Best Portable Air Conditioners (Top Picks + Buyer’s Guide)

Portable Air Conditioner

When central or window air conditioner is not an option for air conditioning i.e. in RV, Garage or an apartment which is not compatible with window AC, then you may try portable air conditioner. Portable air conditioner, as the name suggests, are portable. This means that they can be transported from one room to the other conveniently compared to window air conditioner that has to be installed in the window.

The movement from one space to another however comes with some inevitable limitations. Some of these are weight, distance from walls and vent requirement.

Despite being portable, this category of air conditioners will require a vent in order to deliver hot air outside. It must do so according to the basic principle of refrigeration. This vent is established by use of duct or hose that extends from the portable air conditioner to the nearby window.

Another limitation is the distance from the walls of your room in which you are running your portable AC. This means in the efforts of blending in your AC with the room you cannot stick your it with the wall. This is a requirement so that the air can be easily sucked, heat is taken from condenser coils and delivered at high temperature outdoors.

This in not a problem in dual hose portable air conditioner that suck air from outdoors to cool condenser coils and then reject hot air outdoors. Hence considering the constraints, go for portable air conditioners after central or window air conditioner is not a choice. If you have no other choice and you are OK with limitations of portable air conditioner, go for it.

After researching many portable air conditioners in the market my top recommendation is Whynter ARC-14S. It is the most adequate dual hose option that prevents negative pressure problem with great efficiency for the cooling effectiveness it provides. The maintenance is trivial and condensate almost never is problem.

Best Shortlisted Portable Air Conditioner

The best portable air conditioner available in the market recommended by many experts. Powerful with great built quality. Best efficiency and effectiveness balanced option due to its dual hose setup. It allows suction of air (for condenser cooling) from outdoors and then delivery of hot air outdoors. Hence preventing sucking warm air from air gaps in the room.

Another great portable air conditioner that I recommend. Cools down quite effectively and efficiently. It would have been my top recommendation If only it had dual hose setup option comparable to Whynter ARC-14S. Among the single hose options it is the the best value you would get.

This is quite impressive portable air conditioner among the cheaper options. Among the other price comparable portable air conditioners (that are 300-400 dollars range) this is the best. So if you are on a low budget pick this one for best value.

Why I Recommend Whynter ARC-14S Portable Air Conditioner?

Whynter ARC-14S is a 14000 BTU portable AC that is perfect for cooling space effectively upto 500 sq ft. It has three operation modes: Air Conditioner, Dehumidifier and Fan. If you also want your portable AC to heat the space its alternate model ARC-14SH has with the ability to work as heat pump and heat the desired space.

A great feature is the dual hose setup that consists of two hose extending from the portable AC to outdoors via window. Normally in a single hose portable AC the air is taken up from the room. It is then passed over the condenser coils to cool the refrigerant. This air at higher temperature is rejected to outdoors.

This suction from indoors results in negative pressure. This in turns allows warm air from the air gaps in the room to be sucked in. In dual hose portable AC though this in not a problem due to two ducts. The air is sucked from one and rejected to other hence no negative pressure is established.

Whynter ARC-14S uses easily removable and washable pre-filter and activated carbon filter to neutralize harmful elements in air. The water is automatically exhausted except in certain environments where it is done manually. However you will not need to touch the condensate for long time. In additional features it has 24-hour programmable timer to easily automate the process according to your routine. It also automatically restarts in case of power outage.

The maintenance of Whynter ARC-14S is very convenient and so is the installation. I have attached videos regarding both that cover everthing you need to know about that.

Installation of Whynter ARC-14SH Portable AC

What to See When Selecting A Portable Air Conditioner?

Whenever you decide to buy a portable AC you should keep certain things in your mind. Marketing material attracts a person to buy product based on additional features and what you get with it. But if the foundational features and basic attributes like cooling effectiveness, efficiency, durability etc required in a portable AC are not up to mark it doesn’t matter with additional features. Below are the most important characteristics to look for in a portable AC before you buy one:

Cooling Effectiveness

First and foremost the portable air conditioner you buy must be able to cool the space you require.

If you have taken a portable AC that has a very quiet operation, high efficiency and so many modes but it is unable to cool the living space it is worthless. Therefore assure that the cooling operation of the portable AC you are buying is effective, then look for other aspects.

High Efficiency

In the season of summer, air conditioner is operated day and night or at least entire night. After it is assured that the air conditioner will cool the living space with satisfaction you should look for its efficiency rating. If the portable air conditioner is very poor in efficiency and it shows hauntingly on bill you might not have a good night sleep anyway.

When buying a portable air conditioner go for inverter air conditioner if they are available. They are able to adjust their working according to the cooling required. It’s good to have an air conditioner as energy efficient as it can be while not effecting cooling effectiveness.

Reduced Noise

The purpose of air conditioner is to make the living space comfortable for you. But besides cooling, noise is also a factor that will distract or disturb, especially at night when you need a quiet comfy sleep.

Suitable Size/Capacity

When buying a portable air conditioner make sure you are buying the right size. Always calculate what size or capacity of air conditioner is required to effectively cool your room. If you are buying from local stores they may calculate the cooling capacity (BTU) required for the portable AC to have.

You can also calculate the capacity required for the air conditioner according to living space online. Click here and you will be directed to the webpage that does calculation for you.

When choosing the AC the problem you may run (in terms of capacity) is not only the insufficient capacity. if you choose a AC that is larger in capacity than required then firstly it will be inefficient. Secondly it will not be able to remove humidity in the best way possible.

Removal of humidity is secondary function performed by air conditioner. In case of large air conditioner the compressor will not run for sufficient time and the cooling coil will never get to the temperature required for condensation of water from air. So beware of small as well as large air conditioners and calculate properly according to your living space.

Single or Dual Hose?

There is a difference between single and dual hose portable air conditioners. Single hose portable AC result in the establishment of negative pressure inside the room they are installed. As a result air is sucked from the same room to cool the refrigerant in the condenser.

This will also let suction of warm air from the air gaps in the room. Further more unfiltered air will enter the unit and filters will require earlier maintenance. There is a requirement to maintain the room temperature despite the suction of cool air from it.

Hence the effort made by single hose air conditioner will be high and efficiency will be low considering the cooling effectiveness.

In dual hose air conditioner, there are two hoses. Air is sucked from outdoors in order to cool the condenser. The air after passing through the condenser coil and absorbing heat, is rejected outdoors. Hence the negative pressure problem is resolved, efficiency is higher and cooling effectiveness is greater.

Thereby select dual hose portable air conditioner when buying. If however you are on a tight budget and require lower power consumption and cheaper unit cost than you could consider single hose portable air conditioner.

ASHRAE vs DOE Standards

The principle on which central, window or portable air conditioner run is the same. However the mechanism by which they operate and cool the required space is different. Previously the cooling capacity for window as well as portable air conditioner was measured by same standards i.e. those given by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers).

However testing has proved that the cooling capacity of window AC is more effective than portable AC. This is due to many inefficiencies involved in the operation of portable AC. Thereby Department of Energy (DOE) uses new techniques to realize the cooling capacity. The DOE rating is more effective, accurate and recommended.

Note: The recommended products on this page are continuously changed depending on the products available in the market. The purpose of this page is to keep you updated with the best portable air conditioners currently.