What air conditioner bracket should i use?

3December 2021

A selection of AC brackets, with our budget, pick in the foreground.

We started our search by browsing online at Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe’s window air conditioner brackets, which had a rather restricted selection. We narrowed our search to models that were well-known and had at least a few positive reviews, and we rapidly narrowed it down to a half-dozen or so strong choices. We asked that they come with clear instructions, have all necessary hardware, have a wide and strong enough support arm to attach a large or off-balance air conditioner and be adjustable enough to fit a wide range of window widths and sill depths.
We also wanted to discover a bracket that could be installed without the need for drilling holes or installing hardware. Renters, who typically have limited access to equipment and minimal permission to punch holes in the landlord’s building, are among those who want or require an AC bracket.

The issue is that most AC brackets necessitate drilling since they are secured to the windowsill with three big screws that require deep pilot holes. Even if you forgo the bracket entirely, the safest way of AC installation still entails anchoring the AC with a few short screws in the window sash (as seen in this Lowe’s video). If we had to choose, we’d go with a sill-mounted bracket for the security and ease of installation, as well as the fact that it’s on the outside of the building and won’t leave you staring at a bunch of unsightly (and maybe drafty) holes in your window sash once the AC is turned off all winter. We hoped, however, that there was a good no-drill bracket out there.

Our search yielded a final group of five to evaluate, including two no-drill models and three drilling-required models:

• ACB80H Frost King (drilling required)

• AC-080 AC-Safe (drilling required)

• Universal Jeacent (drilling required)

• ACBNT2 Frost King (no drill)

• TSB-2438 (Top Shelf) (no drill)

Top Shelf TSB-2438 is our pick.

Our choice

Top Shelf TSB-2438

The Top Shelf TSB-2438 bracket makes the tedious chore of mounting an AC support bracket a breeze. It’s the only fantastic bracket we’ve come across that doesn’t require any drilling (or tools of any kind). Instead, using a set of spring-loaded buttons, it assembles, adjusts to fit, and locks into place by hand. It can suit single- or double-hung windows (the typical, slide up-and-down variety) ranging in width from 24 to 38 inches, which means it can fit practically any window that can fit a normal window AC. The AC’s horizontal frame may be changed to 40 different locations, allowing it to accommodate walls of various thicknesses and carefully adjust its angle to the proper, slightly downward tilt (to let condensation drain out of the AC). No other AC bracket we tested has such a wide range of applications.

The Top Shelf can be simply removed and reinstalled because it is not permanently affixed to your window frame. This is especially useful if you plan to store your air conditioner indoors during the off-season or if you plan to relocate (renters take note). Models that require drilling, on the other hand, are difficult to remove and should not be replaced in the same location because the mounting screws can only ensure a tight grip the first time they’re used. Whether you’re not allowed to drive screws into a rental building or simply don’t want an eyesore lying on the side of your house all winter, the ability to easily install and remove this bracket without any tools is a significant convenience. This distinction alone, we believe, is sufficient to warrant the additional cost, especially for anyone who has sought out a guide to learn more about these products.

The Top Shelf can hold up to 200 pounds, which is significantly more than most residential window air conditioners and any air conditioner under 12,000 Btu, which is normally the largest that can be placed in a home or apartment. You don’t need that much strength, but it’s good to have the added security. (The Frost King ACB80H, our budget selection, is rated at 80 pounds, which is more than enough for most domestic air conditioners up to 12,000 Btu.)

You slip two legs and two “wings” into the H-shaped frame the AC will eventually sit on to build and install the Top Shelf bracket. Then you place it in your window frame, in the slot where the window closes. The wings are then slid open until each one catches behind the vertical frame rails with a tap (where the frame meets the wall). Finally, adjust the legs so that the H-frame is slightly angled downward, away from the structure. (This ensures that moisture from the air conditioner drains out from the wall rather than back into your room.) All of these adjustments can be made by hand with spring-loaded buttons that latch into holes in the bracket.

The Top Shelf may be adjusted and installed without the use of tools thanks to spring-loaded buttons.

That’s all there is to it (though for added security you can put a small screw through the hole in each tab and into the window frame, to eliminate any chance of accidentally unhooking them). The broad H-frame makes it easy to position your AC in place and slide it out the window once you’ve fitted and adjusted the Top Shelf—a pair of wide-set rails is far more sturdy than a single rail, like our cheap pick’s bracket, and requires no balancing act. This is especially useful if you reside on the top floor: One of those urban terrors we could all do without is dangling a big air conditioner over a busy sidewalk.

There are flaws, but they aren’t deal breakers.

Because the instructions don’t provide any details of the window frame, you’ll have to assume where the bracket should go. It’s reasonably clear in most cases (it sits in the slot the window rests in when it’s closed), but this is a piece of safety equipment, therefore Top Shelf should make sure there’s no question about how to correctly install it, even on windows that aren’t standard. (Even the company’s own installation video is ineffective.) Most single- and double-hung windows (the kind that glide up and down) will work with the Top Shelf, however casement (doorlike) and other designs will not, so double-check before you buy.

Frost King ACB80H is a good budget option.

Selecting a Budget

If you don’t mind drilling into your windowsill and having to leave the bracket up during the off-season, the Frost King ACB80H is a good option. Because it offered the most detailed instructions and the finest quality materials, it was the clear winner among the drilling-required brackets we examined. Furthermore, unlike many competitors, its design is adaptable enough to fit a wider range of windows.

The Frost King is a long cry from the Top Shelf TSB-2438’s straightforward, no-tools-required installation. A drill, a screwdriver, and a set of wrenches are required, as well as the willingness and ability to drill holes in your windowsill. If that doesn’t deter you, the Frost King is a significantly more cost-effective alternative than the Top Shelf, costing less than half as much.

Because the entire bracket mounts on the exterior of the home or apartment, with a pivoting movable leg that helps you lock the shelf in a level position, the Frost King, AC Safe, and Jeacent versions we investigated all share a basic design that allows them to fit most windows. (In reality, the Frost King’s packaging claims that the bracket is made by AC Safe, and we couldn’t tell the difference.) Jeacent came across as a flimsier version of these two. Each claims to be capable of supporting an air conditioner weighing up to 80 pounds (our pick in the best air conditioner guide weighs just less than 60 pounds). The Best Shelf TSB-2438, our top selection, claims to support up to 200 pounds, but we don’t think most people will use that much weight capacity. With so much in common, the choice to recommend the Frost King ACB80H was based on a few minor details.

The Frost King, complete with support arms and mounting bracket.

The Frost King’s directions were clearer and easier to understand than the competitors’. They gave a helpful component list as well as clear instructions for each step. They’re also available in Spanish and English. The Jeacent’s instructions are identical to the Frost King’s in every way, but they’re more difficult to follow because they’re written in a list format rather than step-by-step, and the diagrams are all piled up to one side. The diagrams of the Frost King are also more intricate than those of the Jeacent. Despite guarantees on the box that instructions would be found within, the AC Safe did not come with any.

The smaller parts on the Frost King (and the equivalent AC Safe) are of superior quality than those on Jeacent. The blocks and spacers you use to mount the bracket to the sill, in instance, are composed of a much sturdier, more durable material—we’re guessing dense nylon. The Jeacent’s block and spacers are made of a strong, inflexible plastic that appeared to shatter more easily after some weathering than the Frost King’s slightly rubbery composition. They’re also a third narrower, resulting in less contact with the bracket and sill.

The rubber foot on the adjustable leg, which is used to level the bracket’s shelf, can slip down on an outside wall over time, according to several Amazon customers. One reviewer fixed the issue by driving a second screw under the foot to keep it in place. We didn’t see that difficulty on the rough brick walls we were testing the bracket on, but it could be a significant issue on a smoother material, such as vinyl siding.

The mounting hardware on the Frost King (left) is more durable than the Jeacent’s (right).

Two adjustable wrenches, or two 7/16′′ wrenches, or a mix of the two

• A drill (if you don’t have one already, now is a perfect time to purchase one—the pick is fantastic!)

• A drill bit set with a 5/32′′ multi-purpose bit (for wood-framed buildings) and a 5/32′′ masonry bit (for brick buildings)

• A screwdriver with many bits (or any #2 Phillips driver you already own)

Here are the printable directions in English and Spanish for your convenience (PDF).

The competition is fierce.

The Frost King ACBNT2 is a unique design that consists of two bent tubes that clip together and lock against the inner and exterior walls. It is, however, confined to walls that are less than 10 inches thick. That would work on a home with wood or vinyl siding, but many apartment buildings have thicker brick walls, and the bracket didn’t even come close to fitting in either of our New York test flats, a large modern co-op and an old brownstone townhouse.

The AC Safe Doesn’t Require Any Tools 2 bracket is identical to the tubular Frost King ACBNT2 we examined, and it suffers from the same limitation of only fitting thin (10 inch or less) walls.

The EZ-AC Air Conditioner Support Bracket has a similar no-drill design to our top pick, the Top Shelf. It is, however, incompatible with Frigidaire Gallery series air conditioners, which are among the most popular in the United States.

The Universal KT-40S, like our Frost King selection, is a bracket. Numerous accounts of consumers receiving used brackets rather than new ones, as well as metric hardware rather than SAE hardware, put us off (the fractions of an inch standard used in the US).

The Smart Choice 80-pound bracket appears to be identical to our option, but with only one review at Home Depot, we looked for brackets with more experience.

Most brackets, including those from AC Safe and Smart Choice, are also available in heavy-duty variants, which are normally rated to 160 pounds. We discarded these since they are overkill for most home window air conditioners (up to 12,000 Btu, at the very least).

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