The Best Portable Air Conditioners in 2018
The summer sun beats down and you’re trying to keep your home cool. There's no breeze coming through the windows, and there's no central air conditioning either. That's where portable air conditioners come into play, and so does your need to get the best portable air conditioner for your specific use cases.
I’ve been there, done that, and found that portable air conditioners offer the ideal solution. You’re able to move them from room to room, plus you don’t have to fork out for installation. Furthermore, older adults and young children avoid the dangers of a home that’s too hot.
So, how do you find the right portable air conditioner? I’ve looked at a range of models, from 14,000 British Thermal Unit (BTU) to evaporative air conditioners to help you make the right choice.
14,000 BTU Models
According to EnergyStar, a 14,000 BTU air conditioner can cool a space of between 550 and 700 square feet. However, this drops to between 400 and 450 square feet when using the air conditioner in a kitchen.
With its sleek and compact look, this is an air conditioner that won’t clog up your room. It’s on the heavier side, as are all 14,000 BTU models. But it’s not so heavy that it’s impossible to move from room to room, plus it has small wheels.
Honeywell says that this air conditioner can cool a maximum space of 550 square feet. This puts it on the higher end of the totem pole for this type of unit. It only takes a couple of hours to cool the room, so you can pop it on during the morning to prepare for a really hot day.
I really like the adjustable speed setting, which lets you account for different temperatures. You have three to choose from, so you won’t freeze your house up when you only need a bit of cooling. The fan-only and dehumidifier functions also have variable speeds to match the overall speed setting. Overall, this might be the best portable AC unit for you if you prefer a lot of flexibility.
The auto evaporation feature also makes it stand out as a dehumidifier too. The air conditioner collects about 110 pints of water every 24 hours. However, you don’t have to keep changing tanks to collect it all because the air conditioner evaporates it away.
I’m also a big fan of the remote. It allows you to change settings while you’re on the move, plus it displays the temperature setting at all times. Of course, there’s also an LCD display with soft buttons on the unit itself if you want to get up close and personal.
The auto-shutoff feature will prove useful if you’re the forgetful type. It turns the air conditioner off every 24 hours, which lowers the risk of it overheating.
Unfortunately, the unit doesn’t offer you any way to control the direction of the air flow. It emits air from the top of the unit, which then spreads naturally across the room. If you want to have more control, you may need to place a fan above the unit that directs the air where you want it to go.
It’s also not the quietest unit around, coming in at 52 decibels (dB). This means you’ll hear a constant hum that sounds a little like light traffic. Still, it’s nowhere near the constant 85dB level that could damage your ears.
The ARC-14S stands out because of its triple function. As well as acting like an air conditioner, you can also use it to dehumidify a room or as a fan. It’s fine for any room up to 500 square feet, though you may find that this max drops down on really hot days.
I also like the dual-hose system as it makes the unit more environmentally-friendly. The two hoses mean you need less power to keep the unit running at maximum capacity. Better yet, it means that the unit cools the room faster than its single-hose competitors.
Whynter continues this environmental focus with the materials used in the unit. The R-410A refrigerant doesn’t deplete the ozone layer, which may make this unit a good choice for those keeping an eye on their carbon footprints. It also uses lead-free components, all of which comply with the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) standards.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with an auto-evaporation feature. However, it does have an auto-drain system which prevents the internal tank from filling up so much that it leaks. The unit recycles the water that it draws in, using it to create cool air.
However, my favorite thing about it has to be the venting kit, which allows you to install the unit in a window. This also makes it easier to place the intake and exhaust hoses in places that don’t affect your home. It’s a versatile kit too, coming with a slide bar and the fixtures you need to attach the unit to a wall or ceiling.
It’s heavier than most, coming in at 80 lbs. Lifting and installing it will likely be a two-person job. However, it has little wheels on the base if you want to use it as a freestanding unit that you can move between rooms.
Like the other units on my list, this offers triple functionality, with a fan and dehumidifier coming as part of the package. However, it’s on the weaker side of things. DeLonghi recommend a max room size of 450 square feet, which is something that most other 14,000 BTU units handle easily.
Still, there are plenty of reasons why I’ve added this to my list. This may be one of the best portable air conditioning units for those worried about allergens in their home. It uses a BioSilver air filter, meaning it catches any dust, pollen, or other allergens, rather than recirculating them into your air.
It’s also one of the quietest 14,000 BTU units around thanks to the Whisper Cool technology. DeLonghi claims their unit produces 50% less sound than others, though this seems like a vague metric. You’ll still hear the hum you get with most portable units, but it’s not quite as distracting as it is with the other more powerful units on my list. All in all, this DeLonghi unit will suit you well if you're looking for the quietest portable air conditioner that you can get your hands on.
It doesn’t have the most powerful dehumidifier around, though. At the maximum setting, it can get rid of 84 pints of moisture in 24 hours. This is probably enough for most people, but you may want to consider a unit with a stronger dehumidifier if you live in a really humid area.
It’s another heavy unit too, though it does have wheels to make it easier to move between rooms. You can control the cooling features via the LCD screen on the unit or the remote that comes with the package. I really like the built-in timer, which lets you decide what times within a 24-hour period that the unit will operate.
Better yet, you don’t have to worry about those pesky tanks of water. Like the ARC-14S, this unit recycles the air that it intakes into the cooling unit.
It’s a single-hose unit, which means it is not as efficient as others. This may not make it the best choice for the environmentally-conscious. However, the quieter operation means that it may be more at home in bedrooms than most 14,000 BTU units.
he design is the first thing that pops out for me with this unit. Featuring a sleek combination of black and silver, it’ll fit in nicely in homes that have modern décor. I think it may be a particularly good choice as a kitchen unit that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Of course, looks mean nothing if it doesn’t do the job. The unit has a maximum cooling capacity of 700 square feet, making it one of the more powerful units on my list. Still, the amount of shade and light in the room affect this max, and I think it’s most at home in a room of about 500 square feet.
At 83lbs, it’s about the same weight as the other 14,000 BTU units on my list. It also has wheels at the base, so you shouldn’t have any issues using it as a freestanding unit. The unit comes with a window kit, which allows you to install it in any sliding window up to a maximum width of 46 inches.
The unit has a digital display with soft buttons that make it easy to switch between the three cooling settings. It also comes with a remote, though this doesn’t tell you what temperature you’ve set the unit at. This means you’ll have to engage in a little guesswork before you find the right setting.
I’m also a fan of the unit’s safety focus. It carries approval from The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). This means it meets a high standard of manufacture, which offers the peace of mind you need to keep it running for long periods of time.
Unfortunately, the instructions let the package down because they’re not as clear as they should be. You may have to experiment with the unit to figure out how to use its dehumidifier function, for example.
The single-hose design also makes it a power guzzler, and it’s a touch nosier than most. Still, I did like that you could set it to work at various times of the day. It also recycles some of the water it takes in, assuming you can get the dehumidifier working.
12,000 BTU Models
The next step down, 12,000 BTU models work best in rooms of between 450 and 550 square feet. However, I find that this drops in really hot rooms.
The all-black design lends this unit a modern look, allowing it to blend nicely into most rooms. However, it’s on the weaker side of the 12,000 BTU models when it comes to output. It has a max room cooling capacity of 300 square feet, which limits where you can use it.
It does have multiple cooling settings though. You can pull the output down to 7,000 BTU if needed. This may make it a great choice for those who want to move the unit between small and large rooms.
I like how you can use it as a dehumidifier, though it’s again less powerful than some other units. It can handle 2.6 pints every hour, creating a 24-hour max of 62.4 pints. That’s fine in mostly dry conditions, though you may want to look elsewhere if you live in a really humid area and want a multi-functional air conditioner.
The lack of noticeable noise really impresses me, plus the unit doesn’t rattle when in use. This is particularly important if you decide to secure it to a window using the included mount. That mount also offers plenty of insulation, so only the hose creates a gap in the window.
It’s capable of using some of the air it takes in as part of the cooling system. However, you will have to empty the tank on occasion too. Luckily, the tank is quite high up in the unit, which makes it easy to access. You won’t have to tip the unit over to get your hands on it.
I also like the remote, which has a digital screen that displays the temperature setting at all times. The arrow buttons make quick changes, plus you can set the timer using the remote.
Be wary of the exhaust tube though. It really heats up after extended use, which presents a danger to children and animals if you’re using it as a freestanding unit.
The first thing you’ll notice about the MN12CES is the amount of power it packs into such a small unit. It’s able to cool a room of 450 square feet, meaning it rivals some 14,000 BTU units in terms of cooling strength. It also has a dehumidifier function, which can handle almost 80 pints of water in a 24-hour period.
There’s no internal tank to mess around with either. Like Honeywell’s other units, this evaporates the water it takes in rather than collecting it in a tank. Instead, the water collects in an external bucket, which you just pick up and empty whenever needed.
It’s also a lightweight unit, coming in at less than 70lbs. That’s quite good for its size, plus the unit has caster wheels at the base so you won’t have to lift it unless you want to install it in a window.
Honeywell claims quiet operation, but it reaches a 55dB level. As a result, it may not be the best choice for use in a bedroom if you’re a light sleeper. Generally, the noise blends into the background when you use the unit in other rooms.
The LCD panel lets you know about more precise settings, plus I really like the buttons. They require very little pressure, so you won’t find yourself jamming your finger into them just to change the temperature by a degree.
It also comes with a remote that you can also use to set the deactivation time. Unfortunately, the remote doesn’t have its own display, so it’s only really useful for making little temperature changes. You’ll still have to check the unit’s display to make more precise adjustments.
I also like the use of R-410A refrigerant, which means there’s no ozone depleting going on here.
It comes with a portable window bracket too, which is fairly easy to set up. However, I’m not a fan of the cheap plastic plugs that come with the bracket. Plus there aren’t any rubber seals around the unit so it may feel less secure when mounted.
There are few air conditioning units that look as stylish as the FGPC1244T1. The cylindrical design almost makes it look like a freestanding speaker, though it still weighs 85lbs. Unfortunately, the cool design also means there are no caster wheels on the base, so you’ll have to lift it if you want to move it to another room.
However, I think it redeems itself with its Wi-Fi capabilities. You can download an app to your phone, which you can use like a remote to control the unit’s settings. I like this because it means you don’t have to worry about losing the remote, plus you can change settings from any room that shares the same Wi-Fi connection.
I also like how you can dim the LED display, which makes it viewable in darker rooms. You can adjust the temperature at the touch of a button, plus the unit comes with several pre-set modes. These include settings for various heat levels and an eco-setting that limits electricity use.
It has a dehumidifier with a 72-pint limit, but it’s the air ionizer that really stands out. This isn’t a common feature in portable air conditioners, and it may make this a great choice for those worried about air quality. The ionizer applies a static charge to dust and other particles so they stick to the nearest surface, rather than floating around in the air that you breathe.
Coming back to the cylindrical design, it also has a more practical use. It allows for 360-degree air emission, which cools rooms quicker than units that emit air in one direction. As a result, it’s suitable for rooms up to 550 square feet in area.
It’s fairly loud, clocking in at 56dB. But that’s not the real problem when it comes to noise. The unit doesn’t offer a consistent hum and this constantly changing tone may prove distracting.
I’m also not a big fan of the handles built into the unit’s side. They’re not as sturdy as you’d expect from handles that need to support an 85 lbs weight. Plus, they don’t offer much grip.
With a dehumidifier function that can handle 90 pints per day, this may be one of the best 12,000 BTU units for those living in humid conditions. It also has an auto-drain system that uses most of the condensate that it collects. However, you will find that the internal tank fills quickly in really humid conditions.
There’s also a clear dedication to meeting current safety standards. Not only does the unit use R-401A refrigerant, but it also meets the current RoHS standards. This means the unit’s materials won’t release harmful toxins into the air while it’s in operation.
Design-wise, there’s no getting around the fact that it looks a little like a bin. EdgeStar compensate for this somewhat with some sleek curves. However, the lack of caster wheels also lets the package down, especially because it weighs over 70lbs.
The panel is on the basic side, but it does everything you need it to. There’s an LED screen that displays the temperature and small lights tell you which setting you have the unit on. There’s also a timer, which you can use to determine when the unit comes on in 12-hour increments.
EdgeStar claim the unit can cool an area of 425 square feet, and it seems to meet those standards most of the time. Of course, that doesn’t account for different lighting and shading conditions, which can lessen the max area. Still, that’s an issue with most portable air conditioners.
It also comes with a window fitting kit that may be one of the largest available. Where most units offer a 46-inch kit, this one comes with a 55-inch maximum. You can scale that down too, but this large maximum size may make it a good choice for those who’ve found that other units don’t fit their windows.
I’m not a big fan of the exhaust hose that comes with it though. It’s a touch on the short side, which means you can never move the unit too far away from a window.
10,000 BTU Models
According to EnergyStar, a 10,000 BTU unit should handle room sizes of between 400 and 450 square feet. However, the same disclaimers apply in regard to room lighting and temperature.
Another combined air conditioner, fan, and dehumidifier, it’s the latter setting that stands out for me. Despite being a 10,000 BTU unit, the MN10CES can absorb up to 70 pints of water per day. That’s not enough to handle the most humid of conditions, but it’s impressive for a unit of this size.
As for the air conditioner, it works best in rooms of 350 square feet or below. It will take about three hours to cool the entire room, so it’s best to get it running early if you anticipate a hot day. As is expected from a 10,000 BTU model, this is not the best portable air conditioner for you if you're after very powerful cooling.
Simplicity and functionality are the names of the game with this unit though. The small LED display tells you what you need to know about the current temperature, and you shouldn’t run into any problems switching between modes. There’s a remote too, though it doesn’t tell you anything about your temperature setting so it’s best used for making minor adjustments.
Like the other Honeywell units, this evaporates water rather than collecting the condensate in an internal tank. That makes cleanup easy, though you may still want to pop the exhaust hose into a bucket if you can’t install the unit near a window.
It’s also on the lighter side, weighing in at 50 pounds. That makes it quite easy to carry, though the unit has small caster wheels too. Still, that low weight makes installing it in a window quite simple.
Speaking of which, you get a window fitting kit as part of the package too. It’s non-permanent and accounts for the exhaust hose. Of course, there’s the usual issue of your window size to consider, but I think it does the job in most cases.
It’s also on the quieter side, which may make it a good choice for use in a bedroom. However, the noise level will increase when the unit engages the main fan. The hose also feels quite stiff, which may limit unit placement.
Though it’s a 10,000 BTU unit, this air conditioner doesn’t offer as much cooling capacity as you might expect. It’s fine for rooms of 250 square feet or below, but it struggles to maintain a constant temperature in larger rooms. The vertical-facing vents spread air quite well, but you may want to use another fan to push the air in a particular direction around the room.
It also functions as a fan and dehumidifier. I really like the auto-evaporation feature, which I’ve only really seen in the Honeywell units so far. There’s no dealing with internal tanks, and the easily-removable filter ups the convenience level even more.
I don’t usually get excited about hoses but I love the one that comes with this unit. At almost 5ft long, it gives you so many options when it comes to unit placement. You don’t have to have it standing right next to the window, which also means you don’t restrict airflow to a single side of the room.
Having said that, you can still connect it to a window or wall with the special kit. The detailed owner’s manual helps you along with that, as well as telling you exactly how to use the unit.
It’s also easy to program, and allows you to set the unit’s operation over the course of 24 hours. I also really like the remote, which has its own LED screen so you can always keep track of the temperature.
The unit also has caster wheels, though it’s also not too hard to lift given that it weighs about 50lbs. There are even small handles built into the sides, which offer an alternative if something goes wrong with the wheels.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the louder 10,000 BTU models. It’s also not helped by the loud noise it makes whenever it switches itself on or off. Still, it comes with 12-months warranty for parts and labor.
The combination of a two-way fan and two-way air direction helps this unit to stand out. Combined, these features allow for a more even spread of cool air around a space of about 250 square feet.
Like most of the other units on my list, this comes with a dehumidifier mode. It’s capable of handling about 62 pints of water per day, so it’ll keep most small spaces quite dry. That water does collect in an internal tray, but there’s a handy indicator on the unit that tells you when it’s on the verge of filling up.
However, I did find that the tank fills up quite quickly. When used as a dehumidifier, you may have to empty the tank every couple of hours. You’ll even need to make a couple of changes per day when just using it as an air conditioner.
It’s slightly heavier than some of the other 10,000 BTU units I’ve looked at, but only by a couple of pounds. It shouldn’t present any problems when you try to lift it, plus it has caster wheels at the base so you can roll it from room to room. I also like the grooves on the side, which offer plenty of space for your hands.
You get a window fitting kit too, but the instructions aren’t the best in the world. They’re little more than a few pictures, so they may prove less useful for those who haven’t installed an air conditioning unit in a window before. Everything fits together well enough but you’ll have to mess around with the kit to figure it out.
It has a 55dB noise output, which is pretty standard for this type of unit. It does mean you get the general hum that may make this unit unsuitable for use in a bedroom. But it’s no more than what you’d experience with most of the units on my list.
It has a top-mounted control panel that’s quite easy to use. The included remote isn’t quite as good though, as the small buttons can make it difficult to figure out what each is for.
Costway goes for a no-frills design with this unit, which has good and bad points. The sheer white means that it fits well in most rooms, but it’s also a touch on the boring side. Still, it has handles and caster wheels, so portability isn’t a problem.
You’ll find a simple control panel on top of the unit, with squidgy buttons that need a little force to work properly. Still, it does the job and you get a remote so you can change temperatures from anywhere in the room. There’s a 24-hour timer too, so you can tell the unit exactly what you need it to do during the day.
It also has a two-way fan system and a dehumidifier built in. The auto-condensate function means that it recycles some of the water it takes in. However, you’ll likely have to empty the tray a few times each day, especially when using the dehumidifier setting.
Unfortunately, it’s not the most powerful 10,000 BTU unit around, as it struggles with rooms larger than 200 square feet. Still, it has a 5ft hose that allows you to position it away from a wall to get a more even air flow. It’s an uninsulated tube though, so it generates quite a lot of heat after extended use.
There’s not much else to say about this simple unit. It may be great as a backup for a more powerful unit, but it does a decent enough job in small rooms as a main unit too.
8,000 BTU Models
8,000 BTU air conditioners can sometimes cool rooms of up to 300 square feet. However, they usually work best in rooms of between 100 and 200 square feet.
With no visible vents on the front, this unit looks sleek enough to slot into most rooms without clashing against the existing furniture too much. The two-tone color scheme also lends it a certain elegance, with white at the front and gray at the back.
It combines air conditioning with a dehumidifier, and works best when used in a room of about 150 square feet. It can also handle about 43 pints of water per day on the dehumidifier setting, which is at the upper end of what you can expect from an 8,000 BTU model. I don’t think it’ll dry up a really wet room, but it should work fine for the average bedroom or basement.
Despite its lower power level, it weighs more than the 10,000 BTU units I looked at above. At just under 60lbs, it’s not the easiest unit to move into place. The caster wheels help with that though.
I like the automatic vent on the top, which acts like a louver window. It closes when the air doesn’t need cooling, only opening again when things start warming up. It’s a minor design feature, but it adds to the sleekness of the overall package.
The simple control panel allows you to set the timer over a period of 24 hours. You also receive a remote, which has a little LED screen that lets you know what effect any adjustments you make will have. I also like how you can switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit depending on your preference.
The auto-evaporation system is also a plus, as this means there’s practically no chance of water leaks. Unfortunately, it’s a touch on the loud side, despite being a small unit.
Another combined fan, dehumidifier, and air conditioner, this can handle most rooms of up to 250 square feet. It also contains an auto-evaporation system, which works well in regular conditions. If you use the dehumidifier, expect to empty the occasional tray.
Speaking of the dehumidifier, it can absorb about 45 pints per day. This puts it on par with most other units in its class and should be fine for the average living room or office space. You also have a choice between manual and auto-draining for when the water intake exceeds the evaporation system’s capabilities.
I do like the use of R-410A refrigerant, plus the unit carries RoHS certification to say that it’s free of lead components. This means there’s no risk of toxic lead particles finding their way into your air supply.
It’s a surprisingly heavy unit given its compact size, weighing in at about 64 pounds. That means you need to take care if you’re using the plastic window fitting kit, as one false move could break the kit. It does have chunky caster wheels though, so it’s easy to move between rooms.
The touch panel on top of the unit controls the settings, which include a timer and auto-off function. You also receive a remote, though it’s not much use if you’re not in the room with the unit.
I’m not a huge fan of the hose though. It doesn’t seem to connect as snugly as I would like, so it comes loose easily when you try to move the unit. A little duct tape solves the problem, but it’s not something you should have to worry about in the first place.
Design elegance defines this unit, as it has several clever touches that may make it the cleverest air conditioner in its class. I particularly like the little groove at the top of the unit, which you can slot the remote into when it’s not in use. The filter’s also accessible from the side, so you don’t have to open the unit up to clean it.
It’s quite powerful too, being capable of cooling room of up to 300 square feet. Couple that with a dehumidifier function that collects over 60 pints in 24 hours and you have a unit that packs quite a punch. I also like the fan-only mode, which means that you don’t have to spend more on a portable fan.
You get a window fitting kit with the package, which is surprisingly easy to install. The detailed instructions help, so you should have it up and running in less than half an hour. That’s a major plus point given how fiddly some of these window fitting kits can be.
I did find a slight problem with the vent hose though. Neither it nor the area where it seals into the unit have any insulation. This means they become hot to the touch and also transmit some heat back into the room.
However, it’s the lightest of the units I’ve looked at in its class, weighing just over 50lbs. The little castor wheels help with portability, plus they tuck nicely under the unit so you can’t really see them when they’re not in use.
I’m also not a fan of it not having a control panel built into the unit. If something goes wrong with the remote, you have to shell out for another one as there’s no other way to change the temperature settings.
Evaporative Air Coolers
The major difference between evaporative and regular portable air conditioners is the lack of an exhaust hose. Also known as swamp coolers, these use the moisture they collect to cool the air, so there’s no Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or refrigerants in play. This makes them friendlier to the environment and they use less power since it’s more energy-efficient to pump water than to compress air, though they don’t cool as well as portable air conditioners.
A cooler capable of cooling 500 cubic feet per minute (CFM), this works best in fairly dry conditions. The manufacturer recommends not using it whenever humidity exceeds 60%, as the air can’t absorb enough water for effective evaporative cooling. Still, it’s powerful enough to cool an area of 300 square feet, which puts it in the same league as many portable AC units.
I like the evaporative technology because it leads to low power usage. There are also no refrigerants, which improves the unit’s environmental credentials further.
Unlike portable units, you have to watch out for a lack of water with this unit. There’s a handy indicator to let you know when it’s running low. The top pops off to allow you to refill it, but there are little handles that make it difficult to slot back in place when it’s full of water.
I like the control panel because it’s easy to understand without the need for instructions. You can also set the unit to cool air for between 30 minutes and 4 hours. There’s also a recessed area in front of the top flap, which is the perfect place to store the remote when it’s not in use.
The filter does collect grime quickly, so you’ll have to remove and wash it regularly. If you don’t the unit may transmit a nasty damp smell throughout the room.
There’s something industrial about this cooler that lends it a certain charm. It won’t work with every style of décor, but the huge vents may appeal to those who want something a little different.
It’s also exceptionally powerful, being capable of covering about 650 square feet. That puts it out of sight of even most of the 14,000 BTU portable air conditioners on my list. Despite this cooling capability, it has a low weight that makes it easy to carry around.
The caster wheels improve this portability further, plus the unit has a triple function. As well as being a cooler, it’s also a fan and humidifier. The latter function works well in arid conditions where you need a little moisture to feel more comfortable.
The huge water tank impressed me too, as it can hold over 10 gallons of water. This allows continuous operation for several hours before it needs a refill, even when using it as a humidifier. There’s also a handy water level indicator that you can check at a glance.
I would prefer a digital display, as I don’t think that the triple knob system makes things clear enough. There’s also no remote because of this, so you have the make manual adjustments. The hose could do with being a little stronger too.
What's BTU & How it Affects Cooling
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and it’s the standard unit of measurement for most heating and cooling systems. It tells you how much energy the unit needs to change the temperature of 16 ounces of water by a single degree Fahrenheit in either direction.
As a general rule, the higher the BTU, the larger the room that the unit can cool. However, a high BTU also requires larger components, which adds to the unit’s weight.
Higher BTU levels also often mean that the air conditioner creates more noise when in use. That’s because it’s cooling more air, thus needs a larger compressor. They’ll also consume more energy because of this.
As a result, I think higher BTU units work best in large rooms where the sound isn’t as noticeable. An office or large server room may be a good example. If you want a unit for a bedroom or living room, look for a lower BTU.
Humidifier vs Dehumidifier - What Do I Need?
Most of the units on my list come with a dehumidifier function, since the principle of air conditioning also dehumidifies the air. These pull water out of the air, often recycling it for use in the unit’s cooling systems.
Too much humidity leads to discomfort, as it causes sweating and gives you a heavy, tired feeling. High humidity also creates a perfect environment for mold growth. Mold destroys the surfaces that it grows on and releases spores that you may inhale, which can cause allergic reactions.
However, humidity isn’t all bad. Some people live in dryer conditions where a little water in the air would prove beneficial. That’s where the evaporative coolers on my list come into play, since evaporative cooling involves adding water to the air.
Ideally, you’ll keep your room’s relative humidity below 60%, but won’t dry it out completely. Use that 60% figure as a benchmark when choosing between an air conditioner and an evaporative air cooler. Evaporative coolers will have a hard time cooling humid air (60% and above relative humidity) that can’t absorb too much more water.
How Do I Measure a Room Size?
You’ll notice that I mention the ideal room size for each of the air conditioners on my list. There’s a reason for this. Large rooms won’t feel the effects of a less powerful air conditioner, while you’ll freeze with a powerful air conditioner in a small room.
Before deciding on a BTU class, you have to measure the size of your room in square feet.
It’s a simple calculation for square and rectangular rooms. Measure the length and width of the room, taking measurements in feet for both. Then, multiply the numbers.
Triangular rooms offer a little more challenge. You multiple the length by the width again, but have to divide it by two.
Unfortunately, most rooms aren’t perfect squares or triangles. As a result, you’ll have to break the room down into small squares and triangles. Measure each individually then add the numbers to get your total square footage.
You can then use this measurement to determine the ideal BTU for your unit.
FAQ about Portable ACs
I'll try to answer the most commonly asked questions about portable air conditioners below.
Why Choose a Portable AC over a Window or Split AC?
The main benefit is, as you may have guessed, the portability itself. Window or split ACs require fixed installations, so they can only cool the room they are installed in. On the other hand, portable ACs don't have that limitation. You can move them from one room to another (most portable ACs have caster-wheels to aid you in this process), as long as the room has a window (or a similar space for venting the exhaust).
Another key benefit is the cost. Portable air conditioners tend to be considerably cheaper than similar-capacity window or split units. They are also easier to install, and cost less money to install as well.
Are Portable ACs Energy Efficient?
They are. By spot cooling using a portable AC, you'll save a lot of electricity compared to using a central air conditioner to cool your entire home. You can also switch on the 'fan only' mode when the weather is relatively cooler, and that can be a great way to save on energy costs even more.
What Sort of Maintenance is Required?
While Portable ACs do need a bit of scheduled maintenance, it's usually less daunting than in case of a standard window or split AC unit. The overall upkeep costs are generally lower for portable air conditioners.
Portable ACs that have the dehumidification feature and lack the auto-evaporation technology, need their drain trays cleared manually before they are full. Usually, a warning light will start glowing as soon as it starts to get full, and the machine will shut down before it's about to become full. You'll need to empty the water container and place it back in the AC for it to start operating normally again. However, most portable ACs come with auto-evaporation these days, so this is no longer needed for those models.
Apart from this, you need to periodically clean the air dust filter. Keeping it clean helps the AC run efficiently. Cleaning the dust filter isn't hard, though. All you need to do is, to take it out every few months, place it in your sink, and rinse it thoroughly before reinstalling it in the AC.
Single Hose vs. Dual Hose
Single hose units are generally smaller and lighter than dual hose units. But, they are also less efficient than dual hose ACs. The main reason behind this is the negative air pressure that the single hose units cause. This allows hot air to leak into your room through whatever gaps there are (doors, windows, etc.).
Dual hose portable ACs, on the other hand, doesn't have this problem as they have two separate hoses for intake and exhaust, thereby not affecting the air pressure inside the room that they are housed in. Thus, dual house units are quite a bit more efficient than single hose portable ACs, and I always recommend them over single hose models, despite the slight increase in size and weight.
Are Portable Air Conditioners Noisier?
In short, yes. They are noisier than split or window ACs because their entire body (including the part that is actively involved in cooling your room) is located inside your room. This isn't the case with split ACs, where the cooling unit is located entirely outside your room, or even window ACs, where the cooling unit is located partially outside your room (i.e. hanging from outside your window).
However, they aren't unbearably noisy. With the advancement of technology, noise levels have gone down by quite a bit. And with newer models, the noise level can be as low as 48 dB (which is roughly the same intensity as rainfall).
If noise is a big factor to you, you should look specifically for a quiet portable air conditioner, which is built specifically with noise reduction (usually through vibration dampening) in mind. You can also use a rubber-made stand to reduce the noise generated by your existing portable AC unit.
The Final Word
Choosing a portable air conditioner isn’t as simple as you may think. You have to consider the size of the room, the unit’s BTU rating, and where you’re going to put it before you even look at performance. Hopefully, my guide will help you to figure out what type of unit you need, which should make your search easier.
All of the units on this list have pros and cons. Weigh up the information I’ve provided and consider how it may affect you. This will help you to make a wise choice that doesn’t waste your money.