Best Portable Air Conditioners of 2018

John Carlsen ·
Smart Home & HVAC Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We looked at dozens of portable air conditioners before settling on 10 to test in the ShopSavvy testing lab. These 10, we feel, best represent the industry. To formulate our rankings, we looked at industry-standard efficiency and power ratings while performing in-house testing on maneuverability, convenience and sound output. After our tests ended, we chose the Frigidaire Gallery FGPC1244T1 as the best portable air conditioner. We like its balance of performance, convenience and energy efficiency, though it wasn't the top performer in any of these categories.

Best Overall
Frigidaire Gallery FGPC1244T1
The Frigidaire Gallery FGPC1244T1 is feature-rich, uses energy efficiently and offers good cooling performance, which are hard to find together in one portable air conditioner.
View on Amazon
Best Value & Most Efficient
Whynter ARC-12S
The Whynter ARC-12S is the most efficient portable air conditioner we tested. It also costs much less than the Frigidaire Gallery, though its cooling performance isn't quite as good.
View on Amazon
Most Powerful
NewAir AC-14100E
The NewAir AC-14100E is the most powerful portable AC unit we tested, effectively cooling rooms up to 700 square feet. However, its power also makes it less efficient than some other portable AC units.
View on Amazon
Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Performance
Effficiency
Design
Power
Max Room Size
Max Airflow
Sound Output
Moisture Removal Per Hour
Energy Efficiency Ratio
Estimated Annual Energy Cost
UL Listed
Multiple Fan Speeds
Compressor Warranty
Weight
Max Window Size
Vent Hose Length
Remote Control
$486 BobCat Deals
4.4 4.9 4.5
12000 BTU
550 sq. ft.
200 CFM
53 dB
3 pints
11 EER
$94.76
5 Years
78 lbs.
44.1 in.
4.92 ft.
Buttons Only
$299.9 Fry's Electronics
4.4 5 4.3
12000 BTU
550 sq. ft.
188 CFM
52.5 dB
3.8 pints
11.1 EER
$93.39
3 Years
62 lbs.
46 in.
5 ft.
Buttons Only
$275.3 Amazon
4.3 4.5 4.5
12000 BTU
550 sq. ft.
188 CFM
50 dB
4 pints
9.5 EER
$90.72
5 Years
56 lbs.
46 in.
5 ft.
Buttons Only
$349 Beach Trading Co. (BeachCamera.com, BuyDig.com)
4.1 4.5 4.6
10000 BTU
450 sq. ft.
174 CFM
50 dB
2.8 pints
9.5 EER
$90.80
5 Years
63.9 lbs.
47.25 in.
3.94 ft.
Buttons Only
$318.17 Amazon Marketplace
4 4.3 4.5
8000 BTU
350 sq. ft.
185 CFM
53.6 dB
1.9 pints
8.9 EER
$77.82
1 Year
51 lbs.
40.5 in.
4.92 ft.
LCD Screen
$297.5 Newegg
4.7 3.5 4.1
14000 BTU
700 sq. ft.
250 CFM
57 dB
2.9 pints
9.8 EER
$122.53
1 Year
61.9 lbs.
59 in.
4.92 ft.
LCD Screen
$381.28 Amicousa
4.2 3.6 4
11000 BTU
500 sq. ft.
235 CFM
48 dB
2.5 pints
10.2 EER
$93.39
1 Year
55 lbs.
51.2 in.
5.9 ft.
Buttons Only
Best Overall
The Frigidaire Gallery FGPC1244T1 doesn’t have the best cooling performance in our comparison, but it did better than half of the units we tested. It can handle rooms up to 550 square feet and has a good airflow rating of 200 cubic feet per minute. The Gallery is the second most efficient portable air conditioner we tested. Its energy efficiency ratio of 11 exceeds the average rating of 9.7 among the 10 models in our review.
The Frigidaire Gallery has every feature we looked for, including sleep mode, auto-restart, a programmable timer and a remote control. Most notably, it has oscillating louvers that help to distribute cold air more evenly throughout the room; only two portable air conditioning units we tested have this feature. The noise this machine produces is average, and the fifth-loudest unit we tested. The Frigidaire Gallery is the heaviest portable air conditioner we tested, weighing 78 pounds. We had some difficulty getting it into our lab before taking it out of the box, but the caster wheels made it easier to move afterward. While you probably need two people to move most portable AC units up or down stairs, it's especially true for the Frigidaire Gallery. This unit has an exceptional five-year compressor warranty, the longest in our review.
Pros
  • Excellent energy efficiency
  • Good cooling performance
  • Five-year compressor warranty
Cons
  • Heaviest unit we tested
  • Not quiet
  • Expensive
$504.99Amazon
Read the full review
Best Value & Most Efficient
An outstanding energy efficiency ratio (EER) of 11.1 makes the Whynter ARC-12S portable air conditioner the most energy-efficient model we reviewed. This is much higher than the average rating in our comparison, 9.7 EER. Even though it's more efficient than our top pick, the Frigidaire Gallery, it has a similar power output that can accommodate rooms up to 550 square feet. However, the ARC-12S has slightly lower airflow rating of 188 cubic feet per minute, compared with 200 CFM for the Frigidaire Gallery, so its cooling is marginally less effective.
We like that the Whynter ARC-12S is less expensive than the Frigidaire models we tested. It achieves this at the expense of a few convenience features such as oscillating louvers and sleep mode. It's also one of two models we tested without an auto-evaporative system, which means you need to occasionally empty a drip tray so it can function properly. If you can do without those extra features, the ARC-12S is hard to beat. Regarding noise levels, this AC unit puts out 52.5 dB while it's running. This isn't the quietest machine we tested, but it's still a reasonable choice for bedrooms. The Whynter ARC-12S is one of the lighter portable AC units we tested, weighing only 62 pounds. You can move it with the attached wheels like other portable ACs, but it should be easier to carry with two people on stairs than heavier models. The three-year compressor warranty on the ARC-12S is average for the market.
Pros
  • Most energy-efficient unit we tested
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Best value for the price
Cons
  • No sleep mode
  • Louder than four other models we tested
  • Drip tray fills up occasionally
$365.20Amazon
Read the full review
Most Powerful
The NewAir AC-14100E is extremely powerful. It can cool up to 700 square feet on its own. Although some other portable AC units in our comparison can handle 550-square-foot rooms that are nearly as large, the AC-14100E also has the highest airflow rating of 250 cubic feet per minute.
Despite the power you get with this unit, it only costs around $410, which is slightly cheaper than the industry average of $427. The AC-14100E's extra power also means it has a lower energy efficiency ratio (EER), 9.88, compared to the best portable AC units. For comparison, three other units we tested have EER ratings over 10. This lower energy efficiency means it costs more than average to operate throughout the year. You can offset the operating costs by programming the unit's timer. The AC-14100E is the loudest unit we tested, with a decibel rating of 57. This is almost twice as loud as the 48 dB of the quietest portable AC we tested, which could affect your slumber if you're a light sleeper. At 61.9 pounds, this unit weighs about as much as the average unit we tested. It's fairly easy to move using the unit's wheels, though stairs might be a problem. The AC-14100E has a one-year compressor warranty, the shortest in our comparison.
Pros
  • Can handle very large rooms
  • Highest airflow rating in our comparison
  • Surprisingly efficient for its size
Cons
  • Loudest unit we tested
  • Above average annual energy costs
  • Compressor warranty lasts just one year
$410.00Amazon
Read the full review
Best Moisture Removal
The Haier HPC12XCR has a higher rate of moisture removal per hour, four pints, than any other portable air conditioner we reviewed. This means it's more suitable for areas where high humidity makes it harder to maintain a comfortable environment.
The HPC12XCR efficiency rating of EER 9.5 is average, but good enough to only use around $90 of electricity per year, $4 cheaper than average. We also like that there's a digital thermostat on top of the unit, so you can set the unit to your desired temperature. This unit weighs 56 pounds, making it lighter than most portable AC units so you can move it between rooms more easily. It has a five-year compressor warranty, which is the longest warranty you can get. With 12,000 Btu, the HPC12XCR is powerful enough for most rooms up 550 square feet. However, its airflow rating of 188 CFM is lower than that of most portable AC units we evaluated, but still as powerful as the Whynter ARC-12S.
Pros
  • Removes more moisture per hour than other units
Cons
  • Lower airflow than average
-
Read the full review
Best for Smaller Rooms
At 8,000 Btu, the Sunpentown WA-8070E has lower power than the other portable AC units we reviewed, but this makes it an ideal choice for cooling smaller spaces.
If you live in an apartment or small house, the Sunpentown WA-8070E might be better than a more powerful unit. No matter how efficient a larger unit is, it still adds more to your electric bill than the WA-8070E would, it only costs around $78 per year to run, which is about $15 cheaper than the most efficient unit we looked at, despite a low efficiency rating of EER 8.9. This unit has an airflow rating of 185 CFM, which is enough in smaller rooms. The WA-8070E costs around $318, which is more affordable than most portable AC units. Unfortunately, this unit only has a one-year compressor and appliance warranty, which isn't very competitive with the five-year compressor warranties from Frigidaire, Haier and Honeywell.
Pros
  • Excellent for smaller spaces
Cons
  • Unsuitable for large rooms
-
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

Since 2014, we've tested portable air conditioners, fans, air purifiers and humidifiers in-house at ShopSavvy. We apply strict standards for testing each product in terms of performance and user-friendliness. We don't have the extensive equipment necessary for industry-standard testing, so we also consult with experts and guides from organizations such as Energy Star to find comparative, objective information about the products we test. Our in-house testers strive to produce results that matter to a typical consumer.

During our research, we contacted the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) but haven't received a reply at the time of publishing. We'll update our guide if we receive a reply.

How We Tested

We tested 10 portable AC models from Amico, Friedrich, Frigidaire, Haier, Honeywell, LG, NewAir, Sunpentown and Whynter. We relied on product specifications and EER ratings to evaluate effectiveness in terms of power and energy efficiency.

We tested the mobility of each portable air conditioner by moving them between rooms. For the most part, we only had trouble moving each product into our test lab while in the shipping packaging. After unpacking the units, it took much less effort to move each one using the built-in wheels. However, if you need to carry any of these units up or down stairs, we suggest caution and having someone assist you as the portable AC units we tested weigh 63 pounds on average.

To test the loudness of each machine, we used a sound meter to take readings while each was running. Using this method, we found that the Amico AP11000 is the quietest unit we tested, at around 48 dB. The loudest portable AC unit we tested is the NewAir AC-14100E ($599.94 on Amazon) measuring around 57 dB. Although this might look like a small variation, it's not. The typical human ear perceives a doubling in loudness every 10 decibels, so 57 dB is nearly twice as loud as 48 dB. A quieter air conditioner may be best in bedrooms if noise keeps you awake at night.

How Much do Portable Air Conditioners Cost?

On average, portable air conditioners cost around $400, though you can find units as low as $250 and as high as $700. As with other types of air conditioners, you can expect to pay extra for units that have greater power and efficiency than average. You can also expect ongoing costs of around $94 a year on your electricity bill.

What to Look for in a Portable AC Unit

Room Size & Cooling Peformance
To select the best portable air conditioner for your needs, it's a good idea to consider room size first. However, labeling a unit's cooling power in terms of optimal room size, it's not uncommon for different manufacturers to use different methodologies, so we followed the room size guide from Energy Star. This uses a product's Btu rating to calculate the maximum room size for a given air conditioner. In general, you should choose a unit that's slightly more powerful than this number, since anything too big or too small might waste energy.

Apart from room size, you can also look over the unit's other power specifications such as power level, air flow, moisture removal and fan modes, all of which determine the effectiveness of a portable air conditioner. However, these aren't as good of a guide as room size. In general, higher values mean higher performance, though the most powerful machines often have lower energy efficiency.

Efficiency Ratings
For efficiency, we looked at each unit's Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) as provided by the manufacturer. This tells you how much energy it uses when compared with its output power. Among the units we reviewed, the highest EER rating we found is 11.1 while the average rating is 9.84. You can expect to save money on your electric bill if you choose a machine with higher EER ratings. In general, portable AC units aren't as efficient as other types of air conditioners, but they are great for cooling specific areas in your home or apartment.

We also calculated the estimated cost to run a unit eight hours a day for a year using the national average cost of electricity. While this is a practical way to see long-term costs, it differs from the EER because weaker units sometimes cost less to run than more efficient units that are also more powerful.

Certifications
For safety certifications, we looked for an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing, which requires that the air conditioner meet safety guidelines. Currently, Energy Star does not give qualifications to portable air conditioners, regardless of energy efficiency ratings.

Convenience
Convenience features can affect your experience with the portable air conditioner, for better or worse, depending on how you plan to use the machine. The units we tested all have a 24-hour programmable timer, wheels on the bottom and a remote control. However, a few have unique features that differentiate them. These include a sleep mode that adjusts the temperature as you sleep, as well as an auto-restart that turns the machine back on after power outages.

Hose Length
If you have limited space, you may want an air conditioner with a longer exhaust hose. As a byproduct of the cooling process, all portable AC units produce heat that must be vented outside, usually through a nearby window. Units with a hose of 5 feet or longer give you more location flexibility.