If you've got a moderately sized room to cool, and no practical way to install a through-the-wall or window air conditioner, the Haier HPN12XCM (Est. $390) looks like a top choice. It scores better than most portable air conditioners in one expert test and has accumulated a large body of mostly positive user reviews. Just keep in mind that you MUST have a window or some other way to vent a portable air conditioner to the outside in order to use one. If you don't have a venting option, we suggest that you take a look at our report on fans to find a top choice for cooling down your room.
The HPN12XCM is rated at 12,000 BTU, and it's recommended for rooms up to 450 square feet, but feedback indicates that the rating is a tad optimistic. Comparative testing by an independent expert reviewer reveals it to only be an average performer when it comes to cooling a room, and, while most owners report good results, there are also lots of user reviews from those that found cooling to be inadequate. Still this Haier portable air conditioner rates better than many competing units.
The HPN12XCM is pretty feature rich for a 12,000-BTU portable air conditioner in its price range. It has a three-speed fan and three operational modes -- fan, dehumidify and cool. The dehumidifier mode can wring up to 100 pints of moisture out of the air per day. The unit is designed to self-evaporate the air conditioner condensate, but the water collection tank might need to be drained when the unit is used in high humidity situations or as a dehumidifier. There's a 24-hour timer and a full function remote control. The blue LED display is cited as a feature, but some owners say it's on the bright side for use in a dark bedroom.
The most consistent negative cited was that installing the window venting kit is not as easy as it should be. Several owners say that they had trouble figuring out how to assemble it; others say that it does not stay in place very well.
While experts say that dual-hose exhaust systems provide the best performance and efficiency, the Haier HPN12XCM has only one hose. The 11,600-BTU Friedrich ZoneAir P12B (Est. $595), on the other hand, is a dual-hose system that performs well enough in testing to take the top spot in one professional roundup, although it still does not earn a Recommended label (no portable AC units are recommended in that test).
However, owner feedback, although somewhat limited, is better than we see for most portable air conditioners. Most say it works very well and is certainly an improvement over having nothing. As noted, the Friedrich ZoneAir P12B is a dual-hose system, which helps at least a little bit with both performance and efficiency. The hoses mount in a sliding panel that will fit windows between 26 inches and 46 inches wide (or tall, in the case of casement windows), and the panel can be trimmed to fit narrower openings. We didn't see the installation complaints regarding the P12B window vent that we saw with the Haier HPN12XCM.
Otherwise, these units are similar. In addition to cooling the Friedrich ZoneAir P12B has a fan mode and a dehumidifier mode, though capacity is lower at 72 pints per day. There's a self-evaporative system to handle condensate, with a water tank to capture excess water and an auto shut off to prevent over flow. Other features include a remote control, 24 hour timer, washable air filter, and casters so that the portable air conditioner can be wheeled into another room. However, at 72 pounds, the P12B is a little heavy to be carrying up and down the stairs too often -- something that can be said about most "portable" air conditioners, including the Haier, which weighs in at 66.4 pounds.
These portable air conditioners are covered by similar warranties -- one year parts and labor. In addition, Friedrich covers both parts and labor for problems with the sealed refrigerant system for five years; Haier also covers the sealed system for five years, but its warranty is parts only.
The 14,000-BTU LG Electronics LP1414GXR (Est. $480) is another portable air conditioner worth considering, and may be a better choice for a larger room. It claims to be capable of cooling rooms up to 600 square feet, and it is one of the best performers in one professional roundup, although, like all of the portable air conditioners in that test, that means it's only average at best.
Owners are pretty pleased with the LG LP1414GXR, though. Even those who complain about it for other reasons, such as noise or lack of features, say it does a very good job cooling. And there are plenty of complaints that it's loud, but its feature line-up is pretty typical. That includes a dehumidifying setting that removes up to 3.4 pints of moisture per hour, three fan speeds and three cooling speeds, adjustable louvers, and a 24-hour timer. A remote control is also included. This is not a self-evaporating unit, so water must be emptied manually; most say that's easy to do and they don't worry about leakage because the air conditioner has overfill protection that will turn it off automatically if the reservoir gets too full. Many also note that the reservoir is generously sized, so it takes a good amount of time for it to fill. The LG LP1414GXR is covered by a one-year warranty that looks to be fairly comprehensive and includes full replacement and in-home service, if necessary.
The 14,000 BTU KoldFront PAC1401W (Est. $400) is another decent choice if you need a portable air conditioner for a larger room. It gets better user feedback, overall, than the LG, but does not appear in any professional roundups. The sore spot seems to be the window exhaust system, which is called difficult to assemble and to keep in place. Some owners also report receiving units that either arrived dead or that failed prematurely. As is the case with all portable ACs, some report that cooling is inadequate.
The PAC1401W is rated to cool a space of up to 500 square feet, and that's fairly realistic in most situations, users say, and in line with what experts say to expect with a portable AC versus a window unit (a 14,000 BTU window air conditioner can cool up to 700 square feet under otherwise identical conditions). The features are in line with what we see in most well-rated portable ACs, and include three-function operation (AC, dehumidifier and fan only), a 24-hour timer, full function remote control and self-evaporative moisture handling. There's also a hose connector for continuous draining though a garden hose, but no pump, so the hose will need to lead downward. The dehumidifier function can remove up to 60 pints of moisture from the air per day. There are castors for rolling the unit from room to room, but the 75 pound weight makes that, let alone carrying the PAC1401W, less than fun. The one year warranty is supplemented by three years of parts only coverage for the compressor.
Elsewhere in this report: