Best Portable Air Conditioners

Best-Portable-AC Wirecutter
Best-Portable-AC Wirecutter

The best portable air conditioners can mean the difference between having a cool summer or melting into a puddle of sweat. If you can’t have central air conditioning – or prefer the flexibility of a unit you can move from room to room – then a portable air conditioning unit is a fantastic (and much cheaper) alternative for keeping cool.

Whether you live in a small, rented apartment, are touring the county in your RV, or just want to make your bedroom super chilled, you’ll need the best portable air conditioner you can afford to keep temperatures down this summer. In this guide, we’ll help you choose the best portable air conditioning unit for your budget and space – and we’ll bring you today’s lowest prices too.

In a rush? We think the best portable air conditioner you can buy right now is the Frigidaire Cool Connect – you’ll also find it called by its formal model name, the Gallery FGPC1244T1 – thanks to its great balance of performance, convenience, and energy efficiency.

BTU (Cool): 12,000 | Energy efficiency ratio: 11

Noise level dB: 53 | Sleep mode: Yes | Weight: 96lbs

The Frigidaire Cool Connect is one of the best portable air conditioning units you can buy. It can provide cool air for rooms up to 550 square feet, and has a good airflow rating of 200 cubic feet per minute. In fact, it was the second most efficient portable air conditioner we tested – its energy efficiency ratio of 11 exceeded the average rating of 9.7 among the portable air conditioners we reviewed.

The Frigidaire Cool Connect also comes with every feature we looked for, including sleep mode, auto-restart, a programmable timer and a remote control. Most notably, it has oscillating louvers that help distribute cold air more evenly throughout the room. Only two other portable air conditioning units we tested had this feature.

It’s worth pointing out that the Frigidaire Cool Connect didn’t take the very top spot for best cooling performance – that title went to the NewAir AC-14100E, at number three in this list – but it did rank higher than most machines in this category. (It’s quieter, more energy efficient and less expensive to run that the NewAir AC-14100E too.)

The Frigidaire Cool Connect was also the heaviest portable air conditioner we tested, weighing 78 pounds. We had a little difficulty getting it into our lab before taking it out of the box – but the caster wheels made it easier to move once it was out.

Overall, the Frigidaire Cool Connect offers a fantastic combination of features and cooling performance, which is why we think it’s the best portable air conditioner you can buy. Plus, it comes with an exceptional five-year compressor warranty – the longest of any other units we tested. Bonus.

BTU (Cool): 14,000 | Energy efficiency ratio: 11.1

Noise level dB: 55 | Sleep mode: No | Weight: 80lbs

An outstanding energy efficiency ratio (EER) of 11.1 makes the Whynter ARC-14S portable air conditioner the most energy-efficient model we reviewed. This is much higher than the average rating of 9.7 EER in our comparison. Interestingly, despite the Whynter ARC-14S being more energy-efficient than our top pick (the Frigidaire Cool Connect), it has a similar power output and can cool rooms as large as 750 square feet. However, the ARC-14S has a slightly lower airflow rating of 253 cubic feet per minute, compared with 222 CFM for the Frigidaire Cool Connect, so its cooling is marginally slower.

Regarding noise levels, this portable AC unit puts out 55 dB while it’s running – making it not the quietest machine we tested, but it’s still a reasonable choice for bedrooms. The Whynter ARC-14S is also one of the lighter portable air conditioning units we tested, weighing only 80 pounds. That means it should be easier to carry with two people on stairs than heavier models.

We like that the Whynter ARC-14S is less expensive than the Frigidaire models generally. It achieves this at the expense of a few convenience features, such as oscillating louvers and sleep mode. And it’s also one of two models we tested without an auto-evaporative system, which means you need to occasionally empty a drip tray so it can function properly. But if you can do without those extra features, the ARC-14S is the best value and most energy-efficient portable air conditioner you can buy. It’s a very good choice.

BTU (Cool): 14,000 | Energy efficiency ratio: 9.88

Noise level dB: 57 | Sleep mode: Yes | Weight: 62lbs

The NewAir AC-14100E portable air conditioner is extremely powerful: it can cool up to 700 square feet on its own. Although some other portable AC units in our comparison were able to handle rooms that are nearly as large (up to 550-square-foot), the AC-14100E also had the highest airflow rating of any we tested, at 250 cubic feet per minute. That’s impressive.

Despite the power you get with this unit, it only costs around $410 to buy, which is slightly cheaper than the industry average of $427. However, the AC-14100E’s extra power also means it has a lower energy efficiency ratio (EER), 9.88, compared to the best portable AC units. (For comparison, three other units we tested had EER ratings of over 10.) This lower energy efficiency means that the NewAir AC-14100E costs more than average to operate throughout the year. However, you can offset the operating costs by programming the unit’s timer.

The AC-14100E is the loudest unit we tested, with a decibel rating of 57. This is almost twice as loud as the 48 dB of the quietest portable AC we tested, so it’s not a great choice for your bedroom if you’re a light sleeper. Bear in mind that this portable air conditioning unit only has a one-year compressor warranty, too, which is the shortest in our comparison.

However, it’s fairly easy to move around: at 61.9 pounds, it weighs about as much as the average unit we tested and has wheels. And that impressive power makes it a fantastic choice for cooling down large rooms.

BTU (Cool): 12,000 | Energy efficiency ratio: 9.5

Noise level dB: 50 | Sleep mode: Yes | Weight: 72lbs

The Haier HPC12XCR has a higher rate of moisture removal per hour – four pints – than any other portable air conditioner we reviewed. This means it’s particularly well-suited to humid environments, where it can be harder to maintain a comfortable environment.

With 12,000 Btu, the HPC12XCR is powerful enough for rooms up to 550 square feet. Its airflow rating of 188 CFM is lower than most of the other portable AC units we evaluated – but it still matches the power of the ARC-14S, at number two in this list. And in terms of energy efficiency, the HPC12XCR has a rating of EER 9.5, which is average, but still good enough to only use around $90 of electricity per year. That’s $4 cheaper than average. We also like that there’s a digital thermostat on top of the unit, so you can set this portable AC to your desired temperature.

This unit weighs 56 pounds, making it lighter than most of the best portable air conditioning units in this list, so you can easily move it between rooms. It has a five-year compressor warranty, too, which is the longest warranty you can get. But it’s those impressive dehumidifying abilities that make the Haier HPC12XCR particularly stand out: this is the best portable air conditioner you can buy if moisture removal is important.

BTU (Cool): 8000 | Energy efficiency ratio: 8.9

Noise level dB: 53 | Sleep mode: Yes | Weight: 52.9lbs

At 8,000 Btu, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT has less power than the other portable AC units we reviewed – but this makes it an ideal choice for cooling smaller spaces. In fact, if you live in an apartment or small house, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT might be better than a more powerful unit. That’s because no matter how efficient a larger portable air conditioning unit is, it still adds more to your electric bill than the BPACT08WT, which only costs around $78 per year to run. That’s about $15 cheaper than the most efficient unit we looked at, despite a low-efficiency rating of EER 8.9.

This unit has an airflow rating of 185 CFM, which is enough for smaller rooms. The BPACT08WT also costs around $390, which is more affordable than most portable AC units. Unfortunately, it only has a one-year compressor and appliance warranty though, which isn’t as competitive as the five-year compressor warranties from Frigidaire, Haier, and Honeywell. Nevertheless, for small spaces or budget-conscious buyers, we think this is the best portable air conditioner around.

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We’ve been testing portable air conditioners, fans, air purifiers, and humidifiers for over five years now. Our reviews are focused on how easy the product is to use, how well it performed, and how much value it provided for the price. We keep a strict guideline on how to score each product across a number of categories to maintain consistency.

We also consulted with experts and guides from organizations such as Energy Star and Energy Saver to find comparative, objective information about the products we test. We considered advice published by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers such as their blog post on air conditioners and statements about updated test procedures used to determine a product’s BTU rating.

5/5 - (5 votes)
Adam Rich
Hi, my name is Adam and I’m a 40 something from Austin, Texas. I’m really passionate about my family and providing the best I can for them, and that all starts in my humble abode.