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It's almost impossible to underestimate the usefulness of a good air conditioner. Beyond keeping the climate comfortable, air conditioners keep inside temperatures safe for everyone, especially children and pets. Unfortunately, they also tend to be large and difficult to install or upgrade. If you're looking for a more versatile appliance, check out portable air conditioners which don't even require the need for window placement.
These portable air conditioners are suitable for use in many different areas of the house, as well as cars, RVs, and even outdoor patios. Like traditional air conditioners, you'll still need to consider BTUs and DBAs, but that's where we come in.
Here, the best portable air conditioners out there.
The best air conditioner is something that provides the best all-around coverage. While some portable conditioners excel at small or large spaces, a general-purpose air conditioner needs to be at home in a variety of conditions. This way, you can move the conditioner around to different areas of the house without sacrificing performance and temperature control.
Rolling around on a set of four durable casters, the Honeywell MN12CES Air Conditioner is the perfect choice when you want to fine-tune the positioning of your portable AC. The unit is rated for 12,000 BTU which will handle most small-and-medium bedrooms up to 550 square feet. Three speeds, an automatic timer, and included remote control will give you plenty of control to set the temperature to your liking while in use. Plus, this clocks in at 55 DBAs giving you a fairly quiet option compared to other models.
All air conditioners can get expensive when you start to pile up the features and performance specifications. Even portable air conditioners can threaten your grip on your wallet. When you need a budget air conditioner that has the same capabilities as premium options, your list of possibilities quickly shrinks. Thankfully, there is one portable air conditioner that doesn’t sacrifice perfect climate control for the smaller price tag.
The LG Electronics 8,000 BTU Air Conditioner offers the same features and capabilities as larger air conditioners for a fraction of the cost. The main difference between this one and more expensive options is the area of coverage. Pumping air into spaces up to 200 square feet, this air conditioner is better suited for small bedrooms or hallways. The air conditioner also comes with an exhaust tube and window vent kit to pump hot air out of the home.
Large rooms like living rooms and master bedrooms are notoriously difficult for portable air conditioners. More space requires more power to adequately push the cool air through the entire room for proper circulation. If you find yourself requiring a good portable cooler for a larger space, you need a device with more BTUs than the average small air conditioner can provide.
For larger spaces, Black+Decker’s 14,000 BTU Conditioner will handle rooms up to 22' x 25'. The unit relies on water evaporation to provide cool air, eliminating the need for pricey and dangerous coolants. Best of all, the air conditioner also turns into a heater with a single switch for rooms around 10' x 20'. Finally, the head pivots up and down to keep the air circulating for long periods of time.
More and more people are turning to recreational vehicles as a way to experience the outdoors without sacrificing the usual creature comforts. Unfortunately, RVs don’t often prioritize the best climate control, which means they can easily heat up in summer months when sitting out under a hot sun. If your RV lacks the necessary cooler to keep the temperatures comfortable, a portable air conditioner might be a good solution.
Using a unique, circular design, the Frigidaire 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner keeps cool air flowing around an entire room of up to 550 square feet. Working well in both home spaces and large RVs, you can power the air conditioner with any standard wall outlet using an extension cord for reach. Maintaining the air conditioner is simple since the internal filters are accessible and easy to replace in just a few minutes.
While not a traditional air conditioner, evaporative coolers have the same goal in mind—to cool down the air. Evaporative coolers are a great option for when you want to cool off an open space say your patio, garage or deck. They cool off the temperature by giving off a moist, cool breeze that will instantly refresh you. Since these essentially use humidity to keep you cool, they aren't recommended for high humidity climate and are better suited for folks in the west and south of the country.
Reviewers in hot arid climates have said this had made temperatures of more than 100 degrees bearable outside and that this unit is easy to use and operate.
What do you do if you are away from home and need to cool yourself off? Perhaps a wet rag, bag of ice, or a personal misting device come to mind. If so, there is a better alternative you should consider. A personal air conditioner like the Evapolar Personal Air Cooler will help to circulate the air around you, keeping the temperature in check and the air quality high for your health.
This personal cooler helps to circulate and treat the air around you in different ways. First, it uses several different built-in filters to keep the air free of dust and germs that often lead to illness. Second, the built-in water tank evaporates the water, releasing a stream of cool air out of the vents. The tank lasts up to six hours before needing a refill.
Whisper-quiet and contained in an unassuming case, the Honeywell 10,000 BTU single-hose portable air conditioner can quickly and quietly cool up to 400 square feet of space. This model has an auto-evaporation system that recycles the condensation, making it less of a hassle to have to remove and clean out the water tray, which can grow bacteria if not cleaned regularly. The 3M electrostatic filter inside also significantly cuts down on the bacteria and dust in the air. If you want some extra air circulation but don't need active cooling, you can use the fan-only function, which has three different speeds and is nearly noiseless.
Weighing in at just 50 pounds, the NewAir 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is easy to move from room to room throughout the warm season, bringing the temperature down quickly in a 325-square-foot space. It has a small footprint and can dehumidify as well as cool you down. The two fan speeds offer an alternative cooling option when the weather isn't so hot, and the remote control allows you to program and switch the a/c on or off from the comfort of the couch. The NewAir uses environmentally-friendly R-41A coolant and runs efficiently by using the water from the air to cool down the compressor coils.
Best Ventless Portable Air Conditioner: Honeywell 525 CFM Indoor Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler
It’s a bit of an oxymoron, but ventless air conditioners don't use "air conditioning" in the conventional sense. Most are actually evaporative air conditioners, or "swamp coolers," that use evaporating water to cool the air. The Honeywell 525 CFM works like this, and it can be used indoors or out to cool down an area of up to 320 square feet. It comes with a remote control that allows you to switch it from cooler to fan mode, and also has an energy saving timer and low water alarm.
The 525 CFM doesn’t eat up a lot of electricity, making it one of the more wallet-friendly options on this list. But if you live in an area with high humidity, you may want to look for a non-evaporative air conditioner model. These machines add water to the air while they cool, making them a lot less effective — and less pleasant to be around — when the humidity is above 50 percent.
Our top pick for portable air conditioners is the Honeywell MN12CES Air Conditioner (view at Home Depot), which can handle most small-to-medium spaces and has three different speeds to choose from. If you need to cool down a larger space, though, go with the Black+Decker 14,000 BTU Air Conditioner (view at Walmart). It has more power than most portable units so it can quickly cool down large rooms.
Type Depending on the humidity in your area, you may want an evaporative or non-evaporative portable air conditioner.
Most portable options are non-evaporative, meaning they work by taking in air, rapidly cooling it, and putting it back into the room. This creates condensation and often makes the air in the room less humid as well as cooler.
Evaporative ACs blow air over ice or cold water, evaporating it and cooling the air in the process. This process results in air that is more humid than the air its taking in, so these machines are best in very dry climates. These machines also require a steady amount of water or ice to continue cooling.
Room Size As with any appliance that changes the temperature, make sure your room is the right size for your machine. Pick one that's not powerful enough and your room may never fully cool down, but one that's too powerful for your space could be a waste of money to buy and power.
Condensation Drainage Many non-evaporative portable air conditioners have tanks or trays that collect condensation caused by the quickly cooled air. When the tank fills up, the air conditioner may leak or automatically turn off. Some tanks can be removed so you can empty them, while others are emptied via a drain in the machine. If you live in a particularly humid area, you'll want an AC with a larger tank or a hose attachment that will automatically drain the water into a larger container or outside.