The Best Portable Air Conditioners of 2022

Looking to beat the heat but unable to install a window AC? We tested the top portable air conditioners to help you choose the best one for your home.

By Glenda Taylor and Savannah Sher and Stephanie Cronk | Updated Aug 22, 2022 12:10 PM

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The Best Portable Air Conditioners Options

Photo: Stephanie Cronk

True to their name, portable air conditioning units are, well, portable—especially when compared to virtually all other types of equivalent cooling solutions. A portable AC unit sits entirely inside the home, transferring heat to the outdoors via an exhaust hose.

While they take up floor space and don’t run quite as efficiently as their in-window counterparts, they’re your best bet (or only bet) in many scenarios. We put the top portable air conditioning units to the test through 80+ degree weather with humidity levels between 70 – 80% to see which units performed best and kept our area cool and comfortable.

Continue reading for tips on how to choose the best portable AC unit for your space, and find out how the models we tested performed.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
  2. RUNNER UP: HomeLabs Portable Air Conditioner
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Frigidaire Gallery 12000 BTU CoolConnect Portable Air Conditioner
  4. BEST FOR SMALL ROOMS: Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner with Remote
  5. BEST SMART: LG LP1419IVSM Smart Dual Inverter Portable Air Conditioner
  6. BEST QUIET: Honeywell Smart WiFi Portable Air Conditioner & Dehumidifier
  7. BEST FOR HUMIDITY: Whynter Elite ARC-122DS 12,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
  8. SMALLEST AC UNIT: Costway Portable Air Conditioner with Dehumidifier

Also Tested:

The Best Portable Air Conditioners Options

Photo: Stephanie Cronk

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Air Conditioner

Take some time to think of the various features and functions available in portable air conditioners before deciding on a specific product. Factors like single- or dual-hose configurations, energy consumption, cooling capacity, room size, and even the noise produced by the portable AC should be considered before making a purchase.

Single vs. Dual Hose

  • Single-hose AC units pull warm air from the space around it, cool the air, and dispose of heat and moisture through a hose that leads outside. These models are typically cheaper than their dual-hose counterparts but have one significant drawback: Since the unit relies on already-cooled air to bring down the temperature of the condenser, considerable energy goes to waste.
  • Dual-hose AC units have both an intake and outtake hose. The intake hose draws in outdoor air to bring down the temperature of the condenser. The separate outtake hose disposes of the heat, humidity, and used air from the indoor space. While pricier, dual-hose units are more efficient and generally the wiser option, particularly for larger spaces.

Functions

Portable air-conditioning units have several different functions available depending on the product, including standard AC, evaporative air coolers, heaters, air purifiers, and humidifiers/dehumidifiers.

  • Standard AC units function by pulling in stagnant air from the room and pumping it over cold coils to cool the air. Warm air and excess moisture are expelled to the outside through a hose. This function rapidly cools the air in the room.
  • Evaporative air-cooler models typically use ice or cold water to cool the air in the room. The unit uses a fan to pull warm air in through a wet sponge or bucket of ice, then the same fan pushes the cool air out through the front of the portable air conditioner to cool the room. However, this function does not have the same level of cooling power as a standard portable AC.
  • Heaters can sometimes be built into portable air conditioners, giving the user the ability to switch between heating and cooling and enabling use throughout the warm and cold months of the year.
  • Air purifiers are designed to pull in dust, dirt, hair, and other contaminants, trapping them in a filter and pushing out cleaner air. While some portable ACs include an air purifier function, this is a relatively rare and high-end feature.
  • Humidifier/dehumidifier models increase or decrease the moisture in the air. Many portable AC units can act as dehumidifiers to pull in moisture and push out drier air, though it’s less common for a portable air conditioner to have a humidifier mode. Evaporative air-cooler ACs act as humidifiers while also cooling the air, so a specific humidifier setting isn’t as necessary.

Room Size

The size of the room matters when choosing a portable air conditioner, so be sure to select a unit with the appropriate output for cooling the space. Portable air-conditioner manufacturers will often provide the output of the device in British thermal units (BTUs), with each BTU equal to the amount of heat that the AC unit can remove from a room. The output of a portable air conditioner ranges from about 3,000 BTU to 15,000 BTU.

Typically, the cooling area of an evaporative air cooler is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Calculate the necessary CFM for the target room by multiplying the length, width, and height of the room to find the volume, then dividing the total by 2: CFM = (L x W x H) ÷ 2.

Energy Efficiency

Air conditioners with a BTU rating of 10,000 or higher are typically the most efficient at cooling a room, but the higher the BTU, the louder and heavier the model. Most AC units also come with an energy efficiency ratio (EER). A higher EER rating equates to greater efficiency; EER indicates the ratio of the air conditioner’s BTUs per hour to its power input, measured in watts.

In other words, cooling a larger space requires more BTUs, and some units are built with greater energy efficiency than others. The EER weighs output and input against each other to show how effective and efficient the unit will be. Many portable air conditioners have EER ratings between 8.5 to 10; any rating higher than 10 is ideal.

Portability

If the intent is to regularly move the AC unit around, consider investing in a smaller portable AC that’s easy to pick up.

Look out for portable air conditioners with handles on the side or back of the unit, which can make it easier to pick it up and adjust the positioning. Some portable ACs have wheels on the bottom of the unit as well. This is an especially helpful feature to move the air conditioner over a flat surface without needing to lift it off the ground.

Noise Level

In the past, air conditioners, fans, and heaters were known to produce very high noise levels due to the hum of the motor, fan blade rotation, and the force of the expelled air. Today, product advancements have significantly reduced the noise produced by these devices through intelligent engineering and enhanced insulation that dampens the sound.

The average AC unit now produces about 50 to 60 decibels (dB) of sound, while the quietest portable air conditioner options may only be 40 to 45 dB. For perspective, the sound of a person whispering is about 30 dB, a normal conversation is 55 to 65 dB, and ambient noises in a busy office or restaurant range from 70 to 80 dB.

Additional Features

Standard portable air conditioners are easy to use, allowing the user to circulate cool air throughout the home. That said, some products come with extra features that can make them more convenient and user-friendly:

  • Timers keep the portable air conditioner on for a set period of time. Once it reaches the end of this period, it will automatically shut off instead of running all day, which helps keep electricity costs low.
  • Programmable settings on a portable air conditioner can include fan speed settings, set temperatures, temperature ranges, sleep mode, and more. These settings are meant to provide complete control over the unit. A smart portable air conditioner can even integrate with smart-home systems like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to control the AC unit using voice commands.
  • Night-lights are a good option for those who walk around a fair amount at night, since the added illumination helps prevent injury (like accidentally kicking the air conditioner).

Installation and Maintenance

One of the main benefits of choosing a portable air conditioner is its typically easy installation. Standard portable AC units need an available power outlet and a place for the hose to filter out excess moisture and hot air. This is accomplished by running the hose through a custom frame that sits inside an open window, creating a seal around the window and around the hose to prevent leaks.

Alternatively, evaporative air coolers don’t have a hose that has to run outside, but they do need cold water or ice in the sponge or bucket to cool the air that passes through the unit. Both styles require regular cleaning and may need to be drained if they have a dehumidifier function that collects water from the ambient air.

The Best Portable Air Conditioners Options

Photo: Stephanie Cronk

Our Top Picks

The following list features some of the best portable AC units on the market today. See how each one faired in our tests including the various functions offered and the overall cooling efficiency.

Best Overall

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
Photo: amazon.com

This Whynter dual-hose portable air conditioner features a maximum output of 14,000 BTUs, suitable for rooms up to 500 square feet in size.

The portable AC unit can be set to cooling, fan-only, or dehumidifier mode. The fan speed in the cooling and fan mode can be adjusted between low, medium, and high to meet the user’s personal preferences. The unit sits on four wheels, making it easy to move around and set up within the home.

This was among the most powerful portable AC units we tested. Setup took a few minutes as we connected each hose to the back of the unit and screwed the window panel in.

We turned the unit on when our 600 square-foot room reached 80 degrees F. The unit was set to the lowest cooling setting at 61 degrees and the highest fan setting. Cold air was instantly pushed through the top vent, and the room was noticeably cooler within 10 minutes. Where traditional portable air conditioners are bulky, this model is sleek stainless steel and slimmer than most.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 14,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 56
  • Weight: 80 pounds
  • Hose Setup: Dual hose

Pros

  • Powerful cooling ability
  • Remote control included
  • Dehumidifier mode available
  • Rolling wheels

Cons

  • Heavy at 80 pounds

Get the Whynter portable air conditioner at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Best Buy.

Runner-Up

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: HomeLabs Portable Air Conditioner
Photo: amazon.com

The hOmelabs 14,000 BTU portable air conditioner can quickly cook down rooms up to 450 square feet. Thanks to the units convenient design, users can easily move this unit from room to room. The air conditioner has multiple modes available including cool, fan, dry, sleep, and heat. This means the unit not only acts as an air conditioner, but also a dehumidifier and portable heater.

With a build-in 24-hour adjustable timer, the air conditioner can be adjusted to your cooling needs.

During testing of this unit, we really loved the design and portability. It had a sleek design and was one of the easier units to wheel around from room to room despite its heavy weight at 88 pounds. The LED display was very intuitive and easy to use and read. When cooling a room from the start of 80 degrees, it cooled our 600-square foot living space in under an hour making it one of the more powerful units on our list. The only downfall is that the vent is on the top of this unit, and it makes it hard to direct the airflow as it is not adjustable as some other units.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 14,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 52 dB
  • Weight: 88 pounds
  • Hose Setup: Single hose

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Remote control included
  • Wheels for portability
  • Heat mode

Cons

  • Heavy than other units
  • Vent is not adjustable

Get the hOmelabs portable air conditioner at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Wayfair.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: Frigidaire Gallery 12000 BTU CoolConnect Portable Air Conditioner
Photo: amazon.com

This affordable AC unit boasts a maximum 12,000-BTU output and a remote for convenient control without getting up from the couch or bed. The air conditioner is suitable for rooms that are up to 550 square feet, making it a good choice for cooling an office or den. It also has a dehumidifier function to help reduce the ambient moisture in the air.

Set up of this unit was similar to the rest, with one hose connected to the back of the air conditioner and venting through a window mount. While this AC was able to cool a 500-square-foot-room from 81 degrees F to 72 degrees F in about an hour, it was one of the quietest among the units we tested. After using the air conditioner for two weeks, we saw no difference in output, meaning it seems to be reliable and efficient. The remote control made it easy to change settings without the need to be near the unit.

While this unit performs well, we did find the hose attachment was a bit flimsy and would fall out of the back of the unit when moving.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 12,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 52 dB
  • Weight: 69 pounds
  • Hose Setup: Single hose

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Remote control included
  • Wheels for portability
  • Dehumifying mode

Cons

  • Hose attachment can be sensitive

Get the Frigidaire portable air conditioner at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Wayfair.

Best for Small Rooms

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: BLACK+DECKER BPP05WTB Portable Air Conditioner
Photo: amazon.com

This affordable AC unit boasts a maximum 8,000-BTU output and a remote for convenient control without getting up from the couch or bed. The air conditioner is suitable for rooms up to 150 square feet, making it a good choice for cooling an office or den. It also has a dehumidifier function to help reduce the ambient moisture in the air.

The set up of this unit was similar to the rest, with one hose connected to the back of the air conditioner and venting through a window mount. While this AC was able to cool a 150-square-foot-room in a little over an hour, it was the loudest among the units we tested. After using the air conditioner for two weeks, we saw no difference in output, meaning it seems reliable and efficient. The remote control made it easy to change settings without the need to be near the unit. The air conditioner was easy to move around and was more compact than other units tested.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 8,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 62
  • Weight: 51.1 pounds
  • Hose Setup: Single hose

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Multiple fan speeds
  • Rolling wheels

Cons

  • Low BTU
  • Non-Energy Star

Get the Black & Decker portable air conditioner at Amazon and at The Home Depot.

Best Smart

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: LG LP1419IVSM Smart Dual Inverter Portable Air Conditioner
Photo: amazon.com

The LG LP1419IVSM smart portable air conditioner features dual inverter technology, which allows for more efficient and quicker cooling. The unit allows users to customize their cooling preferences with three cooling and fan speeds along with a 24 hour timer. The LG ThinQ technology allows users to control the unit with a smart phone. The portable air conditioner can also act as a dehumidifier with the built-in dehumidifying mode, making it great for removing extra moisture in the air.

During testing, we found that this unit was among one of the quietest to run. During sleep mode, we measured about 42 to 45 dB, making it very comfortable to watch TV with it running. We tested this unit in our living space, which is about 600 square feet. It cooled the area efficiently and kept it cool and comfortable. When trying out the LG ThinQ app, we were able to easily pair the unit with two different smart phones with no issue. The LG ThinQ app allowed us to control the unit and set an operating schedule. The unit is also beautifully designed.

Our favorite part of using the LG portable air conditioner was the ease of set up. We had this unit installed within minutes. The air conditioner vent is built into the back of the unit so there is no fumbling with hose assembly. The hose and venting mount are among the best quality we’ve dealt with.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 10,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 44
  • Weight: 55 lbs
  • Hose Setup: Dual hose

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Easy to set up
  • Works with smart phones

Cons

  • Heavy

Get the LG portable air conditioner at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Lowes.

Best for Small Rooms

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: Costway Portable Air Conditioner with Dehumidifier
Photo: amazon.com

The COSTWAY 8,000 BTU unit features multiple modes, including a quiet sleep mode in which the unit emits only a gentle hum at 52 decibels while maintaining a preset temperature all night (or day). The unit comes with a programmable timer to shut off the air conditioner when it reaches the preferred usage time, and it will cool rooms up to 300 square feet.

As we installed this unit in a 250-square-foot bedroom, we were a bit worried about quality and cooling efficiency as it felt much cheaper than other units and it was noticeably smaller. Much to our surprise, the unit was able to cool the room effectively in about two hours.

We find it works best if we close the door and leave the unit running. If the door is left open, the unit has trouble cooling the small bedroom. This unit has a smaller footprint than most models so it does tuck nicely into the corner. For an affordable, small unit, this one checks all the boxes.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 8,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 52
  • Weight: 46 lbs
  • Hose Setup: Single hose

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Easy-to-access drain plug
  • Rolling wheels

Cons

  • Only 2 fan speeds
  • Low BTU

Get the Costway portable air conditioner at Amazon or Wayfair.

Best Quiet

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: Honeywell Smart WiFi Portable Air Conditioner & Dehumidifier
Photo: amazon.com

The Honeywell portable air conditioner is a powerful cooling unit. It is Wi-Fi enabled and is compatible with Amazon Alexa making it easy to control with voice commands. The unit features a 24-hour timer along with the ability to set daily and weekly schedules. The built-in Smart Digital Thermostat automatically turns on the AC unit based on pre-set conditions. This unit makes cooling your space easy and efficient.

We tested this unit in our 400-square-foot bedroom and it handled our cooling needs efficiently. This unit is quiet enough for peaceful sleeping and the timer came in handy when we wanted to avoid getting too cold during the night. The bedroom tends to get humid quickly, and this unit was able to cool even on humid days. With all of the remote options, we liked the fact we did not have to get up to adjust the settings throughout the night or while relaxing. Installation is similar to most portable air conditioners with a single hose vented through the window. Honeywell’s hose seems of good quality and installation only took about 5 minutes.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 10,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 52
  • Weight: 63 lbs
  • Hose Setup: Single hose

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Compatible with Alexa
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Non-Energy Star

Get the Honeywell portable air conditioner at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Best for Humidity

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: Whynter Elite ARC-122DS 12,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
Photo: amazon.com

The Whynter ARC-122DHP portable air conditioner’s sleek appearance of this helps it fit in with the design of most rooms, and the sturdy, wheeled base improves its portability, allowing it to be moved around on a flat surface easily, despite its 62-pound weight. It has a maximum output of 12,000 BTUs, ensuring that it can rapidly cool a room up to 450 square feet in size.

This unit was among some of the most powerful on the list. Thanks to its dual inverter technology, it cooled off our space quickly and quietly. When the humidity rose, the unit was able to keep up with the increased temperature and keep our living area comfortable more than some of the other units we tested. The stainless steel adds an elegant look as well.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 12,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 52
  • Weight: 65 lbs
  • Hose Setup: Dual hose

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Compatible with Alexa
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Non-Energy Star

Get the Whynter ARC-122DHP portable air conditioner at Amazon or The Home Depot.

ALSO TESTED:

SereneLife Compact Home Air Conditioner SLPAC8

The sleek appearance of this portable air conditioner helps it fit in with the design of most rooms, and the sturdy, wheeled base improves its portability.

This SereneLife model has three operating modes, including cooling, dehumidifier, and fan, so the user can select the ideal function for the current temperature and humidity level in their home.

We found the SereneLife air conditioner did not live up to its promises. It struggled to cool a 200-square foot room down from 79 degrees. It was also the loudest model we tested. After using this unit multiple times and find the same result, we could not include it as one of our top picks.

Our Verdict

While the perfect portable AC varies based on budget and room size, the Whynter 14,000 BTU AC is our top pick due to its high BTU, low noise, and extra features. Those with small spaces and budget-minded shoppers may appreciate the Frigidaire model, which offers excellent performance at a lower price point.

How We Tested the Best Portable Air Conditioners

After researching over 30 units, we chose the top portable air conditioners to test. Each unit was tested based on the BTUs and recommended room size. For example, 10,000 BTU and up were tested in a 550-square foot living space. Units that offered less than 10,000 BTU, were tested in either a 250-square foot room up to a 400-square foot room.

When each room reached 80 degrees F, we turned on the unit and measured how long it took to cool the room to a comfortable 72 degrees. We kept note of air flow, portability and overall temperature of the air coming out of each unit. While testing, we also took note of the decibel level at each fan setting (high, medium, low). One each particular room was cooled to 72 degrees, we then left the unit on for 4 hours to test how efficiently each unit kept the room at that desired temperature.

After reviewing each unit, and noting the above specifications, we then gave each unit an award it was best suited fo based on our results.

FAQs

These high-efficiency devices are a great option to keep the home cool in warm weather. For more info on how to shop for, use, and set up portable air conditioners, read on for answers to some of the most common questions.

Q. What are the benefits of a portable air conditioner?

A portable air conditioner is specifically made to be moved around an indoor space so that it can be set up wherever it’s needed most.

These devices do take up some floor space, but they are generally accepted in condos and apartments, as some landlords ban the use of a window air conditioner due to the risk of the unit falling out of the window.

Q. How much space does a portable air conditioner cool?

Depending on the power output of the portable air conditioner, these devices can cool spaces from about 100 to 800 square feet.

Q. Can I use a portable air conditioner in a room with no windows?

Portable air conditioners that have an evaporative air cooler function can be used in a room with no windows. The air is cooled when it passes through a cold wet sponge or a bucket of ice, and then it flows back out into the room without needing to be filtered outdoors.

Q. Do portable air conditioners use a lot of electricity?

The output of a portable air conditioner is typically given in BTUs, while electricity is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). One kWh is equal to one kilowatt of power per hour. On average, a 7,000-BTU portable AC uses about 2.2 kWh; a 10,000-BTU unit uses about 2.9 kWh; and a 14,000-BTU AC unit uses about 4.1 kWh.