The 5 Best Low-Watt Air Conditioners for Solar Power

by Tessa Hobart | LAST UPDATED June 10, 2021

A person holding a remote for an air conditioner
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Solar power isn’t a good move for everyone, and it can really struggle to adequately provide power to anything other than a moderately sized home or a classic tiny house on a trailer.

Luckily, there are several ways that you can reduce your energy use and help your solar panels keep up with your more modest electricity needs.

Unfortunately, certain items drive your energy costs off the charts, but you can’t really get rid of them, and we are going to cover one of the most common ones - air conditioning as well as dive into the 5 best low-watt air conditioners for solar power.

The Problem

Common household items like kitchen appliances or air conditioners use a lot more power than a lot of people believe.

This usually isn’t an issue since it won’t result in anything aside from higher-than-average energy bills every once in a while.

However, when it comes to off-grid living and using solar power to run your house, these sorts of devices can be a real drain on any energy that you might have collected for that day. In fact, a lot of the time, the average homesteader decides to get rid of the appliance altogether simply.

This is without a doubt a much easier option than trying to modify your entire system just to accompany a single device.

But, simply getting rid of the AC unit isn’t an ideal solution to your problems either.

Necessity

Most people consider central air conditioning to be a luxury that they can do without, so they choose to save a few bucks and simply open the window during the summer months.

The problem is that this is only a decent solution if you live in areas with a mild or cold climate.

If you were to ask an inhabitant of the warmer states about the necessity of an air conditioner unit, we’re sure that they’d consider it a mandatory inclusion in every home.

Here’s the good news—there is an easy solution for off-grid homeowners that want to be able to stay cool during the hellishly hot months, and that solution is called “low-watt air conditioners.”

Why Buy Low-Watt Air Conditioners

Honestly, all you need to know about the benefits of these specific AC units is in the name itself.

Items that are classed as low-watt air conditioners use quite a bit less electricity than your standard air conditioning system. Aside from that, all of the units that appear on our list have very few other characteristics in common. This will allow you to choose between energy-efficient air conditioners of all shapes and sizes depending on your personal needs.

This usually means getting an AC with enough cooling capacity for the number of square feet it has to cover. Energy-efficient air conditioners don’t generally have cooling systems that are all that different from your standard units. As such, they cover essentially the same number of sq. ft as any other unit but simply use less energy to do it.

The reason behind this is because the AC units themselves simply have a better energy efficiency ratio than a lot of other cooling systems. We’ll get into that side of things in the next section, but for now, we’d just like to mention that size also plays a large part in the efficiency of a cooling unit.

Some of the smaller items that appear on our list will have a much better energy use than even the low-watt split air conditioners or window air conditioners.

On the other hand, the cool air produced by more portable air conditioners can only reduce the temperature of small rooms. While they’re still effective in terms of improving the indoor airflow and cooling things down, they really struggle to be of any help on scorching hot days unless you use them in small spaces.

We’ll mention the square-foot limits of each air conditioner in their product descriptions below, and we’ll also say when it’s a better idea to simply go for a window AC unit or even a mini-split system HVAC.

Energy Efficiency Rating

An air conditioning system can get two types of ratings: an EER rating and a SEER rating.

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, whereas EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio.

The ratios are calculated by measuring the cooling capabilities of the device and calculating how much power it uses during a given period. The seasonal ratio measures the efficiency of a unit during a single season, while the EER is a standardized measurement of the unit’s efficiency. More accurately, the EER is calculated by dividing the amount of British Thermal Units (BTU units) by the unit’s wattage.

For example, a 10,000 BTU window air conditioner with 1,000 watts will have an EER rating of 10.

Both calculations are reliable estimations of the cooling capabilities of the AC units and what sort of energy costs you might be looking at if you plan to buy them. There really isn’t anything complicated about finding a good AC unit since the higher the ratio number, the better the energy savings.

To give you a better idea of what you should be looking at, a SEER rating of anything between 12 and 15 is pretty good, anything that’s a 16 or over is phenomenal, and an 11 or lower is less than ideal.

Now, we’re not saying that there aren’t high-quality AC units that have a less-than-ideal rating or that there aren’t high-efficiency devices that will void your warranty after just a single week. This is only a measurement of whether or not the amount of cooling that you’ll get is going to be worth the high power bills.

So you should also focus a bit on the overall fan speeds, the condition of the compressor and the refrigerant, and even the remote control layout.

You might have seen the phrase “energy star certified” here and there on Amazon, which is another genuinely reliable method of pointing out which air conditioning units are energy-efficient.

We’ll do our best to run through the most important features of each unit and point out what sort of certification the central air conditioners and portable AC units have.

Whirlpool Energy Star

Whirlpool Energy Star

The 10,000 BTU Whirlpool Energy Star is compatible with any electrical outlet that can handle at least 115 volts, and it’s suitable for spaces that are up to 450 sq. ft.

This particular model has an EER of 10.7, a dehumidifying function, a fully programmable 24-hour cooling timer, three cooling speeds, and a lot of other valuable features as well.

Rather than a window AC unit, this is a through-the-wall type of air conditioner that can fit in pretty much any standard wall sleeve.

Making a hole in your wall might not sound ideal, but this means that you’ll be able to provide a permanent cooling solution to parts of your house that might not have had the best ventilation during the warmer months.

The Whirlpool also comes with an eco-function on top of the standard sleep mode, both of which make it that much more conservative in the energy savings department.

Senville Aura Series Mini Split Air Conditioner

Senville Aura Series Mini Split Air Conditioner

The Senville Aura Series Mini Split Air Conditioner that we’ve chosen is the 12,000 BTU variant, but you can choose to go for the 18k, the 24k, or the 36k versions if you’d like.

This air conditioning unit uses DC inverter technology for better efficiency and performance, and it uses around 208-230V.

It comes with a built-in dehumidifier that can keep your room nice and dry, as well as a heat pump and a fan that are capable of working in temperatures as low as -22°F/-30°C.

It’s no surprise that this is the quietest unit that we have on our list since it has whisper technology implemented in its design to make sure that the decibels are kept to a bare minimum.

The quiet running makes it a great option for the bedroom, but the up to 25 SEER ratio means that it would be a perfect fit for just about any room in the house, as long as it’s between 450 and 700 square feet at least.

Frigidaire FGPC1044U1

Frigidaire FGPC1044U1

Most AC units aren’t designed to look like an Alexa Amazon Echo, but this shape actually allows the Frigidaire FGPC1044U1 to provide air cooling in all directions.

It also comes with wifi capabilities and a custom smart app that can allow you to use your phone instead of a remote.

This allows you to place it virtually anywhere in your home and simply set your preferred temperatures and hours.

It has limited coverage, and it maxes out at around 450 square feet, but the 3-pints-per-hour dehumidification and the astoundingly low 53-decibel running speeds make this a pretty solid pick for smaller spaces.

It runs on a standard 115V power socket, has 10,000 BTU, an 11.01 EER rating, and is Energy Star certified.

Honeywell MN10CES

Honeywell MN10CES

While the decibel count is exactly as low as our previous entry, the Honeywell MN10CES is a bit more limited in terms of square feet that it can cover, being able to only manage to adequately cool spaces that are about 350–450 square feet. Although, there are quite a few positives to this device as well.

The setup takes five minutes, and all you have to do is place it in the room that you want to use it in, hook it up to a power outlet, stick the hose outside of a window, and enjoy the cool air.

It also has 3 fan speeds, a 24-hour energy-saving timer, a thermostat with a temperature range of 61°F to 89°F, a 2,75-pint-per-hour dehumidifier, and a few other useful features.

The portable nature of this device makes it an ideal option for cooling your bedroom at night and simply moving it to your living room during the day.

This way, you can cool down multiple rooms without having to get an expensive and massively power-consuming HVAC system.

hOmelabs Portable Air Conditioner

hOmelabs Portable Air Conditioner

Coming in at 14,000 BTU and an EER rating of 9.8, this portable AC is a great choice for any room that’s 450 to 600 square feet.

It’s not quite as quiet as the previous portable Ac units that we covered, but it has a better dehumidifier function, extracting 4,17 pints per hour.

Aside from that, this unit has the same benefits as the previous two entries, namely the small size and the low energy consumption.

hOmelabs isn’t a big name in the AC market, but this model is still a contender for one of the best portable low-watt air conditioners that you can find, and it can definitely give the bigger names in the field a run for their money.

Conclusion

The amount of space you have to work with will always be the clincher that decides which unit you’re going to go with at the end of the day.

Aside from that, we’re confident that all of the air conditioners that we mentioned can provide you with an array of valuable functions, several fan speeds and settings, and an energy-efficient way to fight the summer heat.

Tessa Hobart
Tessa Hobart moved into her first tiny home (a trailer in her uncle's backyard) when she was 19. Without giving away her age, she now has many years of tiny home experience and is currently designing an A-Frame as a second off grid home. She lives with her husband and enjoys card games and mountain biking.

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