We’re inching our way towards another scorching hot summer this year, and it’s essential that you’re able to beat the heat and stay comfortable. But, with so many air conditioners generating tons of noise, vibration, and rattling, staying cool and comfortable is sometimes easier said than done.
Fortunately, new technologies have enabled air conditioner manufacturers to produce high quality, energy efficient models that generate about as much noise as a quiet conversation. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the most critical factors to consider when choosing a quiet window air conditioner, as well as review some of our favorite quiet air conditions available.
Understanding Decibel Levels
Before we dive into any of the more tangible features of an air conditioner, we need to establish an understanding of what decibel levels are. The decibel level is a measurement that tells you how loud (or soft) a sound is, and it’s used to measure to volume of everything from a whisper to a jet engine taking off.
As humans, we’re able to hear sounds between 0 and 140dB. Anything lower than about 20dB is challenging for the human ear to pick up, and anything over 140dB is extremely painful for the human ear.
Sounds like leaves rustling or a whisper register at about 30dB. The average conversation registers at about 60dB. The sound of a vacuum registers at around 75dB. Most window air conditioners register somewhere between 60 and 70 decibels.
While the average window air conditioner isn’t prohibitively loud, it’s usually loud enough that it can disrupt sleep, especially for babies and light sleepers. For years, this has made it difficult for many people to strike a balance between a cool, comfortable temperature, and a quiet room for sleeping. Fortunately, there are several air conditioners available which produce considerably less noise than average.
Keep in mind that the noise level of an air conditioner increases with the size of the air conditioner. For example, a 12,000BTU air conditioner will be louder than an 8,000BTU model, which will be louder than a 5,000BTU model. But, those with large rooms shouldn’t fear, as there are very high BTU air conditioners available that manage to operate around 50dB.
Many people are concerned that the noise from an air conditioner will prevent them from getting a restful night’s sleep. However, the noise generated by an air conditioner can help some people fall asleep, and stay asleep through disturbances in the night.
White noise is a frequency which has an amplitude that’s consistent throughout the entire frequency range. For our purposes, it’s a sound that remains constant and doesn’t change much, if at all throughout the night.
The white noise generated by an air conditioner can help block out sounds like the busy street below, or a neighbor that decided to mow their lawn at 7 am on a Saturday.
Of course, loud air conditioners tend to generate too much white noise to be tolerable. But, it’s important to keep in mind that some noise from the air conditioner can actually help you sleep, instead of detracting from it.
Choosing the Proper Size
Perhaps the most important thing you’ll need to consider before buying an air conditioner is the size. Of course, we want an air conditioner that operates quietly, but even the quietest air conditioner is useless if it doesn’t adequately cool the room.
Often, people mistakenly purchase an air conditioner that’s much too small to cool the room they have. As a result, the air conditioner will constantly run as it tries to reach the proper temperature. This is inefficient and costs you more on your electric bill. Beyond that, if the unit is constantly running, this puts additional stress on the compressor, which can lead to the air conditioner burning out prematurely.
An air conditioner that’s too large for the room it’s in is also a poor fit. If the unit is too large, it will cool the room unevenly, which will result in pockets of extreme cold in certain areas of the room, while other areas of the room remain warmer. A unit which is too large will also cycle on and off too often to maintain the desired temperature, which also puts undue stress on the compressor, resulting in the compressor burning out.
A properly sized window air conditioner will cool the room quickly and evenly, without sapping you of your entire energy budget in one season.
How an Air Conditioner’s Power is Measured
The cooling power of an air conditioner is measured in BTUs, which stands for British thermal units. BTUs also measure heating capacity as well. A BTU is the amount of energy required to raise a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit at sea level. For our purposes, the more BTUs a unit has, the more powerful it is.
Air conditioners are available in sizes from 5,000 BTUs up 36,000 BTUs, and this measurement corresponds to the recommended room size of the air conditioner. The chart below indicates how many BTUs are recommended for the square footage of a room. This handy calculator can also help you easily determine the properly sized air conditioner for the room you’re looking to cool.
Ideally, your new air conditioner will not only be quiet, but energy efficient as well. Considering that home heating and cooling makes up for about 50% of your home’s utility bills, energy efficiency can be a particularly important consideration.
Most of today’s air conditioners all carry an Energy Star rating that can help you determine how energy efficient the unit is. Products which are backed by the Energy Star label meet government regulations for energy efficiency, and help consumers save money while also helping to protect the environment. Energy Star also provides an estimate of how much money the air conditioner should contribute to your electricity bill each year on each label.
Purchasing an Energy Star rated air conditioner will ensure that your home cooling needs are handled efficiently, and you won’t be spending needless money on your home cooling bill each year.
Air Conditioner Measurements
Beyond choosing an air conditioner with the proper amount of BTUs, you’ll also need to ensure that the air conditioner fits your window. It may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people believe they’ve found the perfect air conditioner for their home, only to find when they get home that it does not accommodate the window they’d like to install the unit in.
Before shopping for an air conditioner, you’ll want to measure the width and the maximum opening height of your window. That way, you’ll have a good idea of the maximum dimensions that will be acceptable for your window. Most air conditioners provide a size range right on the box or product listing, so you’ll be able to see exactly whether a particular model will fit your window.
How to Install an Air Conditioner
Once you’ve selected the best air conditioner for your needs, it’s essential that you correctly install the air conditioner to ensure that it operates efficiently. Fortunately, this process is relatively straightforward and only requires a few steps.
Be sure to take your time and follow any special installation requirements that are outlined in your instruction manual. Even the quietest air conditioners available will become loud if they’re installed improperly.
Clean the window and prepare it for installation. Next, place the air conditioner into the window, and position the bottom flange against the outside edge of the windowsill. Then, close the window so that it rests securely on top of the air conditioner, against the top flange.
Next, you’ll want to secure the air conditioner to the window, to prevent the window from accidentally being opened. There are a few different ways to do this, and you’ll want to consult the instruction manual for your particular air conditioner to determine the best way.
Many air conditioners include L shaped brackets that are designed to lock the windows in place. Another popular way to secure the air conditioner is to cut small pieces of wood the same length as the distance between the bottom window sash and the frame for the window, which locks the window in place so it cannot be opened.
Pull the side curtains of the air conditioner out so that they completely cover the open space in the window. These curtains prevent hot air, bugs, and debris from entering the room. Nearly all air conditioner curtains have a screw hole so you can attach the curtain to the window frame. Be sure to drill a pilot hole into the window frame before screwing the curtain into place.
Insulate the entire window to create an airtight seal between the cool air inside, and the hot air outside. All window air conditioners provide some foam insulation but rarely do manufacturers provide enough. Consider purchasing some additional foam insulation at the hardware store so you can ensure that any gaps between the window are completely insulated.
Plug in the air conditioner and turn it on. If you need to use an extension cord to reach an outlet, the extension cord must be properly rated to handle the air conditioner’s electrical load.
Tips For Reducing Your Air Conditioner’s Sound Level
There are some steps you can take to reduce the amount of noise your air conditioner is generating. Keep in mind that new technology has enabled manufacturers to produce units that are much quieter than they have been in the past. Usually, the first thing you’ll want to do when evaluating the noise your air conditioner is generating is to determine if perhaps it’s time to purchase a newer model.
If you’re happy with your existing air conditioner but are hoping to reduce the noise it generates, there are a few tips you can take advantage of which will help limit the amount of noise being generated.
The first thing you’ll want to do is examine the installation of the air conditioner to ensure that it has been properly installed. If the air conditioner isn’t installed correctly, it’s going to be noisier than it should be.
If the additional noise is originating inside the unit itself, you may want to remove the case and closely examine all of the internal parts to ensure that they’re properly tightened and that no parts are rattling against each other.
If the noise is caused by vibration between the case and the window, make sure that all of the AC mounting hardware is properly installed and hasn’t come loose. If necessary, add additional insulation to the unit to further dampen any vibrations.
You’ll also want to ensure that the AC unit is clean and free of excess dirt and debris. While this isn’t usually a primary contributor to noise, in some cases, dirt and debris can cause certain parts to go out of alignment, which can lead to more noise.
If your air conditioner is in perfect working order, but it’s still generating more noise than you’re comfortable with, consider moving the air conditioner to another window close by. By increasing the distance between you and the air conditioner, you’ll be able to reduce the volume of the noise generated by the air conditioner.
Quietest Window Air Conditioners 2018 Edition
Now that we’ve covered the most important considerations to look for in a quiet window air conditioner, let’s take a look at the quietest options available.
Each of these air conditioners delivers quiet operation, a robust array of features, and energy efficient operation. We covered a wide variety of different air conditioners to accommodate different budgets and room sizes.
If you’re looking for one of the absolute quietest air conditioners on the market, this unit from Haier delivers noise efficiency and reliable operation that will keep you cool all summer without all the noise. As an added bonus, you can add a Serenity Series unit to your home without breaking the bank.
Thanks to the completely insulated compressor and uniquely designed horizontal fan, this unit only generates 43.4dB of noise, which is over 11dB lower than the average window air conditioner of the same size. At 6,000 BTUs, this air conditioner is ideal for medium sized rooms up to 250 square feet in size.
This Haier features three different fan speeds and four different operation modes. The controls are easily accessible from the front panel, or with the included digital remote. There’s also a 24-hour timer and a sleep setting that automatically controls the temperature throughout the night. The louvers adjust four ways, providing complete control over where the air is directed.
With whisper quiet operation and impressive features for a modest price, this Serenity Series air conditioner from Haier may be one of the best options for an ultra quiet window air conditioner.[/expand]
Not everyone is interested in the idea of forking over $500 or more for an air conditioner. Fortunately, there are some good budget alternatives to higher-end models. However, many of these budget priced models are loud and inefficient. Of the budget alternatives, the Frigidaire FFRE0533S1 is packed with value and delivers all the necessary features without being overly noisy.
This unit is fairly lightweight and easy to install, and it’s a solid option for compact spaces and smaller windows. The FFRE0533S1 has impressive Energy Star marks, and its low power consumption can also help you save money on your electric bill.
The controls are well laid out and easy to understand. The features include a digital temperature display, as well as buttons for temperature control, mode, timer, and fan speed. The comfort control moves in four directions to help you direct cold air to the perfect spot in the room. There’s also a remote to make operation easier.
At 5,000 BTUs, this unit is ideal for small bedrooms. It’s also among the more quiet air conditioners on the market, generating 50dB of noise. This model offers 1.1 pints of dehumidification per hour, and it has a modest air purification system.[/expand]
If you’re searching for a truly top of the line option, you’ll want to check out the Kuhl air conditioners from Friedrich. They’re available from 5,800, up to a whopping 36,000 BTUs. Many of the larger models in the Kuhl line can also be installed to provide heat, transforming them into a comprehensive heating and cooling solution.
Compared to other air conditioners, this model feels the sturdiest, thanks to its 20-gauge steel cabinet and heavy duty blower housing. The other internal components of the air conditioner are also built to last, further contributing to Friedrich’s reputation for durability and long life. The trade off for these heavy duty components is a bit of added weight, making this model a bit heavy given its small size.
This air conditioner is also one of the quietest on the market. At 43dB, it’s perhaps the quietest air conditioner of all, which make it a strong choice for bedroom installations. It’s also among the most energy efficient, with an Energy Efficiency Ratio of 11.2. That translates to this air conditioner contributing about ½ as much to your electric bill as most other models.
These Friedrich units also have smart capability. When paired with the FriedrichLink wi-fi adapter, you’re able to control the unit from your iOS or Android device. With the FriedrichLink app, you’re able to automate your air conditioner’s operations completely, so your room will always be at the perfect temperature. Unfortunately, this does require the addition of a $40 accessory.
The Kuhl series is easy to install, and it can be installed in-wall or in the window. The back and sides are solid, and it doesn’t require an additional support sleeve for you to install. Compared to some other models, the installation process is a breeze.
Where this model truly shines is in the attention to detail. Stuff like a specially designed back that can help prevent break-ins, front cover kits available in six different colors to match the unit to the walls and the robust smart capabilities of this unit help set it apart from most air conditioners on the market.[/expand]
Portable air conditioners have always been a novel idea, but these designs have historically been plagued by poor designs and inefficient cooling capabilities. Fortunately, that has all changed, and the Honeywell MN10CES is a fine example of a portable air conditioner that’s efficient, effective, and quiet.
This air conditioner performs admirably despite its small size, measuring in at 10,000 BTUs. The MN10CES is a good choice for rooms up to 450 square feet, and it’s available in black, silver and white to better match the style of your home or apartment. At 55dB, this portable air conditioner is also quieter than average.
Adding to the sleek design of this Honeywell portable air conditioner is a digital LCD panel with touch controls. Controls for temperature, fan speed, mode, and timer are also accessible from the included remote control.
The MN10CES is also a solid choice for humid environments, as it offers 66 pints of dehumidification per day. The unit also includes a removable and washable air filter which helps to remove allergens and dust from the air.[/expand]
Larger rooms call for larger air conditioners. Fortunately, LG produces a large air conditioner capable of cooling a room up to 550 square feet that still manages to be one of the quietest window air conditioners available.
At 52dB, this air conditioner is quieter than the average 6,000 BTU air conditioner, despite measuring twice as many BTUs. In spite of its size, it also manages to be especially energy efficient, with an energy efficiency rating of 12.1.
This model features four modes, including a dehumidification mode and an energy saver mode. It also has controls for fan speed, timer, and temperature. All the controls are accessible on the front panel, or with the included remote. The front panel also alerts you when it’s time to clean the air filter.
Like many of the other models we’ve covered, it features four-way air direction, three separate fan speeds, and a washable air filter.
Installation is simple, and the instructions are easy to follow. This unit is well built and features LG’s patented corrosion resistant coating, which helps prolong the lifespan of the air conditioner.
You’ll want to keep in mind that this unit is on the heavier side, so you’ll want to have a partner with you for installation. You’ll also want to consider installing a mounting sleeve. Compared to some other models we looked at, the LW1216ER was a bit more difficult to install.[/expand]
Our Overall Winner
Each of the air conditioners we’ve looked at today delivers high marks regarding features, design, durability, noise efficiency and energy efficiency. Depending on your needs and budget, one of these air conditioners may be much better suited to your needs. However, we believe that one model rises to the top of the competition, scoring high marks on each test we put them through.
The Haier Serenity Series H 6000 is our favorite of all the air conditioners we’ve covered. It provides ample cooling for rooms up to 250 square feet, and it delivers an impressive array of features for its middle of the road price.
Most importantly, this air conditioner only generates 43.4dB of noise, which locks it in a tie with Friedrich’s more expensive Kuhl series air conditioner at about half the price. So, if you’re looking for the quietest window air conditioner for mid-sized rooms, the Serenity Series from Haier is certainly worth a closer look.