Get The Best Portable Air Conditioners For Under $100 Right Now
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For a lot of us, it’s already starting to feel like the summer. And with the summer comes the heat. With the heat comes the need to cool down when we’re home. Setting up an AC can be a bit of a hassle in terms of actual set up and pricing. But with the Best Portable Air Conditioners under $100, you won’t have any problems.
Setting up an AC in a window or through a newly cut hole in the wall is not easy. They may be effective, but it’s a problem on many levels. Luckily, there are so many portable AC’s out there for you to pick up. You can bring them with you anywhere in the house for a convenient cool-down situation.
Not only is money being saved from the actual price of the Best Portable Air Conditioners, but in terms of your electric bill. By bringing this with you anywhere in the house, you don’t need to keep the whole house chilled. It’s very simple and really efficient. You can’t go wrong with picking one up.
There are so many options that we decided to whittle it down for you guys. We picked out a few of the Best Portable Air Conditioners for you to choose from below. Options that are under $100. So there’s no reason for you to not pick at least one up now so you can be ready for those rapidly approaching summer heat waves.
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Summer temperatures continue to rise across Canada, making it uncomfortably hot for many people— especially those who don't have air conditioner.
Summer temperatures increase the risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration — and the most at-risk people for heat stroke are seniors and people with chronic conditions who live alone and don't have air conditioning, which is still the best way to prevent heat-related illnesses or deaths. That means having some kind of air conditioning is more than just a luxury.
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Portable air conditioners, like the Evaporative Air Conditioner Fan from Basein, can help create a more comfortable living space for you and your loved ones.
Basein Evaporative Air Conditioner
SHOP IT: Amazon, $54 (originally $60)
What is it?
Basein’s portable air conditioner features three adjustable wind speeds, a touch panel screen and a large 500 ml water tank to help you keep cool at home or the office.
The affordable unit features a detachable, a washable filter and can a USB connection so you can power your fan from your laptop or adaptor (sold separately).Basein’s updated 2021 unit has seven LED mood lights to create a relaxing atmosphere.
What people are saying
Basein's 500 ml unit has earned more than 600 customer reviews on Amazon from shoppers who have called this particular unit perfect for small spaces and personal use.
"I have been using this two weeks and it is a perfect mini cooler for my workspace. I have very small workspace where I don’t have air conditioning. I like it because this fits in small space and it can run by power banks or connecting to the laptop through USB," one shopper wrote. "I can also put ice cubes or put some water to get more cool air. It has a night light too with different colour options. It has three speed settings. Pros: it's easy to carry, we can use power banks, it come with an ice tray and night light and it's very quiet. "
ALSO SEE: How to spot the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke
"My first time trying a mini portable air conditioner and I am pleasantly surprised that it works well. Got it for my office desk which faces towards window and I always tend to feel warm in that area," another said. "It can be connected to my laptop while I am working, just fill it with water and boom. I am happy with how light weight it is and doesn’t make a lot of noise."
Although Basein's portable unit doesn't use any chemicals to cool the air like an air conditioner, shoppers say it's a solid option to help you stay cool and comfortable.
"I liked the mobility and I know for a fact it really does blow out cold air. I bought a very similar product and it lasted over a year before I broke it (I dropped it one too many times). However, with my old one, when you filled the water reservoir the water lasted two to three days," one shopper said. "With this new one the water lasts maybe two to three hours so it takes frequent refills to work for an entire day. That's s bit of a bummer because I mainly use them to keep me cool when I sleep."
ALSO SEE: Here's why you should rethink the colour of your child's swimsuit for summer
Heat-related illnesses are a very real and serious summer health hazard. With the current heat waves taking place across Canada, a portable and personal unit like Basein's 500ml three speed fan is a great option if you don't have access to air conditioning.
While there are more expensive units on the market from brands like Dyson and Danby, not everyone can afford to pay hundreds of dollars at the drop of a hat. Basein's on-sale unit is an affordable choice if you're looking for a personal air conditioner on a budget but keep in mind that it's for personal use only, and not suitable for cooling large living spaces.
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After another round of testing, the dual-hose inverter-style Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL is now our top pick. We’ve also added the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1 as an also-great pick. We are aware of seasonal shortages on many picks in this category and are working to provide in-stock links at the best prices we can find.
After another round of testing, the dual-hose inverter-style Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL is now our top pick. We’ve also added the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1 as an also-great pick. We are aware of seasonal shortages on many picks in this category and are working to provide in-stock links at the best prices we can find.
Our previous top pick, the LG LP1419IVSM, is still a great choice if you can find it in stock, and the Black+Decker BPACT14WT remains the best budget option available.
July 20, 2021
Portable air conditioners aren’t as mobile as their name suggests, and they’re also one of the loudest and least efficient ways to cool a room. But if you don’t have central air, and a window AC isn’t an option, a portable AC is the next best way to beat the heat—and if that’s the case for you, we recommend the Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL. It’s quieter, more powerful, and generally more pleasant to live with than nearly any of the other two dozen portable ACs we’ve tested (and the hundreds more we’ve researched) since 2016.
Most portable ACs are pretty similar, but the Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL delivers better cooling performance than other models while using less energy and making less noise. Rather than running only at max speed or nothing, the Midea’s inverter-powered compressor can operate at a continuously variable speed, so the unit has a lot more flexibility in how it reaches a desired temperature in a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions. In our tests, it was also remarkably effective at distributing the cool air, never leaving more than a 1-degree temperature difference across the room. Unlike the single-hose portables we typically recommend, the Duo has a unique “hose-in-hose” setup where the exhaust and intake are split into two separate conduits contained within a single larger tube, making it even more efficient. It’s one of the quietest portable ACs we’ve ever tested, too, with a volume that consistently measured below normal conversation levels. The Midea offers all of the standard smart-home capabilities, as well, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support, and the smartphone app and the included remote offer even greater options for custom control.
If the Midea Duo isn’t available, the single-hose LG LP1419IVSM is another great option for a portable AC with an efficient inverter-powered compressor. It has a similar setup overall, with a built-in hose and a top-mounted fan that makes the AC sound as if it’s breathing in and out with steady wafts of white noise and cool air, plus all the same smart-home features. It’s slightly more expensive than the Midea, and some readers have complained about the timbre of its sound (though we never had any problems with that ourselves), but overall it’s still one of the best portable air conditioners you can find.
The Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1 impressed us not only with its ability to maintain a steady chill throughout the room within one-half of a degree but also with its surprisingly low-volume performance. Although it doesn’t have the same power or efficiency as an inverter model like the Midea or the LG, the single-hose Frigidaire somehow inexplicably managed to run at an even lower volume in our tests, beating both of those portable ACs by about 2 decibels. However, its window-installation kit wasn’t quite as robust, and while it offered all the same smart-home capabilities, we encountered some frustrations with the way they worked.
The popular, affordable Black+Decker BPACT14WT delivers where it counts—in cooling performance—better than anything else in its price range. But it’s a little rough around the edges compared with our other picks: Its operation is louder, its controls are clunkier, and it lacks the nice details we like about some other models. But even so, it gets the job done, and it’s a fine choice if you need a portable AC at something closer to a window-AC price.
Why you should trust us
We’ve been considering and testing air conditioners in general since 2013 and evaluating portable units in particular beginning in 2016. In that time, we’ve put more than 125 hours into researching and testing the full field, spending dozens of hours focused on portables specifically. We’ve considered nearly 175 different portable models and performed hands-on trials with more than 20 of the best options available. We’ve met with manufacturers at trade shows and events, corresponded with sources over years of interviews, and combed through volumes of Department of Energy material about AC efficiency standards.
This guide builds on earlier work done by Wirecutter senior staff writer Liam McCabe, who has been writing about appliances for Wirecutter since 2013.
Who this is for
If you don’t have central air conditioning, you should first look into window ACs or ductless mini-splits, which are generally more efficient and (in the case of window units) more affordable. But not every room or window type can accommodate a window AC, and mini-split installations can be too costly or complicated. If you find yourself in one of those situations, a portable air conditioner could make the difference between sweltering surroundings and comfort.
You still need to have a window for a portable AC, however, as a place to vent the heat to the outdoors. This bears repeating, because it’s a common misunderstanding regarding something called “portable”: All of these units require a window and an electrical outlet within a few feet of where they’re operating.
How we picked
Our primary concern in choosing a portable AC was finding a unit with adequate cooling performance, followed by low noise, decent efficiency, and other quality-of-life factors we measured once we saw our finalists in person.
We used independent ratings to screen candidates for cooling performance. A primary measure was seasonally adjusted cooling capacity, or SACC, a US Department of Energy calculation that represents the weighted average performance of a portable air conditioner in a number of test conditions. The SACC metric measures not only cooling capacity but also how the unit performs on muggy days or hot and dry days, and it even accounts for the effect of heat radiating back into the room from the unit’s vent. Since 2016, SACC has gradually replaced the less-comprehensive British thermal unit (Btu) rating as the standard measurement for AC power output. Many air conditioners include both numbers—the Btu measurements developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) were widely adopted—so we considered both stats in our selection.
In 2020, the Department of Energy also finalized new standards for combined energy-efficiency ratio (CEER), a new metric based on SACC that considers additional factors such as standby energy usage alongside the previously used energy-efficiency ratio (EER) measurement. We didn’t concern ourselves too much with these specific numbers as long as an AC reached our minimum SACC threshold of 7,200 Btu per hour; anything less than that, and the AC isn’t even worth a glance. (When in doubt, consult the EnergyGuide label on the box.)
We weren’t worried about oversizing the AC for the space, either. The main risk of using an oversize AC is overcooling the area before dehumidifying it, and all of these units have dehumidifier functions that can remove moisture without chilling the space if a room gets too cold and clammy. But we were more concerned about making recommendations that could actually provide adequate power. Portable ACs are notorious underperformers, generally less efficient than their window-mounted counterparts, and we’ve frequently heard that people buy a smaller unit, find it unsatisfying, and either return it or swap it out for a larger one. Our tests have borne this out over the years, as well; we’ve seen supposedly efficient models that barely made a dent in cooling rooms they were appropriately sized for. Those results helped our decision to go big and not focus too much on the claimed square-footage requirements. So we set a baseline SACC of 7,200 Btu per hour, which often corresponded with 14,000 Btu according to the older ASHRAE standards.
With our performance needs met, we gathered a half dozen finalists and evaluated them in person, looking for the following factors:
- Basic setup process: We noted whether it was easy to connect the exhaust tube, as well as whether the window panel required tools or cumbersome construction.
- Performance: We evaluated how quickly a unit cooled the room and how well it dispersed that coolness throughout the space.
- Portability: All of the units we tested had casters, but we also looked into how easy they were to move around or lift, as well as how easy they were to break down.
- Noise: We dismissed any models with an advertised noise rating of 56 decibels or higher. We then measured the actual noise output of our finalists, noting any obnoxious mechanical sounds or frequencies.
- Overall user experience: We evaluated what it was like to live with these machines, how intuitive they were to control, what size footprint they occupied, and what it would be like to store them in the off-season.
- Accessories: We looked for features such as cord storage, a remote, or the ability to connect to an app—minor factors that we noted but didn’t hang any big decisions on.
- Accessibility: With the understanding that maneuvering a portable AC into position and connecting its exhaust hoses can be physically difficult if not impossible for people with limited mobility, we sought models that made this process relatively easy, and we took note of any that used an app, remote control, scheduling, or other automations to make the devices easier to use for anyone once they’re installed and running regularly.
Our initial performance requirements for our 2021 testing narrowed the field of portable ACs to 23 promising models, and after applying our remaining criteria, we settled on five finalists to call in for testing.
What about dual-hose models?
Starting in 2019, we began comparing dual- and single-hose models according to the same criteria, and we didn’t dismiss any models based on their hose count. Our research, however, ultimately steered us toward single-hose portable models—in part because so many newer models use this design. In fact, we found no compelling new double-hose models from major manufacturers in 2019 or 2020 (although a few new ones cropped up in 2021, including our new top pick). Owner reviews indicate that most people prefer single-hose models, too, since they’re easier to set up and don’t look quite as much like a giant octopus trash sculpture. Although our testing has shown that dual-hose models tend to outperform some single-hose units in extremely hot or muggy weather, the difference is usually minimal, and we don’t think it outweighs the convenience of a single hose.
The one major exception, however, is if you plan on setting up your portable AC in a room with a furnace or hot water heater or anything else that uses combustion. When a single-hose AC model forces air out through its exhaust hose, it can create negative pressure in the room. This produces a slight vacuum effect, which pulls in “infiltration air” from anywhere it can in order to equalize the pressure. In the presence of a gas-powered device such as a furnace, that negative pressure creates a backdraft or downdraft, which can cause the machine to malfunction—or worse, fill the room with gas fumes and carbon monoxide. We don’t think that most people plan to use their portable AC in such a room, but if your home is set up in such a way that you’re concerned about ventilation, skip the rest of our recommendations here and go straight for the Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL or another dual-hose model like the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS or Whynter Elite ARC-122DHP.
How we tested
Over the course of a sweltering summer week in Boston, we set up our five finalists in a roughly 250-square-foot space, taking notes and rating each model on the basic setup process, performance, portability, accessories, and overall user experience.
The makers of portable air conditioners are required to list their performance and efficiency statistics, and our research and our previous testing have proven these numbers to be accurate. By prescreening for these stats, we got the impression that every model we tested would cool a room capably. We confirmed that they did by taking measurements with two Lascar temperature and humidity data loggers—we placed one 3 feet away, directly in front of the unit, and placed the other one 6 feet away on a diagonal. With each AC set to its lowest setting (between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the unit) and the highest fan/compressor setting, we measured the temperature and humidity in the room every 15 minutes for three hours to see how well each unit dispersed the coolness and dehumidification process across the space.
We also graded the air conditioners on the general usability factors that determine what it’s like to live with one in your home. We measured the volume at each unit’s various settings—compressor on/off and fan high/medium/low—from a distance of about 6 feet with an audio spectrum analyzer app. We gauged the overall quality of the sound and noted any spikes in any frequencies that registered in the app. As we set the units up, rolled them aside, switched from one to another, and fiddled with their vent-hose attachments in the window, we learned a lot about which ones we would get for ourselves or recommend to friends.
Our pick: Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL
The Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL is one of the quietest and most powerful portable air conditioners we’ve ever tested—but those aren’t the only reasons it stands apart from other models. The Duo is one of the rare portables with a variable inverter compressor, which allows for more fine-tuned and energy-efficient temperature control. It’s typically more affordable than the other inverter models we’ve seen, as well. The Duo is also the first new dual-hose model we’ve called in for testing since 2018, thanks in large part to its unique “hose-in-hose” design, which places the intake and exhaust hoses side by side within a single larger hose. This detail, combined with the wide variety of window-installation panels that Midea includes in the box, makes the Duo especially easy to wrangle and install (a particularly remarkable feat for a dual-hose model). It’s one of the more attractive portable ACs we’ve seen, too, although that’s kind of like saying that R2-D2 is better looking than R5-D4—one is a little more sleek-looking, but at the end of the day, they all resemble trash cans on wheels.1 Overall, the Midea Duo does a fantastic job of achieving and maintaining a desired temperature and humidity level regardless of the weather or room conditions, with a high energy-efficiency ratio and all of the convenient smart-home features you might expect. If you have to live with a portable AC in the room, this is the coolest roommate you could ask for.
Whereas most compressors run on only two speeds—on or off—this Midea model’s variable-speed inverter can adjust to more precisely match the cooling requirements of the given conditions without creating any huge spikes in energy consumption. As a result, it’s better at cooling spaces than other models with the same power output and will save you money on your electric bill in the long run. In our tests, it produced some of the most even and consistent cooling across the room, never registering more than a 1-degree difference between our monitors positioned at 3 feet directly in front of the AC and 6 feet away on a diagonal. The Duo’s efficiency advantage is clearly demonstrated in the changing standards for measuring portable AC power output, as well. According to the old ASHRAE standards, the Duo has 12,000 Btu of power, just like most of the other models we tested. But according to the more comprehensive SACC performance standards, which measure across conditions, it achieves an impressive 10,000 Btu per hour. By contrast, the other models we tested reached SACC scores between 7,200 and 8,500, even with a higher Btu rating by the old standards (although that also demonstrates some of the problems with those older measurements). So even though these units all had a similar (or larger) basic power-output level, the Midea Duo’s compressor setup allowed it to use that power output more effectively.
The Duo’s unique compressor design also means that it operates more quietly than other models, registering around 51 decibels on average (“normal conversation” reaches about 60 dB). The low and medium fan settings are remarkably quieter (45 dB and 48 dB, respectively) than the high setting (56 dB); as a result, the compressor is much more noticeable when it kicks on with the lower fan settings than when the whole thing is running on high. In fact, with both the compressor and the fan on high, we had trouble measuring any volume difference at all. The compressor did produce a fuller sound than the fan-only setting, especially on the lower end of the spectrum. But overall, the effect wasn’t unpleasant, and the Midea Duo was still slightly quieter than the other inverter-style portable AC we tested, the LG LP1419IVSM, and 2 to 5 decibels quieter than most of the other models we tested. The only exception to this trend was one of our also-great picks, the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1, which surprised us with measurements about 1 or 2 decibels quieter than what the Midea model produced, despite its use of a standard (non-inverter) compressor. But the Midea’s compressor design means that the initial difference in sound between fan-only mode and cooling mode is much less abrupt than it is on the Frigidaire. You don’t hear that distinct “Clunk! Bu-zzz-ZZZ!” as it shifts into gear as on other portable ACs; in fact, if the Duo’s fan is running on high, you probably won’t even notice when it’s actively cooling.
In addition to offering a unique “hose-in-hose” design, the Midea Duo’s hose is also built directly into the back of the AC, making it even easier to handle and store. Photo: Michael Hession
On the outside, the Duo resembles any other single-hose portable air conditioner. But contained within that hose are two separate conduits for intake and exhaust, making it even more efficient than the competition. Photo: Michael Hession
The Midea Duo came with one of the most robust window-installation kits we’ve ever seen, with enough customizable options to help you make it fit almost any window. Photo: Michael Hession
The Duo’s swinging fan is a rotating cylinder that sits on top of the unit and does an impressive job of spreading the cool air around the room. In our tests, we measured the temperature from 3 feet directly in front of the AC and 6 feet away on a diagonal, and the Duo was mostly able to retain a consistent temperature within 1 degree between those two thermometers. We say “mostly” because the fan actually hurled some of the cold air over our 3-feet-away thermometer, which initially led to some inconsistent readings. Once we figured out what was happening, it made sense and actually helped to demonstrate the Duo’s impressive air-circulation prowess. After all, cold air is heavier than warm air and thus tends to sink to the ground sooner. But the Duo was able to send those initial gusts of air far enough to ensure that the cold air actually spread before it sank. Anecdotally, we could feel that physical difference in the room, too.
In addition, the Midea Duo’s hose (which is technically two hoses in one) is built directly into the AC’s rear side, in a design that can compress like an accordion in a vertical orientation that sits nearly flush with the unit. This design is easier to manage than the hoses on other models we tested—some project awkwardly out of the back, sit perpendicular to the unit, or are completely detachable so they must be stored separately and can be misplaced. The fact that this hose is anchored to the body of the AC by default also makes it easier to wrangle when you’re trying to set the AC up (thus helping you avoid the frustration of securing the hose into the window only to realize that you accidentally pulled it out of the AC, trapping yourself in a clumsy tug-of-war with an exhaust hose). To further aid in that easy installation process, the Duo also comes with more window-panel attachment options than any other portable air conditioner we’ve ever tested. We’re not even entirely sure what kinds of windows the attachments are designed for—there were only so many windows in our home to test them on. Suffice to say, the Midea Duo is more likely to have the hardware that you need for your particular situation, whatever it may be.
The control panel and display on the Duo are large and easy to navigate, with just a few LEDs that are subtle enough that they probably won’t keep you awake at night. Like the other models we tested, the Duo allows you to set it to dehumidify (without cooling) or just run it in a fan-only mode. Its drain port works like the others, as well: You can screw it open when you need to empty the unit of condensation or attach a hose to it. Note, too, that this drain is higher up on the Duo than on other models—about 1 foot up from the bottom, which should make it easier to tilt and drain. Also like other portables, the Duo uses filters that are easy to remove and clean without any additional tools. The remote control is standard, and the unit has a convenient recess on the back to store the plug at the end of the season.
The Midea Duo’s top-mounted cylindrical fan is impressively effective at moving air through the room. Photo: Michael Hession
The Duo’s remote control is large and a little clunky, but it puts all the features you need right there at your fingertips. Photo: Michael Hession
The Duo also has smart capabilities that allow you to control it via a smartphone app, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant. Midea’s smart-feature functionality (both the app interface and voice commands) are relatively welcoming and easy to figure out. We appreciated that the Duo could function fully without relying on the app or the voice controls, but we valued this versatility, especially for anyone who has difficulty getting up and manually adjusting the unit itself. And as on other ACs with capable smart features, these abilities are especially handy for scheduling air conditioning times or turning the AC on or off when you’re away from home. Midea’s app also offers a “sleep curve” feature, so you can go to sleep in a blanket of cool air without having to worry about waking up when it’s too cold to get out of bed.
With a rating of 10,000 SACC, the MAP12S1TBL should be enough for most people. But if you need more cooling power, Midea also makes a 12,000 SACC (14,000 Btu) model, the MAP14S1TBL, as well as another portable inverter AC that provides heating in addition to cooling. We haven’t tested either of those models ourselves, but we expect them to be comparable; they’re even the exact same size as our top pick, although they both weigh a few pounds more.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
At 73 pounds, the Midea Duo is one of the heavier portable ACs out there—about 5 pounds more than our budget pick and more than 10 pounds heavier than the convertible dual-hose model we tested from GE. The caster wheels and handles make it easy enough to move around on flat areas. Carrying any portable AC up and down stairs is a challenge; the Duo’s added heft amplifies that problem.
Also great: LG LP1419IVSM
The LG LP1419IVSM was our top pick from 2019 to 2021, and it’s still pretty great if you can find it in stock. Like the Midea Duo, it has an inverter compressor that makes it quieter and more efficient than other portable air conditioners, with an SACC of 10,000 Btu per hour—the same as the Midea, even though its power output by the older standards was comparatively higher than the Midea’s at 14,000 Btu per hour. It also has all the same smart-home features (though with a different user interface), a similar built-in accordion hose and sturdy window-installation kit, and a convenient pocket on the back where you can store the remote control, plug, or manual. The LG sounds similar to the Midea, too, with a pop-up fan that makes a gentle, almost breath-like white noise. It is slightly louder, but it still measures below “normal conversation” volume; compared with our budget pick from Black+Decker, the LG is about 7 decibels quieter on average with the compressor running.
Some owner reviews complain that the compressor on the LG emits a loud, high-pitched whine that sometimes makes sleeping difficult. We didn’t hear anything like that in our own tests, although we did measure a small spike in volume that occasionally popped up around the 9,900 Hz to 10,500 Hz range, and then again between 14,500 Hz and 15,000 Hz. That’s toward the upper limit of the adult human hearing range, but it could account for the problems that some people have encountered.
The LG is also the heaviest portable AC we’ve tested. This is normally fine, since the unit has wheels to help you move it around, but its weight can be a problem when you’re trying to tip the machine over to use the drain plug, which is inconveniently located at the very bottom of the unit.
The other downside is that the LG usually costs around $100 more than the Midea—when it’s available, that is.
Also great: Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1
Although the single-hose Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect GHPC132AB1 is not an inverter-style portable AC, it proved to be even quieter and more consistent than the Midea Duo and the LG LP1419IVSM in the way it distributed the air around the room during our tests. With an SACC rating of 8,000 Btu per hour, it’s not quite as powerful as an inverter model, but it’s still better than any of the other non-inverter portable ACs we tested. The Frigidaire also cooled faster at the beginning of the cycle, dropping the temperature about 2.5 degrees across the room within the first 15 minutes and averaging a 0.57-degree temperature drop in every 15-minute increment after that, in comparison with the Midea’s 0.38-degree cooling average. And the Frigidaire was better than any other model we tested at maintaining a consistent temperature between the two sensors we placed in the testing room (one at 3 feet directly in front of the AC, and the other 6 feet away on a diagonal), spreading the air evenly around the room so that there was never more than a half-degree difference.
The Frigidaire’s cooling consistency was impressive (and inexplicable) enough for any portable air conditioner, though especially one without an inverter compressor. But its volume output came as a similar surprise, as it measured about 2 decibels quieter on average than the Midea. The Frigidaire’s compressor is a little more noticeable when it first kicks on, but otherwise it produces a mostly pleasant white noise that’s easy to ignore. Case in point: After our initial tests, we set the Frigidaire up in a 1-year-old’s bedroom, and it was indeed quieter than the white noise machine that the baby sleeps with anyway.
The control panel on the Frigidaire is clear, but the LEDs can be a little too bright. Photo: Michael Hession
The Frigidaire’s hose includes an attractive cover for the otherwise unsightly accordion hose, and it has a protective grid over the exhaust to prevent anything from sneaking inside. Photo: Michael Hession
Like the other models we tested, the Frigidaire has a drain plug, a washable filter, and mostly seamless smart-home capabilities. Its capacitive buttons are a nice touch, too (no pun intended), although we found it difficult to remember where the power button was each time we tried to turn the machine off or on (it’s on the right side of the control panel, the opposite side from the positioning on most portables). However, the LED indicators—including the optional Quick Glance Light, which lets you know when your room has reached your target temperature—were a little too bright for our tastes. This light might be tolerable for some people in some situations, but it could be bothersome in the bedroom if you’re particularly sensitive to light. (Even after turning it “off” in the app, we still had some trouble with the Quick Glance Light annoyingly flashing in the middle of the night to warn us that the filter needed a rinse.)
Good night, too-bright LED indicators
The Frigidaire app is fine overall, and it unlocks some additional functionality, including the unit’s built-in air ionizer. We’re typically skeptical of the health claims of these sorts of ionizers, but hey, if that’s what you’re into, go for it. Our bigger gripe with the app concerns the lengthy registration process, which requires you to give Frigidaire all of your contact information, including your home address and the unit’s date of purchase. If you wait to set up your AC until an already-sweltering day, you’ll be even more annoyed when you realize you need to sign up for more junk mail before you can get cool again.
Finally, we found the Frigidaire’s window-installation kit to be somewhat lacking. Although the hose has some nice touches such as a lattice over the exhaust port and a nice cloth sheath to dress up the otherwise unsightly plastic accordion tube, this model also came with the least modular window-panel options. We had to snap one of the plastic plates in half in order to fit it snugly into a standard double-hung window. This is particularly disappointing since the window panels were one of the standout features of this model’s predecessor, the now-discontinued Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect FGPC1244T1, which we previously recommended as an also-great pick.
Budget pick: Black+Decker BPACT14WT
The Black+Decker BPACT14WT is loud and clumsy, yet it’s your best bet for a cheapish portable air conditioner that will actually get the job done. In previous years, we had limited our search to models with an energy-efficiency ratio of at least 9 and a seasonally adjusted cooling capacity of 7,200, and this Black+Decker model just made the cut on both metrics, with an EER of 9.86 and a SACC of 7,500. However, it’s also the most affordable option we’ve tested that meets those standards; plenty of more expensive models didn’t even reach our threshold for power and efficiency.
In our tests, the Black+Decker BPACT14WT’s condenser started at 64 dB with the fan running low—about 8 decibels louder than the Midea Duo at its loudest. Even with the condenser off, the Black+Decker still emitted about as much noise as the Midea and the Frigidaire GHPC132AB1 at their absolute top volume. It also produced the most uneven range of frequencies: We measured peaks around 100 Hz (like the low end of a guitar) and then again at the high range of 4,500 Hz, 5,500 Hz, and 9,000 Hz (like a bunch of cymbals and sibilant “s” sounds). This is great if you think you might enjoy listening to an amateur White Stripes cover band with a snake on lead vocals, but it might not be the best if you want to sleep or get any work done. Full disclosure: When I was measuring these frequencies with the Black+Decker running in a small, closed room, I got a headache after 15 minutes.
At 68.3 pounds, the Black+Decker BPACT14WT was the second-lightest model we tested. Its rough, bumpy casters feel cheaply made but work well enough. Photo: Rozette Rago
The controls on the Black+Decker are touch-sensitive, but it’s hard to tell if you’ve activated them. Photo: Rozette Rago
The Black+Decker’s window setup requires a screwdriver to lock the sliding plates into place. Photo: Rozette Rago
It's not easy finding a cheap portable air conditioner on sale, but Amazon has recently been offering a slew of discounts on these compact AC units. The latest offering worth a look is on this Whynter ARC-14S portable AC, dehumidifier and fan unit that's getting 21% taken off the price.
On sale for $475.21, this portable AC deal offers a great portable air conditioner for the value. Normally running $600, the $120+ discount makes it a deal worth a look for anyone in need of a portable air conditioner on sale cheap today. Producing some of the best portable air conditioners on the market, Whynter A/C units are a great choice to cool yourself off with.
Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Now: $510.21 | Was: $599.99 | Savings: $89.78 (15%)
Suitable for rooms up to 500 square feet, this AC unit is a solid buy for those in need of a reliable air conditioner. Complete with a dehumidifier, the ARC-14S is great for rooms as large as 500 square feet. More than enough coverage for the living room, master bedroom or family room.View Deal
Part portable air conditioner, part dehumidifier, part fan, the ARC-14S covers rooms up to 500 square feet in size. Enough for any single bedroom, master bedroom, family room, living room, you name it.
The ARC-14S features on-board digital controls as well as a remote control for quick settings, from setting the ideal temperature to timers and more. It also uses advanced auto draining technology to recycle and use moisture collected during cooling to produce even colder air. For the price, the cooling efficiency of this is hard to beat and with a dual hose setup cools most rooms in a matter of minutes.
Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
A great home portable AC unit for the price
Reasons to buy
+14,000 BTU offers great cooling capability+Run as AC, dehumidifier or fan+Cools up to 500 square feet
Reasons to avoid
-Maintenance can be a hassle
While many won't consider $476 a "cheap portable air conditioner" on sale, the value alone is worth the discounted price tag. Whynter units are very durable and reliable, delivering on both the investment and cooling efficiency needed with portable AC units. It won't run your electric bill up too much, but expect a noticeable increase in your bill if you plan to run this thing day and night.
Whynter AC units might be a bit out of your price range, however, and that's ok! There are plenty of other deals on portable air conditioners to check out thanks to the holiday shopping season. We've provided more of some of the best portable air conditioner deals today below.
Be sure to also check out T3's Black Friday deals hub as well! We'll be following the biggest sale event of the year closely, with updates on start times, best deals, what to expect, and more!
You can also take a look at our best Cyber Monday deals guide to get an early start on the biggest online shopping day of the year! Learn where to look for the best deals, what to watch out for, and more!
Lastly, if you're hoping to find some holiday gift shopping inspiration head on over to our best Christmas gifts guide today! We'll be covering the hottest products and trends picking up this holiday season.
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