Best Portable Air Conditioner of 2021
$369.99 at Amazon
$556.36 at Amazon
|Check Price at Amazon||$430 List|
$449.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Great value, highly portable, performed well in our energy-efficiency test, solid cooling performance||Very quiet, exceptional cooling power||Very quiet, decently portable, solid cooling performance||Energy efficient, easily portable||Very quiet, solid cooling power|
|Cons||Runs on the louder side||High energy consumption, expensive||Expensive, bulky window insert||Underwhelming cooling abilities||Expensive, costly to run|
|Bottom Line||You'll save cash and receive exceptional performance, though it does run a touch louder than others||This is a solid performer for large rooms and one of the quietest models we tested||If you live in a consistently hot climate, this is our favorite dual-hose portable AC||The lower cooling abilities do not quite make up for the energy-efficient capabilities||This is a solid air conditioner but carries a very high price tag|
|Rating Categories||SereneLife SLPAC10||Whynter ARC-14SH||Whynter ARC-122DS E...||Airo Comfort||Frigidaire FGPC1244T1|
|Cooling Power (40%)|
|Energy Cost (15%)|
|Specs||SereneLife SLPAC10||Whynter ARC-14SH||Whynter ARC-122DS E...||Airo Comfort||Frigidaire FGPC1244T1|
|Remote||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, there is also an App|
|Modes||Cool, dry, fan||Cool, dry, fan, heat||Cool, dry, fan||Cool, dry, fan||Cool, dry, fan, eco|
|Number of Fan Speeds||3||3||3||3||4|
|Measured Weight||54.7 lbs||77.2 lbs||60.4 lbs||51.5 lbs||77.9 lbs|
|Window Kit Length (without modification)||Min: 37"
Max: 50 1/8"
|Measured kWh on High (Average)||0.91 kWh||1.12 kWh||1.06 kWh||0.71 kWh||1.06 kWh|
|Measured dBa on High at 4'||62 dBa||56.5 dBa||57 dBa||58 dBa||56.9 dBa|
|Room Rating||350 sq ft||500 sq ft||400 sq ft||350 sq ft||550 sq ft|
|Single or Dual hose||Single||Dual||Dual||Single||Single|
|Projected Summer Cost||$116.22||$159.06||$131.61||$88.17||$155.28|
|Measured Temperature Drop After 60 Minutes||11ºF||11.99°F||10°F||6ºF||9.93°F|
Best Overall Portable Air Conditioner
If you're seeking an all-around A/C unit that won't break the bank, we recommend the SereneLife SLPAC10. This value option holds its own against and even outperforms some models that cost quite a bit more. We love how easy this machine is to move from room to room with the tool-free window insert setup. It also did reasonably well in our cooling performance tests and had below-average energy consumption compared to other units we tested.
However, we found that while it did a decent job at cooling our test space down, it couldn't quite compete with some of the larger dual-hose units. We don't think this will be an issue for most people, but we suggest going with a larger and more powerful unit if you live in a sweltering area (routinely 100+ degrees Fahrenheit) and plan on running the A/C constantly.
Read review: SereneLife SLPAC10
Best Dual Hose Model
Whynter ARC-122DS Elite
Earning one of the top scores of the entire group, the Whynter ARC-122DS Elite is an all-around fantastic portable air conditioner. This unit is exceptionally quiet and unobtrusive, making it a great option if you have difficulty focusing or sleeping with white noise in the background. It also did fairly well in our cooling performance tests and is reasonably portable. It is a dual-hose air conditioner, which cools much better than single-hose models when outside temperatures are extremely high, making this unit a great option if you live in a hot climate.
However, the Elite is one of the pricier models in this review regarding initial investment, and it also receives a lackluster score in our energy consumption assessment. This portable A/C also has a large overall size and a double-hose system, making it visually intrusive. Despite these drawbacks, the ARC-122DS ELite is one of our top recommendations for anyone that needs maximum cooling power in the hottest locales.
Read review: Whynter ARC-122DS Elite
Great for Large Rooms
The Whynter ARC-14SH is one of our favorite dual-hose options. If you live in a particularly hot climate, then we suggest considering a dual-hose model. They are usually much more efficient than single-hose varieties, as you don't lose any cold air to the outside. Over an hour, it imposed one of the largest temperature drops on our test room and has the listed capacity to handle spaces up to 500 square feet.
Unsurprisingly, this A/C consumes quite a bit of electricity, and the dual hoses make it a little more cumbersome to move around and set up. It also tends to be expensive, but it is our top recommendation if you need maximum cooling power.
Read review: Whynter ARC-14SH
A Quiet and Aesthetic Option
While the primary function of an A/C unit is to cool off your living space, it doesn't hurt to have one that looks good, especially since it's going to be taking up a considerable amount of space. The Frigidaire FGPC1244T1 was the only A/C unit we looked at that wasn't essentially just a large ugly box. Besides its unique design, this model was also one of the quietest units we tested.
The primary drawback to this A/C unit is the upfront cost. A high list price coupled with poor energy efficiency makes this one of the most expensive options we reviewed. While it offers mid-range performance, if you're looking for a quiet machine with a unique look, this could be the unit for you.
Read review: Frigidaire FGPC1244T1
Why You Should Trust Us
Our portable air conditioner testing and review team is composed of Austin Palmer , David Wise , and Buck Yedor . Combined, the three have tested dozens of appliances for TechGearLab and bring a wealth of knowledge and analytical thinking to this review. Having grown up in the heat of Texas, Austin knows all too well how important a quality air conditioner can be. David has a degree in mechanical engineering and lends his experience with data acquisition, instrumentation, and heat transfer to the design and execution of our testing process. Buck brings it all together with clear and concise explanations that make their results accessible and easy to understand.
Before we began our testing, we bought all the portable air conditioners used in this review from major retailers at retail prices. We tested out these air conditioners hour after hour in the peak summer heat, comparing their cooling power head-to-head using calibrated high-end thermometers and temperature loggers. We also weighed and measured the power draw of each appliance so you can know what you're getting into by running these models. Finally, we rated the ease of rolling and carrying these supposedly portable products.
Analysis and Test Results
To determine which portable air conditioner is the best, we conducted extensive research and evaluated the top models currently on the market. We then bought the most promising models available and compared their performance side-by-side, grading them in four weighted rating metrics: Portability, Cooling Power, Noise, and Energy Cost.
Many of these products cost a pretty penny. Some notable exceptions are the SereneLife SLPAC10 and the Black+Decker BPACT08WT. These units both performed exceptionally well compared to the more expensive models. The SereneLife is our recommendation if you can spend a little more on your air conditioning investment, and the Black+Decker is a good option if you are shopping on a minimal budget. Even better, both these models did reasonably well in our energy consumption test, potentially helping keep your electricity bills down as well.
Since cooling a room is the primary use for each of these products, this is one of our test's most important and heavily weighted metrics. To rank and score the cooling power of these units, we compared how well each product could cool our test room in 60 minutes. While these units all have different BTU and room size ratings, our 161 square foot test room was well within the listed performance ratings of each product.
We did the test at the same time each day in the middle of summer, with similar amounts of sunlight entering the room to keep the outdoor temperature as controlled as possible. We then heated the room with a set of space heaters — usually well above 90°F — and then let the room reach a steady temperature before starting the test, so we didn't artificially improve the cooling power of the A/Cs as it naturally cooled off. We measured the starting ambient temperature and recorded the temperature drop achieved in 60 minutes.
The Whynter ARC-14SH led the way in this test. This unit is rated for up to 500 square feet, and it dropped the temperature of our testing room by 11.99°F. A group of A/C units all tied for the runner-up position with moderate performance in our cooling challenge, including the Frigidaire FGPC1244T1, the SereneLife SLPAC10, and the Whynter ARC-122DS Elite. The 12,000 BTU Frigidaire has the highest room size rating at 550 square feet but did the second-worst of this group, though only by a fraction of a degree.
The Frigidaire FGPC1244T1 chilled the room by 9.93°, while the Whynter ARC-122DS Elite dropped it by an even 10°F. The SereneLife SLPAC10 just narrowly outperformed all of these units, dropping the temperature 11°F. We thought this was quite interesting, as there is a stark difference between these models' room ratings and BTU values. The 10,000 BTU SereneLife is rated for 350 square feet, while the 12,000 BTU Whynter Elite is rated for rooms up to 400 square feet.
Finishing at the bottom of the list is the Airo Comfort with the lowest temperature drop. This 10,000 BTU unit is allegedly effective for areas up to 350 square feet but only dropped the temperature in our smaller room by six degrees after 60 minutes.
After seeing how well these products cool a room, we moved on to evaluating and scoring how mobile these purportedly portable air conditioners are. This metric is based on how much effort it takes to roll each air conditioner around, how maneuverable they are, the ergonomics of the handles, the difficulty we had in carrying them, and how hard it is to install and remove the window inserts.
It turns out, portability is a relative term in this case. None of these appliances are especially easy to transport. While they certainly can be occasionally transferred from room to room or removed and taken to storage seasonally, you probably won't move these units around much throughout your day to save on energy costs, as you might do with a space heater. On average, it took about 15 to 20 minutes to remove the window insert, move the A/C to a nearby room, and reinstall the insert.
Claiming the top spot when it comes to portability is the SereneLife SLPAC10. This model is agile and maneuverable, effortlessly rolling across hard surfaces. It also isn't too challenging to carry for short durations, though it does tip the scales at a bit over 50 pounds, and we wouldn't be thrilled if we had to haul it up or down multiple stairs.
In particular, the ease of removing and installing the window insert impressed us with the SereneLife, which is what makes it so portable. Its tool-free installation process can be accomplished quickly, minimizing the hassle of moving this appliance to another room.
Most of the models followed, including the Whynter ARC-122DS Elite, the Black+Decker BPACT08WT, and the Frigidaire FGPC1244T1. The Elite is fairly easy to roll around, offering barely any rolling resistance and is one of the more maneuverable models. However, we noticed that it could be finicky when it comes to turning, seemingly having a much greater affinity for continuing in a straight line than pivoting. It is also easy to set up the window insert, though it does require a screwdriver to tighten the pair of screws that lock in the length.
Unfortunately, this model is a giant pain to carry, having a somewhat inconvenient and difficult-to-hold handle design. It's also one of the heaviest models of the group. However, the Frigidaire managed to be even harder to carry, weighing in at almost 20 pounds heavier and having handles that are quite painful to use.
This model redeemed itself by being surprisingly easy to roll around. It's very maneuverable and has very little rolling resistance, considering its bulk. It is also simple to install the window insert, with a tool-free process relying on a quick-release lever.
However, the Black+Decker rolls with ease and is easy to carry. It has virtually no rolling resistance and maneuvers similarly to the SereneLife. It is easier to carry than some other models, even though it's about seven pounds lighter. The handles on this product are just a bit too small, making lifting more challenging. Finally, its window insert is more work to mount and remove, requiring a screwdriver as well.
Rounding out the back end of the group is the Whynter ARC-14SH. It leaves something to be desired in terms of its ease of transport. It has very little rolling resistance but is a bit funky when it comes to maneuverability, as it swerves randomly and doesn't seem to like rolling in a straight line. The Whynter is incredibly difficult to carry, weighing in at 77.2 pounds. On top of that, it has tiny handles and isn't easy to hold. However, the window insert is easy to install and offers plenty of adjustability.
After lugging these air conditioners up and down staircases and across rooms, we were ready for a test that required a little less physical exertion. The noise metric consists of two tests: noise levels measured with our SPL meter and then having a panel of judges rate the sound produced by each product.
When it comes to sound, the Whynter ARC-122DS Elite and the Whynter ARC-14SH claim the top spots for being the least obtrusive. We measured the noise level from four feet away, with the meter's microphone out of the direct airflow of each portable air conditioner, and these two had some of the lowest results.
In particular, our judges liked that not only are both the Whynter models exceptionally quiet, but the sound produced by them also isn't excessively grating on the ear — something more akin to static or white noise that easily fades into the background. Following the pair of Whynter models is the Frigidaire. This portable air conditioner is equally quiet on the SPL meter, but you can hear the compressor over the fan running — the exact opposite of the top models. This slightly distinctive sound is a bit more distracting and noticeable, dropping the Frigidaire's score.
The Black+Decker is above average in terms of their sound output. The Black+Decker is a bit louder than the top models but doesn't have any standout tones, like the Frigidaire, making it a better option if you can deal with white noise. Finishing at the back of the pack in this metric, the SereneLife is a touch noisier.
The fan seemed pointedly loud to us on the SereneLife — enough that it could cause problems if you were trying to carry on a conversation close to it.
For our last rating metric, we estimated how much it would cost to run each of these models annually and, thus, how efficient they are. We assumed we would run each of these units for 12 hours a day for 90 days for our calculation. We also assumed that the 12 hours were split, with two hours of the A/C being on a high setting to initially drop the temperature when you come home, then run on low for the remaining 10 hours to maintain the temperature at a comfortable level. We used 0.135 US cents per kWh for the cost of electricity in our calculations.
To determine each unit's average power consumption, we measured each model's energy draw for 30 minutes with a wattmeter on both low and high modes when the outside temperature was in the mid to high 80s. Of course, the number we arrived at for the annual cost isn't necessarily going to be true for you, as electricity prices can vary wildly across different areas at different times of the day and throughout the year. You may be in the tropics and need to run the A/C 365 days a year, in which case your annual cost will be tremendously higher than ours, but the relative ranking of the A/C units should remain the same.
If you are living in an area where you are going to be running the air conditioner during more than just the hottest summer months, you probably want to place a higher priority on this metric and take a closer look at models that performed well in these tests.
The Black+Decker and the SereneLife topped the list in this metric. We estimate the Black+Decker would consume about 864 kWh throughout the summer. This assumption correlates to a projected cost of around $114 for the Black+Decker.
The SereneLife would cost just a bit more to run on our estimated use profile, costing around $116 over the 90 days and consuming 883.8 kWh.
The next group's performance dropped a bit, including the Whynter ARC-122DS Elite, with a middle-of-the-road showing. The Honeywell would use a bit more and the Whynter would use even more electricity — just over 1000 kWh — to bring their estimated costs up to approximately $127.80 and $132, respectively. The Frigidaire FGPC1244T1 and the Whynter ARC-14SH followed, earning low ratings in our power consumption metric. Our projected summer operating cost spiked with these two models, and we estimate that they would add $155-$160 to your electricity bill using our model.
At this point, we hope you're armed with a solid idea about which air conditioner is going to be your best bet. We believe that it's important to take into account your budget and needs when it comes to beating the sweltering summer heat. You'll want to ensure that the unit of your choosing is portable and cool enough for your intended uses.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise