Consumer Reports: Best air conditioners to keep you cool this summer

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Want to be really cool this summer? We are not talking about being hip and trendy. We mean literally cool, thanks to a top-performing air conditioner.

In a partnership with Consumer Reports, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney reports on window air conditioner ratings, and reveals some top models that will not break your budget when the summer heat rises.

If you don't have central air, or even if you do, and just need some extra cooling in a room in your home, Consumer Reports says the right window air conditioner can get the job done. "When we're testing air conditioners we want to know how well they're going to cool your space," said Chris Regan, projects leader for Consumer Reports testers.

Consumer Reports groups air conditioners into three main sizes based on BTU's and the size of the room you need to cool, which you will also find listed on most air conditioners.

Small air conditioners are best for 100 to 300 square-foot rooms. Medium is good for 250 to 400 square-foot rooms, and large air conditioners should cool for 350 to 650 square-foot rooms.

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Being cautious during the summer months can help prevent heat related illness.

None of that matters if the air conditioner doesn't perform well. That's why in Consumer Reports' special lab, window air conditioners must lower the temperature inside this chamber to a set point of 75 degrees.

Sounds easy, but testers challenge the air conditioners to cool a room that's 90 degrees with nearly 60 percent humidity.

Another factor in Consumer Reports' scoring: an accurate thermostat. "How accurate that thermostat is, saves you money," said Regan. "If the air conditioner is thinking that it's still trying to hit 75 degrees even though it's actually at a room temperature of 71 degrees, it is running longer than it needs to and wasting electricity," he said.

The best air conditioners in Consumer Reports tests can cool a room in about 15 minutes or less, keep the temperature consistent, and the best part - they don't necessarily cost more money either.

Consider a $200 Amana for a smaller, 100 to 300 square-foot room. For a medium-sized room,Consumer Reports recommends this $250 General Electric available at Lowes. And for rooms at least 350 to 650 square feet. The $350 LG is a winner.

Consumer Reports says consider an AC with a programmable setting, timer or a WiFi enabled unit, so you can come home to a cool house. And remember, whether you're buying a new air conditioner this year or maintaining an older one, be sure to clean the filter once a month. The cleaner the filter, the less work it has to do, and the longer it will run which will save you money.

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