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Great Air Conditioner, But...
on July 23, 2010
I am reviewing the Frigidaire FRA086AT7 8,000 BTU Mini Compact Window Air Conditioner. I am giving this AC a good review, but will mention a few things I didn't like about it. All of the complaints are minor, except for one, which was a problem for me, but might not be for you. I'll start with the background information, then list the features, and then list the good points and bad points.
This is a great AC with many features, good looks, digital display, remote control, and it cools the room very well. I'm using it installed in a window for my bedroom. Mine is 8,000 BTUs, but Frigidaire has similar models with different BTUs. It only comes in White. Even though it is described as "Mini Compact," it appears very sturdy and well-made and isn't really that small. Installation was a breeze because the unit weighs only about 50 lbs. It comes with the AC unit, a window installation kit, a nice manual, foam that you can put between the windows, and self-adhesive weatherstripping to cover any openings. All hardware is included. You just need a Phillips screwdriver to install it and a drill if you want to screw the top of the unit into your window. It is Energy-Star Compliant. The warranty is ONE YEAR Full Coverage and FIVE YEARS for the AC compressor.
* It has a green LED digital display with membrane button controls. You press buttons to control the unit. There are no knobs. Membrane means that all the buttons are covered by hard plastic and you press the label on the plastic that covers the buttons underneath. Each button press emits a beep, but if you hold the temperature/timer button down, it scrolls faster and only beeps once.
* It has buttons for On-Off, Mode, Fan Speed, Temp/Timer Up, Temp/Timer Down, Timer, Sleep, Filter Reset, and Clean Air.
* The Green Digital display shows the Temperature and Timer. Normally, when the unit is on Cool or Econ, it shows the temperature you have set, like a thermostat. However, when the fan only is on, it shows the actual temperature in the room. When you are setting the Timer, it displays the count-down timer.
* It has green LEDs for the 3 modes, the 4 fan speeds, whether the digital display is showing Fahrenheit, Centigrade, or Timer, Timer On, Sleep On, Filter Reset On, Clean Air On, and Remote Sensing On.
* You turn the unit on and off and it remembers your last settings. You press Mode to select from Cool, Econ, or Fan Only. Econ is Economy Mode that cycles the AC compressor on and off, once it reaches the set temperature, to conserve energy.
* Fan Speeds are Low, Med, High, so you have 3 speeds for both the AC and fan. The AC also has Auto Fan, which regulates the fan speed automatically for you. It comes on full blast when you first turn it on, then gradually lowers the fan speed as it reaches your desired temperature.
* The Up and Down buttons are used to set the temperature on the digital display. You can set it from 60 degrees to 90 degrees and display it as either Fahrenheit or Centigrade. These buttons are also used to set the Timer.
* The Timer button allows you to program the unit to either turn on or shut off one time over a 24 hour period.
* The Sleep button raises the temperature you have set by 2 degrees, one half hour after you activate it, and then by another 2 degrees, half an hour later. Then it keeps this temperature for the next 7 hours. It sounds more confusing than it is. Basically, you can activate the Sleep feature when you go to sleep. It assumes an 8-hour sleep cycle. So if you set the temperature for 72 degrees, then an hour after you go to sleep, it will be set for 76 degrees for the next 7 hours, and then go back to 72. The theory is that it you can fall asleep with the temperature you have set, and it can gradually get a bit warmer during the night, without it disturbing you, plus, it will prevent you from becoming too cold.
* Filter Reset has an LED that lights after every 250 hours of use. When it lights, it reminds you to clean the filter. After you clean it, you press the button to turn off the LED and reset it. Then it will remind you after the next 250 hours of use.
* Clean Air is a built-in Air Ionizer and Purifier. If you turn it on, it will automatically remove dust and impurities from the air while either the AC or fan is running.
* It has two separate air vent openings at the top that can be controlled independently.
* The enclosed remote (2 AAA batteries included) has an unlit LCD Display that shows the actual temperature at the remote, presumably that is where you are sitting. You can control everything from the remote, except the Filter Reset and the Clean Air Filter. A red LED blinks when you press a button. You can also turn Remote Sensing on and off from the remote. When it's on, a corresponding LED blinks on the AC unit to show it's activated. Normally, the unit controls the temperature, based on what the temperature is at the AC unit itself. When Remote Sensing is on, the unit then controls the temperature based on what the temperature is where the remote is located.
* Cools fast and extremely well.
* Very quiet.
* 6 foot long, 3-prong power cord, so you probably won't need an extension cord.
* Remembers your last settings, even if the unit is shut down due to a power failure.
* Auto Fan speed is very nice and is similar to digital climate control in a car, plus you have the other 3 manual fan speeds.
* Sleep feature is a nice touch to prevent you from getting too cold while sleeping.
* Reminds you when to clean the filter.
* Air ionizer is a good idea and makes you wonder, why didn't someone think of this before.
* Very attractive looking unit.
* Remote control adds a level of convenience, but it is the temperature display right on the remote that is an added bonus. Plus, having the unit control the temperature right where you are with the remote is very nice.
* Small and easy-to-remove air filter. It slides out from the top.
* Very energy efficient and the increase in my electric bill is much less than with other AC units I have owned.
* Can't speak French. (Honeymooners' reference.) ;)
* It's slightly annoying that if the AC is on, you have to cycle it to Fan to display the actual temperature in the room, and then set it back to AC. There should have been a separate toggle button that would allow you to view either the temperature you set or the room temperature right on the AC unit itself. There is a temperature display on the remote, but when I am closer to the unit than the remote, I often use the unit to see what the temperature in the room is.
* The vent is always closed. It's the first AC unit that I've owned that strangely doesn't have a Vent Open and Vent Closed control. A number of my other ACs have Vent Open, Vent Closed, and Exhaust controls. It's not that big a deal, but with all of its other features, I wonder why this very basic control was left out.
* When you press a button on the unit, the beeps are very loud.
* For many people, the Timer feature will be a great thing, but I have been spoiled. The Frigidaire unit I am reviewing is replacing a Carrier AC that lasted me 21 years! The Carrier worked perfectly from 1988 until the end of summer 2009 and then it broke. I replaced it with this unit.
The Carrier was ahead of its time and it also had a timer. It was an analog timer, but it allowed you to turn the unit on or off, at hour intervals, as many times as you wanted over a 24 hour period. That might sound like overkill, but I would use it to turn the AC on one hour before I came home from work and then shut off 2 hours later, just in case there was some emergency and I didn't make it home right after work. Normally, I would come home, the room was nice and cool, and then I would turn the timer off. But just in case, I had the peace of mind knowing the AC would shut off in 2 hours, instead of staying on all night, if I didn't make it home.
You can't do that with the Frigidaire. You simply set a countdown timer and when it reaches zero, the unit will turn on, if it is off, or turn off, if it is on. Also, you have to set the timer every time you use it. With the Carrier, you could set the programmed times once, and then just turn the timer on when you wanted to activate it. Again, this is not that big of a deal and many people may not even use the Timer.
* The major drawback for me and the only thing that prevented me from giving the unit a 5-Star Rating was that the air-directional controls are absolutely horrible. I'm talking about the opening at the top of the unit where the air blows out from. I honestly can't understand how such a nice unit could be so deficient in this regard. They really missed the boat on this one.
All the ACs I've had over the years had very similar air-direction controls and they all worked great. Basically, they all had little handles, where you could rotate the vent flaps either left or right. Then there were also up/down flaps, where you could direct the air to blow upward. The bottom line is that you could control the direction of the air flow beautifully.
With the Frigidaire, they advertise it as 8-way air control. If you look at the picture you can see that you can control the left and right vents separately. So the left vent can be controlled left-right-up-down and that's 4 ways. Then the same for the right vent, makes 8 ways. Well, it sounds good on paper, but the vents simply do a bad job of controlling the direction of the air flow.
Each vent has a knob that you rotate to presumably control the left-right air flow. Then, you can also click each vent either up or down. Well, if you look at the picture you can see that a plastic rod with small plastic circles on it controls the left-right air flow. The problem is that these plastic circles don't go all the way to the top of the unit, so air ALWAYS blows straight ahead, no matter how you adjust the controls. If you adjust them full left and full right, some air will be directed left and right, but the majority of air will still blow straight ahead. To add insult to injury, the up/down controls are totally useless. They don't swivel, allowing you to position them at numerous up/down positions. There are only 2 positions. Straight ahead or you can click them up one notch, which raises them up about a quarter of an inch. They are useless because they only vary the up/down air flow by about 6 inches.
I made a big deal about this because I'm using it as a bedroom AC and it affects me when I'm sleeping. Truth be told, in most circumstances, the air-direction controls of an AC are not that big of a deal. If it's not used in a bedroom, or if it's installed high in a wall or even in a window that's not next to a bed, this should not create a problem for you.
However, as fate would have it, the unit is installed in a window located to the side of my bed. That's where the Carrier AC was installed and when I adjusted its vents, the air would blow upward and to the sides, so it NEVER blew directly on me while I was sleeping. With the Frigidaire unit, no matter what I try, the AC always blows directly on me while I am sleeping and I don't like that. So the bottom line is that this may not apply to you, but it's something you should be aware of. It's really quite annoying that I can't adjust this unit so it doesn't blow on me while I'm sleeping.
This is a great unit and I highly recommend it, but with one reservation. You virtually cannot control the direction of air flow and it always blows straight ahead. Depending on your circumstances, this might not matter. However, if the unit will be installed in a window next to your bed or next to where you will be sitting, be aware that it will blow directly on you.