The 7 Best Quiet Portable Air Conditioners
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in March of 2019. If you don't have central air conditioning and don't wish to install a window unit, then consider a portable option, instead. They can be moved anywhere, as needed, thanks to casters, and vent to the outdoors via the included hose kits. These models are designed to not disturb you too much and, when the weather turns cool again, they can be stashed out of the way without taking up too much space. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 18, 2020:
Today we replaced the Honeywell Contempo with the similar, but more powerful, Honeywell HL14CES. This new addition is designed for rooms between 550 and 700 square feet. Its dual filters extend its life by keeping out dust and hair. Like many, it offers a dedicated dehumidifier mode, but this one provides the convenience of a spigot that allows you to drain it by hooking it up to a standard garden hose. It incorporates the additional conveniences of an energy-saving 24-hour timer, onboard cord storage, and a setup that does not require any tools. We also added the LG LP1217GSR into the selection, as it has a lot to offer when it comes to efficiency and ease of use. It’s got an oscillating vent that ensures air circulates throughout the entire area to eliminate hot spots. This sleek graphite gray model also offers an intuitive control panel and a handy remote control that lets you operate it from anywhere in the room.
The Emerson Quiet Kool remains in a prominent spot on the list, thanks to its high-efficiency compressors that keep noise levels at bay, as well as a highly portable design that includes four smoothly rolling casters. Although it’s a bit bulkier than many, the Whynter ARC-14S can cool down a space quickly and remains relatively quiet at less than 56 decibels. For a smart air conditioner that’s also highly portable, check out the JHS Wi-Fi Digital, which allows you to set the mode, temperature, fan, and timer with the corresponding smartphone app. Another smart model we considered adding in today’s update is the Frigidaire Cool Connect, but too many reviewers have complained it’s not quiet enough for their taste.
No matter which model you go with, when having your portable air conditioner installed, it’s important to make sure the exhaust and drain hoses are air- and water-tight, for proper performance.
April 03, 2019:
We looked for models that offered a setting below 56 decibels so that the noise would not compete with regular conversation or the television.
The Honeywell Contempo took the top spot for having an energy-saving mode that registers below 50 decibels, making it perfect for bedrooms. We included the slightly louder Whynter ARC-14S for offering a dual hose option that allows for more efficient cooling and introduces fresh air into the room.
And despite some reports of extra vibrating noise with the JHS Wi-Fi Digital, we included it for it's wifi capability and because the vibrating noise seems to be an easy fix for those who experience the problem.
GE Smart Portable This 3-in-1 model offers air conditioning, fan modes, and dehumidifying capability, so you can use it to feel comfortable in your home throughout much of the year. You can monitor and program it from anywhere using the GE Appliances Comfort app, and the user-friendly control panel incorporates a digital thermostat. Its auto-evaporation technology means under most room conditions there won’t be a bucket to empty. Its single-hose exhaust setup is compatible with both double-hung and sliding windows between 20 and 46 inches in width, with a minimum height of 4.8 inches. geappliances.com
A Lesson Before Melting
You’d swear the air was water itself but for the fact that you haven't drowned in it.
It’s late August, and the only thing more reliable than the impending end of summer freedom is the heat. And not just any heat. Everything sticks to everything. You’d swear the air was water itself but for the fact that you haven't drowned in it. Not yet anyway. You hear an ice cream truck in the distance, but it never seems to actually get closer, and the doppler effect bends and warps its music into a maddening, unrecognizable soup. You take a cold shower to lower your body temperature, but when you throw on a shirt after, you’ve already sweat so much that the cotton sticks to your back like an octopus. There is no relief.
Maybe you own an air conditioner, and maybe you even have central air. But something isn’t working right, or the room you need to spend those long, sweltering afternoons in just doesn’t cool off like the rest of the house. Whatever the case, a simple fan won’t cut it. This is when you need to invest in a portable air conditioner, and the quiet models here can cool you off without driving you mad from noise.
At their cores, these air conditioners work much the same as any other, passing a current of air over a coil filled with compressed refrigerant, its extreme cold being ferried away thermodynamically by the warm current of air passing over it. That current cools in the process and emerges from the conditioner, forced out by a quiet, but powerful fan, and floods your space. In the process, the coil attracts moisture from the air, dehumidifying it as it cools.
The big difference between the models here and the boxy units you’re probably used to is that these are portable. Not portable in the sense that you can take them with you to the park or the beach, but portable in the sense that they can relatively easily move around a room, apartment, or house as needed. That’s thanks to the fact that they all have smooth-moving casters on them, but it’s important to remember that like any AC, these require ventilation. This often takes the form of a long hose leading out the back of the unit and to a hole cut out in a window or wall. If you want to be able to take your portable AC with you to more than one room in your home, you’ll have to set up multiple points for ventilation.
Choosing A Portable AC
Choosing the right quiet portable AC is likely going to start with your room size, as any air conditioner is rated to cool rooms of a certain size. This rating is often relayed in terms of British Thermal Units, and while more of these is almost always better, you’re probably reading this because you’re looking for a solution that will perform within a certain sound restriction, and buying an overpowered AC is likely to create more noise than it’s worth. Try to find the appropriate BTUs for the area you need to cool, then buy a model that’s a little stronger than that, since it’s not always smart to trust the manufacturer’s claims for this kind of spec.
That way, you’ll never have to come home to a hot house ever again.
After you find a few models that can serve your space, you can look into things like decibel level, remote capabilities, smart connectivity, and included hardware. Decibels are a measure of sound intensity, and for a quiet AC, the lower this number is the better. Just be careful if you see a model with a suspiciously low decibel count, as that might indicate a weak fan that won’t be able to push that cold air out into the room as well as you might like.
Many of these devices come with remote controls, so you can set them up conveniently near a window and let them do their thing, making adjustments from a distance as needed. Some take this remote control capability a step further by entering into the ever-growing internet of things. These models will have Wi-Fi connectivity and allow you to integrate them into your smart home, so you can manage the temperature in your space from anywhere you get a signal. That way, you’ll never have to come home to a hot house ever again.
Finally, there’s the issue of included hardware. Now, most portable ACs will come with a hose for ventilation, but some don’t include everything you might need to create one or more ports for ventilation in a given window frame. If you know that you have atypical windows, this is an important thing to investigate. Keep and eye on the specs of what’s offered and make sure to take measurements of your potential venting points before you buy.
Other Ways To Help Beat The Heat
A portable AC can go a long way toward keeping you from the Hitchcockian nightmare of a temperature-induced murder. But there are additional things you can do around the house to help beat the heat, and things you can get your hands on to help you take that heat-beating skill out into the world with you.
One of the fastest ways a space can get hot is from the sun beating in through the windows.
One of the fastest ways a space can get hot is from the sun beating in through the windows. This is how cars get so hot so quickly. But you can keep a tremendous amount of this heat energy out of your space by simply investing in a set of blackout curtains for every window facing south or west. As an additional benefit to their blocking out heat, they can make an entertainment space completely dark in the middle of the day, so you won’t have any glare on your TV or computer screen.
If you’re a little squeamish about the energy consumption of even the most eco-friendly portable AC unit, you might be interested in an evaporative cooler. These devices rely on the thermodynamically cooling effect of evaporation to create a breeze that’s a few degrees cooler than your environment, without running an energy-hungry compressor. And the same technology fuels things like personal coolers for desk spaces, cooling towels for trips into the wilderness, and portable misting fans that are great companions at sporting events.