The Best Portable Air Conditioners of 2021

Looking to beat the heat but unable to install a window AC? Here are some important shopping considerations to help you choose the best portable air conditioner for your home.

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Best Portable Air Conditioner

Photo: amazon.com

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. Continue reading for tips on how to choose the best portable AC unit for your space, and find out why the models below are top performers in their respective categories.

  1. BEST OVERALL: SereneLife SLPAC Compact Home A/C Cooling Unit
  2. BEST BUDGET: BLACK+DECKER BPP05WTB Portable Air Conditioner
  3. BEST SMART: Midea 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner
  4. BEST QUIET: COSTWAY Ashrae 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
  5. BEST FOR BEDROOMS: TECCPO Portable Air Conditioner TAK04C
  6. BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
  7. BEST FOR HUMIDITY: Shinco 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
  8. BEST COOLING & HEATING: Della 13,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner With Heat
  9. BEST TOWER UNIT: Aigostar Cooling Tower Fan with Remote
Best Portable Air Conditioner

Photo: amazon.com

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 portable AC 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 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, though evaporative air coolers do not measure output in BTUs. The cooling ability of these devices is directly connected to the temperature of the water or ice in the cooling sponge or bucket.

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. These devices range from just 2 pounds to up to 80 pounds, so size does make a big difference in portability.

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.

Our Top Picks

In keeping with the criteria outlined above, the following list features some of the best portable AC units on the market today. Read up, then cool down using one of these top-performing AC units designed with a host of useful features and functions.

Best Overall

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: SereneLife SLPAC Compact Home AC Cooling Unit
Photo: amazon.com

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, 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 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. It produces just 56 dB of sound during operation, and it has a 24-hour timer and remote for convenient control over the device from anywhere in the room.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 12,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 56
  • Weight: 62 pounds

Pros

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

Cons

  • Heavy at 62 pounds


Best Budget

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

This affordable AC unit boasts a maximum 5,000-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 150 square feet, making it a good choice for cooling a bedroom, office, or small den. It also has a dehumidifier function to help reduce the ambient moisture in the air.

Instead of picking up this 51.1-pound air conditioner from BLACK+DECKER, simply move the AC unit around with the built-in handle and set of wheels. At the lowest temperature setting, this AC unit can cool the air to 61 degrees Fahrenheit, while sleep mode reduces the noise output to just 52 dB, making it easier to fall asleep.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 5,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 52
  • Weight: 51.1 pounds

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Multiple fan speeds
  • Quiet operation with sleep mode
  • Rolling wheels

Cons

  • Low BTU


Best Smart

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: MIDEA 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner
Photo: amazon.com

Save time and effort with this smart portable air conditioner from Midea that can connect to Amazon Alexa smart-home systems for simple voice-command control. It can also be operated with the included remote or a smartphone to switch modes, set a schedule, or simply turn on or turn off the device without having to be in the same room.

This 8,200-BTU portable air conditioner is suitable for rooms up to 375 square feet, so it’s advised to set it up in a large bedroom, living room, or even the kitchen to help keep the air cool while the user cooks or bakes. Users can set the temperature between 62 and 90 degrees and choose from cooling, fan-only, or dehumidifier modes to address the most pressing concerns in the home.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 8,200
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: Not provided
  • Weight: 67.9 pounds

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Smartphone operation
  • Supports voice commands via Amazon Alexa
  • Quiet operation

Cons

  • Heavy at 67.9 pounds


Best Quiet

Best Portable Air Conditioner: COSTWAY
Photo: amazon.com

If you’re a light sleeper worried about the noise level of your air conditioner keeping you up at night, or if you’re just sick and tired of listening to lower-quality appliances drone on and on, this model is a worthy option.

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 400 square feet. With an energy efficiency rating of 10.3, the COSTWAY is also cheaper to run than many other units.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 8,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 52
  • Weight: Not provided

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Quiet sleep mode
  • Energy efficient
  • Rolling wheels

Cons

  • Only two fan speeds
  • Low BTU


Best for Bedrooms

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: TECCPO Portable Air Conditioner TAK04C
Photo: amazon.com

From TECCPO, this portable air conditioner has an attractive design with a sturdy, wheeled base and a built-in handle that makes it easy to move wherever it’s needed. The AC unit is ideal for the bedroom with its maximum BTU output of 8,000, capable of cooling up to 200 square feet of space.

This portable air-conditioning unit can be set to sleep mode in order to reduce the noise level to just 55 dB, allowing the user to get a sound sleep without being disturbed by a loud AC in the room. Set the temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and 24-hour timer with the included remote instead of having to abandon the comfort of the bed to adjust the settings.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 8,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 55
  • Weight: 46.29 pounds

Pros

  • Built-in dehumidifier
  • Quiet operation
  • Rolling wheels

Cons

  • Low BTU


Best for Large Rooms

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

Cooling down larger rooms in the house can be a challenge. This Whynter dual-hose portable air conditioner addresses this problem with its maximum output of 14,000 BTUs, suitable for rooms up to 500 square feet in size.

Set the portable AC unit to cooling, fan-only, or dehumidifier mode, and remove up to 71 pints of water from the air per day. The fan speed 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.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 14,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 56
  • Weight: 80 pounds

Pros

  • Powerful cooling ability
  • Dual hose design
  • Dehumidifier mode available
  • Rolling wheels

Cons

  • Heavy at 80 pounds


Best for Humidity

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: Shinco 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Photo: amazon.com

With an 8,000-BTU output, this portable air conditioner is great for small rooms up to 200 square feet in size. It has a clear LED display and comes with a remote for convenient control. Set the AC unit to dehumidifier mode to remove up to 40 pints of water per day from the ambient air, reducing the overall humidity within the home.

The Shinco portable air conditioner sits on four wheels for easy portability around the home, and it includes a 24-hour timer, two fan speeds, and a quiet 55-dB noise output.

Despite the impressive dehumidifying ability, this AC unit doesn’t have a collection bucket. Instead, it has a self-evaporating operation to keep the living space clean, cool, and dry.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 8,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 55
  • Weight: 55 pounds

Pros

  • Removes 40 pints of excess moisture from the air daily
  • Quiet operation
  • Rolling wheels

Cons

  • Low BTU


Best for Cooling & Heating

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: DELLA 13,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner With Heat
Photo: amazon.com

This Della portable air conditioner is designed for year-round use with an efficient 13,000-BTU cooling function for the warm months and a 13,000-BTU heating function to warm up the home when it’s cold outside.

The AC unit can also be set to a fan-only or dehumidifier mode, which can remove up to 111 pints of water from the ambient air within a 24-hour period. Due to the self-evaporation function, this water doesn’t need to be emptied from the AC, so users can simply sit back and enjoy the comfort of their home.

Operate the portable air conditioner during the day or even while the user sleeps with the 24-hour automatic timer and quiet 52-dB noise output. The temperature can be adjusted from 60 to 90 degrees, and the blowing direction, as well as the fan speed, can be set to the user’s ideal preference.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: 13,000
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: 52
  • Weight: 83 pounds

Pros

  • 13,000 BTU heating function
  • Quiet operation
  • Self-evaporating dehumidifier

Cons

  • Heavy at 83 pounds


Best Tower Unit

The Best Portable Air Conditioner Option: Aigostar Cooling Tower Fan with Remote
Photo: amazon.com

This tower-style evaporative air cooler comes with four ice packs and a 0.6-gallon water tank to cool the air in the room quickly and efficiently. This unit is ideal for bedrooms, offices, dens, and other small living spaces. Users can set the timer for automatic operation ranging from 1 hour to 9 hours, or turn on sleep mode to automatically reduce the speed and sound output after 30 minutes to an hour.

The 60-degree oscillation function can be turned on or off with the included remote or the touch-control panel on the top of the AC unit. The evaporative air cooler remote has a range of about 20 feet, so feel free to relax in bed or on the couch while adjusting the fan speed to a high, medium, or low setting.

Product Specs

  • BTUs: N/A
  • Decibel level at lowest setting: N/A
  • Weight: 13.82 pounds

Pros

  • Oscillates 60 degrees
  • Sleep mode available
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Water tank must be refilled regularly


Our Verdict

While the perfect portable AC varies based on budget and room size, the SereneLife 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 BLACK+DECKER model, which offers excellent performance at a lower price point.

How We Chose the Best Portable Air Conditioners

These recommendations for the best portable air conditioner cover a variety of types and styles to suit different user needs. Our curated selection was developed based on extensive product research. We weighed a number of practical considerations when making our recommendations.

We included options to suit a variety of room sizes, narrowing our selection to ACs that feature multiple fan settings and operating noise levels under 57 decibels. We also gave preference to models that offer additional features like a dehumidifier setting to help save shoppers money in the long run.

FAQs

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.