Top 10 Portable Air Conditioners
|Air Conditioner||Cooling Rate |
Area (sq. ft.)
Portable Air Conditioner Comparison
|A/C Cooling Rate |
|Energy Efficiency |
|A/C Coverage |
Area (sq. ft.)
|Moisture Removal |
| Temperature |
|11.80 x 17.00 x 31.30||35.43 x 18.87 x 15.71||15.20 x 18.10 x 29.40||13.00 x 27.00 x 17.00||12.80 x 11.20 x 34.50||19.90 x 11.80 x 30.60||15.70 x 13.50 x 31.50||41.30 x 27.40 x 17.20||15.00 x 32.00 x 12.00||18.30 x 27.60 x 40.00|
Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide
Portable air conditioners are a great alternative to buying an expensive window unit or having your whole house set up with a cooling unit. If you have one or two rooms that just seem to stay hot, a portable air conditioner may be exactly what you’re looking for. Not only are they convenient and easy to set up and use, they are cheaper to run than traditional window units. They also dehumidify the rooms they are placed in which gets rid of unwanted extra moisture in the air.
There are many styles and models of portable air conditioners on the market. This buyer’s guide will give you all the information you need to sort through all the choices and choose the one that fits your needs perfectly. With the right information, you won’t run the risk of choosing the wrong unit or wasting money on buying more than you need. There’s more to choosing a good portable air conditioner than just getting one with a high BTU rating. Read below to learn all about these helpful units.
What is a Portable Air Conditioner?
A portable air conditioner is a self-contained appliance that cools and dehumidifies a room much like a window unit does. There are many portable air conditioners that will need a window to direct the exhaust system, but they are usually very easy to set up and are not permanent fixtures the way a window unit it.
There are many differences possible among different portable air conditioners. These differences include venting, maximum square footage that it can comfortably cool, and special features such as remote control and pre-programming. We’ll go over all of the features that these convenient units can have farther down in the guide.
The first electrical air conditioner was made by a gentleman named Willis Carrierevaporative cooling
. This came about in the early 1900s. Mr. Carrier’s first unit used steam technology in a reverse process that removed humidity and heat from the air. You’ve seen very crude examples of the process Mr. Carrier used by those who might fill a bucket or cooler with ice and blow fans over it. His process sent air through cold coils that fans blew on and that cooled the air.
The initial reason for air conditioning was to increase workers’ productivity in the work place. Workers suffering from heat exhaustion do not work well. Due to this increase in demand, air conditioning companies were created to meet the need and demand for these new air conditioning units. As time went on, air conditioners were upgraded and improved to make automobiles and homes more comfortable in the hot summer months. The current method of air conditioning is called evaporative cooling and that is what most portable air conditioners use as well.
Choosing the Right Size Portable Air Conditioner
If you’re trying to cool down a certain amount of space and don’t get the right size air conditioner, you’ll be frustrated with the lack of performance the unit may appear to have. What determines the power a portable air conditioner has is the number of BTUs it has. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit.
This rating is what determines how much space a unit can cool sufficiently. Get a portable air conditioner that is too small and it simply won’t do the job you need. Below is a breakdown of BTUs and the size room/rooms it can usually cool adequately.
Matching Square Footage and the Right BTUs
- 150 square feet – 7,500 BTUs
- 200 square feet – 9,000 BTUs
- 300 square feet – 10,000 BTUs
- 400 square feet – 12,000 BTUs
- 450 square feet – 13,000 BTUs
- 500 square feet – 14,000 BTUs
There are some factors you will need to take into consideration when choosing the right portable air conditioner for your room. If there is not good insulation, you’ll need a larger BTU rating to compensate for the cool air loss you will have and the heat that can gets in. In addition, if you live in extremely humid areas, a larger unit will serve you better as well.
Portable air conditioners work by venting the hot air out of a room while bringing cool air into it. This will involve the use of an exhaust hosedigital LED display
that is typically vented through a window. Sometimes it can be vented into a drop ceiling as well. Many of the portable air conditioners available on the market today have kits that either come with the unit or that can be purchased separately that allow for installing the venting systems.
All of the venting systems are not permanent and can be removed easily when the unit isn’t being used. (Such as during the winter months) The kits are not one size fits all so you will need to plan on making the necessary adjustments you will need to make sure it fits the window or drop ceiling you are installing it in.
Exhaust hoses are standard size and it is not recommended to lengthen them. Doing so can make your warranty invalid. If you need a longer exhaust hose, you should probably consider getting a commercial grade unit. The hoses will not work with crank windows but if one of the glass panes is replaced with a Plexiglas pane, you can cut a hole in it that will fit the hose.
How Many Rooms do you want to Cool?
It’s unlikely that you will only have ONE room that you want to cool. Depending on the BTUs the portable air conditioner has and the insulation the home has, it may be possible to cool more than one room with a portable unit. There are a few different factors that determine the unit’s capabilities.
Temperature – the temperature of the room will be a determining factor in how well the portable air conditioner works to cool it down. If the room is extremely hot, has a lot of windows or very poor insulation, one small unit will not be able to get the job done.
Climate – Areas with high humidity can cause problems for a portable unit and make it less effective in cooling the room down.
The Size of the Room – Ceiling height and the size of a room are also factors when it comes to how well the portable AC unit will cool the room. Make sure that you figure in ceiling height when you are getting the square footage of the room. Many newly constructed homes have high ceilings and this will play a part in how well the unit does.
Where Does the Water Go?
Portable air conditioners remove moisture from the air as they cool. Depending on the unit, there are a few different ways that this extra water is handled.
Buckets – Sometimes you will have a unit that does need to be emptied and this will involve getting a bucket and sticking it under the area that contains the plug. Unplug the stopper and drain the water and replace the stopper. It’s not horribly labor intensive but can cause a mess if you forget to do it routinely.
Full Evaporation – This type of evaporation is all done internally. There is never any water collected in these types of units and that is a popular feature for consumers. This also means the unit can be left unattended.
Gravity Drain – No matter which portable air conditioner you have, it will have an option of attaching a hose to it for continuous drainage of the water out to a drain through gravity. This is not a terribly popular method of removing water.
Condensation pumps – These types of pumps are available that pump water through a drain hose and out the window.
Whenever a consumer buys a product like an air conditioner or humidifier, one of the concerns is noise level. Every portable air conditioner o the market is going to have sound of some kind. The idea is to find the models that are less noisy and stick with those. A loud air conditioner will not work in a bedroom because it will be disturbing to the occupants. Noise level varies from model to model.
This is where timers may come in handy. You can set the portable AC unit to cool the room prior to bedtime and then shut off until they are in a deep sleep where it coming back on would not normally wake them up. For people who love “white noise” some of these units would be the perfect choice because they provide that.
When checking on the noise level of a particular model, check the customer comments and reviews to see if there are comments about the noise level of the unit you are looking at. Also check the decibel levels if they are listed and compare them to other appliances you have such as refrigerators and floor fans. That will give you a good idea of how loud the unit will be.
Other factors that can control the level of noise a unit will make are fan speed, the surface the AC unit is sitting on (carpet vs. wood floors, etc) and how large the room is.
There are many different features that a portable air conditioner can offer. Depending on what you are looking for, one feature may be a tipping point for you in terms of getting it or not getting it. We’ve outlined the common features that many portable air conditioners have.
Programmable Timers – Many units offer the user the ability to pre-program the AC unit anywhere from 1-24 hours in advance. This is useful if you want to cool your bedroom before bed, cool down the living room before you get home from work and other situations. Programmable units are very convenient.
Remote Controls – If you’re sitting in a comfortable chair after work, watching TV and want to change the settings on the portable AC unit, wouldn’t it be nice to just point the remote at it and change it? This is what a remote control feature offers. They are fully functional with all the features of the unit so you will be able to control temperature setting, speed, unit mode and other factors all from a touch if the remote.
Digital LED/LCD Display – digital is very easy to read, even from a distance and most people prefer it to analog style controls.
Window Mounting Kits – This allows the user to install the exhaust system easily and conveniently and has everything you’ll need to typical installation.
Caster Wheels – Portable is a relative term if you have to lug it around. Caster wheels make moving the portable air conditioner much easier and convenient for the user.
Dehumidifier – A lots of portable air conditioners function as dehumidifiers as well, removing excess moisture from the room. This is very handy when living in high humidity regions and can help with mold and mildew problems.
Fan Only Mode – Some of these AC units can also double as fans. The units that offer this feature almost always have several fan speeds that the user can choose from. This is good when you want to circulate the air but don’t necessarily need to cool it.
Heaters and Air Purifiers – In addition, there are some units that can also be used as a heater in the winter time, and offer air purifying features. This is really great if you have someone that is suffering from a lot of allergies, as it can reduce the allergens that are present in the air.
Oscillating – Oscillating means it moves back and forth and some models offer this feature which spreads the cool air throughout the room even more efficiently. Not all models offer this feature but if you find one that does, it is an added bonus.
Taking care of your portable air conditioner is very important for several reasons. Not only does it help it work better and more efficiently, it helps it last longer as well. The maintenance steps are easy for these units and most instruction manuals will have recommended maintenance in them. Be sure to follow any instructions they recommend for the particular model you have purchased.
Change the Filters – Air filters need to be changed or cleaned regularly. Most will say once a month but if you notice that it is getting clogged or dirty or that the unit isn’t cooling as well as it was, check the air filter and see if it is dirty. If you have pets and kids, you may have to change it more often.
Keep Coils Defrosted – Any time ice builds up on the coils, it’s going to need to be defrosted. Some units have self defrosting features that will keep the internal components defrosted. If it keeps getting frosted up, that could indicate there is an issue that needs to be checked out. Running it while it is frozen up will not do anything but burn up the unit and run the power up.
Keep the Outside Wiped Down – Turn off and unplug your portable air conditioner and wipe it down regularly with a damp rag. Don’t use harsh chemicals on it, it does not require it, but you can use a mild dish detergent if it needs it.
Check for Damage to the Cord – Regularly check the cord of the unit to make sure there are not frayed wires or problems. You should never use a portable air conditioner that has a damaged cord of some kind as this could easily cause a fire. Avoid splashing any water on the unit as it could short it out or cause issues.
Drain the AC Unit Before Storing – Any time you are going to store your portable air conditioner you will need to ensure that it has been drained thoroughly and is completely dry. This will prevent mold from getting into it and causing problems.
Know what your Warranty Covers – Most portable air conditioners will come with warranties of some kind. Be sure you read this thoroughly and know what parts and services are covered and what you need to do to maintain that warranty in good standing.
Having a portable air conditioner in your home can mean the difference between sleepless nights and having a cool bedroom to fall asleep peacefully. It can be a real lifesaver. The information in this guide can help you sort through all the different types of models and features that these useful appliances offer. From knowing what size to get to understanding what the features offer, you now have the knowledge you need to make an excellent choice for your needs that will give you a peacefully cool summer.