Keep your cool this summer with these portable air conditioners — highly rated by shoppers

Forget hot girl summer

Best portable air conditioners - 3 portable white units on a blue water background
(Image credit: Future)

When summer kicks in, it can get a little stuffy indoors — especially if you live in a tiny rental, dorm, or your parents' loft. Fortunately, you don't need to invest in a household air conditioner just yet. Aside from picking up a handy household fan or getting in on the portable fan trend, there's one long-term but affordable solution: the portable air conditioner. 

Consider this a must if your space is especially hot. Why? Because at a certain point, a fan just ends up blowing hot air around the room. A portable air conditioner, however, takes the hot air from the room and releases cooler air. Here, you can splash out on something fairly substantial or indulge in myriad cheap but effective options out there. This might mean a unique personal cooler that uses ice cubes or more of a traditional, hosed design.

Quick Menu:
1. Portable air conditioners
2. Small portable air conditioners
3. Cheap portable air conditioners

It can be tricky terrain finding the right appliance or mini appliance for your needs. That's why I've spent hours poring through options on the web, ensuring you get only the best. Indeed, these were highly rated by shoppers, earning big compliments for their functionality and cooling qualities. Sure, picking out an AC is hardly the most glamorous part of interior design, but my picks are some of the sleekest, most elegant you'll find. Now, let your cool girl summer commence, and let's finally cool down that room of yours.

The best portable air conditioners to buy

Why you can trust Real Homes Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing.

Portable air conditioners

Unlike your typical household air conditioning system, portable ones can be moved around to suit your needs. This makes them a great option for who have decided not to turn the AC on at night. Moving back in with your parents after college? Perfect. Heading to a new apartment? No problem. These designs follow your lead.

Small portable air conditioners

After a daintier option that you can transport with even more ease? Say no more. These mini ACs are just what you've been looking for, and they're even cheaper. Get involved. 

Cheap portable air conditioners

Look, you're already saving a whole lot of money by opting for a portable air conditioner, but that doesn't mean you can't lessen the price more. Yep, these unspeakably affordable designs provide major air-conditioning credentials without skimping on performance. All under $50.


Is it safe to sleep in a room with a portable air conditioner?

Yes, but it's worth considering a few things. We caught up with Josh Mitchell, a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning expert, who heads up Air Conditioner Lab, to hear more. "Portable air conditioners are designed with safety in mind," explains Mitchell. According to him, the key difference between your standard window units and portable ones is that the latter are freestanding and can be moved around. In practice, they do more or less the same thing, cooling the air to help you sleep on a hot summer night. "However, it's important to maintain your unit properly, which includes cleaning and changing the filters regularly to prevent a buildup of dust and allergens that could affect the air quality," adds Mitchell. "When it comes to portable air conditioners, safety, and efficiency go hand in hand. By ensuring your unit is properly maintained and vented, you can enjoy a cool, comfortable, and safe sleeping environment.

Do all portable air conditioners have to be vented out a window?

No (and yes). When it comes to typical air conditioning, these usually do, however, in the realm of portable units, it often differs. As Josh Mitchell, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning expert behind Air Conditioner Lab explains: "Air conditioners work by moving heat from inside your room to the outside, effectively cooling your space." But while many work in this manner — like the Shinco Portable Air Conditioner, for example — there are other types, too. "Unvented units are known as evaporative coolers or swamp coolers," says Josh. "They cool the air by evaporating water, which can be a good option in dry climates, but they don't need to be vented to the outside." Indeed, many of our picks would come under the latter category, like the Valieno Portable Air Conditioner, meaning you might not need to crack a window.

Where to buy a portable air conditioner

Still trawling the web for your perfect portable air conditioner? Take a leaf out of our book, and check out the top retailers below.

How we chose these portable air conditioners

We whittled down our list of the best portable air conditioners on the criteria of practicality and style — both in equal measure. By closely examining the reports left by reviewers and customers, we were able to build a strong roster. While we haven't been able to test each and every product just yet, we're confident these will please. All of them earned a minimum of four stars — not to mention kind words aplenty.

Joseph Bobowicz
Freelance Contributor

Working across digital and print publications, Joseph Bobowicz is a London-born writer obsessed with books, culture, and all things new. When he's not writing about fashion for i-D and the Independent, he's out sourcing the best homewares to incorporate into any humble abode, fixer-upper, or first-time buy alike.