The five best portable air conditioners 

Best portable air conditioners
Taking into account the price, efficiency and durability, this is our round-up of the best portable air conditioners

With Britain in a prolonged period of quarantine, and the nation longing forward to some much-needed sun, we're all looking to make our homes as comfortable as possible in the coming months.

If this summer is anything like the last, a portable air conditioner unit will be somewhat essential to help us remain fresh and unflustered. Whether you find sleeping impossible in warm muggy temperatures, or your office has become an insufferable sauna, your portable friend will make hot summer days much more bearable. 

But mobile air conditioners aren't cheap. One of the best models will set you back a few hundred pounds - but that's surely a price worth paying for your comfort. 

Portable air conditioners (PACs) are rated in British Thermal Units (BTU). A higher BTU number means a larger room can be cooled, although this also makes the device bigger, pricier and, in some cases, less eco-friendly. For example, a 9,000 BTU air conditioner will cool a room of 45 cubic metres, so it's worth checking what size room you'll be cooling before buying. 

Aside from power, you need to consider noise. Most portable air conditioners range from 50-56 decibels – with 56 decibels equivalent to background chatter in a restaurant.

Taking the above into consideration, we have assessed devices’ efficiency, price, portability and durability, and sought advice from multiple experts. The following are, in our opinion, some of the best portable air conditioners on the market – starting with our favourite.

1. Delonghi PAC EX100 Portable Air Conditioner

£789, Amazon

Quiet and environmentally-friendly: the De'Longhi PAC EX100 is our favourite portable air conditioner

Both Paul Wood,  managing director of online retailer Andrews Sykes, and Ryan Kandola, commercial director at airconcentre.co.uk, recommend renowned Italian brand De’Longhi. “They are good compressor manufacturers, and the compressor is the heart of the unit,” Wood says. Kandola agrees that “they’ve got good quality to them” as well as “good style”.

The PAC AN100 is more than just style and an impressive compressor. Its stand-out feature is that it is so quiet. At just 49-53 decibels, it’s certainly not silent but it’s one of the quietest on the market – which is reflected in the glowing reviews you see posted by users online.

There is a remote controlled fan and a sleep mode for a lower noise level, with indicator lights that can guide you to the ultimate climate. It’s a fairly expensive model, but you get a lot of ‘bang for your buck’: this powerful device has 10,000 BTU, so can cool a 100 cubed metre room. Even with such horsepower, it’s energy efficient, with a rating of f A++, making it the first domestic unit in its class to achieve such a score.

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2. De'Longhi PAC AN98 ECO Real Feel Portable Air Conditioner

£611.50, Amazon

The De'Longhi AN98 also has a dehumidifying setting Credit: Amazon

The De’Longhi AN98 is the slightly less impressive little brother of the AN112. It’s less energy efficient (rating of A) yet also has a lower energy output (10,700 BTU) so cools down a smaller space of up to 100 cubed metres. However, this model steps out of its sibling’s shadow because of its dehumidifying feature.

Furthermore, it is a fairly quiet machine - 47-50 decibels - and runs on R290, an eco-friendly gas. This is typical of De’Longhi models, according to Kandola. “They’re more energy-efficient and the gases are more environmentally-friendly.”

This model isn’t cheap (although it is significantly cheaper than the AN112) but the multi-functional and environmentally-friendly device is built to last.

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3. Honeywell MN 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

£628.95, airconcentre.co.uk

The Honeywell MN 10,000 BTU has a large power output, making it suitable for large bedrooms and conservatories

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: this model is expensive. However, it may be worth the cost as it’s a brand you can trust. “With the likes of Honeywell and De’Longhi, you will 100 per cent get the quality,” Kandola says.

This particular unit is different to the previous two De’Longhi models because its built-in dehumidifier removes up to 66 pints of water a day, with continuous drain option for long unattended operation. With a similar energy output (10,000 BTU) it is recommended for cooling rooms up to 350 square ft, but it does impact the noise levels - it can reach up to 65 decibels. 

Despite the noise, the air conditioner has an impressive repertoire. It has three functions: fan, air conditioner and dehumidifier, and air conditioning can be done at just 53 decibels. There is a programmable timer and remote control for ease of use. It also offers an unexpected perk - the water inside the machine auto-evaporates. No need to empty a bucket, as is typical with most air conditioners. It’s a practical device and it’s portable (comes on wheels).

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4. EcoAir ARTICA MK2 Portable Air Conditioner

£498.95, Amazon

You can operate the EcoAir GELO portable air conditioner when you're not in the room, using its Wifi-controls Credit: airconcentre.co.uk

EcoAir are renowned for their air conditioning units. “You may not instantly recognise EcoAir as a brand but you know that it has come from one of the best manufacturing factories in China,” Kandola says.

Kandola particularly recommends the EcoAir Crystal - although this is currently out of stock. The EcoAir ARTICA MK2 is a good replacement, however, because of its functions and reasonable price. It is Wi-Fi enabled, meaning you can change the settings remotely. There is also a programmable timer and remote-controlled fan and dehumidifier, where you can adjust the temperature from 10 to 35 degrees.

At just 8000 BTU, it is more suited to smaller rooms of up to 21 squared metres. This smaller output means it’s slightly less noisy than other models (47-51 decibels) and more energy-efficient, with an A rating.

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5. AEG ChillFlex Pro AXP26U338CW Portable Air Conditioner

£469.97, Appliances Direct

The AEG ChillFlex Pro AXP26U338CW is one of the most energy-efficient air conditioners around

This particular air conditioner is ideal for anyone who struggles to get a good night's sleep, at it automatically adjusts to your set temperature while removing moisture.

There is a remote control, programmable timer and sleep mode, where the machine will gradually power down throughout the night to save energy. In fact, the air conditioner is so environmentally friendly it has earned itself an A+ to A+++ energy efficiency rating, dependent on the power required

Notably, online reviewers have said that it could be difficult to put the exhaust hose out of the window (with an 1.8m cable), so it is worth measuring your space beforehand if you're not prepped with sliding windows or patio doors. Nonetheless, it's very easy to set-up and you can feel the effects almost immediately. 

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FAQs

How long should a portable air conditioner last?

The durability of the machine depends on the model and how well you look after it. However, according to Kandola, they can last a long time. “If you buy a good quality unit and you look after it, it should last you up to five years.”

How can you spot a top-quality unit? The outer casing should be made from sturdy plastic, according to CAS-Hire sales manager Dan Savoury, as this insulates the compressor and makes it less noisy. If you press down on the plastic casing and it moves, it is probably too flimsy - which, he says, is typical of cheaper models.

How much does a portable air conditioner cost?

Portable air conditioners can cost anything from £300 to £700. Despite such varying prices, all three experts agree that most portable models are quite similar, but branded differently.

“Most of these air conditioners are made in the same factory and they’re just labelled in each country,” Wood says. “There are various types of models which are brought in from Asia which are just stamped up,” Savoury adds. “They share equipment across different mainstream brand names.”

What type of air conditioner should I buy?

Once you start to browse online for a portable air conditioner, you notice there are three main types: exhaust pipe (or “ducted”) conditioners, split air conditioners and evaporative coolers. 

The one you'll probably be interested in is the exhaust pipe conditioner, which is the most common portable model. As this device cools down a room, it creates warm exhaust gases – which is why it is attached to an exhaust pipe. The pipe needs to go out a window – preferably one that will close over it, to keep the room as sealed as possible.

An evaporative air cooler is not technically an air conditioner, but is instead “a glorified fan”, according to Ryan Kandola, commercial director at airconcentre.co.uk. A split-type air conditioner, on the other hand, is a permanent installation. If you're looking for a portable air conditioner, it's best to ignore both of these.

How to look after your portable air conditioner

When air conditioners cool down a room, they typically produce water, which is collected inside the machine in a bucket. To ensure the longevity of the product, you need to empty this bucket every few weeks.

It’s also essential to clean the filters in a portable air conditioner. “Filters pick up a lot of the microfibres and dust that’s generated within properties, and they can get stuck inside the unit,” Savoury warns. This makes the compressor need to work harder, so the machine cools less effectively.

To combat clogged filters, Savoury suggests you vacuum them weekly, as well as the grills around the back of the unit. He also suggests washing the filters once a month with lukewarm water and a soft, low-grade decontaminate. This breaks down the residue of any hairspray or cooking oils that are clogging up the system.

When the weather (inevitably) cools down and you are ready to put the air conditioner in the cupboard under the stairs, be sure to pack it away neatly. This increases the machine’s lifespan, so it will be ready the next time your room turns into a sauna.