After another round of testing, it’s looking like the Midea DUO MAP12S1TBL and the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1 will both be new picks. We’ll have more details soon.

LG LP1419IVSM The best portable air conditioner

The LG’s unique variable-speed dual-rotor compressor makes it better at dialing in a precise comfort level, while being quieter and more effective than other machines overall.

Most portable ACs are pretty similar, but the LG LP1419IVSM delivers better cooling performance than other models, yet it uses less energy, makes less noise, and can dial in a more precise comfort level than other models. The difference is in its dual-rotor, DC-powered compressor, a contrast to the alternating current found on most air conditioners. Rather than running only at max speed or nothing, the LG can operate at a continuously variable speed, so the unit has a lot more flexibility in how it reaches a desired temperature in a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions. The LG had the lowest volume measurements on any machines we tested, and other nice (but not unique or essential) features—like compatibility with Google Home or Amazon Alexa, smartphone control via LG’s app, and a remote—give you a lot of options for how to operate it.

Honeywell HL14CES Effective and unremarkable

The Honeywell has everything you need for powerful, efficient, and quiet air conditioning, without any major standout features or compromises.

The Honeywell HL14CES doesn’t boast impressive new technology like the LG or unique design features like Frigidaire—it’s just a really solid portable AC. Without being remarkable, its performance is completely satisfying: quiet enough, powerful enough, and easy enough to set up and use. If you’d prefer a basic portable air conditioner without the bells and whistles of the LG or the Frigidaire, or if you find this model at a good price, we have no reason to discourage you from it.

Black+Decker BPACT14WT Just as cool, not as costly

This popular model matches our other picks on cooling performance but feels cheaper—it has chintzy buttons and lacks conveniences, like cord storage.

The popular, affordable Black+Decker BPACT14WT delivers where it counts—cooling performance—better than anything else in its price range. But it’s a little rough around the edges compared with our other picks: its operation is louder, its controls are clunkier, and it lacks the nice details we liked about some other models. But still, it gets the job done and is a fine choice if you need a portable AC at something closer to a window AC price.

Our primary concern in choosing a portable AC was finding a unit with adequate cooling performance, followed by low noise, decent efficiency, and other quality-of-life factors we measured once we saw our finalists in person.

We used independent ratings to screen candidates for cooling performance. A primary measure was seasonally adjusted cooling capacity, or SACC, a Department of Energy calculation that represents the weighted average performance of a portable air conditioner in a number of test conditions. The SACC metric measures not only cooling capacity but also how the unit performs on muggy days or hot and dry days, and even accounts for the effect of heat radiating back into the room from the unit’s vent. SACC is expected to replace the less comprehensive Btu rating as the standard measurement for AC power output, but most air conditioners are still described in terms of Btu, so we considered both stats. We also factored in the energy-efficiency ratio (EER), measured in Btu per watt, and dismissed anything less than a 9.0 out of a possible 12.0. This rating isn’t as comprehensive as SACC, so we didn’t concern ourselves too much about the specific numbers as long as an AC reached our minimum efficiency threshold.

Limiting our search to the highest-rated models narrowed our field tremendously.

We weren’t worried about oversizing the AC for the space—the main risk of an oversized AC is overcooling the area before dehumidifying it, and all of these units have dehumidifier functions that can remove moisture without chilling the space if a room gets too cold and clammy. We were more concerned with making recommendations that could actually provide adequate power. Portable ACs are notorious underperformers, and we’ve heard consistently that people buy a smaller one, find it unsatisfying, and return it. That helped us decide to go big and not focus too much on the claimed square-footage requirements. So we set a baseline SACC of 7,200 Btu per hour, which often coincided with 14,000 Btu units, according to the older (ASHRAE) standards.

With our performance needs met, we gathered a half dozen finalists and evaluated them in person, looking for things like:

  • Basic setup process: Was it easy to connect the exhaust tube? Did the window panel require any tools or cumbersome construction?
  • Performance: We evaluated how quickly a unit cooled the room and how well it dispersed that coolness throughout the space.
  • Portability: All of the units we tested had casters, but we also looked into how easy they were to move around or lift and how easy they were to break down.
  • Noise: We dismissed any models with an advertised noise rating of 56 dB or higher, then measured the actual noise output of our finalists, noting any obnoxious mechanical sounds or frequencies we found.
  • Overall user experience: We evaluated what it was like to live with these machines, how intuitive they were to control, what kind of footprint they occupied, and what it would be like to store them in the off-season.
  • Accessories: These included features such as cord storage, a remote, or the ability to connect to an app—minor factors that we noted but didn’t hang any big decisions on.

Our initial performance requirements narrowed the field of portable ACs to 25 promising models, and after applying our remaining criteria, we settled on five finalists to call in for testing.

What about dual-hose models?

For our last major update to this guide, we decided to compare dual- and single-hose models based on the same criteria, and didn’t dismiss any models based on their hose count. Our research ultimately steered us toward single-hose portable models, however—in part because so many newer models use this design. In fact, we found no compelling new double-hose models from major manufacturers in 2019 or 2020. Users reviews indicate that most people prefer single-hose models, too, since they’re easier to set up and look at. While dual-hose models have been shown to outperform some single-hose units in extremely hot or muggy weather, the difference is usually minimal, and we don’t think it outweighs the convenience of a single hose.

There is one exception however, and that’s if you plan on setting up your portable AC in a room with a furnace or hot water heater or anything else that uses combustion. When a single-hose model forces air out through its exhaust hose, it can create a negative pressure in the room. This slight vacuum will pull in “infiltration air” from anywhere it can in order to equalize the pressure. In the presence of a gas-powered device like a furnace, that negative pressure creates a “backdraft” or “downdraft,” which can cause the machine to malfunction — or worse, fill the room with gas fumes and carbon monoxide. We don’t think that most people plan to use their portable AC in such a room; but if your home is set up in such a way that you’re concerned about ventilation, skip the rest of our recommendations here and just go for a dual-hose model like the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS or Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP.