Are you looking to cool a small room but not sure which air conditioner to buy?
Do you want an AC unit for a smaller space like a bedroom, office, spare room, or apartment?
If so, this free guide is for you.
Below, you’ll find out what the best small room air conditioner is for a variety of budgets and needs.
In particular, you’ll discover what the best small AC unit is in three versions: a portable air conditioner, a window mounted unit, and a personal air cooler.
Use these links below to jump to a specific section of the page:
- Types of Small Room Air Conditioners
- List of the Three Best Small Room Air Conditioners (Products and Reviews)
- Benefits of Going with a Small AC Unit
- More Ways to Save with a Small Air Conditioner
In a hurry? Here’s a glimpse of the two best products you can get.
If you’ve got a bit more time you can find the detailed reviews and buying guide below.
Types of Small Room Air Conditioners
One of the major advantages of buying an air conditioner for a small room is that you have more options than if you were trying to cool a larger space.
That’s because cooling a smaller space doesn’t require a complex air conditioning system. It’s also good to go small because you can get a more cost-effective product.
When you’re shopping for a small room air conditioner, you’ll find that there are three main types to choose between.
- Portable AC Unit
- Window AC Unit
- Personal Air Cooler
Obviously, each one of these air conditioners has with their own benefits, but the type of AC unit you pick will largely depend on the factors that are most important to you such as your budget, how comfortable you are at installing it, and which device best meets your cooling needs.
Next, we’ll go over what each of those types of small air conditioners are as well as the pros and cons that come with each one.
Portable AC Unit
First up is the portable air conditioner.
This AC unit comes in the form of a rectangular shape that sits near a window.
Some models include wheels for you to easily roll it from room to room. Others do not and require you to lift up the machine if you want to take it to another room. (Our top recommendation below includes wheels for easy mobility.)
A portable air conditioner operates by sucking hot air out of a room and depositing it outdoors. It does this through the use of a hose that comes out the back of the unit and leads to a window. A window venting kit is included with portable AC units that allow you to crack the window just enough to accept the diameter of the exhaust hose.
Portable AC units also act as dehumidifiers. These machines remove moisture from the air and either collect it in a drip pan, expel it out a small hose that leads to a drain, or uses automatic self-evaporation.
Small room portable air conditioners are very easy to install. Just position the unit next to a window, connect the window venting kit and hose, and you’re done.
The convenience of a portable AC unit does come with a price, however, and this is the most expensive option out of the three different types of small room air conditioners.
Most people prefer this model though because of the simplicity of installation, the fact that nothing sticks out of the window, and because it can be easily moved from room to room. Also, apartment complexes usually accept these air conditioners without any issue because there’s nothing protruding out of the window.
Pros of Portable AC Units
- Very easy to move from room to room.
- Installation is simple.
- Most attractive option. Doesn’t create an unsightly eyesore in your window.
- Approved by most apartment complexes.
Cons of Portable AC Units
- Most expensive option to buy.
- Not every unit includes wheels which could make it more difficult to move to another room.
- Uses the most energy.
(You can find our review of the best portable air conditioner for small rooms a bit farther down in this guide.)
Window AC Unit
Your next option for a small room is a window air conditioner.
You’ve most likely seen or had one of these AC units in your house when you were growing up.
These air conditioners are installed by placing them halfway in and halfway out of a window. The (ugly) backside sticks out the window while the air vents and controls are located on the inside for ease of reach.
Installing a window AC unit can be somewhat of a pain and usually takes at least two people: one person to open the window while the other positions the unit correctly on the sill. (If you can lift 40 lbs., you’ll be able to install our top recommendation below by yourself.)
While small window air conditioners are much cheaper than portable AC units, you don’t have the freedom to easily move it from room to room. Once you install it, the unit pretty much stays put until you decide to remove it.
Like portable air conditioners, small window AC units also act as dehumidifiers. However, instead of self-evaporating or requiring you to drain the collected water, window units push the moisture out the back of the unit and let it drip outdoors. This makes these air conditioners maintenance free in this respect.
If you live in a house, a small window air conditioner is a good option if you don’t mind the looking of it sticking out the window. Unfortunately, this design is why many apartment complexes don’t allow you to install window AC units. They also don’t approve of the water dripping out of the back of these air conditioners.
Pros of Window AC Units
- Cheaper to buy than a portable air conditioner.
- Maintenance free when it comes to dehumidification.
- Uses less energy than a portable AC unit.
Cons of Window AC Units
- More involved installation process.
- Can’t easily be moved from room to room.
- May not be able to be used in an apartment.
(Our review of the best window air conditioner for a small room can be found after the next section.)
Personal Air Cooler
The final type of air conditioner for a small room is a personal air cooler.
This is the best small AC unit for anyone who wants something that’s mobile or unobtrusive. They’re so small that you can easily carry them around with you or place on any tabletop surface.
The way a personal air cooler operates is by filling up a tank with water and then using it to cool the air in your immediate vicinity. (If you want even colder air, our top recommendation below allows you to add ice to the tank.)
While personal air coolers are the cheapest air conditioners for small rooms, they’ve also got the most limited amount of coverage. They’re not meant to cool an entire room, but rather just the immediate space that’s around you.
Additionally, personal air conditioners require a bit of continual maintenance (refilling with water) to keep them working effectively.
The best part of these types of air conditioners, however, is that regardless of where you live or work, a personal air cooler is a viable option. There’s no complex installation, nothing hanging out a window, and they don’t require much energy at all to run.
Pros of Personal Air Coolers
- Cheapest option to buy.
- Most portable and lightweight.
- Can be used anywhere, in any house, apartment or office environment.
- Can get several hours of cooling in one water tank fill.
- Doesn’t use much energy.
- For personal use only. Very limited cooling space coverage.
- Must keep it filled with water or ice for it to work properly.
- Doesn’t act as a dehumidifier.
(If this sounds like what you’re looking for, check out our top recommendation for a personal air cooler below.)
The Best Small Room Air Conditioners
Now that you know what types of air conditioners are available to cool down small rooms, we can move onto the list of the best products available today.
What you’ll find below are three small room air conditioners that offer the best value for an affordable price. Pick the one that best suits you and your cooling needs.
If you want the cheapest, best portable air conditioner for a small room, this is going to be your top choice for a number of reasons.
For starters, it includes an automatic self-evaporation system so you never have to worry about emptying a dehumidification water collection tray or running a water line to a drain.
Second, you have a choice between an 8,000 BTU model that can cool a room up to 150 square feet or a 10,200 BTU version that can cover 250 square feet.
Third, this unit includes wheels so you can easily move it from room to room and the footprint is quite compact at 23.7″ H x 18.7″ W x 16″ D.
Your favorite feature, however, may be 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.
Finally, you can choose between two colors: black or white.
If you’re looking for the best small room air conditioner that fits inside a window, this is it.
This 5,000 BTU model is one of the highest quality AC units you can buy that can handle a space up to 150 square feet. A 6,000 BTU version is also available that covers 200 square feet.
The most impressive feature is the washable antibacterial air filter. This filter helps to clean your indoor air by removing harmful pollutants like dust, allergens, and dirt particles while also delivering ice cold air.
Temperature and fan speeds are controlled by rotary dials and airflow direction can be adjusted in two ways through the vents.
All-in-all there’s not much else you can ask for in a high-quality window AC unit.
If all you need is a compact personal air cooler, this is a great choice.
Its small footprint (8″ H x 8″ W x 10″ D) allows you to take it anywhere and place it comfortably on any counter, desk, or tabletop surface.
You also have to option of powering it by plugging it into a wall outlet or USB port.
The best part, however, is all it requires is a simple fill of water to enjoy up to 8 hours of cool air around you. You can also add ice to the tank for even colder air.
A final standout feature of this particular air cooler is that it includes a soothing night light with seven different color options. This makes it a pleasant device to even use in your bedroom for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Benefits of Going with a Small AC Unit
If you’re not already convinced about the advantages that a small room air conditioner can give you, here are some of the top benefits you’ll enjoy by using one of these recommended machines.
You may be surprised to learn that larger air conditioners are actually less efficient for smaller rooms.
The reasoning behind this efficiency discrepancy is that a larger AC unit will cool a smaller room until it hits the set thermostat point without any respect to the humidity level. This lack of dehumidification from cooling the room too fast can make it feel clammy and uncomfortable.
On the other hand, a smaller air conditioner that runs for a longer period of time is more efficient at dehumidifying the room because it won’t cycle on and off as much as a larger unit.
So, if you’re trying to chill a small room that’s between 150 to 200 square feet your best choice to aim for a cool room with low humidity. The best small AC unit that can achieve this will not only make you feel more comfortable but be more energy-efficient as well.
Cheaper to Run
A lot of people dread summer and the warmer weather because they know that it will cause a spike in their electricity bill. However, it’s significantly cheaper to run the best small room air conditioner than it is to run a central air conditioner.
The reason being is that it all comes down to kilowatt-hour (kWh) and how much your electricity company charges per kWh to run. The national average for kWh cost is 13 cents.
Below is some quick math to show you the cost savings of a smaller air conditioner compared to a central AC unit. We used this calculator for the equation.
The average central air conditioning system uses 3,500 watts. If you run a central air conditioner for eight hours per day it works out to around $3.64 per day to operate the system. This equals about $109 per month for air conditioning.
If you run a window air conditioner that tops out at around 450 watts for eight hours per day, it only costs you around $0.47 per day to use it. In turn, you’ll pay around $14 per month to run this smaller unit.
Ideally, when you’re looking for a small AC unit, it’s because the room you’re going to use it in is between 150 and 250 square feet. For that size, you only need a 5,000 to 8,000 BTU air conditioning unit. These are the smallest sizes you can get for window and portable air conditioners, and most of them only use about 350-450 watts.
This lower wattage use lets you enjoy cooler temperatures indoors and lower humidity levels without spiking your energy bill.
Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER)
When you’re shopping for an air conditioner, you’ll undoubtedly come across the term “Energy Efficiency Ratio” or EER which is a number that’s available on the energy guide label attached to the unit.
In short, this is a measurement of how energy efficient your air conditioner is at cooling a room and allows you to better compare similar products.
You get the EER by dividing the air conditioner’s cooling output (BTUs) by the energy usage in watt-hours.
For example, if your small air conditioner cooling output is 5,000 BTUs and it uses 500 watts of electricity to run, the EER is 10.
(5,000 ÷ 500 = 10).
The higher the EER number, the more energy-efficient your AC unit is. In turn, if you were comparing two air conditioners and one had an EER of 10 and the other 12, the EER 12 model would cost less to operate.
Lighter Weight and Uses Less Space
Maybe you don’t have a lot of space available for an air conditioner or you’re not able to move around a full-size unit by yourself. If so, the best AC for small rooms can help solve both of these problems in one go.
For starters, small window AC units can weight as little as 35 lbs. and a majority of people are able to lift this weight without any problems.
When you compare that weight to larger units that weight up to 70 lbs. or more, you can quickly see why smaller models are more attractive to buyers.
There’s also the issue of floor space to consider.
No matter where you live, in an apartment or house, floor space is quite precious. The last thing you want is to take up floor space with a bulky AC unit.
Fortunately, most smaller portable air conditioners only take up a fraction of the floor space as their larger competitors. For example, our top recommendation above measures 23.7″ H x 18.7″ W x 16″ D which doesn’t take up much space at all.
Things get even lighter and smaller when you look at a personal air conditioner. These AC units often weigh less than two pounds and are around 8 inches wide and tall.
Quieter Than Larger AC Units
Noise levels can play a significant factor when you’re deciding between a large and small air conditioner.
You don’t want to spend money on a larger, louder AC unit that’s too noisy when you need it. And, since many people run their air conditioners at night, you’ll likely want something that’s going to run quietly in the background.
Smaller AC units don’t need as much power to cool a room as larger units do which means that they’re much quieter.
A personal air conditioner is the quietest option available. You’ll barely notice it when it’s running.
If you get a small portable air conditioner, the noise level will be around 70dB. This level is similar to the sound of a vacuum cleaner.
Window air conditioners have a noise level around 50 dB which is about the same volume as a quiet suburb. For comparison sake, a window AC unit is about one-eighth the loudness of a portable air conditioner, making it the quietest type of air conditioner besides a personal air cooler.
Easier to Store When Not In Use
This one is pretty self-explanatory. No matter which type of air conditioner you choose out of the three, you’ll have an easier time storing it when it’s not in use.
Obviously, the personal air conditioner will be the easiest to store and can go just about anywhere while a window or portable AC unit could go in a closet, basement, or attic until you need it next summer.
More Ways to Save with a Small Room Air Conditioner
The best AC for small room recommendations above are already great energy savers, however, you can cut your air conditioning costs even more by following the tips below.
Close the Blinds or Curtains
Having your curtains open and letting the sunlight stream in can quickly raise your indoor temperatures.
Therefore, you’ll want to maximize this barrier between the heat and sun and your indoor environment. Ideally, you should have your curtains open in the cooler morning hours, closed through the hotter midday temperatures, and open again in the cool evening hours.
That way, it’s not dark and dreary all of the time, nor is it baking hot. Also, following this pattern means you won’t have to run your air conditioner on full blast all day.
Set the Temperature to 78 Degrees
Another thing you can do to lower your cooling costs is to set the thermostat on the AC unit to 78° degrees Fahrenheit. This is the most efficient temperature setting for your air conditioner when it gets warm out.
Put it this way, if the average outdoor temperature is 90°, the cost to drop the indoor temperature to 76° instead of 78° is roughly 17% more. If you aim for 72° instead of 78° it can increase your cooling costs by 50%. So, keep the thermostat at 78° if you can bear it for the most cost savings.
Additionally, don’t set your air conditioner’s temperature extremely low, thinking that it may cool down the room faster. The temperature setting has no effect on the speed of cooling. All it does it set a limit for when the unit should turn itself off or switch to fan-only mode.
Keep the Air Filter Clean
Portable and window air conditioners come with a filter to help screen the air as it passes through it. Eventually, this air filter will start to get dirty due to the small contaminants it catches, and it will get dirty much faster if you run your AC for longer periods of time.
For that reason, it’s essential that you routinely clean your air filter to keep the AC unit running in top shape. All it takes is some soap and water. Not doing so can lower the efficiency of the unit by as much as 15%.
Make it a habit to check your air filter every two weeks during the hot summer season to see if it needs cleaning.
Use a Fan
Did you know that you can make a small room feel up to 5° just by turning on a ceiling or portable fan?
Combining a room fan with your new air conditioner can help circulate the cool air through the room more effectively. It can also help spread this cool air to other rooms of your home. So, give it a try.
Avoid Building Up Heat Indoors
Whenever the outdoor temperature is on the rise, avoid doing things that cause heat to build up inside your home.
This can include things like cooking, drying clothes, or running your dishwasher. Instead, choose to grill out, hang dry your clothes, and wash dishes by hand. Another option is to just shift these chores to later in the day when it’s cooler out.
Which Type of AC for Small Room Should You Buy?
This is the million dollar question, however, the answer is quite simple. Follow these suggestions below to help guide you on which small room air conditioner type to buy.
Buy a Portable Air Conditioner if:
- You want the option to move the AC unit from room to room.
- You want an easy installation.
- You want the most attractive unit.
- You live in an apartment that doesn’t allow window air conditioners.
- You don’t mind emptying the dehumidification drip pan or you can route the water hose to a drain.
Buy a Window Air Conditioner if:
- You don’t need to move the AC unit from room to room.
- You have someone who can help you with the installation.
- You don’t mind an AC unit sticking out both sides of a window.
- You want to spend the least amount of money on a whole room air conditioner.
- You want a maintenance free unit in regards to dehumidification.
Buy a Personal (Tabletop) Air Conditioner if:
- You want a portable AC unit that you can take with you anywhere.
- You’re only concerned with cooling the immediate space around you and not an entire room.
- You want to spend the least amount of money on an air conditioner.
- You don’t mind filling the water tank every few hours.
Well, we hope you found this guide on the best small room air conditioner helpful. As you learned, the best AC for small room purposes really depends on your desires, comfort, and budget.
Any of the options mentioned above should suit your needs while keeping you cool all summer long. So, pick the best small AC unit that’s best for you.