Shopping for an Affordable Portable Air Conditioner?
Let us help you choose the right one.
With temperatures surging due to global warming with each passing day, more and more homeowners are resorting to installing cooling systems in their homes.
Of course, they are great for creating a cooler indoor environment, but when run continuously, they can cost you lots of money in the form of energy bills.
This is where affordable and portable air conditioners come in.
These are small units that you can easily and conveniently move from one place to another. The best thing about them is their low upfront and running costs.
If such a model is what you’re looking for, then continue reading. Below we’ve reviewed the best affordable portable air conditioners currently available in the market.
Who Should Buy a Portable Air Conditioner?
With all the buzz surrounding them, it’s natural to wonder whether a portable AC is worth buying.
The market is flooded with window air conditioners and central units, yet many buyers opt to purchase portable units because of their versatile functionality and energy efficiency.
They are also more affordable, not just because of the low upfront cost but also because of the lower running costs.
On the other hand, a window AC is a bulky, space-consuming device that usually takes over one of the windows of your home. Meanwhile, a central unit is more expensive and requires expensive and professional installation.
As the name suggests, portable air conditioners are portable. Being compact and lightweight, you can easily move them from one place to another. They are often equipped with casters or handles for this purpose.
Considering all these benefits, affordable portable ACs are great for:
People Who Live in Small Houses
Small houses already have a lot going on around them. Their owners have to look for smart ways to make everything work.
That’s why, when it comes to cooling, a portable AC is a good choice. It is small in size and, unlike a fixed unit, it can be moved from one place to another, making it a good option for homeowners looking to cool the entire house.
Households with Limited Windows
Window ACs have a bad reputation for blocking the windows of a house. So, any house with a few or only a single window cannot afford to have one installed in it.
On the other hand, a portable unit does not block windows or any other airway to function. So, they are a good choice for such households.
People Who are on a Budget
Running an AC can incur high energy bills. While there are many energy-efficient units out there, you have to monitor your usage carefully to keep the bills within budget.
But with portable ACs, this is not a big problem.
In fact, almost all portable units are designed to have low running costs. Hence anyone on a tight budget can greatly benefit from purchasing one of these.
Our Top 3 Picks
What's in This Buying Guide
Table of Contents
This buying guide will tell you everything you need to know about the best affordable portable air conditioners. It includes a list of our top recommendations followed by a comparison table listing their features.
You will find a detailed review of each product we list, explaining its features, pros, and cons. Further below is a comprehensive shopping guide telling you what to look for and some FAQs addressing common queries about affordable portable air conditioners.
So, let’s get to it!
Best Affordable Portable Air Conditioners
Whynter Elite ARC-122DS
17 x 29.5 x 16 inches
400 sq. ft
1 year for the unit, 3 years for the compressor.
Black & Decker BPACT08WT
Best for Small Spaces
16.5 x 11.5 x 26 inches
Up to 300 sq. ft
2-year limited warranty
Best for Medium-Sized Spaces
15.4 x 17.5 x 31.7 inches
Up to 500 sq. ft
2-year manufacturer warranty
DELLA Portable AC
Best for Large Spaces
17.52 x 14.76 x 28.35 inches
700 sq. ft
Whynter Elite ARC-122DS is a compact and stylish cooling unit. It features a sleek design with a front-facing control panel and air-out vents on the top. The control panel features a digital readout with buttons for easier operation.
It is a powerful unit that generates 12,000 BTUs. With such performance, it can easily cover an area measuring up to 400 sq. ft.
The best thing about this unit is its energy efficiency. Even with such a great cooling output, the device consumes a small amount of energy. It has a high EER rating of 12, so you can trust it to keep your room cool while keeping your energy bills within budget.
Another great feature of the ARC-122DS is the air purifying filters. It features a reusable pre-filter to capture and remove large particles from the air. You can wash and reinstall it whenever it becomes clogged. Meanwhile, a carbon filter captures smaller particles and odor-causing molecules.
In addition to its powerful air conditioning mode, the device also supports fan mode for a pleasant breeze and dehumidifier mode to remove all the extra moisture from the air.
Its dehumidification capacity is also quite high. The unit can remove up to 76 pints of moisture per day. It relies on manual drainage or gravitational drainage via a hose to expel the water.
Black & Decker BPACT08WT should be your choice if you are shopping for a small room. This is a budget-friendlyunit with a powerful cooling performance. It is fast and efficient with a 3-in-1 design that improves its overall worth.
Like most cheap portable ACs, this unit also supports dehumidifier and fan modes of operation. But what makes it superior over them is its sleep mode.
When you turn it on, the device automatically regulates an ambient room temperature to ensure that you wake up well-rested. It monitors the room temperature, and as your body cools, it keeps turning up the temperature at regular intervals so that you don’t feel cold.
The best thing about this AC is the self-evaporative drainage. You won’t need to empty water buckets or set up a drainage hose to drain accumulated water. Instead, the device uses evaporative technology to vaporize the condensate and exhaust it out of the room along with the hot air.
Another handy feature is its remote control operation. The remote control it comes with allows you to adjust the temperature as well as manipulate other settings without having to get up. You can switch between different modes, control the fan speed, and switch off the unit using the remote.
De’Longhiis a renowned Italian brand reputed for manufacturing high-quality compressors. Since the compressor is the heart of any air conditioner, we felt it would be unjust not to mention a model from their long lineup of portable air conditioners.
Penguino is one of their latest models with many unique features.
All portable ACs from De’Longhi are sleek and stylish. But when it comes to looks, we think that Penguino beats them all. It is as sleek and stylish as any portable air conditioner can be. You can choose between two finishes – black and white, and both are equally aesthetically appealing.
The unit is quite compact and ergonomic. Manufacturers have thoughtfully designed it with cast handles and wheels to facilitate movement from one room to another.
The good thing is that it comes completely pre-assembled. You don’t even need to attach the wheels – they also come pre-attached.
One unique feature of this room cooling machine is its remote control. It is a modern piece of equipment that connects to the unit via Bluetooth and is equipped with the advanced ‘Cool Surround Technology.’
This essentially means that you can carry the remote while moving about the room and adjust the settings without needing to point it at the unit.
Although it also features a fan mode, the dehumidifier mode is something to talk about. Unlike other portable ACs, this unit can remove up to 1.5 liters of moisture per hour. This feature alone brings it on par with, if not equal to, any average standalone dehumidifier.
This Della portable air conditioner has quickly earned fame as one of the best portable ACs. Some reasons for its popularity include its affordable price, advanced features, and powerful performance.
It does more than just cool the air. In fact, by maintaining the optimum temperature and humidity levels, it improves the quality of the air you breathe in.
The most conspicuous thing we loved about this device is its size. The sleek unit has a small footprint, so it won’t take up too much space in your home. Measuring merely 17.52 x 14.76 x 28.35 inches, the unit is a great choice for anyone short on space.
While the size may bluff you, this is one of the most powerful portable air conditioners out there. It generates 14,000 BTUs, making it ideal for large spaces measuring up to 700 sq. ft.
And it’s not just great at cooling. With its built-in dehumidifier mode, it can remove up to 111 pints of moisture per day. Hence, it also safeguards your home against mold, dust mites, and mildew.
Want to know the best part?
You don’t even have to deal with all the accumulated water!
It also features an automatic self-evaporative drainage technique that enables the device to use the condensation from the dehumidifier water tank for keeping the coils cool; hence the AC operates smoothly without any external assistance.
Affordable Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide
Why buy an Affordable Portable Air Conditioner Over Expensive Ones?
Considering most people only talk about central air conditioning systems and window-mounted ACs, this question is natural.
Regardless of what anyone says, we believe that having an affordable portable air conditioner can benefit any household.
Here is a detailed account of why you should buy one of these units instead ofthe more expensive variations:
As the name suggests, these air conditioning units are quite affordable. Not only in terms of the upfront cost, but they are also great at saving money because of the low running and maintenance costs, especially when compared to a central air conditioning unit.
A portable AC uses targeted cooling to reduce the temperature of any specific area of the house as compared to a central AC system that lowers the temperature of the entire house, jacking up your bills.
In fact, you can also use one of these in combination with a central cooling system. Try using it to regulate the temperature inside a specific room of your home while keeping your central air conditioner unit off or on a higher temperature setting. Doing so will marginally reduce your energy expenditure.
Again, as the name says, these units are more portable than their expensive counterparts.
They are designed so that you don’t have much difficulty moving them between the different rooms of your house. For this purpose, they usually have casters or ergonomic handles, which makes moving them easier.
Furthermore, they are easy to install and set up without requiring any significant structural changes. In fact, you can do it yourself easily without asking anyone for help or requiring professional assistance.
Numerous Venting Options
Another advantage that such units have over their expensive counterparts is their multiple venting options.
Unlike window air conditioners requiring a dedicated window for installation and ventilation, portable units are actually self-contained devices.
You can easily set one up anywhere in the room and adjust it to vent hot air out a window, through a wall, into a dryer vent, out the sliding doors, into a ceiling, or even through a casement window.
With such flexibility, who wouldn’t want to purchase one of these?
Little To No Maintenance
A good thing about these devices is that they require minimal maintenance, especially those that feature a fully self-evaporative design.
Units without this feature do require you to drain the water accumulated after the dehumidification process, either by emptying the tank or setting up a drain hose. But devices with evaporative ability eliminate this hassle by evaporating the water.
As a result, this reduces the effort you have to put in to maintain their top condition.
What to Look for When Buying Cheap Portable AC
While you may consider it a simple device, even a cheap portable AC boasts numerous characteristics and features that set them apart from each other.
There are many different options available on the market, but you have to choose one that suits your own unique application.
To find such a unit, you have to consider a few factors that matter the most, such as:
The capacity of a portable air conditioner is measured in British Thermal Units (BTU). BTUs are a measure of heat and denote how much area a portable air conditioner can efficiently cool. Whether portable conditioners are efficient or not mainly depends on their BTU ratings.
The BTU rating of most portable ACs ranges from 5,000 to 14,000 BTUs. On average, a single square foot of area requires about 20 BTUs for cooling. Hence, knowing the size of the room you want to cool will help you choose the right unit for it. Here is a size guide to help you choose better:
It may surprise some, but the most affordable portable air conditioners also come with a mode or two. Yes, they do more than just cool. Some modes common in such devices are:
- Dehumidification mode:
Dehumidification or dry mode works exactly like the cooling mood except for one difference. It removes both heat and moisture from the air but circulates the heat back inside the room instead of exhausting it outside.
The result is dry air which is neither hot nor cold. This mode is ideal for humid days that are not hot enough to reach for air conditioning.
- Fan mode:
As the name suggests, this keeps the air moving to create a breeze. There is no cooling, but it does generate a little white noise to help you concentrate as you work or to help you fall asleep.
- Sleep mode:
When you enable sleep mode, the system will raise the temperature gradually throughout the night. Since our bodies cool down as we sleep, we are capable of handling less cooling. So, the unit gradually lowers the cooling through the night to regulate the ambient temperature.
These are some useful modes found in many portable ACs. Now that you know everything about them, you can choose a model with the modes that meet your needs and preferences.
Power consumption is the number one concern any user has when buying an air conditioner. Since we’re talking about affordable portable AC models, you have to be careful to choose a unit that not only costs less but also does not put an unnecessary burden on your budget.
Look for an energy-efficient unit that uses less power to deliver better cooling.
Being affordable does not mean that your portable AC unit has to be cheap. In fact, the unit’s durability is something you should never compromise on.
What’s the use of an affordable unit when it keeps malfunctioning, causing you to spend more money on repairs or on a new unit altogether?
So, it’s better that you find a unit made with quality components. One way to know that is to check the warranty. Sellers who are sure of their products follow them up with a long, comprehensive warranty. A short, brief warranty is a red flag that the unit is not very reliable.
Portable air conditioners dehumidify the air while cooling it down. The result is condensation and water accumulating inside the unit.
Different units address this issue in different ways. Self-evaporative units exhaust all the condensate outside. Meanwhile, partially evaporative units evaporate most of the moisture into their own hot air exhaust, significantly reducing the amount of water you have to remove.
Others have a drain hose that you can set up near a drain to expel the extra moisture. The simplest units have an internal container that collects the water and must be emptied regularly during operation.
The one thing you should know about portable air conditioners is that they are noisy. So, the decibel noise level and even the quality of the sound emitted can greatly influence your choice.
While you won’t mind a noisy unit in your room or office, it would certainly be distracting in a living room. Each device has a decibel rating, listing the decibel level when the unit is on its max setting.
Be sure to check it so you can pick a model accordingly.
Sure affordable, portable air conditioners are advantageous, but they are not perfect. Here are some shortcomings associated with the use of these machines.
You may not note it initially, but most portable ACs are quite loud and noisy. In fact, they are the noisiest option out of all of the different types of air conditioning systems available.
Their average noise level is calculated at 70 dB, equal to the noise level of a vacuum cleaner or a dishwasher.
So, if you like a calm and quiet indoor atmosphere without any audible interference, you are better off without one.
You Might Face Some Difficulty in Moving Them
While they are named for their convenience and portability, you might find that some models are not as portable. The reason behind this issue is their weight.
Considering the variety of components equipped inside their compact body, they weigh more, measuring as much as 70 pounds or sometimes even more.
Sure, some units have wheels for better mobility, but wheeling an air conditioner over a thick carpet is not the easiest task. So, anyone who is physically challenged or simply cannot lift and move heavy objects will face difficulty in moving a portable air conditioner around.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to drain my portable air conditioners?
This depends upon the type of drainage system your portable air conditioner supports.
If you have a self-evaporative unit, it will automatically exhaust the water without you having to drain it. Partial evaporative models exhaust most of the accumulated water, leaving only a small amount to drain out.
If your portable air conditioner uses gravity drainage to expel out the water, you will have to set up the hose to a nearby floor drain to direct the water flow towards it. Or you can also use a condensate pump to direct the flow upwards against gravity, like out of a window.
The most basic units have built-in water buckets that collect the condensate water. With such devices, you will have to drain the bucket on a regular basis to avoid spills caused by overflowing.
Can I keep my portable AC on all day?
Sure, you can keep your portable air conditioner on all day, but we would suggest otherwise. It is an electronic device that uses electricity to function. So, operating it all day will increase your electric bill.
The best way to use an affordable air conditioner is only to turn it on when you’re in the room to enjoy the cold air. Letting it run for extended periods also damages the unit itself; hence you should be careful about using your portable AC.
Do portable air conditioners consume a lot of energy?
No, portable air conditioners are quite efficient when it comes to energy consumption. They use about one-eighth as much electricity as an average central air conditioner. Hence, they are much cheaper to run.
However, you should know that units with higher BTU ratings consume more energy than those with lower BTUs.
Can a portable air conditioner cool a server room?
Yes, a portable air conditioner is a great option to keep a server room cool, especially over the weekends when central air conditioners are either turned off or set to run on lower settings.
With their ability to cool office spaces and computer rooms, they can prevent computer networks, communications, and other office equipment from shutting down when temperatures rise.
Final Verdict: What is the most Affordable Portable Air Conditioner?
After going over the numerous portable AC models in this guide, we find the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS to be the best affordable portable air conditioner because of its powerful and noiseless performance.
De’Longhi Penguino closely follows behind in second place with its sophisticated design and advanced features.
Meanwhile, with its independent operation, the DELLA Portable Air Conditioner is a great option for anyone who wants to cool a large room.
I’m a degreed ME (mechanical engineer) who is passionate about machines of all kinds. I created MachineWonders.com as a way to connect with others who love machines like me – or need help choosing one for their needs, application, or situation.