The 5 Best Energy-Efficient Air Conditioners To Keep You (and The Planet) Cool

In the market for a new air conditioner? Energy efficiency might not be at the top of your must-have list. But an energy-efficient AC unit can reduce your energy bill while requiring fewer repairs and ultimately boasting a longer life span. And since classic AC units put harmful chemicals into the environment, you’re fighting climate change when you choose to cool your home more sustainability.

We rounded up the best energy-efficient air conditioners that will keep your home cool without harming the environment as much as traditional units. Take a look at our picks—and, learn from experts about how to choose the right unit for your space, plus why and how AC sucks up so much energy.

Choosing the right air conditioner

Certifications such as EnergyStar and SEER ratings are helpful ways to discern whether the unit you’re considering takes sustainability into account.

“Most AC units use a rating called SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio),” says vice president and chief technology officer at AtmosAir Solutions Tony Abate—a certified indoor environmentalist as designated by the Indoor Air Quality Association and the American Air Quality Council. “The higher the SEER, the more efficient the unit is. Most newer-quality AC units are between 13 and 20 SEER.”

Keep in mind, too, that AC units aren’t one-size-fits-all. The “best” unit can vary depending on your household needs. Abate points out that if you’re frequently coming and going, you might benefit from a programmable thermostat to enhance your energy efficiency. “Others with allergies or asthma may benefit from systems that use constant airflow and enhanced air cleaning, like polarized filters and bipolar air ionization, to purify the air.”

And finally, he says, be wary of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant gases. “These gases are greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate change. They don’t allow heat to escape from the planet back into space.” Refrigerants like HFCs aren’t doing anything good for Mother Nature—or, eventually, for us.

Using your unit

Simply purchasing an energy-efficient AC unit isn’t always enough. You also need to run the AC system in a sustainable way. Abate suggests the following tips:

  1. Bring the heat: While the typical range of comfort is between 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, Abate says the most energy-efficient air conditioner temperature is 74 to 78. This allows the AC unit to cycle less and for shorter durations, using less energy.
  2. Adjust automatically: A programmable thermostat makes it easy to adjust temperatures, making it cooler if you’re expecting guests or warmer when the house is empty and there’s no need for the AC to be on full blast.
  3. Change your filter: The filter in your unit should be changed at least once every three months (possibly more often if you live in a dusty area or have pets). A fresh, clean filter helps the AC system operate efficiently. After changing the filter, immediately put the used filter in a bag so you don’t spread contaminants through the house.