You might be used to window-mounted air conditioners, but there are plenty of benefits to portable air conditioners, as well. “A portable unit can be on wheels and rolled from room to room and includes a tube to exhaust heat out of a window or through an opening in a wall,” explains Chris Roth, CEO and owner of National Technical Institute. He adds that they're usually easy to store and very versatile. In fact, some models also function as dehumidifiers or heaters, too.
As you compare portable air conditioners, it helps to understand how the performance of these appliances is rated. You’ll see a BTU rating for any portable air conditioner. BTU stands for British Thermal Units. “The more BTUs, the higher the cooling capacity,” says Lane Dixon, Vice President of Operations at Aire Serv. “Between 7,000 and 10,000 BTUs is a sufficient choice for small rooms, like a single bedroom or living room area.” But as the space increases, so does the cooling power you'll need to maintain a comfortable temperature.
To find the best portable air conditioners, we researched a wide range of models from top brands, taking into account factors such as their cooling abilities, energy efficiency, noise level, installation requirements, and other helpful features.
LG Electronics Portable Air Conditioner
Easy to install
Dual inverter technology for better energy efficiency
Smart features, including voice control
Storage tray for accessories
Short vent hose
If you have the budget for it, we think you'll be very satisfied with the LG LP1419IVSM 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. It earns high marks for its cooling ability, smart features, and easy installation. Plus, it’s equipped with a variable speed compressor, which translates into quieter noise levels and improves energy efficiency to save you money. This top option for a portable air conditioner is sized right for rooms up to 500 square feet, making it an ideal choice for keeping a spacious room—or even a small apartment—cool and comfortable.
Adjusting the settings of the LG LP1419IVSM is super simple, thanks to the push-button control panel and LCD display. There are three fan speeds, along with user-friendly features like a timer function and sleep mode. An optional "Auto Swing" setting on the louvers (the slats of the air conditioner where the air comes out) helps to better distribute cold air throughout the room. At the same time, the smart features of this unit mean that you won’t even need to walk over to the unit to make adjustments. Instead, this portable air conditioner with Wi-Fi can be controlled using the LG app on your smart device or with voice commands through Amazon Alexa and Google Home. This feature comes in handy if you want to turn on the unit before you arrive home, or if you need to adjust the temperature setting but have your hands full with cooking or another task.
The sleek white housing is simple and sleek enough to blend into most rooms without becoming a major eyesore in your home. It’s mounted on four caster wheels for easier maneuvering, but don’t expect to do much repositioning. This model has a 34-inch vent hose that doesn’t allow the unit to stray too far from the window where it’s installed. On the subject of installation, this model is consistently praised for being easy to unpack and set up. At the end of the season, a storage tray on the back of the unit keeps the hose and window kit stowed away with the unit so that you don’t have to hunt for these essential items when setting up the air conditioner in the spring.
This three-in-one unit functions as an air conditioner, fan, and dehumidifier, but it's missing a heater element that some other multi-functional portable air conditioners have. Even still, it’s powerful and reliable, giving it the upper hand over models on the market.
Price at time of publish: $698
Type: Single hose | BTU: 10,000 DOE/14,000 ASHRAE | Room size: 500 square feet | Dimensions: 30.43 x 19.41 x 18.11 inches | Weight: 71 pounds
Midea Portable Air Conditioner
Wi-Fi equipped with app control
Includes remote control
Installation is easy
Great features for the price point
Lacks dehumidifier function
Won't work for large spaces
The Midea EasyCool Portable Air Conditioner is a more economical option if you need a cooling solution for spaces that measure up to 200 square feet. This model has 10,000 BTU to bring down the temperature in your bedroom, office, or small living area. While you'll find a couple of slightly cheaper models on this list, we consider this our best budget pick because it offers the best value for your money overall.
We’re most impressed by the fact that the Midea MAP10S1CWT includes Wi-Fi. You can pair the unit with Amazon Alexa or Google Home and issue voice commands to raise or lower the temperature setting, among other things. Even if you don’t utilize a smart home assistant, the Midea app puts control over the unit in the palm of your hand with an app. An included remote control provides another convenient way to control the settings of this portable air conditioner. Users have reported that installation using the included adjustable window brackets is simple and can be done in a matter of minutes.
The most frequent complaints about this unit’s performance have nothing to do with cooling power. Reviewers point out that it’s noisy at high fan speeds, although that’s not unusual for any type of portable or window air conditioner. One thing to keep in mind is that while it has four caster wheels to support its weight, it's still nearly as heavy as our best overall option—something to keep in mind if you plan to carry it up a flight of stairs. Unlike some pricier models, it doesn't have heating or dehumidifying capabilities. Still, all in all, its features are hard to beat if you're on a budget.
Price at time of publish: $399
Type: Single hose | BTU: 5,800 DOE/10,000 ASHRAE | Room size: 200 square feet | Dimensions: 28.3 x 17.1 x 13 inches | Weight: 67.9 pounds
DeLonghi 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner
Cools spaces up to 700 square feet
Dehumidifier and fan modes
Very quiet operation
Temperature and humidity sensors on remote control
Long vent hose for installation
No smart features
The DeLonghi EX390LVYN Portable Air Conditioner is a premium option with substantial cooling power (it has 8,600 BTU DOE). It's a super quiet model that can also function as a fan or dehumidifier. Notably, this air conditioner uses the brand’s Cool Surround Technology, referred to as CST. The enhanced remote control included with the unit looks like a small box, and it is equipped with temperature and humidity sensors. The remote connects to the air conditioner via Bluetooth—if you keep the remote near you, it can provide the air conditioner with location-specific information about how cool and humid it is where you are, even if you're across the room.
The best way to sum up this DeLonghi portable air conditioner may be: quiet and effective. Compared to previous DeLonghi portable air conditioners, the Pinguino Arctic Whisper model is 3 decibels quieter, according to the manufacturer. It has three fan speeds, plus an auto option that balances comfort and energy efficiency. Another mode is Arctic Whisper Extreme, which is the mode that results in the most minimal amount of operating noise. At its highest setting, its sound level registers at 52 decibels. We think this mode is especially handy if you’re using the portable air conditioner in your bedroom and want cool, comfortable temperatures but not a lot of excessive noise.
This portable air conditioner costs right around $700, but it’s not short on cooling power. It can cool large spaces up to 700 square feet and has a long 51-inch vent hose so you have a bit of flexibility in how close to the window used for venting it needs to be. The biggest downsides are its heft—it weighs over 80 pounds— as well as its lack of a heater and smart features. The option to control the unit within an app or using popular smart home assistants are features that we’d expect based on the price of this high-end model. Still, it performs well and does use sensor technology to keep the temperature in the room consistent. Buy the DeLonghi EX390LVYN if you want a quiet and effective portable air conditioner for your home.
Price at time of publish: $700
Type: Single hose | BTU: 8,600 DOE/14,000 ASHRAE | Room size: 700 square feet | Dimensions: 18.3 x 34.3 x 20.1 inches | Weight: 83 pounds
Best for Small Rooms
SereneLife Compact Portable Air Conditioner
Compact, super lightweight design
Easy to set up and use
Cooling, dehumidifier, and fan modes
Noisier than expected on high settings
No smart features
If you only have a small space to cool, the SereneLife SLPAC8 Portable Air Conditioner is a great option at an affordable price. This 4,000 BTU DOE portable air conditioner isn’t the most powerful model you can buy, but it should be all you need to keep comfortable in a small room of about 200 square feet. Plus, it costs less than $350. It’s also lighter and more compact than some other options on our list, weighing in at just under 47 pounds and saving a few inches in height and width.
This portable air conditioner for small rooms has push-button controls on the top of the unit for settings like target temperature, fan speed, or activating the swinging louvers—a must-have feature if you’re looking for maximum air circulation. There’s an included remote control so that you can adjust the mode or settings from across the room.
Speaking of making adjustments, this three-in-one model serves as an air conditioner, fan, and dehumidifier. In cooling mode, it has a self-evaporating feature that means you shouldn't need to empty the drain tank of condensation very often. It’s easy to set up according to users, and the four caster wheels make it simple to position the air conditioner in place.
As long as you use this compact model in the right-sized room (like a small bedroom, playroom, or den,) it should keep the temperature in check. There are few complaints about its cooling performance. Instead, the main gripe is that this portable air conditioner is noisy on high—which is something to keep in mind if you plan on using it in a bedroom and are a light sleeper.
Price at time of publish: $320
Type: Single hose | BTU: 4,000 DOE/8,000 ASHRAE | Room size: 215 square feet | Dimensions: 27.2 x 13.8 x 14.6 inches | Weight: 46.3 pounds
Best with Heater
BLACK+DECKER 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Heat
Four-in-one design for year-round comfort
Air conditioner, fan, dehumidifier, and heater functions
Self-evaporating in cool mode
Display can’t be dimmed
Lacks smart features
Designed for more than keeping cool, the BLACK+DECKER Portable Air Conditioner is a multifunctional model that does the work of four appliances in one sleek package. In addition to air conditioning, this portable unit can function as a heater, fan, and dehumidifier. In short, it offers year-round comfort, making it a smart investment and well worth the cost.
In cooling mode, this portable air conditioner is rated for 6,000 BTU (according to DOE standards). But if you need to take off the chill, then this unit is equipped with a 10,000 BTU heater to warm up your space. The manufacturer recommends this model for rooms up to 550 square feet in size. Swinging louvers distribute the cool breeze or warm air throughout your space and you can take advantage of other modes, too, like a sleep option or a 24-hour timer.
Aside from heating and cooling performance, the BLACK+DECKER Portable Air Conditioner with Heater stand stands out with a self-evaporating design, which reduces the need to empty the drain pan when the unit is functioning in cool mode. It also comes with a remote control to adjust the mode or setting of the unit, even from across the room. The most noticeable shortcomings are the fact that the LCD display can’t be dimmed at night and the unit lacks smart features. It is also loud at its highest fan speed, registering at about 75 decibels. But we recommend this portable air conditioner with heater if you aren't sensitive to ambient light at night (or don’t plan to use this model in the bedroom), don't require app or voice assistant integration, and can give up a little peace and quiet for cool or warm air when you want it.
Price at time of publish: $509
Type: Single hose | BTU: 6,000 DOE/12,000 ASHRAE | Room size: 550 square feet | Dimensions: 27.9 x 16.5 x 11.7 inches | Weight: 53.8 pounds
Newair AC-12200E Portable Air Conditioner with Easy Setup Window Venting Kit
Option to add water to boost efficiency
Blows cool air out the side of the unit, rather than up
Some complaints about "Auto" function
The NewAir Portable Air Conditioner combines a small footprint with clever features, making it stand out from the competition. Some of the most noteworthy aspects of the design of this portable air conditioner include the side louvers, which blow air towards you rather than up to the ceiling, easy-to-clean air filters that slide out from the unit’s housing, and a super slim 12.33-inch depth that makes this unit a great fit even in tight spaces. It’s a three-in-one unit, with modes for cooling, fan-only, and dehumidifying. One feature this model lacks is a heater function.
The portable air conditioner has a rating of 7,700 BTU DOE and it’s recommended for use in rooms up to 425 square feet. With compact dimensions and four caster wheels, it’s easy to position it where you’ll get the most benefit from the airflow. It has three fan speeds, along with a 24-hour timer function. An "Auto" mode aims to maintain a target temperature without unnecessarily running the compressor, but some reviewers find it to be unreliable in terms of temperature management. Still, most users have broadly reported that in cooling mode, the unit works well.
One of the most unique things about the NewAir Portable Air Conditioner is the option to add water to the machine to cool the compressor. Referred to as an Efficiency Booster, this practice helps cool the compressor after it’s been running for at least an hour. There is a water funnel on the side of the unit where you can add 2.5 pints of water if you'd like to take advantage of this feature.
Price at time of publish: $550
Type: Single hose | BTU: 7,700 DOE/12,000 ASHRAE | Room size: 425 square feet | Dimensions: 29.3 x 18.9 x 12.33 inches | Weight: 57.3 pounds
Best Dual Hose
Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
Powerful cooling abilities
Activated carbon filter
When compared to single-hose portable air conditioners, a dual-hose model can cool a room more quickly and is a better choice for larger spaces, according to Dixon. A model like the Whynter ARC-14S Portable Air Conditioner uses one hose to draw in outside air and another hose to exhaust hot air from the room. The tradeoff is that these air conditioners are usually larger and more expensive than single-hose models.
However, if you have the extra space and the budget for a dual-hose portable air conditioner, the Whynter ARC-14S is a popular choice. It has 14,000 BTU to cool living rooms, small apartments, or any space up to 500 square feet in size. The built-in thermostat controller makes it easy to select your target temperature from 61 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. You can pick from three fan speeds, set a timer for up to 24 hours, and make adjustments to the operation using a remote control. Aside from cooling the air, this portable air conditioner assists in keeping it clean and odor-free, too. A washable pre-filter and activated carbon filter assist are found in the back of the unit.
Like all dual-hose portable air conditioners, you won’t need to drain the Whynter ARC-14S very often. The exhaust hose expels condensation along with hot air, reducing the amount of water that collects in the drain tank. According to the user manual, it will only need to be emptied when humidity levels are above 70 percent. Even then, the amount of water will be minimal since the unit is still capable of exhausting about 98 percent of the condensation.
Neither the lightest nor heaviest option on this list, the Whynter ARC-14-S weighs 73 pounds—and it has four rolling wheels to make the job of moving it around much easier. If you store this unit away during the cooler months of the year, a protective cover safeguards the housing and keeps out dust and dirt.
Price at time of publish: $600
Type: Dual hose | BTU: 9,500 DOE/14,000 ASHRAE | Room size: 500 square feet | Dimensions: 35.5 x 19 x 16 inches | Weight: 73 pounds
Best with No Hose
Honeywell Indoor Portable Air Conditioner
Doesn't require vent installation in window
Includes remote control
Effective in spaces up to 300 square feet
Three-speed fan with sleep mode
Raises humidity levels
Noisier than expected
If you don’t have an accessible window to vent your portable air conditioner and you live in a hot, dry climate, an evaporative cooler may be a good alternative to an air conditioner. While technically a different type of appliance from an air conditioner, evaporative coolers are sometimes referred to (albeit inaccurately) as air conditioners with no hose. Evaporative coolers blow cool, moist air to create a more comfortable environment. The Honeywell CL25AE is a popular indoor evaporative cooler and the best no-hose model for small to medium rooms measuring up to 300 square feet in size, thanks to its 500 CFM air volume rating.
Similar in shape and size to a portable air conditioner, the Honeywell CL25AE plugs into a standard household outlet. Setup is minimal, but you will need to fill the 6.6-gallon water tank and add ice if you want to maximize the cooling effect. Pick from three fan speeds or set a timer to get your cooling session started. One feature that amplifies the effects of this evaporative cooler is its swinging louvers to better distribute cool air throughout the room. The included remote control is a convenient way to control the functions of the evaporative cooler from across the room.
Keep in mind, however, that evaporative coolers will add more humidity to the air (which won't be ideal if you're looking to make a room less humid). That’s why they’re recommended for use in dry conditions like those you’ll find in the southwestern United States. When used indoors, you should crack open a door or window and arrange for cross-ventilation to supply the unit with fresh air while providing a route for moist air to exit.
Like many models of portable air conditioners, fan noise is a concern to some users of this evaporative cooler. While it’s generally agreed that it’s quieter than a window air conditioner, the noise level of the Honeywell CL25AE does surprise some reviewers, especially on high fan speed settings. Even still, if you want a portable unit to cool air without a hose, this evaporative cooler is your best bet.
Price at time of publish: $330
Type: Evaporative cooler | BTU: Not applicable | Room size: 300 square feet | Dimensions: 33.3 x 18.9 x 14.6 inches | Weight: 25.4 pounds
Evapolar evaChill Portable Air Conditioner
No installation required
Compact and very portable
Water tank is easy to fill
Includes USB charging cable but no wall plug
Works best in low-humidity conditions
If you’re set on having your own personal cooling device at your side 24/7, you’ll quickly find that most portable air conditioners aren’t compact enough and their installation is more hassle than it’s worth to frequently move around your home. That’s not the case for this mini model from Evapolar. The evaCHILL is technically a personal evaporative cooler, but it still accomplishes the mission of bringing a cool breeze to your personal space—and it does so with less noise and energy consumption than an air conditioner.
Open the box of this mini model and you’ll find that setup is as simple as plugging the included cable into a USB port. (Important note: If you want to plug it into a wall outlet, you'll need to use a separate adapter). Then fill the 27-ounce water tank and turn the unit on to create your own personal cooling breeze. If you relocate to another room, it's simple to lift the 1.6-pound unit by its handle and move it to a new spot.
As long as you have accurate expectations, you’ll find this to be one of the best options for a mini portable air conditioner. It covers an area of about 26 square feet and operates very quietly, registering at only 25 decibels according to the manufacturer. When compared to portable air conditioners with a noise output between 50 and 60 decibels, you’ll notice a major difference—especially if you’re using the device while you’re on the phone or watching television. The biggest limitation of this small device is the fact that it functions best in dry climates; it’s recommended for use when humidity levels are below 70 percent.
Price at time of publish: $100
Type: Mini | BTU: Not applicable | Room size: 26 square feet | Dimensions: 7 x 7 x 7 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds
If you need a cooling solution for a single room, a portable air conditioner is a great option without the cost of a central air conditioning system or the installation that comes from mounting a window unit. The LG Electronics LP1419IVSM 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is a top choice, frequently praised for its excellent cooling ability in rooms up to 500 square feet and a quieter-than-average noise level. Plus, it’s equipped with Wi-Fi so you can control it with your smartphone. But for a more affordable option, you might pick the Midea EasyCool Portable Air Conditioner. It also offers smart features but is a better fit for smaller spaces measuring around 200 square feet in size.
What to Look for in a Portable Air Conditioner
Portable air conditioners are usually divided into single-hose models and dual-hose models. Closely related to this type of appliance are evaporative coolers, also referred to as swamp coolers.
- Single-hose portable air conditioners are the most popular option. They are usually more affordable and more compact than a dual-hose model, and they have one less hose that needs to be vented through a window opening. One drawback is less efficient performance, especially for larger spaces or when battling very hot temperatures. This is because the unit pulls in air from the room or from the exterior of your home, which can cause a negative pressure situation if the air isn’t replaced quickly enough. That’s primarily only a concern if you have a gas hot water heater or a gas stovetop, since it can lead to high levels of carbon monoxide in your home if you don’t take the right precautions. But for an average-size room, most people will be satisfied with the performance and value of a single-hose model.
- Dual-hose portable air conditioners have the advantage of using two separate hoses to intake fresh air and exhaust hot, humid air. This results in greater efficiency and more substantial cooling power, but it’s likely only to be noticeable if you are cooling off a very large space. The extra installation requirements of a dual-hose model, like the Whynter ARC-14S Portable Air Conditioner, are something to carefully consider. If you need all the help you can get in cooling off a big room or you have concerns over a negative pressure scenario.
- An evaporative cooler is a closely related cooling appliance. While technically not a portable air conditioner (since it doesn’t have a compressor that uses refrigerant), an evaporative cooler is sometimes an alternative for shoppers looking for a portable air conditioner with no hose. Instead of requiring installation and an exhaust hose, these units usually have just a water tank that needs to be filled and a basic power plug. It uses evaporative cooling to create a moist breeze that is cooler than ambient air temperatures. However, they are usually not recommended for high-humidity climates. Humidity levels over 60 to 70 percent will greatly reduce the effectiveness of an evaporative cooler.
Cooling Power and Room Size
One of the most important factors when choosing a portable air conditioning unit is the recommended room size. “Load calculation helps to determine the appropriate size of the AC your home will require,” explains Chris Roth, CEO and owner of National Technical Institute. “It is done by matching your home’s thermal characteristics with cooling capacity in BTUs.”
Generally speaking, a higher BTU rating means that the unit can cool a larger room, but as you look at different portable air conditioners, you’ll notice that there are often two BTU ratings—a DOE or SACC rating and an ASHRAE rating—which can make things a bit more confusing.
BTU ratings were traditionally calculated based on criteria from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), which evaluated their ability to cool a room at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 51 percent humidity. However, in 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) introduced the concept of Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity (SACC), which evaluates a portable AC’s cooling abilities in multiple conditions to more accurately depict real-life use. As you may have noticed, DOE BTU ratings are always lower than ASHRAE ratings, and the former is typically considered more accurate.
While you may think that a portable air conditioner means you can skip installation altogether, that’s not the reality of this type of appliance. “A small exhaust will need to be set up through a window,” says Dixon, “so there are limitations on where it can be placed.” The exhaust hose fits into a window panel insert, which you’ll most likely have to cut to the size of your window. This means that while you can technically move the unit to another room and window, you’ll have to repeat the setup steps and the windows must be the same size for the sake of the insert, or else you’ll need a new window insert.
Some units require a drainage line to remove condensation, but most portable air conditioners are equipped with a drain pan. While the drain pan needs to be emptied regularly, Dixon says this is one of the easiest options for self-installation of a portable air conditioner. Choosing a model with a self-evaporation feature, like the SereneLife SLPAC8 Portable Air Conditioner (our "best for small rooms" pick), will reduce how often you need to complete this task.
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 less versatile and harder to install than their portable alternatives. Portable air conditioners also 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 airtight opening for the hose. Installation generally won'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.
How much does a portable air conditioner typically cost?
The cost of a portable air conditioner ranges from about $250 to $700 or more. At the lower-end of the price scale, you’ll find units with less BTU. These are more suited to smaller rooms or light-duty cooling, perhaps as a supplement to a central air conditioning system. At the other end of the spectrum, portable air conditioners that cost more than $500 usually offer greater cooling power for larger rooms, along with features like app control or integration with popular smart home assistants.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Erica Puisis, a freelance home writer who has been contributing to The Spruce since 2017. She specializes in large and small appliances that make homes more comfortable. To find the best portable air conditioners, Puisis evaluated single-hose and dual-hose models, along with evaporative coolers for a no-hose option. Each one was compared based on how many square feet it can cool and its BTU rating and CFM. Other functional features that were considered were a self-evaporation feature, smart features, and any additional functions—such as a fan, dehumidifier, or heater.
To learn more about the features and installation of portable air conditioners, Puisis interviewed Lane Dixon, Vice President of Operations at Aire Serv. Dixon explained the importance of paying attention to the BTU rating of a model and also provided guidance on selecting the right cooling power for the size of your space.
Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer for The Spruce, also contributed to this article. While researching portable air conditioners, she spoke with Chris Roth, CEO and owner of National Technical Institute for insights on selecting the best air conditioner for your home. She also spoke to her parents, who have owned the LG LP1419IVSM 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner for several years, to get their opinion on the top-rated model.