10 Best Portable Air Conditioners in 2018 - Reviews and Comprehensive Guide
As the weather starts to warm up, you need to make sure that you’re going to stay cool. No one wants to suffer through a heat wave with just a fan by their side, which means that having a portable air conditioner is going to be one of your best bets.
The great thing about portable air conditioners is that they are adaptable to their environment. Rather than having to spend time installing a permanent fixture, you can move them around and switch rooms if necessary. They are also more affordable than the alternative.
Today we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of portable air conditioners, looking at the top models as well as how to choose them. Let’s see what we find.
What Is The Best Portable Air Conditioner On The Market?
Here's a quick comparison of the 10 best portable air conditioners on the market today. (You can read detailed reviews of these units and find our top choice below!)
Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC8RD1 Portable Air Conditioner
BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT, Portable Air Conditioner
Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
Costway 23049-CYPE Portable Air Conditioner
Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC14RD1 Portable Air Conditioner
LG 115V Portable Air Conditioner
EdgeStar AP12000S Portable Air Conditioner
Honeywell MN12CES Portable Air Conditioner
Whynter ARC-122DS Elite Dual Hose Digital Portable Air Conditioner
DELLA 048-GM-48382 Portable Air Conditioner
Reviews of 10 Best Portable Air Conditioners in 2018
1. Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC8RD1 Portable Air Conditioner
Starting us off is this sleek model from Emerson. As the name suggests, the Quiet Kool is designed to be both functional and low noise, meaning that it won’t be much of a disturbance. According to the manufacturer, it operates at a low hum of around 52 decibels, which is much less than the average person talking.
One thing about the noise level, though, is that the unit does beep when it turns on and shuts off. While the beeps are not super loud, they can be jarring, especially if you have the air conditioner in your room. Thus, be aware of that when deciding on your final pick.
A feature that we like about the Emerson is that it comes with automatic water evaporation. With some air conditioners, you have to drain the tank regularly to keep water from dripping out, but that’s not the case with this model. Also, because it traps water and removes it, it can also work as a dehumidifier. It’s not as good as a unit with that capability in mind, but you will notice that the air does dry out while the conditioner is running.
When looking at the specs for this model, we see that it has 4900 BTUs and that it’s rated for rooms up to 150 feet. While this is on the smaller side of things, it’s perfect for the bedroom. As long as you aren’t disturbed by the beeps, it will be the ideal way to stay cool all day and night. There’s even a built-in 24-hour timer to ensure that you can save energy when necessary.
Other features included with this air conditioner are caster wheels for easier movement around the room, rubber feet so that it will stay in place once you find a spot, and a remote control so you can operate it with maximum efficiency and convenience.
2. BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT, Portable Air Conditioner
When picking out any kind of home appliance, the brand can make a difference in whether or not you trust the machine’s capabilities. Black + Decker is one of the more trusted companies out there, considering that they have a strong track record of delivering some high-quality appliances.
In this case, you get a medium-sized air conditioner that generates up to 10,000 BTUs and is rated for rooms up to 250 square feet.
The extra power enables you to deploy this model in a wider variety of circumstances, such as studio apartments or living rooms. However, it can also be set for smaller spaces if necessary, so feel free to bring it into the bedroom as well.
What we like most about this air conditioner is that it offers vertical movement for the air. The reason that this configuration works better is that it creates more circulation. Unlike a standard fan that blows forward, this kind of movement will help you cool down a lot faster.
The other cool thing about this model is that it has three operational modes. You can use it as an air conditioner, a standard fan (with multiple speed settings), or a dehumidifier. It has a sufficiently large drip tray that evaporates on its own, making it a reliable piece of equipment. The digital control panel allows you to use the 24-hour timer as well as set the temperature to the precise level you desire.
Finally, we like that this unit also comes with a removable air filter. It snaps into place so that you can keep it in peak condition for longer without a lot of hassle. Overall, it’s an excellent choice for most households.
3. Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
Although brands like Black + Decker are more widely known for making a variety of products, Whynter is unique in that they specialize in air conditioners. This means that the company offers more powerful and reliable models since that’s all they do. In this case, we have a high-efficiency unit that will work in almost any room of the house.
With 14,000 BTUs, this air conditioner is rated for large spaces up to 500 square feet. Part of the reason why it works so well is that it also uses two hoses instead of one. Being able to cycle more air out of the exhaust enables it to operate much more efficiently, so your living areas can be cooled down in much less time.
However, because it’s rated for larger spaces, you do have to realize that the unit itself is somewhat bulky. While something like the Emerson is perfect for bedroom windows, this one is better suited for living rooms or open floor plans. While you could keep it next to the bed, it may take up more room than you might like.
As with other models, this air conditioner has three operational modes from which to choose. However, when it comes to dehumidification, it works a lot better than most other units we’ll see. In fact, it can remove up to 101 pints of water from the air per day, making it ideal for hot and humid environments. You can control the temperature between 61 and 89 degrees using the digital control panel, and it has three fan speeds for better airflow.
Air quality is a primary concern for many people, and this unit has you covered. It comes with two air filters to remove contaminants and allergens from the air. The carbon filter is ideal for those who have sensitive breathing issues, and it also has a washable filter for easier long-term maintenance.
Other features include caster wheels for efficient movement, a remote control for your convenience, and a 24-hour timer to help save energy. If you have a lot of space to cool, this is going to be your best bet.
4. Costway 23049-CYPE Portable Air Conditioner
To ensure that you’re getting the best portable air conditioner for your home, you want to pay attention to both the power of the unit and the dimensions as well. In this case, the Costway model is ideal for bedrooms, thanks to its slim profile and 10,000 BTU system. It takes up less room than most other conditioners in its class, meaning that you can put it almost anywhere.
One unique feature offered by this model is the smart water level indicator system. As with many of the units on this list, the Costway automatically removes water so that you don’t have to empty a tray.
However, it uses smart sensors to let you know if it’s pulling too much at once and it will compensate accordingly. For example, if you have it on a low-temperature setting in a humid environment, the drip tray may fill up a lot faster. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about it.
Another feature that we like about this conditioner is that it comes with two slide-out filters. Best of all, they are washable, meaning that you don’t have to spend extra money replacing them on a regular basis.
Beyond these components, the Costway comes with all of the usual refinements. It can operate as an air conditioner, a fan or a dehumidifier. It can remove up to 50 pints of water per day, making it an efficient model. It comes with a remote control for your convenience, as well as a digital control panel with a timer and precise temperature settings. Finally, it has casters on the bottom so that you can roll it around the room as much as you like.
5. Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC14RD1 Portable Air Conditioner
If you liked the Emerson Quiet Kool from above, but you wanted it to be bigger and more powerful, then you will prefer this model instead. It has more BTUs, meaning that it’s rated for larger spaces, up to 350 square feet. Otherwise, everything else is the same with this model, which makes it an ideal choice for most users, provided that you don’t need dehumidification.
As an air conditioner, the Emerson is excellent because it operates efficiently and quietly. It automatically evaporates the water from the drip tray and recycles it to keep the air as fresh as possible. It has three fan speeds so that you can have better airflow and get your space to temp faster.
Overall, this model is rather simplistic, but it gets the job done. A remote control allows you to set the temperature from anywhere, and caster wheels enable you to move it around as needed. It also has rubber feet so that it will stay in place once you’ve found a spot for it.
6. LG 115V Portable Air Conditioner
As we discussed, the brand you choose can make a difference in how well you appreciate your new air conditioner. While most people think of LG for consumer electronics (phones and TVs), they also make some excellent appliances as well. This air conditioner is a decent choice for those who want something powerful yet affordable.
With 10,000 BTUs, you can cool a space up to 300 square feet with no problem. What makes this model more efficient is that it has two cooling settings and two fan speeds, enabling you to choose the option that’s right for your needs. Also, it uses an oscillating air vent, which creates a better airflow that is much more efficient than most other models.
As far as dehumidification goes, the LG air conditioner can remove up to 59 pints per day. However, it doesn’t use auto evaporation technology, so you will have to pay attention to the drip pan. The pan is relatively large to save you time and effort, but that’s something to consider if you choose this model.
The other thing we like about the LG is that it comes with a washable air filter. You don’t have to worry about buying replacements, making this a relatively low-maintenance model. Other features include caster wheels for mobility, a 24-hour timer with sleep mode, and a remote control for added convenience.
7. EdgeStar AP12000S Portable Air Conditioner
For the most part, you’re going to be running your air conditioner for hours on end, which can add up to a hefty utility bill at the end of the month. If you want to save some money in the long term, you might want to get something like this model from EdgeStar. Although it’s a robust and reliable unit, it doesn’t use as much energy as most other conditioners in its class.
When it comes to performance, this model is rated for areas up to 425 square feet and uses up to 12,000 BTUs.
However, it’s also relatively compact, meaning that you can put it almost anywhere without feeling like it’s taking over the room. As far as dehumidification goes, it can drain up to 90 pints of water from the air per day.
When talking about air quality, this conditioner comes with a carbon filter and a washable pre-filter. The former ensures that most contaminants are scrubbed from the air, while the latter is low maintenance and keeps your operational costs to a minimum.
Finally, this is an extra quiet conditioner. Most models will list the lowest decibel rating, which means that if you go to the highest fan speeds, it will be much more noticeable. However, with the EdgeStar, it has a maximum noise level of 54 decibels, making it one of the quietest units you can find.
8. Honeywell MN12CES Portable Air Conditioner
Next, we have a high-quality air conditioner from Honeywell. Like Black + Decker, this company makes some really great appliances, and this model is sure to be a great addition to any home or office.
Looking at the power and performance, this conditioner can cool a space up to 450 square feet with 12,000 BTUs. It can be used for cooling, as well as a fan and a dehumidifier. It can drain up to 79 pints of water from the air per day, making it an efficient unit overall.
When talking about air quality, the Honeywell has removable and washable air filters so that you can breathe easier. It comes with all of the standard features you would expect, including digital temperature control, a remote for convenient operation, and caster wheels on the bottom.
This is also a quiet unit with a max decibel rating of 55. It has three fan speeds to allow the air to flow better, and it’s easy to maintain. Overall, a decent option for most households.
9. Whynter ARC-122DS Elite Dual Hose Digital Portable Air Conditioner
As we mentioned, one of the better air conditioning brands is Whynter. Although the model above is probably the most powerful and reliable unit on this list, it can be a little overwhelming for certain situations. If you’re looking for a more subdued model, then this is the better choice for you.
When comparing the cooling capacity of this conditioner, it’s rated to cool up to 400 square feet, as well as operate as a fan or a dehumidifier.
If you use the last setting, you can expect to remove up to 76 pints per day, making it a viable option for those living in high humidity environments. It drains itself automatically, and it will also detect leaks and compensate accordingly, so there’s no mess.
As with other Whynter models, you get two filters. One is a carbon filter to remove most contaminants from the air, and the second is a washable version to help you stay as low maintenance as possible. Other features include a remote control, caster wheels, and a built-in timer with sleep mode.
10. DELLA 048-GM-48382 Portable Air Conditioner
Our final air conditioner is a compact model that is both convenient and powerful. With 14,000 BTUs, you can expect to cool areas of up to 450 square feet. However, it’s not as bulky as other 14K units, meaning that it’s ideal for both living rooms and bedrooms alike.
What’s unique about this model is that it has an abundance of different operational settings. Beyond the traditional fan/cool/dehumidifier modes, you can also choose a heat option, as well as an energy saver setting. Overall, there is a choice for any occasion, making this one of the more versatile models out there.
Other features include adjustable vents, quiet operation (max 56 dB), and a high-efficiency air filter. The unit removes water automatically, and it’s easy to set up, so you can be satisfied with your purchase no matter what.
Our Top Pick - Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
When choosing the best portable air conditioner, you’ll want something that can handle almost any room of your house without any issues. Although we’ve seen a lot of high-quality models, we prefer the Whynter 14,000 BTU version the best.
We like this air conditioner because it works for rooms up to 500 square feet, so you can deploy it however you want. Also, it has two air filters for better breathing quality, and it’s so easy to use. While the size can be somewhat prohibitive for some residences, we believe that it’s going to offer the best value for your money.
How to Choose a Portable Air Conditioner
Although we’ve browsed some of the top models on the market, we want to make sure that you understand all of the elements that could be a part of your new air conditioner. Here are the top considerations to make when choosing a model that fits your needs.
When figuring out the right model for you, the first thing to determine is how big it is. For example, if you’re looking for something for your bedroom, you may want a smaller unit that won’t take up as much square footage.
The size of the unit is critical, but it’s also not the only thing you should pay attention to when looking at dimensions. The other component to consider is the hose and the window attachment. All air conditioners need to vent to the outside, so you have to make sure that the window section will fit well. Otherwise, you may be unable to use the machine as intended.
Finally, the length of the hose is another consideration regarding size and the overall footprint of your air conditioner. Since you want to keep your hose as straight as possible (to avoid kinks), you have to pay attention to how long it is and how far you need to keep it away from the window for everything to work correctly.
All told, some air conditioners can take up quite a bit of space, so keep that in mind before making a final purchase.
We’ll get into the details about BTUs (what they are and how they work) later on, but when picking out an air conditioner, you have to pay attention to the number of BTUs it has. Generally speaking, the more it offers, the better your machine will be since it can operate more efficiently and cool a larger space without much difficulty.
Recently, however, there have been some changes regarding how BTUs are measured, so you have to pay attention to that as well. There are two governing bodies that rate air conditioners for energy output and efficiency - the Department of Energy and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Starting last year, the DOE updated its guidelines for testing these units, and they have determined that many BTU ratings are lower than what the ASHRAE had claimed before.
Thus, when looking at the BTU range for an air conditioner, you will likely see both numbers listed. Some units may only have the DOE estimate instead. Either way, more BTUs means more energy efficiency and faster cooling, so pick your air conditioner accordingly.
As with anything that uses a fan and a compressor, air conditioners can be relatively noisy. However, some models are much quieter than others, which can be helpful in a few different situations.
For example, if you plan on using your unit in the bedroom while you sleep, you will probably want to avoid a noisy model that will potentially wake you up (or prevent you from drifting off).
Thus, when choosing the best portable air conditioner, you want to check the decibel levels. Also, keep in mind that most manufacturers will only list the dB at the lowest setting, so anticipate that it will get higher than that.
For reference, most human speech is registered at around 65 dB, so less than 60 is considered “quiet” by comparison. The lowest we’ve seen is 52 dB, but again, that may be the lowest fan speed, so you should assume that it will go higher accordingly.
Although air conditioners are built to cool the air in a room, that’s not the only function that they may offer. Many modern portable air conditioners provide a couple of other settings that can make your life a little easier.
First, you can operate the unit as a simple fan without the compressor. You won’t get the benefit of cooled air, but you will also save money on your energy bill. Sometimes, air circulation is all that really matters, so having the ability to switch back and forth keeps you from having to buy separate appliances.
Secondly, many models will also act as a dehumidifier. If that is a feature you care about, however, you will want to get an air conditioner that’s built with dehumidification in mind. Some models will say that they work as a dehumidifier because they evaporate the water that they collect, but they are not as efficient or as robust as those with the setting built-in already.
Finally, a few models may allow you to use the air conditioner as a heater as well. This option is relatively uncommon, but if you’re looking for maximum versatility, then you may want to seek out a unit that has this capability.
For the most part, air conditioning is based on personal needs. Thus, you want a machine that will allow you to customize the experience as much as possible so that you can always remain comfortable, no matter what.
When picking out a portable air conditioner, you will want to see if it has a wide temperature range. The wider it is, the easier it will be to set the air however you want it. Also, pay attention to the number of fan speeds, as well as how much you can adjust the dehumidifier.
Finally, some units will offer a fully integrated remote control to make your life that much easier and more convenient.
Who Needs a Portable Air Conditioner?
Having access to cool air is a necessity in various parts of the country, but why not install something a bit more permanent? Here are some of the reasons why having a portable air conditioner is the best option for some people.
If you install a window unit, that means that you can only get cool air in that room. Thus, if you want multiple areas to be cooled down, you have to buy separate machines, which can become prohibitively expensive. With a portable air conditioner, you can move it from room to room as you see fit without much hassle.
If you live in an area where it gets cold in the winter, having a semi-permanent air conditioner will only get in the way. Also, it affects your ability to insulate your room, so your heater has to work harder. With a portable model, you can remove it and put it in storage when you don’t need it.
Whether you live in an apartment or you’re renting a room in a shared space with other people, it’s not always feasible to install an air conditioner. Portable models allow you to have the comfort you deserve without making it into a complicated process.
Single vs. Dual Hose Units
One element that we haven’t discussed yet about these machines is the type of hoses you can find. Many portable air conditioners have just one hose for ventilation, but some of them have two. Let’s look at the distinguishing features of both options.
This is the most common setup, and the way it works is that it pulls air from the room and then expels it outside. While this is a relatively simple method, it does create some issues. First, it can create the feeling of negative air pressure because the air is continuously being drawn out of the room. Secondly, warm air will seep in from other locations, making the unit work harder (and thus driving up your electricity bill).
If you want a portable air conditioner that is both efficient and energy-friendly, then you will want two hoses. Rather than pulling air from the room, this setup pulls air in from the outside, cools it, expels it into the room, and then removes the excess moisture through the second hose. Dual units can cool an area much faster, and they usually work better as dehumidifiers as well. However, they can cost more.
What is a British Thermal Unit (BTU)?
As we mentioned, the number of BTUs an air conditioner has, the better it will work for you. But what is a BTU?
Originally, a BTU was described as a unit of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by a single degree. These days, there is some variation in how a BTU is measured, mostly based on the original temperature of the water. For example, it’s much easier to heat water that is already tepid rather than ice water.
When it comes to cooling, the reason that we use thermal units is that it refers to how much heat can be removed from the air overall. Thus, if you have a 10,000-BTU air conditioner, it can remove that much warmth from the room, enabling you to cool it down rapidly.
Maintenance Tips for Portable Air Conditioners
Once you buy the best portable air conditioner, you want to keep it working properly. Here are some tips to follow.
Keep it Clean: usually, dust and dirt will collect on the air compressor and the other components inside. The more there is, the more it inhibits the machine’s ability to work. Keeping it clean will ensure that you get optimal cooling at all times.
Replace the Filters: in the same vein, you want to pay attention to your air filters and replace them often. If you don’t, then dust and allergens will be spewed back into the air, which could cause breathing problems. It also affects the machine’s performance.
Never Kink the Hose: you want the air to flow smoothly through the conditioner. However, if the hose is kinked, then it won’t be as efficient.
Clean the Area Around the Machine: you have to consider that any dust or particles near the conditioner will wind up inside the unit. Thus, be sure to dust and wipe surfaces that are close to the intake. This will help you keep the inside spotless as well.