The Top 6 Smallest Portable Air Conditioners That Beat the Heat

Jack Wisniewski
Mar 24, 2022
·
11 min read

Small portable air conditioner

Source: The New York Times

Whether there is a single best smallest portable air conditioner is up for debate.

Generally, you'll achieve an ample blend of compactness, ease of use, and, of course, cooling power as long as you stick to the top-rated and extensively reviewed products.

To help you find the perfect small portable air conditioning unit for your needs, this buying guide outlines the metrics you should pay attention to when shopping.

We also list our top picks that excel in at least one of these criteria to narrow down your options.

Note that this article doesn't discuss evaporative air coolers, a popular alternative to portable air conditioners that work by humidifying the air.

With all the formalities out of the way, let's get cool.

On This Page

What Makes a Good Small Portable AC Unit?

When buying a portable air conditioner with an emphasis on compactness, pay attention to the following:

  • Product dimensions
  • Weight
  • Cooling capacity
  • Energy efficiency
  • Features
  • Noise level
  • Moisture removal rate
  • Price

Get the gist of each of these factors below.

Product Dimensions

Dimensions of a portable air conditioner

If you’re short on space, the size of your portable air conditioner should be at the top of your priority list.

If you have a space in mind for your portable air conditioner, record its length, width, and height to ensure your new AC can fit within its limits.

Weight

Balance scale with two air conditioners

The main thing portable air conditioners have over window units is their mobility.

However, not all portable ACs are particularly easy to move. Units can weigh as little as 16.5 or as much as 80 pounds.

Most portable air conditioners come with caster wheels for easy maneuverability.

If you plan on taking your next portable air conditioner in and out of vehicles, up and down stairs, or to more than one location, a lower-weight model will spare you some heavy lifting.

Cooling Capacity

Comparison of an air conditioner with enough cooling capacity and not enough cooling capacity

An underpowered air conditioner will not reduce room temperatures to a comfortable level.

To determine an air conditioner's cooling capacity, look for its British Thermal Unit rating, often shortened to BTUs.

The rule of thumb is 20 BTU for every square foot. So if you need to cool a 200 square foot room, your air conditioner should output at least 4,000 BTUs.

This is not a hard-fast rule. You'll want a higher-powered air conditioner in the kitchen, for example, because kitchen appliances release more heat. The same goes for second-story, uninsulated, and heavily windowed rooms predisposed to heat up.

Confusingly, many manufacturers provide two separate BTU figures for a single unit.

Honeywell, for instance, advertises their MO08CESWK as an 8,000 BTU portable air conditioner when it only registers 4,000 BTU according to the latest standards.

When comparing multiple options, pay attention to the Department of Energy or SACC-rated number. It's the more accurate representation of which air conditioner unit delivers more cool air.

Efficiency

Efficiency of an air conditioner

A more efficient air conditioner can lower your utility costs while keeping your space cool.

Unfortunately, portable air conditioners are typically among the least efficient types compared to central, ductless, and even window AC units.

Many brands don't even publish energy efficiency ratings for their portable ACs online, making comparisons challenging.

However, there are several efficiency features you can look for, like multiple stages (low, medium, high fan speeds) and programmable timers that can help you save on energy expenditures regardless of ratings.

Features

Portable air conditioner with smart features

You’ll find a long list of additional features manufacturers offer to enhance your AC.

For example, simple additions like remote controls let you modulate temperature from a distance.

Cutting-edge portable air conditioners can even connect to Wi-Fi. A smart portable air conditioner might sound too extra, but it can come in handy when you want to start cooling your space while on your way home.

Noise Level

Noisy portable air conditioner

You shouldn't have to put up with excessive noise to cool a small room.

To make sure you pick a quieter unit, pay attention to decibel ratings.

Aim for units in the low 50s for minimal noise. More powerful units can approach 60 dBs. That's about as loud as a normal conversation.

Moisture Removal

Portable air conditioner removing all the moisture in a room

Air conditioners remove moisture from the air. This serves a dual benefit.

First, it makes the space feel less muggy. Dehumidification also serves as an air purifier as pollutants, allergens, and mold tend to thrive in humid air.

In turn, you should consider how well an air conditioner removes moisture, especially if you live in a damp climate.

Different units remove different quantities of water from the air, typically indicated in liters or pints per hour or day.

Dehumidifying quality is correlated with cooling capacity, so you can generally expect more powerful air conditioners to remove more moisture.

Price

Pricey portable air conditioner

Staying within your budget is paramount with any purchase.

Luckily, portable air conditioners cost varies a lot depending on the brand, but most range between $300 and $1,500. However, there are many options within the $300 - $500 range. 

Stick to lower-powered, less tech-equipped models to keep costs down.

The 6 Top Small Portable Air Conditioners

Zero Breeze Mark 2

Zero breeze mark 2 air conditioner

Source: Zero Breeze

What We Like What We Don't Like
Truly portable Very expensive
Tiny Small cooling capacity

  • Room size: 115 sq. ft. (2,300 BTUs)
  • Dimensions (L x W x H in inches):  20 x 10 x 11
  • Weight: 16.5 lb unit, 12 lb battery
  • Noise level: 52 dB
  • Warranty: 1 year

It’s hard to argue the Zero Breeze Mark 2 isn’t the best portable air conditioner. 

That’s because it’s arguably the only truly portable unit on this list. It only weighs 16.5 pounds – featherweight compared to typical portable ACs.

Add on the 12-pound battery pack, and you can bring the Mark 2 wherever you please, whether that be on the campsite, at the tailgate, or in your car. 

You only need one hand, too, courtesy of the top handle. Checking off another box, the Mark 2 cools at a near whisper with a 52 dB noise rating as well.

Overall, no other air conditioner comes close to competing with the mobility and discreteness of the Zero Breeze Mark 2.

Unfortunately, the Mark 2 falls short in the power department due to its bite-sized confines.

With only 2,300 BTUs to speak of, the Mark 2 won't cool rooms much larger than the smallest of bedrooms and home offices. 

Zero Breeze rates the battery to last five hours, though some reviews indicate it only holds out between three and four hours on full blast. 

If you're out all day, that's hardly enough time. Still, it's better than every other portable AC with no battery capabilities at all. 

The final caveat: this portable air conditioner will cost you. 

As of this writing, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 starts at $1,000 excluding the battery – an extra $500 when bundled with the unit.

Looking at dollars spent per BTU, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 ranks dead last. 

When compared with portability alone, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 blows the competition away.

BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT

Black + decker portable air conditioner

Source: BLACK+DECKER

What We Like What We Don't Like
Tons of positive reviews

Not the best cooling capacity

Strong warranty

On the heavier side

  • Room size: 250 sq. ft. (5,000 BTUs)
  • Dimensions (L x W x H in inches): 16.5 x 11.5 x 26
  • Weight: 52.9 lbs
  • Noise level: 51-53 dB
  • Warranty: 1-year parts and labor, 5 years compressor

First off, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT is actually small. It measures 11.5 inches wide and 26 inches high – the thinnest and shortest of any portable air conditioner on our list, excluding the Zero Breeze Mark 2.

Then, there’s the warranty. 

Its 1-year parts and labor coverage is pretty standard. 

Its 5-year compressor warranty is rare, however. 

Portable air conditioners don’t have a reputation for longevity relative to more permanent, fixed units like central air conditioners and window units. Therefore, the compressor warranty adds some welcome peace of mind. 

Despite its compactness, the BPACT08WT outputs a modest 5,000 BTU at no more than 53 dB. That’s enough power to cool a 250 square foot room without overwhelming the ears.

We docked points for its weight. At 52.9 pounds, it’s rather heavy for a small portable air conditioner.

SereneLife SLACHT108

Source: SereneLife

What We Like What We Don't Like
Strong cooling capacity Noisy
Heating function Not the lightest
Good value A bit bulky

  • Room size: 300 sq. ft. (6,000 BTUs)
  • Dimensions (L x W x H in inches): 17.4 x 13.4 x 32.1
  • Weight: 56.5 Pounds
  • Noise level: 56-69 dB
  • Warranty: 1 year

The SereneLife SLACTH108 cools relatively large rooms, as much as 300 square feet, with a respectable 6,000 BTU output.

The real selling point is arguably its additional heating function. With 9,000 BTU capability, the SLACHT108 can also heat around 450 square feet of space. 

It’s not the most fleet or compact portable air conditioner. However, the SLACHT108 certainly saves heaps of space compared to a separate cooler and heater.

This model makes sense if you’re short on real estate and need both a portable heater and an air conditioner throughout the seasons. At just $400 as of this writing, you might also save a pretty penny by buying this year-round HVAC unit instead of separate air conditioners and heaters of the same power.

One last note: the SLACHT108 clocks a high noise rating at up to 59 dB. That’s around the sound of a normal conversation with someone from three feet away. It’s not overly loud, but it’s also not hushed.

Honeywell MO08CESWK

Honeywell portable air conditioner

Source: Honeywell

What We Like What We Don't Like
Lightweight Expensive
Quiet Small cooling capacity
Small Not many features to speak of

  • Room size: 200 sq. ft. (4,000 BTUs)
  • Dimensions (L x W x H in inches): 13.5 x 14.6 x 27.7
  • Weight: 43 lbs
  • Noise level: less than 50-53 dB
  • Warranty: 1 year

For a portable air conditioner that you can set and forget, check out the Honeywell MO08CESWK6.

You'll hardly know it’s there because the unit is so quiet. At max power, noise levels don't exceed 53 dB.

We also like this Honeywell air conditioner’s compactness and portability relative to competitors. It only weighs 43 lbs – a practical load if you need to move this unit to and fro.

With a 4,000 BTU rating, the MO08CESWK6 can adequately cool a workshop, RV, or any other small space. 

You won't find many features on this Honeywell, which is perfectly fine if you just need a no-frills air conditioner. It has the bare essential remote control and 24-hour timer at the very least. 

Lastly, it's a tad pricier when compared to other models in its power class. The higher cost is arguably worth it for those seeking an easy-to-move, quiet, and basic portable air conditioner.

Whynter ARC-14S

Whynter portable air conditioner

Source: Whynter

What We Like What We Don't Like
High cooling capacity Heavy
Faster, more efficient cooling Large
Strong warranty Noisy

  • Room size: 460 sq. ft. (9,200 BTUs)
  • Dimensions (L x W x H in inches): 16 x 19 x 35.5
  • Weight: 80 lbs
  • Noise level: less than 56 dB
  • Warranty: 1 year parts, 3 years compressor

Of all the portable air conditioners on our list, the Whynter ARC-14S cools the most space – up to 475 square feet to be precise – thanks to its 9,200 BTU cooling capacity.

It also works faster and more efficiently than its competitors. Unlike most other portable air conditioners, this dual-hose Whynter unit comes with separate intake and exhaust hoses.

This extra power and hose lead to some downsides. For starters, it’s the widest and tallest portable air conditioner on our list. This makes it less suited for spaces where real estate is tight.

If the physical dimensions don’t scare you, maybe the 80-pound weigh-in will. Moving this beast around will require more gusto than most other portable air conditioners. 

The wheels certainly help, but we would still steer clear from this unit if portability is a key priority.

Lastly, it’s on the noisier side.

Whynter rates their ARC-14S to produce less than 56 dB. 

In the worst-case scenario, it’s louder than most air conditioners on our list.

Midea MAP10S1CWT

Midea portable air conditioner

Source: Midea

What We Like What We Don't Like
Wi-Fi and Smartphone Control Noisy
Remote thermostat

Heavy

  • Room size: 290 square feet (5,800 BTUs)
  • Dimensions (L x W x H in inches):  17.1 x 13 x 28.3
  • Weight: 57.2 lbs
  • Noise level: 56 dB
  • Warranty: 1 year

The Midea MAP10S1CWT stands out on this list as the only smart portable air conditioner.

By “smart”, we mean you can connect it to your Wi-Fi and control temperature settings from your smartphone. Pair this AC with Amazon Alexa or Google Home, and you can even set it with voice commands.

If you’re not too tech-savvy, you can also simply use the remote control it comes with to fine-tune cooling settings.

The remote provides more than just another way to control the cooling. With its FollowMe function, the remote acts as a thermostat.

Place the remote away from the unit, and it will deliver cool airflow until the remote detects the preset temperature. 

Most portable air conditioners use an internal thermostat, which can't account for temperatures outside their immediate area.

More importantly, this unit doesn’t sacrifice brawns for the brains with an ample 5,800 BTU cooling output.

If you need superior cooling performance, Midea offers 6,500 BTU and 8,200 models with identical features.

The MAP10S1CWT is chunkier, heavier, and noisier than some, but these are reasonable concessions for better cooling power and connectivity features.

Small Portable Air Conditioners: Summary

User reviews provide a decent idea of a product’s quality. 

Still, we recommend focusing on the objective measurements, such as size, weight, and cooling power, to determine which portable air conditioner best suits your needs.

Our best-of list should equip you to know what to look for in your next portable AC.