Best portable air conditioner: Cool off where you need it most

Enjoy the convenience of cool air without the hassle of installation with the best portable air conditioner for your space.

When the broiling heat of the summer kicks in, there is no escaping the need for an air conditioner. Currently, the cooling market is packed with a wide variety of options to choose from when you absolutely need to make your living or workspace comfortable. Our modern living spaces don’t always have the specifications required for a window unit, and often we don’t need or want the expense of central air conditioning installation. The benefit of choosing a portable air conditioner is first and foremost the convenience of easy (or no) installation, the ability to move from space to space throughout the day, and finally not having to conform when you don’t have traditional cookie-cutter windows. The best portable air conditioners will leave you cool and provide the convenience of flexible movement.

  1. BEST PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER FOR LARGE ROOMS: Whynter ARC-12S
  2. BEST PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER FOR SMALL ROOMS: LG LP0817WSR
  3. BEST PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER FOR NOISE: Honeywell HL09CESWK
  4. BEST PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER FOR EASE OF USE: Black + Decker BPACT10WT
  5. BEST PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER FOR EXTRA FEATURES: MIDEA MAP10S1CWT
  6. BEST BUDGET PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER: Evapolar evaCHILL

Things to consider when shopping for the best portable air conditioner

Finding the best portable air conditioner for your space requires consideration of where and how you will use the unit. Most importantly you need to calculate the square footage of the space you need to cool, because that will inform the amount of BTU or cooling power you will need the unit to have. With a wide variety of brands and models to choose from you can find straight forward, simple, easy-to-use designs, as well as more high-tech models equipped with the latest smart technology and extra features. The best portable air conditioners, should cool your space quickly, have easy venting systems, be simple to move around and they should operate at a comfortable noise level.

How large of a space do you need to cool?

The power of any air conditioner is measured in BTU (British thermal units), which refers to the amount of energy required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. While it might be tempting to purchase a lower BTU machine because they are often less expensive, you should check the square footage of your room first. Higher BTU machines can cool larger spaces than smaller ones.

The downsides to buying a low-BTU unit for a large room are clear, but getting one that’s too powerful for your small space isn’t smart either. While you might assume that a more powerful machine would have to work less to cool your room, the fact that the machine would quickly cool and then cycle off (to maintain your desired temperature) can actually end up taxing and overworking the compressor. This overworked compressor can then shorten the lifespan of the air conditioner.

An extra tip to note is that in addition to the exact square footage measurements, you have to consider whether the room has extra sun exposure. For example, a room that faces west, would have an excess of sun during the summer and experts suggest adding 10% onto your overall room size to accommodate that extra heat.

Best portable air conditioner for large rooms: Whynter ARC-12S

If You’ve Got A Large Room

Highly rated and fast-cooling 14,000 BTU dual-hose portable air conditioner. Amazon

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This award-winning unit has proved to cool rooms quickly and can accommodate larger spaces up to 500 square feet. With three versatile operational modes, the portable unit performs as an air conditioner, dehumidifier, and fan. An auto drain function will exhaust all condensation automatically without the need to manually service the machine.

Best portable air conditioner for small rooms: LG LP0817WSR

When You Don’t Have A Lot Of Space

8,000 BTU oscillating unit evenly distributes cooler air with sleek LED touch screen controls. Amazon

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A great choice for smaller rooms, this portable AC unit cools up to 200 square feet. Oscillating air discharge helps distribute cool air evenly throughout the space. An auto-evaporation system means no buckets to dump, and the unit can connect to your smartphone for added control and smart features.

How quiet or noisy is the unit?

If you’ve ever woken up at night to the rumbling and crackling of a noisy air conditioner then you know how important it is to consider operational noise. Some people are sensitive sleepers and will easily awake when their air conditioner cycles between on and off as the compressor adjusts to maintain the room temperature setting. Noise level is measured in decibels, which is a unit for expressing the relative intensity of sounds on a scale from zero (least perceptible) to about 130 (pain-inducing). The hum of the average refrigerator is about 50 decibels, and a whispered conversation is about 20 decibels. If you are to be using the air purifier in an office or living room where conversations are occurring, a louder setting may not be disruptive at all and may generally go unnoticed. The best portable air conditioners will have only a moderate level of noise, ideally between 40 to 55 decibels.

Best portable air conditioner for noise: Honeywell HL09CESWK

It Won’t Keep You Awake

A 9,000 BTU, quiet air conditioner ideal for smaller rooms or bedrooms. Amazon

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This Honeywell portable air conditioner is lauded as a quiet choice due to a low operating decibel level of 49 on the low setting, and 52 on the high setting. In addition, this machine doesn’t make a loud noise when the compressor kicks on. The unit includes 2 air filters which are washable to help circulate cleaner air.

How easy is it to use?

Sometimes the best designs are the ones that are simple and easy to use. While extra features and the latest technology can be impressive, it’s not a bad idea to opt for simplicity. Choosing an appliance that sticks with key main features and that uses menus and controls that are so straight forward that you don’t need to read a thick manual or PDF can make your user experience pleasant.

A portable air conditioner with a graphic menu will make it easy for people of all ages and languages spoken to use and enjoy. A simple setup can also make life easier for everyone. Look for a single-hose system that is made to fit into windows without loads of extra hardware.

Best portable air conditioner for ease of use: Black + Decker BPACT10WT

Basic And Great

Highly rated 10,000 BTU portable air conditioner with easy-to-read graphic controls. Amazon

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This Black and Decker portable air conditioner cools up to 150 square feet and includes a sleep mode for extra quietness at night. Installation is simple and quick with the included hose and window adapter kit, which can be held in place without hardware depending on your window setup.

What kinds of extra bells and whistles do you want?

Advances in technology allow portable air conditioners to include nuanced smart design controls. By connecting your machine through Wi-Fi you can install an app on your smartphone, register the unit, and then have access to a wide variety of controls. Some extra features offered include scheduling of turning the unit off and on, connection with Alexa and Google Assistant, specialized sleep settings that work to adjust the temperature throughout the night, and remote controls to adjust fans, temperatures, and humidity levels.

Some portable air conditioners also serve additional functions. Some models of portable air conditioners include not only cooling but heating features—others can also be used as dehumidifiers and air ionizers for purification.

Best portable air conditioner with extra features: MIDEA MAP10S1CWT

Control From Anywhere

A Wi-Fi-connected pick with voice control, dehumidifying, and more. Amazon.com

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This sleek, portable air conditioner offers 12,000 BTU of cooling power and connects to your smartphone allows for some interesting controls including a complex sleep setting that slowly decreases power in order to save energy and remain quieter while you snooze.

FAQ: Other questions people have about portable air conditioners

What is required to set up a portable air conditioner?

While it’s important to review the specific instructions of the model air conditioner you are considering purchasing, portable air conditioners typically have a quick and easy setup. The air conditioner sits on wheels so can be easily moved into place. In order to remove the warm air and moisture, you will need to vent to an outside location. Window kits include an exhaust hose, and are designed to fit into a wide variety of sizes and types of windows. Some models can vent into a drop ceiling or through a wall, but you need to check the model to see if that is possible.

What size air conditioner (BTU level) should I get?

You need to calculate the size of the room or space and determine the area in square feet that you will be cooling in order to select the correct model. Portable air conditioners should list the number of square feet they can cool right in the product description or on the packaging. Smaller units between 7,000 and 10,000 BTU can typically cool up to 300 square feet. Larger spaces that are between 350 and 700 square feet need approximately 11,000 to 15,000 BTUs of cooling power.

Are portable air conditioners energy efficient?

The best way to check the energy efficiency of the portable air conditioner that you are considering is to look at the Energy Efficiency Rating (EER). In general portable air conditioners are slightly less efficient than wall-mounted units, but more efficient than running a full central air conditioning system.

How noisy are portable air conditioners?

If you are concerned about the noise created by the portable air conditioner, look at the decibel rating (dB level) on the product description page or product packaging. Most portable air conditioners operate between 48 dB and 60 dB. If you’re noise-sensitive we recommend sticking with a machine under 55 dB. With any unit, noise levels will increase as the unit is switched from low to high cool settings.

Best budget portable air conditioner: What you get for under $150

If you are in the market for something effective that is still affordable, check out the versatile Evapolar evaCHILL Personal Evaporative Air Cooler and Humidifier. As the name implies, this evaCHILL handles a few different jobs, from personal cooling to humidifying to even removing dust particles from the air. It weighs a scant 2 pounds, so it’s easy to move around from room to room, and it’s leak-proof water tank ensures you won’t be leaving a trail of puddles when you do. A perfect 6 1/2 inch cube, it doesn’t take up space, either.

The bottom line on the best portable air conditioners

Portable air conditioners are great options for your work or home, and advances in technology offer a lot of smart features to subtly control the temperature and humidity of your space. Finding the best portable air conditioner depends upon examining the size and type of space you will be cooling, and then determining if you require a simple, straight forward machine—or if you would benefit from extra features. All the best machines will be easy to install, operate with minimal noise, and be able to roll from room to room as desired. With all this in mind, finding a solution should be no sweat.