Last updated: September 11, 2020

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Summer is the most wonderful time of the year, but handling its hot temperatures can be quite a challenge. Not every home comes with its own air conditioning system, and global climate changes have certainly played a role in many regions becoming warmer. If your home doesn’t have one of these devices, you can always get a portable air conditioner.

If you rent your home, you may not want to invest in installing air conditioning in it. Your career may also force you to move around the country frequently. In these cases, opting for a portable device will allow you to take it with you every time you change cities. We have prepared the following shopping guide to help you find the right model.

Key Facts

  • Be sure that it is the right equipment for your needs before buying a portable air conditioner. As you will discover throughout our article, these devices offer many advantages but also some limitations.
  • Don’t forget that these air conditioning systems require some installation, so check that your model is compatible with the characteristics of your home.
  • Did you know that certain portable air conditioners have a heat pump? Do you know how to measure their cooling power or the noise they emit? We will look at these criteria in the last section of our guide.

Our Selection: The Best Portable Air Conditioners on the U.S. Market

You have to evaluate a series of aspects when buying your own portable air conditioner. But before we go through these criteria, we want you to find out what buyers most value in these devices. In the following section, you will discover the best portable air conditioners currently available on the market. You may even find the right one for your home.

Best Portable Air Conditioner: Amazon’s Choice

BLACK+DECKER is a force to be reckoned with in the appliance industry, and its BPACT08WT portable air conditioner has become Amazon’s Choice in the category. Designed to operate with double-hung or sliding windows, it features 4 wheels for enhanced mobility. The remote allows you to control it from a distance, while the timer and sleep mode are excellent additions. This product is delivered with its installation kit.

Best Self-Evaporative Portable Air Conditioner

This powerful single-hose model by Global Air Conditioning will cool rooms of up to 400 square feet, with a cooling capacity of 10,000 British Thermal Units (BTU). The self-evaporative system integrated into this portable air conditioner means that it doesn’t need a water tank, making it more compact and easier to move around. You can choose from the 2 speeds available using the digital controls on the device.

Best Budget-Friendly Portable Air Conditioner

This best-selling portable air conditioner particularly stands out for its extremely compact size and affordability. Its small dimensions make it ideal for carrying from one room to another. Besides cooling, this model can purify and humidify the air. All you need to do for the device to work is to fill the tank with water or ice. This small portable air conditioner has 3 speeds: high, medium, and low.

Most Versatile Portable Air Conditioner

If you’re looking for a top-quality portable air conditioner for large spaces – be it your living room or office space, then Whynter’s ARC-14S is exactly what you need. Its cooling capacity of 14,000 BTU can operate in spaces of up to 500 square feet, while its noise level is limited (below 56 decibels). This double-hose model comes with a washable pre-filter, a timer, and a full installation kit.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Portable Air Conditioners

We bet you can’t wait to enjoy your very own air conditioning. No more sleepless nights and living in the dark to keep the heat out. Now that you are more familiar with the best models out there, you have to learn more about these devices in general in order to make an informed decision. We will now answer the most frequently asked questions regarding portable air conditioners.

taking the temperature to a portable air conditioner

A portable air conditioner will help cool your home during those hot summer days.
(Source: Your Best Digs: 28267115631/ Flickr.com)

What is a portable air conditioner exactly?

A portable air conditioner is a device designed to keep your home fresh, and it requires little installation. It features one or two tubes that are placed in the window to suck in and expel air from the outside. This system is generally sealed to increase performance, and many models include everything you need for this. Otherwise, you will have to buy the parts separately.

What installation do these devices require?

Your portable air conditioner will always need an outlet to the outside. This is why its pipes must be placed in a window, or in some cases a door. You should ideally seal that window, or hot air will re-enter your home. Unlike other systems, portable air conditioners are simple to set up, and you can easily do it yourself.

How many hoses can a portable air conditioner have?

Portable air conditioners will feature either one or two hoses to the outside. Single-hose devices are capable of absorbing hot air through a grille, which is then cooled inside using a compressor and returned to the room. Once the cooling process has taken place, the hot air is blown out of the house through a pipe.

Double-hose units absorb the air from the outside through one of the pipes. The device cools it inside and propels it into the room. The other tube is used to expel the hot air generated by the compressor. Since you have an inlet and an outlet pipe, the hot air never returns to your home.

thermometer

Portable air conditioners may feature one or two hoses.
(Source: Your Best Digs: 28267115481/ Flickr.com)

Are portable or fixed air conditioners better?

The latter will generally consist of two units. Located outside your home, the first one integrates a compressor to cool the air. The other one is placed indoor and is responsible for distributing the cold air in the room. While these models are less noisy, they require professional installation and are more expensive.

Portable air conditioners come with the compressor inside and cool the air they suck in from the room or outdoor. They then distribute it and expel hot air towards the outside. Portable models require almost no installation and are more affordable, but also noisier, less efficient, and less aesthetic. You can compare the two types in the table below:

Feature Fixed Portable
Affordability
Set installation
Ease of installation
Efficiency
Noise level
Transportability
 Aesthetics

Are portable air conditioners and air handlers the same?

You may be wondering whether it is possible to buy a portable air conditioner without a hose or not. In reality – and this may surprise you, such models don’t exist on the market. What you will find are so-called air handlers, devices that work like a fan and expel air and cold water.

The problem with them is that they cannot remove hot air from the room, so they don’t actually manage to cool it. You will only have a refreshing feeling when you stand directly in front of it. This is why we recommend that you opt for a portable air conditioner. While this device is more expensive, it is also more efficient.

Where should I place my portable air conditioner?

You should always have this device near an outside air outlet. Windows are most often used, but it can also be a door with access to a terrace, balcony, garden, or patio. Your portable air conditioner should be at least 20 inches away from any wall or furniture.

Ideally, your window should be closed or sealed so that no heat can enter from outdoor. The majority of devices come with the material needed to seal the window temporarily for setup. Make sure that you are comfortable with the installation before purchasing your portable air conditioner.

moder portable air conditioner

Portable air conditioners come with the compressor inside and cool the air they suck in from the room or outdoor.
(Source: Alexander Kharchenko: 76770045/ 123rf.com)

Is the upkeep of a portable air conditioner difficult?

A portable air conditioner requires very basic maintenance. If it includes a water tank for condensation, you should empty it every time it is full and make sure it is always clean. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the cleaning of the filters. Last but not least, don’t forget to remove dust from the fan blades with a damp cloth.

How big should the hoses be?

This is a hard question to answer, as it will depend on various factors. The hose should be long enough to go from the portable air conditioner to the window. Don’t forget that these devices always have a hose to expel the hot air. If the one that comes with your device doesn’t fit your needs, you can easily buy another compatible one.

Shackelford Heating & CoolingWisconsin-Based Air Conditioning Company

“The first step to finding the right kind of cooling unit for your home is to assess your own needs. For example, a large 4-bedroom house will clearly have different cooling requirements than a small studio apartment. This is where cooling capacity comes into play. Capacity is measured in BTUs or British Thermal Units.”

What should your portable air conditioner have?

While most air conditioners will feature the same essential functions, it’s always good to know what to look for. These are some things that you can expect to find in virtually every model and that will make it easier for you to use. In the following list, you can learn more about these features:

  • Timer. To program it.
  • Various speeds. At least three: low, medium, and high.
  • Night function. This reduces the noise of the device at night.
  • Wheels. Four wheels are ideal to facilitate transport and prevent the device from falling over.
  • LED screen. This makes the configuration much more comfortable.
  • Remote control. You can control the air conditioner from a distance.
  • Washable filters. They are more affordable in the long run.
  • Installation kit. While you can always buy it separately, it is better if it is provided by the same manufacturer.

What are the advantages of portable air conditioners?

There is no doubt that a portable air conditioner is a handy device on hot summer days. You should already have a good idea of what you expect from this device, but there are still various key criteria that you need to evaluate before making your purchase. We will analyze them in a minute, but let’s look at the main benefits and drawbacks of portable air conditioners first:

Advantages
  • Their installation is fairly simple
  • They cool efficiently
  • You can take them from one room to another
Disadvantages
  • Some models can be fairly noisy
  • It isn”t as comfortable as having air conditioning throughout the house

Shopping Criteria

Trying to sleep at night when it is really hot can be impossible, which is why having a portable air conditioner in your home is an excellent option. Now that we have clarified the most common doubts regarding these devices, let’s have a look at the main criteria to evaluate before making your final decision. You will soon be ready to wave the heat goodbye!

Heat Pump

Most portable air conditioners are only designed to cool the air. However, you can also find some models that feature a heat pump. As you can imagine, this option tends to be less affordable, so make sure you consider your real needs before choosing one or the other. They are very helpful, for instance, if your home doesn’t have a heating system.

living room with a portable air conditioner

Portable air conditioners always need an outlet to the outside.
(Source: Your Best Digs: 28267115501/ Flickr.com)

Cooling Capacity

The cooling power is usually calculated in frigories per hour (fg/h). This is good to keep this in mind, as it will help you evaluate the type of appliance you need. The size of the room (in square feet) is one of the most critical factors in determining the cooling capacity of your portable air conditioner.

If the device has fewer frigories than you need, it won’t be of much help. If the opposite happens and it has too many frigories, your room will be too cold, and you will waste energy. in the following table, you will also find the cooling power you need expressed in another common unit of measurement: the British Thermal Unit (BTU).

Room size (in sq ft) Frigories per hour needed BTU/h
Less than 160 1,000 4,000
From 160 to 215 1,500 6,000
From 215 to 320 2,000 8,000
 From 320 to 430 Between 2,500 and 3,000 Between 10,000 and 12,000

Noise

The noise level of portable air conditioners has long been considered a problem. However, this issue has improved dramatically in recent years. Most models are below 70 decibels, which is the equivalent of normal traffic. If you really want a device that you won’t notice, go for a portable air condition that emits less than 50 decibels.

grey portable air conditioner

Double-hose units absorb the air from the outside through one of the pipes.
(Source: Your Best Digs: 95622080/ Flickr.com)

Self-Evaporation

Some portable air conditioners will need to be drained and integrate a container to collect the water that evaporates. If you do not maintain your appliance correctly, this accumulation of water can cause the appearance of mold. To avoid this, we recommend that you purchase a self-evaporating device that returns humidity to the room.

Energy Consumption

If the cooling power is measured in frigories per hour, the electricity consumption is calculated in watts or kilowatts (kW) per hour. While the units of measurement are different, they are related. You can convert frigories into watts by multiplying them by 0.86; divide this result by 1,000 to obtain the value in kW.

Remember that how much you pay on your electricity bill will depend on the price per kilowatt-hour (kWh). The more kilowatts the device consumes, the more expensive your portable air conditioner will be in the long run. The table below will give you an idea of what to expect:

Room size (in sq ft) Frigories per hour needed Watts per hour/Kw per hour
Less than 160 1,000 860/0.86
From 160 to 215 1,500 1,290/1.29
From 215 to 320 2,000 1,720/1.72
From 320 to 430 Between 2,500 and 3,000 Between 2,150 and 2,580/2.15 and 2.58

Summary

A portable air conditioner is ideal if you don’t want to go through the hassle of installing a fixed device in your home, or if it’s simply out of your budget. It is also useful if you rent or have a beach house. It will allow you to stay cool with minimal installation and fairly economic investment. Double-hose units are the most efficient.

Throughout our article, you have learned when and why a portable air conditioner can be more suitable than a fixed device. You also know where to place it, its cooling capacity, or its energy consumption. You’re all set to use and maintain your new appliance, and that means you won’t suffer from the heat anymore.

Did you find the content of our guide on portable air conditioners interesting? If so, feel free to share it on your social media. You can also give us your opinion in the comments section below!

(Source of featured image: alexlmx: 92096282/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Thibault Perinet Freelance Writer & World Traveler
As a literature and translation licensee and avid traveler, language has always been at the heart of my daily life. A freelance writer since 2014, I love to delve into a variety of topics that contribute to my professional and personal development. My favorite things in life? Maté in the morning, soccer with friends, and old school hip hop.