Portable AC units help you stay cool all summer long.
Designed for use in medium-sized rooms and spaces, portable air conditioners lower temperatures surprisingly well.
Portable AC units can run anywhere in your home – from offices to bedrooms. They’re also priced at a fraction of the cost of ordinary AC systems.
Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier to add complex air cooling technology into small units. Today’s top air conditioner manufacturers offer an extensive range of portable AC units of all shapes and sizes.
Our editorial team tested, researched, and analyzed portable air conditioners from across the internet. After hours of deliberation and debate, here are our rankings of the Best Portable AC systems for 2021.
Blast Auxiliary Portable AC
Blast Auxiliary’s aptly-named Portable AC is small, affordable, and powerful. It’s everything a portable air cooling system should be. With the cord-free operation, an easy-to-use design, and a humidifier add-on, the Blast Auxiliary Portable AC is marketed as a solution to warm home temperatures you can use all summer long. Like other small units on this list, the Blast Auxiliary Portable AC is powered with a USB cable, making it easy to charge up the fan wherever you go. You can run the device with or without power, creating Arctic temperatures anywhere in your home. With a humidifier, filter, and other advanced features, the Blast Auxiliary Portable AC contains features we don’t expect to see on units of this price range.
CoolX is a portable air conditioner suitable for any part of your home, office, or even your car. The device comes with a seven-color LED you can adjust as needed. You can use CoolX as a night light and air conditioner for your bedroom, keeping your room at a comfortable temperature all night long. With three pre-set speeds, a ridiculously easy-to-use design, and effective cooling capabilities, the CoolX portable AC unit can change the temperature of your home rapidly. Like other AC units here, CoolX works as an air conditioner, purifier, and humidifier in one. It cleans the air, adds moisture to the air, and cools the air in one convenient package.
Breeze Maxx is the only portable AC unit on this list marketed specifically as a “nano air conditioner,” which means it cools the air despite having an extra-small design. Breeze Maxx’s portable AC system instantly chills the air while filtering pollutants, bacteria, and viruses. Other AC units listed here only claim to cleanse the air, but Breeze Maxx specifically claims to filter bacteria and viruses – something that not all filters can do. Overall, the makers of Breeze Maxx describe the unit as a way to beat the heat while enjoying a portable, lightweight, and cordless design. It’s also surprisingly quiet compared to other units on this list. And, with just 1.5lbs of weight, Breeze Maxx lives up to its title as a nano air conditioner.
IceBox Air Cooler
The IceBox Air Cooler absorbs hot and dry air through one side of the unit, expelling it from the other side as a refreshing, cooling breeze. You can enjoy your rest, cool down your dorm room or office, and beat the heat all summer long. The IceBox Air Cooler has features we don’t see on other portable AC units listed here, including a crystal clear LCD screen that makes it easy to set the temperature range. It also has a sleep mode for use during the night, allowing you to lower temperatures to an ultra-quiet range. With seven mood lights and five different coolness levels, the IceBox Air Cooler is also more customizable than competing portable AC units listed here. Although it’s $10 more expensive than the average portable AC unit, the price drops as low as $60 per unit when ordering multiples.
Glacier Air Cooler
The Glacier Air Cooler works from an external, rechargeable battery. That means you can charge the air cooler up, then take it to the beach. The Glacier Air Cooler is also the only portable AC unit on this list designed as a lantern and air cooler. The unit has a built-in lamp that you can use when camping, sitting outdoors, or on the beach. The Glacier Air Cooler is one of the smallest units on this list. However, by adding ice to the unit, you can ensure it creates Arctic-level temperatures throughout your living room, bedroom, bathroom, office, garage, or anywhere else you need to lower temperatures. It also has one of the more stylish designs on this list, with a retro appearance that may be appealing.
Sleep Connection Cool Mist Humidifier
Sleep Connection’s Cool Mist Humidifier is a combination of a portable air conditioner, and a humidifier rolled into one beautiful package. The Cool Mist Humidifier is one of the best-looking portable AC units on this list, delivering similar cooling and humidification capabilities with a stylish design. You can enjoy better sleep, better health, and better breathing, according to the manufacturer, when running the Cool Mist Humidifier in your home. Just add water to the unit, then use the one-touch operation to run the device as long as you like. The built-in mood light adds to the ambiance, making the Cool Mist Humidifier a stylish addition to any home or bedroom. And, at just $15 per unit, it’s the cheapest unit on this list by far.
The UV Cooler is a portable air conditioner that cools down and purifies any room in your home. Like other portable air coolers listed here, the UV Cooler uses a USB cable for charging along with water and ice to generate cold airflow. What makes the UV Cooler unique is the use of ultraviolet light to sanitize the water. Instead of having toxins and bacteria floating around your home as water vapor, you can eliminate certain elements using the ultraviolet light in the UV Cooler. The UV Cooler is also small enough and light enough to take it anywhere you need to go – making it an ideal option for on-the-go sanitation and cool temperatures.
The T10 Cooler is an on-the-go air conditioning system designed for use in rooms, cars, or anywhere else you need it to go. It works similar to other units on this list, transforming hot air into cool air using “hydro chill technology.” Hot air passes through a curtain or cool water, exiting the other side as cooler, wetter air. While most air conditioners are noisy, the T10 Cooler runs quietly – similar to other air coolers on this list. Plus, you can choose from three fan options and seven LED colors, making the T10 Cooler as customizable as you need it to be. Like other units listed here, the T10 Cooler lasts for around 6 to 8 hours before needing to be refilled.
The CoolFeel Max is a portable air cooling system available exclusively through PopularHiTech. Backed by a 30-day refund policy, the CoolFeel Max promises to offer effective cooling capabilities in a small design. It’s the only unit on this list designed to fit around your neck. Instead of placing it in your home, you place the CoolFeel Max around your neck, and it delivers cool temperatures wherever you go. The unit sprays cool, refreshing air onto your face. Some people use the CoolFeel Max when working out. Others use it when relaxing around the home. With an easy-to-use design, a small frame, and a reasonable price tag, the CoolFeel Max is the best shoulder or neck-based air conditioner on this list.
Tundra Breeze AC
Tundra Breeze has one of the least stylish designs on this list, but it makes up for the ugly design with effective cooling capabilities. Similar to the Breeze Maxx, the Tundra Breeze AC delivers Arctic temperatures via a water curtain-based humidification system. By adding cool water and ice to the unit, you can spread cold temperatures throughout your room. The unit absorbs hot, dry air from one side, transforming it into cooler, wetter vapor out the other side. If you want to create cool air without the dry temperatures of ordinary air conditioning systems, then the Tundra Breeze AC may be the right option for you.
How We Ranked
Portable air conditioners all promise similar benefits. They all claim to lower air temperatures in small spaces while offering a small, portable design.
Unfortunately, not all portable AC units live up to that promise. Some simply spread water vapor around your home without cooling the air. Others break after a few months.
To separate the best and worst portable air cooling units from one another, we used the following metrics:
Cooling Effectiveness: Some portable air coolers just don’t work very well. Others create surprisingly chilly temperatures. The biggest ranking factor we used was cooling effectiveness. You’re buying a portable air conditioner to create cool temperatures in your home. The best units above achieve those goals.
Humidification Effectiveness: Many people buy portable air conditioners not just for the cool temperatures but also for the humidity. Good portable air conditioners are a humidifier, and air conditioner rolled into one convenient unit. We also considered the humidification effectiveness of units in our rankings.
Style, Design, & Aesthetics: It wasn’t our most important ranking factor, but we did consider style, design, and aesthetics in our rankings. Some of the portable air conditioners above have invested in quality design characteristics, making them ideal for complementing the décor in your home or bedroom. Others look bland and boring.
Ease of Use: Most portable air conditioners are easy for anyone to use, regardless of your tech skills. With most units above, you simply fill them up with water and ice, plug them in, and let them run. That’s it.
Additional Features: The primary goal of a portable air conditioner is to cool the room. However, many portable AC units listed above also create humidity, filter the air, or even remove bacteria from the air using ultraviolet light. We considered these additional features in our rankings.
Return Policy: Some portable AC units don’t work very well. If you’re unsatisfied with a unit, you should be able to return it. However, some portable AC units have surprisingly strict return policies. If a company made it deliberately difficult to return (or did not offer returns whatsoever), then their rankings dropped. All reputable manufacturers stand behind their portable AC units, making it easy to request a refund when unsatisfied.
Customization Options: Depending on the time of day and temperature, you may want different levels of coolness. Some people want cool temperatures all night long, for example, while others want a gentle, cool fan throughout the day. We considered customization options in our rankings.
Ice Tray, Water Curtain, and Misting Device: Most portable air conditioners use an ice tray, water curtain, and misting device to create cool vapor. These devices absorb hot, dry air through one side, expelling it through the other side as cooler, cleaner air. Some ice trays, water curtains, and misting devices are simply better than others.
Price & Value: Some people want to spend $15 on a portable air conditioner. Others want to spend $200. We featured portable air conditioners at all different price points, allowing you to easily pick the one that meets your budget. At all price points, however, we made sure that the portable air conditioners offered good value. Nobody wants to get ripped off.
Customer Reviews: Although we personally tested each portable AC unit listed above, we also considered customer reviews in our rankings. Customers test portable AC units in a range of weather conditions, humidity levels, and temperatures. Although we’re confident in our testing, we also considered customer reviews.
Transparency: Some portable air conditioner companies provide the user manual and other information upfront. Other companies refuse to disclose even basic information – like the size of the water tank or the capacity of the battery. We considered transparency in our rankings.
Where to Use a Portable AC Unit
Portable air cooling systems are ideal for use in a range of settings. Some people use portable AC units in a bedroom, office, or other small space. Others run the units outdoors, creating cooler temperatures in a backyard, tent, or other space.
Many portable AC units listed above don’t require direct power. They have a battery you can charge, making it easy to run the portable AC unit anywhere.
Some of the places where you can use a portable air conditioner include:
- Apartments and condos
- Dorm rooms
- Smaller homes
- Outdoor spaces
Whether there’s an electrical outlet nearby or not, you can enjoy cooler temperatures wherever you go, thanks to the power of a portable air conditioner.
Top 11 Advantages of a Portable Air Conditioner
Portable air conditioners have several advantages over other air cooling systems, including all of the following:
1) Save Money: Instead of paying hundreds per month to cool your home with a whole-home HVAC system, you can save money with a portable air conditioner. A portable air conditioner cools only the rooms you use. And, because it’s small and energy-efficient, it uses much less power than competing options. Most run off a USB port and battery, offering similar power consumption to a smartphone or tablet.
2) Customize Temperatures: Some portable air conditioners have a thermostat, while others do not. Most portable air conditioners let you choose from three to five temperature levels. Even if you can’t customize the temperature to a specific degree, you can choose approximately how hot or cool you want a room to be – similar to a whole-home air conditioner.
3) Add Humidity Instead of Removing It: If you hate the feeling of dry, cracked skin in the summer, then a portable air conditioner may be the right choice for you. Portable air conditioners add humidity to the air instead of removing it. That means you enjoy cooler, moister air all summer long.
4) Filter the Air: Many portable air conditioners have additional filters to remove bacteria, toxins, VOCs, and other compounds. Some have ultraviolet filters. Others have physical filters or other systems. You don’t want to breathe in dirty air. Good portable air conditioners filter the air and remove problematic compounds.
5) No Installation Required: Portable AC units don’t require you to install an HVAC system in your home. In fact, you don’t even need to install tubes or pipes out your window. Instead, you just add water to a tank, plug in the portable AC unit, and let the unit run. That’s it.
6) Easy for Anyone to Use: Portable AC units are easy to use even if you have limited technical skills or experience. As long as you can fill a tank with water or add ice cubes to a tray, you can easily use most portable AC units.
7) No Electrical Outlet Required: Many of the best portable AC units above run off battery or micro-USB. That means you can run them on your desktop, bedside table, or outdoors without the need for an electrical outlet nearby.
8) Easy to Move Around your Home: The portable AC units above are small enough to carry around your home. Instead of cooling every room in your home throughout the day, you can bring the portable AC unit with you, lowering temperatures wherever you go. Larger portable AC units even have wheels, allowing you to spread cool air while still enjoying maximum portability.
9) Cheap: You can buy a good portable air conditioner for under $100. Most of the portable air conditioners above are priced at around $90. Ordinary air conditioners can cost $5,000 to $10,000 to install. If you want to enjoy effective cooling in your home without the cost or hassle of a whole home HVAC system, then a portable AC unit may be the right choice.
10) Quiet: Some HVAC systems are noisy, keeping you up all night with clanking, whirring, and activation or deactivation sounds. Portable air conditioners are not noisy. They’re very quiet. Most also have multiple sound settings, making it easy to choose the level of noise or fan speed you want. Whether running your portable AC unit in your bedroom at night or in an office, It’s easy to appreciate the quietness.
11) Surprisingly Effective: Portable air conditioners create cooler temperatures throughout your home – and they do so in a surprisingly effective way. Although they won’t replicate the effects of a whole-home HVAC system, portable air conditioners can deliver lower temperatures at a much cheaper price point.
How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?
Portable air conditioners work in different ways. The portable air conditioners listed above use basic technology to create cooler temperatures, passing air through a water curtain to create cold vapor. They’re designed for smaller spaces, including bedrooms and apartments.
Other portable air conditioners are more advanced. They’re capable of spreading cool temperatures throughout a larger space. Some have 12,000 BTUs, for example, and connect to the outside air using a hose. Some have a single-hose design, while others have a dual-hose design.
When you buy an advanced air conditioner, you get a unit with refrigerant (to cool the air), a compressor (to compress the refrigerant), and a fan (to move the air). It’s similar to how a whole-home air conditioning system works. The unit takes air from the outside world, cools that air using refrigerant and a compressor, then circulates air throughout your home.
Advanced air conditioners are fine for larger homes and spaces. However, they can be noisy. Some use excessive amounts of power. They also withdraw humidity from the air, creating drier temperatures in your home.
The air cooling systems above work differently. They add moisture to your home instead of removing it. They create cooler temperatures without creating a dry environment. They still extract heat from the air – but they do so without the use of refrigerant or a compressor.
Here is the basic process the air cooling systems above use to create cool temperatures:
Step 1) The unit draws hot, dry air from one side.
Step 2) The air enters the unit, passing through a water curtain. That water curtain is connected to a hydration chamber and, in many cases, an ice tray. The water curtain is cool and wet.
Step 3) As air passes through the water curtain, it causes the water within the curtain to evaporate. Evaporation requires heat. As the water evaporates, it removes heat from the air, creating cooler and cleaner temperatures.
Step 4) A fan blows the cool, moister air out the other end of the device, spreading lower temperatures throughout your room or home.
That’s it! Some portable air conditioners also have a UV light, bacterial filters, and other advanced features. Most units, however, use the steps listed above to cool the air around you.
FAQs About Portable Air Conditioners
Portable air conditioners
Q: What’s the difference between a portable air conditioner and a regular air conditioner?
A: There are obvious differences between portable and regular air conditioners. You can carry portable air conditioners around your home, for example. Portable air conditioners also use different technology to cool your home. Instead of using a refrigerant and a compressor, portable air conditioners use water curtains, evaporation, and ice trays to create cooler temperatures.
Q: What is a portable air conditioner?
A: A portable air conditioner is any device that lowers temperatures while also being easy to carry around. Most air conditioners are not portable.
Q: How much space does a portable air conditioner cover?
A: The portable air conditioners listed above are small units designed for small spaces around your home, including bedrooms, offices, dorm rooms, and other small spaces. They’re not designed to cool an entire home.
Q: What size portable air cooler do I need?
A: A 7,500 BTU unit covers around 200 square feet of space, while a 10,000 BTU unit covers around 300 square feet of space. You can also buy 14,000 BTU units to cool 500 square feet of space. Generally, the portable air coolers listed above have the equivalent of fewer than 7,500 BTUs, which is why they’re perfect for smaller spaces.
Q: Do I need a window or outside access to use my portable air cooler?
A: No, you don’t need a window or outside access to use your portable air cooler. Instead, the portable air coolers listed above work using a combination of a water curtain and ice tray. They don’t have tubes or hoses connecting to the outside world.
Q: Is it safe to run a portable AC unit in my home?
A: The best portable AC units on our list don’t use refrigerant, freon, or compressors, and they don’t create toxins or vapors that could build up to dangerous levels within your home. They’re safe to run in any home, as you’re simply creating water vapor and spreading it throughout the air.
Q: What’s the best portable AC unit?
A: The best portable AC units are any of the units on our list above. Choose the unit you need for the size of your room or home, then enjoy effective cooling.
Q: Will portable AC units increase my electrical bill?
A: When running a portable AC unit in one room of your home, you should have a lower electricity bill than if you were using a whole-home HVAC system to cool your entire home. However, running multiple portable AC units in multiple rooms of your home could lead to higher electrical bills.
Q: Will portable AC units leak water?
A: The portable AC units listed above use a water curtain and ice tray to create cooler temperatures. However, they don’t use the same technology as other air conditioners, which means they don’t leak water.
Q: Why is there a UV light on my air conditioner?
A: Some portable air conditioners use UV light and other filtration systems. According to the American College of Allergists, 50% of all illnesses are aggravated or caused by indoor polluted air. The water and air around your AC unit can be filled with bacteria, mold, pollen, viruses, chemicals, and other toxins. UV lights help to remove these compounds from the air you breathe.
Q: How long do portable AC units last?
A: The best portable AC units last for 5+ years before needing to be replaced. Most can run longer with proper maintenance. Portable AC units run off USB power. You don’t need to replace the battery. However, you might notice battery life decline slightly as your unit gets older.
Q: What is SEER?
A: Air conditioners have a SEER rating or a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER). The higher the SEER number is, the more efficient your air conditioner will be. Average AC units have a SEER number between 13 and 16. The best units have SEERs as high as 20 or higher.
Q: How do I cool my home without AC?
A: The portable AC units listed above are ideal for cooling a home without AC. You can lower temperatures in your home without needing a whole home HVAC system or similar system.
Q: How does a central AC system work?
A: A central AC system lowers temperatures throughout your home using a compressor to pump refrigerant through the system, gathering heat and moisture from indoors and removing it from the home. The hot temperatures from inside the home are pumped over the cooled indoor coil (typically found on top of your furnace). The heat in the air transfers to the coil, dropping air temperatures. The hot air then gets pumped outside while the cool air circulates inside.
Q: Why does my air conditioner dry the air?
A: Modern HVAC system lowers air temperatures while removing moisture. That’s why many homes feel dry after running the air conditioner through long summer days. Some people experience dry skin and other issues when running an air conditioner for extended periods. The portable AC units listed above add moisture to the air instead of removing it.
Q: What is ENERGY STAR?
A: ENERGY STAR is a program created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help businesses and individuals buy efficient electronics. Most modern air conditioners have the ENERGY STAR label, verifying that you are buying an energy-efficient unit.
Q: How much does a portable air conditioner cost?
A: The portable air conditioners on our list range in price from $15 to $120, with most units priced at around $90. For $90, you should be able to find plenty of good portable air conditioners capable of lowering temperatures in your home.
Portable air conditioning technology has improved significantly in recent years. Today, you can buy good home cooling for under $100.
The portable air conditioners above provide effective cooling in a small package. They lower temperatures in your home without the high cost and hassle of a traditional HVAC system. That means you get effective air cooling anywhere in your home – and at a lower price.
To learn more about portable air conditioners or to buy a top-rated portable AC unit today, check our list of the best portable air cooling systems of 2021 above.
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