The mercury is peaking, which means that it’s not only shorts weather, but also time to crank that AC. Unless you live in a place with central heating and cooling, you’ll likely need a window unit—you know, that big dusty box you probably inherited from the last tenant. For years, window AC units have been pretty good at two things: cooling a room and looking ugly. We’re sad to say that not much has changed, and you may be holding on to your existing tank of an AC unit because, well, what else is there? Either that, or you’re melting away in the discomfort of your own home awaiting an air conditioner that looks as cool as it feels (or at least, one that’s not glaringly ugly).
The good news is that such a thing exists. In fact, if you’re aesthetically-minded like us, there are a handful of AC units that look pretty damn good. We won’t call them a home design grail for the manicured abode, but they’ll undoubtedly attract compliments from visitors if not fade away blissfully into the background. And they’re not just pretty to look at. Today’s AC units are more efficient, more capable, and come with a plethora of modern features that integrate seamlessly into any smart home. We tested out some of the best AC units on the market and here are the ones actually worth getting.
The Best Overall AC Unit: July
Our pick for the GQ Home Awards and the social media darling of the AC unit world, July has taken living rooms by storm. But the modern marketing isn’t just fluff. July’s air conditioner is packed with features including air filtration, WiFi connectivity, plus app and voice-controlled functionality. Another luxury of this unit is that it’s completely customizable, with swappable covers available in a range of colors and premium materials like linen, wood, and even an out-there multi-colored brush stroke pattern. Even opting for the tonal white cover gives the unit the most minimal design out of the bunch on this list. Installation is straightforward and we found that it cools quickly and quietly. And because there’s enough waste out there, July will not only take your old cruddy AC and either donate or recycle it for you, it’ll also plant a tree to give the earth some fresh air. It may be more expensive than the others on this list, but the design and customizability ensure that it’ll look great for years to come.
The Best Window Companion: Midea U
The downside to almost all window AC units is that they block out precious natural light. Luckily the Midea U lets in more natural light than other air conditioners thanks to its unique U-shaped design. On top of that, the Midea U allows you to actually open the window with the unit still installed since it’s secured to the window frame using screws. That’s a boon if you need to let in some fresh air (or maybe, let out some smoke to keep your fire alarm quiet). In exchange for continued use of your window, however, you’ll have to get through a more complicated installation process involving some measuring, drilling, and cutting to size some insulating foam. I’ve got a basic level of handy knowhow, and it took me about 45 minutes to install. But with a little patience and some extra tools, you’ll be rewarded with a cool breeze and more light for your house plants.
The Best AC for the Price: Windmill
If you want a less fussy AC that’s cheaper than the July, we recommend the Windmill. Installation is among the easiest out of the box and the side walls feel sturdier than traditional ACs. The double insulation sidewalls are a nice upgrade from traditional models: They look cleaner than stretchy accordion-style walls while also helping to cool your room more efficiently. The design is beautiful and slick with an LED display on the front that disappears when it’s not being programmed, leaving a modern design that resembles a high-end speaker. One quirk of the Windmill is that it blows air at an upward trajectory with no option to manually direct the airflow. The fixed position of the air duct may be great for some users, but if you want to install your unit at the top of a window rather than the bottom like most people, the Windmill will simply blow air straight toward the ceiling. That said, the Windmill cools medium-sized rooms well and super quietly.