Best portable air conditioners in 2021


James Brains / Insider

What Should You Look For In A Portable Air Conditioner?

We spoke to Matt Brown from Home Depot’s Home Comfort, Air Quality and Floor Care division, to learn more about what to look for in an air conditioner. Brown said there are three main factors to consider when buying an air conditioner: the size of the room, the size of the window, and the additional features.

First you’ll want to choose a unit that has the appropriate amount of wattage (in Btu) for your room size. We describe our recommendations below.

The size of the window is also important. A portable air conditioner always needs to access an opening for its exhaust pipe in order to emit hot air.

Regarding new technology, Brown said to look at inverter technology. “These units use more efficient engine technology which can increase / decrease horsepower as needed while running continuously,” he said. Our top pick includes a dual inverter compressor.

What is Btu?

Btu is the international measure of energy and measures the amount of heat required to raise a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit to sea level. When it comes to air conditioners, manufacturers use the Btu to indicate the amount of heat that an air conditioning unit can remove from one room per hour.

How many BTUs do you need to cool your room?

Below are some rough guidelines for determining the number of Btu DOEs you want for your room size:

  • A 150 sq. Ft. Room requires 5,000 Btu
  • A 250 sq. Ft. Room requires 6,000 Btu
  • A 350 sq. Ft. Room requires 8,000 Btu
  • A 450 sq. Ft. Room requires 10,000 Btu
  • A 550 sq. Ft. Room requires 12,000 Btu
  • A 700 sq. Ft. Room requires 14,000 Btu

As the Btu rating increases, the weight, size, and cost of the air conditioner increases, but you need to make sure you get the right cooling capacity for your space. If you buy a unit that has a higher BTU rating than the room requires, it will shut down too quickly and not properly remove moisture from the air. On the other hand, if you buy a portable air conditioner that has a lower Btu value than the room requires, it will never cool the room adequately.

Why do portable air conditioners have two Btu numbers?

With portable air conditioners, there are usually two Btu ratings listed, the Manufacturer’s Btu (ASHRAE) and the DOE. We consider the DOE rating to be more accurate.

“For the cooling capacity of portable air conditioners, the ASHRAE rating does not take into account the impact of hot air infiltration from the outside or heat loss through the ducts, which can be significant,” explains Joanna Mauer, Technical Advocacy Manager for Device Standards. Awareness project. “Additionally, the ASHRAE rating refers to an industry testing procedure, but it is not clear that all manufacturers have tested their units consistently.”

“In contrast, DOE ratings are based on a standardized testing procedure established by the US Department of Energy, which manufacturers are required to follow and which takes into account hot air infiltration and heat loss through the ducts, ”adds Mauer. In our guide, we mainly refer to DOE ratings.

What can you do if you’re stuck with an air conditioner that doesn’t have enough Btu to adequately cool a room?

“It’s always good to keep the filter clean,” says Mauer. “You can also try to reduce the heat gain in the room, for example by closing blinds and curtains during the day. Finally, if you have a ceiling fan, running it can make it cool a few degrees. “

Which is better: a portable air conditioner or a window / room air conditioner?

“In general, a room air conditioner is a more efficient choice than a portable air conditioner,” explains Jones. “Portable air conditioners are not part of the Energy Star program.”

Our tests confirm this. Our best portable air conditioner, which uses an energy efficient inverter compressor, still uses 60% more electricity than our best window air conditioner. The AC window also did a much better job of cooling and costs a lot less both upstream and in operation.

So if you have a properly sized sash window, we strongly recommend that you choose a window air conditioner. Only opt for a portable air conditioner in spaces where a window air conditioner is not an option.

Can I use a portable air conditioner in a room without windows?

The short answer is yes, but you must have a way for the hot air to leave the room. If you don’t, you won’t get any of the cooling benefits of air conditioning. With portable air conditioners, you just need an opening to the outside as large as the ventilation pipe.

How do I clean and maintain my portable air conditioner?

Here’s what you need to do to clean and maintain your portable air conditioner:


  • Wipe down the exterior: This one is easy and should be done frequently – just put a damp cloth on the outside of your portable air conditioner to keep it dust free.
  • Keep the hoses as short as possible: If you are moving your portable air conditioner and it has condensate drain and drain hoses, you will want to keep them as short and straight as possible between the unit and the window to reduce the potential buildup of water. humidity or dust inside. This can lead to inefficiency and drive up your bills.
  • Eliminate condensation: Condensation accumulates during the cooling process, so it is important to remove it regularly. Many portable air conditioners have a built-in drain hose or dehumidifier that makes this easier, but you should still check often. It is also important to eliminate condensation if you are storing your portable air conditioner for the season.


  • Clean or change filters: Filters are an important part of keeping your indoor air free from dust and potential allergens. Some brands recommend monthly cleaning, while others, like GE, recommend it weekly. Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s consistent.
  • If you change the filters, make sure you buy the correct one as the wrong size or brand could make your device less efficient. If you are cleaning reusable or washable filters, avoid harsh chemicals and cleaners. According to Bob Vila, generally a vacuum with a flat nozzle or lukewarm water with a mild detergent and a soft brush for dusting will suffice.
  • Check the insulation: Even if your portable air conditioner does not fit into your window frame, the exhaust pipe and potentially the drain pipe will extend outside your home. It is therefore important to make sure that your insulation is flush in order for your machine to operate efficiently. Some models may include insulation strips, but if they don’t, you can easily get inexpensive adhesive strips. Good insulation keeps your portable air conditioner from wasting energy and efficiency cooling your room, so you should do this every time you move your device.

Twice per season:

  • Clean the condenser coils: It looks like a metal filter on the back of your portable air conditioner, so you will need a screwdriver to pop out the back panel. It attracts a lot of dust and can make your air conditioner less efficient over time, so take a vacuum cleaner with a crevice attachment and run it over the coils – don’t press too hard on the metal fins otherwise you risk bumps. . Once the coils are clean, secure the back panel.

Source link