Top 10 Portable Air Conditioners (Nov. 2018): Reviews & Buyers Guide

My house was built long before the invention of indoor air conditioning. Yes, a central ac system was installed a long time ago and the house is generally very comfortable. But there is that one little room, upstairs at the far end of the house that just doesn’t get enough relief from the afternoon sun on hot, humid summer days. Naturally, that’s my office where I am sitting even as I write this review.

My solution is to add a small stand-up air conditioner that I can roll in place on the days I need it and stow it away in a closet when I don’t. This actually works better than installing a window unit because with a portable air conditioner system, I have the option to work with the window open if the ac isn’t needed. An installed window unit doesn’t allow for that. I also get more light through the window, even when the ac unit is in use.

I’m not alone. You probably have a bedroom or maybe an apartment above the garage that could use some help with air conditioning. The units we are reviewing are relatively cheap, easy to use and they do a good job of cooling and dehumidifying small spaces.

Why Should You Trust Us?

Keeping cool is a personal goal, so we have a vested interest in finding the right portable air conditioner. But beyond that, we really want to help you pick the ac unit that fits your needs. To that end, we tested nearly a hundred of the top rated systems in the process of developing this best portable air conditioner review. We have been doing this kind of research for more than for years now in order to equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed purchasing decisions.

For these reviews, we spent about 70 hours of web research and then moved on to a week of testing through community-based usage. We also personally tested the units to make sure the information provided about them is accurate.

The Soothing Air best portable air conditioner review is not based on the nameplates. We are not interested in promoting any particular brand or product. This is an unbiased comparison designed to equip consumers like you with the information you need to make your own decisions.

In fact, since everyone’s needs are different, there is no single unit or brand that is the best for everyone. So, we have created this list of what we consider to be the ten best portable ac units on the market today.

What Is a Portable Air Conditioner?

It’s a small upright unit on wheels that you can just roll to the room where you need it, attach a vent hose to the back and to a frame that fits in the window, plug it in and enjoy instant cool. If that sounds pretty easy to you, that’s because it is.

The big advantage of these standup machines is their portability. Unlike a window unit that you are stuck looking at whether it is being used or not, these ac systems can be rolled into a closet when not in use. The other great advantage is that they can easily be moved to another room when needed. They are also very handy for apartment living where landlords may not permit the semi-permanent installation of a window air conditioner. For a fairly low price and very little installation effort, you can have cool, dry air where you need it!




What Are the Essential Features of a Good Portable Air Conditioner?

The very first thing to pay attention to is how much cooling power a unit has. This is measured in British Thermal Units, abbreviated as BTU’s. The gives you an apples-to-apples method for comparing the power of one ac unit against another. The top 10 portable ac units on our list range from a low of 8,000 to a high of 14,000 BTU’s.

A programmable thermostat is a very important feature. This allows you to record your favorite settings for the machine, so you can just turn it on and let the unit do all the thinking for you, while you enjoy the cool air. Some have a remote control so you can do your programming right from your chair.

All air conditioning systems not only cool the air, but they also remove humidity. The amount of humidity a machine can remove is a consideration, as is the method in which the machine disposes of the water it draws out of the air. Many deal with this moisture by evaporating it into the hot air that blows out of the exhaust hose. Others utilize a holding tank (which must be emptied periodically) or a drain hose.

One other feature included on some of the top 10 portable ac systems is a combination system that not only cools in summer but can also be used as a heater in cooler weather.

Types of Portable Air Conditioners

Although there are a lot of similarities to all of the machines in our best portable air conditioner review, there are still some differences to be considered. One of the biggest things we have found is that most systems use a single exhaust hose and others actually have two hoses that connect to the outside. The single hose systems vent hot, humid air out of your indoor space through this hose. A dual system uses the other hose to draw fresh air from the outside into the system. Yes, this air must be dehumidified and cooled before it is released into your room. But in a small bedroom or apartment, this supply of fresh air can be very welcome.

If that small room gets too hot in summer, the odds are that it gets too cold in winter, too. A few of the best units also have heating systems to help you keep that room comfortable all year-round. This can be a very cheap way of equalizing the heating and cooling needs of a small indoor area for a price much lower than it would cost to extend a central heating/cooling supply.



Factors to Consider When Buying a Portable Air Conditioner?

As you examine our best portable air conditioner review, think about your specific needs. Not everyone needs a 14,000 BTU system with all of the bells and whistles that money can buy. Price is a very legitimate factor, especially if the needs aren’t as great.

Measure the size of the area you need to cool and find a unit that matches your needs. One word of caution about this. If a machine says that it can cool a 400 square foot area, for example, keep in mind that these measurements are best-case scenarios. A machine that does a great job in a well-insulated and relatively airtight space will not be as effective in a room that has poor insulation, cracks around the doors, and ill-fitting windows. In a more challenging setting, that same system might only be adequate for 300 square feet.

Energy consumption is a factor. Just like any other air conditioner, these portable units have a tough job to do. It takes a good amount of electricity for any ac unit to do its job. Here again, an under-sized unit will have to work harder. Don’t buy on the cheap because it will end up costing you more money in the long run.

Think about the ventilation in the room. If it is a fairly airtight space, the use of a dual hose system to input fresh air can be a good choice.

Like any air conditioner, even the best portable machines generate noise. The compressor and fans have a tough job to do, and it will never be completely quiet. But some are better than others and this can be a major consideration, especially if the unit is going to be used in a bedroom.

Think also about the installation of the window kit that the hoses attach to. Some are adjustable and very easy to use, while others may require cutting and fitting to specific windows. This latter design may also limit the portability of the entire ac system.

Be sure to gauge the ease of use for each system. Some require almost no effort and others may require frequent attention. Remote controllers also add to the ease of use quotient.

Finally, take a look at the aesthetics of the machine. It is going to become a part of the decor in your room so you want a design that is pleasing to the eye, but still maintains great functionality.




How We Picked and Tested

You aren’t just taking our word for this. Our selection process involves practical testing data that was generated by a number of volunteers. We also listened to air conditioning experts and factored their personal choices into our best portable air conditioner review process. We began by selecting 100 ac units that received the best reviews and then narrowed that down to 70 that we tested.

We didn’t find a single unit that we can honestly say was perfect. We found pros and cons to every one of them, and you will see that information along with our reviews. However, we were able to generate this top 10 portable ac list from our research.

The features that we focused most on included the cooling and dehumidification capacity, the square footage that it could efficiently cool, and the evaporative or draining system. We measured how loud or quiet each unit was.

We also examined the remote controls for the units that had them, and the main control panels on all of them. We looked at the operational modes and programmable timers. We studied the filter systems and any other features each unit presented.

Then we moved on to the cost factors. We looked at the price, we looked at the value, we looked at the warranty, we looked at the cost per month to operate the ac unit.
Based on all of that information, we arrived at our best portable ac review for what we consider to be the ten best machines.

Our Top Ten Product List

After studying the wide array of features offered on these portable ac units, we identified what we consider to be the 36 most important features. None of the units, of course, has all 36. Additionally, something that I may consider to be a key feature may be something you don’t place as much value on. So, there is subjectivity to any list like this.

That’s why we are not only telling you our top 10 portable air conditioner units, we’re giving you our raw data so you can decide for yourself. You will find a link below that takes you to our raw research spreadsheet where each feature is defined and quantified for every machine. We can’t be any more open about how we arrived at out best portable ac review than that!

So now that you have been armed with in-depth knowledge about portable air conditioning systems, let’s get on with examining the The Soothing Air Top 10 Best Portable AC Review.




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Our Pick: Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose

Why we’ve chosen this product as our No. 1 Pick?

Of the 36 key features we analyzed for our reviews, this top rated portable air conditioning unit doesn’t actually have the highest number. But it does have the best combination of important features. Check the attached research report for the exact comparisons.

This unit from Whynter does have the highest cooling capacity and dehumidification power. It is capable of removing up to 101 pints of water from the air every day. That’s the top rating for dehumidification on our list. Thermostatic control and a programmable timer that take their orders from a remote control make this an easy machine to use. The three-speed fan and carbon air filtration system are also great features on a fairly affordable system.

In fact, the price helped us decide that this ac unit would receive our top review. At about $500, it isn’t cheap. However, of the three units in our top 10 that offer 14,000 BTU’s of cooling power, it is the lowest price.

You don’t have to just take our word for this, either. We also study the frequency of positive ratings from online reviews. We do this by watching how long it takes a particular ac unit to get its first 10 positive ratings, and then the second 10, and finally a third 10 reviews. This is a great way to measure how many people are buying a given machine and how happy they are with it. The faster that real-world owners rated a machine favorably, the happy they are. This particular machine got its first 10 positive reviews in a lightning-fast 2 days, the second 10 in just 4 days and the third set of 10 in just 2 more days.

In addition to the great features this system offers, The Soothing Air was also impressed with the premium grade materials it is made of. Its durability means it should perform beautifully for a long time. And it will do so without making a lot of noise. This machine is superbly quiet, and it has a great design to thank for it.

Detailed Review

best portable air conditioner review: the best choice to make

Specifications:

Our top rated portable ac unit generates 14,000 BTU’s of cooling power. That’s enough to cool up to 500 square feet under those “perfect” conditions we warned you about earlier. It uses the R410a refrigerant to do its job. This is the CFC-free, “eco-friendly” refrigerant that does not harm the ozone layer.
Power consumption is 1250 watts at 10.8 amps. The unit measures 16x19x35.5 inches and weighs 80 pounds.

The ARC-14S can dehumidify up to 101 pints per day. That’s the highest rated dehumidifying capability on our top 10 list. Under normal conditions, most of that condensate is evaporated back into the exhaust hose to the outside.

The color is Platinum and Black and the overall design is very pleasing.

Ventilation Capacity:

This machine uses a dual hose system, which means it draws fresh air from the outside into the machine, providing clean air circulation in your indoor space. The other hose exhausts hot air and the excess humidity back to the outside.

We do have one observation on this point. Since the two hoses are attached to the window side-by-side, it means the intake hose and the exhaust hose are vented just inches apart. It’s not much of a stretch to realize that the intake is going to suck in a lot of hot, moist air directly from the exhaust, making the unit work harder than it should have to. Our suggestion is to modify the window bracket by mounting a small baffle between the two holes. Frankly, we’re amazed the engineers at Whynter haven’t done this for you.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

Here’s where this unit really shines. It has full thermostatic control for temperatures ranging form 89°F all the way down to a chilly 61°! It has a digital readout, a programmable 24-hour timer, and a remote control. The timer can turn the unit on and off at preset times.

The unit can operate in air conditioning, dehumidifying, and simple fan modes at three different fan speeds.

Special Features:

A great feature on this portable ac unit is the auto-restart function. If a power outage should occur, the system will automatically restart itself when the power comes back on.

It is equipped with two filters. First, there is a washable “pre-filter” that cleans the air before it enters the cooling system, and then the chilled air is pushed through a carbon filter as it enters your indoor space. We actually wish the unit had some sort of filter or screen on the exterior intake system as well. It is possible for bugs and other debris to enter the intake hose. It would be better if an exterior filter kept these outside elements, well, outside. This is another modification you can do on your own by simply placing a simple filtering material over the intake hose.

Attachments and Warranty:

The hoses are extendable up to 60 inches in length. The window kit is adjustable from 20 inches wide all the way to 46 inches. It also comes with a nifty cover that you can put over the standup unit when it is in storage. The warranty is for 3 years.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

This portable air conditioner utilizes a self-evaporative system, which means most of the humidity drawn from the air is evaporated into the hot exhaust air and blown outside. If the system isn’t capable of ridding itself of all the moisture, the excess is collected in a pan. You do have to option of attaching drain hoses to the pan in either an upper or lower outlet to allow continuous operation. The other option is the occasional manual emptying of the pan. This is normally only necessary in excessively humid conditions.
Our sound measure shows that in normal operating mode, this machine runs at a very quiet 56 decibels. A portable air conditioner doesn’t get much quieter than that.

Pros:

  • High BTU output
  • Powerful dehumidifier
  • Dual hose configuration
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Window kit needs a baffle between hose ports
  • Intake hose should have an external filter to keep bugs and dirt out

Verdict:

The 14,000 BTU power of this portable air conditioner is among the highest rated outputs on our list. The many different options for mode and fan speed give you great control over just what you want this machine to do for your indoor space. The dual hoses and powerful dehumidifying capacity mean this machine will pump out loads of clean, dry air that will make any indoor space more comfortable. Best of all, it does this as quietly as any other machine on our top 10, making it perfect for a bedroom or small apartment.

As we have pointed out, there are a couple of small issues, mostly related to the hoses and the window kit. A little bit of do-it-yourself ingenuity can easily conquer them.

 



Budget Pick: Honeywell MN10CESWW 10,000

Why we’ve chosen this product as our Budget Pick?

This ac unit actually has only the third-lowest sale price in our top ten list. But when you compare its cost against the surprising number of features it has, the value is apparent. That’s why it gets our Budget Pick nod. This portable ac has a 10,000 BTU capacity and can dehumidify up to 70 pints per day. It has a remote control and operates in three distinct modes. It also has a 3M Electro elastic filter. Not bad for a unit that has a sale price around $350 dollars.
Online reviews agree with us about this portable ac. In our ratings sampling, it received its first 10 positive ratings in 3 days, the second 10 in 6 days, and the third 10 in only 1 day.

Detailed Review

best portable air conditioner review: save some money with this choice

Specifications:

Our budget pick pumps out 10,000 BTUs of cooling power, which is about enough for a 350 square foot area under good conditions. It measures 15.2 x1 8.1 x 29.4 inches and weighs 61.7 pounds. Power consumption is 900 watts at full power.
This system is capable of dehumidifying up to 70 pints in a 24-hour period and uses the auto-evaporation technique, which vents most of the water back to the outdoors.

Ventilation Capacity:

This portable AC system uses a single exhaust hose design. When the fan is running at full speed, it moves 212 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM).

Convenience and Automatic Features:

In addition to the LED control panel, Honeywell includes a full function remote control, which is a big bonus. It also has a 24-hour timer. This machine can function strictly as a dehumidifier or 3-speed fan in addition to its air conditioning mode.

Special Features:

There is a washable 3M “Electro Elastic” filter that slides in and out easily on the back of the unit.

Attachments and Warranty:

There is a single exhaust hose, which connects to the adjustable window bracket. The bracket fits window openings from 19.9 to 47.25 inches and is removable when the air conditioner is not in use.
This unit has a one-year warranty.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

The 55-decibel sound level generated by this unit is one of the quietest in our survey. The exhaust hose is standard 6-inch flexible style. Since this unit uses the evaporative technique for dispensing with condensed humidity, there is usually no need to empty the water pan. There is also a continuous drain option that uses a standard garden hose for those rare times when the evaporator can’t keep up with the dehumidifying action.

Pros:

  • Quiet
  • Low power consumption
  • Full function remote

Cons:

  • 10,000 BTUs limit room size
  • Plain-Jane styling

Verdict:

This is a good little unit from Honeywell, a very trusted name in the HVAC world. Although the relatively low 10,000 BTU capacity limits the size of the room it can comfortably cool, if your floor plan includes less than 350 square feet, this might be the system for you. It’s super-quiet so it’s good for use in a bedroom. With a sale price of around $350 dollars, it won’t break the bank either.

We do wish it was a bit more stylish in terms of design. The machine does have to sit out from the wall for the exhaust hose to be effective. This unit looks like a big white garbage can.

 




Advanced Pick: Whynter ARC-14SH 14,000 BTU

Why we’ve chosen this product as our Advanced Pick?

When we chose our Advanced Pick, the focus was on finding cutting-edge technology that would elevate the concept of what a portable air conditioner should be. With 19 of our most positive features, this model from Whynter tops the entire list. Of course, you would expect that from our Advanced Pick, and this machine delivers.

Sure, it generates 14,000 BTU of cooling power and evaporates 101 pints of water from the indoor air every 24 hours. But this is also a system that you won’t put away when the cooler weather rolls around. That’s because it also has a 13,000 BTU Heat Pump built right in! All of that with a programmable timer and thermostatic control to maintain consistent temperatures in a space up to 500 square feet.

Yes, it is expensive. But at around $514 dollars, it’s not actually the most expensive unit on our list, so you are getting a lot of bang for your buck with this one.

Online reviews of this machine agree with our assessment, too. It received its first ten positive ratings in just 8 days, the second set of ten in 14 days, and the third set in 57 days. Not bad for a unit on the high end of the price range for these machines.

Here’s the bottom line on this air conditioning unit. None of the other products we tested has the durability, performance, and collection of important features that this one does. If you’re willing to spring more than $500 bucks for a portable air conditioner, this is the one.

Detailed Review

best portable air conditioner review: This will surely bring optimum comfort during summer months

Specifications:

The 14,000 BTU’s of cooling power provided by this portable ac unit is tied with two other units for the highest on our top ten list and gives you reliable cooling power for up to 500 square feet under normal conditions. It’s 13,000 BTU’s of heating capacity blows the rest away.

Power consumption is 1250 watts at 10.8 amps. The outside dimensions of the standup unit are 19x16x35.3 inches and it weighs about 80 pounds.

The dehumidifying capacity is 101 pints per 24-hour period and is normally vented out with the hot air exhaust, so there is usually no need to empty the condensate pan.

Ventilation Capacity:

This is a dual-hose design that draws fresh air in through one hose and blows hot, humid exhaust air out of the other. It’s a more complex system than most of these portable ac units, but the fresh air intake it provides is a huge benefit for enclosed indoor spaces like apartments with sealed windows.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

The thermostatic control on this unit functions just like our top pick from Whynter – perfectly. There is a digital readout and 24-hour programmable timer. There are three fan speeds. Here’s the big difference; this unit has FOUR modes. It can be a simple fan, a dehumidifier, an air conditioner, AND a portable heater! If that isn’t convenient, I don’t know what is.

Special Features:

This portable ac unit from Whynter also has their auto-restart function that turns the machine back on if you have experienced a power outage. A carbon air filter and washable pre-filter are included with this machine.

Attachments and Warranty:

The dual hoses are expandable to 60 inches in length. The window kit is expandable to a 36-inch maximum width. There is a one-year warranty on the unit and a three-year warranty specific to the compressor.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

It uses two hoses for intake and exhaust air, that are supplied with the unit. Draining is usually not necessary because it uses the evaporative technique to exhaust condensed water out with the hot air.
This is a fairly quiet unit with a full operation level of less than 56 decibels.

Pros:

  • AC and Heat pump options
  • Advanced features

Cons:

  • Disappointing window kit

Verdict:

This unit is nearly identical to our top pick, with one very notable exception. It is also a heat pump. In terms of the air conditioning, dehumidifying and fan systems these systems are twins. The heat pump system means you will probably never put this unit in the closet. Odds are that if a room needs help keeping cool in summer, it probably needs help staying warm in winter, too. Interestingly, this unit costs less than 10 dollars more than our top pick. To the The Soothing Air way of thinking, that’s called a “no-brainer”. The only complaint is the same as we had with our Top Pick. We feel that Whynter goes cheap on the window adapter. They need to do a better job with this piece. Then the system would be getting pretty close to perfect.

Best for Professionals: Honeywell MN12CES 12,000 BTU

Why we’ve chosen this product as Best for Professionals?

Anytime you see the name Honeywell on an HVAC product, you know you are dealing with a professionally designed system. This portable ac unit is no different. The durability and performance of this system is beyond question. It generates 12,000 BTU’s of cooling power and handles the evaporative system with professionalism. A full function remote control lets you reign over everything with ease.

A quick scan of our research reports shows that it is about in the middle of the price range presented, so it is a good deal. Online reviewers also like it. This machine received its first ten positive ratings in just 10 days, second ten in 29 days, and third group in just 17 more days. That’s a lot of happy purchasers.

Detailed Review

best portable air conditioner review: A great product from a great brand

Specifications:

This is a 12,000 BTU portable ac unit, which Honeywell claims will cool a 450 square foot area. The Soothing Air team thinks that’s a little bit generous, but we’ll let it slide.

This ac unit uses 1100 watts of power. It measures 15.7 x 16.5 x 29.3 inches and weighs just 68.3 pounds. That’s actually fairly small when compared with some of the other machines.

In terms of dehumidifying the air, this machine maxes out at 79.2 pints per day. Not the highest number in our survey, but very respectable for a 12,000 BTU system.

Ventilation Capacity:

The Honeywell MN12CES pushes out 163 CFM of cooled and dehumidified air. It uses a single exhaust hose that supports the automatic evaporation system that makes emptying a condensate pan unnecessary in most situations.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

The “feather-touch” controls on this unit are very easy to use. It has an automatic timer for anywhere from 1 to 24 hours.

Special Features:

This is a triple-mode system that allows you to use it as an air conditioner, a dehumidifier, or a simple fan. All of the functions are controllable from the remote.

Attachments and Warranty:

The window venting kit includes a bracket that can be adjusted from 19.9 inches up to 47.25 inches. This portable ac unit comes with a one-year limited warranty. Honeywell also has a US customer service hotline.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

The 55-decibel sound output from this system matches the lowest of any ac unit in our survey. Yes, that’s still a modest sound level. But when you consider that you have an air conditioning condenser, a three-speed fan, and 163 CFM of air movement happening, you can’t really ask for anything quieter. It would simply defy the laws of physics. No ac manufacturer has figured that out yet.
This is a fairly quiet unit, with a full operation level of less than 56 decibels.

Pros:

  • Strong Honeywell reputation
  • Full function remote

Cons:

  • Disappointing CFM output

Verdict:

The Soothing Air just feels comfortable with any HVAC product that bears a Honeywell nameplate. This is a company with a long history of high-quality heating and air conditioning systems to its credit. That said, we are a little disappointed that Honeywell hasn’t seen fit to give this unit a bit more power in terms of the CFM it outputs. We understand that this is a 12,000 BTU machine and that Honeywell has larger systems in its line. But we don’t think that’s an excuse for not having at least a 200-cubic foot per minute fan system on this one.

Still, there’s no doubt this machine will perform within its specs for many years to come. And at a sale price of around $440 dollars, it’s a good buy.

 

Best For Beginners: Global Air 10,000 BTU Portable

Why we’ve chosen this product as the Best For Beginners?

This portable ac unit from Global Air is our Best for Beginners pick because it is so easy to use. There’s really nothing to it. Of course, simplicity means it doesn’t have many of the higher end features that some of the more advanced units do. But if you are into plug-and-play technology, this is the air conditioner for you.

Still, it does have a carbon filter option and a 2-speed cooling fan. This also happens to be the cheapest machine on our list, with a sale price of about $250.

Online reviewers like this machine, too. In our study range, this air conditioning unit received its first ten positive reviews in just 3 days, the second ten in 4 days, and the third ten in 3 more days. That indicates a lot of happy (and cool) new owners.

Detailed Review

best portable air conditioner review: An easy-to-use choice you can make

Specifications:

This is a 10,000 BTU system, which means it is good for cooling about 300 square feet of indoor space. That will easily take care of a bedroom or studio apartment all by itself. Power consumption is only 980 watts, so it won’t be too hard on the electric bill, either.

This standup unit measures 17 x 13 x 31.3 inches and weighs 54 pounds, which makes it among the lightest in our survey.

This machine only has the fan and air conditioning modes. It does not have a dehumidify-only mode like many of the other machines do.

This unit does employ the automatic evaporative function that exhausts dehumidified condensate out through the exhaust; however, some users in humid climates report that it often is not able to keep up with the condensation, resulting in the need to empty the tank periodically.

Ventilation Capacity:

The fan is only a two-speed fan, unlike most of the other systems that offer three speeds. This portable ac unit is a single exhaust hose design. Active carbon filters are offered as an option for this machine.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

The main control panel is located on the top of the machine and has a very straightforward LED readout. It also comes with a remote control.

Attachments and Warranty:

This is a very simple design that doesn’t offer much in the way of attachments. It does come with a one-year warranty.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

The single exhaust hose attached with firmly locking couplers on both ends. If you live in a high humidity locale and the evaporative system isn’t enough to keep up, you can attach a hose to the reserve tank for continuous operation. If not, the system will turn off when the tank is full, and the display will show “FL”.

This is a very quiet machine for use in a bedroom, and in fact, it even has a sleep mode in its settings. By activating “Sleep Mode”, the system reverts to the low fan speed for quieter running. The temperature setting will also increase 1 degree after two hours and another degree after 4 hours. This helps keep the machine quiet and is designed to lower the usage as the night naturally cools down.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Simple to use
  • Sleep Mode

Cons:

  • Only 2 fan speeds
  • No dehumidify-only mode

Verdict:

This is a very basic portable air conditioner. But don’t mistake simplicity for quality. Just because it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the other units doesn’t mean it won’t blow cold air. That is, after all, the point of these systems. The trade-off comes in the price tag, which is the lowest in our top ten reviews, and less than half of the highest priced machines.




A List of 5 Other Products We Reviewed

No. 6: Whynter (ARC-12S) 12,000 Review

best portable air conditioner review: overall a good portable air conditioner
This is a nearly-identical unit to our Top pick, except for two key points. First, this one generates 12,000 BTU’s of cooling power, which is 2,000 less than the Top Pick. Secondly, this is a single hose system for venting hot exhaust air, where our Top Pick also had a fresh air inlet hose. Perhaps this is why the BTU generation of this machine is slightly lower.

Specifications:

As noted, this is a 12,000 BTU CFC-free ac unit. That should be good for up to about 400 square feet in average conditions. Power consumption is 1080 watts at 9.5 amps. The exterior size is 17 x 15.5 x 31 inches and weighs a mid-range 62 pounds.

It has a dehumidifying capacity of 91 pints per day and expels that moisture through the exhaust hose by the evaporative process.

Ventilation Capacity:

Air flow at the highest of the three fan speeds is a substantial 188 CFM. It uses a carbon air filter and also has a prefilter that can be washed and reused.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

This unit does have the three common modes – air conditioning, dehumidifying, and fan only. It has a simple LED control panel and a remote control as well as a 24-hour programmable timer.

Special Features:

This portable ac unit has an auto restart that turns the machine back on after a power outage. It also has an LCDI plug, which means the plug on the end of the cord has a built-in circuit breaker that will shut the unit off if it detects a short or other problem with the equipment.

Attachments and Warranty:

The window kit is adjustable for windows from 20 inches all the way to 46 inches wide. There is also a silver dust cover included, for when the unit is not in use.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

This is the quietest machine in our top ten. It only generates 52.5 decibels of sound at full power, which is several dB quieter than almost every other ac system we tested. This machine does evaporate the condensate; however, it can also be emptied manually or by a hose for continuous operation.

Pros:

  • Lots of high-end features
  • Very quiet operation

Cons:

  • More cost and less power than our Top Pick

Verdict:

This is overall a good portable air conditioner. We suppose it has a niche in the Whynter line-up of very respectable portable air conditioners. We’re just not quite sure what that niche is. Our Top Pick is identical in many ways, except that it uses a dual hose system and pumps out more cold, dry air. Here’s the kicker. This machine, at about $563 dollars, costs about 50 bucks more than our top pick! The Soothing Air has nothing against this machine, but our Top Pick certainly seems like a better buy, and that’s why we would take a pass on this one.

No. 7: LG Electronics LP0814WNR Review

best portable air conditioner review: a small unit that will fulfill your needs
LG Electronics brings its nameplate to our top ten portable air conditioner list with this 8,000 BTU offering. It’s a fairly simple design with some operational limits that leave us a little cold, pardon the pun. Still, if a small unit will fulfill your needs and you like LG’s reputation for quality products, then give this one some thought.

Specifications:

The rotary compressor on this portable ac unit pushes out 8,000 BTU. That enough to cool a 200 square foot area under optimal conditions. That’s not a very big space.

The unit itself measures just 11.8 x 13.9 x 29.8 inches. At 47 pounds, it is the lightest machine on our list.

It is capable of dehumidifying up to 48 pints per day, which is also the lowest on our top ten. It does not have a dehumidify-only mode, but it does use the evaporative method for pushing that moisture back out through the exhaust hose.

Ventilation Capacity:

The fan only has two speeds, instead of the usual three. It also has two cooling speeds. The venting is on the very front of the machine with adjustable louvers.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

There is an auto-restart function that turns the machine back on after a power outage. The 24-hour timer can be programmed to turn the unit on and off. There is also a remote control.

Attachments and Warranty:

The warranty is for one year. There are no special attachments for this unit.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

It is an evaporative system, so the moisture is vented out through the exhaust hose. Users do complain that it is very noisy. This is probably due in part to the fact that this unit is designed for a very small space. Inside a 200 Square foot area, you are going to be very close to this ac unit, so there will be no escaping the noise.

Pros:

  • Well-known brand name
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Low performance
  • 2 speed fan

Verdict:

If you are going to choose a portable ac unit for your needs, pick one that is more than big enough for the space you intend to cool. We just don’t see where 8,000 BTU is going to be satisfactory for most applications. This machine might be fine for cooling a very small room filled with computer servers, but beyond that it is not likely to be up to the challenge.



No. 8: BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT 10,000 BTU Review

best portable air conditioner review: a solid performer from a trusted brand name
Black & Decker makes it onto our top ten portable air conditioner list with this 10,000 BTU machine that is interesting largely because it has a very reasonable price for a system that has a respectable number of our favorite features.

Specifications:

It takes this portable ac unit from Black & Decker 950 watts of power to generate 10,000 BTU’s of cold air. The machine is 16.5 x 11.5 x 26 inches and weighs 53 pounds.

Ventilation Capacity:

It has cooling, dehumidifying and straight fan modes. A 10,000 BTU unit can be expected to cool a 400 square foot area under optimal conditions. This is a single hose system for venting hot air and humidity to the outside.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

The electronic controls are programmable and there is also a 24-hour timer and a sleep function for quiet running. It also comes with a remote control.

Special Features:

The air filter easily slides in and out from the back of the machine. It is washable.

Attachments and Warranty:

Quite a few online reviewers had complaints about the window adapter that the hose vents through. Many said it wouldn’t fit their windows and required some creative solutions to get it sealed up.
The warranty is one year for the system and a five-year warranty covers the compressor.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

Humidity is exhausted through the hot air hose under most circumstances. There is the option to attach a drain hose for heavier moisture situations.

Pros:

  • Respected brand name
  • Low power consumption

Cons:

  • Poorly designed window adapter

Verdict:

This is a solid performer from a trusted brand name. It comes with all of the main features we look for in a portable air conditioner. At a fairly low cost of about $300 dollars, this portable air conditioner represents a solid choice.




No. 9: Honeywell MM14CHCS 14,000 BTU Review

best portable air conditioner review: Worth every penny
Honeywell pulls out all the stops on this portable air conditioner. With 14,000 BTUs of cooling power for the summer and 13,000 BTU heat pump functionality for the winter months, you may never use the casters this machine stands on. You’ll want to use it year-round.

Specifications:

The 14,000 BTU output requires 10.9 amps of electrical power to keep things running. The heat pump generates 13,000 BTU of heat. The dehumidifier can draw more than 79 pints of water out of the air every day.
The physical size of the machine is 15.7 x 16.5 x 29.3 inches. It weighs a hefty 75 pounds.

Ventilation Capacity:

The three-speed fan can move up to 265 CFM of air. That’s a very powerful fan. This machine will be able to properly cool a 550 square foot area under good conditions. The exhaust hose also carries out evaporated condensate from the dehumidifier.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

The control panel is a digital design and the remote controller is a full-function control center all on its own. This portable ac unit also has a 24-hour programmable timer. The filter is washable.

Special Features:

This is one of only two systems in our top ten list that also includes a heat pump to give this unit year-round functionality.

Attachments and Warranty:

The window kit is adjustable for windows sizes from 19.9 inches, all the way up to 47.25 inches.
There is a one-year limited warranty.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

Under normal circumstances, it is not necessary to drain the evaporation pan because it is released through the exhaust vent. However, during winter heat pump usage water may build up in the pan and will need to be removed either manually or by way of a continuous hose connection.

Despite its powerful size, this portable ac unit operates at a 55 dB noise level, which is quite average for these machines.

Pros:

  • Heat pump functionality
  • High BTU output
  • 265 CFM of air movement

Cons:

  • High cost

Verdict:

There’s one thing we haven’t mentioned yet in our review of this system. At almost $600 dollars, it is the most expensive portable air conditioner we are reviewing here. That may put you off a bit but consider this; With the heat pump function built into this machine, it will serve your needs all year long, not just for a 3-month period of hot weather in summer. Frankly, if you can spring for the high price tag, the extra service this machine will provide every year makes it a great value.

No. 10: SPT 8,000BTU Single Hose Portable AC Review

best portable air conditioner review: Another great choice to make
This is a no-frills portable air conditioner designed for a singular goal – dehumidify and cool a small room.

Specifications:

The 8,000 BTU’s of cooling power require 900 watts of electrical power. The machine weighs 51 pounds. External measurements are 15 x1 3.8 x 29.5 inches.
The fan is only a 2-speed design. There is not a dehumidify-only mode. This unit either functions in air conditioning or fan-only modes.

Ventilation Capacity:

The dehumidifier does try to evaporate most of the condensed water back into the outside by evaporating it in the hot air flow. If you are in a higher humidity location, it won’t always keep up and manual emptying or continuous hose attachment will be required.

Convenience and Automatic Features:

This air conditioner has an auto-restart feature that will turn the machine back on after a power outage. It also has a programmable 24-hour timer. The control panel has a very basic design and there is not a remote control.

Special Features:

The cord comes with an LCDI safety plug. The filter is removable and washable.

Attachments and Warranty:

The warranty is for one year.
There is a one-year limited warranty.

Hose, Draining System and Noise:

The exhaust hose is a standard design. As mentioned previously, it may be necessary to connect the tank to an overflow hose to maintain continuous operation. If the tank gets full, the system will stop running and the display panel will indicate the tank is full.

Pros:

  • Low power consumption
  • Low cost

Cons:

  • Low BTU output
  • No remote control

Verdict:

As we said with the other 8,000 BTU unit in our survey, we think these little guys are good for cooling a computer server room, or something of that nature. But they are too small for use in a small bedroom where the noise will be in close proximity to you as you try to sleep. This is a limitation of the low BTU output.

What to Look Forward to?

We are still waiting for a portable air conditioning unit with a more powerful output. The highest on our top ten list is 14,000 BTU’s. That’s great for an enclosed bedroom or a studio apartment. But if your cooling needs are for a larger room, or a room with cathedral ceilings, for example, these portable units really have to struggle to do the job.

One thing you have to accept is that these units are not “whisper-quiet”. Like every air conditioner, they incorporate a compressor to pressurize the coolant. That’s a necessary step to creating cool air. Those compressors make noise, and so do the fans. While we consider many of these machines to be fairly quiet, noise is still a factor. It’s one of the most common complaints among online reviewers.

But, if your situation suits the size limitations and you realize that a certain amount of noise is just part of the process, a portable air conditioner can be a marvelous thing for cooling a bedroom, or small office like mine. It sure beats sweating!

Care and Maintenance

These portable air conditioners are designed to be fairly easy to maintain. If you set up the window venting system properly, it should take care of venting out most of the water the dehumidifying functions draw out of the air. If you do need to set up a continuous drainage hose, once that’s accomplished it should also need very little attention.

Filters need regular cleaning or replacing. Most of the units on our list have washable air filters. Just wash it on a regular basis and everything should work just fine. Wipe the unit down from time to time, just like any other piece of furniture in your home.

Your system is likely to suffer more during the months it isn’t being used. Before you put it away, be sure to drain all water out and run it on the fan setting for a while to make sure everything inside the machine is good and dry. Put it away with a clean filter, and cover it up with a sheet of plastic, or the fitted cover if your unit came with one.

The first thing to usually break on these systems is the window adapter. They are generally made of plastic and can get brittle and break. Be careful when you move it in and out of the window frame.

Wrapping it Up

Portable air conditioners have struggled to find their place when surrounded by central and window systems that offer higher BTU outputs and more features. But portable units have come a long way and are beginning to adopt some of the great features the big systems possess. For that hard to cool room, small apartment that doesn’t have an AC, or above-the-garage office space, a portable air conditioner often is the best choice.

Be sure to study our attached research report and examine the available features. Use it to help you decide which of these Top 10 Best portable air conditioners is perfect for you.

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