10 Tips for Finding the Best Portable Air Conditioner

AC-14100H-Image9Need to quickly cool down but don't have the space for a window or central air conditioning system? If so, a portable air conditioner may be just what you need to beat the heat this summer.

A portable air conditioner is a small, mobile unit that can be moved from room to room. Unlike air conditioners which must be mounted in a window, portable AC units are easy to maneuver, can be placed directly on the floor, and require no permanent installation. They work great in apartment situations where a window air conditioning unit just isn't an option, or as a supplement in large homes where central AC isn't sufficient.

To find the best portable air conditioner, read through our ten buying tips!

1. Determine the size of the area you want to cool.

Mobile AC units aren't meant to cool down entire homes or buildings; they're more suitable for spot cooling specific areas or rooms. The first step to choosing the best portable air conditioner for your needs is to determine the square footage of the area you want to cool.

2. Find out how much cooling power you need.

Air conditioners are sized according to BTUs. The BTU rating describes the unit's power and cooling capacity. The higher the BTU rating, the more powerful the air conditioner. An incorrectly sized portable AC unit will result in inefficient cooling, so choose wisely! Refer to the chart below to find out how many BTUs you'll need:

Portable Air Conditioner Sizing Guide

Your Room Size

How Many BTUs You Need

100 - 200 square feet 7,000 - 10,000
150 - 250 square feet 8,000 - 11,000
250 - 350 square feet 9,000 - 12,000
350 - 450 square feet 12,000 - 16,000


3. Add or subtract BTUs if needed.

The above chart estimates BTUs based on average room conditions in a moderate climate. Some exceptions may also apply, and if they do, you'll need to add or subtract BTUs as necessary.

  • Add the BTU amount by 10% for two- story homes or especially sunny areas
  • Reduce the BTUs by 10% for shaded areas
  • Add 600 BTUs for each additional person over two persons in a room
  • Add 4,000 BTUs if you're cooling a kitchen

AC-10000E Image104. Consider your environment's overall climate.

If you live in an especially hot or arid climate, a mobile room air conditioner spanning less than 20° may not be sufficient. Look for temperature increments, and be sure that the unit you choose can be incremented in notches of 1° to 2°. This allows for greater precision and prevents electricity waste.

5. Look for an auto-evaporative system.

One thing to consider is an air conditioner's cooling technology. Most modern ACs use auto-evaporative systems that recycle moisture collected during the cooling process to provide more efficient cooling. This type of system will also reduce the amount of condensate collected in the unit's tank. Our best portable air conditioners all have auto-evaporative cooling systems.

NewAir AC-12100E Main Image6. Pay attention to venting requirements

All portable air conditioners need to be vented out of a window, drop ceiling or wall. Most units will come with installation directions and window kits for venting. When choosing a portable air conditioner and if venting through a window, make sure the window you intend to install the vent on matches the type of window covered by the kit.

7. Think about noise levels.

Many modern room air conditioners are relatively quiet, but if you are concerned about noise levels, be sure to pay attention to decibel ratings. The higher the decibel, the louder the unit is. So if you're planning to use your air conditioner in your bedroom at night, try to find one that's quieter.

8. Look at the EER rating.

EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio and this is another number that's commonly used in the portable air conditioning industry. High EER ratings are favorable because this means the unit costs less to operate. The best portable ACs have EERs over 10, and the higher the EER, the more the air conditioner will cost. If a model doesn't have its EER listed, you can calculate this number by dividing the unit's BTUs by its wattage.

paclivingroom9. Purchase an AC with a built-in heater.

Many portable air conditioners offer even more versatility with both cooling and heating functions. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, look for a model that can heat and cool and use it for year-round thermal comfort. Keep in mind that additional functions will result in a higher price tag, though.

10. Don't just buy the cheapest model you can find.

Although it's always good to comparison shop, the best portable air conditioner may not always been the cheapest one (or the most expensive). Take the time to read product reviews so you can be sure the product you buy will live up to your needs. If you need more help making a choice, call our cooling experts - we'll be happy to guide you through the process!

Click here to see our best portable air conditioner recommendations.

Why Portable Air Conditioning is Right for You
The Green Guide to Portable Air Conditioners
Portable Air Conditioners & BTU