Portable air conditioning units have come a long way over the past decade. Not only have prices decreased, but so has their energy usage. In the past, product-testing labs would rarely risk recommending portable air conditioning units over their window-mounted cousins because of poor performance. But with a second wave of portable home cooling, even the venerated Consumer Reports is beginning to come around. And why wouldn't they, really? At the end of a summer's day, many consumers need a cooling solution for windowless spaces, rooms with design limitations, or buildings with restrictions.
Portable AC units offer some advantages over central air, swamp coolers, and window coolers. Portables are easy to install, easy to move around, and often cost less to operate than more established contemporaries. Many homeowners find portable AC a simple, cost-effective solution. The only things you really need to know before buying a portable is the size of the space you'd like to cool; so you can estimate how many British thermal units are needed. To determine the Btu required to cool your space, see our guide to air conditioner size.
Best Overall: Whynter's Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner ARC-14S
Powerful and flashy, Whynter's ARC-14S is the pink Cadillac of home cooling. This top model is highly rated by Popular Mechanics, Amazon, Digital Trends, and Good Housekeeping — who all selected the ARC-14S as the best portable air conditioner of 2019. Of all the brands and models tested by the venerable Good Housekeeping Institute, the ARC-14S cooled 500-square-foot rooms faster and cheaper than any other. Green Energy Efficient Homes also listed this portable AC among the most environmentally friendly units on the market because of its conservative use of energy, which translates into real savings on your power bill.
Whynter's ARC-14S also offers a programable timer to cool the home before you return from work or errands and functions as a dehumidifier that can remove upward of 100 pints of water from the air in a 24-hour period.
Runner Up: Whynter's Elite ARC-122DS
The specs for the Elite ARC-122DS are impressive. This power-packed unit boasts a 12,000-Btu cooling capacity, a top-of-class energy efficiency ratio of 12.0, and it's quieter than most other brands and models (under 25 decibels). It's no wonder that Engadget and Popular Mechanics both picked the Elite as the best portable air conditioner in 2018 and 2019, respectively. It also has Good Housekeeping's prestigious Seal, and The New York Times-owned Wirecutter extols the Elite for its energy efficiency.
The Elite also offers a programmable timer, is rated to cool a 400-square-foot space, and functions as a dehumidifier that Whynter claims can remove over 70 pints of water in a 24-hour period.
Shop now: Whynter's Elite ARC-122DS, $411.72
Also Good: Black+Decker BPACT14WT
Black and Decker's BPACT14WT packs a punch. This durable unit was designed to cool down 350-square-foot spaces with 14,000 Btu of cooling power. So it cools and conditions the air quickly in smaller spaces but can struggle when placed in larger rooms. Amazon customers agree: While verified buyers point out the unit is louder than they'd like, the BPAC "blows ICE WATER cold."
Shop now: Black+Decker BPACT14WT, $389.99
Also Good: LG LP1417GSR
Don't let the poorly named LP1417GSR from LG Electronics fool you. What it loses in panache with its unfortunate epithet, it more than makes up for in performance. The LP1417 deploys its 14,000-Btu capacity to cool down up to 500-square-foot spaces. While not as fast as other brands and models, the Chicago Tribune named it the "best of the best" in 2018 for its uncanny ability to cool large rooms quickly and quietly — the latter being a feature most consumers don't appreciate until they bring home a loud portable AC unit. Indeed, a Home Depot customer also appreciated the LP1417's quiet operation in a recent five-star review: "Our son and grandson both agree saying 'that's quieter' as we talked while it was cooling the room on a hot day."
Shop now: LG LP1417GSR, $549.99
Budget Pick: Honeywell Portable Indoor Evaporative Air Cooler
The Honeywell CS07AE is in a league of its own. It's a cost-effective solution for small rooms in dry climates (50% humidity or less). Think cool breeze, rather than cold air. There are certainly more robust AC units on the market, but Honeywell's economy offering delivers cooling for $155. Unlike most of the other top-rated portable air conditioning units, Honeywell's portable is evaporative and doesn't require window ventilation, which makes it a strong option for attics, walk-in closets, or other windowless spaces.
The Best Choice Products model is more modest than its extra-long name implies. This humble air conditioner is 10,000 Btu and rated to cool small spaces no larger than 200 square feet. But its simplicity resonates with consumers who are looking for something affordable and capable, which is why MSN Lifestyle awarded this unit a 9.9 quality score (out of 10). This portable air conditioner has also surprised Walmart customers, who gave it a four-star rating out of five, with comments like "worked better than expected" and "cools the room easily."
Best Smart A/C: Frigidaire Cool Connect Smart Portable Air Conditioner
If you're among the millions of consumers who are experimenting with smart devices, but don't want to sacrifice performance over flashy bells and whistles, then Frigidaire's AC unit is what your smart home needs. Picked as the top smart portable air conditioner of 2018 by Digital Trends and again in 2019 by Popular Mechanics, the Cool Connect delivers 14,000 Btu and is rated to cool a 550-square-foot space.
You can remotely operate and program the Cool Connect through an app, plus it offers voice control that integrates with Amazon Alexa and Google Voice Assistant. Turn the Cool Connect on and off, set the temperature, and change fan speed and operation mode simply by asking it.
Best Multi-Function: Dyson Pure Cool Me Personal Purifying Fan
Dyson's Pure Cool Me is the best option for people who want direct relief from the heat, rather than opting to cool the entire room. While this is more of a specialty product, the Pure Cool Me won accolades from Good Housekeeping for its precision performance, ample cooling, and quiet operation. Reviewers on Amazon love how it doesn't blow papers around when placed on a desk. This is largely due to the "Core Flow" technology, which allows for pinpoint accuracy of the unit's jetted air stream.
The Pure Cool Me is also an efficient air purifier, and it features a HEPA filtration system that removes impurities and allergens from the atmosphere. According to a product tester at Trusted Reviews, "I lit a smoke pellet and place it behind the fan. I could see the smoke getting pulled in and clean air coming out of the front without any leakage."