Beach trips, pool parties, and BBQs, summer comes with so many fun outdoor activities. But the heat can make time spent indoors quite uncomfortable. To deal with the heat, most people crank up their air conditioners, most of which consume a lot of energy and release greenhouse gases. An eco-friendly air conditioner keeps you cool without the cost of harmful environmental impact.
Here, we share 10 of our top eco-friendly air conditioners to get you through many summers to come. We also share tips on what to look out for when shopping for an AC and how to cool your home with lower energy use.
Related: You might also like our tips for an eco-friendly summer.
Air conditioners consume a lot of energy. They accounted for 12% of household energy expenditure in 2015. High energy consumption is a big problem considering that much of our energy still comes from burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuel consumption is a significant contributor to climate change. And the hotter climate gets, the more energy we consume via our AC units because folks need to stay cool.
Most air conditioners, especially older models, use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to achieve their cooling capacity. CFCs are ozone-depleting compounds and can remain in the atmosphere for about 100 years. When in use, they will leak from the appliance into the atmosphere.
HCFs have high global warming potential (GWP) and will remain in the atmosphere for about 14 years. The average GWP of HFCs was estimated at 3,770 times more than that of carbon dioxide1.
Hydrofluorocarbon and freon are traditional refrigerants typically used in air conditioners and refrigerators for their cooling capacity. They release greenhouse gas emissions. These gases weaken the earth’s ozone layer, which protects us from the full glare of the sun’s heat and harmful ultraviolet rays.
Eco-friendly air conditioners that use natural refrigerants such as water or carbon dioxide are better for the environment. The EPA released a policymaking document in 2020 that contains a list of better refrigerants, which they call “significant new alternatives,” to replace the polluting gases our cooling devices have traditionally used.
If you are familiar with the term greenwashing, then you know that some manufacturers make false sustainability claims. So a third-party certificate is desirable for ascertaining energy efficiency and other eco-friendly claims an air conditioning manufacturer makes.
The US environmental protection agency (EPA) adds the Energy Star badge to products that adhere to the agency’s strict energy efficiency guidelines. The Combined Energy Efficiency Ratio (CEER) is another indicator to watch out for. The ideal CEER rating is between 8 and 15. Some eco-friendly air conditioners also have seasonal (SEER) or energy efficiency ratings (EER) ratings.
If you use an air conditioner that's too small for the space you want to cool, it will take longer and consume more energy to cool the room effectively. Likewise, an AC unit that is too big will consume more energy than necessary and also make the air feel humid.
A British Thermal Unit is the amount of energy that an air conditioning unit can process to heat or cool your room. More BTUs mean the AC will cool the room faster and cover a larger area. To get the perfect energy-efficient unit for a room, multiply its square feet by 20 BTUs. Online BTU calculators are available to help determine the correct size of room air conditioners.
It is not enough that an air conditioner saves energy; the component materials should be eco-friendly too. ACs can come with metal bodies, but plastic is the popular option today-perhaps because it won’t rust. Electronic recycling is not as easy, but you can still find recyclers willing to take certain parts of an old AC, even the refrigerant.
So ensure that whatever AC you buy has some recyclable parts at least.
A heat pump moves heat from one place to provide warmth to another. It is used to bring warm air into your house, acting as a heating system during the winter, but when the summer heat comes, it takes heat out of your home, leaving it cool. These new-breed heating systems can significantly reduce the amount of air conditioning your house needs or replace it entirely.
Many people consider a heat pump an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces, boilers, and air conditioners. There are two types of heat pumps; air source and geothermal heat pumps.
Powering your AC unit with clean, renewable energy is one way to make it more energy efficient. Clean, renewable energy sources include solar, wind, and hydroelectricity. They have negligible impact on the environment, if any. Solar energy is the easiest for individuals to harness, just place a few solar panels on your roof, and you are good to go.
Wind and hydropower are usually large-scale projects that big companies and communities can undertake. And in some countries, you can also opt to switch to renewable energy providers, such that the electricity you receive from the grid is only from renewable sources.
Instead of depending on the AC as your only cooling source, consider reviewing how you could cool your house without an AC cooling system. To help with fresh air intake, first ensure that your home is adequately ventilated, naturally. Open your windows at night to let hot air out and let in cooler air.
Also, invest in window treatments like solar or cellular shades. You can add a ceiling fan, a window fan, or a whole-house fan if you have a large house.
Evaporative cooling is another option if you live in a low-humidity area. Evaporative cooling devices are called air coolers, and they work like air conditioning but use water. A fan blows air through water-saturated pads, redistributing the cool air.
Old air conditioner models consume more energy and most likely contain refrigerants that have been phased out. If your air conditioner is around over 15 years old, it most likely needs a replacement. You should replace them with newer, more energy-efficient models certified as energy efficient. These will also help you save electricity at home while keeping cool.
Before we get into recommendations, let's look at some features that should ultimately affect your choice of eco-friendly air conditioners. The temperature settings should be stated directly in celsius, Fahrenheit, or percentage rather vague terms like warmer or cooler.
Remote or smart controls are convenient features that can help you manage energy use without needing to be near the unit. An air conditioner with an exhaust setting brings in fresh air without the cooling effect on warm days. Low noise is also important if a quiet living space, and with a timer, you can create your own eco-mode setting and ensure the unit is not running when it doesn’t need to should you forget to switch it off.
Dimensions: 32” h, 19” w, 16” d
Energy rating: CEER - 7.2
Typically AC units are installed in one room and stay in that room, so if you need to cool two or more rooms even at different times, you'll buy more units. You can save money and energy with this portable air conditioner. It has caster wheels and handles to easily move it to the room you want when you want.
With the Frigidaire app, you can control the unit from anywhere, which is convenient if you have it in your kids' room. The air conditioner also features a safety lock on the interface to prevent children from messing with the controls. However, the occasional glowing indicator lights may bother your sleep.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) rates the BTU of the Frigidaire Cool Connect at 8,000, while the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) rates it at 13,000 BTU. It can efficiently cool an area of 400 sqft and will do so quietly.
Shop at Walmart or Search for a local retailer at Frigidaire (which provides a handy “find a retailer” search)
Dimension: 19.4" w, 30.43" h, 18.11" d
The LG portable air conditioner has a stylish look. At 53 dB at its highest, it barely makes any noise. Also, a maximum BTU rate of 10,600 (DOE) 14,000 BTU (ASHRAE) means it can cool a 500 sq—ft area. The dual inverter compressor makes it energy efficient. In times of power outage, it will automatically restart when power is restored.
It allows for extensive control through a remote and its ThinQ app. With the energy control button, you can manage energy consumption a lot easier. You can check room temperature, troubleshoot, or carry out other smart checks through the app. The air filter is washable, and each unit comes with an installation kit.
The dehumidification rate is 6.7 pints per hour. This AC currently uses R32 refrigerant, which the EPA enjoined manufacturers to start using as of January 1, 2024. The R32 replaces the R410A, the former most eco-friendly refrigerant.
Dimension: 19” d, 20” w, 13” h
Energy rating: CEER - 15.7
This eco-friendly air conditioner has an energy star label, and its 10,000 BTU can cool a space of 450 sq. ft. You can control the unit with a remote, an app, or through voice control from anywhere in your house. So even on lazy days, you won't have to leave the AC on because walking to the unit is inconvenient.
Other features are energy use reports, filter change reminders, low noise, inverter technology, and a timer. We think its best feature is the eco mode. In that mode, the AC fan and compressor will shut down once the room is cool enough. If appliances with bright LED lights bother you when you sleep, you'll enjoy the auto-dimming feature that kicks in after 60 seconds.
Energy rating: SEER - 28
The Lennox XC25 central air conditioner was rated as one of the most energy-efficient air conditioners in 2022 by Energy Star. It uses SilentComfort technology to keep its noise down to just 59 dB.
The refrigerant in this product is R410A, considered the most eco-friendly option available until now. The EPA is calling for manufacturers to replace it with HCF32, which has lower GWP and is easier to recycle. Hopefully, the Lennox ACs that will be produced in 2023 will adhere to this directive.
If you have ever wished your AC had control 1.5 because control 1 wasn't cool enough and control 2 was too much, you'll love this AC. It has a 1% precision control that allows you to set the unit to your exact comfort and increases energy efficiency.
Dimensions: 26 w, 17 ⁵/⁷ h, 30 ²/³ d
Energy ratings: CEER 14.5
This window unit uses a dual inverter compressor to save 50% more energy than regular ACs. The 23,500 BTU can cool an area of about 1,440 Sq.ft. It dehumidifies at 5.6 pints per hour, and its noise levels are between 62-44.
The unit connects to Wi-Fi and has a remote. It has an energy saver mode, a 24-hour timer, and an alarm to notify you of filter issues. The AC also features an auto restart function in cases of power outages. It is Energy Star certified and uses the EPA-approved R32 refrigerant.
Dimensions: 13" ⁷/¹⁶ h,16" d,18"½ w
Energy ratings: CEER - 12
This AC will make an energy-efficient unit for spaces between 300 to 350 sq. ft with its 8,000 BTU. The dehumidification rate is 1.7 pints every hour. The unit is stamped with an energy star label and listed with Underwriters Laboratories. The refrigerant is, R-32, one of the most eco-friendly types available today.
Features include a digital temperature display, three fan speeds, sleep mode, eco mode, and a timer. The filter is super easy to clean, and you can just wash it. Customer reviews say this AC is easy to install and not loud when working.
Dimensions: 13” h, 16”w, 15”d
Energy ratings: EER - 12.1
This energy star-certified AC has features like sleep mode, energy saver settings, a timer, and a programmable thermostat. To make it easier to keep it energy efficient, it also has a simple remote control. The unit works without making bothersome noises that will disturb your sleep. The 49 dB sound is gentle on the ears.
With 5,000 BTU, this window unit is ideal for cooling small rooms quickly. Its energy savings value would be wasted in a large room. Its dehumidification rate is 1.3 pints each hour. The unit is quite small, so you won't have to give up too much of your window space. They include an installation for a fast and easy setup.
Dimensions: 16" W, 19” D, 35.5 H
Unlike window air conditioners, portable ACs like water dispensers or refrigerators stay on the floor. You can wheel them from room to room. This energy-efficient unit has a remote control, a fan, a dehumidifier, and a heater. At 14,000 BTU and with three fan speeds, this ac unit can cool a space of 500 sq.
The AC operates with a patented auto drain technology that recycles moisture collected in the cooling process to give out cool air. The refrigerant in this AC is R32 (HCF32). This refrigerant is currently the most eco-friendly, according to the EPA. All the ac components are lead-free as well.
Whynter will send you a protective cover along with your order to protect the AC from dust when it's in storage. The unit is easy to install, and you could probably set it up without professional help.
Energy ratings: SEER 24.5
Customers rave about how quiet this air conditioner is for its size. You can barely hear it working even when you increase the cooling speed. Another thing they liked is how responsive the customer support at Amana is.
This air conditioner has an energy star badge, and its 24.5 energy efficiency ratio was measured by the DOE. It works with Comfort Bridge technology, which automatically monitors and adjusts the energy usage in heating or cooling systems.
The inverter reduces the speed and power when a set thermostat temperature is reached. That adds up to some significant energy savings and improves the durability of the compressor.
Dimensions: 46.9 w, 11.2 d, 14.6 h
Energy ratings: SEER - 21.5, EER - 13
This mini split ac unit has 24,000 BTU and is great for cooling large rooms between 1,150 to 1,350 sq. The energy star certified ac unit also serves as a heat pump when winter comes around. The Underwriter Laboratories and the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute also certify this AC.
The smart air conditioner can clean itself and self-diagnose issues such as refrigerant leaks. You can also control the AC through Alexa, a smartphone, or a remote. Senville includes a 16 ft complimentary installation kit with your purchase. The refrigerant is R410A which used to be the eco-friendly standard.
Its inverter technology is what makes it so energy efficient, allowing you to save energy at about 50% compared to regular ACs.
Air conditioning is a fantastic convenience, but traditional air conditioners consume so much energy, and some use refrigerants that release greenhouse gases.
The solution is an eco-friendly air conditioner. It will help you conserve energy, save on energy bills and take away your worries about the environmental impact of wanting to escape the heat.
Hodnebrog, Ø., Aamaas, B., Fuglestvedt, J. S., Marston, G., Myhre, G., & Nielsen, C. J., et al. (2020). Updated global warming potentials and radiative efficiencies of halocarbons and other weak atmospheric absorbers. Reviews of Geophysics, 58, e2019RG000691.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.