Best Smallest, Portable & Window Air Conditioners

Standard portable and window ACs that are commonly available in the market usually have a cooling power of around 8,000-10,000 or 15,000-18,000 BTU, but go as high as 24,000 BTU, as well. A common misconception that a lot of people have is that a normal-sized models would be the better option for an efficient and powerful remedy against heat, even in small rooms. This is far from the truth!

These standard units are kind of too powerful for small rooms and are more suitable for spacious rooms with an area of 350-30,000 sq. ft. Using them in rooms with an area below 300 sq. ft area will just lead to a too rapid cycling of process, leading to wasted energy and costly electricity bills.

If you’re only looking to cool down a small area, such as a 10 x 10, 12 x 12, or a 14 x 14 sized room, the best in category, small portable or window AC is all you need! In this post, we’ll discuss the features to look out for and explore the available options on the market. With an efficient, energy-saving, and space-saving mini unit, you can cut down extra electricity costs while staying cool and comfortable in your room even during the summer.

yellow house with an air conditioner

What to look for

To cool a room with an area of about 100 sq. ft. up to 300 sq. ft., even the smallest portable option would be enough! Here are the types available on the market that are suitable for small, solo rooms:

  • Portable (PACs)

PACs are compact, ergonomic units, designed to be a convenient appliance that you can transfer from one room to another without any trouble. Although these can be a bit more expensive than small window models, their portability makes up for it; you can just use one (1) PAC for different rooms, eliminating the need for the installation of multiple window models in your house. Despite their compact size, they can efficiently cool a room in mere minutes! Look for a 8,000 BTU unit, which is enough to cool rooms of up to 300 sq. ft.

However, do note that they require venting, just like normal ones! But there’s no need to fret because their kits are pretty easy to install. You can just follow the manual and have installation done within the day!

  • Window

The most common type is a window model; it is a whole unit installed in a window opening. It’s popular due to its space-saving design and relatively easy installation; it doesn’t take up your limited floor space and all you need is a window to accommodate the whole unit. Furthermore, small, low BTU window ACs are the most affordable models in the market (definitely fits the term “small but terrible” but in a good way!).

For a small room, opt for the smallest option with the appropriate BTU level, so the window won’t be too crowded and to avoid wasting energy. For a 100 sq. ft. room, a 5,000 BTU model would be sufficient to cool you down! For a 250-300 sq. ft. room, opt for one with a cooling capacity of 6,000-7,000 BTU.

If you like this guide, check out our guide on low watt generators, wood chippers and router tables as well.

  • Battery-powered

Although these can be more expensive than the usual alternative, it’s definitely a worthy spend because of its convenience and flexible use, such as cooling you down during a long drive across states in your minivan or to keep you comfortable during a hot camping day. Since battery-powered ones aren’t limited by power cords, you can literally use it anytime, anywhere, whether it’s in your room, car, RV, tent, or outdoors. Charging is also easy, with some units having compatible USB connectors or solar panels and quick charging time.

Battery-powered models work much like mini compact ones; they remove heat from air to produce cool, dehumidified air via hot-cold air exchange, wherein heat is evaporated out of the air and a refrigerant cools the air. Each, therefore, also has a ventilation and drainage hose. This makes battery-operated options better in terms of cooling power and capacity compared to coolers, with the usual BTU range of 2,000-3,000 BTU.

For a more affordable pick, check out evaporative coolers! However, since these only rely on the use of evaporation of cold water to produce cool air, they have a lower cooling power (0 BTU) compared to mini window models and cannot remove heat itself from air. Their advantage lies in not needing a hose or venting system, upping portability and convenience. Despite having lower cooling power, portable coolers can cool you down with a continuous blast of refreshing, cool air.

Still confused about the difference between the different options? Check out this article on our blog for a more thorough explanation and more examples  of ventless coolers: Best Portable Air Conditioner Without Hose: Ventless Exhaust Options.

several outside air conditioners

Do they make smaller models?

Yes, there are a lot of small options on the market! These are usually labeled as mini compact window air conditioners or mini window ones. Small rooms also have small windows wherein standard models wouldn’t fit into, so manufacturers saw the need for compact, cost-saving units.

Are they any good?

Absolutely! Mini air conditioners operate the same way as usual models do; the only difference between the two is their size. They can eliminate the heat from the air and produce cold, dehumidified air. Here’s a quick summary of how it works:

  • It takes in hot air from the room and condenses it into liquid to evaporate the air out of it.

  • The resulting liquid is cooled down and processed once again to become cool air, which is blown into the room.

  • The removed heat, in the form of hot air, is released outside through an exhaust hose via the venting system. The moisture or condensate that accumulated from the process of dehumidification and cooling down is released via drainage hose/s.

No matter what size or type yours is, if you bought a unit with the wrong BTU or cooling capacity, it wouldn’t be able to cool your room efficiently. Thus, the key to having an effective model is to buy a unit with a proper BTU level that corresponds to your room size!

How much capacity do I need?

As a rule of thumb, 1 sq. ft. requires a BTU level of 20 BTU/hr. Thus, a larger room would require a higher level of BTU level and a smaller one requires a lower BTU level. It’s important to note that you have to buy something with the appropriate BTU level—opting for a too powerful machine would result in energy waste & expensive electricity bills, while models with a too low BTU level would not be able to cool your room, no matter how long you let it run (which also leads to wasted energy and money).

To make things easier for you, below is a handy guide in BTU level and room area from Energy Star. Take an accurate measure of your room size and match it with the BTU level in the table below:

Source: Energy Star

However, there are some factors that might shift the BTU level requirement, such as the use of kitchen appliances (oven, stove, etc.), body count or crowded areas (due to body heat or respiration), and sunlight exposure. Make sure to consult with your local or online brand’s customer service regarding the needed BTU adjustments.

What’s the smallest BTU capacity you can buy?

To put things into perspective, the average dimension of some of the smallest options is 15 x 15 x 12 inches and weigh around 40-50 lbs. For portable models, the dimension varies a lot more due to the difference in style and design (i.e., rectangular, free-standing ones are generally taller than window ACs). As mentioned earlier, these have a BTU range of 5,000-8,000 BTU and can work efficiently in small rooms of up to 300 sq. ft., considering that there are no heat-emitting appliances indoors, such as stoves or ovens.

What is the best one?

Just like standard models, there are some that trump others depending when it comes to a couple of factors. Below are the features that you should look out for if you want to have the best mini air conditioner for your room that’s worth every penny:

window ac

Things to look for
Size Dimension Features
Type Design Needs
Installation Energy consumption
  1. Size / Dimension / Design

Make sure to go for one that has a compact, ergonomic design, especially if you have a cluttered room or a small window opening, to maximize your space. To ensure that everything fits properly, measure the available space in your room that you want to dedicate for an AC, and base your canvassing on that measurement. Bear in mind to always use the proper measurement unit! Here’s a chart for SAE to metric conversion that you can use to make things easier for you. Also, look for brands that offer thin models, which will lessen the weight of the AC and would make it easier to install.

  1. Type / Installation

At the start of the post, I’ve outlined that you can opt for a (1) portable, (2) small window, and (3) battery-powered portable AC or evaporative cooler. Choose wisely on which of these three is the most effective type for your needs. Here are some insights for you to take your pick:

  • If your sole window only has one pane, which you’d like to open once in a while, I suggest you opt for a free-standing portable model instead of a window one. A window model usually makes a window unusable after installation (i.e., you can’t open it freely anymore) but the venting system is relatively smaller and won’t hinder you from opening/closing your window. Another alternative is a portable evaporative cooler, since it doesn’t require the use of a window for venting or drainage purposes.

  • If you have a wide window (or two) and a very limited floor space, a window model would be a better pick. This saves you from further cluttering your floor! Furthermore, they are generally more powerful and energy efficient than others. However, if your sole window is too narrow to accommodate even a small unit or a venting system, you can opt for a casement or vertical window model, which can fit into narrow openings and sliding windows.

  • If you want to have a cooling appliance that you can literally carry around, buying a battery-powered mini portable unit is the way to go! You can use it in your tent during camping or even add it in your RV during a road trip, alongside a good cassette toilet, if you’re trying to take some load off your engine to avoid malfunctions in the idle air control valve.

  1. Energy Consumption

The first thing that one should consider before buying is the effect that its usage will have on energy consumption and electricity bills. This is where the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) rating comes in. To find the most energy-efficient one among your options, look for a brand or unit that is Energy Star Qualified and has a high rating—the higher the rating, the more energy-efficient it is. This means it uses up the least energy possible to cool down your room, leading to lower electricity costs than other standard models. On an average, Energy Star Certified models use 10% less energy and cut down around $75/year on electricity bills.

  1. Smart & Safety Features

For your convenience, opt for a brand or model that has a couple of smart, useful tricks up its sleeve. Look for one that has a user-friendly interface, remote control, auto-off or restart feature, adjustable fan and mode control, timer, removable/washable filter, and a filter indicator. These features might seem mundane at first glance, but they will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. And if you’re going to install it in your bedroom or office, where a serene, silent atmosphere is preferred, opt for one with a low-noise operation, such as units with a noise level of 65 dB or less.

Now that we’ve outlined the must-have features, here are some that caught our attention, ticking each box for these features and falling under the category of “best on the market”:

Best portable: Honeywell MO08CESWB

Honeywell’s MO08CESWB is a compact 3-in-1 portable system that can serve as a dehumidifier, AC, and fan. This is high on our list due to its high energy efficiency rating (EER) in addition to being a powerful yet compact unit. What’s also great is that it has a user-friendly interface and is relatively lightweight, which makes it easy to move around and operate.

  • Cooling power: 8,000 BTU

  • Room size capacity of up to 300 sq. ft.

  • EER: 11.4

  • Dimensions (DxWxH): 14.6 x 13.5 x 27.7 inches

  • Weight: 43 lbs

Best affordable & portable: Black+Decker BPACT08WT

Black+Decker’s BPACT08WT is an affordable and reliable pick. What’s good about this unit is its more compact size: it has a shorter and slimmer design, standing at 26 inches tall and only 11.5 inches in depth. It is, however, heavier and has a lower energy efficiency rating.

  • Cooling power: 8,000 BTU

  • Size capacity of up to 300 sq. ft.

  • EER: 8.4

  • Dimensions (DxWxH): 11.4 x 13.5 x 14.6 inches

  • Weight: 52.9 lbs

Best compact window unit: Frigidaire FFRE0533S1

Frigidaire is one of the top and well-known brands in the industry. They’ve been pioneering the production of high quality, energy efficient, and reliable cooling appliances since 1918, so it’s no surprise that the popularity of this brand runs deep, to the extent that people treat “Frigidaire” as synonymous with “air conditioner.” The FFRE0533S1 115V by Frigidaire is perfect for a small, solo room that has a small window, with its lightweight body and compact size. What’s even greater is that it boasts the following features: a high energy efficiency rating, low-noise operation, smart controls, multi-speed function.

  • Cooling power: 5,000 BTU

  • Size capacity of up to 150 sq. ft.

  • EER: 12.2

  • Dimensions (DxWxH): 12 x 16 x 15.25 inches

  • Weight: 42 lbs

  • Smart controls: Energy Saver (Econ mode), remote control, and electronic air purifier.

Frigidaire FFRA0511R1E

Another Frigidaire unit worth mentioning is the FFRA0511R1E, which is a lot more affordable than the previous one. It has two fan and cooling speeds, capable of cooling a room in a matter of minutes. Although it does not have the advanced smart features that FFRE0533S1 has, it does its job and has high energy efficiency. It’s also lightweight and quiet, a perfect addition to offices or bedrooms.

  • Cooling power: 5,000 BTU

  • Size capacity of up to 150 sq. ft.

  • EER: 11.1

  • Dimensions (DxWxH): 12 x 16 x 15 inches

  • Weight: 41 lbs

Best battery-powered: Zero Breeze Mark 2

This portable choice might be quite expensive but its portability is top-notch. Incredible versatility comes at a price, just like how the best portable tri-fuel generators are a bit pricier than standard ones. It’s also the most compact and lightweight options among our selection and boasts a relatively high EER. This cordless battery-powered beast runs on 27 Amps and needs 650 W of power.

  • Cooling power: 2,300 BTU

  • Size capacity of up to 100 sq. ft.

  • EER: 9.6

  • Dimensions (DxWxH): 20 x 10 x 11 inches

  • Weight: 16.5 lbs

For a more affordable option, check out these ventless portable coolers that can offer you cool, dehumidified air at a very low cost.

Tools and charts for your home renovation needs:

When it comes to home renovations or setting up your appliances, getting professional help is sometimes out of the picture due to the hefty cost. So, if you know your way with DIYs and other simple home renovations, why not do it yourself? In line with this, here are some tools, guides, and charts, that can help you with your daily handywork:

If, however, you’re all set with home renovations, why not try home gardening instead? Take a quick look at our guides on how to save your cucumber plants’ leaves from turning yellow and how to get rid of fruit flies, drain flies, and gnats in your home for a worry-free backyard garden!

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