You want to be cool and comfortable in your own home, especially when it’s steamy outside. Some houses have central air. But for those that don’t, or if you need extra cooling, you need a portable air conditioner, especially if you have a summer home or a lake house. Because truly, there are few sensations more miserable than the slow trickle of sweat down your lower back in the middle of summer. It’s even worse when it’s coming from inside the house and you hate your thermostat.
We checked with Consumer Reports, and here are things to keep in mind when shelling out for a new AC unit. You want it to be energy-efficient, so look for the New Energy Star label. If you’re phobic about noise, make sure the unit is quiet enough for you. Decide on the type of AC you want. In many cases, window units can handle a whole room, some better than others, so ensure that it has swiveling arms to direct air in the right area. As for portable units, you need window access for an exhaust fan.
Even better is if you can control the AC from your phone as part of your smart home setup, so you don’t waste energy during the day when you’re not home. The filter should be easy to access and easy to clean. Ever seen a filthy AC filter? You won’t want to. Trust us. And most of all, get the unit that’s ideal for your space. The bigger the room, the more BTU you’ll need. Most ACs range from 5,000 to 12,500 BTUs.
Of course, the offerings are as diverse as climates. If you’re in an arid mesa, your best bet won’t be the same for another located deep in the Cajun bayou. And then there’s budget. Regardless of whether you’ve got a lot or a little to drop, we’ve got an option for you. Our favorites are as diverse as you, and there’s something for everyone—and every dollar amount.
A Fatherly editor has this workhorse LG air conditioning unit, and it checks all the boxes. It's small enough to fit into a window, but powerful enough to cool a small living room, a bedroom, and even an adjacent kitchen. Without doubling our energy bills.
Pros: This LG air conditioner window unit is easy to mount, comes with its own remote control, and has 12,000 BTU of cooling power. It’s not particularly high-end or fancy, but it keeps you cold, which is what it’s meant to do. It can cool up to 550 square feet, but is actually far stronger than you’d expect.
Cons: It can be loud when you first turn it on and it powers up. As in, very loud. And you need to properly install it.
This unit is sizable, both in stature and output. It cools rooms 350-450 square feet in size. And it has vertical wind motion to help distribute powerful cool air more evenly.
Pros: The Honeywell Contempo portable air conditioner easily cools 350 to 450 square feet. It has a remote control. Unlike a window unit, this portable AC has wheels to move it from room to room. smooth-gliding caster wheels provide easy mobility from room to room. It has a flexible exhaust hose and an easy-to-install window venting kit. The window vent can be removed when the unit is not in us
Cons: The vent doesn’t fit every window, so measure accordingly.Also, if you’re not into having an AC on wheels, this one isn’t for you.
When looking to cover the greatest area possible with one unit, we were impressed with the Shinco SPF2-08C. While maintaining the same power settings of others on this list, it nevertheless seemed to throw farther, making it one of the best values.
Pros: With a massive max-effective range of 350 square feet (almost a 20-by-20 room), this thing has a certain je ne sais quoi that others on this list are lacking. Once the room is cool, switch to its low fan mode, which emits a minimal 52-decibel sound. It also dehumidifies, pulling up to 60 pints of moisture from the air per day.
Cons: Its exhaust hose must run out a window, which prevents this unit from being truly portable. And it’s loud.
To paraphrase This Is Spinal Tap, sometimes you need an AC unit that goes to 11. That’s where the SereneLife Powerful Portable Room Air Conditioner comes in. For just a few more bucks than the midrange units on this list, you get that extra oomph when you really need it.
Pros: At a 10,000 BTU output, this is the strongest units on the list, and the most (well, probably just over what) most rooms in the U.S. need. While the company doesn’t post its units’ range, they claim that some customers use two or three of these to cool an entire home. From our experience, we see this as a distinct possibility. Of course, the unit comes with the traditional perks of dehumidifier function, remote, LCD readout, timer, and multiple fan settings.
Cons: My goodness, is this 63-pound behemoth heavy. Despite the company’s assurance that this unit is portable, the only way we could recommend this is if it also had a steering wheel. Also, just like others on this list that don’t use water to cool, you’ll need to run a hose out a window (parts included) for exhaust.
This top-rated model has three operational modes: air conditioner, fan or dehumidifier. And this AC unit can cool up to 500 square feet of space.
Pros: This AC unit is cool because it features self-evaporating technology, which uses and recycles moisture collected during the cooling process to produce cool air. It also switches into a dehumidifier as needed. It has a full thermostatic control (61°F – 89°F) with full digital readout. Plus, at 14,000 BTU, it’s a total chiller powerhouse.
Cons: Like other models, you need a window for the hose. And like other models, this too will take up floor space.
Not only is this AC unit not an eyesore, but it's fully WiFi-connected and works with its own app. It's energy-efficient, and with its 10,000 BTU output, cools a 450 square foot room.
Pros: The perfect addition to your smart home, this Frigidaire 10,000 BTU window air conditioner gives you the capability to remotely turn the unit on or off, change temperature, plus control modes and fan speeds.
Cons: Its app connectivity is unreliable.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.