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Best portable air conditioner 2023: Tried and tested compact conditioners to keep you cool this summer

best portable air conditioner 2023

Going crazy with the heat? Cool things down with our pick of the best portable air conditioners

Do you struggle to sleep when it’s too hot? Or do you have an office where it’s too muggy to get anything done? The best portable air conditioners (PAC) will keep a single room cool in the hot summer months, with no disruptive installation required and at a much lower cost than house-wide systems.

Most models feature a built-in timer, so they run only when you’re using the room and without wasting energy. You can even move them around, with some limitations, so the same unit that cools your home office in the day can also keep your bedroom chilled at night.

Best portable air conditioner: At a glance

How to choose the best portable air conditioner for you

How much do I need to spend?

PACs aren’t cheap: most cost somewhere between £300 and £1,000. Below this price, you tend to find evaporative air coolers rather than true air conditioners, which aren’t as effective.

How much you need to spend depends on your cooling requirements. PACs are rated in British thermal units (BTU): one BTU is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree. A higher rating means an air conditioner can cool a larger space, which normally means the unit itself will be larger and more expensive. A 9,000BTU unit will handle a space of approximately 45 cubic metres, while a 12,000BTU unit could go up to 90 cubic metres. Measure your room before you buy to make sure you choose an air conditioner that's up to the job.

Of course, you don’t want to go much bigger than you have to. Weight, size and convenience matter, and if a unit’s too big, too heavy and too difficult to set up, then you may end up avoiding using it except for a few really hot days in the summer. You need to balance the cooling power you need against how big and obtrusive a PAC can be before you’re not prepared to put up with it.

Where can I put a portable air conditioner?

Positioning is another issue: most PACs need to vent hot air through a window, and if you can’t place it right next to a suitable opening, you will either need to put a permanent vent through the wall or find a model with a hose extender. What’s more, where the air goes out, there’s also potential for more warm air to creep in. In fact, the negative air pressure created by the air conditioner actively encourages it to do so.

Most PACs will come with a window fixing kit to block any gap, but this might only be suitable for a sash window, sliding door or hinged top window. While you might be able to improvise with hardboard or towels, it makes sense to check what options you have available for your chosen PAC before you get it home.

Hot air isn’t the only thing your air conditioner needs to expel. As the air cools, moisture condenses out of it, which is collected inside the PAC. Some units can evaporate this internally and exhaust it through the hose or the back of the unit; in other models, it’s kept in an internal reservoir that needs to be emptied manually.

Are they going to be noisy and expensive to run?

All PACs incorporate a compressor and one or more fans, so they’re never going to be totally silent. Some are quieter than others, however: you should find the minimum and/or maximum noise pressure levels listed in the manufacturer’s specification. Watch out for sleep modes, too. These power down the compressor and reduce the speed of any fans to make the PAC’s hum a little easier to sleep through. If you really struggle with the noise, though, think about cooling the room before you go to sleep, or try using a desktop or pedestal fan instead.

As for running costs, a higher BTU rating generally means the PAC will be doing more work and consuming more energy, but not all units are created equal. Your air conditioner should have an energy efficiency class, from A++ down to G, just like your fridge or cooker. The higher the class, the more efficient the unit will be.

Are there any other features I should look out for?

Like most big appliances, PACs come with an environmental cost. You can help cut that down by picking an energy-efficient A++ model, but some manufacturers are also boosting their green credentials by using refrigerant gases, such as R290, that have a lower environmental impact and don’t create greenhouse gases during the product lifecycle.

PACs should really be emptied and cleaned at the end of every summer season, and easily accessible fans and filters make that job a whole lot easier. Make sure you clear out any pipes or drains as well; they can get pretty stinky if left alone over a long winter.

READ NEXT: Best fans

The best portable air conditioners you can buy in 2023

1. MeacoCool MC Series 7000: A highly effective air conditioner for smaller spaces 

Price: £300 | Buy now from Meaco

Air-conditioning units don’t get much more reasonably priced than the MeacoCool MC 7000. Suitable for rooms up to 22m² thanks to its 7,000 BTU rating, the unit includes two fan speeds, as well as dehumidifier and fan functions. It’s reasonably compact, too, measuring less than a metre tall and 35cm square. At 21kg, it’s also more realistically portable than some PACs; you can just about lug it from room to room without risking a hernia.

As with all true air conditioners, the MC Series 7000 needs to be vented out of a window, but it's supplied with a 1.8m window hose and a sash window/sliding door kit so you can do that straight out of the box. For other types of windows, you will need the “flexible” window kit, which now comes bundled with MC-series PACs. If you’re planning to use the dehumidifier function, you will also need to connect the supplied outlet hose and keep a bucket or container for drainage; there’s no internal tank.

Once set up, it’s a highly effective unit that’s able to effortlessly keep your average UK living or bedroom cool down to temperatures of 16˚C. In tests, we managed to cool our mid-sized living room from 24˚C to 20˚C within an hour. We also like that the unit uses a more environmentally friendly R290 refrigerant.

The only major downsides are noise and power consumption. The MC Series 7000 outputs around 58dBA in typical use, and is only a few decibels quieter with the fan on its lower setting. And while it uses around 104W while cooling, we saw that rise to peaks of 641W during dehumidification – although the way the dry mode works means that this isn’t constant, by any means. Still, you’ll hear the same complaints of most PACs, but you can easily live with such issues when the price is so low and the performance so impressive.

Read our full MeacoCool MC 7000 review

Key specs – BTU rating: 7,000; Functions: AC, dehumidifier, fan; Energy rating: A; Max noise: 65dB; Extra features: Remote control, timer, two-speed fan; Hose length: 1.8m; Dimensions: 348 x 335 x 740mm; Weight: 21kg

Buy now from Meaco

2. Amcor SF8000E: Best low-cost portable air conditioner>

Price: £270 | Buy now from Appliances Direct

Looking to cool a small living room, home office or bedroom? The Amcor SF8000E is one of the smallest and cheapest PACs around. At 34.5 x 37.8cm, it has a tiny footprint and stands less than a metre high, yet it can still dish out 7,000BTU of cooling, bringing down the temperatures in small-sized rooms of up to 18m². At 21kg, it’s just about movable on its caster wheels, although you’re restricted by the 1.5m hose and sliding window kit.

Obviously, the relatively low BTU rating puts it out of contention for larger rooms, let alone open-plan living spaces, but for the average UK living room or bedroom it should be fine. You can control it using the top-mounted touch controls or bundled remote, and there’s a 24-hour stop/start timer to cool your bedroom before you go to sleep. The only problem is that most users describe it as “pretty noisy”. You might not want to leave this one running overnight.

Key specs – BTU rating: 7,000; Functions: AC, dehumidifier, fan; Energy rating: A; Max noise: 64dB; Extra features: Remote control, timer, two-speed fan; Hose length:1.5m; Dimensions: 345 x 870 x 378mm; Weight: 21kg

Buy now from Appliances Direct

3. AEG ChillFlex Pro 26U339CW: A premium portable air conditioner for larger rooms

Price: £462 | Buy now from AO 

AEG’s compact PAC combines streamlined looks and top build quality with effective, energy-efficient cooling, creating one of the best PACs out there. With a 9,000BTU cooling capacity, it can handle rooms of up to 18m³ and it still has an A energy rating. It’s relatively loud on the highest of the three fan settings but quiet when on the lowest, and it does a great job of getting the temperature down quickly. What’s more, it uses R290 as a refrigerant, making it a more eco-friendly option than some low-cost conditioners. It also doubles as a fan, heater and dehumidifier, collecting 1.2 litres of water per hour into the tank or, in fan and heater modes, a separate outlet hose.

It’s easy to use, either via the top-mounted controls or the bundled remote, and you can quickly set the desired temperature or timers for start-up and shutdown. Any issues it has are mostly practical – the hose is short and AEG doesn’t supply a window kit – making this a cool, compact PAC with a smidgeon of style and a luxury feel.

Key specs – BTU rating: 9,000; Functions: AC, dehumidifier, heater, fan; Energy rating: A; Noise: 64dB; Features: Remote control, timer, three-speed fan, heat pump; Hose length: 1.5m; Dimensions: 705 x 472 x 383mm; Weight: 31kg to 34kg

Buy now from AO

4. De'Longhi Pinguino PAC EX100 Silent: Best air conditioner for medium-sized rooms

Price: £660 | Buy now from Appliances Direct 

Calling this a “Silent” air conditioner is pushing it; at its maximum sound level of 64dB, it’s definitely audible, although in-use noise levels are normally lower than many rival PACs. It’s A++ energy-efficient, and dishes out 10,000BTU of cooling power, which is enough to chill a medium-sized room with impressive speed.

The EX100 has a glowing indicator to tell you when the room is uncomfortable (orange), acceptable (green) or perfect (blue), and it’s easy to switch modes and adjust settings using the controls at the front or the bundled LCD remote control. There’s even a convenient space to hold the latter in the pop-up oscillation flap. Make no mistake, this is a bigger, heavier unit than the average, measuring over 90cm tall and 445cm wide, but a sleek design means it’s not too intrusive, and it’s hard to complain when it’s so effective. A great, if pricey, portable air conditioner.

Key specs – BTU rating: 10,000; Functions: AC, dehumidifier, cooler, filter; Energy rating: A++; Max noise: 64dB; Features: Remote control, timer, three-speed fan, air filter, Real Feel technology; Hose length: 1.2m; Dimensions: 445 x 905 x 390mm; Weight: 30kg

Buy now from Appliances Direct

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