The best portable air conditioner is easy to maneuver (deep handles and balanced wheels), simple to program (a working remote and clear displays), and aesthetically pleasing enough to be a permanent fixture for the summer. We brought in eight well-reviewed machines from the most trusted brands to try for ourselves and ended up with three favorites that will cool any size room.

The Best Portable Air Conditioner

How well a portable air conditioner can lower your room temperature depends on a few factors: its cooling capacity (BTU), the size of room, and the current climate/humidity. Larger rooms and more humid climates require a higher BTU, and consequently a higher price tag. Once you’ve found the BTU that matches your desired square footage, usability details like portability and responsive programming play a huge factor into how well your machine will integrate into your life. All three of our top picks, selected for a variety of room sizes, impressed us by going above and beyond the basics.

The $400 LG LP1215GXR 115V was our consumer-friendly favorite. At 12,000 BTUs, it cools around 400-550 square feet and should work for most average-sized rooms. In addition to generous handles and clear labeling, the LG has thoughtful programming like a sleep mode and an oscillating fan. Storing this machine for the winter will also be a breeze, partly due to its one-of-a-kind remote storage and cord wrap.

Small, simple, and storable, the $300 BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT is ideal for smaller spaces of about 300 square feet. The BLACK+DECKER is our only pick to be offered in multiple BTUs, though it does lack a few of the convenience features of our more powerful top picks, like the LG’s oscillating fan — if you’re searching for a higher BTU, we’d recommend upgrading to the LG or the Friedrich. Still, the BLACK+DECKER is a solid choice for small rooms, and the unit itself is slim enough to fit comfortably into storage. Its Max Mode is a standout feature, automating the lowest temperature and highest fan speed with a single button press.

For a mondo machine that can tackle your large living spaces and kitchens (550-700 square feet), the 13,500 BTU Friedrich PH14B is up to the task. It’s a $600 dual-hosed unit, which means that one hose is dedicated to removing the heat that the unit creates, making its cooling more efficient for bigger rooms. It’s heavy duty, weighing in around 95 pounds, but no need to fret; with slick wheels and ergonomic handles, we could transport this unit just as easily our less bulky top picks.

Our Picks for the Best Portable Air Conditioner

Best For
Average-Sized Rooms
LG LP1215GXR 115V Portable Air Conditioner
LG
This unique unit facilitates air circulation and makes transport painless.

A single-hose design at 12,000 BTUs, The LG LP1215GXR is suitable for most rooms, cooling 400-550 square feet. What it may lack in modern design, it makes up for in exceedingly consumer-friendly features. Even as we unpacked the LG, it was making life simpler — in other models, we spent chunks of time struggling to twist together hoses and attach them to units, but the LG arrived almost entirely pre-assembled. It also hosts a cord wrap, built-in remote storage, and grippable handles.

LG-Rear-Storage-for-Portable-Air-Conditioner

The LG looks more utilitarian than other units, reminiscent of a droid from Star Wars, but we’d hardly call it ugly. With a prominent vent and blocky front-facing buttons, it lacks a modernity that models like the Honeywell impressed us with. However, this design is supplemented with clear labels for locking in and releasing your exhaust hose, opening and closing the drain, and removing the filter. The LG was the only one to add this simple addition that cut our setup times in half and eliminated the need to hunt through manuals.

LG vs. Honeywell for Portable Air Conditioner

Additionally, the LG has the most intuitive remote of the bunch and refreshingly unique programming. The remote has a large digital display that clearly shows its current settings. Other remotes feature unlabeled symbols or digital screens that are hard to read in bright light. As a result, the LG remote is also the largest — think Blu-ray player remote vs. key fob. With each button press, the LG responds with a friendly chime rather than the typical monotone beep.

Modes unique to the LG include an Energy Saver mode, which only initiates fan cycles when when the temperature of the room rises (typically, the fan runs constantly, even after the desired temperature is reached), and an Auto Clean mode that removes moisture from the heat exchange coils, prepping the unit for storage and preventing any mold buildup. With other models, you’ll have to facilitate this yourself by running the machine on a dry fan mode for several hours. But our favorite programming option? An “auto-swing” mode that automatically oscillates the fan for optimal air circulation. It’s a feature so handy we’re baffled it isn’t standard for all units.

LG-Vents-for-Portable-Air-Conditioner

The LG’s only fault is that it’s louder than our other picks, and it will sometimes squeak a bit as it engages its cooling mode. It’s not overwhelming, but you may be sensitive to it when sleeping, especially on higher fan speeds. However, at $400, the LG was a clear mid-range favorite for its user-friendly features and design.

Best For
Small Rooms
BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
BLACK+DECKER
A compact unit with a simple console for quick programming.

As the lightest and smallest of our favorites, the box-shaped BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT is best suited for storage, mobility, and small spaces. If you live in a studio apartment, lack storage space, or want to cool a child’s bedroom, the BLACK+DECKER is uniquely size-conservative.

Size Comparison for Portable Air Conditioner

The BLACK+DECKER was one of the smallest units we tested, nearly half the height and depth of models like the Whynter.

The BLACK+DECKER also nails many of the convenience features that larger, more expensive models like the Whynters lack. Its curved front-facing vent allows for output to a wider area than the straight vents of those larger units. Even though the unit is smaller, more of the room catches a cool breeze. And with just five buttons and one display screen, the BLACK+DECKER has the simplest control panel of the bunch, which makes for quick and thoughtless programming.

Programming ease extends to its calculator-like remote, which offers a few more features not accessible on the control panel. Of these is a one-of-a-kind “Max” mode, which automates the fan speed and sets the temperature to the lowest possible — a one-button lifeline if you’ve just come inside from the summer heat. The Sleep Mode will dim the LED lights, operate the unit at a quieter fan speed, and will shut off after eight hours. While Sleep Mode is not unique to the BLACK+DECKER, it’s a thoughtful inclusion in a machine that already offers more than other units.

Black and Decker Vents for Portable Air Conditioner

It's worth noting that the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT is one of the few models that offer four different size options, with cooling capacities ranging from 8,000 to 14,000 BTUs. However, the BLACK+DECKER’s 12,000 BTU model rings in at $330, just shy of our our $400 LG pick (also 12,000 BTUs). Because the BLACK+DECKER lacks a few unique convenience features — namely, the oscillating fan and superior storage options like the remote holder — we recommend our other picks if you're looking to scale up your room size.

The BLACK+DECKER’s cord wrap is ideal for winter storage and hazard-free transport up and down stairs, and though its handles aren’t as cavernous as those of the LG or Friedrich, it’s enough grip to scoot around a living room. And at just $300, the 8,000 BTU model it’s a fairly affordable starting point to chill a smaller room and will take up the least space in your home.

Best For
Large Rooms
Friedrich PH14B Air Conditioner
Friedrich
Colorful buttons, smooth wheels, and two hoses to cool large rooms with ease.

If you need to cool a large area or a kitchen, the massive dual hose Friedrich PH14B air conditioner is capable of tackling rooms up to 700 square feet. Though this 13,500 BTU unit is a whopping 95 pounds, the Friedrich was just as easy to maneuver as the 65-pound LG. It is heavy (likely a two-person lift), but with grippable handles and incredibly smooth wheels, it lets you manage the weight in a way that others like the dual-hosed Whynter doesn’t. Not only does the Whynter lack handles, but it lacks any crevice or leverage for gripping.

We also felt confident programming the Friedrich, thanks to its responsive remote and crisp control panel. Its remote is smaller and more reminiscent of a key fob. It’s a bit dated and has rather ambiguous symbols, but we still preferred this over remotes that lack screens entirely. And its on-unit display more than makes up for the remote, with clear and color-coded buttons for each function. Something to note: When on cooling mode, you can’t program a lower fan speed until the machine has reached your desired temperature, so you might sacrifice the ability to control noise levels.

Friedrich Panel for Portable Air Conditioner

In order to drain moisture that builds up in the machine, this Friedrich model also features a built-in drain pump that allows you to connect a small drain hose to the panel in your window — other units typically require you to open up the unit and empty a drainage bucket. To know when you’ll need to drain the unit, the Friedrich includes a “water full” notification light, a feature absent from other models.

With two hoses, it was noticeably more powerful than our single hose options and more suited for larger living areas. For $600, rest assured that the Friedrich is up to the task during a heat wave.

When Should You Buy a Portable AC?

Portable air conditioners are best for seasonal cooling.

You have several options if you’re looking to cool your home during a sweltering summer, and a portable air conditioner may not be your best. Though they're relatively simple machines and can easily be self-installed, they don’t have the capacity to cool more than one room and can be a bit intrusive for a permanent fixture in smaller homes. They’re best suited for seasonal cooling, RVs and boats, supplementing central air conditioning, or when a window unit isn't an option. If you need more heavy duty cooling throughout the year, a different option may suit you better.

Window air conditioners are the big boxes that hang out of windows. They’re often a more affordable option and range in price from $100 to $400. They’re fairly easy to install and are often more effective than portable air conditioners. However, they can be heavy, noisy, and may not fit in your window.

Central air conditioning is a system built into the air ducts of your home. It’s the most efficient way of cooling and has the convenience of being out-of-sight and spread throughout your home. It’s also the most expensive option, ringing in around $5,000 to $15,000, depending on your home’s layout and duct system. Some of that cost is installation, which is more complicated and must be done professionally.

Wall units aka split ductless units are an alternative similar to central air conditioning. They’re (professionally) installed into your wall and don’t require any duct work. They’re more energy efficient and are quieter than window units. You can choose to install multiple throughout a home, or just one. They typically range from $2,000 to $10,000.

Extend the Life of Your Portable AC

Regular maintenance will prolong the life of your portable air conditioner.

There are a few best practices to extending the life of your portable air conditioner and ensuring you can pull it out in working order each summer:

  • Keep your filters fresh to avoid grime mixing with the moisture in your unit; grime forms a film on the coils and prevents the machine from exhausting heat. For this same reason, its best to store the unit in a cool, dry place.
  • Drain the unit regularly and before storage. It’s also a good idea to run the unit on “fan only" mode for a few hours before storing to make sure everything is completely dry on the inside.
  • Avoid storing it in dusty or dirty areas, as smaller dust particles will clog the machine’s motor. Some units come with a cloth bag with which to cover the machine during storage, though you can also use plastic sheeting.

Our Portable Air Conditioner Review: Summed Up

Portable Air Conditioner The Best
LG LP1215GXR 115V Portable Air Conditioner
For Average-Sized Rooms
BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
For Small Rooms
Friedrich PH14B Air Conditioner
For Large Rooms