Best Portable Air Conditioners in 2021
On hot summer days, we all need to take the edge off the heat, and portable air conditioners are an economical and quick solution when central air is prohibitively expensive. We did the research and found several capable portable AC units that cut costs (and temperatures). Each portable air conditioner can be easily moved from room to room to keep you cool wherever you go and cost far less than renovating your home’s central air.
Buying a good portable air conditioner requires a little homework, but don’t worry – we did the work for you. Here are the best portable AC models we found on the market today.
The Best Portable Air Conditioners
Your day is about to get a lot cooler with the Whynter ARC-14SH 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. Don’t spend another day sweltering in the summer heat. The Whynter ARC-14SH can turn a damp, stuffy space into a dry, comfortable room in no time. This small air conditioner can cool down a 500 square foot room, perfect for that stuffy den.
If you need to protect furniture and carpets, or halt humidity-induced mold growth, this portable unit can help. It sports patented auto-draining technology which turns collected moisture into cool air. It can dehumidify more than 100 pints a day! When you just want a gentle breeze, switch it to fan mode and relax. For large rooms that need a breath of cool air, look no further than the Whynter Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner. Be sure to also check out our review of the best cooling fan for our top picks.
Four separate operational modes – air conditioner, heater, dehumidifier, & fan
Ability to cool up to 500 square feet of space
Patented auto drain function
Eco-friendly CFC free green R-401A refrigerant
Programmable digital display and remote control operation
- Weight80 lbs
A true heavy duty portable air conditioner if ever there was one
Designers had Mother Earth in mind with the non-ozone depleting R410a refrigerant
100 pints of extracted moisture per day puts this unit will among the best of any portable air conditioner at any price
The unit can generate some noticeable dust if the filters aren’t properly cleaned
At nearly $500 it’s not anyone’s idea of a cheap portable air conditioner
Black and Decker has been one of America’s top brands for decades thanks to their quality construction, durable materials, and unique manufacturing. When it comes to building portable air conditioners, they’re one of the best. With a keen eye for user-friendly aspects, their 8,000 BTU unit comes out swinging.
This unit has a vertical ventilation system, offering a substantially better airflow than most competitor models. This allows you to cool off your spaces relatively quickly, even if that calls for a slightly-higher BTU output. Paired with the attractive pricing (and the simple-to-clean ventilation filters), we fell hard for this model.
While 8,000 BTUs (thanks to the 2017 regulation change) isn’t the highest, what this unit lacks in power, it makes up for in additional features. The window kit is easy to install, while the settings make it easy to preset your preference and flip it on the moment you get home. If you plan on moving this around to different rooms, you’ll be delighted at how easily the wheels move.
Overall, this is an excellently-priced, superior quality portable air conditioning unit for any occasion. 8,000 BTUs of power is ideal for bedrooms and smaller common areas. Black and Decker consistently delivers high-quality products, but our expectations were still exceeded with this one. For RV owners, we have selected the best RV air conditioners on the market that will help you keep your mobile paradise cool and comfy. Check them out.
24 hour on/off timer
LED digital timer
- Weight52.9 lbs
Quiet and versatile, this Black and Decker portable air conditioner will do its job without generating much in the way of noise
The window venting system is genuinely easy to set, up even by non-DIYers
This portable air conditioner is also a first-rate dehumidifier that will help save your valuables from the scourge of high humidity
Fan could be a bit more powerful than it is
While it’s not the most expensive 8,000 BTU unit on the market, it’s not too far off
If you find it difficult to sleep well at night with a loud air conditioning system, we have a quiet and effective unit for you. The SHINCO SPF2 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is an ingenious product that comes with a low-speed mode that’s perfect for a good night’s sleep. In addition to its sleep-friendly operation, the SHINCO SPF2 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is a space-saving miracle. Thanks to its compact dimensions, this mobile air conditioning system can be easily accommodated in the smallest of rooms. In such a compact form, it’s reassuring that this device can effectively work in spaces up 350 square feet and keep any room comfortably cool.
And although the manufacturer has labeled it as an air conditioner, a 2-speed fan and a 60 pint dehumidifying daily capacity help this unit stand out from the rest. It’s equipped with three blower stages, where you can adjust the air direction as you wish. With these functions, you can prevent fungal and bacterial growth in rooms that tend to be more humid. The control panel is easily accessible on the top of the device. When the remote control is not in use, you can place it in the rear bracket so it’s never lost. Overall, these functions, along with its easy installation, are what set this portable device apart. If you are also interested in smart home devices that will make your life so much easier, check out our selection of the best ones on the market.
East to install and use
Comes with remote
- Weight46.3 lbs
AC, fan, and dehumidifier
Not suited for big rooms
The Honeywell 10,000 BTU features a minimalist design and extraordinary cooling ability. It’s as easy to set up and put to work as it is tough on hot, humid air. This portable air conditioner can cool a room up to 350 square feet and, unlike a fixed window unit, can move with you from the dinner table to the living room to the bedroom.
The Honeywell 10,000 BTU Unit does an outstanding job of transforming your hot, humid interior into a cool, dry sanctuary. It’s extremely easy to set up and operate, and that ease of operation is enhanced by the fact that there’s no drainage tank to empty. As a dehumidifier, it’s capable of pulling an astonishing 70 pints of moisture from the air every 24 hours (although you’d have to be living in a tropical rainforest for your air to be that humid). Our handy guide to the best wall AC units offers additional products that will help you stay cool; take a moment to check them out!
70-pint dehumidification per day
Auto evaporation system for a no-tray, no-bucket design
Durable chassis sustains minor damage
- Weight61.7 lbs
Feather touch control means no more pounding on control buttons — simply slide your finger over the desired control to initiate it
Will effectively cool a room of 350 square feet (about the size of an average living room) provided the space doesn’t have cathedral ceilings or open ends
The remote gives you complete control of your portable air conditioner from across the room, and the auto evaporation system means no drainage tank to watch
Customer service is perhaps not all it should be
LG will always be one of our favorite electronics providers, especially when it comes to in-home appliances. From air conditioners to stoves, fridges, and beyond, they have become an American staple in every home. This Portable AC Unit can seriously cool down your medium-sized rooms with ease.
With some killer dehumidification power and an auto-evaporation setting, you can completely control the comfort levels of your space while providing up to 8,000 BTUs of cooling capability. With the potential to withdraw 1.8 pints of humidity per hour, you’ll find yourself in dehumidified heaven. You also get a programmable system to control cooling — initiate it just before you get home and walk into a cool, calming space right from the get-go.
We were a little disappointed with the rear build — the metal vents that control the filtration and intake system are easy to dent/damage, which can interfere with air intake. That can prove problematic for extended use. Keeping this unit away from children and ensuring it’s not against a wall/baseboard radiator should help prevent these issues from occurring.
You’ll be able to move the LG LP0817WSR around freely with a six-foot power cable, and the simple window mounting system aids in its versatility. Made of lightweight materials, this is easy to move around the house. Even with a few minor issues, LG still dominates the field in home appliances. For more quality cooling options that will keep you comfortable on a hot summer day, check out our guide to the top cooling tower fans.
Up to 1.8 pints-per-hour dehumidification
Six-foot-long power cord for maneuverability
- Weight58.4 lbs
Excellent price for great power
Specific ventilation technology removes “hot spots” in your room
Auto evaporation setting
Easy to damage; vents in the back are fragile, denting them may affect performance if you’re not careful
There’s capable, there’s good, and then there’s the Honeywell 12,000 BT. This unit is capable of handling 163 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air and removing up to 79 pints of water from the air daily. It’s quiet, efficient, and you don’t have to be a football player to move it around the house.
If you’re looking to keep a large room cool and dry, this is the unit. While the advertised 450 square feet might be pushing it, the Honeywell 12,000 BTU will certainly keep a large room of a few hundred feet cool and dry without much effort. We found the remote to be one of the most important components of this portable air conditioner. Why? In a big room you become aware of how short the power cord can be (the exhaust hose, too, for that matter). And if you’re seated 20 feet away, you don’t want to have to keep getting up to adjust the settings. That said, the performance was right in line with expectations and we found ourselves flipping between air conditioning and fan mode pretty regularly, which indicates the unit was doing its job. Love this product? If you are in the market to join the new world of smart home technology, check out our selection of the best smart air conditioners.
Easy to move
- ModelMN12CES MN 12,000 BTU
- Weight74.5 lbs
Designed to cool up to 450 square feet of open space quietly
Uses environmentally responsible R410a refrigerant that won’t destroy the ozone
The innovative auto-evaporation system allows for many hours of non-stop operation without having to empty a bucket or drain the unit — a major plus for convenience
Window bracket has been known to be a poor match for some windows
Power cord on this portable air conditioner could definitely be longer
The LG 14,000 BTU brings the cool to sweltering large rooms. It’s designed to effectively cool up to 500 square feet and does so well, as long as environmental parameters are not exceeded. Should the weather negate full-on air conditioning, switch to dehumidifier and remove up to 3.1 pints of moisture per hour from the air.
This model starts working on your larger rooms and doesn’t stop until they’re cool and dry. It’s a beast of an AC unit, with 14,000 BTUs of cooling power — so don’t waste it on tiny rooms. Overall, the unit is dependable, easy to use, and effective. It also has an attractive minimalist design that some will find very appealing. If you’ve been at a loss over how to keep your larger room cool on those hot summer days, the wait is over. The LG 14,000 BTU portable air conditioner answers the call. For more quality products that will help you spend those lazy summer days in comfort, check out our comprehensive guide to the best window air conditioners.
Good for large rooms or multi-person shared spaces
Super powerful at 14,000 BTUs
- ModelLP1417GSR 14,000 BTU
- Weight75 lbs
Handles the large rooms that a smaller portable air conditioner can’t
Fully programmable so you can have a nice cool room waiting for you when you get home without having to run the unit all day
The auto evaporation system means no more getting up to empty condensate buckets
More expensive than most
Might be a bit too loud for a good night’s sleep
Make no mistake, this model is not cheap. It redeems itself by being ultra-effective at cooling down your room and transforming it into a cool, dry, healthy environment. With the dehumidifier pulling an unbelievable 90 pints of moisture a day out of the air, you won’t have to spend any more time worrying that the humidity is ruining your furniture.
The Edgestar has an edgy design that may seem a bit ostentatious but will eventually grow on you. The unit itself is quiet and effective, fairly lightweight, easily moved, and the venting system is easy to manage. When it’s set up in a room of appropriate size and environmental conditions, this portable stand-up air conditioner will make short work of the heat and humidity and have everyone in the house breathing easier. Our guide to the best wall mounted fans offers more superb options to help you and your family stay cool in summer.
Quiet, low decibel operation perfect for use while sleeping
Automatic self evaporative drainage system
Three fan speed settings and remote control function
Intelligent design with automatic restart in the event of a power outage
Energy-efficient design quickly cools a room up to 425 square feet
- Weight69 lbs
Discourages the growth of potentially harmful mold, making your home a healthier place for all
The venting kit is easy to install even for non-DIY types and can be moved from window to window just as easily
Included remote, which is great when you’re across the room and want to adjust the setting
The fact that this portable air conditioner costs north of $500 is not its strong suit, but we understand that quality can be expensive
The feather touch controls are a little too feathery and can often be triggered by just being near them
If you are currently searching for a multi-functional portable air conditioner that can cool rooms up to 500 square feet, then the Honeywell MN12CESBB 12000 is well worth a closer inspection. It’s easy to install and relatively easy to maintain with a washable filter. That filter can protect you from dust, hair, and pet dander, helping to keep your home environment cleaner and fresher.
It’s simple to operate and comes with a comprehensive digital control panel. It can also be operated with a convenient remote control, which allows you to seamlessly toggle between cooling and air circulation. This 3-in-1 appliance also acts as a powerful dehumidifier and has the capacity to remove 66 pints of moisture from the air in a 24 hour period. There are three fan speed settings for your added comfort, as well as an energy-saving timer. It’s easy to maintain and store, and has the added convenience of being fitted with a self-evaporation system for bucketless operation. Quiet and elegant, it will perfectly fit in any modern or traditional home.
Flexible exhaust hose and easy to install window venting kit
Auto-evaporation system with no drain or bucket necessary
3-in-1 technology with three electrostatic filters
Digital soft-touch control panel or remote control operation
Four wheels for easy mobility around your home
- Weight68.3 lbs
Great for large rooms
Filters dust, allergens, and pet dander
Fan, dehumidifier, and air conditioner
Are you looking for a smart home device to complement your home? Luckily, with the RolliCool Alexa-Enabled Portable Air Conditioner, you have just that. With this product at your disposal, you will have full control of your living space ventilation from just about any location in the world. By simply downloading the accompanying mobile app, you can not only set up your device, but also set schedules, switch operational modes, and more. This is innovation at its best.
But that’s not all this device has to offer. This 14,000 BTU air conditioner comes fully integrated and can dehumidify, heat, cool, and circulate air in just about any space. But if energy efficiency tops your list of requirements, this noiseless unit also comes integrated with a sleep mode operation that not only ensures peaceful sleep when the unit is switched on, but also provides noticeable energy savings when operating overnight. Other innovative features include the Amazon Alexa voice command incorporation, the eco-friendly R410A reusable filters, as well as the three fan levels. Even better is how easy digital menu is to use. For those looking for a more affordable alternative to an air conditioner, check out our guide to the best oscillating fans that will help you combat the heat by consuming less energy.
14,000 BTU air conditioner
Eco-friendly R410A reusable filters
Amazon Alexa voice command
- Weight62 lbs
Smart technology — can be paired with Amazon Alexa
Fan, dehumidifier, and AC unit
Super powerful at 14,000 BTUs
Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide & FAQs
Features To Look For In The Best Portable Air Conditioners
Before you purchase your next portable air conditioner, we recommend considering these essential features and useful extras.
Dehumidifier Mode - Many units also double as dehumidifiers. You will need to connect a hose to drain the moisture collected from the air, unless the products feature auto-evaporation. Some units are so effective they can extract up to 100 pints of water per day.
Fan Speeds - It can be useful to have a range of fan speeds to circulate air and deliver a cooling effect. It’s fairly standard to have three speed settings.
Heat Mode - As with a dehumidifier, a heat setting might also prove useful if you want to buy a single appliance to serve multiple functions all year long.
Remote Control Operation - Many units will feature an advanced and easy-to-use digital display panel, as well as a remote control. The remote control proves life-saving if you want to pop the air on without having to get out of your chair.
Sleep or Night Mode - A sleep mode will normally adjust to a quieter setting so that you can sleep better and not wake up feeling freezing cold. A better idea might be to pre-cool your bedroom before you go to sleep, rather than have the appliance running overnight.
Timer Function - A useful function if you want the ability to automatically manage what time your machine turns on and off. Many portable air conditioning units feature a 24-hour clock with countdown and delay settings.
Noise Level – We’re not crazy about putting everything into a crazy scientific light — if you know a thing or two about decibels, then we applaud you. Decibels (DB), as you may see on sales pages, are measurements of sound. How loud a sound is depends on the decibel quantity. For instance, a human breathing on their own registers as about 10 DB. That’s not bad. A standard air conditioning unit is roughly 50-75 DB. That’s like having all your friends sitting next to you breathing. You’re pretty familiar with how your old air conditioner sounded, but with a portable unit, you can position the hose and vents to mess with the sound. When you’re looking at your next potential air conditioner, pay attention to the decibel rating so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Single vs. Dual Hose - This is usually something that we, as a society of consumers, just bypass. This matters way more than you think in terms of personal safety and efficiency. So, single hose or dual hose: what’s the better option?
Single hose units are good for small spaces, but they mess with the air pressure in your room. If you’re in a bedroom, and your door is closed, you might feel a vacuum-like effect — however minor it may be — when you open up the door. That’s because you have all that air being sucked in through the façade of the machine, and the hot air being pushed out. Between temperature and suction, you have an odd effect. If you’re thinking of using a single hose unit in a room with other electronics, and those are on and drawing heat, you’re better off going with a dual hose unit.
Dual hose units are unique — the other hose is sucking air from outside, running it through the machine (usually there are also suction points on the body of the machine as well), and this makes for a far more efficient process. However, the term "portable" becomes relative here. These units are sometimes bigger, but they do a much better job for larger spaces. You won’t feel that vacuum-like effect, but they feel more permanent than single hose units do.
BTU (British Thermal Units) – You found the right portable air conditioner for your needs. Budget-friendly, ergonomic design, long hose, and you like how it looks — but wait, that’s not really the point. The point is that it does the job that you need it to do, and does it without interruption. That’s when you look at the BTUs on an air conditioning unit, which are measured like this:
We use BTUs in the United States more than they do in the UK — go figure — but what do BTUs represent? It’s the amount of thermal energy that needs to be properly generated. That thermal energy is used to raise the temperature of pure liquid to the prime point for water density — 39 degrees Fahrenheit. For every BTU in a unit, you’re used just over 1,000 watts of energy per second. That’s why you freak out when the electric bill comes in every month.
However, BTUs are also how we decide how cold it’s going to make your room. You may notice guides that tell you how many BTUs a unit should have depending on what size room you’re going to use it in. When you’re dealing with portables, the more BTUs there are, the higher the price tends to be. There are window-mount units that exceed 20,000 BTUs, but those are more industrial.
How many BTUs do you really need? Here’s a quick little chart to tell you what you should be looking out for:
- 200 sq foot area – 4,000 BTUs
- 500 sq foot area – 10,000 BTUs
- 1,000 sq foot area – 20,000 BTUs
Basically, you’re looking at about 2,000 BTUs for every single 100 sq feet of space. Grab a tape measure and measure your room. Don’t get caught up in, “I want it to be freezing in here.” If you’re using an overkill portable air conditioner in a small space, it’s still outputting the same temperature. It may get there a little bit faster, but it’s going to spike up your electricity bill.
Setup - The portable air conditioner will need to be set up near a window so that the heat it pulls from the room can be vented to the outdoors. If the room you intend to cool doesn’t have a window, you’ll either have to improvise some sort of vent or simply forget about an air conditioner. You’ll also want to be sure there’s an outlet near the window. The power cord on most units is not that long. Using an extension cord is not such a great idea. Lastly, make sure your new unit has both a washable pre-filter and an additional carbon filter. These filter dust, mold spores, and pollen from the air and make for a healthier environment.
Pros of Portable AC Units Over Wall and Window Air Conditioners
- No Weatherproofing: Wall unit owners may have their reasons, but there’s nothing better than not having to weatherproof the exterior of your AC unit, or the space between your air conditioning unit and the wall.
- Non-Invasive Means: With wall units, you have to cut a hole in the wall, make a mount, or adjust the preexisting one to your new AC unit. If you end up buying a newer wall unit, you’re constricted to the size that your old one was, otherwise you risk skipping on proper insulation, making the point of air conditioning a bit useless. Portable units cut out this whole process.
- No More Rain: Window unit kits (referring to the accordion doors, plastic slats, screws, etc.), are always a pain in the neck. They take time to properly mount and allow condensation to form around the edge of your AC, which can ruin your windows over time. If rain is getting into your home, that means you don’t have a tight enough seal, and you’re throwing your cooling money out the window.
- Less Power on the Same BTUs: As an industry standard and threshold for quality, most portable air conditioners are running on less power, and come with higher Energy Star standards than window/wall units. Saving more money, on top of better insulation — there’s virtually no downside to going for a portable versus a window or wall unit.
Don’t portable units with window slats/vent pipes compromise insulation and allow weather to get in?
The window slats you receive with your portable unit come at a much higher thickness than the accordion doors that come with window units, and only allow rain/moisture to access the same sections of the window that they normally would, even with the window closed. The slats usually lean far outside of the window to allow for better insulation.
Portable Air Conditioner FAQs
Q: What is a Portable Air Conditioner?
A: Rather than slipping a large and bulky air conditioner into your window (which looks horrible from the outside, by the way), you’re able to freely move your unit throughout your home. Yes, it still has to be plugged in, but you aren’t constricted to a single room to beat the heat. Running vents to the window slat is easy, and generally takes no more than two or three minutes.
They operate more quietly and produce less heat, on average, than your standard window units. They also provide complete freedom from wall mounts. Installation, weatherproofing, and maintenance (both interior and exterior), are all issues that wall unit owners face. Portable AC units still need to be cleaned and have their filters scrubbed from time to time, but they don’t require the same attention that mounted units need.
In short, they move around freely, provide equal or superior power to window units, and allow you to just pack them up and go.
Q: How do Portable AC Units Work?
A: Let’s dive into the anatomy of a portable air conditioning unit and talk about each part. As with any unit, you have the electric motor that generates heat (ironically). This, plus your coolant, act as the essential heart and blood of your machine. Depending on the BTUs that your machine can generate, your machine may require more dedicated power or throw off more heat. That leads to your vent unit: running this to the window allows the generated heat to collect in a safe area, and funnel its way outside.
Those are your working parts. Then you come to your electrical system which powers your control system or digital panel. Cool air runs through a separate conduit to your vents, effectively cooling off the room while you mess with the controls. The thick ABS plastic shell found on most models properly houses everything without risk of damage, while providing enough insulation to keep temperatures in the room at bay, while keeping the cool air inside.
Q: How Do You Set Up A Portable Air Conditioner?
A: Setup of a portable room air conditioner is typically simple and painless. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that the heat which an air conditioner removes from the room's air needs to be vented out somewhere. If it’s simply allowed to escape back into the room, the room will never get cool! Because of this, an AC unit usually comes with a venting kit that fits in the window and accommodates a flexible hose that runs from the unit. Hot air is vented through this hose to the outdoors.
Q: Portable Or Fixed Air Conditioning System?
A: When it comes to things like home air conditioning, your primary concern should be cost. Installing a central air system may make your home a uniformly delightful place to live in, but it may also cost you hundreds more every month. One of the great benefits of the portable air conditioner is its low acquisition cost, its free installation, and the fact that you’re typically cooling only a single room for part of the day or night — as such, your energy bills won’t go through the roof.
Q: Do You Have To Drain A Portable Air Conditioner?
A: With some, yes. With others, no. If you think this is going to be an issue for you, make sure you find out whether the portable air conditioner you have your eyes on requires manual draining or has an auto-evaporation feature.
Q: Are Portable Air Conditioners Energy Efficient?
A: If you pit a 10,000 BTU portable unit against a 10,000 BTU wall unit, the portable is going to win for energy efficiency. You never have to use above a 110/120 outlet with a portable unit, as opposed to wall AC's. When it comes to window units, it all depends on the Energy Star rating of each unit, as they tend to use the same power supply.
In general, however, portable units are energy efficient (especially when you compare them to central air). You will spend less on your average monthly/yearly cooling costs with a portable air conditioner as opposed to other models. The right brand and model matter when it comes to the life expectancy of your unit, which is why we’ve provided our top picks on the list above.
Q: Do Multiple People Require a Higher BTU Output?
A: For every person in the room (above two), you’ll have to add roughly 750 BTUs of power for each individual. If you’re getting a joint unit for a common area in an apartment or dorm of four total inhabitants for, let’s say, a 500 square foot space, you would need 10,000 base BTUs. Plus 750 per person after the second. In total, you would need 11,500 BTUs for that shared space.
We throw off our body temperature like crazy, especially after coming in from a hot day. We sweat as a way to radiate heat instead of internalizing it, which would damage our organs and brain. As a result, you’re actually throwing off more than your internal body temperature for about four hours after exercise, or thirty minutes to one hour after entering your room from merely being exposed to high temperatures outside.
Like all the best air conditioners (and wall ACs), you can change your relationship with your home just by cooling it down. Where before it may have been a place to escape from on hot days, with a portable air conditioner, your home can become the place your family seeks out when the mercury rises. Portable air conditioners also allow you to sleep better and to entertain guests in comfort. If you’d like to buy a portable air conditioner for your home, any of these models will keep you cool, this summer and beyond.
- Introducing New Portable AC BTU Guidelines, Sylvane
- British thermal unit, Wikipedia
- How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?, Home Air Quality Guides
- Test Procedure for Portable Air Conditioners, U.S. Department of Energy
- Technical Support Document: Energy Efficiency Program for Consumer Products and Commercial and Industrial Equipment: Portable Air Conditioners, U.S. Department of Energy