We updated this guide in January 2022 to replace any sold-out products and add in new picks from updated testing, including a high-powered model from DeLonghi that gets the job done in large spaces. These picks reflect the top performers from our most recent tests by Good Housekeeping Institute Chief Technologist.
If you don't have central air and need to cool a room ASAP, the first question you have to address is whether you want to buy a portable AC unit or a window air conditioner. When deciding whether or not to buy a portable air conditioner, the experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute take into account how well they perform, how efficient they are and whether they are easy to use. A portable air conditioner is the best route if you can't install a window air conditioner in your space because of design limitations or building restrictions. It’s also a better pick if you’d like a mobile air conditioning unit that can be moved from room to room or stored away at the end of the season.
The experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute rounded up the best portable air conditioners on the market based on categorical expertise from brands we trust, love and use. Since the onset of the pandemic we have road tested nearly 24 models, and reviewed documentation on newer variants of ones we've previously reviewed. We look to see how easy they are to set up, how efficiently they cool a space and how intuitive they are to operate and maintain. The following models were selected because they are efficient at cooling and cutting down on high humidity and easy to use and install. Here are the best portable air conditioners you can buy:
- Best Overall Portable Air Conditioner: Whynter Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner with Heat
- Best Value Portable Air Conditioner: Honeywell Portable Indoor Evaporative Air Cooler
- Best Portable Air Conditioner for Bedrooms: Black + Decker Portable Air Conditioner with Heater
- Quietest Portable Air Conditioner: Whynter Elite ARC-122DS Portable Air Conditioner
- Best Portable Air Conditioner for Large Rooms: DeLonghi Penguino Portable Air Conditioner
- Best Portable Air Conditioner for High Humidity: Whynter Portable Air Conditioner and Heater
- Best Portable Air Conditioner with WiFi: LG Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner
- Best Smart Portable Air Conditioner: LG Smart Dual Inverter Portable Air Conditioner
- Best Portable Air Conditioner for Allergies: Frigidaire Portable Air Conditioner with Wi-Fi Control
- Most Convenient Portable Air Conditioner: Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner with Heat
- Provides powerful cooling over large areas
- Operates as a heater and dehumidifier, too
- Relatively quiet
• BTU: 14,000 (9,500 DOE)
• Cooling area: 500 sq. ft.
• Weight: 80 lbs.
This powerful portable AC from Whynter has a dual hose so it can cool down a room faster than other portable units. Our engineers were impressed by its year-round versatility; in dehumidifier mode, it removed up to 101 pints in a 24-hour period and as a heater it can generate heat up to 77°F. Testers also like the programmable timer that lets you set a schedule for throughout the day, for example programming it to turn on 30 minutes before you'll be home from work. and you can monitor temperature on the digital readout. The exhaust hose extends up to five feet so you'll have some flexibility in placing it, but you'll definitely want to clear the area. The storage bag is a nice added convenience if you do need to stow the unit away throughout the year.
- Moderately priced
- Space-saving tower design
- Cooling and humidifying modes
• BTU: N/A
• Cooling area: 120 sq. ft.
• Weight: 11.2 lbs.
This inexpensive evaporative air cooler is ideal for a small office or bedroom in dryer climates (where humidity stays under 45%). You'll get more of a cool breeze than intense cold air, but it's a solid affordable option for a room that needs a chill. Because it cools air by the evaporation of water, it doesn't need to be hooked up to a window in order to work, so you have more flexibility in choosing where to place it and it only weighs 11.2 pounds, making it easy to move around. The included remote is an extra bonus — control it without needing to leave your bed.
- On the quieter side
- Easy to clean and maintain
• BTU: 8,000 (4,000 DOE)
• Cooling area: 150 sq. ft.
• Weight: 52.9 lbs.
Look to this unit to cool your bedroom without keeping you up at night. It's quieter than other portable air conditioners and at 53 pounds, you won't strain a muscle moving it. It has a smaller suggested cooling area, so it's best for an office or small bedroom. The filter slides out of the back for easy access for cleaning, and the included remote means you won't have to pause working or get out of bed to change the settings.
- Built-in dehumidification mode
- Storage bag for stowing away in winter
• BTU: 12,000 (7,000 DOE)
• Cooling area: 400 sq. ft.
• Weight: 60 lbs.
Similar to our best overall pick from Whynter, this double-hosed cooler and dehumidifier is rated for rooms up to 400 square feet. Our engineers note the instructions and setup are clear-cut and easy to follow, the whole setup was done in about five minutes. The 24-hour programmable timer and included remote helps you better manage cooling throughout the day. Whynter claims it can dehumidify up to 76 pints per 24 hour period. The manufacturer's claimed noise level is under 52 dBA, and in our test environment our lead analyst found it easy to sleep through its operation. The included storage bag helps keep all parts and accessories together for storage in the winter.
- Superb cooling power
- Optional quiet mode
- Motorized louvers for even air distribution
• BTU: 14,000 (6,800 DOE)
• Cooling area: 700 sq. ft.
• Weight: 83.3 lbs.
If you need to cool down an extra-large space, like a great room or big studio apartment, this DeLonghi is a great choice, with its chart-topping 700-square-foot cooling capacity. "Like all portable ACs, it makes some noise at full power, but the quiet mode setting cuts the clamor in half, good for bedrooms," says DiClerico. Our engineers also like the washable filter screen, making the unit a good fit for allergy sufferers. DeLonghi also says that the UV-C technology zaps airborne viruses in the room, but we haven't tested the claim, so our recommendation is based on the AC's impressive cooling power. In our hands-on review, we found it was able to quickly and efficiently cool the test space.
- Dehumidifier, fan and cooler in one
- Easy-to-read display
• BTU: 12,000 (7,900 DOE)
• Cooling area: 400 sq. ft.
• Weight: 71 lbs.
This all-in-one heater, dehumidifier, fan and cooler will get you through the year with multi functionality. Whynter claims this unit can cool up to 400 square feet, and it can dehumidify up to 96 pints over 24 hours. The two-hose operation helps it cool a room faster than single-hosed portable ACs, and the front facing read out helps you monitor the temperature with ease. You can program it up to a 24 hour period.
- Works with Alexa and Google assistant
- Clear, easy-to-use controls
- Quiet operation
• BTU: 12,000 (8,000 DOE)
• Cooling area: 350 sq. ft.
• Weight: 62.9 lbs.
In our road tests. we found this unit to be relatively quiet for its output and simple to move as needed. With the built-in WiFi you can start or stop your cooling remotely, helping to optimize a room before you enter. Or you can opt for using an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device to control it for ultimate flexibility and ease. You can set it to cool mode, fan mode or dry mode, helping to find the ideal environment based upon what sort of day it is (e.g. hot and humid or rainy and damp). We also found the controls to be clear and easy to use on the machine.
- Smart home integration
- Power outage protection
- Cool, dry, fan modes
• BTU: 14,000 (1,000 DOE)
• Cooling area: 500 sq. ft.
• Weight: 78 lbs.
If you like to control your lights, thermostat, doorbell, and more by your smart phone or voice control, you’ll probably want that same convenience with your portable AC. This model from LG is one of the smartest from our tests, thanks to its patented LG ThinQ technology, which integrates with the smart phone app, as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s also a highly versatile machine, able to cool, dehumidify or just circulate air in its fan-only mode. Adds DiClerico, "this particular LG is also a good choice if brownouts are common in your area, since it will automatically turn itself back on after a power outage."
- Built-in air filter and ionizer
- Easy-to-use controls
- Child lock features
• BTU: 12,000 (10,000 DOE)
• Cooling area: 600 sq. ft.
• Weight: 77 lbs.
Since a portable AC is constantly conditioning the air in a room, it’s a good opportunity to filter out dust and other airborne particles. That’s what sets this Frigidaire apart — an onboard washable filter that helps cut down on dust (though it’s no substitute for regular vacuuming!). The Frigidaire offers other features our testers look for, like intuitive controls, a dry mode for humid spaces and a helpful child lock. It’s also very quiet at low and high speeds alike, making it another good choice for bedrooms. As it is WiFi connected and works with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you can control remote on/off through the compatible app or voice control.
- Excellent value
- Combines cooling and heating
• BTU: 14,000 (7,700 DOE)
• Cooling area: 350 sq. ft.
• Weight: 68.3 lbs.
Black _ Decker is known for combining value with capable performance, and that’s our testers take on this unit. Other top picks deliver better cooling output, but the Black+Decker does a respectable job, plus it doubles as a heater for year-round use. It also features dehumidification and fan-only modes for even more versatility. Add in a price tag that’s $100 or more lower than many competitors and it’s clear why this portable AC is worth a look.
While useful features and aesthetics are nice, most importantly, you'll have to find a portable air conditioner with the correct British thermal units (BTUs) or Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity (SACC) rating for capacity. Too strong and you’ll waste unnecessary power, too weak and you’ll likewise use too much energy continuously running the machine on full power and still feeling too warm.
- BTUs: This is how conditioner capacity is measured. It equates to a particular room size for cooling. BTU stands for British Thermal Units.
- ASHRAE: Previously, BTU's was indicated with a measurement based on the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) testing standards. In general, the larger the room, the more BTUs you need. There is a new DOE standard that introduced the Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity (SACC).
- SAAC: More recently, the Department of Energy (DOE) introduced new standards were introduced. SACC is a rating in BTU/hour that is meant to more accurately portray the capabilities of the machine by providing a weighted average based on a variety of test conditions, not just an average use case (think a combination of normal usage, muggy day, a particularly hot or dry day, etc.). This new rating is measured in BTU per hour and is a weighted average based on a variety of test conditions. You may have to size up if your room is atypical, such as having high ceilings or being in a particularly sunny place.
If you have the ability to window-mount, you’re likely going to have more success cooling a room. You may be able to find comparable portable AC units to those that have to be wall or window mounted, but you’re likely going to pay more for them. While portable air conditioners are meant to be easier to move about (they're on wheels after all), they do tend to be louder, since all their mechanicals are sitting right there in the room, instead of out the window. They can also be larger than their counterparts, weighing up to 80 pounds. That and the fact that an exhaust hose is necessary for venting, they’re not as portable as one may imagine.
Portable AC units take up floor space, so it’s important to make sure you have the extra square footage for one. You want to place the unit away from walls so the airflow isn’t restricted, but that will likely mean a longer hose and more space taken up. Which is another drawback, as they require an exhaust tube to be removed and re-installed each time it is moved to another space. For proper efficiency, you need to make sure the exhaust hose is as straight as possible as kinks can limit the effectiveness.
Yes. A portable AC does not work without an exhaust hose. "We hear about consumers who didn't know about the hose and as a result end up with a serious case of buyers' remorse," says Good Housekeeping Institute Home Improvement Director, Dan DiClerico. The machines have to be vented to the outside because they are extracting the hot air that you want released outside of the room. You can choose to vent through a window (most common), wall, ceiling or even door in theory.
Since there are no portable ACs without an exhaust hose, you may want to consider an evaporative cooler if you want a portable unit with no venting to the outside. They require a large amount of water to cool the space and are ideal in dry climates where humidity levels are low and the air is hot.