Page: 1 of 2
In this report

Portable air conditioners that keep things cool and quiet

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, primarily at HomeDepot.com.

The HPN12XCM is rated at 12,000 BTU, and it's recommended for rooms up to 450 square feet, but feedback indicates that that's 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, at 4.1-stars at HomeDepot.com, with 87 percent offering it their recommendation, 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. $590), on the other hand, is a dual-hose system that performs well enough in testing for Mary H.J. Farrell at ConsumerReports.org to suggest it as a model to try if your situation demands a portable air conditioner. However, user feedback is both limited and conflicting. Its rating at Amazon.com is a little concerning -- just 3.7 stars after around 15 reviews, but that's offset by 4-star and better reviews at a host of smaller retailers, including Air-n-Water.com.

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 hoses 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.

Other 12,000-BTU portable air conditioners worth considering include the NewAir AC-12000E (Est. $470). It has not been professionally tested, but user reviews are decent, especially at Air-N-Water.com, where it earns a 4.5-star rating following more than 260 reviews. While that's truly excellent feedback for a portable air conditioner, our enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by more mixed feedback at Amazon.com, just 3.8 stars following more than 160 reviews.

Unhappy owners complain that the NewAir's cooling is disappointing, but those with realistic expectations largely seem satisfied. Keep in mind that NewAir specifies coverage as up to 425 square feet (and information on the company website says that it's appropriate for rooms of 300 to 425 square feet). That's in line with what experts say is reasonable for a portable air conditioner of this size, but quite a bit less than the 450 to 550 square feet coverage of a 12,000 BTU window unit.

Features on the NewAir are similar to what other well-regarded portable air conditioners offer. There are three operating modes -- cooling, dehumidifying and fan only; a remote control; 24 hour timer; air filter and more. There's a self-evaporating system that should limit the need to empty the water collection tank except under high humidity conditions. The dehumidifier function is rated to remove up to 60 pints per day. The air cleaner has an ionizing feature. The NewAir has only a single exhaust hose, like the Haier HPN12XCM, but we didn't see the same complaints regarding installing the window vent kit. At 56.2 pounds, the AC-12000E is a little lighter than other portable ACs we recommend, so if you do plan to move it from room to room (or even floor to floor), that's a plus. Reliability seems to be another plus. We spotted user feedback dating back to 2007, and more current user reviews that reflect years of usage, but while the occasional lemon is reported, there doesn't seem to be a ton of complaints regarding units that failed prematurely. NewAir offers a one year warranty, but no extended coverage for the sealed cooling components like that offered by Frigidaire or Haier.

If you need a portable air conditioner for a larger room (500 square feet or more), you'll need to opt for a model with a BTU rating that's higher still. We struggled to find a 14,000 BTU or larger portable AC with consistently good -- and ample -- feedback, but the 14,000 BTU Koldfront PAC1401W (Est. $420) looks to be worth considering. It's not been professionally reviewed, but its 3.9-star rating at Amazon.com (following around 180 reviews) makes it one of the better-rated portable ACs at that site, at least among larger models that have accumulated more than a handful of reviews. The sore spot is the window exhaust system, which is called difficult to assemble and to keep in place in the window. 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.

However, these are the minority as more than 70 percent of owners posting at Amazon.com grant the PAC1401W a 4- or 5-star rating. In addition, reviews at LivingDirect.com, which distributes the KoldFront brand, are nearly as plentiful (almost 160 have left reviews), and decidedly more positive, granting it a 4.6-star rating. The issues with the window vent noted at Amazon.com don't seem to crop up here. Though some users express disappointment that this portable AC can't keep up with their cooling needs, most are satisfied and 97 percent say that they would recommend this portable AC to a friend.

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.

A top rated portable AC for small rooms

If you are looking for a portable AC for a small bedroom, we saw some of the best feedback for any portable air conditioner for the 10,000 BTU Honeywell MN10CESWW (Est. $400). As noted in a free article at ConsumerReports.org, the Honeywell MN10CES was among the choices worth considering among portable ACs that the site tested in 2014, though it was only a fair performer. TheSweetHome.com names it the best choice that it's tested thus far (though other portable ACs are slated for testing later this summer). The noise is tolerable, cooling performance is adequate, and dealing with its ventilation and condensation is relatively hassle-free," says Liam McCabe.

This 10,000 BTU portable air conditioner is rated for rooms up to 350 square feet and comes in three color versions, all of which perform identically. The Honeywell MN10CESWW is white while the Honeywell MN10CESBB is black; a black and silver version, the Honeywell MN10CES is also offered, but is harder to find.

User feedback for the Honeywell is good for a portable AC unit. At Amazon.com, all versions earn a combined 4-star rating following more than 400 reviews. At HomeDepot.com, the white Honeywell MN10CESWW earns a 4.1-star rating after 20 reviews, with 86 percent saying that they recommend this portable AC. The feedback is similar at Walmart.com -- a 4.1-star rating with 87 percent of the nearly 30 owners giving the portable AC a recommendation.

We saw similar comments across most sites. Most users, especially those who use the unit in appropriately sized rooms, give the Honeywell AC a thumbs-up. Unhappy owners share the typical portable AC complaints of disappointing cooling and finicky to install window vent kits. We also noted a couple of complaints about poor customer service, but not enough to raise any red flags. The portable Honeywell AC is covered by a one year warranty and a five year parts warranty on the sealed cooling components. Features are by now familiar and include three operating modes (cooling, dehumidifying, and fan), a remote control, 24-hour timer, and an auto-evaporation system that eliminates draining in all but very humid conditions. The dehumidifier can pull up to 68 pints of moisture out of the air per day, but is hefty for a smaller portable AC, weighing in at nearly 64 pounds.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Portable Air Conditioners | Buying Guide | Our Sources

image
NewAir AC-12000E 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $609.98 $429.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Haier HPN12XCM Portable Air Conditioner, 12000-BTU
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $445.00   
Average Customer Review:  
image
P12B ZoneAire Series 11,500 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $699.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Koldfront PAC1401W Ultracool 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner, White
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $649.00 $429.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Honeywell MN10CESWW 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control - White
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $449.99   
Average Customer Review:  

Back to top