Quietest Portable Air Conditioners To Stay Cool This Summer

Researched & Written by Craig

We’ve all had those nightmarish experiences with air conditioners that are unbearably loud. To stop you getting stuck with a dud, I’ve researched and reviewed the quietest portable ac’s on the market.

These air conditioners come in different shapes, sizes, and power capacities. To keep things simple I’ve narrowed the recommendations to the three most common power ranges: 10,000, 12,000 and 14,000 BTU’s. 

Don’t know what a BTU is? Or how many you need? No problem.

There’s a guide and a free BTU calculator after the reviews.

Note: If you have the right type of window, a window ac can also be a great solution. Check out our comparison to portable vs window air conditioners for more.

Quietest Portable Air Conditioners – Overview

Image Quiet Air Conditioner Power Level (BTU) Decibels (dB)
Black & Decker BPACT10WT 10,000 BTU 52dB
Honeywell MN12CES Portable AC 12,000 BTU 54dB
Whynter ARC-14S Portable AC 12,000 BTU 55dB
DeLonghi 3-in-1 Portable AC 14,000 BTU 55dB
h0meLabs Portable Air Conditioner 14,000 BTU 56dB

Need a Quick Recommendation?

Not everyone wants to read detailed reviews – so here’s the best models up-front.


Looking for an AC that won’t break the bank? Then you’ll love our #1 choice.

Check out the Black & Decker Portable AC Range.

Black & Decker Portable AC next to window

The small size and quiet operation is perfect for bedrooms.

Black & Decker’s range of quiet portable air conditioners nab my top recommendation spot for plenty of reasons.

First is that their range is just that – a range! They’ve got almost all sizes you need. 8, 10, 12, and 14,000 BTU models are available. And they’re all up to the same high B&D standard.

With solid build quality and a ‘sleep mode’ to operate quietly at night, these are a great purchase if you value getting the most out of your money (and a good sleep!).

Don’t want to get out of bed to adjust the temperature? No problem. There’s a remote included – see and change the temperature without having to move!

They’ll save you a pretty penny, too. These are some of the best priced portable air conditioners on the market. Even when others are on special. Your wallet’s going to thank you.

Lastly, it’s a great point that the 10,000 BTU model is the #1 Best Selling Portable Air Conditioner on all of Amazon! That’s no small feat – and a huge validation of support for these models.

If you’re after a well-priced, quiet, reliable and capable portable air conditioner – Black & Decker’s range is a fantastic option.

My second top choice is the DeLonghi 12,000 BTU Portable AC.

One of the best models for dedicated quietness.

While a bit more costly than the Black & Decker models, quietness is so important to DeLonghi that they have developed what they call “Whisper Quiet” technology.

The  ‘whisper quiet’ mode really helps to keep the running noise down, once your space is cool. With high-quality parts and a meaty 12,000 BTU, DeLonghi’s AC can really hold its own in the midst of a hot summer spell. Without having the price tag of a more powerful 14,000 BTU model.

Overall, it’s a fantastic option if you’re less concerned on budget and more on noise. Just not quite as good an all-rounder as the Black & Decker models.

Scoring Process

Before we get into the reviews, I want to quickly state the main factors I took into account in choosing the best quiet portable air conditioners. These are important to consider when choosing the right AC model for your home.

    • Noise Level – How much standard operating noise the model makes
    • Functionality – Does it have multiple fan speeds / cooling modes?
    • Ease of Use – Is it easy to use? How intuitive are the controls?
    • Build Quality / Reliability  – Is it going to hold up over the years?
    • Size / Looks – Is it excessively large; will it be an eyesore to have in the room?
    • Value for Money – Quality is worth paying for, but does the price reflect the value?
    • Energy Efficiency Ratio – A cheaper upfront cost doesn’t mean much if it’s an electricity sink.

Now without further ado, let’s get into the full reviews below!

Quietest Portable Air Conditioners - Full Reviews

Delonghi America PACAN120EW - 12,000 BTU Capacity

Image of Delonghi PACAN120EW
You're looking at the pioneer of 'Whisper Cool' AC technology.

The DeLonghi AN120EW is a top recommendation for a well-made and quiet portable air conditioner.

Just for this model, DeLonghi developed what they call ‘Whisper Cool’ technology – finding an optimal balance between cooling power and quietness.

While this mode definitely makes a difference, a good tip is to give it some time fully cool down your space, before activating the quiet mode. This can be easy if you can plan ahead using the timer function.

With a few hits of the digital buttons, you can get the AC turning on before you’re home. Enjoy an effortlessly cooled room the second you walk in the door.

As well as the quiet operation function, the DeLonghi also receives top marks for quality. The controls are very intuitive, and I love the ‘traffic light system’ that the display uses. It has three different light settings for the temperature being ‘too high’, ‘cooling’, and ‘cool’.

These lights can be quite reassuring. Like the red light is saying:  “Man, it’s hot today! Hold on while I cool this down”.

Pros Cons
A dedicated 'whisper quiet' modeExpensive; top of the range for quality and quietness
Quality build; state of the art features (timer, remote, dehumidifier)Quiet mode may lower energy efficiency
Great light system and temperature monitoring
2 year warranty on ALL parts

Our Verdict

If your absolute priority is a quiet portable AC – I’ve not found any other which tops this DeLonghi model.

While ‘whisper quiet’ isn’t as silent as the name suggests, it’s certainly at the front when it comes to keeping those decibel levels down.

You’ll never get a truly silent air conditioner, but I reckon this one’s about as close as you can get for now.

Whynter ARC-14S - 14,000 BTU Capacity

Image of Whynter ARC-14S
This Whynter's dual hosed exhaust allows for more efficient cooling.

The Whynter ARC-14S is my ‘big beast’ recommendation.

It puts out a powerful 14,000 BTU of cooling power.

There are a lot of other appliances that appear to have a 14,000 BTU capacity – but this Whynter model just seems to do its job so much better than the rest.

So much so, in fact, that it got the 2019 ‘Best Overall’ recommendation from Good Housekeeping.

This is partly from the solid engineering design and quality parts – but also due to the dual hose system. This system increases the machine’s efficiency thanks to much less heat leaking out of the exhaust. A major drawback of single hose machines.

We’ve covered these hose types in more detail – in the ‘Ventilation’ section below.

Pros Cons
Most capable portable AC's on the marketIt's big! At 35 inches tall, make sure you've got the space
Sleek designControls look a bit outdated (though they work just fine)
Fully featured (fan, timer, dehumidifier, remote)
Dual hosed system - energy efficient and great evaporation capacity

Our Verdict

I wanted to highlight an air conditioner that packed a real punch for those who need the extra cooling power. This Whynter model meets these demands well.

With strong capacity backed up by a dual hose exhaust system, it’ll take care of even the hottest and most humid days without a drainage bucket needing to be touched.

It’s high quality and looks so good any guests won’t be able to help but comment. The controls are simple to use, and the 24-hour timer means it’ll have your space cool before you’re even home.

A must if you’ve got a big space and hot summers.

HOmeLabs 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Powerhouse in a Modern Design

Our second ‘beast’ on this list is a bit of a sleeper.

By that I mean that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.

This air conditioner looks exceptionally sleek and refined for the power it holds. At 14,000 BTU – it’s rated high enough to cool up to a 600 square foot space.

I personally love how the top panel can fold away when not in use. It’s a small ‘spark’ of coolness that always takes me back to seeing those cars with hideaway headlights in the 80’s and 90’s.

The only downside I’ve found, however, is a slightly lower airflow than in other models. The cooling potential is definitely there, but the actual movement of the air may not be enough for a full 600 sq.ft. space. This won’t make a difference in a smaller apartment, just something to look out for!

Being able to dehumidify up to 100 pints of water a day is some serious business, too. For that, the one catch is that you’ll need an automatic drain connection for the unit. (Otherwise you’d be emptying the basin on the regular).

One final note here is that these guys have an amazing reputation for customer support. Through reading reviews from other customers, this comes up in almost every review where they had an issue. Whether they liked the AC or not, everyone loved the customer service! Which means you’re in safe hands should anything go wrong.

Pros Cons
Washable Air Filter- High price
Super Quiet for This Power- Lower CFM
Powerful
Auto Draining
Amazing Customer service

Our Verdict

This is a fantastic unit which looks way better than any air conditioner should.

It’s sleek, powerful, and the remote is fully functioning.

Although the price tag is quite high, it’s wrapped up in a 2-year warranty package for great peace of mind.

My recommendation is, if you love the style and need the power, you really can’t go wrong with this model. If all else fails, their excellent customer support reputation will have your back.

Honeywell MN12CES - 12,000 BTU Capacity

Image of Honeywell MN12CES
Amazon's #1 Best Selling Portable AC.

The Honeywell MN12CES is a fantastic all-rounder choice.

First, it really looks the part. Available in several variations (I love the black and silver), the sleek design and electric controls look great in any modern home.

With this MN12CES model, Honeywell has made a portable AC that is efficient, capable, and above all else – quiet.

Honeywell are also the only air conditioner manufacturer that lists the real maximum noise levels. In this case, the MN12CES has a listed maximum decibel rating of 55 – which lies between quiet and normal conversation (and this is white noise: a lot less distracting than speaking).

The controls are also superb. The temperature gauge gives you a real measure of the temperature (rather than just showing the target temperature). It also has a variety of easy-to-use modes to meet whatever demand you have. It’s capable of powering through a red hot summer’s day, or quietly keep a room cool at night (without sounding like a jet engine).

Honeywell have also proven that they’re founded on solid customer service. In our research, we found multiple reports where customers have been shipped entirely new window kits, if the standard sets don’t fit properly.

Pros Cons
Great design, easy to set up and useSingle duct only; a dual could be more energy efficient
State of the art features (24 hour timer, remote, dehumidifier, fan functions)Large - not easy to move over carpets and rugs
Competetive price for quality and size
5 year warranty as standard

Our Verdict

All in all, this is a great appliance which meets every demand I have for a air conditioner.

In addition to being quiet, it also boasts solid build quality – crafted by a reliable manufacturer who have put their money where their mouth is with a certified 5 year warranty.

A warranty that long is super rare – especially these days. It really does speak volumes for the quality of this appliance.

If you want an all-rounder but didn’t fall in love with the Black & Decker, these Honeywell air conditioners are an amazing option.

 

Honeywell MM14CCS - 14,000 BTU Capacity

Image of Honeywell MM14CCS
The big brother of the first honeywell - more modern and more powerful.

Introducing the big brother to the 12,000 BTU Honeywell model above.

This more powerful version is of similar size, with the larger compressor only weighing 6lbs more than the 12,000 BTU model which tops Amazon’s bestseller list.

It looks sleek, has great build quality, and is still relatively quiet for the amount of cooling power it can pump out. Honeywell have stayed consistent in their goal to keep noise levels to a minimum. The maximum decibel level for this model actually stays at the same as the 12,000 BTU model; 55 dB.

As well as the extra cooling capacity, another upgrade is in the electronics. While the smaller series isn’t lacking in that department (it’s controls were one of the best we’ve reviewed), this big brother has a miniature screen for more control over the appliance.

The one downside is, of course, the extra price that comes with the higher power. However, we’d recommend this model to anyone who wants a long-term solution to any air conditioning problem in a large space. No matter the heat or humidity. As before, Honeywell are also a great manufacturer and have been known to ship extra window kits to customers in need – so you’ll be in good hands, too.

Pros Cons
Great design and looksLarge; portable doesn't always mean "a joy to move"!
The best controls we've reviewed; clear screen and easy to useUpwards price jump from the equally great 12,000 BTU Honeywell
Plenty of cooling power to handle even the hottest of summers
Built with quietness in mind - a listed maximum noise level of 55dB

Our Verdict

Ideal for anyone who want to ensure that they’ll be able to keep their space cool, no matter the outside temperature.

With great looks, quiet operation, and easy to use functionality – this model has everything you need to cool a large space.

Granted, there is a bit of a price jump from the 12,000 BTU model above. But if you’re lucky enough to have a large space – it’s worth paying to keep it properly cooled.

Black & Decker BPACT10WT - 10,000 BTU Capacity

Image of Black & Decker BPACT10W
Small, simple, and easy to run.

We’ve got Black & Decker’s Portable AC as our top 10,000 BTU choice. As well as being our Quick Recommendation as an all-rounder, there’s a great focus on quietness, too. Black & Decker have created a ‘sleep mode’ just for this air conditioner.

Since 10,000 BTU air conditioners are typically used in bedrooms, Black and Decker have brought in a function with us light sleepers in mind.

The sleep mode allows for the room temperature to gradually increase by 2oF over 2 hours once activated. While this is unnoticeable while you’re drifting off to sleep, it makes a huge difference in the amount of effort the air conditioner needs to use. Resulting in a much quieter atmosphere to sleep in.

The model is also comparatively small, too. It’s 5 inches slimmer than most standard 17” air conditioners – ideal to be tucked away in the corner of a small bedroom or office.

Pros Cons
Unique 'sleep mode' tailored to light sleepersWhile well suited for small rooms, doesn't have the power for large spaces
Small and slim size, without being weak on coolingNonadjustable flow direction
Fully featured (timer, remote, auto-evaporation)
Inexpensive

Our Verdict

This is a great appliance for those who are in need of a cool bedroom but can’t sleep with much noise going on in the room.

It’s small enough to slot into tight corners, and the sleep mode shows that the air conditioner has been designed with light sleepers in mind.

To top it all off, it’s one of the cheapest models on the market that while still having the quality we look for in our top list. A great buy.

Whynter ARC-10WB - 10,000 BTU Capacity

Image of Whynter ARC-10WB Portable AC
Another great little runner. I love the vent panels open up at the top.

This 10,000 BTU Whynter model is a great little bull dog of an AC. While it doesn’t have any ‘special modes’ like the Black and Decker, it runs quietly enough by itself.

It’s not the snazziest of models, but it’s got plenty bit of charm to it, and the air ducts glide open by themselves very smoothly. Very cool.

One area where this model really shines is in its low cost and high energy efficiency. It’s been designed specifically for minimal energy consumption. So you can leave it running with no qualms about harming the environment.. or your electric bill.

That said, just because it doesn’t use a ton of juice doesn’t mean that it’s not capable of cooling a room. Though it is wise to make sure that your space will be within a total of around 400 square foot.

Even though it’s a smaller model, this Whynter isn’t lacking on the features front. It’s still capable of self-evaporating to avoid needing drained apart from on the most humid of days, and has well-functioning controls (though they don’t quite look state of the art, they do work well).

Pros Cons
Low costFairly basic looks
QuietNot the most powerful
Very energy efficient
Fully featured (24 hour timer, dehumidifier, remote control)

Our Verdict

A great solution if you have a small space and/or just need a little bit extra cooling power in one area of your home.

Without sacrificing on quality or noise, this portable AC won’t break the bank or cause your electricity bill to go through the roof.

If you love the old-school Ferrari like vents, and keep a close eye on your electric bill, this model would be a great option.

SereneLife 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Small but a fantastic 'little runner'.

For anyone looking to cool a small room, it’s important to find a unit which is equally small, lightweight, and quiet.

And that’s where this SereneLife Air Conditioner comes in.

Standing less than 2 feet tall, this little buddy will help keep any small living or bedroom cool and comfortable.

The small size doesn’t just mean low floorspace. It’s also super lightweight and easy to move around! If you’re renting a small apartment, this is a cinch to move between living and bedrooms.

While it’s power isn’t exactly equal to a Lamborghini, it does a pretty fantastic job of cooling the area around it. The operating noise is super quiet for a portable AC too – rated at just 55dB for operational noise. I’ve found this to be slightly higher on occasion, but as long as it’s not stressed to the max you can barely notice this little guy.

Pros Cons
Lowest PriceNot As Powerful
Super Quiet
Small Size

Our Verdict

A fantastic runner for anyone with a smaller space.

And for those not looking to break the bank.

At around half the price of the larger models, this quiet little air conditioner is right up there for small apartments and rooms.

So much so that it’s currently ‘Amazon’s Choice’ for portable air conditioners in small rooms!

Well deserved in my book.

Benefits of a Quiet Portable Air Conditioner

Deciding on a heating or cooling appliance can be a little scary. You want it to work! And do keep looking after you for years. So it’s important to think about the benefits these appliances can bring. Including:

  1. Super Portability. For an apartment, one portable air conditioner is all you may need for your whole home. It’s easy enough to move from living room to bedroom in morning and night. It’s also great to have the option of easily moving it out of sunshine or closer to you.
  2. Super Easy to Use. If you’re shopping for a senior, these air conditioners are a great option due to their ease of use. Their controls are simple, especially when combined with a remote control. Even installing the simple window frames can be done by just about anyone!
  3. Low Price. For an air conditioning system, portable units offer some of the lowest prices compared to their competition.
  4. No HOA Issues. Unfortunately for window AC lovers, many apartment buildings don’t allow a window unit. But no-one will ever stop you from some portable-powered cooling.
  5. Low Footprint. While portable units do take up some floor space (unlike window or mini-split units), they really don’t take up much. With long power cords there’s always a way to keep the unit out of your way.
  6. Great for Rentals. Without any serious installation work, portable air conditioners are often the best (and only) choice for extra cooling in a rented apartment.

Quick Guide to Portable Air Conditioners

A quality portable air conditioner costs a pretty penny, so you want to make sure you’re going to stay happy with your purchase for years to come.

Knowing what features are important to you is how to find the model that feels like it was made just for your home. Below are the 4 biggest factors which make up a good portable air conditioner.

BTU Capacity

First up are BTU’s, or British Thermal Units.

(No, it’s not the amount of power to brew a British cup of tea..!)

BTU’s are the way we measure how effective an air conditioner is. Specifically (for any scientists out there), they are:

‘the conversion efficiency of heat into electrical energy’

Where 12,000 BTU is the power you need to freeze 1 ton of water into ice in 24 hours. Pretty cool.

The power of an air conditioner is the most important factor. Too much power will cool so fast it won’t remove moisture from the air, leaving you cool but clammy. Not enough power, and that poor AC will be whirring hard all day long.

Use the table below to find the BTU capacity you need.

Room size aside, there are other aspects that may change the power you need:

  • Add another 10% BTU if your space:
    • Has high ceilings (above 8ft)
    • Gets a lot of sunlight
    • Is poorly insulated.
  • If the room is frequently occupied by more than 2 people, add 600 BTU per extra person.
  • If it’s a kitchen, add 4,000 BTU.
  • Finally, if the room is shaded from the sun, lower the capacity by 10%.

Still unsure? No problem. I’ve come up with a calculator to work out all of this for you. Just put in your details and it’ll give you a good estimate of what you need.

Need an AC with less than 8,000BTU? Check out our quietest window ac guide!

Noise Level

The reason why we wrote this guide – noise!

Unfortunately, there’s still no portable air conditioner in the world that is truly silent. But there’s plenty getting there. The best of which I’ve reviewed above.

When it comes to noise, there are two things to consider:

Noise #1: Operating Noise Levels

These noise levels are surprisingly rare for manufacturers to list. In fact, Honeywell is the only supplier who I’ve found to list the maximum noise produced by the Portable AC. Though this is because they’re one of the quietest on the market, so it’s a great selling point!

Noise #2: You.

The second factor about how noisy an AC gets, is you!

It’s how you use the appliance. Any portable air conditioner worth paying for will have a selection of features that you can use to keep things quiet.

Look for portable AC’s which have features like:

  • Programmable Timers: Set the machine to do all the hard cooling work before you’ll be in the room.
  • Multiple Speeds: Keep a space cool on a low setting once the room’s been cooled down.
  • Sleep/silent modes: Reduce the noise, often at the cost of some cooling power. Check out our top recommendations for examples.

Ventilation

While portable AC’s do blow out cold air, they also need to exhaust the hot air that comes as a result of operating it’s electronic parts – typically through a hose that connects to your window. It also needs air to use to keep it’s interior parts cool enough to operate – so if the only ventilation the machine has is the one hose, it needs to pull in air from the room to keep itself cool.

Dual Hose AC Example

2 hoses don’t quite mean 2x the efficiency.. but they do help

Portable air conditioners that come with a second hose are able to pull air in from outside to keep itself cool, which makes it much more efficient – since it’s not stealing back some of it’s own cool air to function. Though models with two hoses generally use more energy to run, they’re also more efficient with the energy they do use, and can be quieter when operating as a result.

Read more on this in the Single vs Dual Hose section below.

Drainage

As with programmable features, any modern portable appliance that’s worth having will be able to self-evaporate most of the water that condenses because of the machine operating. While older machines required drainage buckets to be emptied (sometimes frequently, on humid days), the portable AC’s that have made our best list all have self-evaporation power; evaporating the water out through their exhaust hoses. While their drainage buckets may still need emptied on the worst of days, they should be capable enough to just ‘set it and forget it’.

Heating Options

If you’re heating a relatively small space, there’s a few quiet portable air conditioners out there that offer heating, too. Now, these are in no way as effective as a full heating system. But for a small space, or as a supplemental source, they can help you see through a cold winter.

Make sure to do your due diligence though.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers just add heating on as a ‘gimmick’ to try and make some extra sales. Take a look through reviews and be certain the heating is a real deal, and not just a last-minute add-on.

Functionality

Finally, it’s important to think about if there are any modern features that would really make your life easier. Have a read over the following lists of key features, and see if you’d love to have any of them. If so, it’s worth making sure any AC you consider can do it.

  1. Programmable Timer – This is the key to taking full advantage of your air conditioner. Set it to switch on 30 minutes before you’re back from work, and experience that amazing feeling of stepping into a cool home after a hot day. It also means that when you’re in the room the A/C is quieter, since it’s already done most of the hard work.
  2. Sleep / Quiet Mode – If the AC will be in a bedroom, these modes are amazing for quality of life. Different companies do them differently. DeLonghi on one hand makes the entire appliance quieter while sacrificing some power. Black & Decker, on the other hand, place the AC on ‘low’ power and allow the temperature to slowly increase as you sleep (and the night gets cooler).
  3. Remote Control – Not only is a remote great for easier control of your AC, but it’s perfect if you’re in bed. You can check the temperature and adjust it as you chill and relax or on the couch.
  4. Thermostat – Perhaps basic, but some of the cheaper models still don’t use thermostats! On the other hand, a digital thermostat is much more accurate than an analog one, and generally allows you much greater control.
  5. Automatic Shut-Off – Following on from a thermostat comes Auto Shut-Off. This switches the A/C off for a short while once the desired temperature’s been reached. Saving you money and adding on quietness.
  6. Energy Efficiency – Finally, make sure that the AC is Energy Star Certified. Not only are these a great sign of quality – a certified model will save you money on your electric bill. Up to 15% more. Yep, that’s worth it. Check out if your model is certified on their website here.

 

Quiet Portable Air Conditioner Questions

What Classifies As ‘Quiet’ For A Portable Air Conditioner?

Let’s re-introduce ourselves to a decibel chart. I’m sure you remember it from high school!

Courtesy of the lovely researchers at ResearchGate

Air conditioners can produce a bit of a variety of noise. Anywhere from a library-quiet 30dB to a brain-rattling 80dB.

Generally, a home will have noise around the 50dB range. From nearby traffic, to the TV, to the hums and rumbles of fridges and dishwashers. While there’s no official class, I consider air conditioners to be quiet if they operate under 60dB. Under 55dB is ideal, and up to 65dB is realistic.

Remember that what the manufacturer states may not be totally accurate – since they probably measured it in a soundproofed lab. Not a standard living room with it’s usual echoes!

Be Careful What You Read

Most of us can only rely on what the manufacturers state about a product, and reviews from other customers. However, these aren’t always the full story.

YourBestDigs ran some decibel monitoring tests and came out the with the below data for four air conditioners. I’ve also added the manufacturers “reported” decibel ratings so we can compare.

Recorded decibels vs reported for quiet portable air conditioners

Quite a difference between the manufacturers rating and the recorded by YourBestDigs tests.

Now – there’s a few things to unpack here.

Firstly, yes that’s quite a difference! We always expect the manufacturers to be slightly biased, but these results are very off.

However. As with many tests, there’s a lot of factors at play here. Including:

  1. Different test environments. The reported figure was probably done in a very quiet room. I believe these tests were in a boxy living room with wooden floors.
  2. Different mic distances. Since no-one knows what the lab tests were like, the microphone was likely placed closer in these tests.
  3. Different equipment in the two tests.

That said, it does go to show we can’t always trust the labels put on the box! Thankfully, all manufacturers with Amazon offer a 30 day return period at minimum.

Are Quiet Portable Air Conditioners More Expensive?

Well, it depends.

A portable air conditioner can surprise you. Some expensive ones can be so powerful they’re too loud, and others can be quiet without a big price tag.

Generally, though, quieter models are on the more expensive side.

This is because quietness demands two things:

  1. Great build quality. Shoddy workmanship means harsher rattles and clunks. Not to mention more chance of things breaking or wearing down. On the other hand, a unit that’s extremely well put together will be much quieter. It may include internal sound dampeners, and generally will be less likely to rattle. The fan may also be more efficient – producing more airflow with less noise.
  2. Designed for quietness. In many modern appliances, noise levels are an afterthought. It’s a priority of making it look good and sell well. Generally it takes a more conscious brand to really make things quiet. This is through better quality parts, and specialized modes like ‘Sleep’ or ‘Eco’ that keep the AC running as quiet as possible.

What Makes A Quiet Portable AC?

When shopping for a quiet portable air conditioner, look for:

  1. Newer Models. Portable Air Conditioners are still quite a new type of appliance. There are developments being made all the time. With each year, models are getting quieter, more efficient, and better made.
  2. Quiet-Centric. Look for models that boast quietness as one of their main selling points. Every unit will say it is ‘quiet’, but look for ones that are totally focused on it. Those are the ones that have real sleep modes and quiet operation levels.

Match your BTU needs. There’s no point buying a powerhouse AC for a small apartment. Get a unit which has what you need – maybe 10% more. See our guide above to check your requirement. That way it won’t be always turning on and off, or struggling at max to keep you cool. Just like Goldilocks’ porridge – it should be juust right.

How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?

Portable air conditioners work in the exact same way as central AC systems. They are just set out differently. Instead of having the exhaust outside of the home, it’s inside of the portable unit. And needs connected to the outside via a window-vent. Here’s a quick explanation:

Warm air is taken in from the room, and passed over a cold evaporator. This cools down the air, which is blown out back into the room. The evaporator is kept cold via a refrigerant. This absorbs the warmth from the outside air, and turns from a liquid to a gas when doing so. This gas is then carried up to a compressor, pressurised, then passed through a condenser. The condenser cools the refrigerant back down by passing it over cooling coils – ready to go and cool down more outside air.

A typical AC system diagram.

Portable Air Conditioners vs Window Air Conditioners

For one-room cooling purposes, the choice is almost always between a portable or a window air conditioner. Which one is better for you?

Well – that’s a big topic! So big we have our own comparison between the two air conditioner types here.

But in short, here how’s they line up in different aspects:

  • Noise: Generally portable air conditioners are quieter than window units.
  • Efficiency: Window air conditioners are more efficient – covering a bigger area with the same BTU.
  • Price: Window units tend to be more expensive for their BTU power. Though as mentioned, they use that power better.
  • Portability: You guessed it.

Sometimes the best way to compare two things is a simple table of their pros and cons. So here you go.

ProsCons
Portable Air Conditioners
Easy to Install - Set-up is just a quick clip-on window frame.Generally Pricier - See the table later in this post.
Great Looks - Contemporary designs on recent models can make a room feel more modern.Generally Louder - As above.
Highly Mobile - They do need a bit of a push, but these units are easy to move between rooms.Less Efficient - The cause of the above two points. Typically require higher power for the same size of room.
Convenient Placement - Can be tucked away towards a corner or behind a couch, out of view.
Window Air Conditioners
Quiet - See the table later in this post.Effort to Install - Often weighing over 50lbs, they're not easy to securely mount onto a window frame.
Efficient - As above.Not Easy to Move - Once you've done the installation once, you probably won't be in a hurry to do it again!
Generally cheaper - As above.Looks Bad/Blocks Window - There's no option but to have a big chunk of your window view (and light) blocked by the air conditioner.
Needs Permission - If you don't own your property, you may be at the mercy of the landlord/building owner regarding if you can install one or not.

In short, both are great options. If you’re still stuck – be sure to check out our detailed comparison guide.

Single vs Dual Hose

Portable Air Conditioners are unique amongst their brothers and sisters.

Why? They’re the only air conditioners that hold hot air inside your room.

Window, central, and mini-split systems all have an easier time because the hot air they exhaust is outside of your home. But portable air conditioners have to hold and handle that air.

Which is why we have ‘hoses’.

These are like the ducts of your central AC system. They take out the hot air from the air conditioner, and bring in fresh air from outside.

Portable air conditioners either come with one or two hoses.

What’s the difference?

A single hose brings in fresh air from outside, and sends back hot air from the exhaust. As you can imagine, these two types of air mix – which doesn’t make things very efficient.

A dual hose system separates these. One hose for fresh air in, one hose for hot air out. This is much more efficient, and means you’re not stuck re-cooling the same air you’re exhausting.

Which is better?

While dual hose systems are better at handling air, they’re typically bigger and more expensive. But they do offer quite a significant boost in results.

Below is data from a test run by YourBestDigs. They started it in the morning, and you can see that the single hose struggles to keep up with the increasing heat as the afternoon arrives. That said, this is quite an exaggerated result – they were pitting a very capable Whynter model (generally the most efficient) against a fairly average LG model.

As mentioned above – this is quite an exaggerated case. But it does show a single hose struggling to keep up with increasing outdoor temperatures. Since a single hose can only intake through the same vent that it exhausts from, they often have problems once the outside temperature gets significantly high. Dual hose systems, on the other hand, exhaust separately. This means they are only tackling the outside temperature, not outside+exhaust temperature.

Conclusion

Portable Air Conditioners are incredibly useful appliances.

Whether you use one throughout your whole small apartment, keep cool in a rental without bugging the landlord, or simply sleep quietly in your bedroom with it – they have a fantastic portability. Finding the right one can be tricky, so I hope this guide has helped you figure out which model would be perfect for you.

While we’ve compared and contrasted between all the air conditioners above, remember that these are the cream of the crop when it comes to portable air conditioners. What matters most is finding one will suit you personally.

If you’ve not fallen in love with any of the recommendations here, then take a look at Amazon’s Bestselling List of Portable Air Conditioners for more inspiration.


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Thank you for reading, and have a great day 🙂

-Craig