It’s the middle of summer, and you’re in the throes of a heatwave. You turn down your thermostat and wait for the crisp, cool relief that only an air conditioner can provide. However, you soon realize that the temperature inside of your house is slowly rising, not falling. You call your local, trusty heating and air repair guy, but it’s a Saturday and he’s backed up with emergency calls. He can’t get to you until Monday.

best portable air conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner

How do you survive the weekend when it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside and your HVAC system is on the fritz? Many people open all the windows in their house and pull out every box fan they own. Sure, that provides airflow, but that air is hot.

If you want cool air, you need a portable air conditioner. These appliances are able to cool an entire room, and they’re great to have for emergencies. If your home lacks a central HVAC system and you don’t want to detract from home’s curb appeal by using a window unit, a portable AC is an ideal alternative.

How Is a Portable Air Conditioner Different From Other Types of AC Units?

As the name suggests, a portable AC is one that is designed to move. While they aren’t light, this type of air conditioner has caster wheels that make pushing it easy, which you can’t do with a window unit, a central AC unit or a wall-mounted unit.

portable air conditioners

Portable Air Conditioner

How Does It Vent?

Portable AC units need to release the warm air they collect and the condensation they produce, just like any other air conditioner. Therefore, they are equipped with an exhaust port. One end of a hose connects to the port and the other is routed out the nearest window. Any moisture that isn’t released through the hose must be drained.

Some units have a drain plug that you open, so the condensation can drip into a pan. Others allow you to connect a drain hose that uses gravity to get rid of excess moisture. If you have a condensation pump, you can let the water drain out of a window.

Is a Single-Hose or Dual-Hose Setup Better?

While neither a single-hose nor a dual-hose portable AC is better than the other, they are different in terms of how they collect warm air. Single-hose units use the air from the room in which they’re installed. Any warm air that isn’t cooled is released through the hose. In dual-hose units, one hose collects warm air from the outdoors, and the other hose pushes out the hot, unused air.

air conditioner portable

Portable Air Conditioner

What Are BTUs?

BTUs, or British thermal units, are used to determine an air conditioner’s ability to remove heat from a room. This unit of measurement is also used to figure out an air conditioner’s energy efficiency. To calculate its efficiency, the unit is given an EER, or energy efficiency ratio, which shows the number of BTUs per watt.

Are Portable Air Conditioners Noisy?

There is no way around it – portable air conditioners do create some noise. The sound level varies from model to model with most generating ambient background noise that’s no different than the quiet hum of a refrigerator’s condenser fan. If you are sound sensitive, pay close attention to the decibel level given in the product’s specs. Ideally, you should look for one that makes 60 decibels or less.

small portable air conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner

Will It Be an Eyesore?

Whether you plan to put it in your bedroom or your living room, you don’t want the portable air conditioner you choose to stick out like a sore thumb. Luckily, these appliances come in a variety of finishes. From white and black to chrome and brushed nickel, there is a unit out there that will meet your aesthetic requirements.

Are Portable AC Units Hard to Install?

Installing a portable air conditioner is not difficult, and you can usually get it up and running in less than an hour. The largest part of the installation process involves prepping the window you’ll use to vent the unit. Many portable ACs come with a window kit that makes installation easy. If you want to move the air conditioner from room to room, setting up a window in each room will save you time and effort.

What Kind of Maintenance Is Involved?

Luckily, portable air conditioners require little maintenance. The only regular task you’ll have to perform is draining the condensation from the unit, and that only involves pulling a plug and sometimes attaching a hose. You’ll also need to clean or replace the unit’s filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Other than that, all you have to do is enjoy the cool air the AC unit produces.

portable air conditioner reviews

Portable Air Conditioner

Top 5 Portable Air Conditioner

5 BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner Review

This 8,000 BTU portable air conditioner by BLACK+DECKER is perfect for small and medium-size bedrooms, cooling spaces up to 300 square feet. The white-and-gray AC weighs 52.9 pounds, and it’s equipped with built-in handles and caster wheels to makes it effortless to move. Its 6-foot-long power cord gives you some play room in terms of placement, and the AC’s 8.94 EER rating means it’s not an energy hog.

BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner

It has a 24-hour timer and a handy sleep mode. The thermostat is programmable, and you can use the unit to dehumidify a room at a rate of 3.8 pints per day. Plus, the fan is adjustable, allowing you to select from three speeds as well as an auto mode. All of its functions are accessible via the on-board soft-touch buttons or the remote control.

With this portable air conditioner, you get a window kit that streamlines the installation process. It also comes with a 4-foot, 11-inch exhaust hose to fit its single-hose system, so you won’t have to run out and buy one. There is no condensation bucket to dump, and the filter easily slides out of the back of the unit, so you can reuse the filter after you rinse it.

4 Frigidaire White 8,000 Btu Portable Air Conditioner Review

With 8,000 BTUs of power and auto-swing louvers, the Frigidaire 60-pound AC unit can easily cool a hot, 350-square-foot room. Although this portable AC is powerful, it doesn’t produce much sound, topping out at 52 decibels. Like the Black & Decker at our number five spot, this Frigidaire model has a great EER rating of 8.9.

Frigidaire White 8,000 Btu Portable Air Conditioner

From the digital remote or the on-board controls, you can select from among three fan speeds. Alternatively, you can program the thermostat and run the fan in auto mode. There is also a timer for away-from-home convenience and an eco mode that reduces the unit’s energy usage. If your room is humid, this AC can help with its ability to remove 2.2 pints of moisture from the air per hour.

The wheels and the recessed side handles help you move the portable AC, and its white finish means it blends in with any type of decor. With this unit, you get a window kit and a hose that fits its single exhaust port. The filter is constructed from antimicrobial mesh, and you can drain the air conditioner via the manual plug or continuous outlet.

3 Honeywell MN12CESBB MN Series 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Review

With a weight of 68.3 pounds and a solid black exterior, this portable AC is lightweight and has aesthetic appeal. Rated at 12,000 BTUs, the Honeywell air conditioner is able to cool an area as large as 450 square feet. Its fan has an airflow rate of 163 cubic feet per minute, helping it extract 69 pints of moisture from the air each day. However, the unit is still quiet at 53 decibels.

Honeywell MN12CESBB MN Series 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

By using the touch buttons next to the LCD display or the remote control, you can set the thermostat from 61 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, you can program the 24-hour timer and put the fan on low, medium or high speed. With the remote’s simple layout, it’s easy to go from cool to dehumidify to fan-only mode.

To make installation quick, Honeywell includes a 3.94-foot-long flexible hose that fits its 5-inch-wide single exhaust port. You can manually or continuously drain the portable air conditioner, and you can install the window kit’s bracket in a horizontal or vertical orientation. Plus, the filter is washable, which saves money on maintenance costs.

2 Whynter ARC-142BX 14000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Review

This matte black portable AC by Whynter is a great solution for large-room cooling. With 14,000 BTUs and a 9.45 EER rating, it’s powerful yet energy efficient in a 500-square-foot space. At its highest speed, the fan boasts an airflow of 540 cubic feet per minute. You can also count on this unit 53-decibel unit to dehumidify a room with its ability to remove 71 pints of air moisture on a daily basis.

Whynter ARC-142BX 14000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

You may choose to operate the air conditioner in auto, AC, fan or dehumidification mode. The timer can be set up to 24 hours, and the thermostat goes as low as 62 degrees Fahrenheit. While the brushed silver control panel’s touch buttons and LED display are impressive, you don’t have to get up to change the unit’s settings thanks to the included remote.

While it cools your room, the 76-pound portable air conditioner also cleans the air with its washable antimicrobial filter and activated carbon filter. When you buy this AC unit, you get a window kit that extends from 26.5 to 48 inches as well as a 59-inch-long exhaust hose. Like the other air conditioners on our list, this one has a single-exhaust system and two drainage options.

1 Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC14RD1 Portable Air Conditioner Review

This 14,000 BTU AC from Emerson can cool a room from 350 to 550 square feet while still being rated with a 9.8 EER. It’s also a handy dehumidifier, pulling as much as 4.4 pints of moisture in the air per hour. With a sound output of 54 decibels, this white portable air conditioner is never obtrusive.

Emerson Quiet Kool EAPC14RD1 Portable Air Conditioner

Emerson integrated a three-speed fan and a 24-hour timer into this AC unit. You can also program the thermostat from either the digital remote or the LED on-board control panel. In the event of a power outage, the portable air conditioner remembers your settings, and it will restart with those settings in place once the power is restored.

With its fully rotating casters and side handles, it’s no trouble at all to move the 68-pound unit. It comes with a window kit and a hose for the one exhaust port in the rear. The filter is washable, and draining it is a snap thanks to its manual drain plug. If the electrical outlet is not directly underneath the window you want to use, the 5.9-foot-long power cord gives you some leeway.

Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide

It’s summer, it’s hot, and you need to cool off quick. Before you buy the first portable air conditioner that fits your budget, you need to consider an array of features. From BTUs to installation materials, this guide will help you determine what you need and want to cool your bedroom, living room or any other room in your house.

cheap portable air conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner BTUs

When shopping around for a portable AC, the BTU measurement is the most important aspect of choosing a unit. If you get one without enough BTUs, it won’t cool the entire room. If the unit’s capacity is too big, it won’t run at peak efficiency.

To determine how many BTUs you need from a portable air conditioner, first measure the square feet of the room in which you intend to use it. For a 100-square-foot space, you’ll need a 5,000 BTU unit. For every additional 50 to 100 square feet, add 1,000 BTUs. The room’s exposure to sunlight and other variables should also be taken into account.

Portable Air Conditioner Ease of Movement

If you want to use the portable AC in your living room during the day and your bedroom at night, you want it to be easy to move. You can expect a portable unit to weigh under 100 pounds. While this weight seems unmanageable, most portable ACs are equipped with rotating casters and built-in handles to make the units movable.

It also helps if the air conditioner’s power cord is long – A length of 6 feet or more is perfect. This allows more freedom in terms of placement once you choose a window.

portable room air conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner Programmable Features

Automation in any appliance is always great. The latest portable air conditioners boast features like a timer and a variable-speed fan. Most have a thermostat, so you can set the unit to cool the air to almost any temperature you desire. If the AC has an auto mode, the unit will change the fan speed to quickly get the room to your chosen temperature.

Portable Air Conditioner Controls

Of course, every portable AC has an on-board control panel. The best kinds are ones with an LED display, touch buttons and indicator lights. If you want the ability to change settings from the comfort of your couch or bed, you need an air conditioner with a remote. To prevent getting shortchanged, look for a unit with a remote that allows you to access all of the AC’s functions.

cheap portable air conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner Filtration

When it comes to filters, there is a wide variation between portable air conditioner models. Many manufacturers use washable filters in their AC units, which are excellent money-savers. Some even have antimicrobial properties while others are paired with an odor-reducing filter made of activated carbon. To make maintaining the filtration system easy, look for a portable unit that doesn’t require tools to open the filter cover.

Portable Air Conditioner Installation Materials

Before you use a portable air conditioner, you need to prepare the window for the exhaust hose, or hoses, and you must decide how you want to drain the condensation. Unless you want to make a trip to the hardware store, you’ll want to buy an AC unit that comes with a window kit and the number of exhaust hoses the unit requires.

If the unit you choose has a continuous drain option, and you want to use it, you’ll probably have to buy a drain hose as most manufacturers don’t provide one. On the other hand, if you opt to manually drain the air conditioner, you won’t need any additional equipment beyond a pan. If you don’t want to buy one, simply grab a deep cooking sheet from your kitchen cabinet, and you’ll be good to go.

cheap portable air conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner

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