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9 Portable Air Conditioners, Vetted 9 Different Ways

Photo: Amazon

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. And though 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 when it’s the only option, it’s better than sweating the summer away. And we found a bunch of highly rated, well-reviewed, expert-recommended, and even stylish options, below.

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

We spoke to home-cooling experts about a year ago 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 500-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.”

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

More than 1,500 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

Photo: retailer

Strategist 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. However, that means it’s “nice and tiny so it fit on the kitchen counter,” meaning it doesn’t take up as much space as most portable ACs.

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 is “super easy to roll around and store,” and doesn’t “block half your window.” She currently uses it to cool a “very big loft-space living room,” which makes sense, as this is one of the most powerful portable air conditioners on this list. At 14,000 BTUs, it is suitable for up to a 700-square-foot space, but because it’s so powerful, it also takes up quite a bit of space. It’s almost double the width of our best AC for small spaces and is an astonishing 76 pounds, but as McCaslin alluded to, it does have casters, so you can move it around easily, whether that’s seasonally or more regularly from room to room. It also doubles as a dehumidifier and a fan, so making this investment might come in handy year-round.

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.”

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

More than 900 Home Depot shoppers reviewed this portable AC, and nearly 60 percent of them recommend buying it to cool a single room. One using it in a kid’s room says, “There is a built-in thermometer in our daughter’s baby cam, and it goes from high 70s/low 80s to 70 in around 45 minutes.” Another uses it in their large bedroom and finds that “this 10,000 BTU unit cools the entire room quickly and maintains a nice temp with thermostat.” Reviewers also say it is easy to install, dehumidified as well as cools, and is easy to clean. The main complaint is that some reviewers think this unit is loud, but as one user points out, “I’d rather it be noisy than be in a hot room.”

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

Photo: retailer

The best-rated portable AC on Best Buy is technically the smaller version of this unit, but that one isn’t available to shop online. This one, however, which cools 550 square feet, is available to ship nationwide and still gets great reviews, especially if you have a larger space to cool. “I got this and it cooled the whole house, and my house isn’t small,” one reviewer says, adding that they “love [that] this has a dehumidifier that I don’t have to drain either, just clean filters and let it cool.” And even though one user says they weren’t happy with it initially — it took about a day to kick in — they now say, “I’m happy to report I still have it running and it’s fine,” after a week. Another user says it works long after that: “I purchased this air conditioner unit two months ago, and overall I am very satisfied. It keeps the room temp exactly at 71 Fahrenheit, which is perfect for me during these 107-degree days.”

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

Zero Breeze Mark 2
$1,399

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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9 Portable Air Conditioners, Vetted 9 Different Ways