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The 5 Best Portable Air Conditioners of 2023

Mar 21, 2024

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Window air conditioners are efficient, affordable, and effective for cooling your space, but if you don't have single- or double-hung windows, you can't properly install them. Instead, portable ACs are the best air conditioners if you don't have the appropriate setup for a window unit.

Compared to window ACs, portable units come with slightly higher operational and upfront costs, but also boast several advantages. They are often allowed in rentals where window units are not, are easier to store and install, and some roll effortlessly from one room to another.

We tested 12 portable air conditioners and consulted two experts to help you choose the best unit. Below is our meticulously curated collection of portable ACs that will keep appropriately sized rooms cool. Our picks performed well in our rigorous objective tests and are equipped with useful features. If you're not sure whether a portable AC is right for you, read our comparison of portable air conditioners versus window air conditioners.

Learn more about how Insider Reviews tests and researches home products.

Best overall: LG LP1419IVSM Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner - See at AbtThe LG LP1419IVSM Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner is a well-rounded, energy-saving unit that can be controlled by your phone or voice.

Best budget: LG LP0621WSR Portable Air Conditioner - See at The Home DepotThe LG LP0621WSR Portable Air Conditioner is the most affordable unit we tested, doing a decent job of cooling while making relatively little noise.

Best with heat: Black+Decker BPACT14HWT Portable Air Conditioner - See at AmazonNot only was the Black+Decker BPACT14HWT Portable Air Conditioner the runner-up in our cooling tests, but you can also use it to heat your room in the winter.

Best for large rooms: Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner - See at AmazonThe Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner may be big and not as portable as other units, but it did the best job of cooling our 550-square-foot test room.

Best smart: Midea Duo Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner - See at AmazonThe Midea Duo Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner has a feature-rich app that pairs with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control, and it does an outstanding job of cooling while operating quietly.

Pros: Fits a broad range of window sizes, easy to move, can be scheduled and controlled with your phone, lowest energy use in our tests, performed well in cooling tests, Google Home and Alexa-enabled

Cons: Minimal warranty, longer setup than others

What sets the LG LP1419IVSM Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner apart is its dual-inverter compressor. Unlike most units that turn on and off to regulate the room temperature, an inverter compressor AC has a variable-speed motor, making it more energy efficient.

Like all portable ACs, it isn't Energy Star-certified and still isn't as efficient as a window unit. In our energy use tests, it used 13% less power than the next most energy-efficient portable air conditioner we recommend: our budget pick, the LG LP0621WSR.

You can use your phone as a remote and set a schedule using the LG ThinQ app (iOS and Android.) My kid has used the LG LP1419IVSM in their bedroom for three years and likes that they can use their phone to turn it on close to bedtime, so the room is cool when they get there.

The LG portable AC was among the best at cooling, only outperformed by the Whynter ARC-14S (our best portable air conditioner for large rooms pick). It does an outstanding job of keeping the room cool. Though it's not one of the quietest models (56 decibels, about as loud as a refrigerator), my kid likes that the white noise drowns out the city sounds.

I like that this LG unit can fit windows up to 60 inches wide. However, installation took longer than other ACs I've tested. It's easy to maneuver from room to room thanks to a window-slider storage slot, smooth casters, and handles, though switching between floors can be a hassle with its 71-pound weight.

Read our full LG portable air conditioner review.

Pros: Good for cooling smaller rooms, low energy consumption (for a portable AC), easy to set up and install, fits a broad range of window sizes, relatively light

Cons: Ran into trouble moving it from room to room, minimal warranty

At its price and Btu rating, the LG LP0621WSR Portable Air Conditioner did a great job of cooling in our tests. It's designed to cool rooms of about 250 square feet, but it cooled our 550-square-foot testing room by more than 2 degrees in the two-hour testing period. That's pretty good.

This performance was particularly impressive considering how much power it used. Only our top pick used less power.

The LG LP0621WSR was easy to set up and install. Within 10 minutes of opening the box, I had it cooling the room. You'll need a Phillips-head screwdriver to secure the window panels. The panels fit a wide range of window sizes, a nice feature since I have extra-wide windows.

The air conditioner is relatively light at 60 pounds and has handles, helpful for moving it from floor to floor. However, I ran into issues moving it from one room to another on the same level. The unit is low to the ground and top-heavy. It fell over as I rushed to roll it to the next room.

Whether on low (55 decibels) or high speed (57 decibels), the noise output of the LG LP0621WSR was average, between a quiet office and a normal conversation.

Pros: Excellent cooling, fast setup, five-year compressor warranty, heating mode

Cons: Loud operation, doesn't come with window security brackets

For its price, the Black+Decker BPACT14HWT Portable Air Conditioner does a lot. In addition to being one of the top performers in our cooling tests, this workhorse also has heating capabilities for the colder months.

I purchased this three years ago, and it's still going strong. I like that I don't have to put it in storage during the winter. Instead, I use it to heat the living room, which tends to run colder than the rest of the house.

Installation was a breeze, taking about five minutes. I didn't need any special tools to get the job done. I like that the window slider extends to 60 inches, which is more than enough for my needs. However, I wish it came with window security brackets to make it harder for someone to push the window open and gain access to my house. Fortunately, this hasn't been an issue.

It's one of the louder units we tested and when I neglect to regularly clean the filter, the Black+Decker produces jarring sounds as it changes fan speeds.

In our tests, it was in the middle of the pack in electricity use. Over the course of two hours, it consumed 1.83 kWh.

We should also note that our air quality monitor registered a 50% increase in VOCs during the testing period. However, the levels weren't high enough to cause concern.

Pros: Top performer in our cooling tests, comes with a storage cover, three-year warranty on compressor

Cons: Cumbersome to move, longer setup, one of the loudest units we tested, window slider only fits windows up to 46-inches long, doesn't come with foam seals

Editor's note: We link to and recommend the Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner in our guide, but we actually tested model ARC-14SH. The only differences between the model we tested and what we recommend are that the ARC-14SH has heating capabilities but is perpetually out of stock. If you happen to find it in stock, we still recommend the ARC-14SH.

The first word that comes to mind when looking at the Whynter ARC-14S Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner is "monolithic." It looks like something out of "2001: A Space Odyssey" with its large, imposing flat front.

Other than its appearance, the most notable feature of the Whynter ARC-14S is its cooling abilities. This is helped by its dual-hose construction. With single-hose portable ACs, the hot air is removed through the hose. This lowers the pressure in the room, causing hot air from outside the room to rush in to equalize the pressure. With two hoses, the Whynter replaces the air that's removed with cool air for more efficient cooling.

It performed the best in our cooling tests, decreasing the temperature in the room by 3.6 degrees over two hours. However, it was also one of the loudest models at 58 decibels.

Weighing 86 pounds, the unit is heavy and lacks handles, making it hard to move from room to room. The initial installation took me half an hour, which is longer than most models. It was slower because the fixtures needed to be screwed by hand into the window slider. The slider was just short of being long enough for my 47-inch window opening so I used some of the Styrofoam packaging to fill the gap. Additionally, it doesn't come with foam seals, which are helpful for efficient cooling.

Pros: Outstanding cooling abilities, quiet operation, an app with several customization options, works with Alexa and Google Assistant, easy installation

Cons: Uses a lot of power, oddly shaped hose, hose doesn't connect securely to window slider

We had a hard time choosing between the Midea Duo Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner (model MAP14HS1TBL) and the LG LP1419IVSM Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner for the top spot in our guide.

The Midea unit did a slightly better job of cooling than the LG and ran quieter in our tests. The main reason the LG earned the top spot is it was much more energy-efficient. The Midea used an additional 0.4 kWh to produce similar cooling results. If you run your portable AC all summer, that would equate to an additional energy cost of about $90 on average. The drastic difference in energy efficiency outweighs the slight differences in cooling and noise performance, so the LG is in our top spot.

The unique hose-in-hose design of the Midea Duo replaces the hot air removed from your room with cool air for more efficient cooling.

It also has several smart functions you don't see in most other portable ACs. You can turn off the LED to avoid light pollution, set a "sleep curve" that adjusts the temperature throughout the night to balance comfort and power use, set the AC to turn on or off depending on whether you're home or not, and airflow directional control.

The feature-packed app (available for iOS and Android) pairs with Alexa or Google Assistant for voice control. I can turn the AC on/off and set a schedule from anywhere using my phone. I schedule the Midea to turn off during surge electrical pricing and to come back on afterward to ensure the room is comfortable by bedtime.

I've used this AC in my bedroom for two years now. The white noise it produces helps reduce the traffic sound from the busy road that runs by my house. It's easy to install, though the hose doesn't stay clipped into the window slider. I have to use duct tape to keep it in place.

Btu and room size: This is short for British thermal units. One Btu equals the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. In cooling, Btu is used to measure how much heat is removed from a room. The more Btu per hour an air conditioner is rated for, the better job it does cooling.

That said, you shouldn't just choose an AC based on Btu. You'll also want to consider room size. Higher Btu units are better at cooling larger spaces, but they're louder and will be too overpowering in smaller rooms (meaning unnecessarily high cooling costs). Use the table below (from the Energy Star website) to determine what Btu your room requires:

Your Btu needs will be greater if the room has a ceiling over 8 feet high, is very sunny, is regularly occupied by more than two people, or is a kitchen.

Energy efficiency: Portable air conditioners are not energy-efficient, and most are not Energy Star certified. Still, if you're hoping to save some money on cooling costs or limit your carbon footprint, you'll want to consider energy efficiency. There are two factors to look at here: the compressor, and kWh usage.

A portable air conditioner's compressor works to push the hot air outside so cold air can circulate in your room. Dual-inverter compressors like the one found in our top pick are the most energy efficient. These compressors have variable-speed motors that use much less energy than traditional compressors.

To get an overall feel for the energy usage of your AC, you'll want to look at kWh usage, short for kilowatt-hour. It's a unit of energy that most electricity utilities use to measure your power use, and it's what we use to measure the energy consumption of the air conditioners we test. The lower the kWh usage, the better.

Window size: Every portable AC comes with a window slider: a long, adjustable piece of plastic that goes in your window's opening. The hose from your portable AC connects to the slider to send the hot air emitted from the unit outside. You'll want to measure your window before purchasing your AC to ensure the window slider will fit your window.

Noise: No one expects an air conditioner to be silent, but you'll want a unit with minimal noise output, especially if you use it while sleeping. We measure noise output with a decibel meter, but in general, you can expect units with more Btu to be louder.

App connectivity: Depending on your needs, you may consider a unit with app connectivity, which allows you to control the air conditioner from your phone. This makes it easy to set a schedule or adjust the settings without getting out of bed. Expect to pay a bit more for the convenience of app connectivity.

I have tested and reviewed air quality, cooling, and heating devices for the past five years and tested 12 portable air conditioners for this guide. I also consulted with Enesta Jones, a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson, and Joanna Mauer, the technical advocacy manager for the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

Based on my research and interviews, the main features to look for when shopping for portable air conditioners are how well they will fit your window, energy consumption, and cooling abilities. Our testing methodology encompasses the following evaluation criteria.

Setup: I timed how long it takes to remove the packaging and install each unit, noting if tools are needed to do the job.

Cooling: I set my home's heating system to 75 degrees. Once at the set point, I cranked the portable air conditioner to its highest fan speed and lowest temperature. Using a digital thermometer placed on the other side of the 550-square-foot testing room, I compared the before temp to the temperature 2 hours later to see how well the unit cooled.

Noise: A loud air conditioner can make it hard to watch TV, work, or sleep. I measured each unit's noise output by holding a sound meter 6 feet away from the AC as it ran on its highest setting. It lost points if the compressor made jarring sounds as it turned on and off.

Power use: Using a smart plug, I measured how much energy each unit used while running on high for 2 hours. The least energy-efficient window air conditioner I tested still uses less power than the most efficient portable unit.

Air quality: Before and after running the air conditioner for 2 hours, I compared particulate matter and VOC measurements using an air-quality monitor. I didn't weigh this category heavily, but I noted when there were significant changes in the air quality.

Portability: I timed how long it took me to uninstall the AC, move it to the next room, and reinstall it. Between the rooms, there is a 3/4-inch threshold, making handles advantageous. I also considered the air conditioner's weight.

Extras: All units in this guide have at least a one-year warranty, fan, and dehumidifying modes and remote controls. ACs needed to have more than this to get extra points. For instance, a heating mode, WiFi connectivity, foam seals for efficient cooling, and a longer warranty contribute to a more favorable assessment of a portable air conditioner.

An international measure of energy, Btu measures how much heat is needed to increase 1 pound of water at sea level by 1 degree Fahrenheit. In the world of ACs, a Btu rating indicates how much heat a portable AC removes from a room each hour.

You want roughly 5,000 DOE Btu for a 150-square-foot room, 6,000 Btu for 250 sq. ft., 8,000 Btu for 350 sq. ft., 10,000 Btu for 450 sq. ft., 12,000 Btu for 550 sq. ft., and 14,000 Btu for 700 sq. ft.

The cost, size, and weight of an air conditioner will increase with the Btu rating. However, you must have the right cooling abilities for your room. An AC won't properly remove humidity if its Btu rating is too high for the space. If too low, it won't adequately cool the room.

According to Joanna Mauer, the technical advocacy manager for the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, the DOE Btu rating is more accurate than ASHRAE because it takes into account hot air infiltration and heat losses through the ducts.

Mauer said ASHRAE, the manufacturer's Btu, doesn't account for the significant heat released back into the room by the exhaust hose. There also isn't a consistent testing standard.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) established standardized testing to account for the heat that ends up back in the room. We reference the DOE ratings in our guide.

Mauer recommended keeping the filter clean. Also, during the day, close the curtains and blinds to reduce the room's heat gain. Lastly, she suggested running a fan to circulate the cool air.

As we outline in our guide to portable air conditioners vs window air conditioners, window ACs are the better option for most people.

In our tests, the most efficient portable AC still used 60% more power than our top window pick. The window unit also cost less and did much better cooling.

We strongly recommend buying a window AC if you have a window to support it. Portable units are only preferable when you don't have a single- or double-hung window.

Yes, but the hot air needs a way to leave the space. Otherwise, the unit won't be able to provide any cooling benefits. Your portable AC just needs an opening big enough for the ventilating hose to send the heat outdoors.

To keep your portable air conditioner working optimally, you need to clean the filter at least once per month, more if you are using it more. Below are some other cleaning tips that will ensure you get the most out of your unit.



Twice per season:

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Best overall: Best budget:Best with heat: Best for large rooms:Best smart:Department of Energy (DOE) Btu rating: Recommended room size: Window opening requirements: Warranty: Weight: App connectivity: Extras: Pros: Cons: Read our full LG portable air conditioner review.DOE Btu rating: Recommended room size: Window opening requirements: Warranty: Weight: App connectivity: Extras: Pros: Cons: DOE Btu rating: Recommended room size: Window opening requirements: Warranty: Weight: App connectivity: Extras: Pros: Cons: DOE Btu rating: Recommended room size: Window opening requirements: Warranty: Weight: App connectivity: Extras: Pros: Cons: Department of Energy (DOE) Btu rating: Recommended room size: Window opening requirements: Warranty: Weight: App connectivity: Extras: Pros: Cons: Btu and room sizeEnergy efficiencyWindow sizeNoiseApp connectivitySetup: Cooling: Noise: Power use: Air quality: Portability: Extras: Weekly:Remove condensation: Keep the hose short: Wipe the exterior down:Monthly:Clean the filter: Check the insulation:Twice per season:Vacuum the condenser coils: