Are you trying to keep cool during the summer but don’t want to spend a ton of money doing it?
Would you like to find a cheap portable air conditioner you can move from room to room without much hassle?
If so, you’ve landed on the right page.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about finding the best cheap portable AC unit for your home.
We’ll show you the most important things to look for when making a purchase, as well as the top three products you can buy today.
So, let’s get started!
Use these links below to jump to a specific section of the page:
- Why a Cheap Portable AC Unit is a Good Choice
- Important Factors to Consider
- Features to Look For in a Portable Air Conditioner
- List of the Three Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioners (Reviews & Ratings)
Why a Cheap Portable AC Unit is a Good Choice
The truth is everyone can benefit from having a portable air conditioning unit in their home.
Not only are they great for keeping you cool indoors, but they’re also an excellent way to cut your energy costs and save money during the hot summer months.
If you currently have a central air conditioning system in your home, then you know firsthand how expensive it is to run these units. What makes central air conditioners so costly is that they force you to lower the temperature of the whole house (and can’t target a specific room) which wastes a lot of money on electricity.
The major benefit of owning an inexpensive portable air conditioner is that it can maintain a comfortable temperature inside the room (or rooms) you use the most. With a portable AC unit, you’ll cool down faster and keep certain rooms colder longer without having to fear the cost of your next utility bill.
As a comparison, a portable air conditioning unit only uses about one-eighth of the electricity that a central AC system does to cool down your home. This equates to about $6-15 per month to run a small portable unit versus $100-200 for central air.
Now, before you go off and just buy any affordable portable air conditioner you can find, it’s critical that you get one that suits your specific needs and space requirements. There are several important factors to consider before making a purchase and we’ve laid them out below so you can make the best decision possible.
Important Factors to Consider in a Portable Air Conditioner
One of the worst things you can do is purchase a new portable AC unit and then realize it doesn’t do half of the things you expected it to.
Unfortunately, not all low-cost air conditioners operate in the same way.
These appliances use a variety of methods to cool the air around you and your goal should be to find a unit that meets your expectations. In order to ensure that your new air conditioner is something you’ll be happy with, you’ll want to keep the following list of things in mind.
The way your air conditioning unit handles condensation will play a huge role in how easy it is to use.
There are three main condensate types you have to consider when you’re shopping for a cheap portable air conditioner. Usually, the cheaper it is, the more work you have to do to keep up with it.
- Drip AC units funnel the condensation into an attached inner bucket that you have to empty out regularly. This could get annoying if the bucket doesn’t hold much water.
- Partial drip AC units also have an internal collection bucket, but they also have an external hose. Some of the condensates drip into the bucket and the rest is filtered out through the hose that’s connected to a window. The bucket needs to be emptied periodically, but not as much as a drip only air conditioner.
- Non-drip AC units release all of their condensates directly into the surrounding air. With this type, you never have to empty anything. It’s the most convenient AC model to own.
All three of the products we review below are non-drip AC units that use evaporation to get rid of condensates. This makes each one easy to maintain and use for extended periods of time.
Portable vs. Ventless Design
When you’re shopping for a portable air conditioner, you’ll find that there are actually two types:
- and Ventless
The difference between these two technologies is huge and now knowing what those are could cause you to be disappointed with your purchase.
Here’s what you need to know…
Oddly, a portable AC unit is more restrictive than you may think. This type of air conditioner uses a hose to funnel hot air out of a room and expel it outside during the cooling process.
A “portable” AC design means that you have to place the air conditioner near a window so it has somewhere to release the hot air. Although the unit is technically portable, the inclusion of a hose and its length limits where it can be used.
A ventless AC unit doesn’t use a hose. The way it works to cool the air is through the process of evaporation. It’s similar to a fan but much more powerful and colder.
As hot air passes through the unit, it cools over a tank of water. The fan then pumps the cold air out into the room. This design makes “ventless” air conditioners fully mobile and much more portable than a “portable AC model.” With a ventless AC unit, there are no restrictions on where you place it inside a room.
So, You Should Get a Ventless Air Conditioner Right? Maybe Not…
Now, you may be thinking, “Why would I ever buy a portable unit when a ventless air conditioner sounds like the better deal?”
Well, the humidity level of where you live can play a significant role in the type of AC you choose.
A portable air conditioner works best in humid climates because it sucks moisture out of the air to cool it down.
A ventless unit works best in dry environments because the evaporation process adds cold water vapor back into the air.
If you buy the wrong type of air conditioner for where you live, it may not cool your home down at all, or worse it could make the room feel hotter. Ideally, you want to aim for a 50-60% relative humidity inside the home. If it’s normally higher than that, go with a portable unit. If it’s lower, choose a ventless air conditioner.
The map below can help you quickly determine which product type is the better choice if you live in the U.S.
Comparing Portable Air Conditioners and Ventless Air Conditioners
We went over a lot above, so here’s a simple chart to help you spot the differences between the two versions of air conditioners.
|Feature||Portable AC||Ventless AC|
|Ideal Humidity Level||Above 60%||Below 60%|
|Portable||Yes, but must be placed near and vented out a window||Yes, without any restrictions on placement|
|Cooling Method||Transfers hot air to the outdoors||Sucks hot air into the unit and uses evaporation to cool the air|
BTU and CFM Explained
Something you’ll notice when shopping for the best cheap portable air conditioner is that each one will use a different acronym and number to describe its power output.
You’ll see things like 8,000 BTUs and 470 CFMs.
Without getting too technical, manufacturers use the term “BTUs” to indicate how powerful a portable air conditioner model is, and “CFMs” for ventless AC units.
Just remember that the higher the BTU or CFM number is, the larger space the unit can cool.
To help avoid confusion, some manufacturers now list the maximum square footage the AC unit can effectively cool in addition to these technical numbers. In each of our product reviews below, we’ve included the square footage rating for you so you don’t have to hunt for it.
The price for cheap portable AC units ranges between $150 to $300.
A lot of different things go into determining the unit’s final cost, but one of the most significant factors is how powerful it is. Obviously, a portable AC unit that can cool a larger room will cost more than a unit that’s designed for a smaller space.
With cheaper products, you have to remember that you’re trading the ability to cool a large area for a more cost-effective and concentrated unit. This means that if a having a low price is your top priority, then you can’t expect it to cool down a huge basement or the entire first floor of your house.
We point this out so your expectations will be in line with what your budget can afford. If you want something really powerful, you can find our review of the best portable AC units for every room size here.
Features to Look For in a Cheap Portable Air Conditioner
Now that you know what the basic factors are you should consider in a portable AC unit, there are a few key features you’ll also want to look for when making a final buying decision.
Automatic Drainage System
- A cheap portable air conditioner with an automatic drainage system is a great thing to have because it turns all condensation liquid into exhaust. You never have to worry about emptying out a bucket of collected water or it accidentally overflowing. All three of the products below have an automatic drainage system or use evaporation to keep them maintenance and mess-free.
- If your air conditioner comes with a built-in humidifier, it can help control humidity levels in your home. While you may not think you’d need this feature year-round, it can be beneficial in the colder months. Humid air retains more heat than dry air and a humidifier function can help keep a room much warmer during winter. Two of our top picks below double as humidifiers and the other acts as a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air.
- If you want to set your AC to turn on and off when the room reaches a certain temperature, a programmable thermostat is a must-have feature. Some cheaper portable air conditioners cut costs by leaving this function out and it can be a real pain having to manually adjust your AC unit throughout the day. A programmable thermostat ensures that you’re always cool and comfortable.
- Having a remote for your portable AC is another great thing to look for. It lets you adjust the temperature and switch it on and off without having to get up or the touch the unit.
The Three Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioners
So, what are the best portable air conditioners at the cheapest prices?
That’s what we’ll cover next.
The list below will save you countless hours of research because we’ve done all of the hard work for you of narrowing down the top choices for cheap portable and ventless AC units.
No matter which model you pick, you’ll know that you’re getting the best value for your money.
This is considered the best cheap portable air conditioner for a variety of reasons.
For starters, it comes with an automatic evaporation system so you don’t have to worry about emptying the water collection bucket.
It’s also powered by 8,000 BTUs and can cool a room up to 150 square feet.
While this unit is lightweight and can easily be moved from room to room, it does use a hose to vent hot air outside. So, you will need to use it near a window. However, the design also means it doubles as a dehumidifier.
Our favorite feature is the programmable 24-hour timer and thermostat that lets you control the temperature even when you’re not home. A remote control is also included.
This ventless AC unit is an amazing deal.
Not only is it lightweight and compact, but it also uses very little power to cool a room up to 100 square feet. This makes it very cheap to operate.
Since this AC has a ventless design, it doesn’t use a hose to expel hot air, but rather reduces temperature through water evaporation. This means there’s no drip pan to worry about and you can place it practically anywhere.
Because of its design, it also doubles as a humidifier and can be used in colder months to add moisture back into the air to help warm it up.
Something this air conditioner has that you won’t find in many other products is an Activated Carbon filter. What this filter does is help reduce odors in the room by cleaning the air as it passes through the unit. That’s a great perk to have.
A low water alarm alerts you for when it’s time to refill the water tank and it also includes an ice compartment for cooling the air faster. Finally, a remote control and energy-saving timer are included for those who want to enjoy the maximum convenience.
Perhaps you’re looking for a small portable air conditioner that’s best suited for personal use.
If so, this is your top choice at the cheapest price.
This product works by adding water to a reservoir and using it to blow cool air in your direction. To experience even colder air you can add ice to the compartment. The 420mL water tank gives you between four to six hours of cold air on a single fill.
As with the previous AC unit we reviewed, this one also doubles as a humidifier for year-round use.
Keep in mind that this product is really designed to be a personal AC unit and covers around 50 square feet. For the best results, you’ll want it to be between three to five feet away from you. The best placement is on a desk or table.
It doesn’t have a remote, but the push-button controls are easy to use. This cheap portable air conditioner has three fan speeds settings and you can manually adjust the air stream up and down to get the the cooling just right.