Jan 08, 2024

Here’s Why This Clever Midea U


By Liam McCabe

Every spring for five years, it was my job to test and review window air conditioners. The gig never changed: Haul a handful of 70-pound ACs up the stairs to my fourth-floor walk-up, heave them into the windows for a few days of tests, and conclude that there wasn't much difference between any of them. When the Midea U-Shaped Air Conditioner arrived in 2020, seemingly out of nowhere, it upended everything I hated about this staid, stale category since I began my reviewer gig in the 2010s. For people who have to rely on window ACs to cool a scorching home, I’d argue that it's the biggest summertime quality-of-life improvement in decades.

$300 at Amazon

$399 Save $99

$379 at Walmart

$449 Save $70

On a hot night in July, anyone would gladly have any window-mounted AC instead of, say, a box fan. But before the Midea, they were all about the same size, and the same amount of loud, ugly and cumbersome. Even though I’d equipped my apartment with the "best" window ACs that the industry had to offer, I still had to resort to sleeping with earplugs to muffle the periodic rattles and ka-chunks that every window unit inevitably made. Soothing white noise this was not.

The biggest advantage of the U-shaped Air Conditioner is it's so much quieter than a typical window unit, thanks to its namesake, weird-looking chassis. It looks like a standard air conditioner has been split in two, with just a short band of plastic holding the halves together along their bottom edge. This design lets your window close between your home and the loudest part of any AC, the compressor, blocking out tons of noise. As a result, it's essentially half as loud as a regular box-shaped AC. It's not as quiet as a central AC or mini-split system, where the loud end of the system is at least a few feet away from your living space. But it's a huge improvement over the window status quo.

The Midea also borrows a key feature from high-performance HVAC units: An inverter-driven, variable-speed compressor. This lets the unit turn itself down to run at a "low" setting, instead of constantly cycling between either full power or no power. That makes it more energy efficient, and better at holding steady, comfortable temperatures and humidity levels. It's also a lot less likely to jolt you awake at night because the compressor doesn't thunk and gurgle to life every hour—it just runs at a steady, muffled hum. No earplugs necessary.

Installation is the weak point here. It's a different sort of terrible than the awkward balancing act of a regular window AC. On the plus side, the Midea is a lot less likely to take a tumble because it sits on an included support bracket, rather than resting precariously against the window sash. But it typically takes a few rounds of trial and error to assemble the bracket so that the AC sits at just the right angle to drain correctly and to let the window close in the U-shaped gap correctly. It's widely cited as the worst part about owning one of these ACs, but you’ll only have to deal with it once a year, and subsequent installations may be easier depending on how much you disassemble the bracket at the end of air conditioner season.

The Midea AC has been such a hit that, for the first time in a generation, there are already some other competing "alternative" window ACs, including some saddle-style models like the GE Profile ClearView or a similar unit from Soleus. The window AC category was actually pretty rich with variety from the 1950s through the 1990s, including low-profile window ACs, units shaped like offset Tetris blocks, and plenty of options for casement windows. They’d just all morphed into the same basic rectangular box by the 2010s (apart from those portable ACs with plastic hoses, which cost twice as much and work half as well). With summers getting hotter and energy bills rising, it was high time for some innovation, and the Midea helped kick-start the new generation. I moved out of that fourth floor walk-up years ago and now live in a house with central air. But it's clear to me that this AC, or something like it, is the high-quality option I’ll pick if I ever need a window unit again.