooling in as many rooms as needed.

Those who favor a good view: Unlike window air conditioners, wall-mounted air conditioners don't block the view of beautiful outdoor scenery.

Central air conditioners

These air conditioners are connected to your ductwork to circulate cool air throughout the entire home.

  • Price range: $780-$2,750
  • Power range: 18,000-60,000 BTU

Central air conditioners are best for…

Easily cooling the entire house: A single central air conditioner can cool every room to your desired temperature by circulating cool air throughout the ductwork.

Quiet air conditioning: Because the main air conditioning unit is outside, you won't be disrupted whenever the air conditioner kicks on.

Green homeowners: Central air conditioners are the most energy-efficient method of cooling the home. Though it's an expensive investment up-front, a new, energy-efficient central air conditioner could cut your cooling costs in half.

Bottom Line

Air conditioners come in a variety of styles and can fulfill practically any cooling need. Consider the size of your home, the area you want to cool and your price range before making a purchase. It's important to choose the right air conditioner for your needs, as the wrong size or power level won't provide enough cooling and isn't energy or cost efficient. An air conditioner that's tailored to your home will provide comfort during warm weather and ease the burden on your wallet.

Related Products