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12 Portable Air Conditioners, Vetted 12 Different Ways

Photo: Retailer

Here at the Strategist, we know that finding the “best” product really depends on exactly whom you ask — which is why we’ve devoted this series to squeezing in as many informed, trustworthy opinions as possible. And we’ve come up with dozens of ways to do this, among them: surfacing reader reviews from across the internet, taking quick polls of our most insane friends and fellow shopping-obsessed Strategist editors, and partaking in some advanced internet snooping.

With that, we’re rounding up the best portable air conditioners that you can buy online. Although window ACs are far more popular, portable ACs are a useful alternative if there’s some issue with size, style, or building management that prevents you from installing one. The big disadvantage is that they take up more space, and are often noisier and less efficient than window units. But it’s still better than sweating the summer away. Below are a bunch of highly rated, well-reviewed, expert-recommended, and even stylish options to help you narrow down your search.

Expert-Approved: Best smart portable AC according to a smart-home consultant

We spoke to home-cooling experts about the best smart air-conditioning units — the kind you can control remotely so your apartment is already cool when you get home. One recommended this portable version: a sleek Frigidaire model with over 12,000 BTUs, which will cool about a 450-square-foot space. You can control it with an app or even with your voice, using Google Assistant. “This would be great for someone with an irregular window size that a window unit won’t fit into,” Eugene Fiks, president of Fiks Consultants, which integrates smart products into clients’ homes, told us. Portable ACs still need to be near by a window, however, to exhaust heat, but Fiks says that with this model, “The flex-tube connection (or hose) will fit into any window that opens.”

[Editor’s note: This portable air conditioner is currently only available in 10,000 BTUs from a third-party seller on Amazon with less than a 97 percent approval rating. But Frigidaire’s square-shaped Cool Connect 13,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is available from $550 at various local retailers in-store and online, including AJ Madison and Home Depot.]

Expert-Approved: Best easy-to-use smart portable AC

A smart AC unit with Alexa compatibility doesn’t have to be tricky to operate, says Justin Edwards, HVAC contractor with Contractor Advisorly, of this particularly user-friendly Honeywell model. If you don’t want to use voice commands to change the fan speed or power the machine on and off, you can rely on the remote control or the simple touch display on the unit itself. Edwards adds that the dual-motor keeps noise levels low, which makes this portable AC a suitable choice for sensitive sleepers.

People’s Choice: Best-rated portable AC, according to Amazon reviewers

More than 22,000 Amazon reviewers give this portable AC five stars, and many say that the 8,000 BTUs are great for cooling one room. “We have around 800 square feet, with an open-concept kitchen and dining space, which is where we put the unit,” one reviewer, living in an apartment in Manhattan, says. “It cooled off our place in less than 15 minutes.” Another who says this unit is working “marvelously well” says, “I sit about 12 feet away from it and feel the chill with a setting of 76,” in their 300-square-foot space. Many also describe the setup as easy and about 10 percent say that the unit is pretty quiet. “I found it to be no louder than any other central AC unit or floor fan — in fact it’s more background noise than anything,” one user says, while another notes that “it’s about as quiet as a box fan on high.” It’s pretty straightforward, but it does have a remote that reviewers love and a timer, which one user says is great because “it comes on before I get home and shuts itself off after I go to work.”

Strategist Pick: Writer Liza Corsillo’s pick for small spaces

Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo used to have this portable AC unit in her one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. It cooled the living space, while a window unit tackled the bedroom, and Corsillo thinks it’s sufficient for a single room, even though it’s just under a foot wide. It’s “nice and tiny so it fit on the kitchen counter,” she says.

Quick Poll: Best portable AC, according to Liza’s mom

Liza’s mother, Susan McCaslin is a big fan of this portable AC because it’s “super easy to roll around and store,” and doesn’t “block half your window.” McCaslin’s model of choice (a 14,000 BTU version) is no longer available, but this smaller 7,700 BTU unit includes the same features she praises in the larger size, such as dehumidifier functionality and casters so you can move it around easily, whether that’s seasonally or from room to room. The three modes (cooling, dehumidifying, fan) can be used separately or together depending on your needs, and the programmable timer allows you to set the machine to turn off once you’ve left the house or fallen asleep.

Quick Pick: Best portable AC after a Strategist writer’s reverse image-search

Reverse image-searching helped me uncover this Goplus unit for significantly less than the original listing I found on Lowe’s, where it has highly positive reviews. This trick ultimately revealed the same Goplus model sold at Sears for almost $100 less — as well as a machine made by Costway that appears to be identical to the Goplus. Both units have a dehumidifier and fan in addition to cooling mode, and can be controlled using the remote or top-panel buttons. They’re the same, down to the weight (58 pounds) and compact size, which measures just one foot across and 28 inches tall. The small size makes this model perfect for a dorm or apartment, where it can cool 400 square feet comfortably and with relatively little noise.

According to Reddit: Best portable AC if you absolutely can’t get a window unit

Honestly, Reddit users are more interested in convincing people that portable units are not the way to go. But if you have no other option, redditors urge people to go with a dual-hose system, as they cool more effectively, and the Whynter brand comes up several times. This specific model was mentioned by one user in the homeowners Reddit who says they have zero complaints: “It bring my about 300 square feet master down ten degrees in less than two hours.”

According to Reddit: Best (even-larger area) dual-hose portable AC unit

If you’re cooling a room that the 12,000 BTUs of the AC above can’t handle, quite a few Redditors praise this 14,000-BTU dual-hose Whynter option. According to one, it works quite well and is a great alternative to a window AC in systems that might otherwise require “a jerry rigged solution that really kinda sucks.” Another user, who says they sell AC units for a living, writes, “buy a Whynter/ Toyotomi (You will get several years of good use.”

People’s Choice: Best-rated portable AC, according to Home Depot reviewers

This LG unit has 486 reviews, nearly half of which give it five stars. One user says it was good enough to replace their 10,000-BTU window AC. It was able to cool a 1,500-square-foot room “with relative ease,” they say. (Editor’s note: We’re skeptical.) According to another reviewer, “It completely cooled down my entire first floor! Installing it was simple and straight to the point. If you want some efficient to cool around 700 sq ft this would be perfect!” While more than a few reviews mentioned that this unit can be loud, that is true of many portable ACs, and for quite a few people, the noise was worth the cooling power.

People’s Choice: Best-rated portable AC, according to Best Buy reviewers

“Our central A/C unit went belly up right on the beginning of summer, so we got this unit while we wait for the larger unit to be replaced,” says one reviewer. “It works pretty well and was able to cool my living room and master to comfortable levels.” Another says, “Best choice I ever made! It immediately started cooling the room, 369 sq ft, and within an hour I had to turn it to 73 degrees because it got chilly at 69 degrees. I highly recommend this if you need to cool down a small space or studio apartment.” Others also mentioned having to turn the temperature up with this unit, including this customer, who says, “This works too good. I have a 400 sq studio and I have to shut it off some days because it gets to cold.”

Quick Pick: Best portable AC after a Strategist writer’s hour of research

Photo: retailer

We read ten roundups of the best portable ACs — from Wirecutter, Popular Mechanics, Business Insider, and more — and this LG model appeared on half of the lists. The consensus is that it’s quiet and powerful, and most reviewers appreciate that it comes with smart technology, but what sets it apart is its dual inverter compressor, which makes it more efficient. David Bakke, an AC expert at National Air Warehouse in Florida, told Money that the dual-inverter system allows the unit to change the speed of the compressor, which means the AC can fine-tune its cooling power to match the temperature of the room it’s cooling. As the folks at the Wirecutter point out, this gets you a more “precise comfort level.” And it really works. Popular Mechanics rated this the most powerful AC it tested, noting that the AC started working quickly and would likely be sufficient for cooling a large apartment. But the size comes with a lot of weight: This is a heavy machine, coming in at 70 pounds, though the casters make it easy to move.

Curbed Editor’s Choice: Best portable AC unit for camping

This portable AC unit caught the folks at Curbed’s eye back in 2016 when Zero Breeze’s Kickstarter campaign raised a lot of money fast. It’s a little different from the other portable units on this list. Traditionally speaking, a portable AC unit refers to one you could roll from room to room at a moment’s notice, but this one is portable in every sense of the word, as it is battery-operated and doesn’t depend on an outlet when you buy the version with the smart battery. And while you can plug it into an outlet and set it up at home like a regular portable AC, it can run for three to five hours on and is made with campers and outdoor activities in mind. “AC in the van for off-grid camping,” one reviewer writes. Another traveling in an RV says, “During our getaway to Pine Island, Florida it was 90 degrees and very humid … We decided to give our recently received Zero Breeze an outdoor personal cooling test. My wife said it worked as promised.”

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12 Portable Air Conditioners, Vetted 12 Different Ways