Three best portable air conditioners
When the weather heats up, an air conditioner is essential for keeping your home comfortable. If you don't want to deal with the expense of installing a central AC system or take up an entire window with a traditional AC unit, though, a portable AC unit is an ideal alternative.
But you have to choose the right portable air conditioner to effectively cool your home. That means deciding on the ideal size, ventilation type, and drainage, among other features. With so many portable air conditioners on the market, figuring out which model is best can be a serious challenge.
That doesn't mean you have to suffer all summer, though. We've got all the tips you need to choose the best portable AC unit for your home. If you're short on time, we have specific product recommendations to make shopping even easier.
Considerations when choosing portable AC units
The most important thing to determine is what size portable AC unit you need. The larger the room you want to cool, the larger your portable AC unit should be. Air conditioners are measured in BTUs (British thermal units), and a higher number indicates a more powerful AC.
Here are some guidelines to help you choose the best size portable AC unit:
For 200 square feet, opt for an 8,000-BTU portable AC unit.
For 300 square feet, opt for a 10,000-BTU portable AC unit.
For 400 square feet, opt for a 12,000-BTU portable AC unit.
For 450 square feet, opt for a 13,000-BTU portable AC unit.
For 500 square feet, opt for a 14,000-BTU portable AC unit.
Portable AC units need to be vented through a window, but you can choose from single-hose or double-hose models.
A single-hose portable AC unit uses the same hose for the intake of fresh air and the exhaust of hot air, while a dual-hose portable AC unit has separate intake and exhaust hoses. Single-hose portable air conditioners are usually less expensive, but dual-hose units cool more effectively and offer greater energy efficiency. A dual-hose portable air conditioner can cool a space up to 40% faster than a single-hose unit.
If you're concerned about the energy that a portable air conditioner requires, opt for an Energy Star-rated model, which means it's certified to meet strict energy efficiency guidelines. It also helps to choose a portable AC unit with a programmable thermostat, so the unit automatically turns itself off when the space reaches your desired temperature.
Portable AC units pull moisture out of the air to cool a room, but they get rid of that excess moisture in a variety of ways.
A fully self-evaporative portable air conditioner releases all the moisture into the air, so you never have to worry about draining the unit. A partially self-evaporative portable air conditioner releases most of its moisture into the air, but it collects some water, which must be drained periodically.
Some portable air conditioner units have a bucket or pan inside that collects the excess moisture and must be emptied regularly. Other portable AC units can be connected to a condensate pump, which pushes the water out through a drain hose that's usually connected to a window. All portable air conditioners can be connected to a permanent drain hose that allows the water to continuously drain into a floor drain.
Like any AC unit, a portable air conditioner makes noise when it's on. Most models aren't particularly loud, but if you're concerned about the noise level, look for a portable air conditioner that's designed specifically for quieter operation.
Portable AC units are often equipped with extra features for more effective cooling and easier operation. Some features that you may want to look for include:
A remote control
Washable air filters
Dehumidify, Fan, Heat, and/or Energy Saver modes
Multiple fan speeds and directional air control
Carrying handle and casters for greater portability
When you're setting up a portable AC unit, make sure that the exhaust hose isn't twisted and doesn't have any kinks so it can effectively get rid of hot air.
Try to turn on your portable air conditioner a couple of hours before the room gets its hottest. The unit won't have to work as hard to keep the space at a comfortable temperature if it starts working when the room is cooler.
Clean your portable AC unit's washable filters regularly to make sure that the unit operates efficiently. Check the owner's manual to see how often the manufacturer recommends cleaning the filters.
Q. Do portable AC units have special electrical requirements?
A. Portable air conditioners usually require a 115-volt outlet, which is the standard voltage for most homes. The units typically have a three-prong plug, though, so if you have an older home, you may need an adapter.
Q. Can a portable air conditioner be vented through any window?
A. The window kit that comes with a portable AC unit can be quickly and easily installed in any standard sash window. They often work well with sliding windows, too.
Portable ACs we recommend
Best of the best: LG 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Our take: One of the best portable AC units available due to its power, which can cool large rooms with ease.
What we like: Can cool up to 500 square feet. Also boasts easy installation and extremely quiet operation despite its power.
What we dislike: One of the pricier portable AC units and not the best option for an attic or garage. Doesn't offer an energy-saving mode and only has two fan settings.
Best bang for your buck: Honeywell Indoor Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
Our take: This portable AC unit is an evaporative cooler rather than a compressor AC, but it works extremely well in drier climates.
What we like: Can cover an indoor area of 280 square feet and works as a mister outdoors. Uses less energy than compressor units, and its three-sided output can cool a home in a hurry.
What we dislike: Doesn't work in climates with high humidity. Must be filled with a steady supply of ice and water. Some owners find that it produces an odor during operation.
Our take: This portable AC unit features a dehumidify mode in addition to cooling and has enough power to cool a large area.
What we like: Offers environmentally friendly operation with limited power use and ozone-safe refrigerant. Produces extremely cold air. Comes with a handy remote for easy operation.
What we dislike: Dehumidify mode can't always handle climates with high humidity. Doesn't fit all windows without modifications. Operation can be fairly noisy.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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