Best Portable Air Conditioner: The Complete Guide

Honeywell MN12CES Portable AC
  • Honeywell MN12CES
  • 12,000 BTU
  • Price: $$$
Honeywell MM14CCSBB
  • Honeywell MM14CCSBB
  • 14,000 BTU
  • Price: $$$
Honeywell MN10CES
  • Honeywell MN10CES
  • 10,000 BTU
  • Price: $$
  • LG LP0814WNR
  • 8,000 BTU
  • Price: $$
Whynter ARC14SH
  • Whynter ARC-14SH
  • 14,000 BTU
  • Price: $$$

With summer underway, it’s not just time to think about vacations and baseball. The arrival of the summer days means the arrival of summer heat, and that’s not a topic you should regard lightly. It’s not just a matter of your comfort. It’s also about your health. Most US homes these days have one or more air conditioners. But, sometimes it is just not practical for you to have one discreet AC for each room.

This is where compact ACs come into play, especially because they offer mobility. So, you can just take it to any room you want and experience truly portable cooling. Apart from that, it's also much more cost-effective to purchase one or two portable ACs, rather than buying multiple bulky non-mobile ones. This is why I've created this extensive beginner-friendly guide which will help you find the best portable air conditioner for your specific needs.

Best Portable Air Conditioner - Our Top Picks

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Capacity (BTU)



Editor's Rating

Honeywell MM14CCSBB


High End

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Whynter ARC-14SH


High End

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Koldfront PAC1401W


High End

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Honeywell MN12CES


Mid Range

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DeLonghi PACAN120EW


High End

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Mid Range

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Haier HPN12XCM


Mid Range

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Honeywell MN10CESWW


Mid Range

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Shinco YPL3-10C


Low End

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Global Air NPA1-10C


Mid Range

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LG Electronics LP0814WNR


Low End

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SPT WA-8070E


Low End

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​The best portable air conditioner for most people in my opinion is the Honeywell MN12CES. The best option for budget-conscious buyers is the Honeywell MN10CESWW, and the LG LP0814WNR also offers a solid bang for the buck.

Honeywell MN12CES - #1 in Our Opinion

Editor Rating:

With its 12,000 BTU capacity it can cool a room with an area of 450 square feet. It can dehumidify a room at a rate of 70 liters of moisture per 24 hours. It uses an auto-evaporation system that avoids drips and bucket use. You’ve also got an LCD display along with a remote, and you can set the shut-off timer anywhere from an hour to 24 hours.

It measures 15.2 x 18.1 x 29.3 inches and weighs 68.3 pounds, and with 4 caster wheels you can easily move it from room to room. And with that, it's our #1 pick for the title of the best portable air conditioner.

Honeywell MN10CES - Great for Smaller Rooms

Editor Rating:

It’s got the same basic features as the other Honeywell we mentioned earlier. This one is better for a smaller room, though, as it only offers a 10,000 BTU capacity. Its noise level is tolerable at 54 decibels, and it has an auto-evaporation system that enables you to use it for hours. 

It also comes with a window venting kit that you can easily remove when you’re no longer using the unit. The moderate 10,000 BTU capacity and those flexible features ensure that this is one of the most popular portable AC units out there.

Whynter ARC-14SH - A Solid Performer Overall

Editor Rating:

This one is essentially the ARC-14S, but with a few extra features such as a heater. It retains the same 14,000 BTUs of cooling capability, along with the dehumidifier. It also adds a 13,000 BTUs heating unit which is its distinguishing feature from the smaller sibling. 

If heating is something that you want your portable AC to be capable of doing, this one looks to be a great choice. Obviously, it's more versatile than the standard Whynter ARC-14S model because it's as useful in the winter as it is in the summer. This is one of the main reasons why most portable air conditioner reviews regard this model highly.

NewAir AC-10100E

Editor Rating:

This one offers 10,000 BTUs, so it’s suitable for rooms with an area of around 325 square feet. It’s delivered already assembled, and there’s a kit for window installation. The auto-evaporation system means you can use it awhile before you need to drain it, and you can customize many of the settings with the 12-hour timer and sleep mode. 

It’s quite energy-efficient too. It measures 12.1 x 15.1 x 29.8 inches and weighs about 60 pounds.

NewAir AC-14100H

Editor Rating:

This is the more powerful 14,000 BTU unit from NewAir that can cool up to 525 square feet. It comes with a heater and a remote, a 24-hour timer, and an auto-evaporation system with an efficiency booster. 

This booster lets you add water to the tank so the performance improves and you can save on energy costs.

Whynter ARC-14S

Editor Rating:

With its 14,000 BTU capacity and dual hose design, this can work for 500-square-foot rooms. The dual hose design makes it more efficient and it can dehumidify a room by removing up to 101 liters of moisture per day. It comes with a remote, a lot of features such as an Auto-restart during power outages, and an auto-drain condensation removal system.

It’s a bit large at 35.5 x 19 x 16 inches, but with 4 caster wheels you can move it around without having to lift it.

How the Summer Heat Can Be Dangerous

When you feel warm, your body compensates by cooling itself through perspiration. But in the summer, sometimes sweating just isn’t sufficient to cool you down. This is especially true when the humidity is high.

There are many types of illnesses and conditions that can be caused by heat. When you sweat too much, you can suffer from heat rash. A more serious condition is heat exhaustion, when you sweat heavily, your breathing speeds up, and your pulse becomes fast and weak.

Heat exhaustion in turn can become heatstroke, and this condition can actually be fatal. You feel dizzy, your pulse is strong and rapid, and your skin is dry. Your body temperature can go up to 106° F in just a few minutes!

After that, your brain may begin to malfunction, your kidney and liver may fail, your blood’s ability to clot is impaired, and many of your organs become dysfunctional.

One CDC report stated that from 1999 to 2003, a total of 3,442 deaths were reported to have been caused by exposure to extreme heat. Especially, people who spend a lot of their time outdoors, for example, people riding around the city on their road bikes, are further prone to adverse impacts on their health due to the extreme heat. The most at risk were young children, older people, and those with chronic medical conditions. The report also stated that the number of deaths may have been underestimated.

So Who Needs Portable Air Conditioners?

I didn’t mean to scare you out of your wits with these medical statistics, by the way. I just wanted to be sure that you’re taking the whole matter of air conditioning seriously. Unfortunately, not everyone does, so portable air conditioners may be important when other options are not available or insufficient.

So who needs portable air conditioners? Here are some examples of people who need them:

Apartment Tenants

These are perhaps the largest group of people who buy portable air conditioners. In most cases, the landlords have not made it easy for them to install fixed tools or appliances like an air compressor or a permanent air conditioner. Maybe the landlords simply didn’t allow the installation of permanent air conditioners. Or there is one already, but its cooling capacity is insufficient.

Apartment dwellers may also find the installation of standard air conditioners tedious and time-consuming. It may be too troublesome especially for those who move around a lot.

Industrial Workers

Factory workers and professionals that work mostly indoors and amidst hot and humid conditions are more exposed to risk in the summer months. Due to inadequate ventilation, and multiple heat sources in their work places, they really suffer a lot.

Woodworkers working in congested atmosphere, welders dealing with fire while welding metal are some of the most affected people when the weather gets too hot. Using a traditional air conditioning system might not always be possible there, so portable ones are gaining traction in such industries.

Home owners

Some homeowners also don’t want the bother of installing air conditioning. Maybe they're already planning to buy a new home and installing one isn’t worth the bother at the time. Or perhaps some rooms are not used often so it’s not worth it to install air conditioning for them.

For example, a portable air conditioner may be used for the library, sometimes. It may also be used for the guest room when there’s a guest staying overnight. It may also be used for a room where there’s an air conditioner but it is insufficient for the task.

Office Workers

Many offices use air conditioning, ever since it became common knowledge that the temperature is perhaps the most important factor that affects worker productivity. When it’s too hot, people can’t concentrate and creativity decreases. More mistakes are made, and tempers can flare. Even computers need cooler temperatures so that they don’t overheat.

If it’s allowed, a worker can bring their own portable air conditioner to the workplace, especially when they work alone in an office where air conditioning is insufficient or simply non-existent.

In the summer, it may even be ok to bring this in a common work area, especially when the air conditioner there can’t handle the size of the room and the number of people inside.

Summer Campers

Camping is great, and usually you don’t need air conditioning when you go camping overnight. Most of the time, it is cooler in the outdoors at night. Sometimes the camping tent comes with lots of screen mesh to take advantage of the evening breeze.

But, when it comes to day time, and when your children are exposed to the outside heat when they're involved in outdoor fun activities like trampolines or swing sets,​ you quickly want them to be able to cool off by entering the tent. That's when a powerful portable AC comes in handy.

If the natural isn’t enough, you can always use an electric fan. You may even use ice cooler fans that blow air over an ice cooler so you get cool air from the fan. Evaporative coolers can also work, as they create mist that cools you down along with the air the fan blows.

Sadly, all these solutions don’t really work all the time, especially if you’re in an area where it’s both hot and humid. The standard fan can just blow warm air towards you. And the ice cooler fans and the evaporative coolers increase the humidity in your tent, which compounds the problem.

So all in all, there is a need for portable air conditioners. And you definitely need a portable air conditioner for camping in summer. A lot of people need them, which is why a lot of portable air conditioners have been introduced in the market.

So What Are the Advantages of Portable Air Conditioners?

In many cases, the features of the portable air conditioner make it the only practical solution when combating the summer heat. Some people even choose portable air conditioners over its standard counterparts because of the advantages it offers.

Here are some of its advantages:

They’re easier to install

Think about how you install a standard air conditioner. To begin with, you don’t perform the installation. At best, you can be the one to pick the HVAC contractor to install the equipment. You need a pro to handle all those parts.

And you’re lucky if the installation is that simple. Sometimes complications can come up. Maybe the window space is inadequate. Or perhaps the electrical system just can't handle the power requirements of the air conditioner. In that case, you’re going to need an electrical contractor too.

On the other hand, with the portable air conditioner you can do the installation on your own. There’s not going to be any electrical issues, because as portable units they are specifically designed to use any regular electrical socket.

The other main problem is installing the exhaust vent, but the portable unit usually comes with explicit directions that any regular person can do. There’s really no need for an expert at all.

You can move them from one location in the other

That’s the definition of “portable” in the first place, in case you've forgotten. Granted, there are some units that are really bulky and heavy, so their portability is debatable. But still, it’s much easier to transfer even those units than traditional window or split-type air conditioners.

What that means is with a regular air conditioner, you can only cool down one specific area. That’s it. But with the portable units, you can cold down any specific area. It can be a different area every day if you want.

And some portable units are really portable. They’re compact and light, and they come with casters or wheels to make it easier for you to move them. Some are small enough that you can bring them to your fishing adventures on the kayak or while camping, so that your muggy tents are not hell to sleep in on hot summer nights.

These things are also cheaper

For many of us who have tight budget limits, this one factor can be the most important consideration. In fact, some people who can’t afford regular air-conditioning may just have enough money to cover the cost of a portable air conditioner.

Just remember, a regular air conditioner may need lots of extra professional help. The electrical system may have to be improved, and holes may have to be done in the walls. All the help you get will cost you more money.

Are there any potential drawbacks?

Of course, especially if you choose the wrong unit to use. That’s true of even regular air conditioners.

Some people can’t take portable air conditioners because they can be noisy. After all, the entire unit is inside the room, unlike regular window air conditioners and split-types where the motor is outside the room. So, those people generally look for the quietest portable air conditioner if they have to settle for one.

Others may also notice that most portable air conditioners aren’t always efficient in their energy use. They’re not exactly green. In other words, in some cases when a regular and a portable air conditioner with the same BTU/h (the amount of heat it can remove from a room in an hour), the regular air conditioner can cool down a bigger space than the portable unit.

But the thing about technology is that it improves all the time. It’s true about cars, computers, TVs, and portable air conditioners. The newer ones are now quieter than ever, and they’re becoming more efficient. In fact, the ACs that I've listed above are among the quietest portable air conditioner models that are available currently. If you take a thorough look at portable air conditioner reviews before selecting a model, it should save you from getting a portable AC unit that produces more noise than you can tolerate.

Perhaps the real drawback that can’t be corrected is tied to the inherent design of the portable air conditioner. It’s that it’s inside the room, and it is producing heat. That’s heat that the air conditioner will have to draw out of the room. In contrast, the heat from window air conditioners and split-types are already outside the room.

Still, it’s crucial that you pick the right ones. So how do you do that?

Factors to Consider Before Choosing A Portable Air Conditioner

To make things easier for you, you need to look at all the pertinent factors and features. Some factors are more important than others, but it all depends on your needs and circumstances.

Cooling Capacity

This is undoubtedly the most crucial factor of them all. After all, this is the primary reason why you bought an air conditioner in the first place. So to check its cooling capacity, you’re going to need to find out the BTUs per hour. The BTUs stand for British thermal units, and it measures the amount of heat you can remove from the room in an hour.

So the higher the BTUs per hour, the greater the cooling capacity. You don’t want to get an air conditioner with insufficient BTUs per hour, because it can take too long to cool down a room. It may not even be enough to cool down a room at all. At the same time, you don’t want to get a unit with too much cooling capacity. Not only are they more expensive, but they consume more power. You’re just wasting your money.

The standard rule is that if the room has an area of 200 square feet, you need 8,000 BTUs. For 300 square feet, you’ll need 10,000 BTUs. If the room is 400 square feet, the requirement goes up to 12,000. So for every increase of 50 square feet, you need to figure to get another 1,000 BTUs.

Of course, this is just a rough guide. These figures are assuming that the ceiling is 8 feet up from the floor. If it’s higher, you’ll need more cooling capacity. And then there are environmental concerns too. If it’s really hot where you live, you’ll need more. And if the room isn’t insulated properly or you have lots of heat producing appliances in the room (like in the kitchen), you’ll need more.

Energy Efficiency

This is important for your electricity bills and of course for the environment. Remember, the best portable AC can also be the most energy efficient of the lot. Here you need to check the EER, which stands for the Energy Efficiency Rating. For standard air conditioners, an EER of 10 is the minimum, but of course that’s not going to be attainable for most portable units. But anything that’s close that is good.

It’s all tied in with the BTUs. The equation is BTUs divided by EER, and you get the number of watts consumed. So for a unit with 8,000 BTUs and an EER of 9, the result is 889 watts. But if the EER is just 6, then the result is 1,333 watts.

Unit Dimensions

Of course, you’ll also need to consider the size and the weight. The size and weight is crucial because of portability issues. It can be big and heavy if you just use it in one place because you live in an apartment. But if you like to move it around, you’re going to think small and light.

You may want to also consider exactly where you’re going to put it. You need 18 inches of space all around it for proper ventilation so that it can cool the room efficiently.

Noise Production

If you’re using a portable air conditioner to cool you down at work or to help you sleep better during the muggy summer nights, it’s going to be counterproductive if the unit you get is so noisy it distracts and disturbs you. So you’ll need to check the decibel level.

The decibel measuring system is a bit strange if you don’t have a scientific or mathematical background. That’s because any 10-decibel increase means that the sound has become ten times greater. So a unit that produces 70 decibels of sound is 10 times noisier than one which produces only 60 decibels of sound.

In any case, 60 decibels is about the level of noise made by nearby normal conversation. So if you can’t sleep with people talking near you, you’ll need a decibel level that’s 55 decibels at the most. Some portable units are quiet enough to produce only 45 decibels. That’s like the sound of whispered conversation. So, it makes sense to read portable air conditioner reviews of a model you're considering, before you end up buying it.

Installation and Maintenance

Most people say that installing a portable air conditioner and then doing proper maintenance for them is “easy”, but what’s easy for some may not be all that simple for another. I once tried picturing Paris Hilton installing and maintaining a portable air conditioner, and I just can’t.

So if possible, download the manual for the unit you’re considering so that you have an idea of what’s in store for you. And read the reviews written by actual customers so you have a better picture of the level of difficulty.

Some units are super simple to install, and some don’t even need much maintenance at all. You’re probably going to still need to drain the moisture collected, clean the filters, and defrost the unit if there’s ice buildup in the coils.


Finally, there’s the price to consider. While this is mostly a function of cooling capacity (the more BTUs, the more expensive it is), other factors also come into play. Sometimes the additional features such as a remote controller and programmable timer can make life easier for you, but it’s also going to cost you. The price may be greater as well if you’re buying a well-known brand, although it may be worth it if the brand has a good reputation for quality build and durability. You may not get the absolute best portable air conditioner at a strict budget, but you probably didn't really need all those extra features it offered, either. So, what matters is that you choose a product which meets all your requirements while fitting your budget.

By figuring out just how important each of these factors is for you, you can then narrow down your options so you can choose the most suitable portable air conditioner for you.

Concluding the Best Portable AC Dilemma

So which one should you get? It should be obvious by now that there is no single right answer that will fit everyone’s needs. Rooms come in varying sizes, people use the portable air conditioners for different purposes, different people have their own definition of the comfortable temperature, and people have different budgets.

Everyone’s different. Just make sure you read comprehensive portable air conditioner reviews (like ours) for any portable air conditioner you buy, so you can increase your chances of making the right purchase. Take note of the features, the ease of use, and the durability. The price is crucial too.

You should also follow the manual directions and the maintenance guidelines so your portable AC can last a long time. It’s not just this summer you have to worry about, but with proper use and maintenance you can keep cool — and keep your cool — for many years to come.

Best Small Portable ACs

Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioners

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  • Updated January 14, 2017