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The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Portable Air Conditioner

There are so many things to love about summer – visits to the beach, having a BBQ in the backyard with the family, heading to the closest swimming hole. People mostly have positive associations with summer. But, then there’s the heat.

The heat of summer can be nice when you’re out for a day of splashing around in water, but less so when your home is suddenly stifling and you’re sitting there feeling miserable. When you’re cold at least you can curl up with a blanket, heat’s a little harder to ward off with simple remedies.

In addition to the discomfort it causes, heat can have serious health consequences. In fact, the CDC estimates that approximately 700 people die from exposure to extreme heat in the US each year. Portable air conditioners can feel like a luxury to some, but they serve an important purpose beyond basic comfort. Don’t feel like you’re being oversensitive if you find the heat unpleasant and want to find a solution – cooling off when it’s hot outside can be important for your health!

Why You Should Consider a Portable AC Unit

Portable air conditioners aren’t just a smart option for people who don’t own an AC unit, they’re also a great way to save money and slash the amount of energy you use. In fact, there are many benefits associated with these AC units.

For homes that already have central air conditioning, a portable AC unit can help you lower the temperature of a specific area that you spend a lot of time in. Not only does this keep you comfortable, but you will save on energy costs as you are not having to cool your entire home. This is especially beneficial if you primarily use only one or two rooms in your entire home. Cooling a whole house with the goal of keeping one room cool is far less efficient than simply cooling one targeted area.

Whatever reason you have for starting to consider a portable air conditioner, it’s important that you find the right portable AC for your space before making a purchase.

To help you find the best portable air conditioning unit for your home and lifestyle, here are the main things you need to know to help you make an informed choice in your search.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Portable Air Conditioner

If you buy a portable air conditioner that’s not built to do the job you need it to, you can count on disappointment. You need to find a product that will work in the space you have available, at a cost you can manage, while meeting all your main needs.

To find the portable air conditioner that checks all the boxes, make sure you consider all of these factors during your search.


Portable AC units can range from around $150 to $800 for home versions, and go over $10,000 for units for commercial use. The difference in cost can relate to a lot of different factors, the main one being how powerful the air conditioner is. If you want a portable AC that will cool a large living room space, then you should expect to pay more than for one that’s designed for a small bedroom.

Many portable air conditioners also double as heaters or dehumidifiers and those extra uses will usually tip the cost upward, as will extra features like remote controls or programmable timers. As with most products, going with a brand known for making quality portable air conditioners that will last a long time may cost you more upfront, but save you money on not having to bother buying a new one for many years to come.

Air Conditioner Filter

As you likely know, air conditioners use a lot of energy, so the price tag on the product itself is a small part of the whole story of what a portable AC will actually cost you. According to Energy Star, about 13% of an average home’s energy bill goes to cooling costs. Make sure you take energy efficiency into consideration when considering which options are the thriftiest.

And finally, don’t forget other ongoing costs, such as replacement air filters. Find out how much a replacement filter will cost and how often you’ll need to buy a new one. If the filter needs to be replaced frequently, those costs will add up fast.


Some people buy portable air conditioners with the intention of keeping them entirely in one room. For others, the “portable” part really matters and they want to be able to move their AC unit from room to room or place to place. If you fall into the latter category, then it’s important to choose an air conditioner that you can move easily. Be aware of both the size of the air conditioner and its weight. Will it fit in your car? Can you reasonably pick it up on your own? Does it come with wheels for easier portability?

Even if you aim to keep it in one spot for the long term, you need to make sure it will fit in that spot. Measure the space to be sure the product specifications match what you have room for. And consider if you’ll need to re-arrange the room for it to work in the spot you’ve chosen and whether or not you’re okay with that.

Room Size

For many buyers, the size of the air conditioner won’t matter as much as the size of the space it cools. Most portable air conditioners won’t cool an entire house or apartment; they’re more useful for cooling specific rooms, such as a bedroom or living room. What you want to look for then is how big of a room they’ll cool.

Manufacturers use BTUs to measure how powerful their air conditioners are. Generally speaking, the higher the number of BTUs, the bigger the room an air conditioner will keep cool. Many manufacturers will also specify the size of room a air conditioner will work in, but to give you a better idea of how BTUs you will need, we’ve created the following chart based on different room sizes.

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