Skip to main content

How to choose a portable air conditioner in 2021

LG LP0621WSR Portable Air Conditioner installed in a room.

Are the summer heat and humidity wearing you down? Portable air conditioners are versatile appliances that are fast and easy to install and nearly as easily move from room to room as the need arises. You can buy small, personal A/C devices for your desktop or side table, but we’re focusing on portable air conditioners that can cool an entire room. When the thermometer rises and humidity builds, a portable AC unit you can roll to different areas in your home or office can mean the difference between usable and unusable spaces. All you need to use a portable air conditioner is an ordinary AC power outlet and a window to vent the unwanted hot air.

Portable air conditioners are often handy to have even in homes with central A/C. For example, most homes don’t cool the air in garages, which limits use in the summer. If you want to use your garage to work on your car, for hobbies, or to work out, plug in a portable air conditioner and put the venting hose in a window or an exterior door (using appropriate-sized vent brackets). For garages in most areas, if you start an appropriately-sized portable air conditioner 15 to 30 minutes before you start using the area you should be totally comfortable. Moving a portable air conditioner to a normally uncooled guest room is a common use in homes with window units installed in just a few rooms.

Most homes without central air conditioning use window A/C units, but portable air conditioners are a better alternative or the only choice for some homes. If your apartment doesn’t allow traditional A/C units that protrude from the window, a portable air conditioner can do the trick because portables have vents that are flush with the window opening. Normal window air conditioners aren’t a choice if you have windows with vertical glass sections, if exterior screens can’t be removed, or if the window openings are too small.

If portable air conditioning units sound like the answer to your room comfort needs, how do you know how to choose one? We’ve listed the major features and factors to consider when choosing a portable air conditioner.

Cooling capacity

Picking the right size for the room or area you want to cool is the most important factor in choosing a portable air conditioner. If you buy a unit that’s too small for your room it will run longer and more often, which wears out appliances prematurely, cost more to operate, and likely never adequately cool the space. Overbuying isn’t a good idea either because larger units are more expensive to run plus, because they cool adjacent air very quickly, shut off prematurely which causes the unit to restart more often than properly-sized appliances.

Portable air conditioner cooling capacity, like window units, are rated in BTUs, (British Thermal Units). BTUs are a standard measure of heat change — in air conditioners, BTUs represent cooling power. Most portable air conditioners include maximum rated room size in feature lists or specifications tables. You’ll find variations in how manufacturers rate room capacities, however. Here’s a quick guide:

  • 5,000 to 6,000 BTU — Small to medium-sized rooms from 100 to 250 square feet and normal ceiling heights
  • 6,500 to 8,000 BTU — Medium to large rooms from 250 to 400 square feet and normal ceiling heights
  • 8,000 to 12,000 BTU –Medium to large rooms from 250 to 400 square feet with high ceilings

Note, however, that rooms on the sunny side of your home, rooms with many windows, rooms with many people, and kitchens will all need more cooling power.

Multipurpose capabilities

Portable air conditioners are primarily used for cooling, but many room-sized units can also function as fans or as dehumidifiers without changing the air temperature. Air conditioners remove humidity while they cool the air, but on temperate rainy days, the ability to switch to a “dry” mode with no cooling is convenient. Similarly, if you just want to air out a room, switching to “fan” mode can do the trick quickly and relatively quietly.

Controls and ease of use

All portable air conditioners should have controls mounted on the unit itself to select modes, desired temperature, and fan speed. Many also come with remote controls so you don’t have to get up to change a setting. 24-hour timers are common, as are automatic restarts after power failures. For the ultimate in portable air conditioner management, look for a unit that connects to your home Wi-Fi network so you can access and control the appliance remotely with an app or via a digital voice assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.


Window air conditioners can be noisy, but, depending on their size and design, portable air conditioners can be even noisier. Window units extend the major loud parts outside the house but portable air conditioners are entirely inside the house. Portable air conditioners don’t consistently list their noise levels in decibels, but if noise will be a factor, look for decibel ratings or noise reduction or mitigation features.

Editors' Recommendations

Best Blink camera deals for January 2023
Blink Home System security cameras on a kitchen counter.

If you want a security system to protect your family and home, you don't want to miss out on Blink camera deals. Blink smart home security cameras are easy to install and operate. With Blink cameras you can configure a system with indoor and outdoor protection for your family and property without going overboard on complexity or cost. We lined up today's best Blink camera deals to save you time and hassle if you're searching for home security camera deals.  Blink's wireless and wired cameras integrate well with Amazon Alexa and Alexa-compatible components so you can see what's happening in and around you home using voice commands. Even at list price, Blink cameras deliver great value, but when they're on sale you can protect your family and save money at the same time.

Blink sells wireless and USB-powered wired indoor cameras and an outdoor wireless model. When you add any of the Blink cameras to your Amazon Alexa setup, you can view live video and stored video clips from the cameras on any Alexa-compatible smart home display, Fire TV, or smartphone. Blink cameras have optional cloud video storage for $3 a month for a single camera or $10 a month for up to 10 cameras.
Today's best Blink camera deals

Read more
Best air purifier deals for January 2023
A Germ Guardian purifier placed on a living room floor.

Everyone deserves to have clean, fresh-smelling air in their home. No one likes the stale, almost mildewy smell of old air, or allergens floating around. Allergies certainly don't take a break, but air purifiers can help. Interest in air purifiers is especially high as concerns about the COVID-19 the pandemic refuse to quit. Greater demand has had a beneficial effect in that there are now more types and models of air purifiers than ever before. Some models from Dyson, Honeywell, Dreo, Winix, and others not only capture fine dust but also function as coolers and/or heaters and reduce odors. Air purifiers can also clear the air of pet dander, fur, mold spores, pollen, and airborne contaminants invisible to the naked eye, such as secondhand smoke. We’ve gathered the best air purifier deals going on right now. You can check out our top picks below!
Today’s best air purifier deals
Honeywell InSight HEPA air purifier -- $170, was $290

This  purifier is small enough to be used on a tabletop, but also big enough to sit on the floor. So, it's excellent for any bedroom, office, or small living space. It can clean up to 500 square-feet, up to 4.8 times per hour, delivering more fragrant and fresh-smelling air. The HEPA R filter removes particles larger than 0.3 microns, including smoke, pollen, hair, dander, and odors. Touch controls on the top make it easy to make adjustments, plus there are four cleaning levels with an auto mode and an easy-glance air quality indicator.

Read more
Best Philips Hue deals for January 2023
Philips Hue White and Color Ambience Starter Kit Review

If you want to add a spark of color to your home, be sure to check Philips Hue's extensive deals. Philips Hue lights and fixtures continue to set the standard for connected home lighting. Philips has Hue smart light bulbs, lamps, and light fixtures for an incredible range of purposes in homes. Whether you use light for security, convenience, navigation after dark indoors and outdoors, design, aesthetics, creative expression, or to set a mood, there are Philips Hue lights for the job. Philips doesn't run deals on its products as frequently as many other smart home device brands, but we've found the best Philips Hue deals available today on individual lights and Philips Hue Starter Kits.
Best Philips Hue deals
Philips Hue Play White & Color Smart Light (2-Pack Base Kit) -- $102, was $160

This base kit comes with two Hue Play light bars that you can place anywhere around your home to add a lighting effect, including a wake-up light, cool light, warm light, and many more. They're designed to work anywhere in your house, such as behind the TV, inside a cabinet, or on the floor. The package comes with clips and double-sided tape to help you mount the Hue Play light bars on your desired spot and a power supply unit that will work with up to three of them. You'll be able to control the light bars using voice commands if you pair them with the separately sold Philips Hue Hub and a smart home device that's powered by Amazon's Alexa, Apple's HomeKit, or Google Assistant.

Read more