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7 top-rated portable air conditioners, according to experts

A portable AC unit can provide an affordable way to bring cool air into your living space.
If you don’t want the hassle and expense of installing central air-conditioning, a portable unit can make a lot of sense.
If you don’t want the hassle and expense of installing central air-conditioning, a portable unit can make a lot of sense. Amazon

If you don’t have central air-conditioning and are looking for an affordable way to bring some cool air into your home without the stress of installing a window air conditioner, a portable unit can be a great solution. These self-contained systems are ideal for cooling single rooms, don’t block the natural light coming in from a window and can be moved around from room to room. They are also easy to set up, experts told us.

LEARN MORE How portable AC units work | The best number or BTUs for your room size | How to shop for a portable AC unit

To help you find the best portable air conditioner for your space and needs, we consulted cooling and appliance experts, who advised us on the most important things to consider when shopping for one. We also rounded up some top-rated models based on their advice, including budget-friendly, smart and high-end options for different-sized rooms.

Best portable air-conditioning units for 2023

Below are our top picks for air-conditioning units designed for easy installation and portability. We’ve highlighted their cooling power, the size of room they can best accommodate (according to the brand) and their hose type, whether single or dual. All of the portable air conditioners we recommend have wheels so you can move them around easily.

Best affordable portable air conditioner: Shinco

Shinco 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

  • Cooling power: 10,000 BTUs
  • Room size: Up to 300 square feet
  • Hose type: Single hose

This portable air conditioner from Shinco has three modes to choose from: cooling, dehumidifying and fan. The unit weighs 62 pounds and has both an LED display and remote that you can use to control it, plus a timer that you can set for up to 24 hours. It has a 4.2-star average rating from more than 1,600 Amazon reviews.

Best portable air conditioner for smaller rooms: Black+Decker

Black+Decker 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

  • Cooling power: 8,000 BTUs
  • Room size: Up to 150 square feet
  • Hose type: Single hose

Relatively compact, this portable air conditioner weighs just under 53 pounds. It has an adjustable fan that can cool the air down to 65 degrees Fahrenheit as well as ventilation and dehumidifying features. It’s easy to install, according to the brand, and it has a 4.4-star average rating from 41,124 Amazon reviewers.

Best portable air conditioner for large rooms: De'Longhi

DeLonghi 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

  • Cooling power: 14,000 BTUs
  • Room size: Up to 700 square feet
  • Hose type: Single hose

With 14,000 BTUs of cooling power (the most of any single-hose portable air conditioner on this list), this portable AC is designed to cool a room up to 700 square feet, De’Longhi says. The brand also says it will auto-adjust the temperature depending on the humidity levels in the room, and it has dehumidifying and fan features in addition to its cooling features.

Best smart portable air conditioner: Honeywell

Honeywell Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner

  • Cooling power: 10,000 BTUs
  • Room size: Up to 450 square feet
  • Hose type: Single hose

The Honeywell HF0CESVWK6 portable air conditioner can connect via Wi-Fi to be controlled by your smartphone, which means you can control it from anywhere in your home. This model weighs just under 63 pounds, and you can use your voice to power on the machine, as well as change the temperature and adjust fan speeds. It has a 4.2-star average rating from 160 Amazon reviews.

Best smart, high-end portable air conditioner: Midea

Midea Portable Air Conditioner

  • Cooling power: 10,000 BTUs
  • Room size: Up to 200 square feet
  • Hose type: Single hose

This Wi-Fi-enabled Midea portable air conditioner seems to have been designed with convenience in mind: It can be controlled via a smartphone app or paired with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to respond to voice commands. With 10,000 BTUs of cooling power, it can cool a room up to 200 square feet with a temperature range between 62 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Midea. It also comes with a 24-hour adjustable timer. The Midea has a 4.2-star average rating from 1,064 Amazon reviews.

Best smart portable air conditioner for large rooms: De'Longhi

De’Longhi 12,500 BTU Smart Portable Air Conditioner

  • Cooling power: 12,500 BTUs
  • Room size: Up to 500 square feet
  • Hose type: Single hose

With the De’Longhi app, you can control this portable air conditioner from your phone, and it’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The air conditioner can also be used as a fan, dehumidifier and heater. It has a 4.1-star average rating from 322 Amazon reviews.

Best dual-hose portable air conditioner: Whynter

Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual-Hose Portable Air Conditioner

  • Cooling power: 14,000 BTUs
  • Room size: Up to 500 square feet
  • Hose type: Dual hose

Whynter’s conditioner, the ARC-14S, has three operational modes — air-conditioning unit, dehumidifier and fan — and a 24-hour timer. It’s also the only dual-hose model on this list. We chose it for its 4.2-star average rating from more than 12,268 Amazon reviews, more than any other dual-hose portable air-conditioning unit we could find.

How portable air-conditioning units work

When you hear the word “air-conditioning unit,” most people think of a window AC, which is typically situated in your window for a few months every summer. A portable air-conditioning unit, by comparison, sits on the floor with a vent that you can snake through a window or the wall. “Portable air conditioners draw in ambient air from either the room in which they’re located (single hose) or from outside (dual hose),” explained Carl Prouty, a technologist at appliance retailer Abt. “They cool that air down, then send the cooled air back into the room, while the hot air produced is vented outside through an exhaust hose.”

Free-standing air conditioners are a pricier alternative to window units. However, they’re much easier to install and are typically more compact, so you can move the unit from room to room without much effort, noted John McKeon, MD, CEO of Allergy Standards — an organization that certifies products as “asthma and allergy-friendly,” among other things.

The best number of BTUs for your room size

An air conditioner’s cooling ability is typically measured in British thermal units, or BTUs. The higher the number of BTUs, the more powerful the air conditioner. On average, an air-conditioning unit needs about 20 BTUs per square foot of space to keep things cool, said McKeon. So to figure out how many BTUs you need for your room size, multiply the square footage of your room by 20. If your space is 300 square feet, you want to find a model capable of producing at least 6,000 BTUs.

“Using an AC with the right amount of power is extremely important,” Prouty said. “A unit that is too powerful will cool the room too quickly. This is bad for two reasons: it won’t do an efficient job of dehumidifying the room and it will cycle on and off too frequently, causing undue stress on the AC, which will cause it to break down prematurely.” On the other hand, said Prouty, a unit that’s not powerful enough won’t cool the room down — it’ll just run continuously, meaning your energy bill will be much higher than it would have been had you bought a portable AC that was the appropriate size, and it’ll break down early, too.

Below is the number of BTUs needed to adequately cool a room up to 550 square feet.

  • Cooling up to 250 square feet: 5,000 to 6,000 BTUs
  • From 250 up to 350 square feet: 7,000 to 8,000 BTUs
  • From 350 up to 450 square feet: 9,000 to 10,000 BTUs
  • From 450 up to 550 square feet: 12,000 BTUs

According to Prouty, if you plan on putting your portable AC unit in a sunny space, you should add about 10% to the ideal number of BTUs based on the room’s size. If the room gets little to no sun, you’ll need about 10% less, he added. If there are more than two people typically occupying the room, you’ll need to add 600 BTUs for each additional person, and if it’s going in a kitchen, you’ll need to add 4,000 BTUs to “counteract the additional heat [that] kitchen appliances produce,” Prouty noted.

EnergyStar, a federal program promoting energy-efficient products, has its own guidelines to help you choose the right model. As BTU capacity increases, the weight and size of the model typically will, too.

How to shop for a portable air-conditioning unit

Once you’ve figured out how many BTUs a room will need, McKeon recommended considering the following:

  • Portable air conditioners typically run between $250 and $500, depending on the size and amount of features.
  • Portable air conditioners either come with a single hose or double hose. Single hose models, which are more common, pull stagnant air from inside your room, cooling and recirculating it throughout. Dual-hose units, on the other hand, have one air exhaust hose and another that pulls fresh air from outside.
  • According to Prouty, dual-hose units are louder and more expensive. They also require more work: Prouty told us that pulling air from the outside produces condensation, which is stored in a bucket within the unit that you’ll have to empty. (In some cases, he said, you can have a hose run to a floor drain so you don’t need to empty the bucket.)
  • Some portable air conditioners equip smart technology and can be controlled via smartphone, though these models will typically cost more.
  • Certain models come with added built-in features, like a dehumidifier, heater or air purifier.
  • You may also be able to set a timer to turn the unit on or off at specific times to reduce energy consumption.
  • Most units are self-evaporating, which reduces the need to drain water regularly from the unit.

Keep in mind your portable air conditioner will need proximity to a window and electrical outlet. These models also require some simple maintenance, including draining the water from the unit as needed and replacing the air filters every couple of weeks. This will help avoid mold growth in your unit, which can decrease your room’s air quality, said McKeon.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

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