Photo: Courtesy of the retailer
Smart air conditioners — like a lot of other smart products including thermostats, kitchen appliances, and workout equipment — are essentially ACs that can connect to your home Wi-Fi system and be controlled via an app. Like many of their “intelligent” cousins, smart ACs might seem a little gimmicky at first, but some experts say there’s nothing quite like getting cool air flowing through your home before you set foot in the door after a full day at work or a long trip. “It’s a matter of convenience,” according to Allen Schuster, general manager of Manhattan appliance specialist Gringer & Sons. “This way, you’re walking into an environment that’s comfortable, you don’t have to sit there and wait three hours for it to cool down.” Being able to remotely control your AC is also a much more economical option than letting it run for hours on end and can come in handy for pet owners when they have to leave their dog or cat home on a hot day.
If you want a smart AC, though, finding the right one can be tricky, according to Schuster and the three other home-cooling experts we spoke with, who all note the market is relatively new. That’s why they generally recommend going with smart models from time-tested manufacturers Friedrich and Frigidaire (two brands that also topped our more general list of expert-recommended ACs). Read on for our experts’ favorite smart air conditioners, including a handful of window units, a portable one, and a product they say you can use to make most “dumb” ACs smart ones.
Best overall smart air conditioner
Friedrich Kuhl 8,000 BTU Smart Air Conditioner
Three out of our four experts recommended the Friedrich Kühl series by name when it came to the best smart ACs you can buy. Like with regular ACs, you’ll need a smart one with more BTUs — or British thermal units — to cool a larger room; this chart can help you find the right size for your space. Schuster actually thinks the Kühl is the best window unit, whether or not you get it for its “smart” features (two other home-cooling experts suggested a slightly larger Kühl model as the best AC for a studio apartment). “If someone comes in and they want the best, we sell them the Friedrich, so they get the Wi-Fi regardless.” Vladmir Galashev, the owner of AC installation and maintenance service Air Conditioner NY, agrees, highlighting the line’s design and quiet operation. But he notes that it’s best to have these ACs professionally installed as they’re on the “heavier” side.
Once you get everything up and running, the Friedrich app and the air conditioner itself are both “very user-friendly,” according to Jamie Kaltner, head of HVAC at contracting company NYC Brownstone, who says he has installed a bunch of them. Aside from using the app to turn the air conditioner on remotely, you can also use it to set a schedule for your AC usage. It’s admittedly an expensive unit, but Schuster says you’re paying for quality. The Kühl, unlike other similar styles, is “built to last with high-quality materials and components,” he says.
Best less-expensive smart air conditioners
Frigidaire Gallery 10,000 BTU Cool Connect Smart Air Conditioner
The Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect AC is one of the newer smart air conditioners on the market, according to Schuster, who says he can’t keep them in stock during the summer rush. “Every day, I get someone calling for one of these,” he says, pointing to the “low-profile design” and good price as reasons for its popularity (especially among city dwellers in smaller apartments). Unlike a lot of other units, “it’s not a bulky thing in the window,” Schuster explains. Still, he and our other experts admit that choosing between this and the Kühl is tough; the two offer “very similar functionality” as far as smart features, and both get consistently positive feedback from customers. It often comes down to a question of budget and design preference — a lot of Schuster’s customers prefer the look of this model, which he says is more “streamlined” than the Kühl.
Friedrich Chill Premier 8,000 BTU Smart Air Conditioner
While the Kühl line is Friedrich’s premier offering, the brand’s more budget-friendly Chill line is also extremely popular, with a smaller Chill model being named the best overall unit on our other list of expert-recommended ACs. This model offers a lot of the same smart features as the higher-end Kühl but features a lower price because some of its mechanical components might not last as long, according to Schuster. But in terms of functionality, he says it’s comparable to the Cool Connect unit above.
Best portable smart air conditioner
Frigidaire Gallery 12,000 BTU Cool Connect Smart Portable Air Conditioner
Most experts will tell you that a portable air conditioner unit simply isn’t going to cool as efficiently as a window unit, but sometimes this type of setup is the only option. “This would be great for someone with an irregular window size that a window unit won’t fit into,” says Eugene Fiks, president of Fiks Consultants, which integrates smart products into clients’ homes. “The flex-tube connection (or hose) will fit into any window that opens,” he adds, so it really “simplifies installation.” Just like the Cool Connect, you can control this through Frigidaire’s app to turn it on and off remotely and set a custom program.
Best smart air conditioner adapter
Sensibo Sky Smart Air Conditioner Controller
If you have a regular, non Wi-Fi–enabled air conditioner and are feeling a little envious of all these programmable options, Fiks calls the Sensibo controller a great “retrofit solution.” As he explains, this basically “replaces the remote control that comes with most air conditioners.” You program it to “shoot a little infrared signal” just as the remote would, but the Sensibo is a remote that connects to the internet, so you can control it through an app even if you aren’t home. It’s not perfect; since it is essentially mimicking a remote, it will need to be installed in the same room as the air conditioner, but once it’s all set up — which Fiks says is a pretty simple process — you basically have a “smart” air conditioner that can integrate with Alexa, Google Home, or Siri.