You must be thinking that why should you trust the following recommendations; let us tell you that Wirecutter’s team has put over 100 hours into testing a variety of air conditioners; from window ACs to portables, around 150 models went into researching and testing along with hands-on trials with the best 16 among the available options.
Not only discussions were held with different companies (LG, Frigidaire, and many others) but also a lot of efforts have been put into researching air conditioner’s efficiency standards.
Best Portable Air Conditioners
If you are thinking for a central air conditioner to take the cooling level at your home a little higher, stop right there because it demands to spend quite a few bucks. There is a wide range of other convenient and affordable portable air conditioners available to keep you cool. What’s the major advantage?
These air conditioners are easy to move hence the name. If your area is experiencing hot weather, you can easily move it from one place to another without any hassle.
However, buying a portable air conditioner is not a piece of cake. You would have to research beforehand to compare and analyze whether they meet your needs. To save you from the hassle of searching all over the market, we have brought you the top 13 portable air conditioners to choose from.
Who Should Have A Portable Air Conditioner?
If you live in a hotter region of the world and air conditioning is your necessity, you must be comparing between different types of air conditioners available on the market. In case you don’t have a central air conditioning system at home, consider window air conditioners, as they are comparatively an efficient and budget-friendly option.
But the problem is that not every house or room is capable of fitting in a window AC either because the process of installing a unit is way too difficult, or simply, there is no place to fit in. If you are stuck in any of the above-mentioned situations and you find no way else to find comfort, portable air conditioners could be the ultimate option.
Just because it is a ‘portable’ air conditioner, it doesn’t mean there is no need for a window. The fact is that you will still need a window in order to have an opening to pass out the heat and an electrical socket, obviously.
If you are looking to install a mini-split system, we recommend you considering a portable AC for they are budget friendly and have an easier installation process. Additionally, a portable one delivers the same cooling experience and is enough to provide sufficient cooling to a large room.
What We Were Looking For In A Portable AC
We were in search of a unit that provides satisfactory performance, low-noise, enhanced efficiency, and other factors that would contribute to an overall good-quality portable air conditioner.
We independently rated each unit on its cooling quality along with its performance. Our priority was to measure how capable the unit is to adjust its cooling performance according to different seasons, or SACC, a calculation by Dept. of Energy for the representation of the weighted average performance of a portable AC in certain situations. SACC is not only used to measure cooling performance and capacity but also the unit’s performance in hot, dry and humid weather conditions. It also measures the impact of heat emitting out from the unit’s outlet. The SACC may take the place of a comparatively less-detailed standard of measurement, BTU; however, there are many air conditioners out there on the market using Btu ratings, so we have taken both metrics into consideration.
Furthermore, we have also taken into account the energy-efficiency ratio (EER). It is measured in Btu per watt, and during comparison, out of 12.0, we have set aside every option below 9.0. Since this rating is not as detailed as SACC, we didn’t consider particular figures if the efficiency level of air conditioners was up to the par.
Since oversized air conditioners are known to come with a risk of overcooling the room before the process of dehumidification, the ones mentioned below boast built-in dehumidifying settings to pull away any moisture from the room without actually cooling it. That is the reason we were not concerned with oversize units; what really concerned us was to come up with wise recommendations that have the capacity to deliver satisfactory performance.
Portable air conditioners are known to perform below the standards, and we have come across the news of people frequently opting for smaller units, which they later find unsatisfactory; hence left with no other option than returning it. That is why we decided to focus on big units and limit a point – SACC of 7200 Btu/hour.
We evaluated each model based on the following factors:
- Installation Procedure: Was the setup procedure complicated? Did it require tools?
- Performance: Was the unit capable of cooling the room faster? How evenly it distributed the coolness across the entire room?
- Portability: Though every unit under consideration had caster wheels, we still had to test whether they were easy enough to move around.
- Noise: As a first step, we set every model aside marketed with a noise rating of 56 decibels or above. Then we put finalized units under test to look for any noise or unpleasant sound.
- Overall Experience: How it is to have portable air conditioners, their off-season capabilities, and their overall functioning and control.
- Accessories: Included items, such as power cord, remote control, and connectivity
We also considered units regardless of their hose count – dual or single. The analysis and research did direct our inclination toward single-hose, as many new models feature this design and existing reviews specify people’s preference towards them for their setup procedure is easier than the other; however, our research has also discovered that some dual-hose units may perform better in hot weather conditions. However, there is a slight difference between both, and we can’t neglect the convenience single-hose units provide.
Our initial criteria for performance made a short list of 25 portable models with good quality and performance. Applying further remaining criteria, we decided to go for the testing of 5 models.
Our Testing Procedure
The final five models were subjected to test; all five machines were set up in a large space: 700 sq. ft. room with 14 ft. ceiling. We tested and rated each model on five aforementioned factors: Installation procedure, performance, portability, noise, included accessories, and overall experience.
There is a requirement for portable air conditioners to state their efficiency and performance stats, and our reports and tests have proved the figures to be absolutely correct. By previewing these figures, we knew that these models are capable to perform and cool adequately. We confirmed our guess by measuring with two Lascar Temperature and Humidity Data Loggers – one was placed 5 ft. away, right in the machine’s front, and the other logger was placed 15 ft. away, diagonally. With temperature settings at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, fan set on the highest setting, our team measured the temperature every fifteen minutes for nearly two hours to check the performance of the unit and whether the unit is able to evenly distribute the coolness and dehumidification process across the entire room.
We also ranked each air conditioner based on its every day usage . We also perform tests to measure the volume of each portable at different settings –compressor on/off, and fan on low, medium and high, 5 ft. away from the unit. During testing and grading, there was a lot to learn which made us capable enough to decide the best model for us.
1. Honeywell MN10CESWW 10000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Boasting a minimalistic design, the Honeywell features exceptional cooling abilities. The unit includes a full window set for faster and easy installation. This portable air conditioner has the capacity to perform effectively in 350-450 sq. ft. rooms and is portable to switch between the rooms wherever needed.
The Honeywell portable AC does an amazing job and provides the best cooling experience by transforming a hot, humid room into cool heaven. Apart from its convenient installation, the unit doesn’t feature any drainage tank, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning it every now and then.
As with most of the portable air conditioners, the Honeywell also comes with a dehumidifier that has the capability of pulling away 70 pints of moisture from the air every day.
- Dehumidification processes every day
- No drainage bucket
- Durable construction
- Brand: Honeywell
- Model: MN10CESWW
- Weight: 61.7 pounds
2. LG LP1215GXR 115V Portable Air Conditioner
It is definitely justified to say that LG manufactures the best products. Either it is a cell phone or a portable air conditioner, LG ensures the best quality and performance. This LG’s portable is our absolute favourite for several reasons.
This portable air conditioner has the capacity to cool rooms up to 300 sq. ft. For large-sized rooms, it will perform just right, though at a slower pace. Moreover, it also has a dehumidification feature that mixes warm and cool air and pulls away excess moisture up to 1.2 pints every hour. The LG portable air conditioner has a 115V outlet and uses 7,000 BTU.
Apart from its design, the machine itself is easy to move around. Unlike many other portable air conditioners that have problems with the setup of hose, this portable by LG doesn’t require any complexity.
To sum up, this portable AC is the best choice if you want faster cooling with the atmosphere. Just like every other LG product is known for its durability and efficiency, their portable air conditioners are the same.
- Manufactured with lightweight materials
- Attractive charcoal black design
- Convenient cleaning
- Brand: LG
- Model: LP1215GXR
- Weight: 78 pounds
3. BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner
Black & Decker is a renowned American brand for manufacturing high-quality and durable products every time, and their portable air conditioners are unbeatable. With a major focus on user-friendly elements, the Black & Decker portable is a 5000 BTU unit and is one of the best.
The portable features a vertical ventilation system, allowing comparatively better airflow than other counterparts on the market. The fact that this portable carries an attractive price tag and the cleaning part is convenient and easy, it becomes one of our favourite ones.
Though the portable uses 5000 BTU, the included features back its lack of power up. It comes with a window kit that is super-easy to install. Moving the portable is extremely smooth and easy due to its good-quality casters.
To sum up, we can say that it is a good-performance and high-quality portable air conditioner that too with an attractive price tag. This machine uses 5000 BTU that is sufficient to cool small-sized rooms. Black & Decker has always been known for its high-quality products, and to be honest, this portable has made satisfaction levels past the expectations.
- Easy to move around
- Customizable features
- Easy-to-install window kit
- Brand: Black & Decker
- Model: BPACTO8WT
- Weight: 52.9 pounds
4. FRIGIDAIRE 12,000 BTU Cool Connect Smart Portable Air Conditioner
Frigidaire 12000 BTU portable air conditioner has to be one-of-a-kind. Usually, all portable air conditioners need to let out the hot air generated by the motor, but the Frigidaire one doesn’t have any requirements for window slats. If you want the AC unit to be in the middle of the room, turn on the fan settings and set it in the centre to enjoy the cool air.
Frigidaire was the first brand to manufacture refrigerators, and with their portable air conditioners, they have taken a step further in terms of innovation and comfort. This portable unit features the capacity for the 360-degree airflow function. Moreover, the settings are controlled by WiFi, so you can control the functions from the entire room with convenience.
If you are trying to utilize this portable to its maximum potential, it may not perform up to your standards. The portable uses 12000 BTU power that is enough to transform your hot room into a chilled one; however, place the unit considering its 360-degree function.
The 12000 BTU portable also features dehumidification function that pulls away air up to 3 pints every hour. For drainage, you need to pour the water from the small tank at the back. The functions are controlled by an app available on both the Play Store and App Store.
- Three different speed settings for cooling and fan
- 360-degree air flow feature
- 12000 BTU power
- Brand: Frigidaire
- Model: FGPC1244T1
- Weight: 85 pounds
5. LG LP0817WSR 115V Portable Air Conditioner
As we mentioned earlier, LG has been our absolute favourite when it comes to their home appliances. With their wide range of available products, they have been an essential home appliance brand for every American home. This portable air conditioner is ideal to provide efficient cooling for medium-sized spaces.
The LG portable air conditioner utilizes 5500 DOE. It has the potential to pull away moisture up to 1.8 pints. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about the cleaning process as it features auto-evaporation option to clean up the buildup. With its programmable system, you can control cooling according to your own preferences, so you can get your ideal kind of room before you walk in.
The portable boasts metal vents for intake and filtration system, but unfortunately, they seem to be easily damaged, which can further hinder air intake. If you want to avoid such problems, make sure to keep the unit away from children and check in case the AC is projected against the wall.
Due to the portable being light-weight and its included 6 ft. long cable, it is easy to move around and take into a new room if your guests are arriving.
- Dehumidification process pull away 1.8 pints of humidity every hour
- Includes six ft. long power cord
- Programmable features
- Brand: LG
- Model: LPO817WSR
- Weight: 58.4 pounds
6. Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
Do you live in a hotter region of the world? Don’t worry, and consider Whynter for the next replacement option. This portable air conditioner by Whynter can transform humid air into an extremely refreshing and dry air pretty quickly. Under the operational parameter guided by the maker, the Whynter ARC 14S has the capacity to cool rooms up to 500 sq. ft.
If you want to cool larger spaces, just go by what’s written. If you are using this portable air conditioner for dehumidifying purposes to protect your valuables, it will do its job just right, pulling away 100 pints of humidity from the atmosphere per day. In good weather conditions, just turn the setting to fan mode and chill. The Whynter’s portable also boasts patented technology for auto-drainage, which transforms moisture into cool and dry air.
- Brand: Whynter
- Model: ARC-14S
- Weight: 80 pounds
7. Honeywell MN12CES Portable Air Conditioner
The Honeywell MN12CES portable air conditioner has the capacity to handle air up to 163 cubic feet per minute. It can dehumidify moisture up to 79 pints every day.
If you own a large-sized room and want dry and cool air, then you should consider this portable AC by Honeywell. It has the capability to cool rooms up to 450 sq. ft. With such cooling capacity, we think that the remote control of this particular unit is, undoubtedly, the most essential component, considering its short power cable.
Obviously, you don’t want to give up your relaxing position to adjust the setting. But the performance of the remote control was just right, and we were able to switch between modes quite easily.
- Brand: Honeywell
- Model: MN12CES
- Weight: 68.3 pounds
8. EdgeStar AP12000S Portable Air Conditioner
Though it carries a comparatively expensive price tag, its effective performance is enough to back you up for all the extra bucks you paid for it. The EdgeStar portable AC dehumidifies 90 pints of humidity from the atmosphere, so you don’t have to worry about your valuables anymore.
The EdgeStar portable AC boasts an innovative design. It is built with light-weight materials that allow you to move the unit around with ease and convenience. The venting system is also easy to install and move around.
- Brand: EdgeStar
- Model: APS12000S-KF
- Weight: 69 pounds
9. SPT WA-1420E Portable Air Conditioner
The SPT WA-1420E may not boast an attractive design, but buyers will realize its worth once they get to know its capacity to cool large-sized rooms. Some may point out whether the unit violates thermodynamics’ laws, but the main point here is that it cools larger rooms effectively.
With this portable AC, you won’t have to wait for long for the AC to cool down space. And it may not be an affordable option on the list, but it is important to know that this AC does its job just right.
- Brand: SPT
- Model: WA-1420E
- Weight: 73 pounds
10. LG LP1417GSR 115V Portable Air Conditioner
The LG LP1417GSR is manufactured to cool rooms up to 500 sq. ft. and works effectively until environmental parameters don’t exceed. If you want to remove the moisture from the air, just turn on the dehumidifier to pull away 3.1 pints of moisture every hour.
This is ideal for larger rooms and spaces, and it won’t stop its operations until the place is completely dry and cool. The portable features a minimalistic design and is pretty easy to use.
- Brand: LG
- Model: LP1417GSR
- Weight: 75 pounds
11. Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 5, 000 BTU 115V
The FFRA0511R1 is one of the two window ACs here. There are several reasons this air conditioner got the chance to get featured on this list: performance, easy installation, effective and efficient cooling. However, just keep in mind that with 5000 BTU power, this portable is manufactured for smaller spaces, so don’t expect to make it work outside its written parameters.
From easy installation methods to long power cables, it is definitely the ultimate option to cool smaller rooms without having to pay a hefty amount of electricity bill.
- Brand: Frigidaire
- Model: FFRA0511R1
- Weight: 41 pounds
12. Frigidaire Smart Window Air Conditioner
Unlike any other portable air conditioner on this list, the Frigidaire one includes a major selling point – allows to control it smartly. You can control the AC even if you are not currently available at home. There are several reasons to love it: attractive design, easy installation, and effective cooling abilities.
Although the manufacturers could have put a little more effort to build the user interface better, the remote control functions just right. The app to control functions is available on both Google Play Store and the App Store.
- Brand: Frigidaire
- Model: FGRC0844S1
- Weight: 54 pounds
13. Koldfront PAC802W Portable Air Conditioner
The Koldfront PAC802W boasts exceptional cooling abilities and works effectively under environmental parameters. The portable sets up and moves around quite easily. The dehumidifying does a good job as well, pulling away 61 pints of moisture from the air every day. Considering its price tag, we think the Koldfront is a great deal for the money.
- Brand: Koldfront
- Model: PAC802W
- Weight: 57.2 pounds
14. LG LP1419IVSM
Incorporated with a powerful single-hose, the LG LP1419IVSM is one of the most effective portable air conditioners, with a high EER. Unlike any other typical portable AC, the LG one has the capacity to adjust and maintain at different temperature and humidity settings regardless of different weather conditions. The reason behind is that this portable AC boasts a DC-powered, dual rotor compressor.
Unlike most of the typical AC compressors that operate on just on/off speeds, the LG’s portable AC features rotors that have variable speeds to sync the cooling with any condition, without needing to worry about high energy consumption. So, its cooling performance is better than others with similar power output. Plus, its usage will save a few more bucks on your electricity bill in future.
There is a noticeable change in the standards of power output measures of a portable air conditioner. As per the old measuring standards, this portable AC has the power of 14,000 Btu; however, according to the SACC metrics, it has the power of 10,000 Btu/hour. The LG’s portable air conditioner features a distinctive compressor design, which makes it the quietest AC than its other counterparts.
Also, we noticed a slight sound difference when the compressor is off and on. Upon measuring the volume from 5 feet away when the compressor is off, and the fan is on low settings, it was 56 dB. Similarly, the fan set on high made the volume all the way from 56 to 60 dB. The frequency measure of the volume output showed several little spikes between 9,900 Hz and 10,500 Hz and later between 14,500 Hz and 15,000Hz.
The LG’s portable AC features a swinging fan that appears out from the top and auto-swing all the way to evenly disperse the cooling in the room. Among all the tested models, the LG was the most consistent with its temperature when measured from the distance of 5ft and 15ft.
The single-hose, built into the back side of the unit, can be compressed vertically, coming directly in level with the unit. This structure is a lot easier to manage than other tested models.
This portable air conditioner features a large display and control panel. As mentioned in the beginning, the LG one also boasts the option to dehumidify or run in a fan-only mode. The drain ports can be unscrewed at the time of cleaning out the condensation unit; however, the unit is manufactured too low, making the water drainage difficult. On the other hand, the removal and cleaning process of the LG portable’s filters is easy, without the need for any extra tools. The included remote is standard, and there is small storage at the back of the unit to store it safely.
The LG also has smart features to control it via smartphone, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or SmartThinQ. It is an additional feature that is especially useful when you are not at home.
Still a Good Value for Money
The LG was the heaviest among other tested models, weighing at 78 pounds. The attached caster wheels make the portability easier on flat surfaces; however, lifting and moving portables on stairs is quite difficult, and considering the heaviness of the LG, makes it even for difficult to carry the portable around.
While the LG portable AC just has one drain port at the back to collect the moisture, the other tested models on the list (except the Black+Decker) had a dedicated drain port to collect the moisture from dehumidification, which is comparatively easier to reach.
This situation makes it difficult to clean the water out from the LG – you may have to elevate the unit a little higher and tilt to empty it. And if you leave the port to fill its 20-gallon capacity, it could make the process a little bit more complicated.
The LED display can be hard to read in daylight. Sometimes, if the display is exposed to direct sunlight, you may have a hard time navigating it. There is an option to dim the display, which is good for night use.
The window kit of the LG seems manageable, but after coming across the exceptionally-good kit included with Frigidaire, it is justified to say that LG could have incorporated a far-better kit with an otherwise good-quality portable.
Several complaints have been made about a high-pitched noise coming out from the compressor. Though we didn’t detect any annoying sound during testing, a few little spikes showed up, ranging between 9,900 to 10,500 Hz and later between 14,500 and 15,000 Hz, which are quite loud for humans.
15. The Frigidaire Gallery 12,000 BTU Cool Connect Smart Portable (FGPC1244T1)
The Frigidaire Gallery is not as powerful and quiet as the LG, but it features a lot of other great details along with its distinctive design that amplifies the overall experience. Also, it was the only model on our list that sets up without the need of any tools at all.
With the EER at 11.0, this single-hose Frigidaire portable was measured with the highest rating among all the tested models; however, on the other hand, it was measured at a lower SACC and Btu rating, 7,200 and 12,000 respectively.
During testing, it made a significant temperature decline on a hot day within a 15-minute time frame. This suggests that it efficiently utilizes a comparatively lower power output, and the energy-efficiency ratio backs that up.
Featuring a comparatively taller and narrower structure, it is an advantage for two main reasons: less space consumption and increased accessibility. It may surprise you, but people have acknowledged this portable for its good structure, which is quite rare in the case of portable ACs. Though apparently, the overall structure and design suggest that the bottom of the unit carries the weight, the Frigidaire is lighter, weighing at 66 pounds.
What makes it a standout among others is its outclass design and structure. While other portables feature the same, old accordion-style hose, the Frigidaire comes with a cloth covering to cover that awkward style and provide a little protection.
It also comes with the magnet on top of the unit to store the remote and prevent it from misplacing. Furthermore, it features a single unit that snaps into the position without the need to toss and turn the toolbox. It also includes a special tape strip to place as a covering over the extendable notches. These are small yet significant differences that make Frigidaire a home-friendly machine, and this may not be the opinion when it comes to other portables.
The Frigidaire Gallery also has smart features via Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or the Frigidaire’s own smartphone app, which features a built-in option to pre-schedule. The portable machine also boasts the option to dehumidify without chilling the room, but it has an enhanced system – the separate and dedicated drain port that can be attached to a garden hose in order to pour the water out.
The one and only drawback is that unlike other typical compressor sounds, the Frigidaire’s compressor emits out an awkwardly different noise. It can’t be categorized as particularly loud sound – with volume output measured at 57dB when the compressor is on, and the fan is on low settings, but sometimes, it can go up to 65dB on high fan settings. But the results show occasional spikes between 1500Hz to 1600Hz. At times, the compressor also makes a sort of rattling noise upon the drainage of dehumidified air.
16. Honeywell HL14CES
Though the Honeywell doesn’t sport the same design and structure like that of a Frigidaire portable AC or innovative technology like the LG, it is still an effective portable air conditioner. It has the second highest power output with the SACC rating of 8,500. The LED display has bright digits that are readable across the entire room. However, it doesn’t boast any smart capabilities.
Though it weighs 76 pounds, it has easier movability. Unlike the other two discussed models that were a bit better at evenly dehumidifying and distributing the coolness, the Honeywell was still good at its job.
We found out that with compressor on and low fan setting, the Honeywell was only 2dB louder than the LG one, and had nearly the same volume output on the high fan setting. But we did find a spike around 4,600 Hz, which could be obnoxious to some people.
This window panel setup doesn’t require any tools; however, you do require a Phillips-head screwdriver for the removal of one of the filters. This portable machine also has a dehumidifying feature and a separate port that can drain the water out.
17. Black+Decker BPACT14WT
If you looking for a portable AC with an affordable price tag, the Black+Decker is the best option. Though it gets awkwardly loud, the machine still performs its job. As we mentioned in the beginning about setting a minimum threshold of 9.0 energy-efficiency ratio and cooling capacity of 7200, the Honeywell just passed the baseline, with 9.86 EER and the SACC rating of 7,500.
With compressor on and fan on low settings, the volume output was 64dB, which increased all way to the volume output 6dB louder than the LG or Honeywell. The portable also emitted awkward, inconsistent frequencies.
The Black+Decker portable air conditioner is easy to set up, but the installation of the window panel and removal of the filters for cleaning require you toss and turn the toolbox to find a screwdriver. This portable sports haptic control panel, which is quite easy to use.
Weighing at 68.3, the Black+Decker stands on the second position in the category of the lightest portables on the list. Apparently, the caster wheels feel bumpy, but they function just right.
The Upcoming Standards
According to a 2016 Department of Energy rule, all portable air conditioners must at least consume 20 percent less power than least-efficient portables available out there on the market. This rule was supposed to be a part of the Federal Register in March 2017, but the present authorities delayed that part.
Later in 2018, one of the district judges issued implementation orders, but a while later, another court gave the orders to continue the delay for a little longer. The standards are still not implemented. If this rule is implemented, the new efficiency standards will be in effect from 2023.
Though it is still a pending decision, many manufactures have started implementing new efficiency standard. Besides new rules, many portable ACs will relatively consume more energy and deliver substandard cooling performance.
The Other Counterparts
One of the competitors is the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS. If you are in search of a portable AC with a double-hose, you should consider the Whynter. It is still a great option, but the complexity of the second hose may be the reason most people don’t prefer it.
Weighing at 57 pounds, this portable AC is quite compact. Plus, it’s also quiet but not as quiet as other tested models on the list. Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP is another counterpart that is fundamentally the same as the Elite but comes with a built-in heater.
How to Make the Best Use of a Portable AC?
If you want to the best out of your portable air conditioner, cover the gaps between the window frame and the panel. For this purpose, there are strips of foam available, which cost a few bucks for a 10 feet strip. The tape will work as a covering to prevent warm air that could pass easily through any sort of opening otherwise. Also, remember to clean the filters at least once in a month.