The Best Portable Air Conditioners for Any Small Window
Looking to beat the heat but unable to install a window AC? We've broken down important shopping considerations to help you choose the best unit for your home.
In the ambient heat of summer, nothing beats walking inside to a blast of chilled air. But while air conditioning provides a welcome relief from high temperatures, central air or even window units aren’t always an option. Some homeowners live in a building with infrastructure that doesn’t support central air; renters may not have the option to renovate and install an HVAC system. If, in either scenario, a window is not large enough to accommodate a window unit, a portable air conditioner can offer a preferable alternative to sweltering in your living space.
As the name implies, portable air conditioners are movable units—in the sense that they’re not permanent, not that they’re particularly easy to carry from room to room—that blow cold air into an interior space. Standing at a couple of feet tall, the entire unit sits inside the home and transfer heat outside through a window via an exhaust hose. While they eat up floor space and don’t run quite as efficiently as their window counterparts, the right model can still get the job done. That’s why, if you’re in the market, you need to be informed on what makes a unit the best portable air conditioner out there. Read on to learn the ins and outs of this type of appliance, and to find out why we’ve chosen the following five portable air conditioners as the best picks to help you keep your cool.
- BEST ALL-AROUND PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER: Honey 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
- BEST FOR QUIET OPERATION: COSTWAY 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
- BEST FOR HUMIDITY CONTROL: hOmeLabs 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
- BEST FOR PERSONAL USE: Anbber Small Portable Air Conditioner
- BEST DUAL HOSE PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER: Whynter 14,000 BTU Air Conditioner
When choosing a portable air conditioner, aside from cost, consider these important factors above all else.
Single-hose vs. dual-hose models: Homeowners should first decide whether to buy a single-hose model or a dual-hose model. A single-hose unit pulls warm air from the space around it, cools it down, and disposes of heat and moisture through the singular hose that leads outside. These models are typically cheaper than their dual-hose counterparts, but they have significant drawbacks. Since the unit relies on already-cooled indoor air to bring down the temperature of the condenser, a lot of energy goes to waste. Plus, single-hose models create a negative pressure within the room, and hot air is subsequently drawn back inside to even out the room’s pressure. This, in turn, creates a “back-to-square-one” situation.
On the other hand, dual-hose units have both an intake and outtake hose. The intake hose draws outdoor air to bring down the temperature of the condenser. The separate outtake hose disposes of the heat, humidity, and used air outside. While pricier, these units are more efficient and generally the wiser option, especially for larger spaces.
Energy-efficiency: Generally speaking, the cooling capacity of air conditioners is measured in British thermal units (BTU). Models 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. Perhaps more important than a unit’s BTU is its energy efficiency ratio (EER). A higher EER rating equates to greater efficiency, because the EER indicates the ratio of the air conditioner’s BTUs per hour to its power input, measured in watts. In other words, you need more BTUs to cool a larger space, and some units are built with greater energy efficiency than others. The EER weighs output and input against each other to tell you how effective and efficient your unit will be. Many portable air conditioners have EER ratings between 8.5 to 10, but anything 10 or higher is ideal.
The Best Portable ACs
Taking into account reviews from customers and experts alike—as well as the criteria outlined above—we’ve rounded up five picks for the best portable air conditioner on the market. Read up on then cool down with one of these top-rated units.
BEST ALL-AROUND PORTABLE CONDITIONER: Honeywell 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner ($469.99)
For quickly cooling down rooms up to 550 sq. ft., look no further than the Honeywell 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. This single-hose unit comes with an overload shutoff that turns the unit off if it overheats, and it contains dual filters to help clear the air of dust and pet dander as it’s cooling the room. The Honeywell features auto evaporation, meaning there’s no need to empty a water tank or run a drain hose to an existing drain because the unit evaporates the moisture as it removes it from the air. This easy-to-program portable air conditioner comes with a digital display and a remote control, and it features an energy efficiency rating (EER) of 9. Amazon buyers award the Honeywell air conditioner a hearty 3.8 out of 5 stars for its ability to quickly cool the air in medium-size rooms, its variable fan speeds, and its sleek good looks. Available from Amazon.
BEST FOR QUIET OPERATION: COSTWAY 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner ($289.99)
When you’re worried about the noise level, like many light sleepers, the 10.3 EER COSTWAY 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner would make a great choice. The 4-star unit features multiple modes, including a quiet sleep mode that maintains a preset temperature all night (or day) while producing only a gentle hum. In addition to cooling and dehumidifying, the COSTWAY single-hose AC unit features an energy-saving programmable timer, a remote control, a 10-ft. drain hose, and easy-roll caster wheels that make it simple to move the unit from room to room. Available from Amazon.
BEST FOR HUMIDITY CONTROL: hOmeLabs 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner ($479.99)
While all portable air conditioners remove some humidity from the air, the hOmeLabs air conditioner is designed to remove up to 100 pints of water from the air per day, making it a great choice for homes in humid regions. Plus, its built-in dehumidifier can function independently of the cooling mechanism for days that should feel comfortable if they were simply less muggy. The 10.2 EER unit comes with a remote control, a drain hose, a programmable timer, and a sleep mode that offers quieter operation. Amazon buyers give the hOmeLabs air conditioner a resounding 4.4 stars for ease of operation and for its ability to quickly cool and dehumidify large rooms up to 700 sq. ft. Available from Amazon.
BEST FOR PERSONAL USE: Anbber Small Portable Air Conditioner ($59.99)
While it won’t cool an entire room, the Anbber Small Portable Air Conditioner is just the ticket for relief at a desk or beside a recliner—anywhere you have access to a USB port to plug in. Only about 6 inches tall and weighs only 2.13 lbs., this tiny unit is an evaporative cooler, meaning that it works by emitting a breeze over the surface of water droplets to offer cooling relief. Just fill the reservoir with water and turn the unit on to feel refreshed. No EER rating for this one, but Amazon buyers love the portability and the convenience of the Anbber air conditioner, giving it 3.4 stars for versatility (have it in the office on a weekday and plug it into a laptop at the beach on a weekend). Available from Amazon.
BEST DUAL-HOSE PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER: Whynter 14,000 BTU Air Conditioner ($503.37)
For quickly and efficiently cooling off large rooms (up to 500 sq. ft.), it’s tough to beat the 11.2 EER found on the Whynter 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. Its intake and outtake hoses make the Whynter air conditioner the most energy-efficient of all our picks. Plus, this unit features a 24-hour programmable timer, a remote control, an easy-to-read digital display, variable fan speeds, and even a window kit for easy hook-up. Home Depot buyers give the air conditioner 4 stars, citing how easy it is to program and how quickly it cools the air. Available from The Home Depot.
Additional reporting by Amy Lynch.