There are many things to love about summer, but unfortunately, the heat is not always so lovable. Central air can be very pricey and heavy window units can be cumbersome and difficult to install. Thankfully, there is a third much simpler option: a portable air conditioner.
Portable air conditioners are similar to window units in that they do have to be vented out a window, but they are much easier to install and do not interfere with the aesthetics of your home’s exterior.
As you would expect, there are a lot of portable air conditioners to choose from, so we did our research and we are ready to share all of our findings with you. We will give you a quick review of our favorites as well as provide you with all the information you will need to find the best portable air conditioner for you.
Top 4 Best Portable Air Conditioners of 2021
- Whynter ARC-14S: Best Overall Portable Air Conditioner
- Shinco Portable Air Conditioner: Best Budget Portable Air Conditioner
- Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner: Best Low Maintenance Portable Air Conditioner
- Global Air Portable Air Conditioner: Best Compact Portable Air Conditioner
Reviews of the Best Portable Air Conditioners
Not only does the Whynter ARC-14S air conditioner offer everything you need to easily cool your space, but it also looks good while doing it. This sleek black and platinum unit was named the “Best Overall Portable Air Conditioner” by Good Housekeeping in 2019. Who are we to argue with Good Housekeeping?
This is a dual hose unit that will cool your room quickly and efficiently. It has three different functions: fan, dehumidifier, and air conditioner. It has a temperature range of 61° to 89° as well as an easy to read control panel, so setting the perfect temperature is a breeze. This unit is also programmable and it comes with a remote control for easy, consistent climate control.
This unit offers auto-draining, so you do not have to empty a water reservoir. It also has two filters, offering you clean cool air throughout the summer months. It comes with an easy to install window kit and sturdy easy-motion wheels, so you will have no trouble installing this unit in any room where there is window access.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
Looking to cool a smaller space and don’t want to break the bank? Then take a look at the Shinco Portable Air Conditioner. It is 8,000 BTU, so the perfect size for a 200 to 350sq.ft. space. This is a partial evaporation unit, so the condensation tank does not have to be emptied as often. It also has a reusable, easy to clean filter for simple maintenance.
This air conditioner is compact, lightweight, and easy to move. The included window kit is simple to install, so set-up only takes 5 to 10 minutes. The LED control panel is easy to read and simple to use, so you can have your room cooling in no time. It also has a programmable timer so you can ensure that it is cooling your space right when you need it too.
You can use this unit strictly as an air conditioner or as a dehumidifier, so even on cooler days, you can keep the humidity under control. It also has a quiet mode, so it can keep you cool while you sleep, even if you’re a light sleeper.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
Black+Decker can always be relied on to design simplistic products that get the job done right. This 10,000 BTU Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner will cool your 250sq.ft. room quickly and efficiently. This unit comes with sturdy wheels and handles for easy transport, making this model a great choice for those who want to use their air conditioner in multiple rooms.
The bucketless design means that you will not have to worry about emptying a reservoir. It also has a reusable filter that you can easily rinse clean rather than having to spend money replacing it. The easy to read display and convenient remote offer straightforward operation for users of all ages. These features make this model perfect for those who are looking for a simple unit that is easy to use and maintain.
This unit is programmable and has a quiet mode for use at night, so you can stay cool and sleep peacefully. It comes with the required window kit and is easy to install, making this unit simplistic from start to finish.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
If you are short on space, but still need a way to stay cool this summer, check out the Global Air Portable Air Conditioner. This compact unit weighs only 34lb, which is less than half as much as other portable air conditioners. It also comes with durable caster wheels and side handles for easy transport.
Global air designed this unit to be low maintenance as well as convenient. It is tankless and has a washable filter, meaning you will never have to empty a reservoir or buy new filters. The simplistic digital display makes it easy for you to set your desired temperature and fan power. It also comes with a remote control so you can make adjustments from across the room.
This unit is designed to cool up to 300sq.ft. with its unique four-way direction fan. Just like it sounds, the fan blows air in four directions to help cool your room quicker. When it comes to set up, this unit comes with everything you need to vent it in an easy to install window kit.Learn More and Buy Now at Amazon
How We Chose The Best Portable Air Conditioners
When choosing the best portable air conditioners we took into consideration a few key elements including power, portability, and ease of use.
As you have probably guessed by now, the cooling capacity on air conditioners is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). Higher numbers mean bigger cooling capacity. So why didn’t we choose all super high BTU units? Because higher BTUs also means higher prices and if you are only cooling 150sq.ft. room, there is no need to spend extra money on a unit that can cool 600sq.ft. We chose a variety of sizes so that there would be an option for everyone.
Calling these air conditioners ‘portable’ may seem a bit misleading, since you can’t just move them from room to room without any effort. You still have to move the vent and window unit, which can take time. That being said, we did look for features that would make these units reasonably portable and easy to set up once they were in place. Many companies sell extra window units so that you can have the vents already set up in each room that you want to air condition. Having the window units already set up makes moving your air conditioner a lot easier.
Ease of Use
One of the most important things to consider when making any purchase is how easy that product is to use. There is no sense in investing a lot of money into an air conditioner that is so complicated or cumbersome that you never use it. With this in mind, we chose models that were easy to install, most taking no more than 10 minutes to set up. We also looked for simple control panels and convenient remote controls. And last, but never least, we were careful to choose low-maintenance models. With these air conditioners, you can simply enjoy a nice cool climate without having to fret about whether the unit is in good working order.
What You Need To Know About Portable Air Conditioners
Before you make your purchase, there are a couple of important things that you should know about portable air conditioners.
One Hose or Two
You will probably have noticed that we mentioned each unit being single or dual hosed. A single-hose unit has only one hose for air intake and exhaust. Single hose units work just fine, they simply take longer to cool down your space. A dual-hose unit has two hoses, one for air intake and one for exhaust. This allows the unit to vent out more hot air which means quicker cooling time. Both types work, but if you want your room to cool down quickly, it may be worth investing a bit more into a dual-hose unit.
Moisture combined with higher temperatures can lead to the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. That is why it is so important to keep the humidity in your home well-balanced. Portable air conditioners help to keep that balance by removing excess moisture from the air and processing it in different ways. There are three main types of dehumidifiers that you should know about: traditional, partial evaporation, and auto-drain.
1. Traditional Dehumidifiers: Traditional dehumidifiers pull the moisture from the air and deposit it into a water reservoir or tank that has to be emptied periodically. This isn’t a huge deal but it can be a little time consuming and inconvenient. Some of these dehumidifiers can be equipped with a drainage hose so that the water is simply piped down a drain or out a window, which is much more convenient. These are a good choice for those who live in areas with very high humidity.
2. Partial Evaporation: Partial evaporation units use some of the moisture in the air to cool the unit itself. This causes some of the water to evaporate and be drawn out through the exhaust pipe. These units still have water tanks, but they do not need to be emptied as often.
3. Auto-Drain: Auto-draining units fully exhaust all moisture out through the venting system, meaning that there is never any water to be removed from the unit. These are a great option for those who live in areas with moderate to high humidity and do not want to worry about emptying the water tank.
Expert Tip: It is very important that your air conditioner remains upright at all times. Since they are sometimes turned on their side during shipping, make sure you leave your unit standing upright for at least 24 hours before using it. Turning it on sooner can result in damage to the unit.
How to Choose The Best Portable Air Conditioner
Now we get to the important part, how to choose the best portable air conditioner for you! There are two main things that you should think about when choosing your unit: size and portability. After that, you just have to choose the extra features that best meet your needs.
Size Is Everything
As we mentioned in the section about cooling capacity, it is very important to choose a unit that is the right size for your space. As a general rule, the sizing is as follows:
- 8,000 BTU: 200 to 300sq.ft.
- 10,000 BTU: 300 to 400sq.ft.
- 12,000 BTU: 400 to 500sq.ft.
- 14,000 BTU: 500 to 600sq.ft.
Keep in mind that this is just a general guideline and that there are a few factors that come into play when determining the best size for each room. For example, if the room has lower ceilings and fewer windows, a smaller unit may work just fine in a bigger room. On the other hand, if your room has high ceilings and a lot of windows, you may have to choose a more powerful unit to get the job done. Windows let in more sunlight which naturally makes the room warmer, so if your room gets a lot of sunlight throughout the day, it will require more power to keep it cool. Simply consider your space and determine what amount of power is required. If you are still not sure, you can always call a manufacturer, give them the room details, and they can suggest the right size for you.
The next thing you should consider is your portability requirements. If you plan on only using the unit in one room, then portability may not be much of a concern. If you do want to use it in multiple rooms, such as your home office during the day and your bedroom at night, then portability is a must. Either look for a unit with a very simple window kit that can be installed and removed repeatedly or look for a manufacturer that sells extra window kits so you can have one in each room.
You should also take into consideration the size and weight of the unit, especially if your home has multiple floors. Some of these air conditioners can weigh up to 100lb. This is not a huge deal if you’re just rolling it across the room, but it’s definitely something to think about if you plan on carrying it upstairs every night.
The extra features are just for your convenience, but sometimes it’s those little things that make all the difference. Many models come with mode options like fan only or dehumidify only. Some have the option to be programmed to come on and shut off at certain times. Others have quiet modes for bedtime or eco-friendly modes for when you’re away from home. Take some time to really consider which features would be useful to you and which ones are just extra. There is no need to spend extra money on options that you aren’t going to use.
A portable air conditioner can make the difference between a summer spent trying to survive the heat and a pleasant summer spent enjoying your comfortable home. Portable air conditioners are much less expensive than large home units and much easier to install than the heavy window units.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of our top portable air conditioner picks, but we recommend the Whynter ARC-14S for its cooling capacity, features and size. Compare all of your options before making a final decision, though, to make sure that you’re choosing the right model for your circumstances.