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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.
Best Overall: SereneLife 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner + Heater
This sleek unit is a perfect fit for a wide variety of conditions and times of year. With a 12,000 BTU air conditioner, 12,000 BTU heater, and 1.8 liter per hour dehumidifier, it makes rooms up to 325 square feet more comfortable all year long.
Featuring a low noise level motor and sturdy wheeled base, SereneLife's portable AC will fit and subtly blend into any room in your home. Its window mount measures 26.6 inches, but with the included mount extension it can accommodate windows between 37.4 and 50 inches. With three speed settings and an automatic timer, this model allows you to adjust its settings to meet your exact heating and cooling needs.
Best Budget: Vremi 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Difficulty installing exhaust hose
This affordable model from Vremi will satisfy your basic cooling needs without breaking the bank. It's best suited for rooms between 200 and 350 square feet and features four different modes (cool, fan, dry, and sleep), which you can switch between on the LED display or the storable remote. You can also use the remote to set the temperature speed and timer.
It should only take about 15 minutes to install this model, thanks to the included window slide adapter. Its space-conscious construction will make it an inconspicuous addition to any room in your home. If you're looking to stay cool on a budget, this portable unit is an excellent choice.
Best Large: BLACK+DECKER Portable Air Conditioner
Large coverage area
Steady air circulation
Steeper price point
Bright display light
Large rooms like living rooms and primary 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.
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Best for RV: Whirlpool 14,000 BTU Single-Exhaust Portable Air Conditioner
Just because you're getting back to nature doesn't have to mean roughing it. If you're venturing out during the warmer months, this portable air conditioner from Whirlpool will be a welcome addition to your recreational vehicle. Featuring three cooling and three fan speeds plus a programmable timer, it seamlessly helps regulate the climate of your RV's interior, covering up to 550 square feet. Installation is quick and easy with an exhaust hose that can extend up to four feet, so minimal effort is required from you.
The built-in dehumidifier boats a bucketless design, meaning the water it collects evaporates automatically, with no unpleasant spills or leaks for you to worry about. If your RV tends to get stuffy or swampy during the summertime, consider investing in this Whirlpool AC.
Best Personal: Evapolar EvaLIGHT PLUS
Low power consumption
Water tank requires frequent refills
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.
Best Quiet: Tosot 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Extremely quiet operation
As quiet as a library, this unit from TOSOT is perfect for nurseries or bedrooms—in addition to its extremely quiet operation, its adjustable timer and sleep mode also make it particularly well suited for nighttime use. It covers areas up to 450 square feet and comes with a remote control for easy cooling adjustments.
For those who don't need added cooling but want to keep their room feeling fresh overnight, the fan-only setting circulates air while the built-in dehumidifier removes 60.9 pints of water per day, ensuring a comfortable night's sleep.
Best for Apartments: NewAir 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote
Limited fan speeds
Small coverage area
Weighing in at 61 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: Honeywell 790 CFM Indoor Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
Low power consumption
Not suitable for high-humidity climates
Louder than expected
True to their name, evaporative air conditioners (or, less formally, swamp coolers) use evaporated water to cool down the air while keeping conditions moist. This model in particular uses a top-loading ice compartment, a 7.9 gallon water tank, and three speeds settings to cool rooms up to 320 square feet. Its construction means it doesn't need a window hookup to work, though it should be placed near an open window for the sake of a cross-breeze effect. It works best when the humidity level is less than 60 percent, making it a great choice for residents of the southwestern U.S.
This unit comes with all the necessary bells and whistles, including a remote control, adjustable timer, low water alarm, and dust air filter. Plus, its low power output means lower energy bills.
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.
What to Look for in a Portable Air Conditioner
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.
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.
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.
When should I 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 I 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 I empty a portable air conditioner?
When the time comes to drain your portable air conditioner (which will vary depend 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.