Looking for a small portable AC to cool a room?
You’ve come to the right place.
Portable air conditioners are great for those who don’t have a central AC system or want to save on energy bills by only cooling the room in use.
A portable AC uses less energy than a central room air conditioner and is more versatile since you can move it from room to room.
But the term ‘portable AC’ can be misleading.
Some portable ACs weigh 80 lbs or more and require semi-permanent ventilation - making it next to impossible to move, once installed.
But let’s be honest: for most homes and most rooms, a small portable air conditioner is all you need.
Even better, smaller portable AC units cost a lot less, work in more rooms, and are truly portable.
Why Smaller is (Usually) Better
The bigger a portable conditioner is, the more powerful it is, meaning it’ll cool a space faster.
But a large portable AC is not always the best choice for cooling a room. If it is too big (in terms of BTUs) for the room you are using it in, it can actually make the environment more uncomfortable.
According to the Department of Energy, a too-large AC is inefficient at both cooling and dehumidification. It’ll leave the room feeling clammy and uncomfortable.
A smaller AC unit that’s matched to the room size cools and dehumidifies more effectively and operates using less power.
In addition to the energy-saving and better cooling performance, a small AC takes up less space and is easier to move from room to room.
Choosing the Best Small Portable AC for Your Home
Pay attention to the BTUs of the portable AC you plan to buy. Portable air conditioners typically start at 5,500 BTUs. This is ideal for small rooms of up to 150 square feet.
Most homes will find an 8,000-BTU portable AC to be the best. It can cool a room of up to 350 sq. Ft.
Of course, a small portable AC is not always the best choice. If you have fairly large rooms at home, you don’t want to get an underpowered AC. It’ll waste as much power as an oversized one as it attempts to cool the entire room.
So, depending on your room size, you may need to go up to 10,000 BTUs or 14,000 BTUs.
For a complete AC sizing guide, see the sizing table below the reviews.
What’s In This Buying Guide
In this guide, we'll review the best small portable air conditioners suitable for use in rooms less than 600 square feet in size.
After the reviews, we'll dive into the practical aspects of portable AC installation, maintenance, and ventilation.
Best Small Portable AC Units
We’ve researched dozens of small portable air conditioners and read numerous customer reviews. Below is the ten that we believe are the best for most homes.
Our top picks range from tiny units designed to cool spaces of less than 200 sq. Ft. to those designed for large rooms of 600 sq. Ft.
Use the above table of contents to jump to a specific air conditioner or keep reading to go through all the reviews.
- 1Best for 300 SqFt Area: TURBRO Greenland 8,000 BTU
- 2Best for Small Rooms(less than 150 sq. ft.): BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT 8,000 BTU
- 3Best for Dehumidification & Cooling: Emerson Quiet Kool
- 4Best Desk or Bedside Portable AC: Evapolar evaCHILL
- 5Best for Rainy & Damp Days: LG 7,000 BTU
- 6Best Dual Hose Portable AC: Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP
- 7Best Value: Global Air 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
- 8Best for Air Purification & Cooling: Whynter Dual Hose
- 9Best for Small Rooms: LG 6,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
- 10Best for Cooling Quickly: AireMax 8000 BTU 3-in-1 Portable AC
- Our top overall pick
Max Cooling Area
BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT
- Best for small rooms
Max Cooling Area
- Best for large rooms
Max Cooling Area
Evapolar evaCHILL Swamp Cooler
- Best for desk or bedside
Max Cooling Area
Luma Comfort EC110S
- Best portable swamp cooler
Max Cooling Area
Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP
- Best dual hose
Max Cooling Area
Global Air Portable AC
- Best value
Max Cooling Area
hOmeLabs Portable AC
- Best for dehumidification
Max Cooling Area
- Best space saver
Max Cooling Area
- Best for year-round use
Max Cooling Area
Best for 300 SqFt Area:
TURBO Greenland GLP05AC is one of the best small portable air conditioners. Its area coverage makes it great for small to medium-sized rooms of up to 300 sq. ft.
The TURBO Greenland GLP05AC has 8,000 BTUs, so it cools your room within no time.
It is suitable for small and medium-sized rooms, as this air conditioner can cover up to 300 square feet.
It is a 3-in-1 unit; it can regulate air in your room in varying weather conditions. It removes moisture from the air, lowers the temperature, and provides soothing cool air. It can bring you comfort in multiple weather conditions.
This is an excellent mini portable air conditioner for modern users who are always on the go. Its installation takes only 15 minutes once you unpack it.
One of the best things about TURBO Greenland GLP05AC is its simple controls. The remote control and touch display panel make it reasonably easy to configure temperature and airflow at your convenience.
This top-rated portable air conditioner has four efficient caster wheels that help you move it around. It has two handles, but you will hardly need to use them.
- Reusable Filter: The reusable filter blocks particles from entering the air conditioner and damaging it. You will have to clean it every few months to ensure optimal working.
- Temperature Sensing Remote: Since the remote control has built-in temperature sensors, it provides a better cooling experience.
- Frequent Maintenance: The filters and the overall air conditioner must be cleaned frequently. This may be a problem for those who have a hectic schedule.
- Does not Self-Evaporate: As the air cooler does not self-evaporate well, it can be a hassle for you to drain the hose.
Best for Small Rooms (less than 150 sq. ft.):
Most people worry about buying a portable AC that’s not powerful enough for the room. But it’s just as easy to purchase one that’s too big, especially if you are planning to use it in a small room.
If you want to cool a room less than 150 square feet in size, we recommend this 8,000 BTU BLACK + DECKER unit.
It’s powerful enough to cool the room fast and keep it cool in the hottest weather but not too powerful that it becomes inefficient.
And it comes with a window kit that’s easy to set up and remote control, so you don’t have to get up the couch to change settings.
The BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT portable AC is rated at 8,000 BTUs, which feels like it should be able to cool a room larger than the 100-150 sq. Ft. The manufacturer recommends.
But, perhaps because of some design feature, Black + Decker recommends it for small rooms only.
The upside of having more BTUs is that it cools the room fast, faster than most other portable ACs. This is especially noticeable on hot days. You’ll feel the difference in just a few minutes after switching it on.
Not only does it cool fast, but it also cools evenly. This is because air moves in a vertical motion as it comes out of the vents.
So instead of cooling only one side of the room, it is spread out everywhere.
Four Fan Speed Options
You can select from four fan speed setting.
High: Fan spins fastest to distribute more cooling air and lower the room temperature faster. The AC gets somewhat noisy at this setting.
Med: Balances between performance and noise level. This setting is ideal for maintaining the room at a certain temperature.
Low: The slowest fan speed. Ideal for colder days or at night when you want to reduce the noise level.
Auto: The AC will automatically select the best fan speed to achieve the set temperature. For convenience, leave it in this mode.
This is a 3-in-1 portable air conditioner: cooling, fan-only, and dehumidification.
The built-in dehumidifier reduces moisture in the air though Black + Decker doesn’t specify its dehumidification capacity (the amount of moisture it can extract from the air per day).
When it extracts excess moisture from the air, it has to take it somewhere. In some portable ACs, you have to set up a drainage system to collect the water.
You don’t need to do that with the BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT. It has an auto-evaporation feature.
It exhausts hot air from the room along with moisture.
However, on particularly humid days or if you turn on the dehumidification feature for a prolonged period, the moisture may be too much for the AC to auto-evaporate.
You’ll need to drain the AC occasionally to remove excess condensation. The control panel will alert you when the internal reservoir fills up.
But in most cases, the auto-evaporation feature is enough, saving you the trouble of connecting a drain hose or using a bucket.
The BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT comes with a complete window kit that includes a hose (max length – 4’11”), inlet and outlet adapters for the hose and an adjustable window bracket.
The window kit works with both vertical and horizontal slider windows. You can also install it to vent through a sliding door.
The window kit is super easy to install. You don’t need to screw anything.
Just fit the bracket into the window and close the window. That should hold it tight in place.
If you need to use the AC in another room, it’s easy to take it down.
You don’t have to stand up every time you want to change a setting. The included remote control has all the functions available in the main control panel.
It even has a small display showing the target temperature.
The BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT is slightly heavier than other compact portable ACs. But at 52.9lbs in weight, it’s still relatively easy to move about.
Caster wheels at the bottom help a lot when you are moving the unit to another room.
24hr timer: You can set the AC to come on or turn off after a certain number of hours. If you want it to turn off automatically after you sleep or turn it on just before you get home from work, it’s easy. You can set the timer using the remote control or the main control panel.
Slide-out filter: The filter is located at the back where the intake air vents are also. You can easily slide it out, wash it, and reuse it repeatedly.
Sleep mode: Turn on this mode when you go to sleep. The AC will lower the temperature by one degree in the first hour and then another one degree in the second hour before maintaining the final temperature through the night. A cooler bedroom helps you fall asleep quicker and sleep better.
Changeable temperature units: Just in case Fahrenheit is not your thing, and you can change the temperature display units to Celsius.
Loud: At the highest setting, the AC is loud – about 75 decibels. That’s as loud as some window AC units. But at least you can reduce fan speed though at the expense of cooling power.
Always-on display lights: The blue display lights can be annoying at night. There is no way to turn them off without switching off the AC. They should dim or turn off when you activate sleep mode.
No insulation: On hot days, the exhaust hose can become a sort of a room heater — some of the heat going outside escapes through the hose back into the room.
Best for Dehumidification & Cooling:
Emerson EAPC5RC1 is another great small portable air conditioner that has an exceptiona auto-evaporation system.
With 8,000 BTUs, this unit is great for small rooms, dorms, and offices.
Since it has a bucketless design, you do not have to worry about draining the hose.
The air conditioner has an automatic evaporation system that will run for many hours.
You can use the Quiet Kool portable AC year-round to cool and dehumidify your room quickly. It can also heat a room if needed.
Exclusive 1-2-5 Warranty
The Emerson EAPC5RC1 has a 1-year labor warranty, 2-year parts warranty, and a 5-year compressor warranty.
- Sleep Mode: The sleep mode gradually lowers the temperature to keep you comfortable while saving energy.
- Noisy Operation: There have been complaints of a noisy operation. To avoid disturbance, you will need to keep the unit away from you while you sleep.
Best Desk or Bedside Portable AC:
If you are looking for a personal cooler that’s just big enough for your desk or bedside, we recommend the Evapolar evaCHILL personal AC.
If you are hoping to cool down an entire room, even if it’s a small room, this won’t work.
It’s meant for personal cooling spaces up to 45 square feet. You are supposed to place it right in front of you on the desk or next to you on the side table of the bed.
Because the evaCHILL cools by humidification, it’s best for drier climates.
The evaCHILL works differently from other portable air conditioners.
With normal ACs, a condenser coil that carries a refrigerant cools the warm air. With an evaporative or swamp cooler, the air is blown across water-soaked pads.
It evaporates the water, making the warm air cooler and more humid.
While most portable ACs work with dehumidification, the evaCHILL works by humidification. It blows cool, moist air.
That’s why we recommend it for low humidity areas.
To set it up, you’ll need to add water to the reservoir. A full tank lasts about 9 hours, making it perfect for overnight use.
BTUs don’t apply to swamp coolers like the evaCHILL. Instead, they are sized based on the airflow.
The evaCHILL is a small cooler with relatively weak airflow. It works only as a personal cooler, not a room cooler.
You have to place it right in front of you or next to you to feel the cool breeze.
You can use it to cool your work area, your sleeping area, or the couch area. One customer says he uses it to cool the trunk when he’s carrying his pet.
If you live in a dry area like Arizona or California, the evaCHILL can make the air more comfortable to breathe by humidifying it.
It’s especially helpful for people who get a cough or dry throat when they breathe dry air.
As with cooling, the evaCHILL can only humidify a small area. To enjoy the moist air, place it just a foot or two away with the vents facing you.
The evaCHILL also works as a personal air purifier, though it’s certainly nowhere near as good as a dedicated HEPA air purifier.
It has filters that trap dust, pet hair, pet dander, pollen and other allergens from the air passing through it.
It significantly improves air quality around you.
The evaCHILL weighs just 2.78lbs, making it easy to carry it with you to the office, bedroom or couch. You can even use it in your RV, boat or when camping.
Its compact design means it takes up very little space.
It is USB-powered, which adds to its portability. As long as you have a place to plug in the USB – your laptop, a power bank, a solar generator, etc. –you can use evaCHILL.
Four Fan Speeds
You can vary cooling power and noise level by selecting from the four fan speeds. A higher fan speed passes more air through the cooler, meaning a larger amount of cool air also comes out.
The fan is a bit noisy when set on the highest setting. But the lower setting is almost inaudible. It’s perfect for sleeping or work.
One button control: There’s no control panel or remote control; just a single button that controls power on/off, fan speed and mode.
7.5W power consumption: Uses very little power. That’s why you can power it via USB.
Ultra-quiet: Operates much more quietly than other portable ACs. Perfect for night time use.
For personal use only: To emphasize, this is not a room cooler or humidifier. You’ll be disappointed if you expect it to work as a normal portable AC. It only cools a small area around you.
Air is not cold: Evaporative coolers generally have lower performance compared to standard refrigerant-based coolers. They produce cool rather than cold air, which can be a limitation in very hot weather.
Not suitable for humid areas: The cooling performance of evaporative/swamp coolers like Evapolar evaCHILL is significantly reduced when it's used in humid areas. Only buy the evaCHILL personal evaporative cooler if you live in a hot and dry area.
No temperature control: You cannot select a preferred temperature.
No Timer: You cannot set it to turn off after you sleep.
Best for Rainy & Damp Days:
The LG LP0721WSR is a small portable air conditioner with an ultra-quiet operation and an exceptional ability to keep your room dry in high-humidity environments.
The great remote control make it easier to use as well.
The LG LP0721WSR portable air conditioner has 10,000 BTUs of cooling power, enough to cool medium-sized rooms of up to 300 sq. ft..
The auto-swing vents spread cool air out across the room more evenly so that no hot regions are left in the room and that no cold spots develop, which can attract moisture.
This LG unit’s 3-in-1 operation makes it suitable for a variety of weather conditions. It provides powerful cooling to beat the summer heat while blowing cool air. It can also dry the air effectively on hot humid days.
- Warranty: The LG LP0721WSR has a limited 12-month warranty.
- Hose Not Included: The only downside is that there is no drain pan or hose in the package, so you will have to buy one separately.
Best Dual Hose Portable AC:
All the portable air conditioners we’ve covered so far are single-hose. That means they have only one hose to exhaust air out of the room.
This causes some issues that we’ll discuss later on.
A dual-hose air conditioner has two hoses that attach to the same window bracket.
One hose pulls air from outside (rather than inside the room as is the case with single-hose units) and the other exhaust warm air back outside.
Dual hose portable ACs are more efficient especially in large spaces.
The Whynter portable AC unit is not the only a dual hose, but it also is a dual function unit meaning it can cool and heat your room.
Overall, this is the best small portable AC for year-round use in larger rooms.
Rated at 12,000 BTUs, the Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP is one of the most powerful compact portable ACs you can buy.
It works great in large rooms of up to 400 square feet. If you are looking for a portable AC that can cool an open concept living room, a great room, or a large bedroom, the Elite ARC-122DHP is a great choice.
The air conditioner cools fast, quickly bringing down temperatures on hot days.
To get the best cooling performance, select the highest fan speed. For cooler days, the medium fan speed setting provides the best balance between performance and quiet.
At night, the lowest setting is the quietest.
You don’t have to put the air conditioner away during winter. Switch to the heat function to continue enjoying the AC.
The heat output is rated at 10,000 BTUs, which is powerful enough to warm a large room.
When in heat mode, you can set a maximum temperature of 89F.
A dual-hose portable AC does not have the negative pressure issues that single-hose units have. That’s because it doesn’t draw air from the room, but rather outside.
This increases its operational efficiency, allowing it to cool the room faster.
You can also use the Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP as a standard single-hose AC. Just remove the intake hose.
But it may take slightly longer for the AC to cool the room.
Dehumidification with Auto-evaporation
In addition to the standard cooling and heating modes, the Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP also has a built-in dehumidifier that can remove up to 76 pints of water from indoor air per day.
In most cases, the AC will exhaust the moisture along with the hot air outside.
But in high-humid environments, connect the included drain line to get rid of excess condensate.
The AC has a built-in pump for easy and efficient draining.
With the full-function remote control, you can adjust everything from temperature to fan speed without having to stand up to reach the control panel.
Incoming air passes through two filters: a washable pre-filter that removes dust and other allergens and an activated carbon filter that traps smaller particles as well as odors.
The window kit includes two hoses for intake and exhaustion, each extendable to 60” long. You also get a window bracket that expands to a max length of 46”.
It works great for both vertical and horizontal sliding windows.
You can also use it with a sliding door though you’d need to buy an extra bracket to fit the full height of the door.
Caster wheels: The Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP is a little hefty at 60lbs, but one person can still move it to another room thanks to the smoothrolling caster wheels.
Auto-restart: After a power outage, the AC will automatically restart with the previous settings.
24hr timer: Set the AC to come on or turn off automatically after a specific number of hours.
Fair build quality: For a portable AC of this price, the build quality is wanting. Certain components like the caster wheels and the window kit feel a bit delicate.
Loud: The manufacturer provides a noise level of around 52 dB, but according to customer reviews, the unit is louder than that when operating at the highest fan speed. But the middle and lowest setting quiet enough that you can sleep or watch TV while it’s on.
The Global Air unit is one of the most affordable 10,000 BTU portable air conditioners, meaning it is suitable for rooms up to 400 square feet.
It’s a great choice for anyone who is looking for an affordable but powerful portable AC that can efficiently cool for a large room.
The Global Air portable AC is designed to cool large rooms of up to 400 square feet.
With a power rating of 10,000 BTUs, it’s perfect for open style living areas, large bedrooms, and open basements.
It cools fairly fast even on a hot day, especially when you’ve selected the high fan speed.
If it’s not very hot or you want to reduce the noise level, select the lower speed (there are only two-speed settings).
Cooled air comes out of the unit in four directions, which allows it to spread evenly throughout the room. It’s partly why the AC cools the room quickly.
Dehumidification with Self-evaporation
Similar to most other portable ACs, this portable air cooler has three operational modes: the standard cooling mode, a fan-only mode, and a dehumidification mode.
The dehumidifier is handy when the air is hot and humid. It quickly removes moisture from indoor air and exhausts it outside through the hose.
If you live in a particularly humid place, use the provided drain hose to get rid of excess condensate. Otherwise, the unit is going to shut down and indicate an error.
Window Ventilation Kit
The window kit is easy to set up. It works with just about any sliding window, both horizontal and vertical.
The window kit fits windows up to 50.75” wide or tall. The minimum length is 12”.
If your window is less than 12”, you can trim the window bracket for a perfect fit.
The AC comes with a handy remote control for adjusting the fan speed, temperature, and mode.
You can also adjust various settings using the digital control panel on top of the unit.
Sleep mode: The AC will operate at the lowest fan speed setting. It will increase the temperature by 1 degree every two hours with a max increase of 2 degrees.
Max cool mode: Unit operates at the highest fan speed setting.
Auto mode: Select this mode if you don’t want to keep adjusting the temperature. The AC will automatically switch to cool mode when room temperature goes above 77F and fan mode when it goes lower.
Timer: You can set the 24hr timer to switch the AC on or off automatically after a set amount of time.
A bit loud: When set to the highest fan speed, the AC can be a bit intrusive. Switch to the slower speed at night to reduce the noise.
Difficult to drain: In humid climates where self-evaporation doesn’t work well, it can take too long to drain the tank because the drain port is set too low. You might have to set the AC on a raised platform for easier draining.
Best for Air Purification & Cooling:
This air conditioner by Whynter combines an excellent dual-hose portable AC unit with a high-quality air purifier.
With 14,000 BTU, this dual-hose unit can cool any room up to 500 sqft in size within minutes.
With 253 CFM of airflow, your room will cool very quickly.
The Whynter ARC-14SH is also an eco-friendly choice. The R-32 refrigerantit uses is CFC-free.
The ARC-14SH’s dehumidifying capacity of 71 pints per day is higher than most, so it will function well in high-humidity environments.
- Auto Drainage: the auto drainage feature on this unit makes it easier to use and maintain. You do not have to worry about draining pans and bins manually.
- Heavy Frame: The air conditioner is great, but it is a bit heavy at 80 pounds.
Best for Small Rooms:
If you need an air conditioner for a small room, then LG LP0621WSR is a great option.
The LG LP0621WSR provides 8,000 BTU (Ashrae)/ 6,000 BTU (DOE) of cooling power. This makes it useful for small rooms up to 350 sqft.
This small portable air conditioner works as an air cooler, dehumidifier, and fan.
With a chic, compact white frame this modern appliance complements any modern home or office interior. It doesn’t stand out or look industrial.
The included remote control gives you complete control over room cooling from the comfort of your bed.
- Oscillating Air Vents: The automatic oscillating air vents circulate air in all directions. They ensure even cooling across the room, which helps you stay comfortable and avoids troublesome cold spots where water can condense.
- Self-Timer: The 24-hour self-timer lets you automate when the unit cools and turns off during the day. This is a simple but powerful way to minimize energy use that many portable AC units of this size do not have.
- Noise: The only problem with this unit, relative to others of its size, is the noise emitted on high fan speed. We recommend placing it away from your bed to sleep comfortably.
Best for Cooling Quickly:
AireMax APO108C is another fantastic small portable air conditioner that stands out for its strong fan and ability to quickly cool a small to medium sized room.
Its dual built-in air filters, LED display panel, and simple window installation make it even more attractive.
The Aire Max 3-in-1 mini portable air conditioner provides 8,000 BTUs, which can quickly cool any room up to 300-400 sqft in size.
There are 4 caster wheels that make this air conditioner super-portable. It is fairly lightweight at 57 pounds, so you can roll it to any room when needed.
2-Way Adjustable Louvers
The 2-way adjustable louvers direct air in all directions. They help cool down the whole room without leaving cold spots.
The AireMax 3-in-1 portable AC comes with an exhaust window installation kit as well. You can easily install this portable air conditioner yourself.
- Dual Filters: With two built-in air filters, this AireMax can remove dirt, pet hair, and other particles from your room’s air.
- Complex Assembly: While installation through a window is easy, the unit itself is a bit hard to assemble and the complex installation instructions don’t help.
Sizing Your Portable Air Conditioner
150 sq. ft.
700 sq. ft.
250 sq. ft.
1,000 sq. ft.
300 sq. ft.
1,200 sq. ft.
350 sq. ft.
1,400 sq. ft.
400 sq. ft.
1,600 sq. ft.
450 sq. ft.
1,900 sq. ft.
550 sq. ft.
2,700 sq. ft.
Power is the most important factor when you are shopping for a portable air conditioner. It determines how efficiently and quickly the AC cools (or warms for dual function units) a particular room.
The cooling or heating power of an AC unit is expressed in BTUs or British Thermal Units.
Generally, you need about 20 BTUs for every square foot.
ASHRAE vs. 2017 DOE Standards
When you are shopping for an AC, you may notice that most have two separate BTU figures, one lower than the other.
The main figure, the highest, is labeled as the ASHRAE 128 standard while the lower one is the DOE standard. What’s the difference and which figure is more accurate?
Both are technically accurate; it’s just that the testing standard has changed.
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission introduced new labeling rules for portable air conditioners.
This came about because the Department of Energy had changed their testing guidelines for portable ACs in 2016.
The new test took into account a wide variety of situations to more accurately reflect the unit’s performance and efficiency.
The updated testing guidelines resulted in a lower BTU rating for portable ACs.
For example, a unit might have a BTU rating of 10,000 BTU according to the ASHRAE standard but only 6,000 BTU according to the new DOE standard.
All the BTU ratings mentioned in the buying guide above are based on the ASHRAE standard.
Types of Small Portable Air Conditioners
Single-Hose vs. Dual Hose ACs
Most small portable air conditioners are single-hose. You can easily identify them because they have only one hose taking the hot air out through the window ventilation.
The unit pulls in air from the room, cools it and sends it around the room using a fan. The hot air is directed outside through the exhaust hose.
Sometimes, this leads to negative air pressure in the room, resulting in hot outdoor air coming in through cracks in the windows or under the door.
But the effect is usually not big enough to significantly reduce the AC’s efficiency.
A dual-hose AC has two hoses connected to the window: one to exhaust hot air outside and one to pull in air from outside for cooling.
Because it does not draw hot air from the room, a dual hose AC does not create negative air pressure.
This can slightly increase its efficiency, especially in large rooms.
On the downside, dual hose ACs use more power than single-hose units. They also tend to be bigger and heavier, making them less portable. In addition, they are noisier and more tedious to install since you need to set up two hoses.
Portable AC vs. Evaporative/Swamp Cooler
A portable air conditioner uses a refrigerant, a type of chemical, to cool down hot air from outside.
You can set a specific temperature and even turn on a dehumidifier function.
An evaporative cooler also called a swamp cooler, does not rely on any chemical at all. Instead, it consists of a fan blowing air across water-soaked pads.
The air absorbs the moisture and cools down.A swamp cooler not only cools the room, but it also humidifies it.
Evaporative coolers work best in hot and dry areas such as the southwest. Because they don’t have a lot of cooling power, they are ideal for small to midsize rooms and personal spaces.
Unlike a portable AC, you cannot set a specific temperature with an evaporative cooler.
The biggest advantage of a portable air conditioner is its cooling power. It can cool the room much faster regardless of the environment.
In contrast, evaporative coolers do not cool as well and they only work in hot and dry areas like Texas and Arizona.
On the upside, evaporative coolers are lighter and smaller. They also use less power since they lack a compressor.
Buying Guide: How to Choose a Small Portable AC
Most portable ACs may seem to be similar in look and function, but there are quite a few differences in terms of features, power, and quality.
Here are the most important features to consider when you are buying a small portable air conditioner.
1. Power (BTUs) and Room Size
Power is the most important thing to consider when you are looking for a new portable air conditioner. The number of BTUs - or BTU capacity - will depend on the room size you’ll be using the AC in.
If you plan to use it in several rooms, use the size of the largest room as a guide for selecting the proper BTU capacity.
Here are some general guidelines to follow when matching BTUs to room size.
2. Built-in Dehumidifier
Next, check whether the AC comes with a built-in dehumidifier. Virtually all portable ACs have it except swamp coolers (evaporative air conditioners).
Instead of dehumidifying, these coolers act as humidifiers, by adding moisture to the indoor air.
Only buy an evaporative cooler if you live in a hot and dry state like Arizona or California.
3. Dual Function – Heating and Cooling
Most small portable air conditioners work only as coolers. That means you only use it during hot seasons and put it away during the colder months.
If you’d like an all-year-round AC, look for one with dual heating and cooling functions.
4. Noise Level
All portable air conditioners make some noise. This noise comes from the fan spinning as it pulls in air and sends it out into the room.
Generally, portable ACs are quieter than window air conditioners. The loudest ones are about as loud as a fan at full speed.
Some ACs can be pretty loud when running at the highest fan speed. Check the manufacturer-stated noise level in decibels or read customer reviews for an idea of how loud the unit is.
If you are buying an AC primarily for use in the bedroom, home office, or baby nursery, look for one that operates relatively quietly. When set at a lower fan speed, it should barely make any noise.
5. Remote Control
The Remote control is a must-have. It’s tedious to keep standing up to lower the temperature or change the fan speed.
With a remote control, you can configure all settings from the couch (or bed).
You can go even further and get a Wi-Fi connected portable air conditioner. You can then monitor and control your home temperature and humidity level wherever you are.
The moisture that a portable AC removes from the air has to go somewhere.
Most ACs have a self-evaporative feature where the moisture is exhausted out of the window along with hot air.
But you may still need to drain the water reservoir if there is too much humidity in the air or you leave the dehumidifier function on for long.
If you live in a humid area, you may find it easier to use a non-evaporative AC that uses gravity or pump drain instead.
7. Extra Features
Here are some extras to look for.
Sleep mode: Sleep mode adjusts room temperature automatically to create the best sleeping environment. It also reduces fan speed to minimize fan noise.
Timer: A timer allows you to set the AC to turn on or turn off automatically after a certain number of hours. You can set it to turn off in the middle of the night after you sleep or turn on and cool the living room before you get home.
Auto mode: Auto mode is a convenient set-and-forget feature. The AC will monitor room temperature and automatically adjust fan speed or temperature to keep the room comfortable.
Activated carbon filter: Most portable ACs come with a standard washable filter that filters out allergens and other particles from the air. An AC with an additional activated carbon filter also removes unpleasant odors from the air.
Swing function: When buying an AC, look at pictures of the control panel or remote control to see if there is a SWING button. This button turns the air vents to direct air towards a specific part of the room. You can use it to cool where you are sitting faster.
Properly Ventilating a Portable AC
One of the biggest advantages of a portable AC is that it doesn’t require much installation.
All you need to do is set up a temporary window ventilation to remove hot air and moisture from the room.
Your portable AC should come with a complete ventilation kit that contains the following :
Check the list of parts in the manual to make sure everything is there. If something is missing or appears damaged, contact the manufacturer immediately.
If all the parts are there, you can begin the installation. You don’t need any tools.
Your AC is ready to use.
Portable AC Maintenance
A portable air conditioner doesn’t require much in terms of maintenance.
The only thing you’ll need to do is regularly wash the filter every 2-4 weeks, depending on the quality of air in your area.
If your AC comes with an activated carbon filter, you’ll need to replace it every few months.
Evaporative coolers are a bit more involving in maintenance. You have to refill the water tank every few hours.
Frequently Asked Questions About Small Portable Air Conditioners
Do I have to vent a portable AC out of the window?
A portable AC needs ventilation to release heat outside. The window is the easiest and the most convenient place to vent the AC.
But if the room doesn’t have a window or you have a non-compatible window (portable ACs work only with sliding windows), you can set it up to vent through a sliding door, a hole in the wall leading outside or into the garage or through a drop ceiling.
These alternatives will require a bit of DIY-ing to work, and you may face some limitations depending on where you live.
Are there portable air conditioners without exhaust?
Evaporative air conditioners, also called swamp coolers, don’t have any exhaust. They work by introducing moisture-cooled air into the room rather than extracting heat.
So you don’t need to set up any venting.
Is a portable AC as good as a window unit?
A portable AC uses slightly more energy than a window AC, but it works just as well. Of course, you have to make sure you select the right size (in BTUs) for the room.
A portable AC has several advantages over a window unit. It is easier to install (requires no installation really; just ventilation). Besides this, it is easier to move to another room, and operate more quietly than a window AC.
Are portable air conditioners expensive to run?
It depends on the size of the AC, its efficiency, room size, and temperature.
A higher BTU AC will use more energy. An air conditioner cooling a large room or working in hot weather will also use more power since it has to work harder.
Generally, it costs about $2.84 a day to run a small compact AC for 8 hours a day. A larger unit will cost anywhere between $3 and $6.
To get more accurate figures, check the wattage of the AC. Multiply that by the average number of hours you’ll be using it per day and then divide the result by 1,000 to get the daily consumption in kilowatt-hours.
Multiply that with the unit cost of a kWh your utility charges to see how much the AC costs to run per day.
Note: To reduce consumption, look for ACs with energy-saving features such as auto mode and eco mode.
Do portable air conditioners need to be drained?
If your air conditioner is self-evaporative, you won’t need to drain it during normal use. It will exhaust moisture out of the window together with the hot air.
But if there is a lot of humidity, you may need to connect a hose to the drain port to remove the condensate.
Some ACs don’t have a self-evaporative feature. You have to keep a drain hose connected all the time.
Can a portable air conditioner cool a whole house?
Not really, unless you live in an open style loft apartment with no dividing walls. In a normal home, even if you buy a powerful 14,000 BTU air conditioner, the fan can’t move the air efficiently to all rooms.
If you need constant cooling in different rooms, consider buying two or three smaller portable ACs instead of one big one.
Are portable air conditioners noisy?
Most portable ACs sound like a desktop fan. But the noise level depends on the design and quality of the AC.
Some brands are quieter than others.
If the AC is too loud, select lower fan speed. It will take longer to cool the room, but it will be quieter.
Which is the lightest portable AC in our buying guide?
The Honeywell MO08CESWK is the lightest portable AC in our buying guide, weighing 43lbs. The Evapolar evaCHILL is the lightest swamp cooler we’ve reviewed at just 2.78lbs.
What’s the price range of small portable AC?
At the lower end, small portable ACs designed for small rooms cost between $200 and $350. Larger units that can cool a medium-size room cost between $350 and $500.
High-end portable ACs cost around $500 to $700. These units have more cooling power and high dehumidifying capacity.If you are looking for a swamp cooler, you can get a good-sized unit for under $200 and mini personal coolers for less than $100.
Top 10 Small AC Units Compared: Specification Chart
Disclamer: All links below go to Amazon.com
|Model||BTUs||Weight||Dimensions||Noise Level||Dehumidification Capacity
|Honeywell MO08CESWK||8,000||43 lbs||13.5 x 14.6 x 27.7 inches||53 dB||44 pints/day
|BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT||8,000||52.9 lbs||16.5 x 11.5 x 26 inches||75 dB||N/A
|Honeywell HL12CESWB||12,000||78.3 lbs||35 x 20.5 x 18.3 inches||52 dB||86 pints/day
|Evapolar evaCHILL Swamp Cooler||N/A||2.78 lbs||9.7 x 8.5 x 8.3 inches||50 dB||N/A
|Luma Comfort EC110S||N/A||16.2 lbs||12.8 x 11.2 x 34.5 inches||66 dB||N/A
|Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP||12,000||60 lbs||17 x 29.5 x 16 inches||52 dB||76 pints/day
|Global Air Portable AC||10,000||62.5 lbs||17 x 13 x 31.3 inches||N/A||N/A
|hOmeLabs Portable AC||14,000||70 lbs||17.9 x 15 x 30.7 inches||N/A||100 pints/day
|EdgeStar AP8000W||8,000||56lbs||24.75 x 19.25 x 13.25 inches||N/A||50 pints/day
|EdgeStar AP12000HS||12,000||69lbs||14.9 x 17.1 x 30.9 inches ||54 dB||81 pints/day