Are you tired of paying high electric bills each month just to keep cool?
Or maybe you don’t have central air conditioning at all?
And you want an inexpensive way to stay comfortable during the hot summer months.
Either way, you don’t have to settle for the agonizing heat inside your home or apartment.
The best portable air conditioner can keep you comfortable—for cheap—while also giving you the freedom to move cool air to any room you’d like.
But, what is the best portable AC unit you can buy?
In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about indoor air conditioning units so you can make the right choice.
We’ll show you what the top portable and ventless air conditioners are for each size room and how to pick the best one for your needs.
Let’s get started!
Use these links below to jump to a specific section of the page:
- Best Portable AC Units (At a Glance)
- Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide
- A Crucial Difference: Portable vs Ventless Air Conditioners
- How to Choose The Right Indoor Air Conditioning Unit Size
- Best Portable AC Unit Reference Chart
- Best Ventless Air Conditioner CFM Ratings
- Ventless & Portable Air Conditioner Reviews
- Best Portable Air Conditioners (Products and Ratings)
- Why Portable (& Ventless) Air Conditioners are a Great Choice
- Ventless & Portable AC Unit Care and Maintenance Tips
Best Portable AC Units (At a Glance)
In a hurry? Here’s a glimpse of the two best indoor air conditioners you can get.
You’ll find out more about models in the portable air conditioner reviews and buying guide below.
Haier HPP08XCR Portable Air Conditioner
Luma Comfort EC110S Ventless Air Conditioner
Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide
A Crucial Difference: Portable vs Ventless Air Conditioners
Before we jump into the list of reviews, there’s a key difference you need to understand about these appliances.
Not many people know this, but there are actually two different types of indoor air conditioning units you can choose your home.
If you confuse these two types of AC units, you could end up making a costly (and inconvenient) mistake.
The two terms you need to familiarize yourself with are:
- Portable air conditioner
- and Ventless air conditioner (also known as “evaporative air cooler”)
A product that carries just the label “portable” is outfitted with a hose that transfers hot air from inside a room to the outdoors.
This means that it has to be installed next to a window so that the hose can be vented to the outside.
A fan on the front of the unit is what blows out conditioned air to cool the room.
A product that includes the word “ventless” or “evaporative” doesn’t use a hose for ventilation.
Instead, it uses a tank of water, a fan, and the natural process of water evaporation to deliver cool air into a room.
Oddly, a “ventless portable air conditioner” is much more portable than a “portable air conditioner” since it doesn’t have to be connected to a window.
Ventless AC units are easy to move from room to room—like a rolling chair—whereas a portable unit requires some extra work to take down and set up.
So, Which Type of Air Conditioner Should You Get?
It may seem like an obvious choice to buy a ventless air conditioner (or evaporative air cooler) because it’s a lot more mobile; however, there’s actually a more important factor you need to take into consideration before making a purchase.
And that is the humidity levels of where you live.
As you just learned, a portable unit and ventless air cooler work in radically different ways, and if you don’t buy the right one for your location, then you won’t get the best results.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Portable AC is best for humid climates because it cools the warm air by removing moisture from it. That’s why this indoor air conditioner must be connected to a window—to expel the moisture and hot air.
- Ventless AC is best for dry climates because it adds moisture back into the air to help cool it. However, there must be a constant supply of fresh air (like an open window or door) to avoid overly-saturating the air inside the room.
Take a look at the map below to quickly determine what the best portable air conditioner type is best for your region.
How to Choose The Right Indoor Air Conditioning Unit Size
Now that you know how to pick the right kind of air conditioner for your home, the next step is choosing a model that’s properly sized for the room it’s going to be used in.
When you’re shopping for an indoor air conditioning unit, you’ll find two types of efficiency ratings:
- BTU is for portable air conditioners (e.g. 8,000 BTU or 14,000 BTU)
- CFM is for ventless air conditioners (e.g. 700 CFM or 2000 CFM)
While these numbers may seem complex, they’re actually quite easy to understand; each one pertains to a maximum square footage that the air conditioner can handle.
These numbers are important because you don’t want a ventless or portable air conditioner unit that’s rated too high or too low for the room you want to use it in.
Here’s what we mean:
- You don’t want to buy a model that’s too weak to cool your room. That will increase your monthly energy costs and leave the room feeling hotter than you desire.
- You also don’t want an AC unit that puts out too much power for the room. That will cause the air conditioner to overwork itself and eventually break down, plus you’ll spend too much money on the initial purchase.
What you do want is for the AC unit to be sized properly for a room to maximum efficiency and cooling performance.
How to Figure Out What BTU and CFM Numbers Should Be When Comparing AC Unit Models
This process is easy to do and only requires two steps.
First, measure the room you’re going to place the unit in.
Second, match the room size up with our handy reference chart below.
Measuring the Square Footage of the Room
Using a tape measure, measure the length and width of the room you want to put the portable AC unit in.
For odd lengths, round up or down to the nearest whole foot number.
Then multiply these two numbers together.
This will give you the square footage for the room size.
For example, a room that is 29 ft. 8 in. long by 21 ft. 4 in. wide, would round up to 30 ft. by 21 ft. Multiplying these numbers together gives you 630 square feet (sq. ft.).
30 x 21 = 630 sq. ft.
This is the maximum amount of space you want your compact air conditioner to cover.
Best Portable AC Unit Reference Chart
Below is a quick reference chart to find the right BTU capacity for your needs.
BTU is short for British Thermal Unit which is the traditional unit for heat.
Take the square footage of the room size you measured and find the associated BTU number to cool the room efficiently.
Then, look for a portable air conditioner that has this rating in order to get the best value.
Using our previous example of a large 630 sq. ft. room, the correct BTU portable air conditioner would be one with a 14,000 BTU unit rating.
In contrast, a small room air conditioner for 200 sq. ft. would only require an 8,000 BTU unit rating.
|Room Area To Be Cooled||Capacity Needed|
|up to 350 sq. ft.||8,000 BTU|
|350 to 400 sq. ft.||9,000 BTU|
|400 to 450 sq. ft.||10,000 BTU|
|450 to 550 sq. ft.||12,000 BTU|
|550 to 700 sq. ft.||14,000 BTU|
All of the portable ACs reviewed below include the square footage and BTU rating to help you find the right indoor air conditioning unit for your needs.
Best Ventless Air Conditioner CFM Ratings
Unfortunately, CFM ratings don’t always match up as perfectly as BTU ratings do for square footage measurements.
For example, one of the top ventless models below has a 1650 CFM rating and covers up to 650 sq. ft.
The other recommendation has a lower 1540 CFM rating yet covers 700 sq. ft.
That’s quite a difference.
Luckily, 99% of ventless air conditioners (and evaporative coolers) include the maximum square footage along with the CFM number in the product title or description.
So, you really don’t have to worry about getting the CFM number wrong when shopping for an evaporative cooler.
Just look for the recommended square footage that we include in all of our reviews below.
Those are there to make it easy for you to find the perfect indoor air conditioner for your needs.
Ventless & Portable Air Conditioner Reviews
Now that you know what to look for when choosing an AC unit for your home, we can move onto showing you what the models are for every room size.
The portable air conditioner reviews below will save you countless hours of research because we’ve done all of the hard work for you of narrowing down the best portable AC unit and ventless air conditioner versions.
No matter which model you pick, you can feel confident that you’re getting top value for your money along with excellent cooling performance.
Disclosure: At Home Air Quality Guides, we believe in an education-first philosophy. We never make product recommendations until after we educate our readers on what to look for in the top-performing devices and then only suggest items that meet those specific criteria. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases made through the links below. If you buy a qualifying product, you’re not charged a penny more, but we’ll get a small commission that supports our work. We hope you enjoy this free guide and find the best product for your needs through these recommendations.
The 12 Best Portable Air Conditioners
Portable for small rooms
250 square feet
If you’re looking for the best portable air conditioner for a small size room, this is our top pick.
This indoor air conditioning unit is perfect for bedrooms, dens, and home office spaces because of the low noise level and energy efficiency.
It can handle up to 250 sq. ft., has three cooling settings, a 24-hour timer, and wheels that make it easy to move from room to room.
The push button controls, LCD display, and remove control make it easy to operate and find the perfect temperature for your home.
The best part, however, is the dehumidifier setting. It can remove up to 3.6 pints per hour and has a self-evaporation design.
That means it can dehumidify the room and get rid of the collected moisture automatically for you.
Other models at this price level require you to empty a water collection bucket.
If you want affordable and efficient cool air, this is a great choice.
Portable for small rooms
300 square feet
Although this unit has a lower BTU number than the previous small room portable air conditioner, it’s actually more powerful—covers up to 300 sq. ft.
It also has a nice sleek design with an auto-swing air vent.
This feature helps eliminate hot spots and makes it more energy efficient to cool your room.
Two fan speeds, a 24-hour timer, sleep mode, and remote control give you a variety of options for controlling the temperature and speed of air flow.
A bright LED screen is also available on the unit if you prefer that style of operation.
Additionally, these portable ACs also include a self-evaporation dehumidifier feature that removes 2.6 pints per hour.
You can choose between three colors: black, white, or gray.
Ventless for small rooms
250 square feet
If you’re in the market for a ventless air conditioner, this is our top pick as the most cost-effective small room air conditioner you can buy.
It can cool a space up to 250 sq. ft., has three cooling modes, low noise level, oscillation, and a 7.5-hour timer.
Everything on this indoor air conditioner can be operated with a remote control and the wheel casters make it easy to move around.
The water tank holds 1.76 gallons which can last up to 8.5 hours of continuous use before refilling.
Ventless for small rooms
300 square feet
If you need to cover a bit more space with an evaporative air cooler, this model is a great choice.
It chills rooms up to 300 sq. ft., has wheels for easy transport, and three rhythmic wind modes that mimic the feeling of real wind.
Another nice feature is a washable Activated Carbon filter that purifies your indoor air by trapping dust, odors, and other indoor pollutants.
As for the cooling capacity of this ventless AC unit, it has a 5.3-gallon water tank that chills a room for 6-8 hours.
A top-loading ice compartment allows you to make the air even colder, which also makes it more energy efficient.
You can control every aspect of this air conditioner (including the 8-hour timer) from the onboard LED panel or by using the remote control.
Portable unit for medium size rooms
350 square feet
If you’re trying to cool a medium-sized room in your house (i.e. living room) or apartment this is the best portable AC unit available.
This compact Honeywell portable air conditioner has more than 2,000 positive reviews and can cool and dehumidify a space up to 350 sq. ft.
It also has a fan-only mode if you’re just looking for a cool breeze without setting a particular temperature.
Easy operation is controlled by buttons on the front panel or with a remote control.
The self-evaporation dehumidifier system also means a bucketless (and draining) operation. And it removes 2.75 pints per hour of moisture.
Portable unit for medium size rooms
400 square feet
Another good choice you may want for a medium size room is this indoor air conditioning unit here.
It covers up to 400 sq. ft. and includes a vertical wind motion feature to distribute cool air more evenly and faster for you.
A set of air filters help to purify the air by reducing indoor pollutants as well as extend the performance of the machine.
You also get three fan speeds, digital controls, a 24-hour timer, and remote control to set the precise temperature for your cooling needs.
Plus, this product comes in three color choices: white, white and black, or white and blue.
Like the Haier mentioned above, it too includes an auto evaporating dehumidifier which makes manual draining unnecessary.
That’s a great feature to have since this model can remove up to 80 pints per day.
Ventless for medium size rooms
320 square feet
This ventless evaporative air cooler is the best in its class for use in areas with low humidity (1,000+ positive reviews).
It covers up to 320 sq. ft. which makes it ideal for most home applications.
Additional perks include four cooling speeds, oscillation mode, and an LED control panel, and remote for easy control.
Under normal use, the 7.9-gallon water tank only needs to be replenished every 48 hours so you can enjoy cooler air for long periods of time.
Ventless for medium size rooms
500 square feet
While this may not be the most attractive portable evaporative cooler, it’s really your best option for cooling an area up to 500 sq. ft.
Not many other quality products exist for medium size rooms between 300-500 sq. ft.
If you do pick this air cooler, you won’t be let down.
You’ll enjoy four fan speeds (controlled by a rotary switch), oscillation, a carrying handle, and wheels that make it easy to move.
Under normal use, the 4.8-gallon water tank gives you between 3-4 hours of operation.
Portable for large size rooms
500 square feet
If you want a super stylish AC system that covers a ton of space, then you’ve found it in this machine.
No other indoor air conditioner on the market looks this good and can handle a room up to 500 sq. ft.
It’s perfect for large living rooms, office spaces, and single levels in a town home.
With digital controls, a wide range of temperature settings, three cooling speeds, and a 24-hour timer, you’ve got the best of everything in this product.
Plus, it’s one of the quietest portable air conditioners around.
Additionally, this AC unit does more than just cool your room.
It also includes an Activated Carbon air filter that purifies the air and leaves your home smelling fresh and clean in addition to pumping out cold air.
Finally, it’s outfitted with a self-evaporative dehumidifier which exhausts condensation automatically for you—up to 101 pints per day.
Portable for large size rooms
700 square feet
If you liked the design of the Honeywell model recommended above for medium size rooms, you’ll be happy to know that it also comes in a more powerful version.
This unit has all of the same features but covers an area up to 700 sq. ft.
With this portable AC unit, you get stress free and easy self-evaporation with the dehumidifier function, vertical air output for more even air distribution, and a set of air purifying filters.
As for condensation removal, it can evaporate up to 111 pints per day, which is more than any other product on this list.
It also has three fan speeds, digital controls and display, and a remote control to set the ideal temperature for the room.
A 24-hour timer function can also be useful when you need it.
And this model comes in three colors: pure white, white and black, or white and blue.
Ventless for large size rooms
650 square feet
Hands down, this is one of the biggest and best evaporative air coolers around.
It covers up to 650 sq. ft. (which is HUGE), offers three cooling speeds, and an oscillation feature.
What’s also great is that this unit has a direct line input for water which means you can use it outside (and continuously) without having the refill the water tank.
For indoor use, the 10.6-gallon water tank can last 4-5 hours before you even have to think about refilling it.
If we have to give this air conditioner one critique, it would be that it uses old-school rotary dials as opposed to modern digital controls.
But given all of its power, those dials are not that big of a deal for most people, so you may want to give it a try.
Ventless for large size rooms
700 square feet
If you thought the previous ventless air conditioner was powerful, you’ll be even more amazed by this AC unit.
For home use, it can’t be beat.
It’s our top pick for using both indoors or outdoors for a lakeside-style breeze.
It covers the largest amount of space, up to 700 sq. ft., and has extra-wide fan blades for delivering cooling airflow.
An optional ice compartment allows you to chill the air even more.
This unit includes a jumbo 15.9-gallon water tank that can last around 10 hours on the low fan setting or you can choose to connect the continuous water supply option for non-stop air cooling.
Similar to the previously mentioned Luma Comfort evaporative air cooler, this product also has rotary dials instead of digital controls.
But at this price point and power, you won’t find a better option.
Why Portable (& Ventless) Air Conditioners are a Great Choice
Portable Air Conditioners are Cheap to Use
One of the major benefits of owning a portable air conditioning unit is that it drastically cuts down on monthly energy costs for cooling your home.
With a central air system, you have to pay for it to run throughout the entire house even if you just want to cool down one specific room. The average homeowner spends $100-200 per month for this type of cooling system.
Portable Air Conditioners Have No Restrictions
The biggest competitor for portable ACs are window-mounted air conditioning units.
If interested, we have an entire guide on the best window air conditioners here.
However, window units don’t comply with most building codes and HOA regulations. If you rent an apartment or live in an HOA zone, you can’t use them.
Portable units don’t have this restriction since they don’t protrude from the outside. This makes these devices one of the best investments you can make to enjoy cooled air.
Portable AC Units are Non-Permanent and Easy to Install
Most portable units are very lightweight, and as long as there’s an electrical outlet and a place to vent the warm air, you’re good to use it.
Ventless & Portable AC Unit Care and Maintenance Tips
To get the most value out of your portable air conditioner, there are a few tips you can follow to maximize its efficiency:
- Insulate gaps. Cracks and gaps appear between the window, frame, and panel holding the AC vent. By insulating them you’ll help prevent cold air that has been conditioned from slipping through those areas.
- Keep it as close as possible to the window. The shorter the hose length on a portable AC unit, the faster it can remove the hot inside air.
- Check the air filter every two weeks. If it’s dirty, clean it.
- Inspect the condenser coils monthly. These get dirty over time with grease and grime and are expensive to replace. Use a coil cleaner solution (available at most hardware stores) to get clean it up.
- Keep the room clean. Dusty or dirty rooms not only cause a faster build up of debris on the air filter but also can damage the internal parts, causing it not to function properly.
Benefits of Portable AC Units vs Window Air Conditioners
If you were thinking about getting a window air conditioner, here are some things you may want to consider before making that purchase.
A portable air conditioning unit could be a better choice for you because:
- No need for weatherproofing. Since window ACs are partially exposed to the outdoors, they often require some sort of weatherproofing cover to keep them from deteriorating. The best portable air conditioners don’t have any parts exposed to the outside, so you never have to worry about them getting damaged by weather.
- Easy to install. It doesn’t require much effort to install a portable unit and each model comes with a window venting kit. Ventless air conditioners don’t need to be vented outdoors so no venting is necessary. Window units, on the other hand, often require two people for installation because they’re so heavy. These devices also need one person to hold the unit in place while the other adjusts the window around it.
- Can it from room to room. A major advantage of portable and ventless AC units is that you can roll them from room to room and set them up with ease. Once you mount a window AC unit, it stays put.
- More attractive. Portable air conditioning systems come in very attractive and modern designs. Window unit designs haven’t really changed that much over the years and can be an eyesore for some people.
- Can be used in apartments. Not many apartment complexes allow the use of a window air conditioner; however, some do let you install a portable ACs because they’re non-intrusive. All landlords will allow ventless air conditioners to be used for cooling since they don’t need any ventilation.
Single Exhaust Hose vs Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioners
When you’re shopping for a portable air conditioner, you’ll find that each unit will either use a single exhaust hose or dual hose system.
No matter which option you end up with, the end result is the same – hot air is drawn out of the room and sent outside through one of the exhaust hoses.
To understand more fully how each of these systems work, we’ll explain what you need to know next.
Single Exhaust Hose AC Units
As the name suggests, this type of portable air conditioner only has one exhaust hose coming out the back of the unit.
After the air is pulled from the room and sent into the air conditioner, it’s passed by the internal coils to be chilled before being pushed back into the room.
Some of that air is used to cool the unit down and then sent through the hose and out of the house.
That process creates negative pressure.
What this means is that hotter air from the outside or other rooms of the home can be sucked into the space through cracks and gaps around doors and windows.
Therefore, portable AC units with one exhaust hose may have to work harder to keep a room cool if there are a number of air leaks inside the space.
For most home applications, however, this negative pressure issue is not really that big of a deal to worry about.
A major benefit of using a single hose air conditioner is that these units are much easier to move to other rooms of your home since the set up is simpler.
Dual Hose AC Units
Dual hose air conditioners have two hoses coming out of the back of the unit.
One of the hoses in a dual hose system is used to draw air in from the outdoors and use it to cool down the portable AC unit.
The other hose is an exhaust hose and used to expel that used air out of the home after it’s served its purpose.
A dual hose design doesn’t cause negative pressure so there are no concerns there.
The main benefit of using a dual hose air conditioner is that these units can cool down a larger space much quicker because they don’t have to work as hard.
Which is Better: Single Exhaust Hose or Dual Hose Air Conditioners?
After all of the factors are considered, there’s not much evidence that either a single exhaust hose or dual hose portable air conditioner is a better option.
But it’s worth knowing what the differences are so you are well informed before making a purchase on one of these indoor air conditioners.
Summary on the Best Portable Air Conditioners
We hope you enjoyed this guide on how to find the best portable AC unit and best ventless air conditioner for your needs.
By following the advice given above about how to properly size an indoor air conditioning unit for the intended room, you should be able to make the right choice.
Our portable air conditioner reviews are kept up-to-date, so any model you find above is considered top rated option that’s available today.