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We plan to test several new models this spring, including the Frigidaire FHPW122AC1 and the Honeywell MN4CFSWW9. We’ve added details to the What to Expect section.
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After another round of testing, we still stand by all our favorites. We have added some new models to the category of significant competition.
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Portable air conditioners are not as mobile as the name suggests, and they are one of the loudest and least efficient ways to cool a room. But if you don’t have central air, and window air conditioning isn’t an option, a portable air conditioner is the best way to beat the heat—and if that’s your thing, we recommend the Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL. It’s quieter, more powerful, and generally more pleasant to live with than two dozen other portable air conditioners we’ve tested (and hundreds more we’ve researched) since 2016.
The Midea Duo independent dual hose setup and powerful inverter compressor make it better at dialing in the exact comfort level while being quieter and more efficient than other machines.
Most portable air conditioners are pretty similar, but the Midea Duo MAP12S1TBL offers better cooling performance than other models while using less power and making less noise. Instead of running only at maximum speed or anything, Midea’s inverter-driven compressor can operate at variable speed continuously, so the unit has more flexibility in how to reach the desired temperature in a wide range of temperature and humidity. In our tests, it was also very effective at dispersing cold air, leaving no more than a 1-degree temperature difference in the room. Unlike the single-hose portables we usually recommend, the Duo has a unique “hose-in-hose” setup where the exhaust and intake are split into two separate channels in one large tube, making it more efficient. It’s the quietest portable air conditioner we’ve ever tested, with volumes consistently measuring below normal conversation levels. Midea offers all the standard smart home capabilities, as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support, and offers a greater choice of custom controls with smartphone apps and including remotes.
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This portable air conditioner offers many thoughtful features, including a variable-speed dual-rotor compressor, a built-in hose for easy setup, and a convenient storage pocket.
If the Midea Duo is not available, the single hose LG LP1419IVSM is a good choice for a portable air conditioner with an efficient inverter-driven compressor. It has the same setup, with a built-in hose and a top-mounted fan that makes the AC sound like it’s breathing static white noise and cold air, and has the same smart home features. It’s a bit more expensive than Midea, and some readers have complained about the woodiness of its sound (although we don’t have a problem with it ourselves), but overall it’s still one of the best portable air conditioners you can find.
Gallery Frigidaire Cool Connect GHPC132AB1 impressed us not only with its ability to maintain constant coolness throughout the room in half a degree but also with its surprising low-volume performance. Although it doesn’t have the same power or efficiency as converter models like Midea or LG, the single hose Frigidaire somehow managed to run at lower volumes in our tests, beating these two portable air conditioners by about 2. Decibel’s window installation kit is not stronger, however , and while they offer similar smart home capabilities, we’ve been disappointed with how they work.
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This popular model matches our other picks in cooling performance but feels cheap—it has chintzy buttons and lacks amenities like cable storage.
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 rougher around the edges than our other picks: The operation is loud, the controls are clunkier, and it lacks the fine details we like about some other models. But still, it will get the job done, and is a great option if you need a portable air conditioner at something close to the price of an air conditioner.
We’ve been reviewing and testing air conditioners in general since 2013 and have been evaluating portable units in particular since early 2016. In that time, we’ve spent more than 125 hours researching and testing the entire field, with dozens of hours focused on portables. Specifically we considered around 175 different portable models and conducted live tests with more than 20 of the best options. We’ve met with manufacturers at trade shows and events, interviewed sources over the years, and combed through volumes of Department of Energy materials on air conditioning efficiency standards.
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Thom Dunn wrote the Wirecutter’s Guide to Window Air Conditioners, Room Fans, Space Heaters, and More. He has also published articles for The Huffington Post, Upworthy, Vice, The Weather Channel and other outlets, and in 2019 he was commissioned by Cornell University to produce a feature-length drama about society’s response to climate change. He is especially good at calmness.
This guide builds on previous work by Wirecutter senior staff writer Liam McCabe, who has been writing about tools for Wirecutter since 2013.
If you don’t have central air conditioning, you should first look at window air conditioners or ductless mini-splits, which are generally more efficient and (in the case of window units) cheaper. But not every room or type of window can accommodate a window air conditioner, and installing a mini split can be too expensive or complicated. If you find yourself in this situation, a portable air conditioner can make the difference between comfort and convenience.
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You still need a window for a portable air conditioner, however, as a place to vent the heat outside. It bears repeating, because it’s a common misconception about something called “portable”: all of these units need a window and an electrical outlet within a few feet of where they work.
Our primary concern in choosing a portable air conditioner is to find a unit with adequate cooling performance, followed by low noise, decent efficiency, and other quality-of-life factors that we measure after seeing our finalists in person.
We used independent ratings to screen candidates for cooling performance. The primary measure is seasonally adjusted cooling capacity, or SACC, a U.S. Department of Energy calculation that represents the average performance of a portable air conditioner under various test conditions. The SACC metric measures not only the cooling capacity, but also how the unit performs on humid days or hot and dry days, and also accounts for the effect of heat radiation from the unit’s ventilation to the room. Since 2016, the SACC has gradually replaced the less extensive British Thermal Unit (Btu) rating as the standard measure of air conditioner electrical output. Many air conditioners include both numbers—the Btu measurement developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is widely accepted—so we considered both figures in our selection.
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In 2020, the Department of Energy also finalized a new standard for the Combined Energy-Efficiency Ratio (CEER), a new metric based on the SACC that takes into account additional factors such as standby energy use in addition to the previously used Energy-Efficiency Ratio. measure of EER). We don’t care too much about this particular number until the AC reaches the minimum SACC threshold of 7,200 Btu per hour; Anything less, and AC is not to be seen. (When in doubt, look at the EnergyGuide label on the box.)
We are also not worried about the large size of the AC for the room. The main risk of using a large air conditioner is cooling the room before dehumidifying, and all these units have a dehumidifier function that can remove moisture without cooling the room if the room becomes too cold and thick. But we are more concerned to make suggestions that can give enough power. Portable air conditioners are notorious underperformers, usually less efficient than their window-mounted counterparts, and we have often heard people buy small units, find them unsatisfactory, and either return or replace larger units. Our test has borne this out over the years; We’ve seen models that are efficient enough that they barely make a hole in a cold room that’s sized for them. These results help us decide to go bigger and not focus too much on the square footage requirements that are claimed So we set a basic SACC of 7,200 Btu per hour, which often corresponds to 14,000 Btu per the old ASHRAE standard.
With our performance needs met, we gathered half a dozen finalists and evaluated them individually, looking for the following:
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Starting in 2019, we began to compare dual- and single-eye models according to the same criteria, and we did not exclude any model based on its gap number. Our research, however, eventually led us to a single hose portable model – as many new models use this design. In fact, we didn’t find any interesting new double-hose models from Major
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