After many hours of cooling heated rooms, we are pleased to introduce our top pick for the best portable air conditioner: the Honeywell MN10CESWW 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control.
Our step up pick is the Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner (ARC-14S). It is the most powerful air conditioning unit reviewed here, with a 14.6 gallon water tank capacity. This is the most expensive portable air conditioning unit that we have reviewed here today. This unit also has a built in auto drain function for controlling condensation. This is the portable air conditioning unit to go for if you are able to afford it.
Our chosen budget pick is the Soleus Air KY-80 Portable Air Conditioner/Dehumidifier/Fan. The specifications of this product indicate that this unit is meant for smaller areas such as a small office or bedroom. It has an 8,000 BTU, and is capable of cooling a 200 square foot space, while dehumidifying up to 38.4 pints/hour.
Benefits of Portable Air Conditioners
Air conditioners are a savior to those living in hot weathered climates. Many people simply, cannot function without them.
There are many benefits to owning a portable air conditioner, including:
- Convenience of use – A portable air conditioner can be easily moved from room to room as it is not fixed to any specific area of your home.
- Easy set up – It also does not require any major installation as most portable air conditioners actually require minimal set up and are ready to use straight out of the box. If you are not a home owner, and you are worried about restrictions regarding installation of an air conditioner, then a portable air conditioner will suit your needs as it will require no installation to the building itself as it is a self-standing unit.
- More affordable than regular air conditioners – Portable air conditioners are also cheaper to purchase when compared to your conventional air conditioners.
- Despite similar cooling power – A great number of portable air conditioners also come with BTU’s matching those of traditional air conditioning units which means that you will not need to compromise on cooling power.
- Doubles as a dehumidifier – Portable air conditioners also serve a dual purpose, they can function as both an air conditioner as well as an air dehumidifier, so if you do live in humid climates, you should seriously consider getting a portable air conditioning unit.
- Versatile – Another benefit to owning a portable air conditioner is that if you are looking to just cool a small area then this portable option will be able to do just that as they do come in varying BTU’s to cater for the cooling of small spaces to large spaces.
- Save on utility bills – Portable air conditioners can also save you money on your energy bills as they can provide spot cooling for just the areas that require the necessary cooling.
- Portable – Another big benefit is the portability of the unit. Being portable, you can take these units with you on road trips, camping etc.
How many BTUs do I need?
To figure out how large of an air conditioner you need, first figure out the size of your room using this chart from the National Association of Home Builders:
< 2k sf
> 3k sf
Once you know the size of your room, the following table will give you a good reference as to how large of a capacity you need:
Room Size (square feet)
100 up to 150
150 up to 250
250 up to 300
300 up to 350
350 up to 400
400 up to 450
450 up to 550
550 up to 700
700 up to 1,000
1,000 up to 1,200
1,200 up to 1,400
1,400 up to 1,500
1,500 up to 2,000
2,000 up to 2,500
How We Picked
There are 5 major types of room air conditioners to choose from. These are Portable Air Conditioners; Window Air Conditioners; Through-the-Wall Air Conditioners; Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners; Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners (PTACs).
Portable air conditioners are mostly freestanding floor systems that work by cooling your room or office by pulling in fresh air, removing heat and dehumidifying it, and then returning it into your room or office while removing the hot air. It is important to note that to function properly, portable air conditioning systems must be configured to release hot air outside through a window or open door or upward through a drop ceiling opening.
Most of the portable air conditioners on the market today come with a window kit and exhaust accessories that allow you to easily set up your air conditioning unit. Portable air conditioners use a refrigerant to provide more cooling potential than most other outdoor cooling solutions. Setting up your portable air conditioner is simple and does not require any major installation.
The portable air conditioners that were selected for comparison for this review had to meet the following criteria:
- They had to be portable – for ease of use, no need for costly installations, and adaptability for use in different living areas in the home or office.
- We then looked at cooling coverage of the systems. We chose systems that had specifications to cool areas between 200 square feet and 400 square feet. This was done to ensure that a wide range of systems would be included in the review for smaller to larger homes or offices.
- We then looked at the BTU’s of the systems. We included portable air conditioning systems that ranged from 5 000 BTU to 14 000 BTU. Again this was done to ensure that a wide range of systems would be included in the review for smaller to larger homes or offices.
Our Top Pick:
The top pick is the Honeywell MN10CESWW 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. This is a beautiful air purifier unit and is capable of cooling areas up to 350 square feet. This unit can work as an air conditioner or a dehumidifier or a fan. It comes with its own remote control. Because it is portable it requires no major installation and it has four built in caster wheels for easy portability. You will also find in the box, a flexible exhaust hose and self-install window venting kit, which is removable when not in use. It is quiet during operation and can be used dual-purpose as an air conditioner and a dehumidifier at the same time. It has a powerful 10,000 BTU and can cool rooms up to 400 feet in area.
It has an auto-evaporation system which when in use can allow for long periods of unattended use without having to manually constantly drain out excess water. It has a programmable timer for this and LED panels. This portable air conditioner comes with a 5 year limited warranty.
Flaws (but not Deal Breakers)
This unit is not regarded as being the quietest portable air conditioning unit on the market, but a good trade off for this is the price and the value for money. The remote control that this unit comes with is fairly basic so it will not be able to display a digital temperature for you like some of the other units available today are able to do. The louvers on this unit are manual. This means that whenever you use the machine you will need to adjust the louvers yourself, by hand, to the angle that you want the cool air to flow to. Also when you turn off the unit you will need to manually close the louvers as well.
This unit does not also include a mesh to keep out bugs or rain while in use. There are units available for purchase that do include these items but at the sacrifice of other factors, such as price or power of the unit. The flaws of this portable air conditioner chosen to be our top pick are not deal breakers though, as this unit has many pros as mentioned above.
The step up pick has to be the Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner (ARC-14S). It is the most powerful air conditioning unit reviewed here, with a 14.6 gallon water tank capacity. This is the most expensive portable air conditioning unit that we have reviewed here today. This unit also has a built in auto drain function for controlling condensation.
This unit also has a compact, eco-friendly design, which offers reduced energy consumption when compared to other air conditioners. It is portable with four built-in multidirectional casters. It has a dual hose exhaust which works by processing warm air from both the inside and outside environment and converting it into fresh air conditioned air. The used warm, humid air is then evacuated out of the room via the second hose.
This portable air conditioner has a control panel that has an LCD display, with different fan speeds to choose from and an easy programmable feature with on/ off pre-set times. There is also a pre-filter and odor-neutralizing carbon filter in the unit that provides fresh air conditioned air. A built-in safety feature is that is has a leakage current detection and interruption plug, which reduces the risk of fire.
The only reason that this unit was not our top pick is price. It is much more expensive than any of the other worthwhile units on the market.
Our Budget Pick – if affordability is your number 1 priority:
We will now go into our budget pick for this review. Our chosen budget pick is the Soleus Air KY-80 Portable Air Conditioner/Dehumidifier/Fan. The specifications of this product indicate that this unit is meant for smaller areas such as a small office or bedroom. It has an 8,000 BTU, and is capable of cooling a 200 square foot space, while dehumidifying up to 38.4 pints/hour.
It has a selectable 2-speed cooling option. It is also claimed to be energy saving and features a 24-hour on/off timer. As mentioned earlier, this air conditioning unit is portable, and it has built-in casters which makes it easily portable. It is our budget pick so the price will be in the lower range of portable air conditioners. It is compact and portable so if you are looking for an air conditioner for a small space, this is the one to get.
A specialized pick that is worth a mention:
It has a startling 12,000 BTU of cooling power. It is quite powerful for its size. This unit is small and compact in design. It does not require any cumbersome water collection tank and is designed to be used for additional cooling for small areas that your standard air conditioner can’t reach. Its drawcard is that it is very small and will not take up much space in the smaller rooms that require air conditioning. It uniquely has an adjustable output that can be precisely directed when used in offices/ rooms. There also options built in for setting a timer and an auto-restart feature for settings that you have already pre-set.
Air conditioning units have been around for a relatively long period of time now, so have portable air conditioners. We will now review the competitors to the air conditioning units that we have mentioned earlier.
Koldfront 12,000 BTU Room Portable Air Conditioner is a powerful 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. It is designed to be used in small spaces such as small rooms or offices, as it will not take up too much room. It is a small unit but it is powerful. This compact portable air conditioner is claimed to be capable of cooling areas of up to a 400 square feet in area. It also has a dehumidifying function. This unit has a digital thermostat and a built in timer which is claimed to be energy saving, and this unit also comes with a remote control.
SPT 8,000BTU Single Hose Portable AC
SPT 8,000BTU Single Hose Portable AC has 8,000btu cooling power, self-evaporating system, digital temperature display, digital thermostat with remote control. It gives you a choice of programmable timer or continuous operation. It has an extendable exhaust hose, with digital temperature display. It also has 8,000btu cooling power. It has 2 fan speeds for you to choose from as well as an auto-restart feature which is completely programmable. It also claims to have fire resistant PVC plastic housing, as an added safety feature. This particular unit also functions as a dehumidifier which can function automatically in AC mode. This portable air conditioner has washable air filters that collects dust particles and has, like many other portable machines, built in casters for easy portability. It also has a digital thermostat with remote control as well as a choice of programmable timer or continuous operation. This model has directional air discharge louvers and an extendable exhaust hose with a built-in water tank.
This has a programmable 24-hour on-off timer, you can pre-set the operations beforehand for when you are not around. It has a multitude of fan speeds to choose from as well as an auto cool feature which enables you to set the thermostat to a preferred temperature which will ensure that your room or office can stay at you desired temperature in expectation of your arrival. It has its own auto evaporation system which provides continual use without you having to manually remove any excess water. Like many other portable air conditioners on the market today, this unit comes with its own remote control.
As the name implies, this air conditioning unit is portable. It has 8,000 BTUs of cooling power and is claimed to keep rooms or office spaces up to 200 sq. ft. cool. It also has a dehumidifier which is capable of dehumidification of up to 2.0 pints per hour. There is also an adjustable 2-speed cooling fan and 4-way air direction to help in the distribution of the air comfortably throughout your room or office space.
This modern and sleek unit has digital controls that offer easy temperature adjustments, and it comes with a remote control that lets you control the air conditioner from a fair distance away. It has a comprehensive 24 hour On/Off Timer which lets you create your very own cooling schedule without wasting electricity – it is claimed to be very energy efficient in this way. This particular air conditioning unit has a removable, washable and reusable air filter that is sure to save you money in the long run. It is imperative that this unit be vented to the outside though.
This compact unit has a powerful 12,000 BTUs of cooling power which is sure to provide adequate air conditioning to a room or office space of up to 400 sq. ft. It has a dehumidifier as well and can keep rooms cool and comfortable with dehumidification rates of up to 2.8 pints per hour.
This particular unit has an adjustable 3-speed cooling fan and 4-way air direction to aid in continuous distribution of air comfortably throughout the room. This unit has digital controls which will offer precise temperature adjustments. This unit, like many other portable air conditioners has a simple remote control that will let you control the air conditioner from a fair distance away from the unit itself. It also has a 24 hour On/Off Timer that will let you set the hours of operation of the unit beforehand so that energy efficiency is achieved.
Frigidaire’s FRA053PU1 Portable 5,000 BTU Air Conditioner is perfect for small rooms up to 290 square feet. This unit has electronic controls and a full functioning remote control. This particular unit has an antimicrobial filter that is claimed to reduce bacteria, room odors, and other airborne things from the air to create a fresh environment. This unit also has a swing air direction control feature and 3 speeds for the actual cooling and for the fan. It boasts a 5,000 BTU cooling capacity which is capable of cooling room or office sizes up to 216 sq. ft.
How Portable Air Conditioners Work
The first air conditioner was designed on the premise of passing warm air over water cooled coils. It was a simple process. Air conditioners have, however, come a long way today.
Air conditioning systems work by transporting and delivering energy from one location to another. This does mean that when the air conditioner is cooling, as much of the heat as possible is withdrawn from the air in your room or office and then the heat is then transported to the outside and is subsequently released through a contraption called the condenser and also goes through a refrigerant cycle. The gaseous refrigerant is then drawn in by the compressor and is subsequently compressed until the temperature becomes very high.
The substance that is now very hot but still in a gaseous state (which is termed to be the refrigerant) is then pumped from the compressor to the condenser of the unit. A cooling process now occurs. This is where the fan enables the cooling down of the refrigerant which is directly aided by the outside air, which actually allows it to condense and return to a liquid state.
Now, the liquid refrigerant, which is still under a great pressure, is sent back into the evaporator unit which is located in the indoor unit of the machine.
It is at this stage that the warm air in the room is drawn in with the assistance of the fan and is then blown across the evaporator part of the unit. The heat in theory should now be removed from the air.
The air that has now been cooled down is at this point returned back into the room. The heat is now removed which results in cooled air. When the liquid refrigerant evaporates, the required heat is removed from the warm air in the room.
he evaporated and hence gaseous refrigerant is passed through the cooling cycle and into the compressor of the machine, where it is compressed again. Air conditioning units can also function in the opposite way as a heating unit. In the heating function of the unit, the cooling cycle is reversed which means that in this instance the heat is withdrawn from the warm air outside and released into the room by the indoor unit.
Should I invest in a portable air conditioning unit?
This all depends on your specific situation and your current needs. If you have a small area that requires cooling at certain times of the day then yes, a portable air conditioner will suffice. If price is a concern to you, then a portable air conditioning unit when compared to a traditional fixed air conditioning unit, will be cheaper in terms of outlay on capital and running expenses.
Will a portable air conditioning unit save me money?
Yes. As mentioned earlier, being portable means that you will be able to easily move the unit from room to room as is needed. Its initial cost to purchase is less than fixed systems with their installation costs, and it will save you on energy bills.
Do I need to buy a portable air conditioning unit for each of my rooms?
This will be dependent on the size of the portable air conditioning unit you purchase as well as on the layout of your home/ office area. If you have a more open plan living area and you purchase a high BTU unit then one will suffice. But again, this is specific to your own unique needs.
Wrapping it up
After extensive research we chose our top pick, the Honeywell MN10CESWW 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner for the cooling power output it provides. It has very simple assembly and it is an aesthetically pleasing unit. It is a strong dehumidifier and is also cost and energy efficient.
If the top pick is not available, then you should seriously consider our step-up pick. The Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner is the most powerful air conditioning unit reviewed here, with a 14.6 gallon water tank capacity. This is also the most expensive portable air conditioning unit we have reviewed. This unit has a built in auto drain function for controlling condensation. This is the portable air conditioning unit to go for if you are able to afford it. The only reason that this was not our top pick was the price. It is key to note that this unit is more powerful than our top pick with a higher BTU.
Finally, we will end with our budget pick for this review, for the penny conscious. Our chosen budget pick was the Soleus Air KY-80 Portable Air Conditioner. This unit is meant for smaller areas such as a small office or bedroom. It has an 8,000 BTU, and is capable of cooling a 200 square foot space, while dehumidifying up to 38.4 pints/hour.
We hope that review was helpful to you and we wish you all the best with the portable air conditioner you decide to purchase!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.