Just because you don’t have central air conditioning or you don’t have a window that can accommodate a window air conditioning unit, that doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck sweltering when the temperature spikes. A portable air conditioner can provide you with the cooling relief that you need when the mercury rises. They are much less expensive than a central air conditioning system, and they are much easier to install than a window or a wall unit. They also aren’t a permanent fixture, which means you don’t have to deal with the eye-sore that is associated with a central AC system or a wall unit.

When it comes to portable air conditioners, there are a lot of makes and models to choose from, which means that choosing one that will best meet your needs can be a challenge. To help you on your quest for finding the best portable air conditioner, we have done all the research for you and compiled this handy guide to make your shopping more convenient.

Types of Portable Air Conditioners

There are several different types of portable air conditioners available, including:

Fully Self-Evaporating

These portable air conditioners are outfitted with an advanced system that removes condensation. While the unit is running, it actually recycles the water that is condensed, cools if off with its coils and then evaporates the water out of the unit along with the air that it exhausts. The result is increased energy efficiency, enhanced cooling performance and a reduced need to empty the water tank. If the built-in water tank gets full, the compressor automatically shuts off and a light will start to blink, which indicates that the tank needs to be emptied.

Partially Self-Evaporative Portable Air Conditioners

These units can evaporate a lot of moisture, and the moisture that they evaporate is exhausted through their hot air exhaust. What little water they do produce collects in the drain tank, and how often you need to empty the tank depends on how often you use it, and the environmental conditions that exist when you do use it. For example, if you are using the unit excessively and in humid conditions, it will collect more water and the water tank will need to be emptied more frequently.

Gravity Drain Portable Air Conditioners

Gravity drain portable air conditioners feature a permanent connection to a water hose. As the unit cools the air, the water that it condenses is continuously pushed out of the tube and is emptied into a nearby drain using the force of gravity. The main advantage of this type of portable air conditioner is that you won’t have to manually drain the water, which makes them very convenient to use; however, the downside is that the continuous drainage means more energy consumption.

Condensate Pump Models

A condensate pump is a separate accessory, and portable air conditioners that accommodate these accessories are capable of pumping the water through a drain hose in an upward direction, pushing it up and out of the space, such as a window.

Bucket Portable Air Conditioners

These are the most straightforward portable air conditioners. As they cool the air, the water that they create is collected in an internal container, or a bucket. When the bucket is full, the water needs to be manually drained. The upside of this model is that they tend to have a lower price tag; however, the downside is that they have to be drained regularly, which can become cumbersome.

Portable Air Conditioner Considerations

In order to choose the best portable air conditioner for your needs, there are certain factors that you will have to take into consideration. These factors include:

Cooling Capacity

The cooling capacity of a portable air conditioner is, without a doubt, the more important factor you are going to want to take into consideration; after all, the ability to cool a space is the entire reason you are purchasing one of these appliances. The cooling capacity is directly relate to the BTUs, or the British thermal units, a model features. BTUs measure the amount of heat that can be removed from the space in an hour; the higher the BTUs, the greater the cooling capacity of the unit. If you purchase an air conditioner that has insufficient BTUs for your space, it will take too long to cool down the area and may not even cool down the room at all, rendering it ineffective. On the other hand, you don’t want to purchase a unit that has too much cooling capacity, as they consume unnecessary power, which means you will be spending unnecessary money on your energy bills.

When it comes BTUs, 8,000 BTUs can cool a 200 square foot space; 10,000 BTUs can call a 300 square foot space; 12,000 BTUs can cool a 400 square foot space. In other words, with every increase of 50 square feet, you will need another 1,000 BTUs to cool it.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficient is an important consideration, not only for your electric bills, but also for the environment. To determine the energy efficiency of a portable air conditioner, you need to check the Energy Efficiency Rating, or the EER. To determine the watts of energy a unit will use, divide the BTUs by the EER; an 8,000 BTU unit with an EER of 9 uses 899 watts of electricity.

The Size

The size and weight of the unit are also important considerations. Portable air conditioners vary significantly in size; they can be big and heavy, or small and light. Consider how you plan on using the unit when choosing the weight and size; for example, will you be using it in one space, or will you be moving it around a lot.

Noise Production

All air conditioners make noise, and portable units are no different. If you are going to be using the unit in a bedroom, you are going to want a quieter unit.

Installation and Maintenance

It goes without saying that you want your portable air conditioner to be as easy to install and maintain as possible; however, what is easy for some may not be easy for others. If possible, download the instruction manual of the unit you are considering before purchasing it. This will allow you to get a better idea of what installation and maintenance will be like.

The Cost

There’s also the price to consider. Generally speaking, the more BTUs a unit has, the more it is going to cost; however, there are other factors that can affect the price. Additional features, such as a remote or a programmable timer can drive the price up.

Portable Air Conditioner Features

Many portable air conditioners are equipped with special features. These features are designed to enhance the usability of the device. We found that the best portable air conditioners boast the following features:

Remote Control

If you want to be able to adjust the settings from across the room, or turn the AC off while you are on the couch, a remote control will be very handy. With the touch of a button, you can adjust the temperature, the fan and turn it on or off.

Directional Air Control

If you want to control the direction that the cooled air blows in, this is a handy feature. You can adjust the position of the air vent, which allows you to point the air in the direction you want it to flow.

Programmable Timer

Want to have your home cooled when you get home from work, but don’t want to leave it running all day? With a programmable timer, you can set the time that the unit will turn on and turn off, including the temperature and the speed of the fan.


If you plan on moving your portable air conditioner around, casters will make it a whole lot easier. The casters glide the unit across the floor, improving its mobility.

Digital Controls

Simply push a button and you can control the temperature, the fan speed and turn the unit on and off when it has digital controls. There’s no need to worry about twisting big, bulky knobs and hoping that you get it on the right setting.

A Handle

If you are going to be moving your portable AC around a lot, a carrying handle will make transporting it all the more easier.

Additional Modes

Some portable air conditioners do more than just cool the air; they can also dehumidify the air, act as a fan, and / or act as a heater. These units may cost more upfront, but they can really give you a lot of bang for your buck.

Best Brands

There are tons of manufacturers that produce portable air conditioners. After conducting extensive research, we found that the following brands are the best. Offering an array of models to suit all of the considerations and features mentioned above, you will be sure to find a portable air conditioner that meets your needs when you choose one of these brands.

LG: For more than five decades, LG has been at the forefront of innovative home appliance technology. Their portable air conditioners offer the most cutting edge technologies. They offer a wide range of models to suit all needs.

Honeywell: All of the portable air conditioners that are made by Honeywell are outfitted with casters, which means easy mobility. This manufacturer also produces units in an abundance of sizes and that boast various features, making them a top pick in the portable air conditioner department.

Whynter: This company is known for producing eco-friendly portable air conditioners. Many of their models are free from chemicals that can impact the ozone, and they also use low energy levels, making them an excellent environmentally friendly option. Plus, a lot of their models boast the above-mentioned features, which means that they are not only environmentally friendly, but they are also user friendly.