Live somewhere where a central air conditioning unit isn’t really necessary, but you want something to keep your home at a reasonable temperature that is easy to move around? While window ac units work pretty well, they need to be installed to work. Another option, however, is to get what is known as a portable air conditioning system.
Best Portable Air Conditioner 2017
A portable A/C unit is a standalone system that operates very similarly to any other air conditioner. It sucks in air, cools it, and blasts it back out to help regulate temperatures in your home on warm or muggy days.
These types of machines are ideal for people that don’t have a central cooling system, don’t want to install a hefty box in their window, or if you just need to cool a room or two at a time and don’t want to run up your energy bill by running the central A/C for extended periods of time.
Down below we reveal what we believe are the absolute best portable air conditioners available. The list below features units that we found to be the most reliable in terms of cooling, durability, ease of use, energy efficiency, and other important factors.
Best Overall: Whynter Dual-Hose Portable AC
First up, playing a double-life of both an awesome air conditioner and a well-regulated dehumidifier is the Whynter ARC-14S. If arctic-cold air, quiet operation, and style are all things you’re looking for, this incredible machine should definitely be your first choice.
- Blows Out a Strong, Wintry Air
- Dehumidifies for a More Comfortable Environment
- Works Well in Spaces Up to 500 Sq. Ft.
- Equipped with Wheels for Easy Transportation
- Dual-Hose System for Improved Airflow and Energy Efficiency
- 3 Different Modes of Operation: Fan, Cooling, and Dehumidifying
- LCD Display with Easy to Use Controls
- Includes Remote Control
- Quick and Easy Excess Water Draining
- 11.2 EER Rating
The only complaint we found with this model is that the window kit included with the unit doesn’t fit every window. This means you may have to do a little bit of jerry-rigging to make the ventilation system work properly. It’s not too much of a hassle, though.
This Whynter model is an exemplary appliance that dishes out incredibly cooling power while boasting top of the line features, devilish good looks, and a reasonable price. You really can’t go wrong with it – especially if you’re trying to escape the pain of 90+ degree days.
CLICK HERE to See Current Prices and Read Consumer Reviews on Amazon
1st Runner-Up: Honeywell 12K BTU Portable AC
Next up is a model from a company that is well-known for their prowess in the HVAC industry. The Honeywell MN12CES is a powerful, 12,000 BTU portable air conditioning system that is certainly worthy of praise. It looks good, feels good, sounds good, and… well, you get the point – it’s great!
- Fantastic Cooling for Rooms up to 450 Sq. Ft.
- 79.2 Pints of Dehumidifying Per Day
- 3 Different Fan Speeds
- Programmable Timer for Auto Shut-Off
- Great Air Flow
- Relatively Quiet
- LCD Display with Touch Controls
- Comes with Remote Control
- Includes Window Venting Kit
- Has Wheels for Easy Maneuverability
- Washable Filter
- A Little Noisy on Higher Settings
The only drawback here is that when the unit is set to the higher speeds it can be a little noisy. It’s not much worse than a box fan at full blast, but if you’re a light sleeper it may be an issue.
Honeywell is a household name when it comes to AC and things like tower fans, industrial high-velocity fans, and so on. It came as no surprise that this machine checked out as being one of the best in the land. It’s not quite as strong as the Whynter, nor does it dehumidify as well, but it’s still a fantastic unit that we highly recommend.
CLICK HERE to See Prices, Reviews, and More for the Honeywell MN12CES on Amazon
2nd Runner-Up: Honeywell 10K BTU Portable AC
Finally, the bronze medal goes to – yup, another Honeywell model. This model is very similar to the one mentioned above, but it only packs 10,000 BTUs of action and can only cover an area as big as 350 sq. ft. To be fair, though, it’s priced a good bit lower than the MN12CES and the Whynter models that make up our top two picks.
- Great For Rooms Up to 350 Sq. Ft.
- Dehumidifies for Up to 70 Pints a Day
- LCD Display with Touch Controls
- Fairly Quiet Operation
- Includes Remote Control
- A Bit Bulky
- Remote Works at Close Range Only
- Slightly Noisy
Three things to consider here: The unit is a little big and bulky. If you’re looking for something that doesn’t take up a ton of space, you may want to consider another model. The other two things are that the remote only seems to work up to 5 feet away from the unit and it’s a tad noisy on the highest cooling setting.
Amazon lists this little monster as a must-have accessory for college students, but it works swell for those with small to medium-sized bedrooms that need a cooling breeze to get to sleep or just to get comfortable when the sun is beating down and forcing beads of sweat down the back of your neck.
CLICK HERE to Check Current Prices on the Honeywell MN10CESWW on Amazon
Best Portable Air Conditioner for the Garage
Do a lot of work in your garage and want to cool the space down rather than just run a bunch of fans that do little aside from blow the hot air around? There are some fantastic portable A/C systems that are perfect for when you’re working on the car or spending some time with your favorite garage-friendly hobby.
Which unit will work best for you will depend a lot on the size of your garage. According to Reference.com, the typical one-car garage is around 240-310 square foot in size and a two-car garage is usually 440-580 sq. feet.
So, in order to properly cool a space like this you would ideally need a machine that pushes out 7,000 to 12,000 BTUs. Considering a garage typically isn’t very insulated and is susceptible to direct heat from the garage door being open, you may want to purchase a unit that is slightly oversized for your working area to ensure good cooling, though.
For one-car garages we recommend using a 9,000 to 10,000 BTU unit. For two-car garages, it’s best to go with a 13,000 to 15,000 system. The models mentioned above (specifically the Whynter) will work moderately well for both garage types.
Other models that will prove worthy include:
These are all 10,000 to 14,000 BTU portable a/c units that will likely work well for use in a garage.
Best Portable AC for an Apartment
Living an apartment without central ac or, worse, a broken ac that isn’t getting fixed any time soon? No worries, there are portable units perfect for these living spaces, too. Best of all – they’re quite affordable.
Which unit should you go with? That depends.
First of all, remember that these machines are primarily designed to cool down a single room. They are not ideal for bringing temperatures down throughout an entire home or even an apartment. Perhaps the only exception is if you’re living in a studio apartment or flat that is 500 square feet or less in size and has an open floor plan.
According to the standards set in place by Energy Star, these are the AC sizes you’ll need to look for based on your home’s square footage:
Most apartments are roughly 500 to 1200 square feet in size. This means, based on the guidelines provided above, you would need an air conditioner with a capacity of 12,000 to 23,000 BTUs to effectively cool the living space.
This is why it’s generally best to focus on cooling a single room. A typical bedroom, for example, is usually only 150 sq. ft. to 300 sq. ft. in size which would only require a unit capable of 5,000 to 8,000 BTUs. These models are significantly cheaper and ideal for bringing temperatures down to a comfortable level in a room of the appropriate size.
The portable air conditioner models listed above in our top 3 picks will, in most cases, work just fine for cooling apartment bedrooms.
Best Units for Semi Trucks
Spend most of your summer days on the open road transporting goods with a semi? The stock A/C systems in these trucks are often not that powerful and struggle to keep the cab cool when the temperatures outside soar to great heights.
Believe it or not, there are actually portable air conditioning systems that can help alleviate your woes.
Due to the generally small size of semi cabins it’s pretty easy to find a unit that will work well for your needs. Even the largest cabs can be cooled relatively well using an 8,000 to 10,000+ BTU A/C. This means that the models listed in our top 3 will work well, but there are other, smaller units you may be interested in, too.
A few good ones for semis include:
Again, the units that we discuss further up the page will work well, too, if you have the space for it and can adapt it for proper ventilation.
Best Portable AC for Tents
Planning to go on a lengthy camping trip in an area that’s incredibly hot or humid? The last thing you want is to be stuck in your tent, sweating and being unable to get the rest you desperately need for the rest of your outdoor activities.
Never fear, though, modern technology will once again save the day. Yes, there are a few portable AC units that will serve you well in your camping adventures.
These models are small enough, yet powerful enough to quickly and easily cool down a tent on a hot summer night:
The Tripp Lite is designed more like a traditional portable air conditioning unit whereas the GoCool is a creative, cooler-like machine that blows out a frosty air and is specifically for use in tents, RVs, cars, and other small spaces that demand a more compact-sized system.
Things to Keep in Mind
First and foremost, portable units are not by any means to be considered a replacement for a central air system. They are nowhere near as powerful, efficient, or durable. In other words, don’t expect one of these machines to match the capabilities of a whole-house system. It just won’t happen.
Second, it’s important to bear in mind that portable air conditioners, as well as window-based units, are most effective in well-insulated buildings that are properly outfitted for higher temperatures.
If you want the most cooling you can possibly get, make sure you have your blinds closed, utilize blackout
curtains to deflect heat from the sun, use tower fans to better circulate the air in your living space, and keep doors leading outside closed as much as possible.
This will not only allow your unit to work more efficiently, but it’ll also save you money by giving you the chance to cool down your home and keep it as cool as possible without having to run an air conditioner 24 hours a day.
Finally, it’s important to understand that these machines will perform differently for nearly every person. Why? Well, because the effectiveness of these products is directly affected by the climate in your locale, the construction and setup of your home, and many other factors.