What the best portable air conditioner has
- Energy efficiency. The energy efficiency rating (EER) is a
measurement of how much energy it takes to run an air conditioner in relation
to its cooling capacity. A higher number indicates a more efficient unit, which
can save money on the monthly electric bill. Portable air conditioners commonly
have an EER of 10.0 or above, but the best rate is 11.0 or higher.
friendly refrigerant. Most new air
conditioners use R-410A to stay cool, which is better for the atmosphere than
the older R-22 refrigerant. In addition, users with an R-22 air conditioner
will have a difficult time when they need to recharge their units. As manufacturers
transition to R-410A only, R-22 is becoming less available and more expensive.
- Low fan
noise. A loud compressor is one of the most common air conditioner complaints
-- owners want to be able to stay cool while comfortably watching TV or
sleeping. The best portable air conditioners create a white-noise sound that's
50 decibels or less.
controls. Portable air conditioners with a digital display are the easiest to
read and set, though the display shouldn't be glaring enough to be disruptive
in the dark. A remote control offers limited functions, but can be extremely
convenient in bedrooms and large living rooms.
- Dehumidifier. While all portable air conditioners remove
a certain amount of moisture from the air, the best feature is a separate
dehumidifying function. This reduces the humidity in your room without adding
an icy blast, a handy setting for muggy days that aren't hot enough for air conditioning.
- Easy to
move. Part of the
convenience of a portable air conditioner is that it can be rolled when
installing and storing. The best units have easy-rolling caster wheels and are
light enough to be manageable. Compact designs also help save space.
- Warranty. The best portable air conditioner brands
cover the compressor for at least three years, but it's important to read the fine
print: Some brands require owners to front the cost of shipping the unit for
Know before you go
Where will the air conditioner go? Select the size of portable air conditioner based on the square
footage and setting of your space. The ideal size has enough power to
effectively cool your room while running long enough to remove as much moisture
from the air as possible. An air conditioner's cooling capacity is measured in
Btu (short for British Thermal Unit) -- the higher the number, the more
powerful the unit.
- 10,000 Btu and smaller: A small portable air conditioner, also
called a mini air conditioner, is best for 300-square-foot rooms and smaller.
This is a good pick for bedrooms and living spaces in small apartments.
- 11,000 Btu and larger: Large portable air conditioners with a
cooling capacity of 11,000 Btu and above work well for rooms over 300 square
feet, such as living rooms. Rooms with extra heat sources need more help
staying cool; for most rooms with full sun, an air conditioner that is at least
11,000 Btu is best. Kitchens typically require at least 12,000 Btu to stay
A window is still required. Air conditioners need outside air to function at their best, and a
portable unit is no different. Each comes with a window kit, which uses a few
inches of window space for a vent hose. Appliance experts say one of the most
common complaints about poor performance results from improper venting or incorrectly
installing the window kit. Most also prefer dual-hose units -- especially for
large rooms -- saying that they provide extra cooling power with a more stable
air pressure. One hose circulates the inside air while the second uses outside
air only to keep itself from overheating. With a single-hose design, on the
other hand, the air conditioner has to work even harder to lower the
temperature in your room.
Will you need to empty the water
tank? Air conditioners pull extra moisture out of the
air -- reducing your room's humidity and making it more comfortable. The best
units use a self-evaporative system to automatically disperse this moisture out
of the vent hose. For units without this system or excessively humid regions,
users have to manually drain the water tank or install a drain hose.
Filtering the air. Some portable air conditioners include one or two built-in air filters.
For maximum filtration, look for a unit that has a washable pre-filter and an
additional carbon filter, which can remove finer particles such as mold, pollen
and dust. Determine the life span and replacement price of the carbon filter to
better understand your maintenance costs.
Check your outlets. A portable air conditioner can pull a lot of power; make sure your
outlets can manage the extra load, and never use an extension cord.