What to look for when choosing your portable air conditioner?

What to look for when choosing your portable air conditioner? post image

So, you want to invest in a portable air conditioner that will cool your living areas in hot weather, but when it comes to making a choice, you don’t know exactly what to look for because there are so many products available? Well don’t worry, because you’re in the right place!

The purchase of such a AC unit is serious : a portable air conditioner is expensive, costing no less than 300 to 500 dollars for a machine that performs well! At The Air Geeks, we know a thing or two about air conditioning. We’ve been having so many questions from would-be customers about their upcoming purchase that we decided to make this guide!

A portable air conditioning unit, connected to the outside air

A portable air conditioning unit, connected to the outside air

We aim to become the online reference for the purchase of a portable air conditioner for your home, giving you a clear and independent, point by point guide on the various criteria for choosing a portable air conditioner.

Apart from the price, the choice must be made based on other parameters such as room size, exposure or consideration of whether to invest in a reversible portable air conditioner that will provide additional heating in winter. Our sole purpose is to provide quality information on what to look for when investing in a portable air conditioner.

ℹ️ It goes without saying, but let’s say it: we are not doctors or lawyers, and the following does not constitute legal or medical advice. When in doubt, please always stay on the safe side!

A quick introduction

A portable air conditioner is an easy-to-install unit, and it is, as the name suggests, portable : it’s easy to move thanks to wheels on most models. It helps cool living rooms during hot weather, but also, more often than not, acts as a dehumidifier and air filter.

A carefully-chosen AC unit can be part of your interior design

A carefully-chosen AC unit can be part of your interior design

A portable air conditioner is low maintenance and but WILL need cleaning and the occasional fixing. Do not expect to cool a very large area, but depending on the power of the unit, it can cool up to 500 square feet in a few hours.

You see, there are two types of air conditioners:

    • Free standing (or one-piece, or portable) air conditioners, which consist of a single, portable refrigeration unit. They are on wheels, and generally cool, dehumidify and filter the air in the room. With this type of air conditioner, the refrigeration circuit is located inside the free standing unit, and the resulting hot air is discharged through a flexible hose, so it is necessary to have the end of the hose outside of the area to be cooled, either through a window, door or hole.This mode of operation is contrary to the principle of air conditioning that wants cooling, circulation in a closed space, but is very easy to install (install, connect and operate), conveniently portable and takes up very little space when using and storing. This is a cooling mode suitable for occasional use in small areas.
  • β€œSplit” air conditioners are composed of two distinct parts: an indoor unit that generates fresh air and an outdoor unit to vent hot air. Each unit has its own fan and the two units are connected by a hose.Generally quieter than free standing air conditioners, split devices also have a higher cooling capacity. However, they are considerably less portable because of the two connected units.

So how do you choose which one you need? Well, it depends mainly on whether or not you want to pay professional to modify your home. For split portable air conditioners, you just need a balcony or a window sill on which to put the outdoor unit, and insert the hose through the door or window. The fixed split air coolers are, in turn, much more expensive and installation is usually carried out by professionals.

At The Air Geeks, we opted to present only the free standing air conditioner models, because we find they fully meet the occasional use requirements on hot days. The split models are certainly very effective, but as these require the investment in professional help, we are not including them in this guide.

Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide

In our opinion, certain criteria have to be looked at more carefully when you want to invest in a portable free standing air conditioner. Here they are!

β†’ Our criteria to buy a portable air conditioner in February 2023:

  1. Power in BTUs: the efficiency of air conditioning is the bread and butter of this tool
  2. Sturdiness and reliability: for a great investment in the long run
  3. Noise Level: silence of operation is key
  4. Energy Consumption: so the bill stays low when the temperature rises!
  5. Features and accessories: making your life easier, one feature at a time
  6. Reversibility: cold in the summer, warm in the winter!



We put these criteria forward in our buying guide to help you select what will best meet your own air conditioning needs – while saving you the time and worry of a huge study. We recommend you pay particular attention to the following criteria!

Power in BTUs

This is the key point to watch when you want to invest in a portable free standing air conditioner, because it is the parameter that will determine the efficiency of air conditioning.

The power of refrigeration (or heating for reversible models) is expressed in BTU, for British Thermal Unit, a unit of British cooling energy, which reflects the thermal power AC units. The more BTU’s, the higher the surface that can be cooled.

This parameter is very important and must be adapted to the areas of your home:

  • If the cooling capacity is too strong, you could overpay and the electric bill will increase.
  • If the power is not high enough, the air conditioner will be in constant operation, which can cause premature wear and also a heavy electricity bill.

The power required depends not only on the surface of the parts to be refrigerated, but also on many other parameters inherent in your home such as orientation, sunshine, overall insulation of your home, the number of openings or even ceilings.

The conversion of BTU to watts is simple : 1 watt-hour corresponding to 3,414 BTU. Thus the cooling capacity corresponding to the cooling capacity in BTU can easily be converted into watts. The power consumption in watts, in turn corresponds to the energy consumption of the device.

In these conditions, it is difficult to give precise values per area, but we note that for the majority of homes you will need a power at least equal to:

This chart gives you an approximate idea of the needed power

This chart gives you an approximate idea of the needed power (thanks to compact appliance)

Sturdiness and reliability

In our opinion, this is the number one quality issue when it comes to buying a portable air conditioner as they are expensive and are no good if they break down on the first use!

We have only selected devices from brands with guaranteed models whose after-sales service we know is responsive and efficient. Do not expect us to review you low-end models straight out of TV shopping!

Noise level

The noise level of your portable air conditioner is a criterion of choice because nobody wants a noisy unit in their house.

A noise level between 55 and 70 dB for an air conditioner is the norm. Beyond that, the sound may disturb you, so remember to look into the noise level of each device!

Note: Some portable air conditioners have a silent or night option which is very useful if you want to cool your room at night. The air conditioner will switch to quiet operation so you can enjoy a peaceful and cool atmosphere as you sleep.

Energy consumption

This is another very important point, because the portable indoor air conditioner is an electrical connection device that consumes a lot of energy, which is its main disadvantage. You should find out where your device is located on the level of energy class and energy performance, and this is a point not to be overlooked when making a purchase : it can add a lot on the bill!

Look for units with the Energy Star rating logo : you will save in electricity costs.

Look for units with the Energy Star rating logo : you will save in electricity costs.

We obviously recommend that you choose the least energy-consuming device : the majority of good quality portable air conditioners fit in this category. However, besides the very humble “Energy Star” rating, there is no unified, commonly-accepted and easy-to-read grading for how much energy your device will consume!

Remember, it is absolutely necessary to choose an air conditioner adapted to the size of the room to be refrigerated because it will be much more energy efficient, producing just the right amount of cooling necessary… and your electricity bill will come down accordingly!

In our reviews, we WILL DEFINITELY take this element into account.

Features and Accessories

The freestanding portable air conditioner has various features depending on the model:

      • Dehumidifier function. In some models, the portable air conditioner also acts as a dehumidifier, draining air in addition to providing freshness to the environment.The difference will be the ability to run the air conditioner on dehumidifier mode only, without air conditioning, and on this point the models differ. The dehumidifier capacity is measured in litres per hour. Some devices also have a function to control humidity in the room.The air purification function, it is expressed in m3 per hour and corresponds to air flow.
  • The presence of a remote control, which is convenient to control your portable air conditioner without the need to get up off the couch or out of bed! Depending on the model you can increase or decrease the temperature, as well as turn the unit off and on remotely.
  • Integrated thermostat or timer function: the timer will allow you to run your air conditioner for a given period, for example enough time to sleep. With a timer you can set the times you want the unit to come on and switch off.With the thermostat function, the portable air conditioner automatically turns off when the desired temperature is reached in the room. This feature allows energy savings and prevents premature wear of the device because the air conditioning is not operating unnecessarily. Depending on the model, the portable air conditioner will automatically start up again as the room temperature rises.


The possibility for the portable air conditioner to also produce heat is a selection criterion to bear in mind. So you can use it as a summer cooling device, but also as additional heating in winter, making it a versatile and useful device throughout the year.


Start living again during summer! Start living again during summer!That’s it, you have our synthesis of the information in hand to choose from the wide variety of freestanding portable air conditioners available on the market. Above all, such a device should be solid and reliable, to avoid unpleasant surprises

Power must be adapted to your home and the size of areas to be cooled, and it must also be energy-efficient and silent.

Finally, among the features of portable air conditioners, consider those that will be most useful or necessary and consider:

  • Do I have a huge area to cool?
  • Do I need a reversible air conditioner?
  • Do I need a dehumidifier?
  • Do I want a timer?
  • Do I need a remote control?

The answers to these questions will lead you to the perfect device for your needs!

β†’ See what the products we picked as the best ones this month on our Best portable air conditioner page!