For those who don’t have central air and can’t exactly go with a window air conditioner, the next best thing is a portable AC. Contrary to their name, they aren’t easy to move around, but an important point of distinction is they can be placed from one room to another or stowed away if needed. Thing is, they aren’t the most efficient cooling setups around, but they can get the job done, though there are a few that outperform the majority.
We compile some of the models that we think stand out from the pack based on efficiency, ease of use, features, noise level and pricing. In terms of overall performance, the Whynter ARC-14S tops the list. Meanwhile, the Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner distinguishes itself as the quietest around, and the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect doubles as an air purifier of sorts for allergies. Last but not least, the hOmeLabs Portable Evaporative Cooler is our budget pick.
- Best Portable Air Conditioners Comparison Chart
- Best Portable Air Conditioner Overall — Whynter ARC-14S
- Quietest Portable Air Conditioner — Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner
- Best Budget Portable Air Conditioner — hOmeLabs Portable Evaporative Cooler
- Best Portable Air Conditioner for Allergies — Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect
Best Portable Air Conditioners Comparison Chart
|Whynter ARC-14S||Auto-drain technology, powerful performance||Check Price at Whynter.com|
|Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner||Runs quietly and efficiently with inverter technology||Check Price at Midea.com|
|hOmeLabs Portable Evaporative Cooler||Among the cheapest cooling solutions in the market||Check Price at hOmeLabs.com|
|Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect||Decent performance, features a filter and ionizer for allergies||Check Price at Frigidaire.com|
Best Portable Air Conditioner Overall — Whynter ARC-14S
The Whynter ARC-14S gets it right across the board.
When it comes to cooling, a dual-hose system always beats a single one. That’s where the Whynter ARC-14S comes in, as it’s equipped with one hose to funnel fresh air inside and another to drive out hot air. Thanks to that, it’s capable of cooling down rooms of up to 500 sq. ft. fast.
In addition, it can dehumidify up to 101 pints of moisture a day. This works in tandem with its auto-drain technology that reuses the moisture it collects to deliver cool air. An understated bonus to that is you won’t have to worry about emptying a water tank. Also, it has a decent noise level of about 56dBA, and it even has a washable pre-filter and carbon filter to clean the air and eliminate odors.
Weighing at 73 lbs, it may be a bit hard to move, but at the very least, it has wheels so that you can simply push it from place to place.
- Effectively cools large spaces
- Auto-drain technology
- Cumbersome to move from one area to another
Quietest Portable Air Conditioner — Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner
Power efficient and silent best describe the Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner.
What sets the Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner apart is its quiet operation. It has a minimum noise level of 42dB, making it more silent than most of its counterparts. But that’s not everything it’s got going for it.
At first glance, it may look like it uses a single-hose system, but in reality, it has what Midea calls an “industry-first hose-in-hose design.” Basically, both the intake and exhaust are inside one tube, which doesn’t only make for a more balanced air circulation but also a more convenient setup.
Moreover, it uses inverter technology, which can save about 40 percent in energy consumption. This also lets it run at variable speeds, adjusting based on the environment. In other words, it doesn’t have to run at a high fan speed all the time and pick up the pace, so to speak, to reach certain temperatures. Lastly, it’s smarter than average with Wi-Fi connectivity and voice assistant support, and it even has an accompanying app.
The problem is, you may have to drain it frequently if you live in a humid area. And while this is a plus for some, others may find its hose difficult to install simply because it goes against the grain.
- Smart features
- May need to be drained often depending on humidity in the area
Best Budget Portable Air Conditioner — hOmeLabs Portable Evaporative Cooler
The hOmeLabs Portable Evaporative Cooler may be bare bones, but it can work wonders without breaking the bank.
Getting a cooling system doesn’t need to be an expensive endeavor, and in that case, the hOmeLabs Portable Evaporative Cooler fits the bill to a tee, coming in with an absurdly low price tag.
It features a 10-liter tank that can be filled with ice water for extra cooling power, and it doesn’t have an intake and exhaust, so its setup is more minimal than most. Plus, it only weighs 18 lbs, and it’s equipped with wheels too, making it easy to move around.
However, there are some caveats. First off, it only has a small cooling area of 200 sq. ft., so it’s only effective if you live in a tiny space. Also, its water tank is only large enough to run for a few hours at most, so it isn’t ideal to use overnight while you sleep. If nothing else, it does have an indicator to let you know when it needs to be refilled. The worst part is it only works in low-humidity areas.
In its defense, it does have plenty of features, such as an LED control panel and a remote control. It also has three fan speeds and modes, namely Wind, Nature, Sleep and Normal.
- More portable than most
- 10-liter ice water tank
- Small coverage
- Water tank needs to be refilled often
- Only cools in low-humidity areas
Best Portable Air Conditioner for Allergies — Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect
The Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect is essentially an AC and air purifier in one.
In some ways, the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect is lacking compared with other models in its price range. It has a single-hose design, and it doesn’t use inverter technology either, so it isn’t the most efficient at cooling down areas. But it’s living proof that there’s more than meets the eye beyond specs on paper.
For starters, it has a minimum sound level of 46dB at low speeds, but in actual use, it can run even quieter than that. Also, it can effectively keep a room nice and cool evenly throughout a room. But what makes it unique is its air-purifying capabilities, as it uses not only a washable filter but also an ionizer to remove particles from the air. It’s smart as well, as it has Wi-Fi connectivity, a companion app and voice assistant support.
It’s a bit on the expensive side, considering that you can get inverter models with dual hoses for its price. However, it’s really a matter of choosing which features you prefer. Put differently, this can go a long way if you want a portable air conditioner that can double as an air purifier.
- Features a washable filter and ionizer
- Quiet operation
- Single hose
- Relatively more expensive
The Whynter ARC-14S and the Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner are hard to beat, but the hOmeLabs Portable Evaporative Cooler and Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect are excellent alternatives for certain situations.
All in all, our recommendations are the Whynter ARC-14S for its raw performance and features like its auto-drain functionality and the Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner for its efficiency and low noise level.
If budget is tight, then the hOmeLabs Portable Evaporative Cooler is your best bet, especially if you don’t need an AC running all year round. For folks with allergies, the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect offers excellent cooling and goes the extra mile with its washable filter and ionizer combo.
In general, portable air conditioners should only be your option if a central or window AC isn’t possible. That’s because they’re typically less efficient, and despite their name, they aren’t that mobile.
The Whynter ARC-14S is one of the most powerful portable air conditioners available with a coverage of up to 500 sq. ft. For efficiency, the Midea DUO Smart Inverter Portable Air Conditioner uses inverter technology to reduce energy consumption, and as an added bonus, it’s among the quietest models around.
Besides price, among the basic things to consider when buying a portable air conditioner is its coverage, noise level, installation, design (single or double-hose) and efficiency. For instance, purchase a model that’s appropriate for your living space, and if you plan on keeping it on throughout the night, look for one with a low minimum sound level.
Yes, and how often you have to drain them depends on the humidity in your area. However, there are certain models such as the Whynter ARC-14S that recycles collected moisture so you don’t have to empty its tank even on humid days.