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Air conditioning is a home amenity that can make a big difference in your quality of life. In some particularly hot areas, air conditioning is a necessity to keep family members and pets safe. But not all homes or homeowners need the same type of air conditioning system. For many users, a portable air conditioner that can move from room to room or be set up on a temporary basis comes in handy.
You can find a portable air conditioner for most rooms, although you should look for one that fits the size of your room to ensure it works efficiently. They also come in non-evaporative or evaporative designs. You may need a method to drain the condensation that accumulates. Many models come with a pan, tank, or hose to take care of any moisture.
Here are the best portable air conditioners to cool your home.
Best Overall: BLACK+DECKER 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Type: Evaporative | Cooling Area: 350 square feet | BTU: 14,00 BTU | Noise Level: 75 dB | Cord Length: 83.5 inches | Remote Control: Yes | Energy Star Certified: No
Good capacity for most rooms
Not super quiet
For a great air conditioner that is as efficient as it is budget-friendly, this mid-sized model from Black + Decker has everything that you need. It cools rooms up to 350 square feet, making it ideal for bedrooms. It has a remote control, thermostat-like control setting, LED display with sleep mode, and washable filter. It also offers a heating capability to make this a year-round useful unit.
This air conditioner is also available in 8,000, 10,000, or 12,000 BTU for different sized rooms. It is not the quietest unit on the market, but still offers an unobtrusive background noise that won’t interfere with sleep or relaxation.
Best Budget: TCL Home 10,000 BTU 115-Volt Smart Portable Air Conditioner
Type: Not Listed | Cooling Area: 250 square feet | BTU: 10,000 BTU | Noise Level: 52 dB | Cord Length: 58.8 inches | Remote Control: Yes | Energy Star Certified: No
Three modes of operation
Smart home compatible
Noisy when switching modes
Bright LED display
For a budget-friendly price, it’s hard to beat the TCL Home Portable Air Conditioner. For less than half the cost of some of its high-end competitors, this unit cools rooms up to 250 square feet, can be operated through your smart home device or an app, and can be used as a fan, air conditioner, and dehumidifier.
The overall noise level is comparable to other portable air conditioners, but it can be particularly noticeable when switching from fan to air conditioning mode. You can set up an optimal temperature when you sleep so that you don’t need to make adjustments, but the noise from the unit as it kicks on may be enough to wake you up anyway.
Best Ventless: GE 6100 BTU 115-Volt White Portable Air Conditioner
Type: Evaporative | Cooling Area: 250 square feet | BTU: 6,100 BTU | Noise Level: 52 dB | Cord Length: 72 inches | Remote Control: Yes | Energy Star Certified: No
No drain needed
Digital display and remote
Wheels for easy portability
No quiet or sleep mode
You don’t need to worry about setting up a hose or vent with this portable unit. The condensation evaporates right back into the air, making it a great air conditioner to move from room to room without having to set up or take down a vent system. It still cools an impressive 250 square feet and has two settings. You can install a drain kit through a window, but it’s not necessary except in very humid climates. This air conditioning doesn’t have a Quiet or Sleep mode, so it can get noisier than some of its competitors.
Best for Large Rooms: Honeywell 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Dehumidifier & Fan
Type: Evaporative | Cooling Area: 700 square feet | BTU: 14,000 BTU | Noise Level: 52 dB | Cord Length: 72 inches | Remote Control: Yes | Energy Star Certified: No
Large cooling area
Hose kit included
To cool rooms up to 700 square feet, this extra-large unit from Honeywell will do the trick. It is pricey at around $600, but it may be the only air conditioner unit that you need to cool the main living spaces of your home. The air conditioner does have washable filters, which can save a bit of money with use since you don’t need to pay for additional filters.
This could be a good unit for small apartments, although closed doors would hamper its overall cooling power. It comes with a window drain kit that can work on horizontal or vertical windows, making it a versatile unit that will work in a variety of situations. It has three fan speeds, a sleep mode, and an auto wind mode for customized cooling.
Best with Heater: SereneLife 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner + Heater
Type: Evaporative | Cooling Area: 325 square feet | BTU: 12,000 BTU | Noise Level: 59 dB | Cord Length: 51.6 inches | Remote Control: Yes | Energy Star Certified: No
Cool or heat options
If you need some additional heating capabilities at certain times of the year, a portable air conditioner unit that can also provide some heat may be the best solution for you. This high-capacity model from SereneLife works in spaces up to 325 square feet and has five setting options. You can switch between air conditioning, heat, and dehumidifier to create just the right temperature and environment at any point in the year. Just set your target temperature and the auto-swing louvers will direct the air around the room as needed. It even has a 24-hour timer and sleep mode so that the temperature will adjust according to your presets without the need to manually change settings.
This is one of the louder models available on the market. But the addition of the heating capacity may make it worth any extra background noise that the unit creates.
Best Quiet: Tosot 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Type: Evaporative | Cooling Area: 400 square feet | BTU: 10,000 BTU | Noise Level: 49 dB | Cord Length: 72 inches | Remote Control: Yes | Energy Star Certified: No
Dimmable LED display
Black unit and white hose kit
While it can cool spaces up to 400 square feet, this portable air conditioner and dehumidifier only goes up to 49 decibels of sound when used on its lowest setting. With its ultra-quiet operation and dimmable LED display, this is a great portable air conditioning unit to use in your bedroom where you want to create an optimal sleep temperature and environment.
This is a pretty tall unit, although it doesn’t take up a lot of actual floor space. It comes in dark gray with a black control panel. If you prefer a light and airy look to your room, this high-tech-looking unit will stand out from your decor. The optional hose kit that is included is white, so the overall look isn’t very cohesive.
Best Design: LG 8,000 BTU Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner
Type: Not Listed | Cooling Area: 350 square feet | BTU: 8,000 BTU | Noise Level: 49 dB | Cord Length: 59 inches | Remote Control: Yes | Energy Star Certified: No
Smart home compatible
Change via app, remote, or manual
With rounded edges, a matte black finish, and smart home compatibility, this portable air conditioner for LG has all of the high-tech, futuristic features that design gurus like. It offers a low profile with a sleek front, but still cools rooms up to 350 square feet. You can control this unit from your smart home device, using an app on your smartphone, with the included remote control, or by manually adjusting the settings on the digital display. It has two fan speeds, a 24-hour timer, and a thermostat-style setting to allow you to control your room’s temperature with ease.
Our top pick is the Black + Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner (view at Walmart). This air conditioning unit is easy to use and offers efficient cooling and heat for a great price. If you want a high-tech model that works with your smart home devices, the TCL Home 10,000 BTU 115-Volt Smart Portable Air Conditioner (view at Walmart) is a surprisingly low price for all of the great features it includes.
What to Look for in a Portable Air Conditioner
Portable air conditioning units are either evaporative or non-evaporative. As their names suggest, the main difference is in how the collected condensate from the air is removed. Evaporative units let it evaporate back into the air, while non-evaporate units collect it for disposal.
Non-evaporative portable air conditioners are the most common and require you to periodically drain collected condensation or set up a drain hose into a pan, tank, or outside. Dry air cools faster and more efficiently, so setting up this kind of portable air conditioning system will help your unit run better. If you live in a humid climate, it will be necessary to use a non-evaporative unit and empty the condensation when needed.
Evaporative units are less common and best for dry climates. They do not collect condensation, instead of letting it evaporate back into the air. If your air tends to be dry, this type of unit will be perfect for you.
One of the most important factors when choosing a portable air conditioning unit is the recommended room size. Generally, a higher BTU rating means that the unit can cool a larger room. The humidity, temperature setting, and layout of the room will impact the overall efficiency of the unit. Some styles are available in multiple BTU options so that the same great features can work in a small or large room, depending on the particular model that you purchase.
If you choose a non-evaporative portable air conditioner unit, you will need to find a way to periodically empty the condensation. Some units have a tank or tray, while others work better with a drain hose attached to an exterior window. The best setup for you will depend on your climate, how much condensation your air conditioner collects, and the layout of your room.
When should you choose a portable air conditioner over a window unit?
While window-mounted air conditioners are excellent long-term cooling solutions, they tend to be heavier, harder to install, and less versatile than their portable alternatives. Portable air conditioners tend to be the better option if you need to be able to move your unit from room to room, or even between buildings.
How do you install a portable air conditioner?
Non-evaporative portable air conditioners will need to be set up near a window or vent so that their exhaust hose has somewhere to pump hot air out of your home. These units usually come with a window adapter that will create an air-tight opening for the hose. Installation generally shouldn't take longer than 15 to 20 minutes.
Evaporative portable air conditioners don't need to be hooked up to a window or vent, but they work best in a well-ventilated area. Keeping yours near an open window will prevent the room from getting too cold or clammy.
How do you empty a portable air conditioner?
When the time comes to drain your portable air conditioner (which will vary depending on your model and how often you use it), you can empty the water tank manually, by placing a pan under the unit and letting the water drain into it. If your unit comes with a drainage hose, you also have the option of attaching the hose and running it down a floor drain.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Katie Begley, who has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. As a writer and reviewer, she loves versatile products that are the right balance of design, affordability, and efficiency. All of the air conditioners recommended on this list provide targeted cooling capability for a single room or small apartment use, cutting down on overall cooling costs.