Central air conditioners have been the go-to solution for many homeowners in the US. However, portable air conditioners are gradually proving their worth and becoming a consumer favorite. While they may not possess the efficiency of a window unit, they provide more comfort than a fan. Portable air conditioners are not as expensive to operate as central air-con units, and their portability offers flexibility and convenience for the changing seasons.
Why Go Small?
At an average weight of 50-80 pounds, portability is hardly the best defining trait of the average portable air conditioner. Setting up such an appliance takes up time and effort; couple that with its weight, most portable AC’s remain stationary.
So, why go small? Apart from saving up floor space, smaller units are more efficient in their performance. According to the US Department of Energy, a room air con, too big for the area it should cool will be less efficient than a smaller, suitably sized unit. This is because the oversize unit cools the room to the set-point of the thermostat before the onset of dehumidification, creating a clammy, uncomfortable feeling.
Therefore, ideally, you want to get the smallest portable AC that will effortlessly cool your room without using excessive energy. However, the size of your appliance is contingent on the size of your room, since some smaller units may be unable to cool a more extensive room effectively.
The perks of a smaller portable AC include:
More efficient at cooling bedrooms among other small spaces
Less floor space and weight
Quieter than large AC’s
Easier storage when not in use
If your house has constricted space, or want to cool a small area of it, a small portable AC is an ideal choice.
The Best Smallest Portable Air Conditioner Units
We have proudly placed the Haier HPC12XCR at the first spot based on its height, weight, and general user experience.
This model retains a cooling power of 12,000 BTU, suitable for a 450sq-ft. room.
Our recommendation for 10,000 BTU, is the LG LP1017WSR which is ideal for smaller rooms of up to 300sq-ft. This model is slightly shorter than the Haier, although it weighs five pounds heavier.
Finding the Best Small AC’s
We reached our decision regarding the best small ACs after analyzing data and measurements from more than 50 models. Finally, we compiled a list of 40 models, which was based on the particular features of each model, expert reviews, manufacturer data, user feedback, and government ratings and reports.
According to our research, our picks had an average height of 29.9 inches and weight of 67.8 pounds. 23 of the selected models were shorter than the respective figures, and 17 of them weighed less. We considered the said factors against customer reviews and customer feedback to reach our conclusion.
Our Top Pick: Haier HPC12XCR
We recommend this model as the ideal air conditioner for small rooms because of how well it merges size and performance. At 56 pounds, the Haier HPC12XCR measures slightly below 28″ tall and produces 12,000 BTU, which can comfortably cool up to 450 square feet.
This unit features three cooling speeds, a digital settings panel, and a full-function remote, making it as convenient as any modern tech-driven appliances. The Haier HPC12XCR also boasts a sleek design and simple aesthetics, making it ideal for spaces wanting to keep things simple and low key.
Most users include that the unit’s 12,000 BTU generates enough power for cooling, even with the prospect of reduced real-life BTUs. Additionally, the unit offers ample flexibility on where to place it, thanks to a 6-foot power cord and a 5-foot exhaust hose. Users also love the additional quick-install windows kit, which is easy to use.
The Haier HPC12XCR has an efficiency rating of EER 9.5, which is average, considering most. The unit costs roughly $90.72 to operate annually, if used for eight hours daily, for three months. This model is among the lightest of the ones we analyzed, which makes it easy to move around when needed; casters are also fitted to enhance mobility.
A clean AC is paramount for keeping the air fresh and well-circulated. This model features a long-lasting slide-out mesh filter, which is easy to clean and maintain. Depending on your preference, the auto start and 24-hour timer allow you to set-and-forget, and the self-evaporative drainage ensures you don’t pour out a water bucket daily.
This model receives good response universally, apart from users complaining that it cools the air slowly, or doesn’t circulate the air well. However, most customers are contented with its cooling performance. You will be more thrilled with your purchase if you maintain realistic expectations of what a room air conditioner does.
The Haier HPC12XCR is accompanied by a 1-year warranty on labor and parts.
Our 10,000 BTU Pick: LG LP1017WSR
We’ve recommended this 10,200 BTU appliance for smaller rooms that receive minimum direct sunlight or are naturally shadier.
The LP 1017WSR measures 27.36” high, making it shorter than the Haier model, although it shares in its sleek contemporary aesthetics.
Its performance makes it ideal to cool rooms up to 300 square feet, a figure which may vary depending on the prevailing environmental factors.
This unit includes standard AC features, such as 24-hour power controls, LCD remote, auto restart, and an auto-swing ventilation system, for reducing hot spots. Thanks to an oscillating air design, and auto-evaporating system, the LP 1017WSR dehumidifies 2.5 pints hourly and can run the entire day without draining or maintenance.
This model provides two cooling speeds, and the thermostat controls allow you to maintain your room at your most comfortable level. It contains a washable air filter for easy maintenance, and an easy to use window installation kit.
At 53 dBA, it is not as quiet as the Haier model, but most buyers say that its sound blends into the white noise in the background of your home. Conversely, the utility costs of using this model are lower than using a 12,000 BTU appliance.
You can be comfortable when making this LG purchase owing to their reputation for superior designs and a 1-year warranty on parts and labor.
Our 14,000 BTU Pick: Honeywell MM14CCS
It is apparent that there is a need for larger ACs to cool down larger spaces. As a result, after our research, we settled for the Honeywell MM14CCS, which is the shortest among all its counterparts at 14,000 BTU, at 34.02”.
74 pounds doesn’t make this air conditioning appliance easy to move around, and its measurements (15.79” x 19.92”), suggests that you will dedicate more room to this AC.
Regardless, when it comes to performance, it is still the best 14,000 BTU AC unit available.
The MM14CCS features mobile AC standards such as LCD, remote, multiple cooling speeds, dehumidifier, and a 24-hour timer. While the design doesn’t offer anything too fancy, it has superior styling, and ample power to cool a 550 square-feet room.
Similar to our other picks, this AC has an auto-evaporating setup that doesn’t necessitate draining, but if you use it solely for dehumidification, you will need to attach a standard garden hose.
This air conditioner offers an ample range of temperatures (61-89 degrees Fahrenheit). Furthermore, with 54 dBA of sound, this AC isn’t much noisier than the smaller units we’ve endorsed. The Honeywell MM14CCS matches the energy usage of the LG’s 10,000 BTU recommended above, which is pretty impressive. The appliance is also assured by a five-year warranty: one for the parts and labor and four to cover the compressor.
Best Option for Small Dual Hose AC: Whynter ARC-122DHP
While recommending the choices named above, size was our primary consideration. However, if you don’t mind a small portable AC that is slightly taller and heavier, you will find a top-notch appliance in the Whynter ARC-122DHP.
The unit’s 12,000 BTU says it can cool a 450 square feet room effortlessly. Similarly, as a double-hose unit, it provides high energy efficiency and minimal cooling waste.
It has a slightly higher efficiency rating (EER 12) than most small portable ACs, and the watts spent excellent for its size.
Regarding space and portability, this model is shorter than the ACs in our research and slightly heavier at 63 pounds.This model is an excellent all-year choice because of its heating abilities, with 11,000 BTU power.
The ARC-122DHP features an auto-evaporative mechanism that turns off the compressor on a full-tank, although you can opt to attach a garden hose to drain the water continuously.
Most of this AC’s features are standard, including digital controls, timers, and other traits that make its installation and use easy. A washable carbon mesh ensures clean air, and the fan’s three speeds enhance its circulation.
As one of Whynter’s signature products, this model is hard to match regarding technology, styling, and performance. The unit is also accompanied by one of the best warranties in the industry: a one-year manufacturer guarantee, and a three-year one on the compressor.
Our Pick for Apartments and Large Rooms: Friedrich PH14B
This model is one of the largest units from Friedrich and our top-pick for people looking to cool large rooms.
You may know its smaller brother for its quality and reliability; this unit is similar, only with more power!
The power from the Friedrich allows it to cool air faster while producing lesser noise than any of the models mentioned above.
What’s more, it also doubles up as a heater.
Some of Friedrich’s features include a 24-hour smart timer, an automatic restart, remote, and three fan speeds. All in all, this Friedrich is accompanied by a three-year warranty.
- This model is robust, commanding 13,500 BTU of AC power. It can cool up to 700 square feet.
- It features a self-evaporating mechanism, and utilizes a recycled condensation feature, eliminating the need for an assisting drain line.
- It is a dual-hose AC, making it highly efficient.
- Dual-purpose, meaning it will serve you all year long (10,700 BTU for heating).
- Although big and powerful, it is quieter than most models of its size.
- This model is considerably expensive.
- It weighs about 100 pounds which makes it difficult to move around.
- Some users complain that the window plate and air hoses aren’t built as well as the main unit.
Best Swamp Cooler: Luna Comfort
Swamp coolers are ideal for people living in areas with low humidity. These appliances operate by combining a cooling foil mechanism to moisten hot and dry air in desert-like atmospheres. Swamp coolers are preferred because they’re cheap to run, only require water, and don’t demand a window.
The Luna comfort is an ultra-compact unit that merges an air cooler with a humidifier. The Luna comfort functions by flowing water and air through a cooling foil, creating a fresh and moist breeze. This unit can cool up to 250 square feet. According to the manufacturer, it can lower the temperature by up to 20 degrees, during optimum conditions. However, you should be realistic about what you expect; the appliance may not be as useful during extreme heat or humid conditions.
- All you need is water, or an ice pack to operate.
- The unit includes a built-in air filter that is washable, eliminating the need to purchase replacements.
- It is a more environmentally-friendly solution compared to conventional air conditioners
- It is cost-effective to purchase and operate due to its energy efficiency.
- Its water tank can hold up to two-gallons at a go and can pull out for top-ups.
- This appliance is not a full AC; it cannot cool an entire apartment, just a single room.
- It is not useful in highly humid environments (above 40%).
6 Factors to Consider
Here are six factors you should consider when looking for your ideal air conditioner.
Most portable AC appliances fall under the same size range (height; 25” to 35”, depth and width; 12” to 18” and weight; 45 to 95 pounds). Therefore, in your quest, it is crucial to determine if you want the shortest, narrowest or lightest unit. Consider this; while someone living in a room with constricted space prefers a unit that consumes the least space, someone in a larger house may be worried by its height or weight.
It is crucial to remember that although portability may seem like a vital consideration, once you find the appropriate spot for your appliance, you may not move it much.
The unit of measurement for cooling power for portable ACs is BTUs (British Thermal Units). For air conditioners, a BTU is the amount of energy required to remove heat from the air. A general rule of thumb to determine how many BTUs you need for your room; 20 BTU for one square foot. However, the Department of Energy adds that other conditions such as room height, climate, window size, and shading may significantly affect the AC’s cooling capacity.
It is always tempting to opt for something with more BTUs even for small rooms. However, remember that matching your room size with the appropriate cooling performance will enhance efficiency, and performance as well.
It stands to reason that smaller AC appliances are more energy efficient because they use less energy to cool the living space. This efficiency is measured by a unit known as the energy efficiency ratio (EER). EER can be described as the cooling power equated to the wattage required to operate the unit.
The higher the EER rating, the higher the energy efficiency. When buying, you can identify an efficient AC with a label from ENERGY STAR, as they’ve met the extra requirements set by the government.
Unlike the noise that comes from the central AC, and large AC units, the sound from small portable ACs is significantly quiet. However, if white noise may distract you in any of your endeavors, this is a crucial consideration.
The noise range for most units lies between 50 and 80 dB and is expected that the manufacturer provides these readings. However, like BTUs, these values may not be as advertised. A unit’s noise level may determine the room in which it is used. For instance, a light sleeper may avoid having a noisy appliance in their bedroom, and still use the same AC for their home office.
While all of the units we’ve reviewed will do the job, some of them provide additional features, of which you may want to be aware. A remote control unit is convenient, as is an AC that also doubles as a heater, meaning that you won’t stop using it during colder seasons.
The LG LP0817WSR has an auto-swing ventilation mechanism that reduces hot spots, and warm areas in the living space. Such features enhance air circulation, ensuring that the air is cool and fresh. How about a model with self-evaporating features? This means that you don’t have to empty the tank. There are also features that prevent an AC unit from over delivering cool air after the intended temperature range is achieved.
A comparison between your best picks can help you determine the extra features you need. For instance, if your house has a reliable heating system, you may not require the unit that also serves as a heater.
Warranty and Support
Most of the small portable ACs you will come across are from renowned manufacturers, offering various customer service and support options. Most of the models we researched have a warranty period ranging from one to five years. While some of these guarantees provide full coverage, others offer limited warranty to cover particular issues and parts.
A Gradual Guide to Purchasing a Portable AC
Portable ACs, also known as PACs are excellent solutions for cooling spaces that aren’t large enough to accommodate a window-mounted version. Purchasing one of these appliances may be slightly daunting without any experience, don’t worry, this guide will give you a head start for when you go PAC shopping.
How Much Power Do You Need
Power is a crucial consideration when deciding on the PAC to purchase; an under-powered unit will not give you the desired result, especially during hot, humid weather, and an overpowered unit may prove difficult establishing a comfortable setting, or rack up more operational costs.
The amount of power required is contingent on the square footage of the space you want to cool. Professionals also indorse taking into account the floor plan and insulation plan of the target room for a more suitable BTU rating. Failing to consider the insulation and other variables like ventilation may expose your room to excess condensation.
Another substantial concern when considering the proper BTU rating is whether the said unit is a single or dual-hose Portable AC. Ideally, the dual hose is more energy efficient than single-hose portable air conditioners. BTU guidelines may vary with the AC’s manufacturer. Therefore, always round off the values slightly to the conservative side.
Consider Environmental Factors
The performance of your portable AC can be affected by environmental factors as well. Sunlight is a crucial factor, especially in the afternoon. For instance, if your room gets covered by heavy shade, you may need to reduce your BTU capacity by 10% and increase it similarly if it receives direct sunlight.
The number of people occupying the room is another aspect. For every additional person exceeding two in the room, you should add 600 BTU to account for the body heat and the CO2 produced which contributes to the room’s warmth.
Decide On the Controls
Depending on your preference, you can opt for portable air conditioners with manual or remote controls. Most modern PACs you find contain smart features that will either save you energy or add to the convenience. Some models can restart at your preferred settings, while others may have a timer to dictate when you need the cooling to begin, and when to stop.
Remember that the more you prefer regarding convenience, you will compensate in price.
Other Factors to Consider
All the factors mentioned above considered, it is paramount to ponder about the long-term. The duration you are planning to leave your unit on, and the customer support provided by the manufacturer should be among such factors. For instance, if you live in a warmer locale, and will run it for most of the year, you cannot withhold on durability, as opposed to needing the unit only for the summer.
The level of noise is another relevant point to contemplate. Are you installing the portable AC in the nursery, bedroom, or office? If you are a light sleeper, you do not want to get stuck with an appliance that makes too much noise in the bedroom.
Here’s a pro tip: A model with several fan settings will allow you to create the perfect balance between power and noise.