These are the 10 Best Portable Air Conditioners for Beating Summer Heat

7 min


The portable air conditioner is gaining ground on the window air conditioner, and it’s easy to see why. For many people, it’s a better alternative. It’s easier to set up and doesn’t require heavy lifting to install. These free-standing appliances have caster wheels that allow you to move them easily inside the room or relocate them from one room to another. All you have to do is attach a hose from the unit to a lightweight mount that fits in your window. It’s a simple way to get cool air in any room. 

How We Tested These Air Conditioners

We tested our air conditioners on the same day, in the same space for a set period with consistent moisture and indoor/outdoor temperature. We set the temperature on each air conditioner to 68 degrees, maximum fan speed, and aimed their outlet at a target eight feet away and measured the temperature at four locations on the target.

We investigated other metrics, too. We looked at the outlet temperature of each appliance to check for consistent temperature differential and we tested on a hard surface to ensure that rattles would be obvious. We tested all remotes to be sure they played nicely with the unit.

We tested the top three units in this review. They all performed well and should meet the needs of most users, producing a consistent temperature with a pleasant white noise. Because we know not everyone has the same demands, we recommended additional units based on our research into the market, their unique features, user reviews, and testing of similar options.MOST POWERFULLG 115V$699.99SHOP NOW

LG’s appliance was the most powerful of the three tested.  We set the temperature and fan speed and before we could even return to our notes, it was blowing ice cold air. And the automatic movement of the discharge louvers ensured even temperature distribution at the target. It held its temperature almost as well as the Honeywell. Given those features, the appliance’s large BTU number, we think the LG is well suited for large apartments or office areas that might need extra cooling capacity due to digital equipment. In terms of maintenance, the LG was the best of the three, with both filters’ grills requiring no tools for removal. The top grill is particularly well designed with an easy lift off design.

Modes: Cool, fan only, dehumidify
Cord length: 54 inches
Hose, fully extended: 57 inches
Electrical /BTU: 12 amps, 14,000 BTU
Condensate removed: 10 tablespoonsMOST ACCURATEHoneywell HL09CESWK$449.99 $379.99 (16% off)SHOP NOW

The Honeywell is a robustly-built and pleasant-sounding appliance. It’s amperage and BTU rating puts it in firmly in the mid-power range for these appliances. It should more than hold its own in the average apartment. All of the air conditioners produced an accurate and stable temperature during our tests, but the Honeywell was exceptional, holding the target temperature within one degree or less. As far as maintenance goes, access to all its air filters is very good. The top filter grill has tool-free access. The lower grill is held with a single pan head sheet metal screw, not an exotic Euro fastener of some kind. If you lose that screw, a trip to the hardware store solves the problem.

Modes: Cool, fan only, dehumidify, heat pump/heat
Cord length: 73 inches
Hose, fully extended: 59 inches
Electrical /BTU: 8 amps, 9,000 BTU
Condensate removed: 10 tablespoonsADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW



The smallest of the three, in terms of its size and capacity, the Black & Decker is best suited to small-room cooling, perhaps even supplementing a central air system in a tall condominium or townhouse that has an uncomfortably warm upstairs room. We liked the Black & Decker’s air distribution. You manually set the output louver vertical direction to adjust the appliance’s throw (HVAC lingo for how far the appliance throws the air) but behind those louvers is an oscillating louver that moves automatically left to right. The result is smooth, clean cold air softly delivered over a broad area. 

The appliance’s maintenance looks pretty easy to us. The owner’s manual says that you’ll need to drain condensate only under extreme conditions. We found no condensate in our test; we’re left to conclude that was an accurate statement. Grill removal was not as simple as the other appliances, but it’s still pretty good. The top grill is removed tool free; the side grill is held by two thread-forming screws for plastic. The third filter slides out. Three filters, two screws. That’s a pretty good score in our book.

Modes: Cool, fan only, dehumidify, heat pump/heat
Cord length: 70 inchesHose, fully extended: 57 inches
Electrical /BTU: 10.8 amps, 10,000 BTU
Condensate removed: Produced no measurable condensate ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

More Great Options to Consider



We recommend the following options based on our deep experience reviewing air conditioners, research into the market, testing similar models, and a survey of consumer reviews. Although we haven’t tested their performance, they have compelling price, design, or features that may meet your needs. At the end, we’ve also included a few evaporative coolers, which are not air conditioners—they cool a small area by introducing a water mist into a fan and lower the air temperature by evaporation. They’re also known as swamp coolers.Whynter Elite ARC-122DS

COURTESYWhynter$600.00 $418.99 (30% off)BUY NOW

This air conditioner was named best overall portable air conditioner by the Good Housekeeping Institute. And it is one of two appliances we reviewed that have a dual-hose design. One hose intakes outdoor air and then filters, cools and dehumidifies it before blowing it into the room. With the other hose, the appliance ejects indoor air to the outdoors. The design prevents the appliance from creating a negative pressure in the cooled space, which can pull in warm, humid air from building cavities, the attic, the crawlspace and other undesirable locations. We also like that the appliance creates very little condensate, so you won’t have to change the collection tank as often.  

Modes: Cool, Fan only, dehumidify
Hose, fully extended: 60 inches
Electrical/BTU: 9 amps, 12,000 BTU

Frigidaire B06Y1BLFBN

COURTESYFrigidaire$549.00BUY NOW

 Two design attributes of the Frigidaire make it attractive: Powerful high-BTU cooling capacity and a cylinder shape that is unlike any other portable air conditioner we reviewed. And if you like tech, you’ll dig the Frigidaire app that lets you run this appliance remotely. The on-machine controls are simple and intuitive: A large panel on the front with a row of buttons below helps you set modes and fan speed. And a cleanly-designed pancake-shaped remote control nests into the appliance’s top. By pancake shape, we mean something like the iconic Honeywell wall thermostat: round and simple. Finally, Frigidaire makes it easy to get service or parts should the appliance break or wear out.

Modes: Cool, Fan only, dehumidify
Hose, fully extended: 59 inches
Electrical/BTU: amps not available, 12,000 BTU
Whynter ARC-14S$469.99BUY NOW

Another Good Housekeeping top pick, the Whynter’s amperage and BTU capacity position it firmly in the heavy-duty cooling category (and the heavy category; this appliance weighs 80 pounds). It’s a dual-hose (intake and exhaust) which, theoretically at least, should reduce the amount of condensate that the appliance collects, since it’s supposed to be removed in the exhaust air stream. A similar model (ARC-14SH) also operates in heat pump/heater mode. For a slightly smaller model, check out the Whynter just below.

Modes: Cool, fan only, dehumidify
Hose, fully extended: Not noted
Electrical/BTU: 10.8 amps, 14,000 BTU

Whynter Elite ARC-122DS$600.00$418.99 (30% off)SHOP NOW

This Whynter appliance is a good alternative for people looking at the upper end of the mid-power range. Its specifications indicate substantial cooling and amperage draw, yet not so much that you’ll have to worry about tripping the breaker in most cases. It’s a few pounds lighter and a little smaller than its big brother, which might make it better fit if you’ve got a crowded home office or a couple of kids that are getting cranky from sleeping in a small and stuffy bedroom. 

Modes: Cool, fan only, dehumidify
Hose, fully extended: Not noted
Electrical/BTU: 9 amps, 14,000 BTU
Honeywell CSO71AE$155.12SHOP NOW

Not to be confused with an air conditioner, this Honeywell appliance is a low-energy alternative to air conditioning in arid environments. It cools by evaporating a mist into the area and by substantial air flow (176 cubic feet per minute). Given that it operates at 50 watts (about the same energy use as an old-fashioned light bulb), it’s perfect for hot, low-humidity conditions, especially where the user will be as close to the appliance as is practical. Honeywell recommends it be used with either ice or water and indoors with an open window and sufficient cross ventilation. Honeywell estimates it will comfortably cool a 100-square-foot area.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

Evapolar Personal Evaporative Air Cooler$169.00SHOP NOW

An even smaller, lighter-duty alternative to the Honeywell evaporative cooler, is this one from Evapolar. It operates at only 10 watts of power and is rated to cool a 45-square-foot area. We haven’t tested it yet, but we think it’s probably a great way to keep a little more comfortable in a non-air conditioned work space that’s typically found in industrial and commercial environments.

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