The 4 Best Portable Air Conditioners of 2022 | Reviews by Wirecutter

2022-06-22 18:49:58 By : Mr. Jonathan Bian

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We plan on testing several new models this spring, including the Frigidaire FHPW122AC1 and the Honeywell MN4CFSWW9. We’ve added details to our What to look forward to section.

After another round of testing, we still stand by all of our picks. We’ve added several new models to the Notable competition section.

Portable air conditioners aren’t as mobile as their name suggests, and they’re also one of the loudest and least efficient ways to cool a room. But if you don’t have central air, and a window AC isn’t an option, a portable AC is the next best way to beat the heat—and if that’s the case for you, we recommend the Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL. It’s quieter, more powerful, and generally more pleasant to live with than nearly any of the other two dozen portable ACs we’ve tested (and the hundreds more we’ve researched) since 2016.

The Midea Duo’s self-contained dual-hose setup and powerful inverter compressor make 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 Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL delivers better cooling performance than other models while using less energy and making less noise. Rather than running only at max speed or nothing, the Midea’s inverter-powered compressor 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. In our tests, it was also remarkably effective at distributing the cool air, never leaving more than a 1-degree temperature difference across the room. Unlike the single-hose portables we typically recommend, the Duo has a unique “hose-in-hose” setup where the exhaust and intake are split into two separate conduits contained within a single larger tube, making it even more efficient. It’s one of the quietest portable ACs we’ve ever tested, too, with a volume that consistently measured below normal conversation levels. The Midea offers all of the standard smart-home capabilities, as well, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support, and the smartphone app and the included remote offer even greater options for custom control.

This portable AC offers plenty of thoughtful features, including a variable-speed dual-rotor compressor, a built-in hose for easier setup, and a convenient storage pocket.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $700.

If the Midea Duo isn’t available, the single-hose LG LP1419IVSM is another great option for a portable AC with an efficient inverter-powered compressor. It has a similar setup overall, with a built-in hose and a top-mounted fan that makes the AC sound as if it’s breathing in and out with steady wafts of white noise and cool air, plus all the same smart-home features. It’s slightly more expensive than the Midea, and some readers have complained about the timbre of its sound (though we never had any problems with that ourselves), but overall it’s still one of the best portable air conditioners you can find.

This is the quietest portable AC we’ve ever tested, even though it’s not an inverter-based model.

The Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1 impressed us not only with its ability to maintain a steady chill throughout the room within one-half of a degree but also with its surprisingly low-volume performance. Although it doesn’t have the same power or efficiency as an inverter model like the Midea or the LG, the single-hose Frigidaire somehow inexplicably managed to run at an even lower volume in our tests, beating both of those portable ACs by about 2 decibels. However, its window-installation kit wasn’t quite as robust, and while it offered all the same smart-home capabilities, we encountered some frustrations with the way they worked.

This popular model matches our other picks in cooling performance but feels cheaper—it has chintzy buttons and lacks conveniences such as cord storage.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $470.

The popular, affordable Black+Decker BPACT14WT delivers where it counts—in 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 like about some other models. But even so, it gets the job done, and it’s a fine choice if you need a portable AC at something closer to a window-AC price.

The Midea Duo’s self-contained dual-hose setup and powerful inverter compressor make it better at dialing in a precise comfort level while being quieter and more effective than other machines overall.

This portable AC offers plenty of thoughtful features, including a variable-speed dual-rotor compressor, a built-in hose for easier setup, and a convenient storage pocket.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $700.

This is the quietest portable AC we’ve ever tested, even though it’s not an inverter-based model.

This popular model matches our other picks in cooling performance but feels cheaper—it has chintzy buttons and lacks conveniences such as cord storage.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $470.

We’ve been considering and testing air conditioners in general since 2013 and evaluating portable units in particular beginning in 2016. In that time, we’ve put more than 125 hours into researching and testing the full field, spending dozens of hours focused on portables specifically. We’ve considered nearly 175 different portable models and performed hands-on trials with more than 20 of the best options available. We’ve met with manufacturers at trade shows and events, corresponded with sources over years of interviews, and combed through volumes of Department of Energy material about AC efficiency standards.

Thom Dunn has written Wirecutter guides to window air conditioners, room fans, space heaters, and more. He has also published articles for The Huffington Post, Upworthy, Vice, The Weather Channel, and other outlets, and in 2019 he was commissioned by Cornell University to create a full-length play about community responses to climate change. He is particularly good at being cool.

This guide builds on earlier work done by Wirecutter senior staff writer Liam McCabe, who has been writing about appliances for Wirecutter since 2013.

If you don’t have central air conditioning, you should first look into window ACs or ductless mini-splits, which are generally more efficient and (in the case of window units) more affordable. But not every room or window type can accommodate a window AC, and mini-split installations can be too costly or complicated. If you find yourself in one of those situations, a portable air conditioner could make the difference between sweltering surroundings and comfort.

You still need to have a window for a portable AC, however, as a place to vent the heat to the outdoors. This bears repeating, because it’s a common misunderstanding regarding something called “portable”: All of these units require a window and an electrical outlet within a few feet of where they’re operating.

After 130 hours of research and over 90 hours of testing, we’re confident that the Midea U MAW08V1QWT is the quietest and most efficient AC available.

Everything we know about ductless mini-split heating and cooling systems after interviewing installers, manufacturers, and homeowners with systems of their own.

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 US 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 it even accounts for the effect of heat radiating back into the room from the unit’s vent. Since 2016, SACC has gradually replaced the less-comprehensive British thermal unit (Btu) rating as the standard measurement for AC power output. Many air conditioners include both numbers—the Btu measurements developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) were widely adopted—so we considered both stats in our selection.

In 2020, the Department of Energy also finalized new standards for combined energy-efficiency ratio (CEER), a new metric based on SACC that considers additional factors such as standby energy usage alongside the previously used energy-efficiency ratio (EER) measurement. We didn’t concern ourselves too much with these specific numbers as long as an AC reached our minimum SACC threshold of 7,200 Btu per hour; anything less than that, and the AC isn’t even worth a glance. (When in doubt, consult the EnergyGuide label on the box.)

We weren’t worried about oversizing the AC for the space, either. The main risk of using an oversize 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. But we were more concerned about making recommendations that could actually provide adequate power. Portable ACs are notorious underperformers, generally less efficient than their window-mounted counterparts, and we’ve frequently heard that people buy a smaller unit, find it unsatisfying, and either return it or swap it out for a larger one. Our tests have borne this out over the years, as well; we’ve seen supposedly efficient models that barely made a dent in cooling rooms they were appropriately sized for. Those results helped our decision 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 corresponded with 14,000 Btu according to the older ASHRAE standards.

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

Starting in 2019, we began comparing dual- and single-hose models according to the same criteria, and we didn’t dismiss any models based on their hose count. Our research, however, ultimately steered us toward single-hose portable models—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 (although a few new ones cropped up in 2021, including our new top pick). Owner reviews indicate that most people prefer single-hose models, too, since they’re easier to set up and don’t look quite as much like a giant octopus trash sculpture. Although our testing has shown that dual-hose models tend 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.

The one major exception, however, is 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 AC model forces air out through its exhaust hose, it can create negative pressure in the room. This produces a slight vacuum effect, which pulls in “infiltration air” from anywhere it can in order to equalize the pressure. In the presence of a gas-powered device such as 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 go straight for the Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL or another dual-hose model like the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS or Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP.

Over the course of a sweltering summer week in Boston, we set up our finalists in a roughly 250-square-foot space, taking notes and rating each model on the basic setup process, performance, portability, accessories, and overall user experience.

The makers of portable air conditioners are required to list their performance and efficiency statistics, and our research and our previous testing have proven these numbers to be accurate. By prescreening for these stats, we got the impression that every model we tested would cool a room capably. We confirmed that they did by taking measurements with two Lascar temperature and humidity data loggers—we placed one 3 feet away, directly in front of the unit, and placed the other one 6 feet away on a diagonal. With each AC set to its lowest setting (between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the unit) and the highest fan/compressor setting, we measured the temperature and humidity in the room every 15 minutes for three hours to see how well each unit dispersed the coolness and dehumidification process across the space.

We also graded the air conditioners on the general usability factors that determine what it’s like to live with one in your home. We measured the volume at each unit’s various settings—compressor on/off and fan high/medium/low—from a distance of about 6 feet with an audio spectrum analyzer app. We gauged the overall quality of the sound and noted any spikes in any frequencies that registered in the app. As we set the units up, rolled them aside, switched from one to another, and fiddled with their vent-hose attachments in the window, we learned a lot about which ones we would get for ourselves or recommend to friends.

The Midea Duo’s self-contained dual-hose setup and powerful inverter compressor make it better at dialing in a precise comfort level while being quieter and more effective than other machines overall.

The Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL is one of the quietest and most powerful portable air conditioners we’ve ever tested—but those aren’t the only reasons it stands apart from other models. The Duo is one of the rare portables with a variable inverter compressor, which allows for more fine-tuned and energy-efficient temperature control. It’s typically more affordable than the other inverter models we’ve seen, as well. The Duo is also the first new dual-hose model we’ve called in for testing since 2018, thanks in large part to its unique “hose-in-hose” design, which places the intake and exhaust hoses side by side within a single larger hose. This detail, combined with the wide variety of window-installation panels that Midea includes in the box, makes the Duo especially easy to wrangle and install (a particularly remarkable feat for a dual-hose model). It’s one of the more attractive portable ACs we’ve seen, too, although that’s kind of like saying that R2-D2 is better looking than R5-D4—one is a little more sleek-looking, but at the end of the day, they all resemble trash cans on wheels.1 Overall, the Midea Duo does a fantastic job of achieving and maintaining a desired temperature and humidity level regardless of the weather or room conditions, with a high energy-efficiency ratio and all of the convenient smart-home features you might expect. If you have to live with a portable AC in the room, this is the coolest roommate you could ask for.

Whereas most compressors run on only two speeds—on or off—this Midea model’s variable-speed inverter can adjust to more precisely match the cooling requirements of the given conditions without creating any huge spikes in energy consumption. As a result, it’s better at cooling spaces than other models with the same power output and will save you money on your electric bill in the long run. In our tests, it produced some of the most even and consistent cooling across the room, never registering more than a 1-degree difference between our monitors positioned at 3 feet directly in front of the AC and 6 feet away on a diagonal. The Duo’s efficiency advantage is clearly demonstrated in the changing standards for measuring portable AC power output, as well. According to the old ASHRAE standards, the Duo has 12,000 Btu of power, just like most of the other models we tested. But according to the more comprehensive SACC performance standards, which measure across conditions, it achieves an impressive 10,000 Btu per hour. By contrast, the other models we tested reached SACC scores between 7,200 and 8,500, even with a higher Btu rating by the old standards (although that also demonstrates some of the problems with those older measurements). So even though these units all had a similar (or larger) basic power-output level, the Midea Duo’s compressor setup allowed it to use that power output more effectively.

The Duo’s unique compressor design also means that it operates more quietly than other models, registering around 51 decibels on average (“normal conversation” reaches about 60 dB). The low and medium fan settings are remarkably quieter (45 dB and 48 dB, respectively) than the high setting (56 dB); as a result, the compressor is much more noticeable when it kicks on with the lower fan settings than when the whole thing is running on high. In fact, with both the compressor and the fan on high, we had trouble measuring any volume difference at all. The compressor did produce a fuller sound than the fan-only setting, especially on the lower end of the spectrum. But overall, the effect wasn’t unpleasant, and the Midea Duo was still slightly quieter than the other inverter-style portable AC we tested, the LG LP1419IVSM, and 2 to 5 decibels quieter than most of the other models we tested. The only exception to this trend was one of our also-great picks, the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1, which surprised us with measurements about 1 or 2 decibels quieter than what the Midea model produced, despite its use of a standard (non-inverter) compressor. But the Midea’s compressor design means that the initial difference in sound between fan-only mode and cooling mode is much less abrupt than it is on the Frigidaire. You don’t hear that distinct “Clunk! Bu-zzz-ZZZ!” as it shifts into gear as on other portable ACs; in fact, if the Duo’s fan is running on high, you probably won’t even notice when it’s actively cooling.

The Duo’s swinging fan is a rotating cylinder that sits on top of the unit and does an impressive job of spreading the cool air around the room. In our tests, we measured the temperature from 3 feet directly in front of the AC and 6 feet away on a diagonal, and the Duo was mostly able to retain a consistent temperature within 1 degree between those two thermometers. We say “mostly” because the fan actually hurled some of the cold air over our 3-feet-away thermometer, which initially led to some inconsistent readings. Once we figured out what was happening, it made sense and actually helped to demonstrate the Duo’s impressive air-circulation prowess. After all, cold air is heavier than warm air and thus tends to sink to the ground sooner. But the Duo was able to send those initial gusts of air far enough to ensure that the cold air actually spread before it sank. Anecdotally, we could feel that physical difference in the room, too.

In addition, the Midea Duo’s hose (which is technically two hoses in one) is built directly into the AC’s rear side, in a design that can compress like an accordion in a vertical orientation that sits nearly flush with the unit. This design is easier to manage than the hoses on other models we tested—some project awkwardly out of the back, sit perpendicular to the unit, or are completely detachable so they must be stored separately and can be misplaced. The fact that this hose is anchored to the body of the AC by default also makes it easier to wrangle when you’re trying to set the AC up (thus helping you avoid the frustration of securing the hose into the window only to realize that you accidentally pulled it out of the AC, trapping yourself in a clumsy tug-of-war with an exhaust hose). To further aid in that easy installation process, the Duo also comes with more window-panel attachment options than any other portable air conditioner we’ve ever tested. We’re not even entirely sure what kinds of windows the attachments are designed for—there were only so many windows in our home to test them on. Suffice to say, the Midea Duo is more likely to have the hardware that you need for your particular situation, whatever it may be.

The control panel and display on the Duo are large and easy to navigate, with just a few LEDs that are subtle enough that they probably won’t keep you awake at night. Like the other models we tested, the Duo allows you to set it to dehumidify (without cooling) or just run it in a fan-only mode. Its drain port works like the others, as well: You can screw it open when you need to empty the unit of condensation or attach a hose to it. Note, too, that this drain is higher up on the Duo than on other models—about 1 foot up from the bottom, which should make it easier to tilt and drain. Also like other portables, the Duo uses filters that are easy to remove and clean without any additional tools. The remote control is standard, and the unit has a convenient recess on the back to store the plug at the end of the season.

The Duo also has smart capabilities that allow you to control it via a smartphone app, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant. Midea’s smart-feature functionality (both the app interface and voice commands) are relatively welcoming and easy to figure out. We appreciated that the Duo could function fully without relying on the app or the voice controls, but we valued this versatility, especially for anyone who has difficulty getting up and manually adjusting the unit itself. And as on other ACs with capable smart features, these abilities are especially handy for scheduling air conditioning times or turning the AC on or off when you’re away from home. Midea’s app also offers a “sleep curve” feature, so you can go to sleep in a blanket of cool air without having to worry about waking up when it’s too cold to get out of bed.

With a rating of 10,000 SACC, the MAP12S1TBL should be enough for most people. But if you need more cooling power, Midea also makes a 12,000 SACC (14,000 Btu) model, the MAP14S1TBL, as well as another portable inverter AC that provides heating in addition to cooling. We haven’t tested either of those models ourselves, but we expect them to be comparable; they’re even the exact same size as our top pick, although they both weigh a few pounds more.

At 73 pounds, the Midea Duo is one of the heavier portable ACs out there—about 5 pounds more than our budget pick and more than 10 pounds heavier than the convertible dual-hose model we tested from GE. The caster wheels and handles make it easy enough to move around on flat areas. Carrying any portable AC up and down stairs is a challenge; the Duo’s added heft amplifies that problem.

This portable AC offers plenty of thoughtful features, including a variable-speed dual-rotor compressor, a built-in hose for easier setup, and a convenient storage pocket.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $700.

The LG LP1419IVSM was our top pick from 2019 to 2021, and it’s still pretty great if you can find it in stock. Like the Midea Duo, it has an inverter compressor that makes it quieter and more efficient than other portable air conditioners, with an SACC of 10,000 Btu per hour—the same as the Midea, even though its power output by the older standards was comparatively higher than the Midea’s at 14,000 Btu per hour. It also has all the same smart-home features (though with a different user interface), a similar built-in accordion hose and sturdy window-installation kit, and a convenient pocket on the back where you can store the remote control, plug, or manual. The LG sounds similar to the Midea, too, with a pop-up fan that makes a gentle, almost breath-like white noise. It is slightly louder, but it still measures below “normal conversation” volume; compared with our budget pick from Black+Decker, the LG is about 7 decibels quieter on average with the compressor running.

Some owner reviews complain that the compressor on the LG emits a loud, high-pitched whine that sometimes makes sleeping difficult. We didn’t hear anything like that in our own tests, although we did measure a small spike in volume that occasionally popped up around the 9,900 Hz to 10,500 Hz range, and then again between 14,500 Hz and 15,000 Hz. That’s toward the upper limit of the adult human hearing range, but it could account for the problems that some people have encountered.

The LG is also the heaviest portable AC we’ve tested. This is normally fine, since the unit has wheels to help you move it around, but its weight can be a problem when you’re trying to tip the machine over to use the drain plug, which is inconveniently located at the very bottom of the unit.

The other downside is that the LG usually costs around $100 more than the Midea—when it’s available, that is.

This is the quietest portable AC we’ve ever tested, even though it’s not an inverter-based model.

Although the single-hose Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1 is not an inverter-style portable AC, it proved to be even quieter and more consistent than the Midea Duo and the LG LP1419IVSM in the way it distributed the air around the room during our tests. With an SACC rating of 8,000 Btu per hour, it’s not quite as powerful as an inverter model, but it’s still better than any of the other non-inverter portable ACs we tested. The Frigidaire also cooled faster at the beginning of the cycle, dropping the temperature about 2.5 degrees across the room within the first 15 minutes and averaging a 0.57-degree temperature drop in every 15-minute increment after that, in comparison with the Midea’s 0.38-degree cooling average. And the Frigidaire was better than any other model we tested at maintaining a consistent temperature between the two sensors we placed in the testing room (one at 3 feet directly in front of the AC, and the other 6 feet away on a diagonal), spreading the air evenly around the room so that there was never more than a half-degree difference.

The Frigidaire’s cooling consistency was impressive (and inexplicable) enough for any portable air conditioner, though especially one without an inverter compressor. But its volume output came as a similar surprise, as it measured about 2 decibels quieter on average than the Midea. The Frigidaire’s compressor is a little more noticeable when it first kicks on, but otherwise it produces a mostly pleasant white noise that’s easy to ignore. Case in point: After our initial tests, we set the Frigidaire up in a 1-year-old’s bedroom, and it was indeed quieter than the white noise machine that the baby sleeps with anyway.

Like the other models we tested, the Frigidaire has a drain plug, a washable filter, and mostly seamless smart-home capabilities. Its capacitive buttons are a nice touch, too (no pun intended), although we found it difficult to remember where the power button was each time we tried to turn the machine off or on (it’s on the right side of the control panel, the opposite side from the positioning on most portables). However, the LED indicators—including the optional Quick Glance Light, which lets you know when your room has reached your target temperature—were a little too bright for our tastes. This light might be tolerable for some people in some situations, but it could be bothersome in the bedroom if you’re particularly sensitive to light. (Even after turning it “off” in the app, we still had some trouble with the Quick Glance Light annoyingly flashing in the middle of the night to warn us that the filter needed a rinse.)

Whether we were resting in our own beds or traveling to places unknown, the Nidra Deep Rest sleep mask kept us slumbering peacefully.

The Frigidaire app is fine overall, and it unlocks some additional functionality, including the unit’s built-in air ionizer. We’re typically skeptical of the health claims of these sorts of ionizers, but hey, if that’s what you’re into, go for it. Our bigger gripe with the app concerns the lengthy registration process, which requires you to give Frigidaire all of your contact information, including your home address and the unit’s date of purchase. If you wait to set up your AC until an already-sweltering day, you’ll be even more annoyed when you realize you need to sign up for more junk mail before you can get cool again.

Finally, we found the Frigidaire’s window-installation kit to be somewhat lacking. Although the hose has some nice touches such as a lattice over the exhaust port and a nice cloth sheath to dress up the otherwise unsightly plastic accordion tube, this model also came with the least modular window-panel options. We had to snap one of the plastic plates in half in order to fit it snugly into a standard double-hung window. This is particularly disappointing since the window panels were one of the standout features of this model’s predecessor, the now-discontinued Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect FGPC1244T1, which we previously recommended as an also-great pick.

If you want to save a little money, the Frigidaire FHPW122AC1 is a similar model we tested that feels like a stripped down version of the GHPC132AB1 and costs about $100 less. It lacks some of the more luxury features, such as the haptic controls and the sleek hose cover, and ran about 5 decibels louder on average, but otherwise, it cooled the room nearly as well as the GHPC132AB1. We think it’s worth the extra $100 for the quieter performance and other thoughtful details, but the FHPW122AC1 is a great alternative.

This popular model matches our other picks in cooling performance but feels cheaper—it has chintzy buttons and lacks conveniences such as cord storage.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $470.

The Black+Decker BPACT14WT is loud and clumsy, yet it’s your best bet for a cheapish portable air conditioner that will actually get the job done. In previous years, we had limited our search to models with an energy-efficiency ratio of at least 9 and a seasonally adjusted cooling capacity of 7,200, and this Black+Decker model just made the cut on both metrics, with an EER of 9.86 and a SACC of 7,500. However, it’s also the most affordable option we’ve tested that meets those standards; plenty of more expensive models didn’t even reach our threshold for power and efficiency.

In our tests, the Black+Decker BPACT14WT’s condenser started at 64 dB with the fan running low—about 8 decibels louder than the Midea Duo at its loudest. Even with the condenser off, the Black+Decker still emitted about as much noise as the Midea and the Frigidaire GHPC132AB1 at their absolute top volume. It also produced the most uneven range of frequencies: We measured peaks around 100 Hz (like the low end of a guitar) and then again at the high range of 4,500 Hz, 5,500 Hz, and 9,000 Hz (like a bunch of cymbals and sibilant “s” sounds). This is great if you think you might enjoy listening to an amateur White Stripes cover band with a snake on lead vocals, but it might not be the best if you want to sleep or get any work done. Full disclosure: When I was measuring these frequencies with the Black+Decker running in a small, closed room, I got a headache after 15 minutes.

The Black+Decker isn’t hard to set up or maintain, but you do need a screwdriver to install the window panel or remove the filters; this isn’t terrible, but it’s also not as easy to deal with as the installation for the Midea and Frigidaire models we tested. The haptic control panel is easy enough to use, as you can just touch the buttons instead of pushing them, although they give no real feedback as to whether you’ve actually activated them. They also look like push buttons, and if you follow your instincts to push them—or if you’re not sure whether they responded to your tap, and you push a little more just to triple-check—the whole control panel bows down slightly along with your fingers.

At 68.3 pounds, the Black+Decker was the second-lightest model we tested. It has rough, bumpy casters that felt cheaply made to us but work well enough.

In 2022, Frigidaire released the FHPW122AC1, a slightly more affordable alternative to the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect we recommend. It’s a little louder than our also-great pick (about 5 decibels, on average) and doesn’t have quite the same thoughtful bells and whistles we enjoyed, but otherwise it performed nearly as well as the Cool Connect. If you want to save $100 and don’t mind sacrificing a few little luxuries (including the noise), this could be a good alternative.

We tested several new Honeywell models in 2022 as well, having previously recommended the company’s HL14CES as an also-great until it was discontinued. The Honeywell MN4CFSWW9 looks like an upgrade to that older model, with even more power than we usually recommend — 14,000 BTUs, or the equivalent of a 9,000 SACC rating by the newer DOE standards. And it’s definitely a powerful beast, with the kind of fan that you can still feel blowing on your skin from 15 feet away. But it was also louder than we’d like, and occasionally made a sound like a high-pitched bug zapper. We prefer a little less power if it means more comfort. We also tried the Honeywell MN4HFS9, which is essentially the same model with an added heat pump. We dismissed it for the same reasons, too; but if you happen to have a living situation where you need year-round climate control and don’t mind having a portable AC taking up floor space all the time, it could be a decent alternative to a more permanent installation. It’s no substitute for an actual heat pump though. Finally, we considered the Honeywell MO08CESWB6 as a potential budget pick. While it was slightly quieter than our current budget pick, it also wasn’t as powerful. So we’re sticking with the Black+Decker, and you should, too.

The biggest appeal of the Lowe’s-exclusive GE APWD07JASG is that you can configure it as a single-hose model out of the box or turn it into a dual-hose AC with the help of an $80 conversion kit. The process is simple, and we tested it in both configurations, both of which proved to be the epitome of “fine.” It was quieter than a lot of other portable ACs (with the dual-hose version registering 2 to 3 decibels quieter on average than the single-hose setup) but still nothing compared with the ACs we ended up recommending. But even with an SACC rating of 7,500 Btu per hour, it struggled to make the room any cooler than 70 degrees (even though the thermostat went lower than that). It has all the smart-home connectivity you might need, and all of the buttons and features are clearly labeled and accessible and right where you might expect them. It looks and feels sort of budget, but the cost isn’t low enough to justify our choosing it as a budget pick. The best thing we took away from our tests was the chance at a direct comparison between a single-hose design and a dual-hose design that were otherwise identical, and our experience confirmed our suspicions that dual-hose portable ACs are slightly more effective than single-hose models but not effective enough to make a real difference (unless you’re in a situation with a potentially dangerous carbon monoxide downdraft, as mentioned above).

The Whynter Elite ARC-122DS used to be our top pick. If you absolutely want or need a dual-hose model—if you’re trying to cool a poorly ventilated room with a furnace or boiler, for example—this is the portable AC to get. After taking another look at it, we concluded that it’s still a great portable air conditioner, but we didn’t think the cumbersome bulk of the second hose added enough to the efficiency or experience to set this model apart for most people. (If you live in an area that frequently gets above 95 degrees or so, a dual-hose model might be worth using, according to one DOE study [PDF].) At only 57 pounds, this Whynter model is surprisingly compact, and it’s pretty quiet, too, though not as quiet as our other picks. The Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP is another former pick that’s essentially the same, with the addition of a built-in heater.

The most important thing to do to make a portable AC perform at its best is to insulate the gaps between the window, the window frame, and the panel holding the AC vent. Foam strips work, and 10 feet of the stuff typically costs a few dollars. The tape will help prevent warm air from slipping in through cracks as easily.

When using the AC, keep it as close to the window as you can, with as many of the accordion ribs collapsed as possible, so the hose is as short and straight as you can make it. Clean the filter at least once a month.

Though R2-D2 is clearly the superior astromech, R5-D4 is the true unsung hero of the Skywalker Saga and deserves more praise for his selfless sacrifice outside the Jawa sandcrawler.

Daniel Giamatta, senior account executive, LG-One US, email interview, March 18, 2019

Tom Kelly, product senior manager, Haier AC/GE Appliances, email interview, March 13, 2019

Rachel Lee, sales manager, Whynter, email interview, March 12, 2019

Gary Woodruff, residential manager, Hurley & David Home HVAC Services, email interview, March 19, 2019

Zach Claxton, Introducing New Portable AC BTU Guidelines, Sylvane, February 22, 2018

Test Procedure for Portable Air Conditioners (PDF), US Department of Energy, May 5, 2014

Technical Support Document: Energy Efficiency Program for Consumer Products and Commercial and Industrial Equipment: Portable Air Conditioners, US Department of Energy, December 27, 2016

Portable Air Conditioners Wiki, The Air Geeks, March 1, 2019

David Morrison, How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?, Home Air Guides, March 18, 2019

Thom Dunn is an associate staff writer at Wirecutter reporting on HVAC and other home improvement topics. Sometimes his curiosity gets the best of him, such as when he plugged a space heater and a Marshall guitar amp into the same power strip. Pro tip: Don’t do that.

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