Earning the Top Pick for Portability award, the Honeywell HL09CESWK is a great option if you plan on moving your A/C up or down stairs or between rooms on a regular basis. It doesn't quite have the cooling power of the top models but it should more than suffice during the summer heatwaves if you don't live in the hottest regions. This air conditioner is also one of the quieter models of the group and scored well above average in our energy efficiency tests.
Honeywell HL09CESWK Review
Pros: Exceptionally portable, fairly quiet, relatively energy-efficient
Cons: So-so cooling performance in our test
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Overall, the Honeywell HL09CESWK earned one of the highest scores of the entire group, putting it in contention to claim an Editors' Choice award. Despite that, we felt that this model's relatively lackluster cooling performance precluded it from being the best of the best for most people. However, we still felt that this portable air conditioner merited recognition, especially given that it is by far one of the easiest of these products to move around your home.
To decide which air conditioner is truly worthy of earning accolades, we compared close to 55 different products, then bought all the most promising models currently on the market to test out for ourselves. We put each of these products through a series of head-to-head tests, grouped into four weighted rating metrics, with the Honeywell HL09CESWK's results in each discussed in the sections below.
First and foremost, we evaluated and ranked the relative cooling power of each portable A/C, which accounts for 40% of their final score. In this test, used a heater to get a small office — about 160 sq. ft. — up to a stable 80°F on a day that the outside temperature was about the same. We then ran each air conditioning unit for an hour, measuring the temperature drop after one hour to determine scores. The HL09CESWK delivered a so-so set of results, putting it right in the middle of the group.
The HL09CESWK is rated for a 300-400 sq. ft. room so it should have had no problems at all with our small office.
However, this A/C unit only managed to drop the temperature by just under 10°F in our test, which isn't too bad but plenty of other A/Cs rated for smaller rooms scored comparably.
Our next set of evaluations focused on how easy it is to move each of these portable air conditioners around your home, which is responsible for one-fourth of the final score for each unit. Just to be clear, while these appliances are marketed as portable — even — the most portable aren't all that fun to carry and move around, so if you are planning on moving one of these up and down a set of stairs every single day, you may want to reconsider your purchase or simply buy one per floor. That being said, the HL09CESWK is our favorite out of the entire group when it comes to portability, earning top marks.
In this metric, we compared how easily each portable A/C is rolled around, how much work they are to carry, and how much work it took to set up the hose in the window. The HL09CESWK has molded-in handles on the side that are fairly comfortable and don't dig into your hands all that much but they can get a bit slick if your hands are steady. This air conditioning unit is also lighter than average but it still weighs in at about 65 lbs.
This A/C is exceptionally easy to roll around on level ground, even bordering on effortless when pushing it across linoleum or hardwood floors. It tracks in a straight line and doesn't feel heavy at all when you are pushing it around.
The HL09CESWK also stands out from the rest of the group when it comes to portability by having one of the easiest to install window kits. The insert can be changed without tools, relying on a plastic pin that you insert in one of the pre-punched holes to lock it in place.
It can adapt to openings between 33.1" and 49.6" tall.
The results from our noise tests comprise our third metric, which is responsible for 20% of the final score for each portable A/C. We used a sound level meter to measure the noise level of each air conditioner at a distance of about 4' away and had a panel of judges rate and score the noise generated, to take into account any particularly grating or annoying tones produced. The HL09CESWK is on the quieter side for these products, scoring just a bit above average in these two tests.
The sound generated from the HL09CESWK on its most powerful operating mode registered about 57 decibels (dBa) from 48" away and was about the same on its medium and low power modes, only dropping down by about a decibel.
The tones produced aren't particularly annoying, though the compressor can sound a bit whiny right at startup. You can hear the sound of the compressor over the sound of the fan when the Honeywell is running but the sound of both usually fade into the background for most people and you can carry on a conversation relatively easily.
Our final set of test for the HL09CESWK focused on how much it actually costs to operate. In this metric — responsible for the remaining 15% of the final score — we projected the cost to run each portable air conditioner for three months and awarded points accordingly. To calculate this, we used an electricity consumption meter to measure the power draw of each appliance on both their low and high operating modes. We then used a usage profile assuming each product was operated for 12 hours a day, with two hours on high and the other 10 on low, and an average cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of 13.5 cents to determine projected cost. The HL09CESWK did quite well, projected to cost less to operate than the majority of the other products in our review.
Based on our usage assumptions, we would expect the HL09CESWK to use about 850 kilowatt-hours and add a little over $111 to your power bill.
The HL09CESWK is a decent value, pairing a top-notch performance with a decent price, all while being one of the more efficient air conditioners to run.
If you are looking for a good all-around A/C that isn't absolutely horrible to move room to room or up and down stairs, then the HL09CESWK is a good option. It's one of the easiest to break down, move, and set up again in a different location, though it still isn't a ton of fun to move up or down stairs — though none of these products really are.
— Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman