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Best portable air conditioners for 2019

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Portable air conditioners are a total game changer — and yes, you totally need one.

Here’s something Megan Thee Stallion won’t tell you: Sometimes a Hot Girl Summer™ can get a little *too* hot. And unless you have access to a pool or plan on finding a Boat Friend, staying indoors is a must in extreme circumstances where the heat index exceeds 100 degrees; dehydration, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion can strike after just 10 to 15 minutes of outdoor activity.

But what if it’s just as sweltering inside your house as it is on your patio? Even with proper ventilation, a sun-baked living room can quickly turn into an oven on an average August day. In that case, experts recommend relying on something other than a fan or an open fridge door for your primary indoor cooling setup — namely, an air conditioner.  

SEE ALSO: Best eco-friendly air conditioning units

There’s a good chance your home’s already equipped with an A/C unit: The U.S. Energy Information  Administration reported last year that A/C equipment is used in 87 percent of households throughout the United States — a statistic that shoots up to 94 percent when you venture down into the hot-humid South. And whereas central A/C systems were once a luxury reserved for the 1 percent, they’re now very common in new single-family homes; about 60 percent of U.S. households were using them as of 2015. 

While many older houses and apartments have been “retrofitted” with central air, a good chunk of us — about one in four households — still depend on individual A/C units to cool a room or two. Those devices generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. A wall or window air conditioner is an A/C unit that gets mounted inside — get this — a wall or window. Without going into too much jargon-y detail, the unit lowers a room’s temperature by sucking the hot air inside of its system with a blower motor, then passing the air over a condenser or cooling coil containing a chemical refrigerant. The air is then blown out of the unit drier and a few degrees colder, leaving the room all nice and air conditioned and slightly dehumidified. The leftover heat extracted by its compressor is expelled via a vent on the side (on a wall-mounting unit) or back (on a window-mounting unit) of the device.

  2. A portable air conditioner is a free-standing, rolling floor A/C unit that vents hot air out of an exhaust host connected to a window.

  3. An evaporative cooler, also known as a “swamp cooler,” is a device that cools air by adding humidity to it (as opposed to a traditional A/C unit, which acts as a dehumidifier). Once the warm air is drawn into the unit, it’s pushed through water-soaked pads that turn it into a (chillier) gas via the process of evaporation.

Window- and wall-mounted machines are probably what came to mind when you read the phrase “individual A/C units” because they’re everywhere — just walk outside in any city during the summer and you’ll see them clinging to the sides of buildings (while dripping condensation on many a passersby). However, many modern living situations are better suited for a portable air conditioner or an evaporative cooler. 

If you’re not sure what kind you need, here’s a quick primer:

You should install a window/wall air conditioner if: You need to save space inside a room; you only need to cool one room at a time; your home needs dehumidifying; or you want an Energy Star-certified unit. (More on that momentarily.)

You should install a portable unit if: You don’t want to diminish the amount of natural light entering a room; you want/need to move your A/C unit frequently; you live in a humid area; you only need to cool one room at a time; you don’t want to deal with a complicated installation process; your home needs dehumidifying; or if window-mounted units are prohibited by your lease or HOA.

You should install an evaporative cooler if: You live somewhere with a dry climate; you want a unit that runs naturally (i.e., without chemical refrigerants); you’re on a budget; or you think exhaust hoses are unsightly.

If a portable A/C or evaporative cooler sounds like the best air conditioning option for you, keep reading for a brief buying guide. 

How to shop for a portable air conditioner or evaporative cooler:

Let’s start with the more straightforward of the pair: evaporative coolers. Inside every unit, there will be a blower motor or fan and a handful of pads that absorb water from a built-in tank or reservoir, which you’ll have to fill every once in a while. (Pro tip: Use ice water for an extra-cold chill.) Each model will have a cubic feet per minute (CFM) rating, which indicates how much air it moves every 60 seconds; the higher the CFM rating, the more powerful the unit. Whichever size or model you choose, the device should be run in a room where a window or two is cracked to prevent the space from getting too damp.

Moral of the story: The higher a unit’s BTU, the more space it can chill and the faster it can chill said space.

Whereas there’s just one kind of evaporative cooler, portable air conditioners are available in two different exhaust hose configurations: single hose and dual hose. 

Single-hose units have only one exhaust hose (duh), which expels both the heat produced by the compressor and the indoor air its system pulls in to cool said compressor. They’re typically cheaper and lighter compared to dual-hose units, but there’s a catch: Their design creates negative air pressure inside of a room, causing warm air from the outside or nearby rooms to seep under doors and through window gaps. As a result, they’re not very efficient and have to work harder than their dual-hose counterparts to cool a room. 

Dual-hose units have — you guessed it — two exhaust hoses: one that vents hot air, and one that pulls in cool air from outdoors to prevent the compressor from overheating. Any air that’s sucked in from a room gets put back in said room, making negative air pressure a non-issue and more effectively chilling an enclosed space.

Whether you opt for a single- or dual-hose unit, it’ll likely come with a window kit for installation. Many machines will have a built-in pan, bucket, or tray to collect condensation, which you’ll need to empty occasionally, although some newer units feature self-evaporating systems that recycle the moisture they produce. (Very rarely will you come across a unit with a drain pump.) Both single- and dual-hose units should be used only when your windows are closed.

Lastly (but perhaps most importantly), be sure to keep in mind the acronym “BTU” while you’re hunting down the right portable air conditioner. (That stands for “British thermal unit,” which is the amount of heat necessary to heat a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit.) In the simplest sense, an air conditioner’s BTU indicates how much energy it’s capable of processing in an hour, i.e. its cooling power. Moral of the story: The higher a unit’s BTU, the more space it can chill and the faster it can chill said space.

Are portable air conditioners eco-friendly?

At the time of publication, no portable air conditioners have been certified as Energy Star by the Environmental Protection Agency — so unfortunately, no. But you can take certain measures while running your portable A/C to make sure you don’t single-handedly trigger a climate catastrophe (on top of the one that’s already in full swing), like buying a unit with a programmer timer that shuts it off when you’re not home. For eco-friendly window and wall units, check out this roundup we put together.

What is the best portable air conditioner?

We generally recommend portable air conditioners for the best cooling power, but there’s a time and place for an evaporative cooler, too. Below, you’ll find our top picks based on online reviews written by the people who know the units best: actual customers who have installed them in their homes. Remember to hit the grey arrow on the upper right of each card to expand our full write-up of the products.


Easy installation • Runs quietly • Blends in with most home decor • Self-exhausts moisture • Compact and lightweight (easy to move)

Some reviewers report leaky units — may need a drain hose or drip pan to catch water if used in a humid area • Whynter’s customer service gets mixed reviews

Effortless cooling power in a quiet, pretty package.

1. Whynter Elite ARC-122DS

Super efficient, self-exhausting, and not-too-shabby in the looks department, it’s everything a dual-hose portable air conditioner should be.

  • BTU:
    12,000
  • Cooling space:
    Up to 400 square feet
  • Modes:
    Cooling, fan, dehumidifier
  • Noise level:
    < 52 dB
  • Dehumidification capacity:
    76 pints/day
  • 24-hour timer:
    Yes
The Whynter Elite ARC-122DS frequently nabs spots on best-of lists (see: Wirecutter, Good Housekeeping) and four- or five-star reviews on Amazon, so forgive us if you’ve heard this one before: It’s the best portable A/C out there. 
Though it’s up there price-wise, trust us when we say this dual-hose unit is worth every penny: It’s suuuper easy to install, remarkably quiet for its size, and highly efficient once it’s up and running; it can fill a decent-sized room with freezing air in almost no time at all. (One Amazon reviewer “actually got cold” when they used it in a tent.) And the convenience! Oh, the convenience: Not only does the Whynter ARC-122DS come with a remote control so you can change its temperature without getting up from your couch, but it also features an auto-drain function that recycles the condensation collected during the cooling process to churn out more cold air.
Amazon reviewer Juan Gomez raves about his Whynter ARC-122DS, writing that they “would really recommend this portable A/C unit over anything else on the market currently”:

“So far I’ve been blown away with the efficiency of this A/C unit and how fast it can cool our apartment’s living room and keep it cool as the temperature rises outside during the day. It’s also really quiet and looks much nicer than other units I’ve had. Energy consumption is another highlight of this unit as my electric bill saw just a moderate increase after running the unit fairly frequently for a whole month.”

It typically retails on Amazon for $600, but last time we checked, it was marked down to just $444.99. Get it here.


Cools a room really fast • Easy installation • Modern design • Window kit includes anti-theft device

Expensive • It’s heavy at 96 pounds, although wheels make it easy to move

A worthy addition to the modern connected household — if you can afford it, that is.

2. Frigidaire Cool Connect

Smart assistant compatibility aside, the fact that you can control it from afar so that your pad is cool when you get home makes it a clear winner.

  • BTU:
    12,000
  • Cooling space:
    Up to 550 square feet
  • Modes:
    Cooling
  • Noise leve:
    53 dB
  • Dehumidification capacity:
    3 pints/day
  • 24-hour timer:
    Yes
Frigidaire has equipped its Cool Connect smart portable air conditioner with a state-of-the-art system to complement its futuristic design. Along with support for both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, it comes WiFi-ready for mobile use; you can connect it to a smart device to control it with your voice, or install the Frigidaire Smart App on your phone to manage its functions from anywhere and make sure your abode is comfy-cool when you get home. (You can also enable clean filter indicators and custom scheduling, among other status notifications.)
Another thing we *really* love about the Cool Connect smart portable A/C is that it features a 360-degree airflow, which is something no other unit on this list offers. By circulating the cool air it produces in an upward spiral, it’s designed to cool down a room much faster. But don’t take our word for it — here’s what Walmart reviewer Barbster had to say about their unit:

“I bought this a few weeks ago for my living room, and it has been a life saver. Stylish, practical as it doesn’t take up the whole window, and the best feature is that I can turn it on when on my way home from work – so practical.”

Get it for $799.99.


Self-exhausts moisture • Sleek, sophisticated design • Large dehumidification capacity • Runs efficiently even under brownout conditions

Whynter’s customer service gets mixed reviews • Top-heaviness requires caution when moving the unit

Four-season comfort at an exceptional value.

3. Whynter ARC-14SH portable air conditioner and heater

This sleek, self-exhausting unit works to both cool and heat, allowing you to customize your microclimate all year.

  • BTU:
    14,000
  • Cooling/heating space:
    Up to 500 square feet
  • Modes:
    Cooling, heater, fan, dehumidifier
  • Noise level:
    < 56 dB
  • Dehumidification capacity:
    101 pints/day
  • 24-hour timer:
    Yes
In places like the Midwest or Northeast, where the weather changes every 15 minutes, you need a unit that can keep up. We think Whynter’s ARC-14SH dual-hose portable A/C and heater is a more-than-worthy candidate, even in large rooms, what with its 14,000 BTU cooling/heating capacity, simple installation, and remote control. Besides, you can’t beat its auto drain function (the same one included in the Whynter ARC-122DS), which self-exhausts any moisture that collects.
The Whynter ARC-14SH is highly reviewed for its ease of use and energy efficiency. Amazon customer Lisa Lewis gave it a four-out-of-five-star rating, writing:

“Really like this air-conditioner. It pretty much cools my entire downstairs which is a much larger space than the 14,000 BTU’s it is supposed to cover and it has saved me over $130 dollars on my electric bill this month. Two reasons I did not give it 5 stars: the noise, I do find it rather noisy especially when the fan is set to the highest level and I had to cut the window mounting to make it fit which I found odd as I have a standard size window. I bought some high density foam tape and some air-conditiong weather stripping and the unit is now perfect sealed.”

The Whynter ARC-14SH retails for $592.20, which is honestly a decent deal when you consider the fact that you’re getting an air conditioner *and* a heater (plus Whynter’s machines are known for their quality and durability). Get it here.


Cools a room fast • Easy installation • Filter is easy to clean • Very maneuverable

Can be loud at the highest fan setting • Some reviewers have had issues with the dehumidifying function

Compact cooling power with a side of white noise.

4. Black+Decker BPACT08WT

For small spaces, you’re not going to find anything this powerful at this great a price — we just hope you don’t mind the white noise.

  • BTU:
    8,000
  • Cooling space:
    100 to 150 square feet
  • Modes:
    Cooling, fan, dehumidifier
  • Noise level:
    75 db
  • Dehumidification capacity:
    Not specified
  • 24-hour timer:
    Yes
Face it: There’s no way that babesicle from Hinge is staying over if there’s no A/C in your bedroom. To cool down small spaces, grab the 8,000 BTU Black+Decker BPACT08WT portable air conditioner — an efficient, lightweight, and relatively affordable unit that doesn’t take up much space. It sports both wheels and side handles, making it easy to maneuver, and comes with a remote control you can use to adjust its temperature without ever getting up.
The Black+Decker BPACT08WT is designed for rooms no bigger than 150 square feet (or 10 by 12 feet), but Amazon reviewers have had luck with it in spaces twice as big. Here’s what Amazon reviewer Tanager wrote about their unit after installing it in a 300-square-foot room:

“I got this unit to cool down the hottest room in our house. I’m not looking to make it 65 in here, I’m happy at 75. I just want it to be safe for my pets (I have rabbits, and they’re heat-sensitive) and to not be miserable. That said, this is day one and it’s working marvelously well. It took me about 8 minutes to put together and install with the vent going out the window, it’s about as quiet as a box fan on high. I sit about 12 feet away from it and feel the chill with a setting of 76.”

Get it for $329.99.


Oscillates to effectively cool an entire room • Easy setup • Self-exhausts moisture

LG’s customer service gets mixed reviews • Some reviewers report shipping issues (units broken upon delivery) • Loud

For all that square footage of air conditioning, you can put up with a little noise.

5. LG LP1417GSR

LG’s unit is an unobtrusive workhorse designed to make your life easier (if a little noisier).

  • BTU:
    14,000
  • Cooling space:
    Up to 500 square feet
  • Modes:
    Cooling
  • Noise level:
    54 dB
  • Dehumidification capacity:
    74.4 pints/day
  • 24-hour timer:
    Yes
For a consistent chill throughout your dorm room, office, attic, loft, motor home, cabin, cottage, garage, or studio apartment — any space around 400 to 500 square feet, really — you can’t skimp on those BTUs. The LG LP1417GSR is a 14,000 BTU portable air conditioner that reviewers like for several reasons: It features “auto swing” (oscillating) air vent technology that circulates cool air ’round every inch of a room; it sports an auto evaporation system that converts condensation into cold air (no need to empty a water bucket); it comes with an LCD remote control; and it’s easy to roll around despite being on the heftier side. Even better yet, some reviewers have found it to be effective in spaces as large as 1,900 square feet.
Here’s what LG customer Aj Jones had to say about their LG LP1417GSR:

“I bought this a few weeks ago due to losing my a/ c unit after a storm..I was skeptical at first because I have a hi ceiling..This a/c unit cooled the whole living room plus the kitchen & got us through the a/c loss..it cooled way more than 500 square feet …It’s a little loud but not to loud compared to some other window units I’ve heard..They all have to make some type of noise ..Overall so far I must say I’m impressed”

The LG LP1417GSR retails for $589, but it was marked down to $549.99 on Amazon the last time we checked. Get it here.


Inexpensive • Low power consumption • Very lightweight • Buit-in LED backlight that can double as a nightlight • Minimalist design • Two color options

Some reviewers say it produces weird-smelling air • Shouldn’t be used in humid parts of the country

A purse-sized travel companion that’ll cool you down (but not much else).

6. Evapolar evaCHILL

This eco-friendly evaporative cooler is made just for you. No, literally — it can only cool one person at a time.

  • CFM rating:
    47
  • Cooling space:
    45 square feet
  • Modes:
    Cooling, humidifier, purifier
  • Noise level:
    25 to 50 dB
  • Dehumidification capacity:
    N/A
  • 24-hour timer:
    No
Since Sony’s ingenious body-mounted air conditioner is only available in Japan, you’ll have to settle for the next best thing. Although we are quick to point out that the award-winning Evapolar evaChill is far from settling. Sporting a refreshingly modern design that reminds us of EVE from “Wall-E,” it’s an evaporative cooler that uses waterlogged biodegradable pads through which air is blown to cool down its immediate vicinity. To get started, simply fill its leak-proof reservoir with a little H2O and connect its USB cable to an outlet or power bank; it’ll reach its full cooling power in about five to ten minutes once all the water is absorbed. 
The evaChill is capable of chilling a personal area such as a car, tent, closet, or workspace to as low as 59 degrees, and weighs only two pounds (without water) for maximum portability. Here’s what Amazon customer Dave Greenbaum wrote in their five-star review of the device:

“I’m married to someone who always likes the house warmer than I. Sleeping at night is particularly hard since I’ll start sweating, especially on the pillow. I put this little cooler on my bedside. It cooled me off without disturbing my partner. I can direct the cold air right on my face. … This evaporator is so much better than a desk fan, since it doesn’t just move the air, but cools it.”

The evaChill is sold on Amazon for $99 in two different colors: opaque white and urban grey. Get it here.


Very quiet • Self-exhausts moisture • Good value • Includes thermal overload protection • Built-in wheels • Three color options

Heavy • Some Amazon reviewers say their units were damaged upon arrival

Ideal for small- to medium-sized rooms that don’t need any more clutter.

7. Honeywell HL10CESWK

Portable air conditioners tend to stick out like sore thumbs, but this self-evaporating unit that’s surprisingly quiet does its best to do the opposite.

  • BTU:
    10,000
  • Cooling space:
    Up to 350 square feet
  • Modes:
    Cooling, dehumidifier
  • Noise level:
    52 db
  • Dehumidification capacity:
    80 pints/day
  • 24-hour timer:
    Yes
So here’s the thing: Portable air conditioners are inherently ugly because their systems require a thick, cumbersome exhaust hose for venting. That said, the does a stand-up job of melding with its surroundings with a minimalist design featuring dual motor technology that runs really, really quietly. (The 14,000 BTU model clocks in at just 52 decibels at its fan’s highest speed setting, making it about as loud as a normal conversation between two people.) Other highlights from its spec lineup include a digital remote, a self-evaporation system, and thermal overload protection.
Customer gave the Honeywell HL10CESWK four out of five stars in their Walmart.com review, writing:

“This portable A/C unit looks modern, functions smoothly, and for us is doing its job well. The controls are well and work smoothly. The display is nice and clear. It seems well made of good materials. Even the hose and the plastic piece that mounts the hose to a window seem good quality and plug together well. … The sound is a smooth whoosh, with a moderate click as the cooling turns on and off.”

The 10,000 BTU Honeywell HL10CESWK is plenty powerful for a small- to medium-sized room. It normally retails for $449.99, but it was on sale for $379 at Walmart the last time we checked — in white/black, white/blue, or just plain white.


Lightweight • Three color options • Oscillating fan • Large water tank • Comes fully assembled

Shouldn’t be used in humid parts of the country

A cute crowd-pleaser making the case that all home appliances should come in red.

8. NewAir AF-1000 Portable Evaporative Cooler

It’s not easy pleasing Walmart customers, but this evaporative cooler has won them over with impressive cooling power at an amazing value.

  • CFM rating:
    1,000
  • Modes:
    Cooling, fan
  • Cooling space:
    Up to 300 square feet
  • Noise level:
    Not specified
  • Dehumidification capacity:
    N/A
  • 24-hour timer:
    No
Any decent portable unit under $200 will be an evaporative cooler, and at that price point, Walmart customers’ favorite model is far and away the NewAir AF-1000. Available in three different colors (including a festive bright red), this cooler/fan hybrid gets rave reviews for its strong airflow, a huge, five-plus-gallon water tank, and lightweight, easy-to-move design. (A washable, durable filter pad is another major perk, as is the included remote.)
Reviewer Nick Stocking writes of their unit:

“I purchased this evaporative cooler and it’s worked really well all things considered. I live in SoCal and occasionally the humidity gets too high for it to work as more than a big fan, but in dry climate and when the humidity is low, this baby screams. I can easily and efficiently drop the temp in my house more than 10 degrees.”

The NewAir AF-1000 has a suggested retail price of $195.99 to $199.88 depending on the color, but we found it on sale at everyone’s favorite big-box store for just $124.88 to $129.88. Get it here.

Source : https://mashable.com/roundup/best-portable-air-conditioners/