Air Conditioner Reviews, HVAC info and Buyers Guide

In Search Of the Quiet Window Air Conditioner


A quiet window air conditioner is a rare and wonderful thing. One of the most common complaints about window air conditioners is the noise they make. Consumers who shop only by price or cooling capacity are often surprised when their “best buy” becomes an irritating intrusion that wakes them up from sleep or makes them crank up the television every time it turns on. In this article we look at how to get that noise down, which are the quietest window units, and offer some quiet window unit buying advice.

Why are window ac units noisy?

The reason window air conditioners produce noise is because they create vibrations. Some of this is intentional and unavoidable, some of it isn’t. The two main areas of “designed noise” come from the compressor, which is a type of pump, and the fan which blows cool air. If you wish to distinguish between the two, turn on the fan with the cooling setting at the minimum (or off if possible) and you will hear the fan alone. Adding the cooling function turns on the compressor and you will hear a noticeable increase in noise level. The noise from worn bearings in a compressor will be louder and older units are noisier because of wear as well as older manufacturing practices. There is little you can do except replace them to lower the noise level.1

Fans will increase sound production if they are dirty, so cleaning the blades is a good idea.

There are two main sources of unintended noise. The first, and most important is noise generated by a poor fit to the window opening. When the AC unit has room to move, vibrations from the compressor are magnified by the case or even the window frame. A bad fit or loose mounting is the most common cause of unacceptable noise. You can test for this by grabbing the AC and seeing if you can wiggle it in the opening. A tight fit won’t allow any apparent motion.

A tight fit also helps with the second unintended source of noise: noise transmitted from outside the building through the air conditioner. A closed window blocks a great deal of traffic and ambient noise – you may not even realize it if you are used to having the windows closed. However, a window air conditioner provides an almost uninterrupted path from outside to inside and noise is carried along. You can avoid this if you can mount it away from busy streets or other outside noise sources, perhaps in another window.

Other noises, such as whistling or buzzing usually indicate a mechanical flaw in need of repair.2

Who makes a quiet window air conditioner?

There are a few things to note. The first is that fan speed matters. Running an AC on high is noisier than running it on low speed. The second is that the size of the unit makes a difference. In general, the larger the cooling capacity, the more noise a window air conditioner generates.

Here are some of the more quiet window air conditioners on the market today.  Note the db noise levels listed below for each unit are for fans on the low setting.  Higher fan settings will be louder.

  1. Frigidaire FRA065AT7 6000BTU 47.6db

    quiet window air conditioner

    Frigidaire's quiet FRA065AT7 window unit

  2. Frigidaire FAX052P7A 5000BTU 48db
  3. Sharp AF-Q60PX 6300BTU 53db
  4. Sunpentown WA-6591S 6500BTU 50db

All of the units above are smaller, under 8000BTUs.  The larger Frigidaire FAS256R2A which has a 25000BTU rating has a 57.2db noise level.  A full 10db higher than the smaller, 6000BTU units.

Finally, the list above isn’t comprehensive. Frigidaire is noted as a very quiet unit, but the trade-off is price. Noise dampening comes at a higher cost to manufacture because of sound insulation built into the unit itself. Some manufacturers add a sound dampener around the air compressor, some do not. 3

The only real way to find out if your model has a sound blanket or baffle is to see under the case, usually by looking at the manual for that unit.

One other note: some manufacturers do not release noise level data.  I’m looking at you, Amana, GE, Fedders…

Finding the right model

When shopping for a quiet window air conditioner, look for the dB rating for that unit. Not all manufacturers give out this information and others make it hard to find. In general, a manufacturer who produces a quiet product will mention the number – after all, it’s a selling point for them.

Frigidaire has a good reputation, but others will meet your needs as well. Importantly, you can do a search with the model number you are considering and look at reviews. Any overly loud units will generate complaints. You can also call the manufacturer or dealer and ask. As noise pollution becomes more of an issue, and as consumers become more aware of indoor noise levels, retailers are responding by giving actual dB numbers for comparison.

For a bedroom, consider a unit that has a sleep setting. These settings run a quieter, lower fan speed to mitigate noise levels. A smaller unit may be enough for a bedroom. The rule of thumb is “a quiet window air conditioner is a small window air conditioner”.

Units with a slide out chassis allow for the outer shell to be securely mounted separately, and then the “guts” put in place. This design can give a better, more solid mount which will reduce vibration and noise.

Finally, remember that mounting properly may mean as much or more than the dB level of the unit. Pay particular attention to window openings, mounting brackets and outside noise levels before you buy or install.

References:
1) http://www.soundproofing.org/infopages/air_conditioner_soundproofing.htm
2) http://www.central-air-conditioner-and-refrigeration.com/air-conditioner-buzzing-noise.html
3) http://www.brinmar.com/sound_blankets.html

↑ Back to Top

17 Responses to “In Search Of the Quiet Window Air Conditioner”

  1. Adam says:

    The Frigidaire FRA065AT7 6000BTU is sort of quiet… at least for about half an hour. After that, you hear a noise that sounds like someone randomly rubbing two sheets of paper together. This is quite a bit louder than the ambient noise and is quite annoying. After doing some research, and talking to a customer service representative, I have learned this is the water that is normally drained instead being collected and used to cool the condenser. Apparently, this is how this particular model achieves it’s “Energy Star Efficiency.”

  2. ACboy says:

    Adam,

    Thanks for the input. What is the fan set at when the FRA065AT7 starts to make noise?

    Dave

  3. Joe says:

    Apparently many current air conditioners have the system described by Adam. Some people drill a hole to drain the water which will likely cost you in electricity later.

    A popular Kenmore unit (70051), and two Frigidaire units I’ve seen recommended have complaints about a repetitive, low sound that people have traced to the fan hitting the water to flick it on to the coils to increase efficiency.

    I’m looking for a solution, but even the really expensive units that are supposedly quiet from Friedrich also have complaints about being too loud. Only the 8000 BTU unit that goes for near $900 appears to be well liked, which is too much for my bedroom (both in cooling and price).

  4. ACboy says:

    Joe,

    Thanks for the input. Please post again if you find something more quiet. In the end, the solution just might be a split system with the “noisy part” ;) on the outside and the air handler inside.

    Though my grandmother’s noisy Fedders used to put me to sleep like nothing else.

    Dave (acboy)

  5. mary says:

    My old window AC was a Frigidaire and 10 years old, it didn’t cool the room like it used to so I brought a new Frigidaire 6000 Btu’s. The new AC make fluttering sounds and much more louder than my old one. Are the newer AC’s more louder now?

    • ACboy says:

      Hi Mary,

      The newer units should be at least as quiet, so I’m guessing the new unit is larger. Higher settings also can increase noise.

  6. Katherine says:

    Hi, I’m a psychotherapist and need a quiet a/c to replace my old one. But I also need one with a slide out chassis to reduce the likelihood of making a mistake and having it fall out the window during installation and killing someone on the sidewalk! Any suggestions?

    • ACboy says:

      Thanks for your comment. Especially if you have safety concerns, hire a certified HVAC guy to do the install.

  7. Katherine says:

    Forgot to mention that 6000-8000 BTU’s are sufficient.

  8. Bob E says:

    Thank you! I no longer have a headache trying to find out what units are quieter than another! You made my day!

  9. Jan-Paul says:

    I am looking for cooling aircon in a small bedroom (110 sq ft) that has a tall, narrow window – width 16″.

    a) Hope I have more options than a casement/slider aircon? If not, which one would you recommend – taking into account price/noise/efficiency?

    b) Are there any ‘normal’ window units that will fit? The Frigidaire – 5,000 (Model: FRA054XT7) has a 16 inch width based on specification online. Can this one work?

    c) Are aircons on wheels an option, or are these too noisy? I am a very light sleeper – what is the quietest?

    Do I need to buy anything more than the aircon for installation or is what is in the box sufficient?

    Thanks for you help

  10. ACboy says:

    Hi Jan-Paul,

    Thanks for your comment. As to whether the FRA054XT7 will fit or not, I’d have your local HVAC tech do some measurements.

    You could go portable, but they will also get noisy at higher fan settings. They are not quite as efficient as a window unit either.

    One good think you’ve got going for you is your room is relatively small. Larger ac units and higher fan settings equal noise. You can go with a smaller unit. Just have someone make sure it fits.

    Some units do come with mounting support brackets. If the model you choose does not, you might consider buying support brackets. Keeps the unit more level, prevents sagging, etc.

    Regards,

    Dave

  11. jeff says:

    really??? the Frigidaire FRA065AT7 6000BTU is quiet? not hardly. I can hear it humming in the bedroom below it. we purchased it following your advice. horrible mistake.

    • ACboy says:

      Jeff,

      Sorry you were disappointed in the FRA065AT7. Did you try on low settings? The manufacturers quote noise level numbers at lower fan settings. Higher settings may not be quiet.

      Dave

  12. Michael C says:

    Hi,

    Great article. I have two window ACs, both five + years old:

    http://www.electronicoutletstores.com/product-198.html

    http://ontario.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-home-appliances-other-Air-conditioner-W0QQAdIdZ508439674

    I can live with the fan noise, but both AC condensers have developed a rhythmic low frequency throb that I can feel in my gut. I’ve mounted them well – tight fit and neoprene pads all around, where the ACs meet the window frame.

    I expect that they are probably not worth fixing? I’ve thought of getting an AC repair person to have a look.

    Is there a window AC out there that has a quieter condenser?
    When a manufacturer says quiet are they referring to the fan noise?

    Many thanks.

    • ACboy says:

      Hi Michael,

      I’d have an HVAC tech take a look first. The usual noise measurement measures total noise, not just the fan. Good luck!

      Dave

Leave a Reply

Google