The 5 Best Portable Air Conditioners to Stay Cool All Summer

We chose the Black+Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner as the best portable AC, because it’s effective, versatile, and easy to use.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

black decker portable air conditioner on a colored pattern background

If central AC isn't an option and your oscillating fan or AC wall unit sounds ready to conk out, there's another option that doesn't include sweating through summer: portable air conditioners. Portable ACs are a good cooling option for homes that don't have extensive AC units already installed, though they are less efficient. When shopping for the best portable AC for your space, you'll want to make sure you're choosing the right cooling capacity for your square footage so you can keep the temperature low while conserving energy.

"Consumers may compare power usage when selecting the best model for their needs," says Lane Dixon, Vice President of Operations at Aire Serv, a Neighborly company. "One should also consider how individual models should be ventilated and drainage systems maintained." Dixon notes that if a model has a drain pan that must be manually emptied, you'll need to check on it every few hours to see that it doesn't overflow. As for ventilation, you'll need easy access to a window or exterior door to accommodate the flexible hose that usually comes with the AC unit.

We researched dozens of portable air conditioners on the market, looking for those that would cool us off the best without breaking the bank or breaking our backs when it comes to moving them about the space. Our best overall pick is the Black+Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. BTUs stand for British thermal units, which is how ACs are measured in cooling capacity. At 14,000 BTUs, it's got tremendous cooling capacity, yet it doesn't take up a ton of space in your home. We also like that it works as a heater, too, so you can use it during the dog days of summer and the coldest days of winter.

Find all of our recommendations for the best portable air conditioners, and keep scrolling for answers to all your burning questions about how to shop for one for your space.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Portable Air Conditioner: Black+Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Black+Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Amazon.com

Who it's for: Anyone who wants an excellent portable AC/heater combo for medium- and large-sized rooms.

Who it isn't for: Those who want a portable AC that only cools.

Black+Decker has long been a household name for appliances, and that tradition continues with this device that tops our list of the best portable air conditioners. It's actually a portable AC and a heater, so depending on the season you're using it, you can switch modes easily. The internal fan has an adjustable speed and is able to cool interiors up to 55 degrees and heat them up to 81 degrees. This model has 14,000 BTUs that can heat or cool a space up to 350 square feet, but there are other Black+Decker models with a smaller BTU (as well as devices that just work in a cooling capacity.)

The Black+Decker is small in stature and happens to be one of the lighter portable ACs on our list. Still, it does weigh around 68 pounds, so you'll appreciate the recessed handles and caster wheels that make it simple to roll this unit throughout your home and into any room. It has a four-way vented airflow outlet—hook it up using the nearly five foot hose and window adapter so you can let out all that hot air that's stifling your space.

This portable AC has four energy-efficient modes—cool, fan, heat, and dehumidify—so you can get some relief no matter which season you're in. It's rather easy to operate, too. An LED display makes it easy to gauge the temperature of the room so you can make adjustments accordingly on the panel or using the remote. This portable AC also has a 24-hour timer so you can control the temperature around the clock. All you have to do is clean the filter twice a month—just slide it out and run it under water to remove all the dust from the air.

Product Details:

  • Size: 17.1 x 13.8 x 28.1 inches
  • Weight: 68.3 lbs
  • BTUs: 14,000 (but there are other models with more/fewer BTUs)
  • Cooling Capacity: 300–350 square feet

RELATED: The 11 Best Window Air Conditioners to Cool Your Home This Summer, According to Reviews

Best Budget Portable Air Conditioner: LG 7,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

LG 7,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Homedepot.com

Who it's for: People who want a no frills AC unit that can cover a medium-to-large room at a lower cost.

Who it isn't for: Owners of very large homes or those who have open-concept floor plans.

This LG model cools up to 300 square feet of space at a lower price compared to comparable units. It has three settings—cool, fan, and dry (dehumidify). A window vent installation kit comes included, as well as auto swing air vents. It has a remote control and digital control panel that's easy to operate, so you always know what temperature the room is and what setting it's on. There's also a 24-hour on/off timer so you won't waste energy by forgetting to turn off your fan. If you lose power while it's in use—which is not unheard of during the hottest days of the summer—it has a power failure auto restart.

There are two cooling and fan speeds so you can adjust the airflow as you like it. At a depth of about 13 inches, it has a slim enough profile to tuck in tight next to the window you have it venting from. When it's time to clean the mesh filter, there's an alert light that goes on so you know when it's time to slide it out and give it a wash.

If you prefer more cool air and less noise from your portable air conditioner, this unit from LG is a good option for you. It runs at a noise level of 51 decibels, which according to the manufacturer is quieter than what you'll hear inside your car when you have the AC on blast on a scorching day. It's also easy to maintain—just wipe it down and remove the mesh filter regularly to wash it off.

Product Details:

  • Size: 27.36 x 17.32 x 13.17 inches
  • Weight: 56.4 lbs.
  • BTUs: 7,000
  • Cooling Capacity: 300 square feet

RELATED: The 9 Best Fans to Beat the Heat, According to Our Testing

Best Splurge Portable Air Conditioner: DeLonghi Pinguino Arctic Whisper 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

DeLonghi Pinguino Arctic Whisper 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Amazon.com

Who it's for: Anyone who wants a quiet, smart portable AC that has a modern aesthetic.

Who it isn't for: Those who have smaller spaces to cool.

The words "sleek" and "sexy" aren't exactly synonymous with portable air conditioners, but if there's one on our list worthy of such a description, it's this one by DeLonghi. For starters, it comes in the usual white color as well as an elegant matte black. Add to that a slimline profile and wheels for easy transport, and it actually looks more like a piece of carry-on luggage than an AC unit. (Note that it's a very good thing this is on wheels, as 83 pounds is a lot to lug around your home, especially in the summertime.)

But what really stands out about this portable AC unit is its massive cooling capacity. Powered by 14,000 BTUs, it will cool up to 700 square feet, far more than any other unit on our list. While it's not a substitute for central air—and frankly, nothing is—this is definitely a contender for your cooling system at home.

It's hard to not see a portable AC that's hooked up to a window vent, but you likely won't hear this DeLonghi in action, thanks to noise reduction ability up to 4 dbA. It's got energy-efficient features like Cool Surround Smart Sensing and Eco Real Feel, which automatically adjusts the temperature according to the level of humidity in the space. According to the manufacturer, it adds up to a 30 percent savings in energy consumption, so you won't sweat your utility bills during the dog days of summer.

Product Details:

  • Size: 18.3 x 34.3 x 20.1 inches
  • Weight: 83 pounds
  • BTUs: 14,000
  • Cooling Capacity: Up to 700 square feet

RELATED: The 5 Best Humidifiers, According to Our Lab Tests

Best Large Portable Air Conditioner: Frigidaire 14,000 BTU 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner

Frigidaire 14,000 BTU 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner
Wayfair.com

Who it's for: Anyone who wants an effective cooling system they can program remotely.

Who it isn't for: Those who are looking for a portable AC unit with a smaller profile.

This Frigidaire unit is a three-in-one portable AC featuring a two-speed fan plus a dry mode that turns the device into a dehumidifier to suck the moisture out of the air. Your space will be cooler and much more comfortable no matter which mode you have it on. At 81 lbs, it's one of the heaviest portable ACs on our list, but it is indeed still portable thanks to handles and wheels to make it easy to tote it to where you need it most. We'll just call it "large and in charge" when it comes to cooling off your home.

This is a great option for a bedroom, thanks to the quiet operation and Sleep Mode, which increases the temperature gradually throughout the evening hours. Keep the device running smoothly and efficiently by removing the washable filter that traps dust and other allergens from the air to keep the cool air clean.

If you hate returning to a hot home at the end of the day, you'll like the smart programmable timer—it hooks up to WiFi, so you can use your phone or tablet—that allows you to preset the unit to turn on or off on the half-hour. Lose power in the middle of a heat wave? No worries—the Frigidaire has an automatic restart that will turn your unit back on just as you left it when the power comes back on.

Product Details:

  • Size: 19.4 x 16.54 x 31.34 inches
  • Weight: 81 lbs
  • BTUs: 14,000
  • Cooling Capacity: 700 square feet

RELATED: The 8 Best Cooling Blankets for Hot Sleepers

Best Portable Air Conditioner for Small Spaces: Hisense 5,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Hisense 5,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Lowe's.com

Who it's for: Those looking to cool off small studios or dorm rooms.

Who it isn't for: People with large, open-concept floor plans.

If you thought that a fan was your only respite for cooling off a small space, think again. If you're trying to avoid breaking your budget (and a sweat), this Hisense portable air conditioner offers the value you're looking for at a great price. It's perfect for small bedrooms, dorm rooms, and even a small studio apartment, but try to take on a bigger space and you'll likely be disappointed. But with 5,000 BTUs, you've got enough to cool down 150 square feet of space.

Even at this low price point, it has three modes—cool, fan, and dehumidify—so you've got options depending on how hot the space is. But if you do turn on the dehumidifier, here's the cool thing—it's got a drain-free design so you don't have to worry about dumping out the water that collects.

It's compact enough for small rooms, so you don't have to worry about losing more square footage to a behemoth of a unit. It even has a remote control so you can operate it from wherever you are in the room. It has a snap-in window ventilation kit that's easy to install. All you have to do is remove and wash the filter from time to time to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. It comes with a two-year warranty on parts and labor, so you'll have plenty of time to test it out during the hottest days of the year.

Product Details:

  • Size: 11.8 x 13 x 26.4 inches
  • Weight: 51.8 pounds
  • BTUs: 5,000
  • Cooling Capacity: 150 square feet

RELATED: The 9 Best Cooling Pillowcases for Sweat-Free Nights

Final Verdict

The Black+Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner tops our list as the best portable air conditioner, due to its versatility (it's also a heater) and effectiveness. We chose the 14,000 BTU version with heating, but you could go lower without the heating capacity if you have a smaller space, or choose one with even bigger cooling capacity if you have a larger space.

How to Shop for Portable Air Conditioners Like a Pro

Room Size and BTUs

The general rule of thumb when trying to find out which size air conditioner is right for your space is to multiply the square footage you are looking to cool by 20 to figure out the appropriate number of BTUs (British thermal units). If you're looking to cool a room that's 350 square feet, you'd need a unit with at least 7,000 BTUs.

Again, those are general guidelines. "The only way to properly determine the appropriate sizing of any HVAC system, whether permanent or portable, is to have an HVAC professional conduct a heat gain and heat loss load calculation," says Dixon.

Noise Level

Portable AC units will not be as quiet as central air, but that doesn't mean you have to get one that'll roar in your ear as it cools. Be sure to check the level of decibels when purchasing your unit—the lower the number, the better. For context, the CDC says that a whisper is at 30 decibels, a normal conversation is 60, and a motorcycle engine is around 95. Portable AC units typically have a range between 40 and 60 decibels, so the lower the number, the quieter it will be.

Energy Efficiency

While there are energy-efficient models available, portable ACs are typically not as efficient as their more permanently installed counterparts. Dixon recommends that consumers look at power usage when it comes to choosing a model that suits their needs. One common calculation to look for is CEER, which stands for Combined Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is calculated by dividing the BTU by average power consumption (in watts). Most portable air conditioners have a CEER around 7.5 on average—the higher the number, the higher the efficiency.

Features

The best portable ACs are indeed that: portable. You'll want to look for units with casters and handles or grips so that they can easily be rolled into position. "One should also consider how individual models should be ventilated and drainage systems maintained," Dixon advises. He notes that most portable ACs come with a compatible ventilation unit that fits into a window or an exterior door to let out the hot air from the room. However, if the model you purchase has a drain pan for excess moisture, it will have to be drained manually when it gets full, which could be as often as every few hours, depending on the size of the pan.

Questions You Might Ask

How do portable air conditioners work?

Portable ACs cool a room by extracting the hot air through a vent. A vent kit typically comes with the AC unit, and you'll have to hook it up so that it blows the hot air out the window.

Where should you put a portable air conditioner?

Set up your portable air conditioner in the room that you'll be using the most, such as the main bedroom or living room, says Dixon. Keep in mind that you'll need access to either a window or an exterior door to vent it—and preferably be close to a sink as you'll have to drain the tray collecting the condensation fairly often.

How do you maintain a portable air conditioner?

There are two things you'll want to keep an eye on when it comes to maintaining your portable AC: the filter and the drain pan. The filter can usually be removed easily and rinsed off with water to remove any dust or allergens from the air. If it has a manual drain pan, you'll want to dump it out before it gets too full—it could damage the machine or prevent it from working properly.

Take Our Word for It

Barbara Bellesi Zito writes about home and garden topics for a variety of digital publications. She lives in Staten Island, NY, so she knows a thing or two about hot, humid weather. She researched the best portable AC units with an eye toward cooling capacity, features, and ease of installation. For expert advice on how best to use portable air conditioners to keep a space cool, Barbara also consulted Lane Dixon, Vice President of Operations at Aire Serv, a Neighborly company.

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