Cooling your home or office can be a challenge if you don’t have central air conditioning. In these instances, you need an air conditioner that fits in the space and can effectively cool when needed.
12,000 BTU air conditioners, either window units, portable, or other designs, are popular because of their size, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
This article will showcase the best 12,000 BTU air conditioners, with reviews and comparisons so you can pick the right model for your specific needs.
Understanding BTUs: When is a 12000 BTU AC the Correct Choice?
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. It is a standard measurement of heat transfer. The original measurement determined the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree (at sea level). The result is one BTU. Since then, BTUs have been the measurement of air conditioners to determine the amount of heat it can remove.
By measuring your space, you can determine the minimum BTUs needed for proper and efficient cooling. While there are a lot of charts and region mapping you can consider, it doesn’t need to be that exact.
If you are interested in the full mathematical formula, you will need to find your climate zone, factor in the humidity, barometric pressure elevation above sea level, and the square root of your total square footage.
If you want to know if the AC will cool the room without working too hard, overheating, or skipping cycles, there is an easier method. It isn’t exact, but it will work. Take the BTU of the air conditioner, divide by 20 and subtract 50.
Using this example, an air conditioner with a BTU rating of 12,000 will be efficient in rooms with 550 square feet or less (12,000/20 = 600 – 50 = 550).
12000 BTU Air Conditioners Compared
Considerations When Buying a 12000 BTU AC Unit
There are several factors to think about when trying to choose the correct 12,000 BTU air conditioner.
As I am sure you are aware, there are many types of air conditioners. Central air is common in residential and commercial buildings. RV air conditioners, automotive ACs, and many others. When you are using the BTUs as a measurement, though, you will mostly look at window units and portable ACs.
A window unit is a compact air conditioner that exhausts directly outside by being placed in your window. It rests on the sill, half in your home and half out. These come in all sizes from 5,000 BTUs to over 30,000 BTUs.
Portable ACs are small appliances that cool a space or room and use a hose to vent outdoors. The hose usually attaches to a mount that fits in a window. These units require more power and aren’t generally much stronger than 16,000 BTUs (though some can get up to 20,000 BTUs).
As we covered above, the size of your room is vital in determining what size AC you need. The larger the room, the more power is required to cycle the air and drop the temperature. Smaller rooms don’t need much help to move the air.
Larger rooms can benefit from adding a ceiling fan or oscillating fan to help move the air to the AC unit for cooling. Using the formula above, you can determine the minimum BTUs needed for your room size.
Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER)
The Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER, is a standard that tells you how energy efficient the air conditioner is. EER is determined by the ratio of BTUs per hour versus the kilowatt-hours used in that hour. The higher the ratio or EER number, the more efficient the air conditioner is.
High-efficiency air conditioners cost you less energy (and lower electric bills) to run. Most air conditioners will have a yellow Energy Guide sticker on them to tell you the EER and expected cost per kilowatt-hour of operation.
Noise Levels (dBA)
Air conditioners make noise. The louder the machine, the less likely you are to run them continuously. You will want to find an air conditioner with a low decibel attenuation (dBA) rating. As an example, a hairdryer at 5 feet produces about 67 dB. Heavy city traffic at 20 feet is about 65 dB. A conversation at zero feet at normal talking levels is about 48 dB.
The higher the dBA of the air conditioner, the louder you will need to turn the TV or talk so everyone in the room can hear you.
Besides turning on an air conditioner and cooling a space, whether in your window or a portable unit in your bedroom, some come with additional features. You may find that your AC is also a heater. For window units, this common feature means you can use them year-round.
Some have timers or sleep modes and energy-saving modes that shut them off after a particular time or temperature is reached. You can also find models with multiple fan speeds, dehumidifier settings, and even remote, Bluetooth, or mobile app controls.
Additional features add performance and value to the air conditioner. While you may pay a little more, some of these creature comforts are worth the added cost.
Something else to consider is the installation requirements. You will need the space to install the air conditioner, of course, but larger units, such as the 12,000 BTU models, may be wider or taller than your window can open.
It might also require you to install an additional outlet or special outlet for the unit. These generally require professional installation, unless you work with electricity and power outlets yourself.
You also need to check on the voltage requirements of the unit. Some will require dedicated 220v lines, and others can plug into any 110-volt outlet. Knowing what you have and what the air conditioner needs will go a long way towards buying the correct model for your home or office.
Price & Warranty
Finally, you will want to look at the price and the warranty. While these units are cheaper than installing an entire central air system, they can still get expensive. You want to stay within your budget so that you don’t overspend and end up regretting your purchase.
The warranty should be a factor as well. The term and coverage the warranties provide should be enough to get your money’s worth should the AC outlast the warranty, plus it should provide a quick and inexpensive means to repair or replace the AC if something goes wrong.
7 Best 12000 BTU Air Conditioners Reviewed
Now we offer you the best 12k BTU air conditioners. Each one has been reviewed, rated, and compared. We are confident you will find your next air conditioner on the list below.
#1 Portable AC
|Room Size (Cooling Area)||Up to 450 Sq. ft.|
|Noise Level||56 dB|
SereneLife offers a quiet operating, 12,000 BTU portable AC. This is our top pick and the best 12,000 BTU portable AC you will find. It has a few unique features and is priced so any budget can afford it. You won’t find a more complete, easy to use portable AC out there.
They rate this model to cool up to 450 square feet, though more area won’t be a problem, it will just run a little longer. Set up is straightforward. The exhaust hose comes with a window mount that attaches to vertical or horizontal windows.
The one problem is that the drain pan needs to be emptied manually and quite often. If you run the unit on carpet, the condensate can overflow and get your carpet wet. There is a warning alert when the pan is full, and the AC will shut down when this happens.
There are three modes of operation, including sleep mode, where the unit works on a lighter duty to help further minimize noise. Startup noise levels can exceed 60dB, and some fluctuations will cause the noise level to rise. Under normal mode, though, the average noise level is about 56dB.
- Easy setup
- Built-in dehumidifier
- Remote control operation
- Sleep mode
- Noise level can fluctuate above 60 dB
- Manual condensation drain
2. LG LW1216ER
#1 Window AC
|Room Size (Cooling Area)||550 Sq. ft.|
|Dimensions||23 5/8 x 15 x 22 3/16 inches|
|Noise Level||52 dB|
The best 12,000 BTU window AC unit belongs to LG. The LW1216ER has a high EER rating of 12.1 and a super quiet 52 dB operation (indoors). The simple design gives way to high performance, and this unit can effectively cool a 550 square foot space in no time at all.
LG also thought ahead and used gold-fin anti-corrosion to prolong the life and battle wear and tear on the parts that matter the most. While it comes with a 1-year warranty, this model will easily last you 8 to 10 years with proper maintenance and care.
The window mounting is simple, though, at 73 pounds, it will take 2 people to slide into place. You won’t need a back bracket on the outside since it evenly distributes the weight to the center. With the window down and the wind stop flaps extended, the unit won’t move an inch.
You will want to place the AC on a dedicated circuit. It has a 15 amp operational draw, which can jump above 20 amps during startup. Some owners report a tripped breaker when the unit powers on if there are other devices drawing power from the same circuit.
- Simple to place in window (with 2 people)
- Low noise level
- Cools up to 550 square feet.
- Can trip breakers if not on a dedicated circuit.
3. Koldfront WTC12001W
#1 Through The Wall AC
|AC Type||Wall AC|
|Room Size (Cooling Area)||550 Sq. ft. (cooling) 450 Sq. ft. (Heat)|
|Dimensions||14.5 x 24.2 x 20.3 inches|
|Noise Level||59 – 65 dB|
Koldfront gives you the best 12,000 BTU through the wall AC on the market. This model can cool a 550 square foot area with ease. You need not worry about storing it, either. In the winter months, you can flip on the heater to keep you warm when it’s cold outside.
The noise level is a bit high, and the heater drops the EER rating to an average of 9.5. For 12,000 BTUs, though, this isn’t a bad thing. It is still more efficient than a central heating and air unit.
One downside is that it doesn’t come with a cage. If you don’t have a through the wall sleeve installed already, you will need to buy one separately. There is a list in the owner’s manual of models and sizes that will work.
Professional installation is suggested unless you already have the access hole cut out. If you do, it is a simple slide-in and add the weather stripping. Once it is secure, you can plug it in and turn it on. The Koldfront unit will need a dedicated plug and outlet, which may be an additional professional install.
- Cools up to 550 sq ft.
- Includes heater
- 4-way directional airflow
- Can get loud or “chatter” when in operation.
- Through the wall sleeve (cage) not included.
4. Senville SENL-12CD
Best 12000 BTU Mini Split AC
|Room Size (Cooling Area)||Up to 750 Sq. ft.|
|Noise Level||52 dB|
If you are interested in a mini-split AC system, you won’t find much better than the Senville SENL-12CD. This slip system must be professionally installed. If it isn’t (with documented proof), the warranty is void. Everything needed for installation is included in the box, though, so with rare exceptions, you won’t need to pay for extra parts.
The AC system has an EER rating of 14.1, making it highly efficient (when cooling). It is also whisper-quiet, with a startup noise level of about 55 dB and an operational 52 dB. When it is running, you won’t notice, except for the rapid drop in temperature, keeping you cool and comfortable around the clock.
There is a heater built-in as well, so you can enjoy the Senville system year-round. The EER rating drops when in heat mode, but this is normal and expected as heaters draw more energy. What you may not expect is that the louvers can collect condensate if they are positioned to vertical. The condensation will build and eventually drip to the floor (or furniture) below.
With remote operation, automatic system settings, and a program-and-forget operation, once the unit is installed, you won’t have anything to worry about for several years. When the filters get dirty, you can wash them out, saving you money on filter purchases for a couple of years.
- Highly efficient cooling and heating
- Remote operation with manual or automatic settings
- Cools up to 750 square feet
- Can cause condensate on louvers which drip to floor
- DIY install voids warranty
5. Pioneer WYS012-17
Popular Ductless Model
|AC Type||Ductless Mini Split|
|Room Size (Cooling Area)||450 Sq. ft.|
|Noise Level||55 dB|
If you are worried about buying a mini-split system from a brand you may not have heard of, then Pioneer has an answer. Not only are they a well-known and trusted brand, but the popular ductless model WYS012-17 is easy to program and use.
Like most mini-split systems, you will need professional installation. Failure to get documented installation from an HVAC professional will void the warranty. The 5-year warranty, though, is one of the longest in the industry. Professional installation should be a priority, even without the warranty.
Once installed, the system runs itself. You can use the wireless remote to run the system, select modes, and set temperatures. It also has an automatic mode so you can set it and forget it. Operation is smooth and quiet, so it won’t interrupt conversations or watching television like some models.
Another unique feature is that the heater is located in the outside unit; you don’t need to worry about corrosion, damage, or condensation. Even the louvers are automatic and won’t collect moisture.
- Efficient cooling with no ducts
- Wireless remote with LCD
- Permanent, washable filters
- Professional installation required
- Not as efficient as some mini-split systems
Best Cheap 12000 BTU AC
|Room Size (Cooling Area)||550 Sq. ft.|
|Dimensions||19.8 x 19 x 14.5 inches|
|Noise Level||56 dB|
If you are looking for a simple window unit that produces 12,000 BTUs of cooling power, Frigidaire has you covered. This window unit is simple to install, doesn’t require a dedicated outlet, and comes with a full 1-year warranty.
The bonus features are what set this apart, though. With a smooth faceplate and digital markings, there are no bulky buttons or knobs to deal with. You can use the touch-sensitive buttons on the machine or the included remote control for operation. However, it also comes with WiFi abilities and a mobile app to use.
The app is robust and offers you a lot of options, including programming, scheduling, and maintenance reminders. Maintenance is a bit tricky. Cleaning the unit proves difficult for most owners without removing the machine from the window each time.
Luckily, you only need to clean the unit a couple of times a year. Cleaning the filters and keeping the machine free of dust and dirt are simple enough and will help maintain the efficient running of the fans and airflow.
If you want the best cheap 12,000 BTU AC, the Frigidaire is for you. It even comes with built-in air purifiers to help reduce allergens in your home. Breath easy, and stay cool for less.
- WiFi and mobile app controls
- Clean air (ionizing) purifiers built-in
- Scheduling and programming abilities are simple to set up
- Maintenance can be challenging
- Can wobble or shake while running
7. Honeywell Condition MN12CES
Packed With Added Features
|Room Size (Cooling Area)||400 Sq. ft.|
|Dimensions||15.7 x 16.5 x 29.3 inches|
|Noise Level||56 dB|
Honeywell is a well-known brand that produces an extensive line of home products. From security systems to portable air conditioners. The Honeywell Condition MN12CES is an elegantly designed portable AC with 12,000 BTUs and packed with added features.
The display is all digital and uses feather-lite touch controls. You can select from 3 modes and 3 fan speeds. Each one designed to move air, cool your home, and remove humidity. You don’t even need to empty a drain pan. The 69-pint drip tray will self-evaporate. However, this may need manual emptying if you live in a high-humid region.
The cooling modes also use a timer function to offer you 24-hour energy savings. Since you can run the machine all hours of the day and night without worrying about leaks, the energy-efficient modes will help control your power bills.
The Honeywell model also uses twin filters for better air quality. While cleaning and maintenance are needed more regularly than other portable ACs, it is worth it to know you have cleaner, cooler air.
The MN12CES doesn’t have a heating option. However, it will move warm air in single fan mode, so you aren’t stuck with stagnant air and no flow throughout the home. Even on carpeting, this model will move easily. It is heavy, and if it has been stationary for a while, you should use caution when moving to avoid spilling the drip tray.
- No need to empty condensation pan
- 24-hour energy savings modes
- Washable lifetime filter
- Is known to shut down for no reason
- No heating feature
Types of AC Units With a 12000 BTU Rating
There are a lot of AC styles that come in the 12,000 BTU rating size. Each type has its own pros and cons, making each one a personal choice for the buyer. Which one is best for you?
We use mini-split ACs on a per-room basis. You still have the condenser unit outside (this is the “split”). Inside each room that has climate control is a miniature air handler (where the “mini” comes from).
Each air handler is controlled separately, allowing you to set different temperatures in various rooms. They are challenging to install but offer more localized control. The mini-split system can also end up costing you more on your energy bill. The trade-off is that your house doesn’t have cold or hot spots unless you want them.
Window units are all-in-one designs that sit in your window, as the name implies. The condenser unit sits at the back of the unit, where a fan pushes air over the coils of the evaporator. The condensation drains through a small drain pan outside while cold air blows inside.
Large windows with small window ACs will need to use extending flaps to prevent outside air, bugs, and other unwanted things from getting in (or out) of the space on either side of the AC. If you get a window unit that is too large for the window space, you won’t be able to use the unit. Precision measurements are crucial in your window AC selection.
Through The Wall
Through the wall ACs are the same as a window unit.
They are all-in-one ACs, but instead of sitting in a window, you cut a hole in your wall that the unit will sit in.
Most of these have cages and require the cage is mounted and sealed.
The AC will then slide into the cage, secured to the sides with mounting screws.
The main issue with these types is that if you don’t already have a hole in your wall going to the outside, you have to cut one.
Knowing where your electrical wires, plumbing, and other in-the-wall components are located is a must. Professional installation can be expensive.
Portable ACs are small, heavy items that sit on your floor in the room you wish to cool. There is a drip tray for the condensation (some require emptying manually, others evaporate on their own). There will be an exhaust vent, similar to a dryer vent hose. This needs to be mounted in a window to let the hot air out of the house.
Portable units can have high BTUs but aren’t designed to cool large, open spaces. A bedroom or living room will cool with the most efficiency, though.
Types of AC Units Without a 12000 BTU Rating
Not all types of air conditioners come with a 12,000 BTU rating. There are other options for you though.
RV Air Conditioner
RV systems work much like a central air system or a mini-split system. While there are some smaller sizes, 17,000 BTUs is generally as low as they go. The average top-mounted systems use 20,000 BTUs or higher.
The common sizes for top-mounted AC units in an RV are 20,000, 22,000, 26,000, and 32,000. If the AC unit is internal, there are two common sizes to choose from. Some companies produce various BTU sizes for internal RV ACs, but for the most part, you will decide between 20,000 and 30,000 BTU units.
Installing Different Types of 12000 BTU ACs
Installing most of the 12,000 BTU options isn’t a difficult task. For portable units as an example, you need to install the exhaust hose, run it out a window and plug the unit in. From there, the only installation needs it to wheel it to the desired area and turn it on.
Window units are almost as simple to install. After you open the window and remove the screen, you need to lift the machine into the window opening. There will usually be a lip on the bottom that will catch on the frame. Then you close the window on top, so the top lip catches on the windowpane frame.
Once you extend the side flaps and secure them to the window edge, you just have to plug it in and turn it on. Larger window units will require two people to lift and slide into the window.
Through the wall units install the same as the window units. If you already have a hole through the wall with the cage installed, installation is just like the window unit (minus the flaps). You may need professional installation if there isn’t a pre-cut opening, though.
Mini-split systems require refrigerant, a condenser, and the air handlers installed. This is a professional install only item.
|Type||Self-Install||HVAC Technician Required|
|Through The Wall||Yes||If hole is needed|
Frequently Asked Questions
How much power does a 12000 BTU air conditioner use?
Most modern 12,000 BTU air conditioners are rated between 9 and 12 EER. This equates to about 11 EER average and just over 1,000 watts of consumption.
How many amps does a 12000 BTU air conditioner draw?
12,000 BTU air conditioners requiring a dedicated outlet draw a minimum of 10 amps. Most simple design systems will average either 10 to 15 amps to operate.
How long can I expect a 12000 BTU AC unit to last?
A lot will go into the average lifespan of a 12,000 BTU window unit. Maintenance, care, average ambient temperature, frequency of use, etc. Based on national averages, though, a 12,000 BTU window AC should last about 10 years.
What are some common problems that may arise with this sized unit?
These sized units can suffer the same problems as any other air conditioner. The most common issues include over-cooling, condenser fan running but cooling fan off, rapid cycles, coils freezing over, electrical problems from surges and shorts, and leaking condensation or draining improperly.
What can be done to extend the life of a portable AC?
Routine maintenance, regular cleanings, and replacing or cleaning the filters regularly will go a long way to increase their productive life. During the winter months when the unit isn’t being used, removal from the window, a thorough cleaning, and proper storage will also add to the life expectancy.
Which models on our list offer heating as well as cooling?
From our list, the models that cool and heat are, Koldfront WTC12001W, Senville SENL-12CD Mini-Split, and the Pioneer Air Conditioner WYS012A-19.
Where is the best place to buy this size air conditioner?
You can purchase a 12,000 BTU air conditioner almost anywhere they sell heating and cooling supplies. This will include home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes, and most local hardware stores. You can also find them in brick and mortar shops like Walmart, Sams, and Costco. The best place to buy a 12,000 BTU AC, though, is through Amazon. Quick shipping, expert installation (additional cost), extended warranty options, and excellent customer service are considerable benefits to shopping through Amazon.
There are plenty of 12,000 BTU air conditioners to choose from. It is up to you to find the right style and installation methods for the unit you want the most. All air conditioners work on the same principle of removing humidity and heat from the air in our homes. Whether that is a portable unit, window AC or a central heating and air combination, they all work well.
If you find it difficult to choose or don’t know where to start, we recommend our top pick, the SereneLife 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. It is easy to maintain, cools quickly, and can store away when not in use.
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