Portable air conditioners provide the perfect way to cool small to medium-sized spaces when window AC units and other options are not a fit. They are easy to install, move around easily between rooms and don’t take up too much space. And because they stand alone in a vertical position, they’re generally very easy to store during the winter months.
There are two types of portable AC units. The first, the dual hose system, provides a faster cooling capability compared to the second, single hose systems. A single hose air conditioner connects to a nearby window via a tubing system, sucking in air that the unit cools and circulates around the room. However, a dual hose system has a second hose that vents warm air back outside, and thus cools your home more efficiently.
You can also find cheap personal air conditioners for sale on sites like Amazon. These miniature AC units are typically the size of a small fan and are designed to sit on a desk or tabletop. With the exception of Dyson’s Pure Cool Fan, these systems tend to be very poorly rated and are generally not worth your money.
To find the best portable air conditioners for your home this summer, read on for our full shopping guide. We’ve also selected the best products to shop ahead of Summer 2021.
The Best Portable Air Conditioner Brands
When it comes to portable air conditioner brands, there are few that you will immediately recognize since they are major appliance manufacturers and even pioneers in air conditioning systems. The top brands include Whynter, LG, Honeywell, SereneLife, Black+Decker, Midea and Whirlpool. At the lower end of the spectrum, you can find top-rated AC units for as little as $300, and more expensive units will set you back $700 or more.
Cheap personal air conditioners usually lack smart Wi-Fi features and won’t allow you to connect your appliance to Alexa or Google Home. They may also work only in very small bedrooms and offices, while more expensive units can cool entire apartments, let you set schedules and work with voice commands.
You can find our full list of the best portable air conditioners below, but for 2021, these are our top five picks:
- BEST OVERALL: Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU –$599.99 $522.55
- RUNNER UP: BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT – $437.00
- BEST SPLURGE: Honeywell 14,000 BTU Air Conditioner – $689.99
- BUDGET BUY: SereneLife SLPAC 105W Smart AC Unit – $340.41
- BEST SMART AC: LG Smart Standing Air Conditioner – $529.00
What Features Should You Look for in Portable Air Conditioners?
Most portable air conditioners, regardless of the brand, come with standard features that are appealing to anyone trying to buy one of these AC units. These include temperature settings and a range of operating modes. Here are the features to look for that will provide a better user experience:
Timer: This allows you to set specific hours of operations for your unit and some portable ACs have timers that you can set for up to 24 hours.
Fan Speed: In general, your unit should have two to three different speed settings for your fan: slow, medium and high.
Wi-Fi Connection & Smart Features: As more products become tech-friendly, this is important if you want to control your AC using your smartphone. Smart air conditioners are still a relatively small product category, but each year more options are released from brands like LG.
Mode of Operations: Most portable AC units are versatile machines that can be operated in different settings, independently or simultaneously. The most common mode of operation is obvious — air cooling, followed by dehumidifying the room and serving as a fan only. Some air conditioners also have a quiet mode so that the appliance won’t interrupt your sleep when operating at night.
Finally, you’ll want to pay attention to BTUs and square footage. Most AC units are designed to cool down spaces up to a certain size. So, for instance, they might be able to cool rooms up to 700 square feet. In most major US cities, any air conditioner that can cool rooms up to 450 square feet will more than likely cool your primary living space.
BTU ASHRAE vs. BTU DOE – What Do They Mean?
If you have looked at some portable air conditioners already, you may have noticed that they have two different BTU (British Thermal Unit) ratings. One is the BTU ASHRAE, which is what the company estimates the unit cooling capacity to be. And the BTU DOE, also known as SACC (seasonal adjusted cooling capacity), is a method set by the Department of Energy that takes into consideration the heating each AC generates when operating and determines the actual cooling efficiency capability of the unit. The BTU DOE number is always lower than the BTU ASHRAE, but it’s also the much more important one. So, when considering the cooling rating of a unit, make sure to pay attention to the BTU DOE.
In general, units with a higher BTU rating will offer more powerful cooling abilities.
Best Portable Air Conditioners of 2021
There are several factors that you will want to consider when selecting your portable air conditioner. These include the size of the room or space, the type of weather in your area, how often you’ll use it, the efficiency of the machine, and the cost. Another important factor to consider is the noise the unit produces. The last thing you want is to have a loud compressor going on in the background. Last, you’ll want to find a portable AC that is able to remove humidity, especially if you live in a humid environment.
Now, let’s jump into getting to know the best portable air conditioners to consider, all ranging from $300 up to $700 a unit.
1. Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
Whynter is one of the most popular air conditioner brands, and even though they lack the name recognition of companies like Samsung or Whirlpool, they make the best portable air conditioner of 2021, full stop. The Whynter ARC-14S has everything we’re looking for in an air conditioner: a dual-hose system, a high BTU rating, a reasonable price tag, stellar customer reviews and a sleek design. This unit has earned nearly 3,000 5-star reviews from Amazon customers and counting, and we haven’t even mentioned the carbon filter and dehumidifier built in to the design.
Powerful, multifunctional, and attractive to the eye, the WHYNTER ARC-14S comes with a cooling capacity of 14,000 BTU / 9,500 BTU and is able to keep rooms up to 500-square feet nice and cool. This double hosed unit can be operated as an AC, dehumidifier or a fan and has three speed settings. Plus, it comes with a built-in timer, thermostat, and remote control, and best of all it drains itself and is eco-friendly. So all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the cool breeze from your new AC on a hot day.
However, there are a few drawbacks to note. There are ACs below that can cool down larger rooms, and this affordable air conditioner lacks Wi-Fi connectivity, so it won’t connect to your voice assistant of choice (you can operate via remote control, however). In addition, you can’t control the direction of the airflow.
2. BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT Portable Air Conditioner
Sleek, compact, and with the power to cool a space of up to 350-square feet, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT will make a great addition to any apartment or bedroom. While it’s not as powerful as some options on this list, this portable AC unit has a respectable 14,000 BTU ASHRAE / 8,000 BTU DOE rating, and it is easy to install and move around. The unit comes with a 24-hour timer and a self-evaporation system. It can also dehumidify, cool and be used as a fan — you pick whichever setting works best on a given day. This piece will be sure to keep you cool all day long.
Like the Whynter ARC-14S, this unit won’t accept voice commands or connect to Wi-Fi, although it can be controlled from bed via a remote control. At night, you can also activate a sleep mode to keep cool without too much noise from your new AC unit.
3. Honeywell 14,000 BTU Air Portable Conditioner
Honeywell makes some of the best portable air conditioners, although you will need to pay a littlle more. This unit offers a high cooling rating of 14,000 ASHRAE / 8,500 DOE BTU, which is well above average. Thanks to the high BTU rating and dual hose system, this Honeywell air conditioner boasts the power to cool off any room of up to 750-square feet, and it’s far and away the best portable air conditioner for large rooms. This portable AC unit also comes with a digital thermostat that uses smart technology and an easy-to-use control panel and remote control, so you can operate it from the comfort of your couch or bed. Plus, it’s super easy to install and move around. As a relatively new product, it doesn’t have many customer reviews yet, but it comes from a brand we trust to deliver quality products and comes in ISTA-6 certified packaging for extra protection during delivery.
If this particular model goes out of stock, and we expect it will as the temperatures rise, you can also buy a similar Honeywell 12,000 BTU Air Conditioner from The Home Depot.
4. SereneLife SLPAC 105W Smart AC Unit
Looking for an affordable air conditioner under $400? Then you won’t find an option with more features than the SereneLife SLPAC unit, which boasts Wi-Fi connectivity usually reserved for much more expensive appliances. If you love to control all your gadgets in your home using your smartphone, the SereneLife SLPAC 105W is for you. With the ability to operate your portable AC unity right from your phone, and a cooling capacity for an area of up to 300-square feet thanks to its 10,000 BTU ASHRAE / 6,000 BTU DOE rating, you’ll be sure to brag about this piece of technology to all of your friends without air conditioning.
5. LG Smart Standing Air Conditioner
BEST SMART AC
If having a smart air conditioner that functions with voice assistants (LG ThinQ, Google Home, Amazon Alexa) is important to you, then you’ll want to go with this new LG air conditioner. In addition to the standard remote control, this LG appliance connects to Wi-Fi for app and voice control. The unit itself is also quite powerful, as it’s rated for 14,000 / 10,000 BTUs. There are a lot of air conditioners on this list with a 14,000 ASHRAE rating, but you’ll notice the functional BTU typically drops quite a bit. That’s not the case with LG, which offers a 10,000 BTU DOE rating and can easily cool rooms up to 450 square feet.
The best standing air conditioners offer a fan, cooling and dehumidifying, and this LG product is no exception. This unit also features an auto-shutoff, multiple fan speeds and easy installation. The price tag is a bit more than our other top picks, but it’s more than worth the extra price for the smart features and extra cooling power.
6. LG Dual Inverter Smart Air Conditioner
BEST SMART AIR CONDITIONER OVERALL
We wanted to include at least one window air conditioner on this list. While it can’t as easily be moved from room to room, you can take it with you when you move into a new apartment. This smart window air conditioning unit from LG works with LG’s ThinQ smart assistant as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. This window unit offers three cooling and fan speeds and a 9,000 BUT DOE rating, more than enough power to keep rooms up to 450 square feet cool even on the hottest summer days. This smart air conditioner also has a sleep mode where the noise level drops to a low 44 decibels, which is a nice added touch.
7. MIDEA MAP08R1CWT 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner
BEST FOR SMALLL ROOMS
Offering 8,000 BTU ASHRAE / 5,300 BTU, the Midea MAP08R1CWT is perfect for a small room like a bedroom or dorm room of up to 150-square feet. It is easy to use thanks to its LED panel and a remote control, plus it has a timer and three modes, so you are sure to keep your space cool, humidity-free and, for those not too hot days, you can use the fan-only setting. Plus, it comes with a reusable filter. Not as powerful as the options above, the $300 price tag is hard to argue with, especially if your bedroom gets so hot at night that you aren’t able to sleep.
8. SereneLife SLPAC10 Portable Air Conditioner
BEST FOR MEDIUM-SIZED ROOMS
With three operation modes — AC, fan, and dehumidifier — and a cooling rating of 10,000 BTU ASHRAE / 6,000 BTU DOE, the SereneLife SLPAC10 can cool a space of up to 400-square feet. Thanks to its powerful built-in dehumidifier, excess humidity will also be gone in a breeze. Plus, its auto-swing system circulates cool air throughout the room, and it’s easy to relocate using its rolling wheels. It comes conveniently with an extra-long power cord and is quick and easy to operate.
9. BLACK+DECKER BPAC12WT Portable Air Conditioner
BEST FOR SLEEP
There’s nothing better than enjoying a comfortable and cool night of sleep on a hot summer night. And that’s exactly what the BLACK+DECKER BPAC12WT will help you achieve. With 12,000 BTU ASHRAE (or 6,500 BTU DOE), this small portable AC can cool a room of up to 300-square feet to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks to the sleep mode that helps minimize the noise and the 24-hour timer, you will soon be as comfortable as you deserve to be at night. Like the best portable air conditioners, this AC unit also has excellent customer reviews. After nearly 4,000 reviews, this BLACK+DECKER unit has a solid 4.4-star rating and costs under $400.
10. SereneLife SLPAC8 Portable Electric Air Conditioner Unit
Capable of cooling off a room area of up to 200-square feet, the SereneLife SLPAC8 is the right fit for those medium-sized rooms. It’s affordable, lightweight, and easy to move around, and offers three functioning modes. Neither humidity or hot weather will keep it from amazing you. With a cooling power of 8,000 BTU Ashare / 4,000 BTU DOE, a built-in moisture and humidity remover, and a digital remote control. This unit is easy to install, and we’re confident that you’ll be happy to have it humming beside your bed come July.
11. Whynter ARC-122DS Portable Air Conditioner
BEST FOR CLEAN AIR
The Whynter ARC-122DS comes with a cooling rating of 12,000 BTU ASHRAE / 7,000 BTU SACC, perfect for rooms up to 400-square feet. This unit is environmentally friendly, comes with auto-drain, a 3M antimicrobial air filter, and a wide range of cooling temperatures from 61 degrees up to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, it has a digital remote control, a double hose system for faster cooling and a self-timer. This air conditioning unit was first released several years ago, but it’s still one of the top-rated portable AC units for sale in 2021.
12. BLACK+DECKER BPAC10WT Portable Air Conditioner
BEST FOR LIVING ROOMS
Producing little sound, with a cooling capacity for a room of up to 150-square feet, and a cooling rating of 10,000 BTU ASHRAE / 5,500 BTU DOE, the Black+Decker BPAC10WT will keep you and your guests comfortable and cool this summer. These three-in-one units can keep you cool and humidity-free while also providing you with nice, refreshing air circulation. Plus, they don’t take up much space and are easy to install.
With more than 5,400 customer reviews on Amazon and a 4.4-star rating, this is one of the top-rated floor-standing air conditioners on Amazon. It’s one of the best portable air conditioners under $400, but it doesn’t offer very much cooling power compared to the alternatives on this list.