Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioners: Your 2021 Guide to the Best Options

| Last Updated: August 24, 2021

When the temperatures and low airflow are unbearable, an air conditioner can help you to manage them better towards improved comfort in your home.

A portable air conditioner gives you more freedom to move it around, targeting specific areas where you need it the most.

However, most of them are costly, which is why we’ll be providing you with a list of the best cheap portable air conditioners on the market for a tight budget.

Comparison of the Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioners

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Final Rating: 8.4
  • Cooling Capacity: 450 sq.ft.
  • Yearly Cost to Run: $132/year
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  • Final Rating: 7.9
  • Cooling Capacity: 350sq.ft.
  • Yearly Cost to Run: $122/year
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  • Final Rating: 7.6
  • Cooling Capacity: 350sq.ft.
  • Yearly Cost to Run: $142/year
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  • Final Rating: 7.6
  • Cooling Capacity: 350sq.ft.
  • Yearly Cost to Run: $90/year
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  • Final Rating: 7.2
  • Cooling Capacity: 250sq.ft.
  • Yearly Cost to Run: $120/year
View Latest Price →

A brief word from our data and product review specialist Josh who helped pick and rate these products. He covers our methodology we used to select these products.

Our Process for Selecting the Best Cheap Portable AC Units

Since affordability is the main topic at hand here we started by filtering our database of portable AC units to only show units that had a score of 4 or better in the Affordability Criteria

This meant that we were left with units that were at least 10% cheaper than the average. This left us with 13 total units and gave us a good starting point. From this list we then chose the top 5 units that had the highest overall rating. The overall rating is determined by our Portable AC Unit Review Criteria

A quick breakdown can be see below as well:

  • Affordability: 25%
  • Portability: 20%
  • Setup Difficulty: 20%
  • Sound Level: 15%
  • Performance: 10%
  • Cost Efficiency: 10%

By the end of this process we had a very solid list of high quality units that didn’t break the bank. These are the units you will find in this review!

Written By: Josh | HVAC Training 101’s Data & Review Specialist

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Cheap Portable Air Conditioner

Before you head out and purchase any of the products we recommend, there are a few factors you should assess first. The cheap portable air conditioner may not suit your home or work environment.

Unit and Room Size

You can’t simply buy a portable air conditioner and expect it to work in any room where you place it. The manufacturers designed it to cover a specific room size, ensuring that you have the maximum potency and efficiency.

You’ll know the air conditioner’s cooling capacity by the British Thermal Unit (BTU) measurement, providing an excellent correlation to what area it can cover. If you have a small unit for a vast space, you won’t feel the effect, and you’ll overwork the device.

How to Calculate BTUs for Portable AC Units Chart
**Note** These are not BTU DOE

Installation and Ventilation

Since portable air conditioners vent hot air out of a hose, you’ll need to install the exhaust through a window. Many manufacturers and retailers provide a window installation kit to assist with this task.

However, the installation kits don’t fit all windows. Some are made for single-hung, while others suit double-hung systems. You should assess what the ventilation method is and whether it’s appropriate for your home.

Noise Level

All portable air conditioners produce a certain level of noise, even if it’s a soft hum. With the components in action to manage your room’s temperature, you’re bound to hear that white noise in the background.

Some manufacturers go out of their way to lower this noise, which you can read about in the specifications. Since these specs can be misleading, it helps to read some customer reviews just to be sure.

Dual-Hose vs Single Hose

Both single- and double-hoses are capable of cooling down your home. The problem is that the single hose is an intake and exhaust, so it works twice as hard for the same effect.

The dual hose has one input to cooling the incoming air and exhaust for the hot air. Besides being functionally superior, it also uses a lot less energy for air conditioning.

Single vs. Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioners
Single vs. Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioners

Power Consumption

The above aspect brings us to power consumption. You don’t want to spend excessive funds paying for the monthly utility bills when buying a cheap, small portable air conditioner.

The whole point of buying an affordable option is to save money. You’ll be defeating that purpose by enlarging your monthly expenses. Ensure that you purchase one that is energy efficient, sometimes indicated by an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER).

Review of the Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioners

Now that you have a better idea of what to look out for, let’s have a look at the best cheap portable air conditioners on the market. Remember, you should choose the one that best suits your needs.

Best Overall

NEPO NPP-E514H

NEPO NPP-E514H Portable Air Conditioner

Product Ratings

8.4

Affordability:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Portability:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Noise:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Performance:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ease of Setup:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cost Efficiency:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

How We Determined These Scores

We may earn commission from purchases made from our links, at no additional cost to you

BTU DOE: 9,000

Cooling Capacity: 450 sq.ft.

Size & Weight: 17x15x29″ ; 79 lbs

Yearly Cost to Run: $132/yr

Decibel Levels: 49 dB

The NEPO NPP-E514H is quite a decent unit; arguably the best cheap portable air conditioner you’ll find on the market. To be affordable, the unit can’t excel in every aspect, and this unit does have handles and wheels, but it’s still heavy, and it’s not the most efficient in terms of cost. Also, the NEPO NPP-E514H isn’t self evaporating.

However, if you’re fine with spending a few more bucks, you’re getting great performance and a better cooling capacity than any other cheap air conditioner. This unit does come with a dehumidifier, which is important, and a fan.

Bottom Line

This is the best cheap air conditioner, hands down. Later down the line, you’ll be thanking yourself for spending a bit more and going with this portable AC unit. It comes with everything that a portable air conditioner needs to have (although it’s a bit heavy), and it’ll be able to cool a large area without a problem.

Pros

Very affordable for it’s category, despite higher price than others in this list

Quietest Option

Setting this air conditioner up shouldn’t be too much of a hassle

Cons

For a portable air conditioner, it isn’t easy to move around

Could be more efficient given it’s cost

Runner up

NEPO NPP-A112C

NEPO NPP-A112C Portable Air Condition, 1, White

Product Ratings

7.9

Affordability:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Portability:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Noise:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Performance:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ease of Setup:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cost Efficiency:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

How We Determined These Scores

We may earn commission from purchases made from our links, at no additional cost to you

BTU DOE: 6,500

Cooling Capacity: 350 sq.ft.

Size & Weight: 13×13.4×28.2″ ; 54 lbs

Yearly Cost to Run: $122/yr

Decibel Levels: 52 dB

The NEPO NPP-A112C air conditioner is an excellent portable unit. 

It’s everything you’re looking for; easy to move around, simple to set up, excellent cooling performance, and good capacity. – There’s not much to dislike.

However, since it’s cheap AC units we’re discussing, this one isn’t the cheapest of the bunch. It’s going to cost you a bit more upfront, and the average yearly cost isn’t the lowest either. Also, while we found the 52dB rating middle-of-the-road, we see some complaints about the noise this unit makes.

The NPP-A112C comes equipped with a dehumidifier and a fan, and it has the huge benefit of being self-evaporating, so you won’t have to drain it or change trays.

Bottom Line

If you want something with a bit more performance, and you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks, the NEPO NPP-A112C is a great unit. Its only downside is that it can get a bit loud, other than that, you shouldn’t have any issues moving it around, or setting it up, and cooling the area effectively.

Pros

A small(ish) unit with handles and wheels; portability won’t be an issue

Self-Evaporating Function

Reports of a relatively easy setup

Cons

A bit loud, which can get annoying quickly

Not the cheapest portable air conditioner to run

Lightest Portable AC

BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT

BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control, 7,700 BTU DOE (14,000 BTU ASHRAE), Cools Up to 350 Square Feet, White

Product Ratings

7.6

Affordability:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Portability:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Noise:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Performance:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ease of Setup:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cost Efficiency:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

How We Determined These Scores

We may earn commission from purchases made from our links, at no additional cost to you

BTU DOE: 7,500

Cooling Capacity: 350 sq.ft.

Size & Weight: 13.8×17.1×28.1″ ; 36 lbs

Yearly Cost to Run: $142/yr

Decibel Levels: 54 dB

The main selling point of this air conditioner is that it weighs only 36 pounds. – It’s a light portable air conditioner, quite easy to move around and set up.

The main downside of the BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT is that it’s the costliest of the cheapest air conditioners. Its upfront cost and the average yearly cost are higher than other units on this list.

However, this air conditioner has a better cooling capacity than some of the larger units on this list. Also, it comes equipped with a dehumidifier as well as a fan, and it’s self-evaporating.

Bottom Line

The BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT air conditioner is perfect for someone who doesn’t want to keep the unit in one place. It’s a lightweight AC that has a good cooling capacity. So, keeping yourself cool wherever you go without even thinking about it is the purpose of the BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT. – It’s a great portable air conditioner.

Pros

Small floor footprint

Has handles and wheels, and it’s lightweight – simple to move around

Simple to set up, you shouldn’t have much trouble

Cons

This unit has some complaints for noise

Not the most cost-effective

Best Portable AC for the Money

Frigidaire FHPC082AB1

Frigidaire FHPC082AB1 Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control for Rooms, White

Product Ratings

7.6

Affordability:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Portability:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Noise:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Performance:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ease of Setup:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cost Efficiency:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

How We Determined These Scores

We may earn commission from purchases made from our links, at no additional cost to you

BTU DOE: 5,500

Cooling Capacity: 350 sq.ft.

Size & Weight: 14×16.7×27.9″ ; 62 lbs

Yearly Cost to Run: $90/yr

Decibel Levels: 52 dB

The Frigidaire FHPC082AB1 air conditioner is just a cheap portable air conditioner. It won’t cost you too much to purchase this unit, and you won’t spend much running the AC. It is pretty decent when it comes to performance, but it is a bit large, and there are definitely 62-pound units that perform much better.

This unit has wheels and handles, and even though it’s a bit heavier you shouldn’t have trouble moving it around and setting it up wherever you want it. And that’s it; it’s a very cheap portable air conditioner.

Bottom Line

A great and cheap way to keep yourself cool wherever you go is what the Frigidaire FHPC082AB1 offers. This air conditioner is a bit loud, but that’s the sacrifice you’ll have to make if you want an AC that performs relatively well for the cheap. Also, you won’t even notice the average yearly cost of running this unit.

Pros

The most cost-efficient portable air conditioner you’ll find

You shouldn’t have much trouble moving the unit around

This set up of this air conditioner is pretty straightforward

Cons

Can be a bit noisy

Poor cooling capacity for its size

Lowest Upfront Cost Portable AC

LG LP0621WSR

LG LP0621WSR Portable Air Conditioner with 6000 BTU Cooling Capacity, Remote Control and 2 Fan Speeds in White

Product Ratings

7.2

Affordability:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Portability:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Noise:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Performance:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Ease of Setup:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cost Efficiency:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

How We Determined These Scores

We may earn commission from purchases made from our links, at no additional cost to you

BTU DOE: 6,000

Cooling Capacity: 250 sq.ft.

Size & Weight: 12.8×17.3×27.3″ ; 56 lbs

Yearly Cost to Run: $120/yr

Decibel Levels: 53 dB

The LP0621WSR portable air conditioner from LG is peculiar. It is, by far, the cheapest quality air conditioner that you can purchase, however, you’ll be paying that money back over the years because of the poor performance.

The LG LP0621WSR has 250 square feet of cooling capacity, and there are much better portable air conditioners, you’ll just have to pay a bit more. 

A good benefit of this air conditioner is that you shouldn’t have much trouble moving it from place to place and setting it up quickly.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to save some money now, but pay it back over the years, this is the best portable air conditioner for you. – It’s the cheapest portable air conditioner you’ll find, but its performance reflects that as well. Also, nobody likes loud air conditioners, and this one can be annoying when it comes to sound.

Pros

Costs $50 less than the next best cheapest portable unit

Simple to move around because it isn’t that heavy and it has wheels as well as handles

You won’t encounter too many issues setting this portable AC up

Cons

Somewhat loud

Low cooling capacity for its weight

2020 Picks for Portable Air Conditioners

Last year’s picks were a completely different lineup. We couldn’t confirm accurate, updated data on the machines (most importantly, the new regulated BTU DOE) so we generated entirely new ranking criteria and took a harder look at the products on the market.

The manufacturers of our 2020 top pick, the Rollibot ROLLICOOL – seemed to have changed something. Towards the end of the year, poor reviews really began to stack up against them.

SereneLife, our 2020 Runner up still seems to be making a decent product, but with the new criteria it didn’t line up well enough among new competition to make it into our top 5.

And lastly, the Black and Decker BPACT14WT remains #3 on our list, although has been out of stock for some time now. We recommend grabbing the new, extremely cheap to operate Frigidaire FHPC082AB1 if you find the Black&Decker unit is still not available.

Cheap Portable Air Conditioner vs High-End Portable Air Conditioners

It may be worthwhile comparing cheap portable air conditioners to high-end ones. If you calculate each one’s costs and benefits, it may be better to save up a few months for a more expensive product. Here are the chief differences and similarities between them.

Cooling Efficiency

The one aspect portable air conditioners have in common is BTU measurements for their cooling capacities. You can generally see how much space they can cool and whether it’s efficient to use in your home.

Of course, high-end units can cool larger areas at the cost of higher power consumption. It will save you from buying two to three cheap models by obtaining one high-end product instead.

Intake and Output

Both cheap and expensive portable air conditioners have intakes and exhaust hoses. For the latter, you’ll probably receive different hose lengths and installation options. 

For high-end devices, you’ll generally find dual hoses instead of single hoses, but there are a few affordable options with two pipes. Cheap ACs also have fewer modes and speeds for the intake.

Humidity Levels

Most cheap air conditioners only cool down your room, and don’t worry about humidity. If you pay a bit more, you can find one that also includes a dehumidification function.

Heating

In most cases, cheap portable air conditioners only focus on cooling. High-end products also include other features, such as heating and ventilation.

Advanced Functions

The one aspect you can expect to find on more expensive models is advanced functions. You’ll see wireless remote control through your mobile phone, timers, and sleep modes for silent performance.

In the market for a portable AC that provides both heating and cooling? Check out our Portable Air Conditioner Heater Combo article.

How Can a Portable Air Conditioner Lower Energy Bills?

While portable air conditioners can lower your energy bills, it’s only by understanding how that will lead to effectively cutting down those utility costs. Here are a few ways it does so if you use it correctly.

Black+Decker BPACT14WT

Room Specific

When you install an air conditioning system, it generally cools every room in the house whether or not it needs to. You could be wasting electricity if only one area has excessive heat.

Portable air conditioners focus on the space they’re in, cutting down the energy costs while ensuring you have a comfortable environment. You can also focus it on the rooms that you use the most.

Temperature Management

Sometimes it helps to set the temperature to a higher level than is needed. With portable air conditioners, you can generally aim for cooler temps to combat the heat on a blistering summer day. 

If you slowly alter the levels over a few days, your body becomes accustomed to it. The device won’t work as hard to bring it to room temperature, making you feel more comfortable at a lower cost.

Concentrated Dispersal

Do you know those days where you have guests over, the room becomes stuffy and hot, and you turn on the air conditioner for the whole house? That quick blast of cool air comes at a high cost, especially when you’re merely looking for fast dispersal of air in a concentrated area.

Evapolar EvaLIGHT Plus

A portable air conditioner can perform this function with greater efficiency, cooling you and your guests for the hour that they are there.

Right Size

If you buy a small unit to cover a massive space, you’ll overwork the device, and it will use more electricity.

The same applies to a large air conditioner for small spaces, using more power than is needed. Always measure your room size against the BTU.

Top Brands in the Portable Air Conditioner Space

We’ve mentioned a few manufacturers in our product reviews above that specialize in portable air conditioners. Some stand out for the unique features they provide, while others are known for their years of experience in the industry. Here’s a look at some other well-known brands.

Honeywell

Honeywell is a reputed company for producing high-performance appliances in numerous industries. It has excellent products for different HVAC systems, such as dehumidifiers, purifiers, humidifiers, evaporative coolers, and so much more.

Its portable air conditioners have sleek designs with black hues and trims. It has various sizes for different rooms, ensuring that it caters to several client needs. The top features you can expect are timers, easy-to-install window kits, and outstanding remote control features.

Frigidaire

Frigidaire made a name across the United States for its air conditioning solutions. There have been mixed reviews for its portable ACs, but most of them have been positive. For the most part, its dehumidifiers and window devices perform better than its other types, but you’ll still receive extensive performance with lengthy warranty periods.

Rinnai

Rinnai is one of the few Japanese air conditioner suppliers that are doing well in international markets. It has a vast range of models, varying across sizes to suit small, medium, and large rooms. When it comes to portable air conditioners, the top features include adjustable thermostats, swing fans, and dehumidifier modes.

Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Cutting Cooling Costs

There are many tricks to cutting down energy costs besides buying a portable air conditioner. Let’s take a look at some of the top options at your disposal.

Choose the Right Option

Many people opt to buy window air conditioners as the solution to their heat problems. The issue is that it can only cover a specific room, so you’ll have to purchase several if you need them for other rooms.

It leads to an increase in power consumption. A better option is to purchase a portable air conditioner and move it to the room where you need it the most.

Run the Air Conditioner Through the Night

It might seem counterproductive, but sometimes running the air conditioner through the night might save you cooling costs. If you switch it off on a hot evening and the heat builds overnight, the device will have to work twice as hard for several hours to bring the temperature down.

However, running it on a medium setting through the night keeps the temperature constant without consuming a lot of power. It will also make it easier for the air conditioner when the noon sun hits high temperatures.

SereneLife SLPAC8

Older Homes

Manufacturers build air conditioners to match modern homes, ceilings, and window frames. As such, you’ll need to renovate older homes if you want to install ducts and window units, leading to a substantial installation cost.

Fortunately, portable air conditioners cater to several window types with brackets and bracers. There are also devices with water buckets if you prefer not to install hoses through your windows. 

Add Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans assist with air ventilation and distribution. They use minimal power consumption, as long as you don’t have too many lights installed. The fans will help spread the cool air around your home, reducing the air conditioner’s need to work so hard.

Photo credit: yourbestdigs.com

Conclusion

Portable air conditioners are available in different price ranges, but not all situations call for a high-end product. Knowing when to buy a cheap device is the difference between spending too much or too little on air conditioning. We hope that this article has provided some guidance in this regard.

People Also Ask

You may have some questions about cheap portable air conditioners after reading through our detailed article. Here are some FAQs we’ve received from our readers. If you have any other queries, please feel free to let us know. 

Do Portable Air Conditioners Use a Lot of Electricity?

It depends on the unit. You can find several devices with a high EER that consumes low power. It’s best to check the specifications and find an air conditioner with a high BTU and low energy usage.

Can I Use a Portable Air Conditioner In a Room Without a Window?

Yes, you can. Since portable air conditioners are self-contained units, you can vent the exhaust via a door, ceiling, or through a wall if you have the correct installation kit. Some even have drainage tanks available as an option if it includes dehumidification.

Do All Portable Air Conditioners Need to Be Vented?

The portable air conditioner emits warm air when it conditioners the room to the correct temperatures. This feature causes humidity levels to rise and heat to accumulate in the room, neutralizing the device’s purpose. While some manufacturers offer alternative solutions to the problem, you need to vent it in most cases.

Is a Portable AC Cheaper Than a Window Unit?

It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re cooling a large space, you may need a larger BTU size for the window unit to extend throughout the entire area, while you can move the portable unit around to where you need it. You’ll also have to pay more in terms of window installations than a mobile unit.

Is a Portable Air Conditioner Worth Buying?

Yes, especially in the right conditions. Of course, you should use our factors listed in this article to see which aspects to consider to know if it’s worth buying for your apartment or home. A portable air conditioner provides the benefits of being mobile, energy-efficient, and easy to install.

How Large of a Space Can a Portable AC Cool?

The size it cool is relative to the BTU size. For instance, a 10,000 BTU (not DOE) can cover between 350 and 450 sq. ft. There are also other factors to consider, such as blockages, other means of ventilation, and how much airflow you have available. Always ensure that you check your room’s layout before you buy a portable air conditioner.



My name is Bob Wells and I am a retired HVAC tech from Washington state. I am currently retired and no longer do much with HVAC, however, I feel like I have a lot of knowledge in the subject and I wanted to create a website where I could talk about what I've learned and help upcoming HVAC techs. Find more info about me and HVAC Training 101.