Best Portable Air Conditioners 2022

More powerful than tower fans and easier to move from room to room than window units, portable air conditioners are among the most versatile cooling devices out there. If you need to cool off a large space, powerhouse models can efficiently tackle areas up to 600 square feet or more; some machines even double as dehumidifiers and space heaters. We believe the best model on the market is the mid-priced Whynter Elite ARC-122DS, as it offers great functionality for most homes. That said, there are plenty of other great options out there, depending on your unique cooling needs and preferences.

“The most important things to consider in your choice are the room size you need to cool and the location of ventilation and drainage,” says Chris Forbus, owner of Choice Air Care, a Texas-based air conditioning and heating services company. When shopping, Forbus suggests looking closely at each unit’s BTU rating, which measures its power. Beyond that, you may also want to consider factors like noise level, venting method and programmability.

Ready to upgrade your cooling setup? Here are eight of the best portable air conditioners you can buy right now, along with the reasons why we think they’re great. For a more fleshed-out breakdown on the factors worth considering when shopping for a unit, check out our handy buying guide located just below our picks.

 

Best Portable Air Conditioner Overall

A Mighty Machine That Can Chill Up To 400 Square Feet

Power: 12,000 BTU ASHRAE / 7,000 BTU DOE | Coverage area: Up to 400 square feet | Noise level: Less than 52 dB | Additional features: Includes fan and dehumidifier functions

While you’ll find the slightly larger Whynter ARC-14S elsewhere on this list, the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS earns its place as the best overall portable air conditioner by providing most of the same capabilities at a lower price point. With the 12,000 BTU ASHRAE (7,000 BTU DOE), this cooling engine can handle rooms up to 400 square feet and has three operating modes: cooling, fan-only and dehumidifier-only.

Unlike most units in this price range, this is a dual-hose system; one hose serves as an input and the other as an exhaust, which makes it run more efficiently by cooling a room without drawing in warm air. While it has an automatic drain to clear out accumulated moisture, many reviewers suggest getting a drain hose (which you’ll have to purchase separately), especially if you live in a humid area.

Pros:

  • Three operating modes
  • Dual-hose system
  • 24-hour programmable timer
  • Automatic drain

Cons:

  • Window kit doesn’t seal well

Best Portable Air Conditioner For Small Rooms

A Compact Model That Can Accommodate 250 Square Feet

Power: 10,000 BTU ASHRAE / 6,000 BTU DOE | Coverage area: Up to 250 square feet | Additional features: Fan and dehumidifier functions, sleep timer

While you don’t want an underpowered air conditioner, you also don’t want that delivers too many BTUs is wasteful. With 10,000 BTU ASHRAE (6,000 BTU DOE), this model from Black+Decker is perfect to small rooms up to about 250 square feet, though it performs best in spaces around 150 square feet.

Along with air-conditioning capabilities, this unit also functions as a fan and dehumidifier. Plus, its bucket-less design evaporates condensation from the air conditioner, meaning maintenance couldn’t be simple. Pretty much the only thing you need to do regularly is clean the filter about twice a month.

The BPACT10WT rolls around on casters for easy placement and features an LED display with controls on the top panel, but you can also operate this air conditioner using the included remote control. You’ll also appreciate the fact that it’s largely autonomous; it’ll run for 24 hours at a time with an automatic sleep timer.

Pros:

  • Ideal for small rooms
  • No drainage required
  • Automatic sleep timer

Cons:

  • Window kit is complicated to install

Best Portable Air Conditioner For Large Rooms

A Beefy, Dual-Hose Model That Means Business

Power: 14,000 BTU ASHRAE / 9,500 DOE | Coverage area: Up to 600 square feet | Noise level: Less than 56 dB | Additional features: Includes fan and dehumidifier functions

Have a large space you’re trying to cool? The Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner is near the top end of what portable AC units can do. That said, you should probably be sure you need this much air conditioning before you invest in the ARC-14S; it’s a bit of an investment, weighs a formidable 80 pounds and the lack of handles makes it challenging to move on anything but smooth flat surfaces (where the casters can help out). However, this unit means business.

Unlike most portable air conditioners, this is a dual-hose model, with one hose serving as an input and the other as an output. That makes it more efficient and better able to cool your space without unintentionally sucking more warm air into your room. It has an impressive 14,000 BTU ASHRAE (9,500 DOE) that can cool a 600-square-foot room with ease, moving 253 cubic feet per minute. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a portable unit able to cool a room faster.

Better yet, it can dehumidify an impressive 101 pints of water per day from your home and has an automatic drain function that’s supposed to exhaust moisture (although, some reviewers say they had to manually drain the unit). And if you’re concerned about air quality, it has a washable pre-filter and activated carbon air filter to keep your air fresh. Unlike some of the other options in this roundup, the Whynter air conditioner has a temperature setting between 61 degrees Fahrenheit and 89 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to set your desired temperature and let the device do its work. If you’re looking for a similar unit that also heats, check out the brand’s ARC-14SH model.

Pros:

  • Cools rooms up to 600 square feet
  • Dual-hose system
  • Multi-stage filtration system
  • Adjustable temperature setting

Cons:


Best Desktop Portable Air Conditioner

A Tiny, Sleek Model That Can Sit Right On Top Of Your Desk

Power: N/A | Coverage area: Up to 21 square feet | Noise level: 50 dB | Additional features: Simultaneously cools, humidifies and purifies; night light

Evapolar’s EvaChill is an evaporative cooler, meaning it pulls air through a moist environment to lower the temperature instead of using refrigerants. While generally less efficient than traditional air conditioners, this pint-sized gadget is ideal for small spaces. While it can’t efficiently cool an entire room, it’s more than capable of tackling a roughly 21-square-foot area around the device, such as a workspace. In fact, its nightlight feature, plus the fact it does double-duty by cooling and humidifying, makes it suitable for your sleep space. (Note: This machine is not ideal for humid climates)

The EvaChill is incredibly small—7 x 7 x 7 inches and weighs just 1.7 pounds—so it will fit easily on a tabletop or desk. Plus, its oversized tank allows it to run continuously for four to six hours. It’s powered by a USB cable, which again makes it a smart cooling solution for a home office or bedroom. If you’re only concerned about keeping your personal space cool rather than the entire room—and you want a cooler that looks like it belongs on a space ship—this unit is a tremendous value. Plus, this unit comes in three colors: ocean blue, white and gray.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Built-in night light
  • Extremely quiet

Cons:


Best Affordable Portable Air Conditioner

A Budget Option That’s A Cinch To Move From Room To Room

Power: 10,000 BTU ASHRAE / 6,000 BTU DOE | Coverage area: Up to 270 square feet | Noise level: 55 to 57 dB | Additional features: Includes fan and dehumidifier functions

The SereneLife SLPAC10 earns its status as the best affordable portable air conditioner thanks to its moderately powerful cooling abilities and its overall versatility. Not only does the SereneLife SLPAC10 operate as a simple air conditioner, but it can be used as a circulating fan (the fan automatically swings around to spread the airflow) and a dehumidifier. It comes in a variety of capacities from 8,000 BTU to 12,000 BTU. This particular model is rated for 10,000 BTU ASHRAE (6,000 BTU DOE); it’s able to keep rooms up to about 270 square feet cool with an airflow of 290 cubic meters per hour.

The SereneLife stands just under 3 feet tall and has a 17 x 13-inch footprint. It has easy-rolling casters, though, and the sides are easy to grip, making it a cinch to move around the house. Don’t expect it to be the quietest air conditioner on the market—with a rated noise level around 57 dB, it can seem louder in actual operation, sometimes whining like a vacuum cleaner. Nonetheless, it’s fairly compact and comes with a remote so you can operate it from across the room, though there’s also a simple control panel on the top of the unit as well.

Pros:

  • Good value
  • Several sizes available
  • Easy to move

Cons:


Best Portable Air Conditioner And Space Heater

A 3-In-1 Unit That’s Perfect For Mid-Size Spaces

Power: 14,000 BTU ASHRAE / 7,500 DOE | Coverage area: Up to 300 square feet | Noise level: 56 dB (highest setting)| Additional features: Includes fan, dehumidifier and space heater functions

Multi-purpose devices are always handy, which is why it’s great to get an air conditioner that can do double-duty as a dehumidifier. This portable air conditioner from Black+Decker does one better, though: You can use it year-round, since it works as both an AC and heater—and you get formidable cooling power in the BPACT14HWT.

It’s rated at 14,000 BTU ASHRAE (7,500 DOE), which can competently cool about 300 square feet. It’s worth noting that this air conditioner has the same ASHRAE rating as the Whynter ARC-14S but a lower DOE rating and smaller max room size. That’s the advantage of Whynter’s dual hose system—it can make a substantial difference—but if you are okay with Black+Decker’s more modest specs, you get the ability to heat a room up to about 81 degrees in cooler weather. However, as a heater, it has slightly less reach, only good for about 250 t0 300 square feet.

You can run the unit as a dehumidifier, choose multiple fan speeds, and set a 24-hour timer for automatic all-day operation. It’s also simple to move around thanks to large, free-spinning casters and an easy-to-grip handle, and Black+Decker puts a simple set of controls on top of the unit in addition to providing a handy remote.

Pros:

  • Cooling and heating abilities
  • 24-hour timer
  • Easy to move

Cons:

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Best Smart Portable Air Conditioner

A Wi-Fi Connected Unit You Can Control Via An App

Power: 14,000 BTU ASHRAE / 10,000 BTU DOE | Coverage area: Up to 450 square feet | Noise level: 53 dB (highest setting) | Additional features: Includes fan and dehumidifier functions

If your house is filled with smart devices, you may come to expect all your appliances to be app- and voice-operated. Good news: Your portable air conditioner can be just as smart as your doorbell, thermostat and alarm system if you choose the LG LP1021BSSM Portable Air Conditioner. Equipped with Wi-Fi and compatible with LG’s ThinQ app, you can control the AC from anywhere—at home or while on the road.

The app allows you to start and stop the cooling, set the temperature and change the fan mode. It’s also Alexa- and Google Assistant-compatible, so you can command the AC by voice. It’s certainly not a necessity, but this feature is a great convenience, especially if you’re already used to turning lights and other appliances on and off by voice.

LG has packed this model with a fair amount of cooling power; it is rated at 14,000 BTU ASHRAE (10,000 BTU DOE) and it can effectively cool rooms up to about 450 square feet. The 3-in-1 operation includes cooling, fan-only and dehumidifying-only modes with two fan speeds and an auto-swing vent mechanism to spread the cool air around the room automatically.

In addition to the smart device controls, it has a 24-hour sleep timer (handy if you just want to control it from the remote control and not worry about the mobile app) and an auto-restart feature in case you lose power while it’s running.

Pros:

  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 24-hour sleep timer
  • Auto-swing air vent

Cons:


Best Evaporative Cooler

An Ventless Cooler That Can Handle Up To 320 Square Feet

Power: N/A | Coverage area: Up to 320 square feet | Noise level: 64 dB (highest setting) | Additional features: Includes humidity settings

True portable air conditioners require a hose that vents out a window, and if you don’t have the space for this ventilation (or simply don’t want the eyesore), you might want to consider an evaporative cooler—also known as a swamp cooler—like this one from Honeywell. The indoor/outdoor unit works by pulling air over ice that you load into the appliance, and it creates a cool breeze that can cool spaces up to 320 square feet.

Despite not being a true portable air conditioner, this product is surprisingly effective, especially in hot, dry climates. It has three humidity settings and a programmable timer that can run for up to 7.5 hours, and it comes with a convenient remote control, as well.

Pros:

  • No ventilation required
  • Three humidity settings
  • Indoor/outdoor design
  • Programmable for up to seven hours

Cons:

  • Works best in dry climates
  • Not a true air conditioner

How We Chose The Best Portable Air Conditioners

To assemble this list, we identified popular portable AC units and did a research deep-dive. Looking into specs like BTUs, coverage area, noise level, ventilation system and other features, then reading up on customer reviews, we identified our top picks to cater to different budgets and lifestyle needs. Further, we enlisted the help of expert Chris Forbus, owner of Choice Air Care, a Texas-based air conditioning and heating services company, to share top features to look for.


How Do I Choose A Portable Air Conditioner?

When shopping for portable AC units, you want to make sure you’re looking at models that would be a good fit for both your living space and lifestyle. From BTU ratings to programmability, here are the most important factors to consider when browsing the virtual shelves.

BTU Rating

This is hands-down the most important factor to consider, as it determines how much square footage a unit can cool. BTU stands for British Thermal Units, which measures the cooling power of your unit. There are two standards used to measure BTUs: One is ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) and the other is DOE (the Department of Energy). While you often see both numbers listed alongside models, the DOE generally provides a more accurate read of how well portable units perform inside your living space.

Portable AC units are usually between 8,000 and 15,000 BTUs, and the right model for you depends on the size of the room (or rooms) where you plan to use it. In other words, you shouldn’t necessarily purchase the unit with the highest BTU rating. “More does not mean better, you need the correct rating for your room size,” explains Chris Forbus, owner of Air Care. “A rating too low will run constantly and possibly not cool effectively. A rating too high may cool quickly and then cycle off, which won’t allow it to dehumidify the air, causing you to still feel uncomfortable.”

Single-Hose Vs. Dual-Hose

There are two main types of portable air conditioners: single-hose units and dual-hose units. Without getting too in the weeds (because it’s a little confusing), here’s what you ultimately need to know. Single-hose units, which suck in warm air and expel it outside through the same hose, tend to be less expensive and better for smaller spaces; dual-hose models, which feature separate intake and exhaust hoses, are more efficient cooling systems.

Noise Level

If you’re sensitive to noise, it’s worth looking into each unit’s decibel rating (dB). Especially when they’re running on higher settings, portable air conditioners can be on the noisy side. For reference, moderate rainfall typically measures around 50 dB.

Programmability

Once you’ve decided on the basics, there are other conveniences to consider. Can the AC unit be programmed to run on a set schedule? Is it a “smart” device that you can control via your phone? While not always necessary, additional features can make using your unit much more convenient.


What Is The Best Portable Air Conditioning Unit To Buy?

The best unit to buy is one that suits your space and budget, however we chose the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS as our top pick overall thanks to its decent power (12,000 BTU ASHRAE), cooling capabilities in rooms up to 400 square feet and attainable price point.

Do Portable ACs Have To Be Vented Out The Window?

True portable AC units require some kind of venting, either through a window or a duct system in the wall, to remove heat from a space. If the hot air your unit collects isn’t released somewhere, it’ll gather in your room, defeating the point of having a unit in the first place. For easy installation, Forbus advises placing the AC unit as close as possible to a window, as “shorter ventilation hoses are easier to manage.” That said, if you really don’t want to deal with venting, consider an evaporative cooler like the Honeywell Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler.

How Much Does A Portable Air Conditioner Cost?

A quality portable air conditioner is a bit of an investment; full-sized units, for example, can run anywhere from $250 to $600 (or more). The overall cost of portable AC units largely depend on the power they provide and the area size they’re capable of cooling.

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