The best portable air conditioners: the best affordable aircon units, plus tips on how to use them
Struggling in hot summers? We've scoured the web and pulled together the best portable air conditioners to suit every household.
Stifling summer nights are enough to make us wish for year-round winter (well, maybe not quite, but they're not fun). Restless hours in airless bedrooms are enough to put a dampener on any summer dreams, but the cost of installing air conditioning units can be pretty hefty. Luckily, there are a load of more affordable portable air conditioners on the market.
These portable air-con units are less of a commitment but can still pack a punch. Offering serious cooling power in a compact package, these beauties are the answer to our sun-scorched dreams, but how do you find the right product for your household?
Well, that's where we come in. The Recommended spent some time scouring the web to find the best portable air conditioners for every need and pulled together our top picks to help you shop smarter. Plus, check out our expert buyer’s guide at the bottom of this page to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about portable air conditioners.
Best portable air conditioners at a glance:
- Best digital air conditioner: Russell Hobbs Air Conditioner
- Best all-rounder: Inventor Chilly 9000BTU Portable 3-1 Air Conditioner
- Best compact air conditioner: Zephyrus Portable Air Conditioner
- Best aircon dehumidifier combo: KGOGO Portable Air Conditioner
- Best easy-to-use display: Vonhaus Air Conditioner
- Best for small spaces: NETTA Portable Air Conditioner
The best portable air conditioners
Best digital air conditioner: Russell Hobbs Air Conditioner
Clear digital display
This air conditioner provides users with a comprehensive digital display so you can easily keep track of all the functions it is performing at one time. It is designed with multi-purpose operating modes, including air cooling and fan-only.
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Its wheelable design allows for easy transportation throughout your home, so you can move it from room to room. It has the highest possible energy efficiency rating of A and has a two-year warranty once brought and registered online.
Best all-rounder: Inventor Chilly 9000BTU Portable 3-1 Air Conditioner
Compact and lightweight
This portable air conditioner features a user-friendly design with an intuitive LED display and remote control for ease of use. It also features a 3-in-1 design with cooling, fan, and dehumidifying functions to help you adjust your environment to your preference.
The Chilly’s space-saving design with easy-roll omnidirectional and durable casters means it’s very easy to move around your home, and its 24-hour timer means that you can choose when the air con is operating and even have it blasting for when you get home from enjoying the heat outside.
Best compact air conditioner: Zephyrus Portable Air Conditioner
For personal use
This portable conditioner can fit into any space and comes with four unique features. It cools, ventilates, dehumidifies, and also has a sleep mode. During its sleep mode, it can gradually increase the temperature by 1C every hour and has an auto cut-off feature.
All of its four settings can be controlled by its included remote its energy rating is grade A, so perfect for those who are watching their energy use. The 24-hour timer also allows for specific run times to be inputted, so you have even more control over your room’s temperature.
Best aircon dehumidifier combo: KGOGO Portable Air Conditioner
Use it all year round
Suitable for use in a space of up to 215 square feet, this portable air conditioner uses an advanced air compressor to deliver 9000 BTUs of cooling efficiency. It has an air conditioner that also functions as a fan and a dehumidifier and features a real-time digital display of the current room temperature.
This unit is also equipped with an intuitive control panel, allowing you to switch modes with ease. There is also a child-lock function so families can have a cool house as well as peace of mind.
Best easy-to-use display: Vonhaus Portable Conditioner
This portable conditioner comes with 4 different modes, sleep, and timer functions which are all controlled via an LED screen.
Its castor wheels allow easy transportation, and with its adjustable vents, you can target whether you want the cool air to be blowing upwards or down. It has an energy rating of A and is quiet at just 54 decibels.
Best for small spaces: NETTA Portable Air Conditioner
For closer quarters
This portable air conditioner is suitable for use in rooms of up to 20m² and can be controlled by the handy included remote control. It functions as a cooling fan and a dehumidifier and features two fan speeds and a 24-hour timer for tailored use.
This unit is designed with built-in casters to allow for easy movement. With three fan speed settings to choose from (high, low and sleep), you can select a gentle breeze to a powerful blast depending on your requirements.
Air conditioner buyer’s guide
With the arrival of summer, we can look forward to days out in the sun, picnic opportunities, and maybe even the chance of a tan. But, when the heat starts to become unbearable, it can be hard to navigate - this is where portable air conditioners come in. They are a great alternative to central cooling systems and provide the rest-bite you need from sweltering conditions.
To help you work out the best portable air conditioner for you, we’ve put together a helpful buyer's guide to assist you in your search for a more comfortable living environment. We'll cover everything you need to know about portable air conditioning units, from how they work, the benefits of using them, and common mistakes to avoid.
What is a portable air conditioning unit, and how does it work?
A portable air conditioning unit is a device that cools down air in your room by removing heat and humidity from it. They come in various shapes and sizes, which are made so that you can easily move them from room to room.
They work by sucking in warm air and using a refrigerant to cool it down, and then pumping the colder air back out. When they push the cooled air out of the front of the unit, the remaining warm air and moisture have to go out of the back of the unit. This means they have to be ventilated at the back - this is done via a hose that goes out a window or a door leading to the outside.
How is a portable air conditioning unit different from a fan?
While a fan circulates the air in a room, a portable air conditioning unit actually cools it down. A fan simply moves the warm air around, providing a breeze to help cool you down, but it doesn't actually lower the temperature of the air. A portable air conditioning unit uses a refrigeration cycle to remove heat from the air and lower its temperature, making it a much more effective way to cool down a room.
What are the benefits of using a portable air conditioner?
If you’re already suffering in unbearable heat, you may already know why a portable air con would be a useful purchase. If not, it’s important to know just how one can benefit you before buying.
- They're easy to move: It’s in the name, but obviously, one of the biggest benefits of portable air conditioners is how easy they are to move. Wherever you are in the home, office, or even on holiday, you can bring the cooler with you. It also means that when the temperatures drop, you can pack it away and store it with ease.
- They can cool a room quickly: They work quickly, and a report from Consumer Reports found that it takes just 20 minutes for the average portable air conditioner to cool down a room. They are much better than fans and windows at cooling the room as they lower the air temperature rather than just moving it around.
- They're cheaper than central air conditioning systems: Central air conditioning units are much more expensive than their portable counterparts and also come with additional costs. You often have to get a professional to install central systems, they use a lot of energy, and they also have to be serviced - this means the costs quickly add up in comparison to portable options.
How to choose the right size portable air conditioner
Choosing the right size portable air conditioning unit is essential to ensure it cools down your room effectively. To determine the right size, you'll need to consider the size of the room, the number of windows and doors, the ceiling height, and the level of insulation.
As a general rule, you'll need about 20 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of cooling power per square foot of the room you want to cool. You can use an online BTU calculator to help you determine the right size unit for your needs. We've found a helpful BTU calculator to help you calculate this.
Five features to look for in a portable air conditioning unit
When shopping for a portable air conditioning unit, there are five top features you should look for:
- Adjustable thermostat: Having control over the temperature that your portable conditioner emits is important so you can adjust it for each situation. You may want to change the temperature based on your activity or the room it is in. For example, if you’re sleeping, you may want a colder temperature than when you are awake.
- Timer function: Having a timer function allows you to have more control over when your conditioner is pumping out cool air. You may want to use the timer function to control how much energy the conditioner is using daily, you may want it to turn off when you fall asleep or make sure it is on before you get home from work.
- Noise level: Portable air-conditioning units can be quite loud and distracting to run, especially if they're on full blast while you're working from home, watching TV, or on the phone. You can check the decibel rating on each portable conditioner (dB rating), which is the unit used to measure the intensity of sound. The lower the decibel rating, the quieter the air conditioner.
- Energy-saving mode: Portable air conditioners can use up a lot of energy, so buying one with an energy-saving mode can be good for your pocket. It’s important to remember the energy-saving mode will usually mean the conditioner is not working at full capacity, so the cooling might take longer or not be as effective.
- Remote control: Having a remote control means you can control the conditioner without moving. It is perfect if you want to lie on the sofa or in bed without having to get up when you want to adjust the temperature or turn the conditioner off.
How do I install and set up a portable air conditioning unit?
Installing and setting up a portable air conditioning unit is relatively straightforward. First, you'll need to find a suitable location for the unit, ideally next to the window you want to ventilate out of. Next, you'll need to set up the exhaust hose to vent the hot air outside. Finally, you'll need to plug in the unit and turn it on. Make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and consult a professional if you're unsure.
Common mistakes to avoid when using a portable air conditioning unit
If you’re new to the portable conditioner world, then there are some common mistakes you want to avoid before buying one. These include:
- Using the wrong size unit for your room
- Placing the unit in direct sunlight
- Leaving doors and windows open while using the unit
- Not properly venting the exhaust hose outside
- Running the unit constantly without breaks
- Not using the timer function to save energy
- Overworking the unit by setting the temperature too low
- Neglecting to maintain and clean the unit regularly
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Finn Byrne is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media. He works across several brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeforMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. Finn has previously written for publications including MyLondon, The Mirror, The Express, and The Star. When not writing Finn enjoys spending time on the football pitch and getting stuck into a book.
Isobel Nutbrown is a Staff Writer at The Recommended and works with leading industry experts to help readers make informed decisions and shop smarter online.