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How to Find the Best Portable Air Conditioner for Your Needs

When you need to efficiently cool a small space such as a bedroom or office, a portable air conditioner is a great choice because it can solve the cooling challenge by lowering the temperature in a given environment.  But are you unsure of what to look for?  Read this guide to learn how to find the best portable air conditioner for your needs.

How much power do you need?

The most important factor to consider is proper power rating for the area being cooled. Quite often people mistakenly assume more power is better.  After all, if it gets too cold, you can always turn it down, right?  However, experts will tell you to pay close attention to the floor plan and insulation in order to get the right number of BTUs. Otherwise, you could find yourself with excess condensation and other aggravating problems. 

How to calculate a portable air conditioner's BTU rating

Portable air conditioners are rated in British Thermal Units (BTU). The greater the BTU, the more cooling power the portable air conditioner has. The following are general guidelines for the maximum room size and the coinciding BTU's that are typically recommended for portable air conditioners:

  • 7,500 BTU: 150 square feet

  • 9,000 BTU: 250 square feet

  • 10,000 BTU: 325 square feet

  • 12,000 BTU: 425 square feet

  • 13,000 BTU: 475 square feet

  • 14,000 BTU: 525 square feet

The guidelines can sometimes vary from one manufacturer to another. Along with suggested, maximum room size, different factors can reduce the effectiveness of portable air conditioners. Here are a few solutions that might increase or decrease BTU's if you suspect the effectiveness of your portable air conditioner is going to be altered by an outside factor:

  • Reduce your required capacity by 10% if your room is heavily shaded.

  • Increase your capacity by 10% if your room is very sunny.

  • Add 600 BTU to your capacity for each additional person (beyond two people) that regularly occupies the same room.

  • Add 4,000 BTU if the room is the kitchen. 

Other features you may want in a portable AC

After deciding on the BTU rating you need, much of the decision comes down to your own preference. The number of exhaust hoses (or oscillating or fixed louvers if you prefer) are only a matter of choice. Overall, choosing the best  portable air conditioner  for your needs should depend on the following factors: the space being cooled, how long you intend to keep the portable air conditioner on at one time, and whether there are dedicated personnel who will be able to access and adjust the unit as needed. Also, don't forget about noise levels.  If you're going to be using the air conditioner in your bedroom or work area, pay special attention to the volume each portable air conditioner produces. 

Self-evaporating portable air conditioners 


There are many different brands and levels of portable air conditioners available to consumers these days. Many of these are evaporative (where there are no water tanks to empty). Still, others require you to drain the internal water tank every 12 hours to several days. The best portable air conditioner  for you may depend greatly on where you intend to exhaust it. For instance, if you are going to exhaust the air conditioner through an attic or drop ceiling, you do not want moisture to be exhausted with the hot air. In this case, you would not use the evaporative type. However, if you plan to exhaust your portable air conditioner through a window, the evaporative type would probably be the best choice. 

Replacing other appliances with a portable air conditioner

You may also want to consider other appliances that will not need to be purchased if you own certain portable air conditioners. Portable air conditioners dehumidify the air and can also be used as fans. Some units can be used as dehumidifiers and/or heaters separately from the air conditioning function.

What type of controls do you want?

Another consideration is picking a portable air conditioner that has the type of controls that will fit your needs. You can choose electronic controls (features such as remote controls or louvers that can be set to swing automatically or by advanced programmable timers). You may also choose the manual control type, which is simpler to operate and can automatically restart the cooling process after a power outage.

Don't forget about energy efficiency!

Finally, the portable air conditioner energy efficiency ratio (EER) rating and sound level will play an important role in your final decision. The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit is.

See All Portable Air Conditioners


Air & Water, Inc. serves Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County.  If you live in any of the following zip codes, please feel free to come see our products in person: 92867, 92868, 92869, 92870, 92871, 92688, 92672, 92673, 92674, 92675, and 92693.

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