We updated this guide in June 2022 to ensure all portable ACs vetted by the Home Improvement Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute were in stock, available and correctly priced. We also added more insights from our most recent tests, new picks from Pinguino, TCL and Twincool and additional questions to consider before you buy.
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 our experience with brands we trust, love and use. Since 2020, we have tested nearly 24 models and reviewed documentation on newer versions 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.
Our top picks:
Best Overall Portable Air ConditionerDual Hose Portable Air Conditioner Whynter Read More
Best Value Portable Air CoolerPortable Evaporative Cooler with Fan Honeywell Read More
Best Single-Hose Portable ACPortable Air Conditioner TCL Read More
Best Portable Air Conditioner for BedroomsBPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner Black + Decker Read More
Best Portable AC for Large RoomsPinguino Portable AC DeLonghi Read More
Stick around after our top picks to read more about how we test portable AC units plus a breakdown of what you should consider to ensure you buy the right unit for your needs.
- Provides powerful cooling over large areas
- Operates as a heater and dehumidifier, too
- Relatively quiet
This powerful portable AC from Whynter has a dual hose so it can cool down a room faster than other portable units. "Dual hose" means it uses outside air instead of inside air to cool down the internals of the AC, helping it to cool the room quicker and more efficiently. Our engineers were impressed by its year-round versatility; in dehumidifier mode, it removed up to 101 pints of moisture 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 the day, for example programming it to turn on 30 minutes before you'll be home from work. You can monitor the temperature on the digital readout. Even though the exhaust hose must be vented out a window, it extends up to 5 feet, so you’ll have some flexibility on the placement. The storage bag is a nice added convenience if you do need to stow the unit away throughout the year.
• BTU: 14,000 ASHRAE (9,500 SACC)
• Cooling area: 500 sq. ft.
• Weight: 80 lbs.
- Moderately priced
- Space-saving tower design
- Cooling and humidifying modes
- Not as much cooling power as other models
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 the 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. It only weighs 11.2 pounds, making it easy to move around. The included remote is an extra bonus so you can control it without needing to leave your bed. It's also perfect for a patio or backyard. This air cooler pulls less power than any of the other units on the list in such a way you could plug in multiple and still use less energy than a single other portable AC
• BTU: N/A
• Cooling area: 120 sq. ft.
• Weight: 11.2 lbs.
- Powerful Air Flow
- Cools extremely fast
- Can be loud on max fan settings
Precise temperature control sets this portable AC apart from the competition. When our testers set the unit to 64 degrees F and came back sometime later, the temperature in the room was 65.6 degrees F. No other portable AC came that close to achieving the proper ambient temperature. Plus it's a robust 10,000 BTUs SACC, so it has enough cooling power for nearly any room in the house. The air coming from the TLC also came out faster and reached farther than other tested models. Our experts also like the WiFi connectivity, allowing you to control the unit via a smartphone app. But if you don't feel like downloading the app, it also comes with a remote.
• BTU: 14,000 ASHRAE (10,000 SACC)
• Cooling area: 350 sq. ft.
• Weight: 61 lbs.
- On the quieter side
- Easy to clean and maintain
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.
• BTU: 8,000 ASHRAE (4,000 SACC)
• Cooling area: 150 sq. ft.
• Weight: 52.9 lbs.
- ECO Real Feel helps it use less energy
- Biggest cooling area of all tested
- Used most energy out of all tested when in normal operation
The Pinguino is perfect for large rooms with its combination of AC, fan and dehumidifier modes. The unique feature of this machine is the so-called ECO Real Feel, which allows it to work as if it has an inverter, essentially modulating compressor action so that when you reach the appropriate temperature, it doesn't work at 100% anymore. Instead it matches the power needed to maintain the temperature allowing it to save energy. Its swing function allows air to reach more of the room, and its quiet mode turns its already quiet sound levels even lower. Do keep in mind that while it is great for larger rooms, if you are not using the ECO Real Feel, our testers noticed that it used the most power out of all the models we tested.
• BTU: 14000 ASHRAE (8,600 SACC)
• Cooling area: 700 sq. ft.
• Weight: 83 lbs.
- Dehumidifier, fan and cooler in one
- Easy-to-read display
This all-in-one heater, dehumidifier, fan and cooler will get you through the year with its 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-hose portable ACs, and the front-facing read-out helps you monitor the temperature with ease. You can program it for up to a 24-hour period.
• BTU: 12,000 ASHRAE (7,900 SACC)
• Cooling area: 400 sq. ft.
• Weight: 71 lbs.
- Works with Alexa and Google assistant
- Clear, easy-to-use controls
- Quiet operation
When our engineers tested it, 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, so you can create 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. It has the capability to produce some of the lowest temperatures out of all the units we tested.
• BTU: 12,000 ASHRAE (8,000 SACC)
• Cooling area: 350 sq. ft.
• Weight: 62.9 lbs.
- Smart home integration
- Power outage protection
- Cool, dry and fan modes
- Quietest out of all tested
If you like to control your lights, thermostat, doorbell and more via your smartphone or voice control, you’ll probably want that same convenience with your portable AC. This model from LG is one of the smartest in our tests, thanks to its patented LG ThinQ technology, which integrates with a smartphone app, as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It also comes with Smart Diagnosis which allows it to self-diagnose issues and communicate them to you via the app. It’s also a highly versatile machine, able to cool, dehumidify or just circulate air in its fan-only mode. Through our testing, we also were able to determine that it was the quietest unit tested, running at just 50.7 decibels at its highest speed. Its dual-hose inverter combo also gives it the benefit of saving you money during the hottest months of the year. "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," says Home Improvement Lab Director, Dan DiClerico.
• BTU: 14,000 ASHRAE (10,000 SACC)
• Cooling area: 500 sq. ft.
• Weight: 78 lbs.
- Superb cooling power
- Optional quiet mode
- Motorized louvers for even air distribution
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. During our testing, this was determined to also be one of the quieter ACs, even when it wasn't running on quiet mode.
• BTU: 14,000 ASHRAE (6,800 SACC)
• Cooling area: 700 sq. ft.
• Weight: 83.3 lbs.
- I Sense turns remote into portable thermostat
- Inverter technology reduces power usage
If you're looking for a powerful AC that can also save you money, consider the Dreo TwinCool. With its dual-hose inverter technology, it avoids the issue of negative pressure. Negative pressure means that the air outside wants to come inside, so it will find any tiny crack and leak inside making it harder for the AC to cool the room. The Dreo, thanks to inverter tech, is capable of varying the power it uses. When the machine senses that the temperature is where it should be, it actually lowers the speed of the motor that's doing the cooling. Instead of running 100% and then turning it off and back on again, it runs at 50% so it can still keep the room at a cool temperature. Compared to other Portable ACs on the list, it used much less power in our tests, which is good for saving money in the hottest months. A favorite feature with our engineers is the “I Sense” feature, which turns the remote into a portable thermostat, allowing the AC to adjust its temperature and power based on the temperature of the remote. That's helpful if you want the AC to change its temperature and power based on your position in the room.
• BTU: 12000 ASHRAE (10,000 SACC)
• Cooling area: 450 sq. ft.
• Weight: 72.88 lbs.
Our product experts start by shopping the current marketplace to identify top-selling portable ACs that you’re most likely to find at stores and online. Next, they identify brands that have performed the best and proven the most reliable through years of AC testing at the Good Housekeeping Institute. They also consider newer brands with unique features or innovations.
Hands-on testing takes place in our Lab, where we exhausted the heat hose through a flexible duct that went straight into the ceiling (pictured), preventing any heat leak and allowing us to get proper temperature measurements. We also tested some units at home to better evaluate them in real-world conditions. Our engineers consider a variety of factors, starting with ease of setup. We take into account how intuitive the user manuals and other instructions are.
Performance testing also covers multiple factors. We first check to see how close the air temperature coming out of the AC is to our set point. Next, we measure air speed with an anemometer. This tells us how quickly the AC can cool a room. We also test how much power each device consumed using a Kill-a-Watt electricity usage monitor; energy-efficient portable ACs earn extra points. Knowing that portable ACs are often used in bedrooms, we check decibel ranges at various fan speeds using a sound meter.
Portable ACs work by removing the air from a room, cooling it, expelling it back into the room and exhausting the leftover heat through a tube typically connected to a window. There are three main types of portable ACs on the market. While some might be more expensive, depending on the size of the area you are trying to cool and the environment you are in, one could be more beneficial over another.
✔️ Single-Hose Portable AC: The most typical portable AC, a single-hose model draws in air from the room, cools it and expels extra heat through a hose. By connecting the hose to the window outside, you only get the cool air within the room. At the same time, because there is only one hose, the AC draws in more air from the room to cool down the internal components that have gotten hotter due to constant cooling. This creates a negative pressure within the room, which essentially means that air will try to come in through any openings (door, cracks, window, etc.) at a higher rate than normal. This, in turn, makes the AC work harder to cool that extra air. Therefore, it is so important to properly seal the window after installing the portable AC. These are typically cheaper than dual-hose units.
✔️ Dual-Hose Portable AC: Dual-hose ACs work slightly differently than single-hose units and are more efficient. Dual-hose portable ACs utilize both an intake hose and an exhaust hose, both of which connect to the same window. The exhaust hose doesn’t do anything differently; it is still used to expel extra heat. The intake hose has two main uses: It prevents negative pressure and cools down the internal components of the machine. Bringing in external air to cool the system instead of air from within the room bypasses the negative pressure issue, which is why dual-hose units can cool bigger rooms and tend to have a higher energy efficiency rating. This is also why dual-hose units tend to be more expensive than other portable ACs.
✔️ Evaporative Cooler (EC): This is a very different type of Portable AC and only technically makes this list because 1. It is portable and 2. It’s meant to cool an area — but it is not the same design as either of the above. ECs do not have exhaust tubes or intake tubes. They use the process of evaporative cooling to cool a space. The only internal moving part of the EC is the fan inside. An EC typically contains a water reservoir and cooling pads. When the fan draws in hot air across the cooling pads that have absorbed water from the reservoir, the water slowly evaporates. That process of evaporation creates cooler air which is then expelled back into the room. ECs use much less energy than any other AC type, as they do not have internal parts that do the cooling. As it doesn’t need any form of proper exhaust, you can use this in any space and even outside.
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) for your use case. 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 may still end up feeling too warm.
✔️ BTUs: This is how air conditioner capacity is measured and it equates to a particular room size for cooling. BTU stands for British Thermal Units. The DOE recommends an average of 20 BTU for each square foot of living space. If after you calculate, your BTU range is between two sizes offered, opt for the smaller unit. Using too powerful of an AC can be detrimental to the cooling and the comfortability of the room, as it won’t properly de-humidify while cooling. While you’ll have to run a smaller AC for longer, it will still be more efficient, and thus use less power overall. At the same time, it's important to recognize that not all rooms are built the same. You’ll want to size up if your AC is in a room with:
- High ceilings that create more space that needs to be cooled
- High traffic — more people means more heat generated
- Lots of sun (e.g. you live in Florida or Arizona or have lots of windows)
- Near the kitchen with lots of heat-generating appliances
✔️ ASHRAE: Previously, BTUs were indicated with a measurement based on testing standards from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). They would measure BTUs based only on an ambient temperature of 80 degrees F. While this is still used to sell products, a more accurate BTU rating would be on a newer scale known as SACC.
✔️ SACC: More recently, the Department of Energy (DOE) introduced new standards meant for providing proper BTU sizing for AC units. SACC (Seasonal Adjusted Cooling Capacity) is a rating of BTU per hour that is meant to portray the capabilities of the machine more accurately 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.). New SACC ratings will show maximum BTUs to be lower than previous ratings. So an AC that previously had a 14,000 BTU ASHRAE rating may now have a SACC rating closer to 10,000 BTU to more accurately reflect cooling in a range of conditions.
If you have the ability to window-mount, you’re likely going to have more success cooling a room with a window AC unit. 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.
Portable air conditioners are easier to move about (they're on wheels after all), but 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.
The great thing about the portability, compared to the window AC’s, is you can move it from room to room easily if you need to. Window AC’s need to be properly secured, held in place and connected to the window (some even require you to drill into the frame). A portable AC comes with all the equipment necessary to easily transfer from as long as you have access to a window to vent the exhaust hose. Another benefit of the exhaust hose is that it allows a portable AC to connect to multiple different window types. While window AC’s only work for vertical windows, Portable ACs work with horizontal sliding windows as well. Portable ACs can also work with smaller window types that may not fit a window unit.
In terms of size of the unit, a portable AC unit will 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. For proper efficiency, you need to make sure the exhaust hose is as straight as possible as kinks can limit the effectiveness.
In most cases, Yes. The majority of portable ACs do 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 DiClerico. The machines must be vented to the outside because they are extracting hot air that you want to be released outside of the room. You can choose to vent through a window (most common), wall, ceiling or even a door.
Those without exhaust hoses are called evaporative coolers. They require a large amount of water to cool the space, can utilize ice to cool down the air as well, and are ideal in dry climates where humidity levels are low and the air is hot.
Rachel Rothman, chief technologist and head engineer, has a B.S.E. in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics with a mathematics minor from the University of Pennsylvania and has been at GH for 14 years. She leads efforts for the constant evolution of GH’s technical and testing protocols, responding to both market drivers and growth opportunities. Rachel has over 15 years of experience researching, testing and writing about products in the HVAC space, doing cross-category tests for air purifiers, air conditioners, heaters, humidifiers, dehumidifiers and more.
Dan DiClerico is the director of home improvement & outdoors at the Good Housekeeping Institute. For more than 20 years, Dan has written and edited articles on all aspects of residential HVAC, from traditional forced-air heating and cooling systems to the latest heat pump technologies. His lab-based expertise covers HVAC products and equipment, as well as best practices around maintenance and operation.
Alec Scherma is a test engineer working under and with Rachel. He has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and plenty of experience sizing and working with HVAC units across retail, public, and private spaces.