People who have central air conditioning in their homes are fortunate when the summer heat arrives, but this comfort can come at a cost when high utility bills arrive. Portable room air conditioner units are often seen as a more affordable alternative, but they can lead to crowded living conditions, with families trying to have dinner in a bedroom with a wall-mounted unit. Central air conditioning is costly to install and operate, and purchasing separate non-portable units for each room can also be a significant expense.
The “real” solution for many families is a portable ac unit, which can be wheeled from room to room as needed.
Portable air conditioning units are an ideal choice for individuals residing in apartments without functioning A/C or facing restrictions on installing window air conditioners. Landlords may not permit window units, or there may be challenging rules and regulations. These units are also a practical option in regions with generally mild climates where the cost of central air conditioning isn’t justified. Additionally, they are beneficial for individuals working in offices that become uncomfortably hot and humid during the summer, and some families even bring portable air conditioners on camping trips.
Best Portable Air Conditioner – Buying Considerations
When selecting a portable air conditioning unit, the first crucial factor to consider is its cooling power, measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). It’s essential to choose a unit that matches the size of the room it will cool. For instance, a smaller bedroom may require around 5,000 BTUs, while a large living room might need 15,000 BTUs.
Airflow, measured in cfm (cubic feet per minute), is also important as it determines how effectively the unit can circulate cool air in the room. Other key factors to consider include noise levels, energy efficiency, portability, the number of operating speeds, and the availability of features like dehumidifying mode, sleep modes, remote controls, and programmable timers.
However, it’s essential to note that portable air conditioner units require at least one window or door in the room for venting hot air outside. They come with an exhaust hose and an easy-to-install window vent for this purpose. It’s not suitable for use in windowless spaces like a basement apartment.
1. Honeywell MN10CESBB 10000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
We’ll start with a unit that strikes a great balance between power and price. The Honeywell portable air conditioner, with its 10,000 BTU power, effectively cools medium-to-large rooms, approximately 15′ x 20′ or 20′ x 20′. While some units on our list boast higher BTUs and airflow at a higher price point, the majority of users find that this level of cooling is sufficient for their room size.
One standout feature of the MN10CESBB, apart from its cooling prowess, is its excellent dehumidification capability. It can remove nearly 70 pints of water from a room per day in normal mode and up to 85 pints when using the dedicated dehumidification setting. Additionally, it features an auto-evaporation system, eliminating the need for drip pans.
Though, like most portable air conditioners, the MN10CESBB is heavier than expected for a “portable” appliance at around 63 pounds, it moves smoothly on caster wheels. With a noise level of 50 dBA, it’s not whisper-quiet but far from overwhelming. The unit is energy-efficient, has a removable and easy-to-clean filter, a digital LCD display, a remote control, and an automatic shut-off timer. However, it lacks a sleep mode and auto-restart, which are minor drawbacks. One notable point is that its vent hose is slightly shorter than the competition, which may be inconvenient for some users but doesn’t significantly affect its performance. Overall, it ranks at the top of our list for the best portable air conditioners in this review.
(One other note: if you need more power, Honeywell offers higher-priced but terrific 12,000 and 14,000 BTU models, and if you want a combined portable air conditioner and heater, the Honeywell MM14CHCS combines a 14,000 BTU A/C unit with an efficient heater).
For the best balance of power and price stick with this Honeywell Portable Air Conditioner.
Facts and figures for the Honeywell MN10CESBB 10000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner:
2. Haier HPC12XCR 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
We were tempted to place this Haier model at the top of our list due to its slightly higher power (12,000 BTU compared to the Honeywell’s 10,000 BTU) at a price that’s only slightly more. However, the HPC12XCR takes the second spot primarily because it is noisier, producing 63 dBA of sound compared to the Honeywell’s quieter 50 dBA. Nevertheless, it offers a compelling alternative.
The Haier and Honeywell units share nearly identical specifications and features, with the former being capable of cooling a slightly larger area, while the latter is a few pounds heavier. The HPC12XCR is easy to move around on caster wheels, includes a dehumidification mode that is more effective due to its larger size, features a three-speed fan, electronic controls with a full-function remote, and operates as an auto-evaporate portable air conditioner with an easy-to-remove mesh filter.
One aspect where the Haier falls slightly short is its energy efficiency, earning a lower score in this regard.
As for extra functions, there’s auto-restart in addition to a 24-hour timer, but no sleep mode. Those are all minor considerations, though, since this is a very good portable air conditioner at a reasonable price. Haier does offer a 10,000 BTU model at a price lower than that of the Honeywell; once again, however, we’re focused on the fact that a higher noise level makes it tougher to sleep at night, even in a cool room.
Looking deeper at the Haier HPC12XCR 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner:
3. Whynter Eco-Friendly 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Here’s a familiar scenario: the Whynter could easily contend for the top spot in our rankings. However, it falls slightly lower in our list due to being a bit noisier than the Honeywell, not cooling as effectively as the Haier on a BTU-for-BTU basis, and offering a shorter warranty.
Nonetheless, the Whynter stands out as the most energy-efficient portable air conditioner in our selection and is only slightly louder than the Honeywell, with the difference being barely noticeable. Think of our top three reviews as 1a, 1b, and 1c, and you’ll understand how closely they rank. Interestingly, the Whynter’s price is comparable to that of the Haier.
With 12,000 BTUs and an airflow of 188 cfm, this unit effectively cools a 400-square foot room. It features the expected dehumidification mode found in top-rated portable A/C units, but instead of “auto-evaporate,” the Whynter employs its proprietary technology for “auto-draining” and reusing the moisture extracted from the air during operation.
The Eco-Friendly model boasts a digital control panel with remote control, along with the same conveniences like a three-speed fan, programmable timer, and auto-restart.
Notably, the “Eco-Friendly” designation is used by the manufacturer because this unit uses R-410 refrigerant and is RoHS compliant, although the Honeywell and Haier could make similar claims without incorporating it into their product names.
This is a strong performer, and we think it’s well-deserving of our #3 (or 1c) ranking.
More info on the Whynter Eco-Friendly 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner:
4. LG Electronics LP0814WNR Portable Air Conditioner
We wanted to provide an affordable option for smaller rooms in our list of the top 5 best personal air conditioners, so we’ve selected this LG model with 8,000 BTUs to fulfill that role. (LG offers more powerful units as well).
It’s designed for rooms up to 200 square feet, making it suitable for a good-sized bedroom, but it performs best in slightly smaller rooms.
The LP0814WNR comes with most of the features you’d find on larger models, such as auto-evaporation, a remote control, a programmable timer, and auto-restart. However, it has only two fan settings and lacks a separate dehumidification mode.
The washable filter is easy to remove, and at 55 dBA, it’s one of the quieter portable A/C machines included in our rankings. It’s also lighter and more maneuverable, which is expected for a less powerful unit.
The major drawback to this LG model is that the window kit (for attaching the vent hose) isn’t very well-made, so it will take a little fiddling to get the hose attached properly. But if you use this smaller portable air conditioner in the proper-sized room, you’ll get plenty of cooling for the price.
Specs for the LG Electronics LP0814WNR Portable Air Conditioner:
5. Black+Decker 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Alright, you’ve made a compelling case, and we’ve decided to include one more highly affordable portable air conditioner in our rankings. This one is from Black+Decker, a reputable manufacturer known for producing quality appliances. The Black+Decker model comes in five sizes, ranging from 8,000 BTU to 14,000 BTU, with the 8,000 BTU version catching our attention due to its attractive price.
The 8,000 BTU Black+Decker air conditioner is suitable for rooms between 100 and 150 square feet, and it’s designed to work with sliding or double-hung windows. It offers cooling, fan, and dehumidification modes. While most condensation is expelled as mist through the exhaust hose, there’s also a built-in bucket (emptied via a drain hose when full) for excess water during high humidity. You can set the thermostat to maintain a temperature range from 64-90°F.
This unit is programmable and features an LED digital display, a remote control, a 24-hour timer with a sleep mode, and a slide-out filter that’s easy to clean under the faucet. While not completely silent, it runs fairly quietly.
It can be a bit tricky to correctly install the exhaust window panel and hose, but Black+Decker’s portable air conditioner is well-built, reliable and does a good job for a very good price.
A closer look at the Black+Decker 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner:
Friedrich P09B 9000 BTU ZoneAire Portable Room Air Conditioner
* Unfortunately it looks like this Friedrich model might not be available right now, so please consider another portable air conditioning unit from our top 5 list kit for now.
If you reside in a hot and humid region and require robust air conditioning, the Friedrich model might be the right fit. It’s on the expensive side and boasts 9,300 BTU, making it suitable for moderately sized spaces.
Friedrich offers other portable air conditioners with capacities of up to 13,500 BTU for larger areas. However, what sets this ZoneAire model apart is its “closed loop” cooling system, similar to traditional air conditioners, featuring dual exhaust hoses. This system evacuates hot air 40% faster, cools rooms nearly twice as quickly, removes more moisture from the air, and effectively maintains your desired temperature. Keep in mind that while it’s effective, it may not be the most energy-efficient option, consuming more electricity than many other portable A/C units. Additionally, it’s the largest and heaviest among the models we’ve reviewed, so it’s best suited for use in one or two primary rooms.
There are all of the standard higher-end features like auto-evaporate, dehumidify mode, remote control, timer and the like, it’s one of the quietest choices in our rankings – and if you don’t mind paying more for fewer BTU, this is a great portable air conditioner.
A closer look at the Friedrich P09B 9000 BTU ZoneAire Portable Room Air Conditioner:
Frequently Asked Questions
Are portable AC worth buying?
Portable air conditioners can be worth buying, especially if you need a cooling solution for a room that doesn’t have central air conditioning or if you’re renting a space where permanent installation isn’t possible. They offer flexibility and are more affordable than central air systems, but it’s important to choose the right size and model for your needs to ensure effective cooling.
Do all portable air conditioners have to be vented out a window?
Yes, nearly all portable air conditioners have to be vented out a window or similar opening. This venting is necessary to expel the hot air generated during the cooling process and to maintain the unit’s efficiency, so it’s a crucial requirement for proper operation.
Is it OK to run portable AC all day?
Yes, it’s generally okay to run a portable air conditioner all day if needed. However, it’s important to consider energy costs and environmental impact, so you should set the temperature at a comfortable but not excessively low level and ensure the unit is properly maintained to avoid overworking it.
If all this talk of BTUs and dehumidification is overwhelming, why not indulge in a refreshing ice cream treat? You can even make it yourself after checking out our team’s review of the Top 5 Best Ice Cream Makers.