After 28 hours of research evaluating 60 products, we picked Whynter ARC-14SH 14000BTU Portable Air Conditioner as our top choice.
Since not all homes, apartments, and offices are connected to high quality central heating and cooling systems, finding the best portable air conditioner possible can make life a lot more comfortable.
But, finding the right unit for your space can be tricky; a highly-rated portable ac will provide significant cooling capacity without hogging too much energy. It should also run fairly quietly.
And, if you want to be sure your portable AC can handle your space, don't just look at the BTUs - also look at the specs recommended by the manufacturer. They don't always match as well as one would think.
Here's the bottom line:
To assist in your search for the best portable air conditioner we have conducted hours of research, read reviews, and even tested a few products on our own to bring the most comprehensive list of the best portable ACs on the market.
These highly rated "small air conditioner" units not only perform well but also provide a steady amount of cool air that will allow you to sip your lemonade without breaking a sweat.
The Fannel Air Cooler can be used to cool down any areas within 20 ft of the machine. It's the perfect accompanist for the bedroom, office, or even outdoors. This air conditioner can cool, humidify, and purify the air around you.
Not going to cool down an entire room - for single person use only.
This portable AC is perfect for smaller rooms and single person use. Operate this AC in your office, bedroom, or smaller living areas. This portable AC can even be used outside because it is chargeable.
Installation is super simple, and everything you'll need comes with the AC. All you'll have to do is add water or ice to get it going!
This portable AC is suitable for single person use in small rooms. It will not cool off an entire room, only up to 20ft. All you have to do is add clean water or ice to get this machine working, and its compact size enables you to bring it wherever you are. Make sure to fill up before use - but don't overfill. There are three speeds, and you can cool, purify, and humidify with this AC.
The built-in charger is perfect if you want to use this AC somewhere where no outlet is available.
The fan has three different speeds. Using the latest evaporative misting cooling technology, this compact portable AC can dry air away as well as dehumidify the space around you.
It does make some noise but it's not overbearing.
This AC is tiny and has a carry handle to make for easy on-the-go use. It measures 5.1 inches width by 6.7 inches in height.
This portable AC is extremely inexpensive. With that said, it will not cool down an entire room and is better suited just cooling down an area for one person.
This affordable and convenient portable AC by Black + Decker is perfect for apartments, bedrooms, dorm rooms, garages, or living rooms. It's quieter than your typical window AC and comes with a remote for easy access control.
Some users claimed the blue LED display is too bright and lights up your room at night.
This portable AC is perfect for any room measuring 10 x 20 feet. Use it for your bedroom, living room, dorm room, garage, or apartment! It's ideal for keeping your space cool in the warm summer months.
The installation process is easy. Make sure you have double-hung or sliding windows, as this AC doesn't work with crank windows. The hose is a maximum of 4 feet and 11 inches. The window kit is included as well as a manual guide making for a quick set up. There is a remote control included so you can conveniently control this AC from afar.
This portable AC creates a steady and powerful airflow. The slide-out filter that is easy to rinse keeps the airflow fresh and cool. This AC comes with an LED display and a convenient 24 hour on/off timer with a sleep mode.
This AC is a 3-in-1. Use for cooling, fan, or dehumidifying a room. The fan has a noiseless operation.
This AC makes very little noise. It's not going to be as quiet at central AC, but it's pretty darn close.
For an AC with 115 volts, 950 watts, and 60Hz, this unit is actually pretty small. It measures at 16.5 x 11.5 x 26 inches with a hose that can extend up to 4 feet and 11 inches. The AC itself weighs about 52.9lbs.
Right now, this unit is selling for almost $100 less than its original price on Amazon. This portable AC is set at a fantastic price and will keep your room cool in the hot summer months.
The auto evaporation system uses water from the reservoir to cool the space, while the auto-swing air vent ensures that coolness is moved through the room nicely. Plus, it’s not the ugliest of air conditioners.
It doesn’t cool huge spaces. It’s also a bit large for the space it cools.
This 8000 BTU unit isn’t the biggest or most powerful portable air conditioner out there. LG’s specs have it cooling a 200 sq. ft. space, though it’s listed across many sites as only managing 150 sq. ft. That likely helps with expectation levels.
Set up is easy and everything you’ll need to install is included in the box. Installation concerns are far rarer than you'll find with other portable air conditioners.
Although it's not designed for large spaces, what it does cool, it does really, really well. Users are amazed at how quickly it can make a room cold.
As a budget model, there aren’t a bunch of features to discuss, but LG does have the basics covered. For example, there is a remote control and it has a 24-hour programmable system.
There is a 2-speed fan which doesn't do a bad job of circulating the air - and you should note that it stays on, even when the compressor is off.
As a dehumidifier, it's not a super strong unit, only collecting 43.2 pints/day. The auto evaporation system uses whatever water it collects to cool your space which means you’re rarely emptying that reservoir. (That said, watch it on the first use as you will probably overfill the container when it pulls all the excess humidity out of the air.)
The fan stays on even when the compressor is off, which means there’s always some noise happening - though the majority of users haven’t found this to be a loud unit at all. It shouldn't be with a 53 dB noise level.
This is one of the smaller portable air conditioners with dimensions of 23.7” x 18.7” x 16”. More importantly, it weighs just 58.4 lbs, making it easier than most to move around.
You'll be able to pick up this portable air conditioner for under $300 from Amazon, and it qualifies for Prime shipping. That's a darn good price as long as you don't have a huge space you need to cool. Considering its efficacy, you'll get great value for your money.
This large portable air conditioner has a smart digital thermostat system. It fits both vertical and horizontal windows and is powerful enough for big spaces.
The window kit could use some tweaking; check the specs before you order.
If you’ve got a big space to cool, you’ll probably want to look at central air conversions or window units. But, if you don’t have a choice in the matter, definitely consider this 700 sq. ft. unit.
With 14,000 BTUs, it has more than enough power to do a good job in a large space.
It's easy to set up and can fit a number of window styles.
That said; the window installation kit was designed with larger windows in mind. If you do have smaller windows, take the time to triple check the specs before you order.
Many users find that it’s a powerful unit and works quickly to cool the room. But, you still need to have realistic expectations; it will never be as efficient as a window unit, nor can it battle full sun in an environment with sub-par insulation.
It has an overload system (to prevent damage to the unit or your home), plus a double filtration system, 24-hour energy saving timer, sleep mode, and auto shut-off, allowing you to control this portable air conditioner just about any way you like.
The dehumidifier on this portable air conditioner is a workhorse and can manage an almost incredible 111 pints/day. It will really grab all the moisture it can from the air and then use that to continue cooling the room.
But, you may need to spend some time investigating drainage hoses if you live in a humid region.
It also has a standard 3-speed fan.
This is one of the quietest portable air conditioning units with a mere 52 dB, so you should be able to sleep right through it.
This is an average-size unit at 18.9” x 15.7” x 31.3”. But, it also weighs a mere 64 lbs, which is one of the lighter options on the market.
The MSRP is $600, but you'll be able to find it for $550 on Amazon (with Prime shipping). That does make it one of the pricier options, but you're not going to find many in this size category at this price point and this power.
The WiFi connection and Smart home integrations (including Alexa) are why you buy this portable air conditioner. The 360-degree circumventing airflow is also a plus, as is the built-in air purifier and filter change reminders.
At 85 pounds, this is a clunky beast to move around (if that’s something you need to do), but it does have wheels. It’s also one of the pricier options.
With 12,000 BTUs, this portable air conditioner does a better than fair job of cooling 550 sq. ft. of space. That said, it's definitely a maximum and it'll do a lot better in a smaller space.
Most users find the window set up kit easy to work with – though you should keep in mind that you may need an extra piece for very large windows (and these kits are sold separately for over $160 each).
Airflow is pushed up and around rather than straight out the front, making it more efficient for many spaces. But, it's the WiFi integrations and app features that prompt most people to buy this unit.
If you’re not keen on linking this with your other Smart home devices or controlling it through Alexa, you may want to press on (unless, of course, the styling is critical).
Although some experience connectivity issues, the majority aren’t disappointed by the app or its functionality. If you really wanted, there’s also a remote control which attaches magnetically to the unit so you don’t have to worry about losing it.
Almost everyone values the ability to set schedules through the app and make adjustments to eco modes or sleep timers so the air con runs almost autonomously once installed.
Cooling speed and ability – the whole point behind a portable air conditioner – is pretty awesome and the 3-speed fan also gets the job done.
The dehumidifier also works as expected, clearing through 72 pints/day, which is average. You may want to keep your eye on the reservoir for the first couple of uses; some people find it fills quickly while others almost never need to empty it.
This is another of the quieter units at just 53 dB when both the fan and compressor are on. Nothing to complain about here.
Don't be fooled by the sleek design; this isn't a small unit. It measures 12.6" x 12.6" x 36.8" - and it's ridiculously heavy at 85 lbs. Wheels make it a little easier to move, depending on the flooring you're pushing it on. And it's certainly more stylish than probably every other (affordable) option out there.
The MSRP is $600, though, like many portable air conditioners you can find it for less on Amazon. Expect to pay roughly $550, which isn't as deep a discount as other models might provide.
While the price is steep, the 5-year compressor warranty should give you peace of mind, as will the washable filters (and the alerts that tell you it’s time to do just that).
The dual-hose system (one of the few portable air conditioners with this feature) means it’s one of the most efficient out there. Plus, it’s quiet and occupies a small footprint. It also has a Leakage-Current Detection and Interruption system, which is a bonus.
It’s pricey – and it perhaps doesn’t cool quite as large a space as advertised (though it really does a great job at what it does).
Given that the max cooling space is perhaps a bit generous for what it can really handle (though it can make it happen if given ideal conditions), you may want to take 400 sq. ft. with a grain of salt.
But, if you want a quiet, efficient portable air conditioner, this 12,000 BTU unit is a strong option.
Most users have no trouble setting this up, though there are a few reported issues on the window ventilation kit (which, again, is a reminder to check the specs before hitting the buy button). They are, however, few and far between.
It’s one of the more energy-efficient models on the market. That along with the dual-hose system, which makes it easier to cool the room, means this will get to work quickly and smartly, without any problems. It also has a 24-hour programmable timer and is easy to operate.
The 3-speed fan puts this on par with most units. The same goes for the dehumidifier which can clear up to 76 pints/day.
Despite clearing an average amount of moisture, it's quite efficient and you’ll want to ensure you’ve got a proper drainage system in place, even though it’s meant to have an auto evaporation system in place.
There's nothing to complain about here with a 52dB operating noise level. If you need quiet, look here first.
Wow, you can actually move this 57 lb portable air conditioner. And it's just 17” x 29.5” x 16”. If you occasionally need to move it around, this is a great choice.
This is an awesome portable air conditioner, and the pricing is better than most other top units on the market. Sure, the MSRP is $600 like many others, but Amazon does list it for as low as $420. For all those features, that's one heck of a bargain.
This dual-hose portable air conditioner also works as a fan, a dehumidifier, and a heater. A window kit is included and it has an adjustable thermostat.
It is loud. Some people find it unbearably loud. And, there are those that have felt the need to modify this bad boy to make it work effortlessly for them.
Designed for larger spaces, this portable air conditioner covers 500 sq.ft. easily with its 14,000 BTU power. You may even be able to get away with larger space, as long as it's insulated and not sitting in full sun.
Although there are window kits available, some users have had to modify this machine to make it work the way they want it to. Be sure to read the specs before ordering and the instructions before installing.
There's specific sleep mode, as well as a 24-hour programmable timer. We appreciate the washable carbon air filter that comes with it – and the ability to set the desired temperature between 61º and 89ºF (as if you need that sort of a range).
Plus, it’s really rather good at managing extreme heats and low voltages.
The fan has 3 speeds and the dehumidifier is one of the strongest with the ability to process 101 pints/day. It also functions as a space heater, meaning that it will more than handle whatever you can throw at it.
It’s louder than we would like at 56 dB, but many users don't feel this presents an issue as it performs so well.
Size and weight are definitely not strong points here. The portable air conditioner measures 16” x 19” x 35.5” and it weighs a hefty 80 lbs.
You won't be able to move it around easily, but it performs so well that you'll probably just splurge on a second unit if you need cool multiple spaces on a regular basis.
Like so many portable air cons on the market, this one has a MSRP of $600. The good news is that you'll get it for under $430 on Amazon. Nice, right?
Portable air conditioners are designed specifically for a single room, and thus are a self-contained cooling system that can be moved from room to room. They are designed to rest on the floor and will typically come with an installation kit that makes setup a breeze. Many even include casters or wheels so you can roll the unit through your house for quick and easy cooling.
Setup Requirements: Each model is different, but you’ll find that the setup of most portable A/C units is really as simple as “plug and play”. Portable air conditioners will remove moisture from the air as they cool it, it is necessary to set up an exhaust to expel the warm air and moisture. Most portable A/C units will include a window kit—a window slider and an exhaust hose—that you can use to blow out the hot air without letting the outside heat leak indoors. Venting your A/C unit is usually a simple matter, as the integrated parts will make it easy to set up the exhaust and fresh air intake via your home’s windows.
Some models, however, are designed to be vented through your walls or even into a drop ceiling. Read the instructions carefully before you purchase the A/C unit so you know how best to set up the specific model in your home.
Moisture Drainage: Though air conditioners aren’t dehumidifiers, they do remove some of the moisture from the air. There are different methods for dealing with this moisture:
Electrical Requirements: Most portable A/C units rely on your standard 115 or 120-Volt plug, and there is no need for special wiring. They are designed to be “plug and play” so you shouldn’t need to do anything more than set up the drainage and exhaust connections and set the machine running.
That being said, it’s important to know that A/C units, even portable ones, do consume a lot of energy. It’s important that you avoid running multiple portable A/C units on the same circuit, or else you might risk overloading it.
Obviously we’re all familiar with whole-house air conditioners, the type that uses a central cooling system to blast cold air through vents located in every room. But sometimes, when the weather gets really hot, central A/C just isn’t the right solution. Maybe you just want to cool one room in the house or it’s too pricey to run the house-wide A/C—either way, it’s sometimes wiser to run a smaller A/C unit instead of cooling the whole house.
For cooling individual rooms, you’ve got two options: portable A/C units and window A/C units.
Portable Air Conditioners – Portable A/C units are super convenient and easy to move from room to room, thanks to their portable design. Setup takes just a few minutes—open your window, insert the window slider, connect the drainage hose, plug it in, and let it run! When it comes time to cool another room, it’s just as easy to move it around.
Portable A/C units are ideal for homes and apartments that can’t use window units, as dictated by the Homeowners Association. Seeing as there are no units hanging out your window, you’re not violating any regulations.
Moving it around is also MUCH easier than with a window unit. It takes literally 2-3 minutes to unplug, disconnect the window slider, and wheel it into the next room. All you have to do is set it up next to a window and you’re ready to roll!
Window Air Conditioners – Window units are stored outside of your living space, so they take up far less room inside your house. If you live in a small apartment or want to cool a cramped space, a portable A/C will take up a lot more room than you might like. With a window unit hanging out the window, you get all the cool air you need without using up precious floor space.
Window air conditioners are also more energy-efficient than portable air conditioners. They use less energy, have a higher air flow, and deliver more cool air per BTU. You’ll be able to cool larger rooms more quickly with a window unit.
Window units also come with their own built-in drainage and exhaust systems, so there’s no need to worry about setting them up. Simply open the window, install the A/C unit in its place, and plug it in. They’re not easy to move from room to room, but as long as you just need to cool one room, a window unit is the way to go!
This is the question on all our minds!
Aside from the cost of purchasing a portable air conditioner—based on the list above, that will run you anywhere from $350 to $600—there is the cost of running it. Energy consumption can, over the years, end up costing you more than you originally paid for the appliance itself.
To figure out the cost, you first need to figure out the British thermal units (BTUs) of the air conditioner. Take, for example, our #1 Fave, the Whynter ARC-14SH. The portable A/C unit has a large output with 14,000 BTUs, which means it can cover roughly 500 square feet.
A 14,000 BTU unit will consume roughly 4.1 kWh of energy, or 4.1 kiloWatts per hour. Multiply that times 24 hours in a day, and you end up with 98.4 kWh of energy used per day. At 30 days in the average month, that’s 2952 kWh energy used every month.
Now, how to translate this into your energy costs? Simple: multiply that number of kWh by the average cost of energy in your city or state. As an example, the average cost of energy in California is 15.34 cents. Multiply that 15.34 cents by 2952 kWh, and you come out with a cool $452.84. Your 14,000 BTU air conditioning unit will cost you an average of $450 per month!
Let’s be clear: that cost is ONLY the case if you run your portable air conditioning unit 24 hours a day, 30 days in a row. Unless you’re dealing with brutal heat, chances are you’ll only run the A/C unit a few hours a day, and not every day of the week.
But the above formula will help you to figure out how much your A/C unit will consume on an hourly basis, then a daily basis, and finally a monthly basis. You can adjust the calculations according to how many hours in a day and how many days in a month you actually run the A/C, then multiply that by your average kWh cost for your city to get a clear estimate of just how expensive it is to run your portable A/C unit!
When shopping for a portable air conditioner, there are a few factors to keep in mind:
Cost – This is always a factor to consider. You’ll find that a portable A/C unit can run you anywhere from $150 to $800 (depending on size) for a residential unit, and commercial units can rise as high as $10,000! Basically, the larger and more powerful the A/C unit, the pricier it will be.
Cost is also affected by added features, such as dehumidifiers or heating functions. You may end up spending more if you want a unit with a programmable timer, remote control, or pre-set functions a bit more complex than On/Off buttons.
Energy Consumption – This is almost more important than the actual cost of the unit, simply because your energy use will ultimately wind up costing you more than the unit itself. If you pay a higher price for a more energy-efficient model, you could save a lot of money in the long run.
Always look for the “Energy Star” rating on the appliance, as that means it is designed to be energy-efficient. Read reviews to determine which portable air conditioner is energy-efficient and will help you save on electricity.
Room Size – A unit that’s too small for a room will never be able to fully cool the air, meaning it will be running around the clock. It’s crucial that you find an A/C sized for the room you want to cool.
The square footage of the room will determine the British thermal units (BTUs) required to cool the space. For example, a 300 square foot room will require at least 7,000 BTUs to cool, whereas a 1,400 square foot space will need upwards of 23,000 BTUs.
However, take note: portable air conditioners are most effective at individual rooms, not whole house cooling.
Let’s say your apartment is 1,200 square feet, but it’s divided into three rooms. Using a 21,000 BTU air conditioner isn’t the most effective way to cool the whole apartment. You’d be better off getting a smaller air conditioner for each of the rooms, or one you can move between the three rooms to cool them off individually.
Size the A/C unit according to the individual room you want to cool, not the total floor space.
Other Room Factors – If the room you want to cool doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight, you may not need as high-capacity a cooling unit as you would for a room that is hit by the sun all day long. Rooms with a lot of through-traffic tend to be hotter, which means they would need a unit with higher cooling capacity than a room with almost no traffic.
Unit Size – This is something to consider if you’re actually looking for portable—an air conditioner you can move from room to room, according to where you’ll be working or sitting in your house. An over-large unit will be efficient at cooling individual rooms, but may be too heavy to move around. Conversely, a smaller, easily portable unit might not have the power to cool larger rooms.
Think about the size of the room first, but the size of the unit second, always according to how much you plan to move it around.
Ventilation – The ventilation option of the A/C unit is a factor to consider as well. Most portable A/C units are designed to vent out of your windows, which means you will need to set them up close to the window. There are two basic A/C unit ventilation options:
Dual hose units are a better investment because they offer better ventilation and more energy efficiency. They will also cool your rooms faster, so they will require less run time to do their job.
Condensate – Air conditioners will always generate a bit of moisture, perhaps even enough to drip or leak if there is no output for the condensation. Portable units tend to use one of three methods to deal with condensation:
Noise – Noise is a big factor, especially if you’re running the A/C unit in your bedroom at night, your home office during work hours, or your living room while watching TV.
Usually, the A/C unit will make no more than “background noise”, but some units can get pretty loud. When shopping around for an A/C, check the decibel (db) rating to see how noisy it is.
Features – There are a number of useful features that make operating your A/C unit and keeping your house cool a whole lot easier:
These are added “bonuses” that definitely make the units more user-friendly. Consider which, if any, of these features you definitely want in your unit.
If you’re dealing with prime summer heat, you may find that every minute spent in that swelter can make a huge difference! So of course you’ll want to know how long you’ll need to wait before things cool down enough that you’re comfortable.
Central air conditioning units—obviously the most powerful type of A/C—can usually drop the temperate of your entire home within just a few hours. However, you should often feel relief within 5 to 10 minutes of the A/C kicking in as it starts cooling off your house.
With portable air conditioners, however, the results are a bit different. You’re only cooling one room (a compact space) so the A/C unit doesn’t have to worry about heat zones or whole-house temperatures. It’s dedicated cooling that works much more quickly, but won’t deliver the long-lasting results of a whole-house A/C.
An individual unit can cool a small room (10 x 10 feet) in about 20 minutes, with your ideal temperature reached in an hour or so. However, the moment you open the door, heat from the outside will waft in, forcing your unit to kick back on to keep things cool. When you move the portable A/C to the new room, it will have to start cooling all over again.