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Best Portable AC For Your Needs

Choosing the Best Portable AC For Your Needs

When it comes to the world of portable air conditioners, you have plenty to choose from. While the concept of a portable air conditioner might seem rather simple, the truth is that they can all differ from each other in more ways than one.

If you are in the market for a portable A/C, knowing what your needs are beforehand can go a long way in helping you to end up with the unit that is most suited to what your needs are.

There are five main factors you should be mindful of when shopping for a portable air conditioner.

Room Size

This should be the first thing you should consider in your search for the right unit.

AC Unit by DeLonghi

Portable air conditioners come in different sizes and output amounts. This is not for the sheer purpose of offering maximum cooling power for whatever room a unit is used in, but rather to match the size of the room. BTU’s are the best way to determine this.

BTU stands for “British Thermal Unit.” This refers to the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1°F at sea level. In regards to portable A/C’s, it refers to how many BTU’s per hour the product can remove from the air around it during the cooling process.

It’s important to choose a portable A/C with the right amount of BTU to correspond with the room’s size. If you have a unit with a high amount of BTU in a smaller room, you’ll get a clammy environment with a unit that is constantly cycling on and off. If you have a unit that is too small, you end up with a room that’s not cool enough.

Calculating The Right BTUs for Your Room

A portable air conditioner unit needs approximately 20 BTU for each square foot of the space you are using it in. Square footage can be found by multiplying the length of the room by the width

Here’s a general estimate for certain BTU amounts in a unit.

  • 300 square feet or less = 10,000 BTU
  • 500 square feet = 10,000 - 14,000 BTU
  • Over 500 square feet = 14,000+ BTU

There are a few other factors that could cause you to increase BTU amount by about 10%, such as sunny rooms, rooms with excessive heat from appliances, or rooms that will have multiple people in them on a regular basis.

Is Noise an Issue?

The vast majority of portable air conditioners are not silent, especially when they are set to a high fan setting. If you are wanting to have peace and quiet in the room you are using, you’ll need to pay close attention to the decibel level of the unit.

Many higher-end units can operate on a high fan setting at a relatively low noise level. While this “noise” is essentially white noise, (which can actually be soothing to some people at night when trying to sleep,” it can still be too much to handle in certain settings, such as a living room or dining room.

Most portable air conditioners have a decibel rating listened in their specifications. To give you an idea of comparison, the average human conversation at a normal volume from 3-5 feet away is 60-70 decibels. Many portable air conditioners hover around the 50-55 decibel range on a max setting.

Energy Efficiency

Some people use portable air conditioners for rooms that have inadequate central air, or no cooling at all. Others use them to lower their bills by taking some of the load off a central air unit. Regardless of your reasons, energy efficiency can play a key role.

Most portable air conditioner comes with an energy rating that helps to give you an idea on how well it performs compared to others. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient. If you are planning on using your unit frequently for extended periods of time, you are definitely going to want a higher energy efficiency rating.


Portable air conditioners don’t require much maintenance and care on a general level, but some models may need a little extra attention on a regular basis, especially if you leave it running constantly.

Portable A/C’s create condensate when they are in use, and not all units handle the issue the same. Fully self-evaporative and partially self-evaporative units get rid of most, if not all condensate that results from operation.

Other models aren’t capable of doing this, meaning you have to either direct the flow of moisture elsewhere, or constantly dump out a pan/bucket contraption that catches the moisture from the A/C.

If you’re someone who wants to leave the unit alone while it runs for extended periods of time, or don’t want to have to remember to dump the moisture out constantly, you’ll appreciate a self-evaporative unit.

Added Features and Conveniences

Portable air conditioners often come with numerous features and options that not only give you greater control of their operation, but also more convenience as well.

Built-in timers and programmers in an A/C allow you to set the unit for a certain amount of time, or to come on at a certain time of day, even if you aren’t home. This allows you the option to have the unit function independently without you having to hover over it all the time.

Remote for Portable AC

Remote controls are also a handy feature of many of the better portable air conditioners. Having a remotely controlled unit can be very convenient when you don’t want to have to keep getting up to go adjust it, especially if you are on the couch or laying in bed.

Some portable air conditioners can also function as dehumidifiers & heaters. The best units are capable of doing all three, giving you a versatile unit that you can use year-round in certain parts of the home. If you are intending to use the unit in a basement, you’ll definitely appreciate a multi-feature portable A/C

About the Author Tom Hanson

I’ve worked as an HVAC tech in Phoenix, AZ for the past 10 years. I created to help home owners select the right portable air conditioner, cooler or air purifier for their needs & budget in just a few minutes.

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