Smallest Portable Air Conditioners – 2021 Guide

There are few things worse than sweltering heat (unless you are an Eskimo), and most of us will do anything we can to survive the dog days of summer by keeping cool.

This can mean anything from chugging twice our normal amount of daily water, giving up suits and ties for shorts and flip flops, or simply running any chance we get toward the sweet-sounding, unmistakable whir of an air conditioning system. It is difficult to imagine how our ancestors lived without it, and a broken HVAC system can leave anyone vowing to never take it for granted again.

Whether you need a compact, portable air conditioner because yours is broken, or you simply need to cool a small, on-the-go space like a camper, we have all the information you need to make the best shopping decision.

Comparison of the Smallest Portable Air Conditioners

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Easy rolling wheels include for quick and easy relocation
  • Compatible with Alexa for easy voice control
  • Effortless digital controls on top of AC unit
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  • Quickly and easily cool down to maximum capacity
  • Lightweight and compact design for easy use
  • Will quickly and easily cool down a 300 square feet space
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  • Best for the Money
  • Cooling fan, AC unit, and humidifier in one
  • Lightweight construction at only 750 grams
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  • Smallest Portable Air Conditioner for RV
  • Easily cool down a large 350 square foot area
  • Very easy digital controls for ease of use
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  • Smallest Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
  • Up to 12000 Btu output capacity
  • A very fast portable cooling Ac unit
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How Big of a Room Will a Small Portable Air Conditioner Cool?

A small, portable air conditioner is geared toward a small space. However, the output can vary from model to model, which is why you might see variations in estimates from an ability to cool 100 square feet up to 450 square feet.

Measuring your space is important as it will set the stage for determining the type of model you need. While most homeowners have a general sense of square footage in that they can tell by looking which is the 2,000 square foot house versus which is the 6,000 square foot house, “guesstimating” the measurements of rooms can be trickier. For example, most people cannot rattle off the square footage of their bedroom or office.

The measurement of the space you need to cool will translate to a needed BTU number (“British Thermal Unit”), which is standard in the HVAC industry for units measuring the energy required to cool the air. A 100-square-foot space will need a unit with 6,000 BTUs, and the requirement will go up as the size of the room goes up.

MIDEA MAP10S1CWT (Source)

How to Choose a Small Portable Air Conditioner

The best portable air conditioners are the ones that take up the least amount of space, produce the least noise, and cool a small space efficiently. If that sounds like a tall order, that is because it IS a tall order… the only one that is preferred in a short and compact unit.

Size and Portability

Small portable air conditioners can weigh 45 pounds on the low end and 95 pounds on the high end, and this is a significant range when you consider lifting and moving them. A unit weighing in at 95 pounds may be a deal-breaker for a consumer with a bad back. Ideally, you want to find the lowest possible weight that suits both your budget and spacing needs.

The unit weight is only one factor to consider, as its floor space or height can also present an issue in a small space. The New York City apartment dweller whose space is already at a premium cannot afford to give up too much floor space to an air conditioning unit, no matter how brutal the city summers can be.

TOSOT 8000 BTU (Source)

Noise

There is no getting around the fact that a portable air conditioner will make noise, and it is up to the consumer to determine how much this matters in their selection. For example, will the unit be used in a shared space, perhaps with a roommate who detests even the television's low hum in the background?

The manufacturer should advertise the decibel range. For some users, the noise could turn into a “pro” instead of a “con,” as it may be similar to white noise used to eliminate distractions or aid sleep.

Energy Efficiency and Cooling Power

Your primary objective in purchasing a portable air conditioner is to cool your space, and assuming the unit can do that; a secondary goal is to cool it efficiently.

Just like the decibel measurements, the energy efficiency ratings will be marked clearly by the manufacturer. An “Energy Star” label is the gold standard, meaning it has met certain government requirements to be considered energy efficient.

Reviews of the Smallest Portable Air Conditioners

If you are in the market for a portable air conditioner, we have narrowed down the field with five great choices below.

Best Overall:
MIDEA MAP10S1CWT

Midea 10,000 BTU ASHRAE (5,800 BTU SACC) Portable Air Conditioner, Cools up to 200 Sq. Ft., Works as Dehumidifier & Fan, Control with Remote, Amazon Alexa & Google Assistant

PROS

  • Works with both hung and sliding windows
  • Wheels attached to the unit for easy portability
  • Wifi-enabled with voice control / smart technology
  • Quick and easy installation process (takes 10 minutes or less)
  • Three fan speeds and five operating modes (including an energy-efficient sleep mode)

CONS

  • Amount of water discharged
  • Residue left behind on the window surface

What Recent Buyers Report

Users who have the best experience with this unit are the ones who follow the maintenance instructions to a “t.” Just like a car needs standard oil changes to keep it running smoothly, your portable air conditioner needs routine maintenance to work effectively. Clean the filter frequently as indicated by the manufacturer and heed the instructions on best practices for drainage.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This unit comes from one of the most trusted names in air conditioners, and it has all the bells and whistles we love: smart technology, excellent portability, an easy-to-view LED display, and efficient maneuverability thanks to caster wheels.

The three fan speeds and different operating modes enable users to make this unit work best for their particular environments, and compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant means you can easily bring it in line with the other equipment you control via a mobile device. Even if you are not a tech-savvy user, the simple remote that comes with the air conditioner makes it easy for anyone to operate.

Bottom Line

A quick and simple installation and proven, energy-efficient performance make this one our favorite portable air conditioner overall. If you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on maintenance and keep the air filter and vent clean and drain the condensation properly, this air conditioner should cool your small space better than almost any other unit available.

Runner-up:
TOSOT 8000 BTU

TOSOT 8,000 BTU(ASHRAE) 5,000 BTU (DOE) Portable Air Conditioner Quiet, Remote Control, Built-in Dehumidifier, Fan, Easy Window Installation Kit - Cool Rooms Up to 300 Square Feet

PROS

  • Quick and easy 15-minute setup process
  • Child-lock function for a great added safety feature
  • Remote and timer functionality to set to your preferences
  • Three machines in one (air conditioner, fan, and dehumidifier)
  • Quiet operation with only 49 decibels when running at low fan speed

CONS

  • Noisy when running at higher speeds
  • Manual lacking clear instruction on drainage

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers are satisfied with the sleek look of this compact air conditioner and how quickly it cools small spaces. They report it is a breeze to set up and operate with simple, user-friendly features. The manufacturer’s customer service gets high marks for assisting customers with any setup issues.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This 8,000 BTU portable air conditioner is one of our favorites for both reliability and simplicity. It may not be packed with “smart” features, but it does the basics well, which is what you need when you are trying to beat the heat.

If you don’t need the dehumidifier mode, you can switch the machine to a fan or cool only, and the unit can work with both horizontal and vertical sliding windows.

The display panel is easily visible to users, and the remote makes it handy to change the temperature without leaving your favorite recliner. While running on low fan speed, this unit’s noise output should be the equivalent of a light rainstorm.

Bottom Line

If your needs in a portable air conditioner are (1) something that cools efficiently, (2) is attractive to look at, and (3) is not overly complicated by too many extra bells and whistles, this is the best choice for you.

Best for the Money:
Evapolar evaCHILL

Evapolar evaCHILL New Personal Evaporative Air Cooler and Humidifier/Portable Air Conditioner and Fan, Urban Gray

PROS

  • Weighs in at less than two pounds
  • Incredibly easy setup and low maintenance
  • Energy-efficient and runs for up to nine hours
  • Perfect solution for cooling a small desk or studio workspace
  • Freon-free cooling housed in an attractive, minimalist design with three color choices

CONS

  • Only cools a very small space
  • Replacement cartridges can be pricey

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers love the compact size of this portable air conditioner and report that even if the motor gets wet on accident, the machine will still work once it dries out. Those who share office spaces with coworkers who prefer warmer temperatures report that this is the perfect solution to stay cool at their desks.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We love the attractive and compact design of the Evachill. It blends easily into a workspace without standing out or creating unnecessary clutter on a desk, and it cools a small area well. The noise from this unit is minimal and not disruptive in shared spaces, and the manufacturer’s commitment to nontoxic liquids and fully biodegradable evaporative pads is another big plus for environmentally conscious consumers.

The Evachill’s ability to run for up to nine hours is also helpful for those who want to cool a small sleeping space, and the night light is a great added touch.

Bottom Line

If your needs in a portable air conditioner are (1) something that cools efficiently, (2) is attractive to look at, and (3) is not overly complicated by too many extra bells and whistles, this is the best choice for you.

If you want an easy and affordable solution to cool a very small space, this is your best bet. The Evachill is not your go-to if you need to fully cool a room or office, but if you simply need a burst of cool near your desk or bed, this will do the job.

Smallest Portable Air Conditioner for RV:
Frigidaire FFPA0822U1

FRIGIDAIRE FFPA0822U1 Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control for Rooms up to 350-sq. ft, 8,000 BTU, White

PROS

  • Window install kit and exhaust hose included
  • Automatically returns to its previous settings when powered back on
  • Panel light notifying when washable, reusable filter needs to be cleaned
  • Remote control for easy switching between different modes and temperatures
  • Smart, portable design with wheels included for easy movement between small spaces

CONS

  • Remote control glitches when not used close to the unit
  • Clicking noise and decibel levels a problem for some users

What Recent Buyers Report

Users have come to expect high quality from Frigidaire products, and this portable air conditioner is a favorite among those who need to cool the interior of an RV. It packs a lot of cooling power into a small machine, and consumers are generally happy with the cooling power they get for the money (despite some unhappiness with the noise levels).

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like this Frigidaire unit for its reliability and simple design. This is a workhorse when it comes to compact and portable air conditioning units. Frigidaire may not be bringing the most stylish product to the table, but they are consistently bringing one that works.

 We love the fact that this unit restarts at your previous settings after it has been powered off, and the dirty filter light is a huge plus for those who can sometimes forget to keep up with routine maintenance. A built-in timer with half-hour increments is another smart feature, and overall we think this portable air conditioner is easy to install with most windows.

Bottom Line

If you need a get-the-job-done air conditioner for your RV that will not take up a tremendous amount of precious space, the Frigidaire is a safe bet to suit your needs. The noise may take some getting used to, but we think its cooling power will ultimately win you over.

Smallest Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner:
Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP

Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP 12,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner and Heater, Dehumidifier, Fan with Activated Carbon Filter Plus Autopump and Storage Bag for Rooms up to 400 sq ft, Silver

PROS

  • Can cool spaces up to 400 square feet
  • Includes an auto pump to address excess condensation
  • Four modes of operation: air conditioning, heating, fan, or dehumidifier
  • Utilizes eco-friendly Green R-32 refrigerant and components all free of toxic chemicals
  • Dual hose with intake and outtake for greater cooling power and constant air pressure

CONS

  • The heat cycle is especially noisy
  • Setup and installation more challenging for some consumers because of the dual hoses

What Recent Buyers Report

Users looking for both cooling and heating abilities out of a small unit are generally pleased with the Whynter Elite, although some struggle a bit to get it set up correctly. The dual hoses mean you will not be sucking in hot air from your other windows. Users who master the installation and stay on top of maintenance rate this unit highly among portable air conditioners.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This portable air conditioner is the most expensive of our choices, but it is the only one with the dual hose system, so the cost difference is not surprising.

We like the Whynter Elite because it is the closest portable air conditioner to a permanent one. In other words, its function more closely resembles a “built-in” HVAC system in a home.

Additionally, the Elite addresses the need for heat in colder months and can work in larger spaces than many other portable units on the market. The auto pump function sets it apart from most competitors as well.

Bottom Line

If you are the type who struggles to change the batteries in remote control or cannot figure out a smartphone, this is probably not the unit for you—unless you have someone very handy who can help you install it. The Whynter Elite is a powerhouse portable air conditioner as long as it is installed properly.

Pros and Cons of Small Portable Air Conditioners

Small portable air conditioners are a popular, affordable, and accessible way to keep cool when temperatures are on the rise. They also serve as a newer alternative to the window unit systems that have been available for more than 50 years.  

Among the many “pros” of using small portable air conditioners are the following:

  1.  These portable units are much less of an “eyesore” than window units, which in some cases are not allowed by homeowners associations on any front-facing windows.

  2. A small portable air conditioner does not block as much daylight as a window unit. Many of them are designed with only eco-friendly materials and consumer health and safety in mind.

  3. The unit's portability is its biggest advantage over a window unit, as it can be moved from room to room as needed (or it can be moved from an apartment to an RV, an office, or any other small space that needs to be cooled.

Even with these “pros,” there are, of course, some “cons” when it comes to small portable air conditioners. They are not a perfect solution, and they certainly do not perform as well as window units or built-in HVAC systems, and here is why:

  1. Small portable air conditioners max out around 14,000 BTUs, meaning they simply cannot compete with a window unit's cooling power that may be up to 24,000 BTUs.

  2. Single hose construction (which accounts for the majority of portable air conditioners) means that the unit will also suck in outdoor air from any space where your home is not airtight.

When Would a Small Portable Air Conditioner Come in Handy?

A small portable air conditioner is a good choice for consumers in the following scenarios:

  1. Residents of mild or cooler climate areas who only need air conditioning for one or two months out of the year.

  2. Frequent campers and RV travelers who may be headed into climates warmer than what they are accustomed to at home.

  3. People who only need a cool area for sleeping and want to cool a small bedroom.

Evapolar evaCHILL

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying a Small Portable Air Conditioner?

If you are in the market for a small portable air conditioner, your decision will likely boil down to the size of your space and how that dictates the size of the unit you purchase.

We are not talking size as in dimensions here: most of these portable units are incredibly compact and do not take up a tremendous amount of floor space.

The size we refer to is how the square footage you need to cool correlates to BTUs, with a general outline below.

Square Footage      BTUs

100-200                   6,000

150-250                   8,000

200-300                   9,000

250-350                  10,000

300-400                  12,000

350-450                  14,000

Conclusion

Small portable air conditioners are useful solutions for cooling small spaces on a budget. As long as you set realistic expectations, understanding that it will not be as effective as a built-in HVAC system, and use the appropriately sized unit for your space, you should see effective results.

People Also Ask

The questions below are the ones we come across the most often from consumers. Hopefully, these answers will help you as you decide on a small portable air conditioner to purchase or troubleshoot common problems.

How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work?

These units pull the stagnant air from inside a small space, such as a bedroom or office, and then cool the air with a motor before recirculating it, while also taking the excess heat and moisture through a hose and funneling it out a window.

Why is My Portable Air Conditioner Not Cooling?

There are several reasons why a portable air conditioner may not be cooling effectively: (1) the filter is dirty and needs to be cleaned or changed (2) The space you are trying to cool is too large for the unit’s BTUs or (3) The exhaust hose has some sort of obstruction. These are not the only reasons but some of the most common ones to troubleshoot.

Are Small Portable Air Conditioners Any Good?

Yes! Small portable air conditioners are a great solution for compact spaces and tight budgets.

How Much Does it Cost to Run a Portable Air Conditioner? 

Depending on the unit's BTU size, you could be spending anywhere from 7 cents to 20 cents per hour on your electric bill.

How Many Watts Does a Portable Air Conditioner Use? 

Depending on the BTUs, a portable air conditioner will typically use anywhere from 500 to 1500 watts.

How Many Amps Does a Portable AC Use? 

A small portable air conditioner will typically draw between 3 and 20 amps.