We Review the Top Portable Air Conditioners
|NewAir AC-12200E||NewAir AC-14100E||Soleus LX-140||Whynter ARC-14S||Honeywell MM14CCS|
|The Good||The lightest and most compact model we examined. Compensates for low BTU output with an energy efficiency boosting feature that increases cooling power||A good-all round unit. Light, portable, and very powerful, with an energy boosting feature||Inexpensive and very quiet||A balanced AC unit and a great dehumidifier||Powerful and energy efficient|
|The Bad||Small range and bad dehumidifier||Uses a lot of power||Large and heavy. Suffers from possible maintenance issues||Heavy and big||Expensive|
|The Bottom Line||A good unit for small spaces||Good at cooling and easy to move, but hard on electricity bills||An inexpensive and versatile cooler, but customers often complain about breakdowns||A powerful cooler and heater that's great at dehumidifying the air.||This AC unit does it all - cools, heats, and dehumidifies - but at a pretty steep price|
The summer heat seems to get worse every year, which means every year staying cool becomes more of a struggle. This year, we decided to get serious about our comfort. We sat down and reviewed the top portable air conditioners on the market, their strengths and their weaknesses, to discover which one works best. Here's what we found.
Obviously, the most important criteria for any air conditioner. To evaluate cooling power, we compared the units' BTU rating, CFM, coverage area, EER. The BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating determines the amount of heat portable AC units can remove from the air. The CFM rating (Cubic Feet per Minute) indicates the amount of air the unit's capable of moving. The coverage area is the largest space it can cool, and EER (Energy Efficiency Rating) is determined by dividing the unit's BTUs by the watts of electrify it consumes.
The advantage portable air conditioners have over central air systems and window units, is that they can be moved where they're needed. All the portable air conditioners we looked at had lockable caster wheels installed so the units could be rolled from room to room, so we compared the size and weight of each unit to see how easy it was.
Because the cooling process causes water vapor to condense out of the air, portable air conditioners double as dehumidifiers. Standard features also include multiple fan speeds, a programmable, timer, and a remote control. These extras determines the unit's convenience.
Prices for air conditioners vary depending on the size of the area they're designed to cool. Commercial grade portable air conditioners typically cost $2,500-$7,000. A portable air conditioner for your home typically costs $400-$600.
The NewAir AC-12200E has the smallest BTU rating of all the AC units on this list, only 12,000 BTUs, but it compensates with an energy boosting feature. After running the AC for an hour, users can add water into a specialized storage tank in order to cool down the compressor and reduce the amount of electricity it needs to operate. The size of the boost is largest when the environment is less than 40 percent humidity: eight percent more cooling power and 15 percent less electricity usage. That gives it a 10.7 EER during normal operation and a 13.6 EER with the energy booster, higher than any other unit we looked at. Its CFM rating (220) and maximum coverage area (425 sq ft) are still low compared to other portable air conditioners, which means this unit works best in smaller rooms.
The NewAir AC-14100E has 14,000 BTUs, the same as the three other units on this list, and its 250 CFM rating and 525 square foot coverage area means it can cool down any room extremely quickly. Its power is offset by its 9.9 EER, the lowest of any unit we looked at. Like the AC-12200E, it has an energy boosting feature that can be used to increase its EER after an hour of use. Under the right conditions, it can boost the unit's cooling capacity by eight percent and reduce power useage by fifteen percent. That's 1120 extra BTUs and 212 fewer watts, for an improved EER of 12.5.
The Soleus LX-140 is comparable to the NewAir AC-14100E. It has a lot of cooling power, a high coverage area (525 sq ft), a good CFM (2250, but a low EER (10.1).
Unlike, the NewAir models, the Soleus LX-140 is a dual exhaust machine. It draws in and cools air from outside your home, instead of conditioning the air inside. This prevents negative pressure from developing inside the room, which can draw in warm air from the other parts of your house and interfere with the cooling process, so your room cools faster and more effectively.
The Whynter air conditioner is a powerful and efficient unit. It has a low CFM (222) and a small coverage area (500 sq ft), but it makes up for them with 14,000 BTU and an EER of 11.2. Like Soleus, Whynter is also a dual exhaust system.
The Honeywell MM14CCS is the most cost-effective air conditioner on our list. It has the largest coverage area (550 sq ft), the highest CFM (265), and with an EER of 11.6, it provides more power per watt than any other unit.
18.9 inches long, 12.3 inches wide, and 29.3 inches tall. This is definitely the smallest and most compact unit on our list. It only weighs 57 pounds, light for an air conditioner, so it's easy to carry and wheel around. Like all portable air conditioners, make sure it's resting on a level surface and its casters are locked before turning it on. Like all portable air conditioning units, the AC-12200E comes with a removable window unit that can be broken down and set up quickly. Unlike the other units, though, the AC-12200E has an in-built storage compartment for its exhaust hose, so it's easier to store and move.
16 inches long, 16.5 inches wide, and 31.1 inches high. NewAir is really focused on portability. The AC-14100E only weighs 62 pounds, which makes it almost as portable as the AC-12200E.
19 inches long, 17.5 inches wide, and 32.8 inches high. The Soleus is largest and heaviest air conditioner we looked at. It weighs 82 pounds and the load puts a strain on the wheels. Customers have complained about being forced to lift it by the handles to move it over level surfaces.
19 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 35.5 inches high. While not as large or as heavy as the Soleus, the Whynter is still pretty bulky. It weighs 80 pounds and it's not nearly as easy to move as the NewAir models.
15.6 inches long, 19.9 inches wide, and 34 inches wide. The Honeywell air conditioner weighs 74 pounds, which makes it easier to deal with than the Soleus or Whynter units. Like NewAir, the biggest limit to its mobility is the window kit. The unit has to stay close to a window for the compressor to vent warm air.
There were a few features all the units shared. They all came with remote controls, digital displays, three adjustable fan speeds, a fan-only mode, and a 24-hour programmable timer. In addition, all of them use auto evaporative technology to vent excess water collected during the cooling process and reduce the amount of draining required to keep the unit functioning. They're all environmentally friendly as well. The primary refrigerant is R-410A, which has no harmful effects on the ozone. The features that differed were the dehumidifiers, colors, air filters, heater, and auto-start functions.
AC units work by compressing and expanding gases, known as refrigerants. As the gases expand, they absorb heat from the air and lower its temperature. They also lower the dew point inside the machine, which causes water vapor to condense into water. All of the portable air conditioners we looked at were able to collect, store, and dispose of this water.
The NewAir AC-12200E had the smallest dehumidifying capacity of all the units we examined, only 4.7 pints per day. The good news is that because it uses auto evaporative technology and its water tray feeds the energy boosting feature, it rarely, if ever, has to be drained.
One of the AC-12200E's other limited features was the color. It only comes in white. It's also one of two air conditioners we looked at that did not have an in-built air filter to remove dust and pollen.
The NewAir AC-14100E is a much better dehumidifier than its cousin. It can remove 71 pints of water from the air every day. Part of the water is used to cool the compressor as part of NewAir's energy boosting feature, while the rest is vented out with the exhaust. This means the unit rarely has to be drained except in very humid climates. If the water tank does fill up, the "TANK FULL" light comes on and the unit shuts down until the tank is drained. To prevent this from happening, the unit comes with a hose that lets you empty the tank continuously into a bucket or drain.
The AC-14100E comes in two colors, white and grey.
The Soleus air conditioner has a dehumidifying capacity of 60 pints per day and its tank fills up very quickly in humid climates. It comes in only one color, white, but it is the quietest unit we looked at, 46 decibels, barely above the level needed to wake a sleeping person.
Unlike the NewAir units, the Soleus LX-140 is not just an air conditioner, but a heater as well. In fact, its heating capacity is 14,200 BTUs, higher than its cooling capacity, and it can warm the air up to almost 90°F.
The Whynter ARC-145 is the best dehumidifier we saw. It can pull 101 pints of water out of the air every day and it comes with a Leakage-Current Detection and Interruption plug designed that shuts down the unit whenever a water leak occurs in order to prevent short circuits.
Whynter is also the only air conditioner we found with an auto restart feature. In the event of a power outage, the unit will reactivate in the same mode it was in prior to shut off.
Like Soleus, Whynter also has a heating mode and can put out 13,000 BTUs of warm air.
It also comes in a 2-tone black and platinum color scheme, which is very popular with its customers.
Honeywell has the second best dehumidifier we saw, 95 pints per day. It also has two different color options, black and silver, which we loved, but it was also the second unit we saw without an air filter.
Unit prices broke down as follows:
- Soleus LX-140: $441.18
- Whynter ARC-14S: $459.98
- NewAir AC-12200E: $479.99
- NewAir AC-144100E: $499.95
- Honeywell MM14CCS: $549.99
The biggest standouts on the list were the Soleus LX-140 and the Honeywell MM14CCS. Their prices corresponded with the amount of positive and negative customer reviews we found for them online. A lot of customers complained about the Soleus LX-140, but very few said the same thing about Honeywell.
Best of the Best
All of the units we looked at did a pretty good job tackling the heat. Their set-up was pretty simple and we didn't have much trouble programming them or adjusting their settings. When they failed, it was normally because we'd put the unit into a large space that and over taxed the compressor. We found that the best solution was to restrict the space by keeping interior doors shut wand concentrating the cool air on us.
But the one we liked the best was the NewAir AC-14100E. Even though its price was high compared to some of its competitors, because of its engergy boosting feature, none of them could match its power and efficiency. Under the right conditions, its capable of producing 15,120 BTUs with just 1205 watts. None of the other units we looked at came close, which is why its the unit we'd want on hand when the days start getting hot again.
Best Bang For Your Buck
If you're really worried about power bills this summer, then the most cost-effective unit you can buy is NewAir's AC-12200E. With the energy boosting feature, its cooling capacity is 12,960 and its EER is an astounding 13.6. In terms of price and electrity costs over time, the AC-12200E provided more savings than any unit on this list, even if it couldn't match their cooling power.
However, if additional cooling power is important to you, or if you live in an area where humidity is a problem, then either the Whynter ARC-14S is your best choice for savings. It has the second lowest price and the second best EER during standard operation. Itll save you the most in both both upfront costs and electricity costs in the long run.