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Best portable air conditioner 2024: Tried and tested compact air conditioners

A selection of the best portable air purifiers against a blue background

Going crazy with the heat? Cool things down with our pick of the best portable air conditioners

Do you struggle to sleep when it gets too hot, or have an office too muggy to work in? The best portable air conditioners (PACs) will keep a single room cool throughout the summer months, and you won’t have to install anything or spend a fortune on an air-conditioning system. As the name suggests, you can even move them around, so that the unit that cools your home office in the day could also keep your bedroom chilled at night.

PACs can be expensive, though, so you need to find the right one to match your specific needs. Over the last three years, I’ve tested some of the leading models through July heatwaves and August days with soaring temperatures and on this page you’ll find the portable air conditioners that I would recommend.

In the list below you’ll find PACs at a range of budgets, but if you need more information or guidance before deciding, take a look at the buying guide below the reviews. It will tell you everything you need to know about PACs, to help you make your choice.

Our expert picks

The best PAC overall

AEG ChillFlex Pro AXP26U339CW

AEG ChillFlex Pro AXP26U339CW

Price when reviewed: ~£580

“This AEG ChillFlex Pro might be compact, but don’t let that fool you – beneath the discreet, streamlined exterior hides an effective, energy-efficient PAC that aced my tests. With a 9,000BTU cooling capacity, it reduced the temperature of my living room quickly during a hot week in July – and it’s dead simple to use, too.” | Read more

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The best PAC for larger rooms

DeLonghi Pinguino PACEX130CST

Price when reviewed: ~£969

“This beefy De’Longhi PAC can handle rooms up to 120m³ in size, and it effortlessly cooled my living room in the middle of a heatwave when I put it to the test. You also get De’Longhi’s MyEcoReal tech, which uses sensors in the remote to keep the temperature and humidity low while minimising power usage and noise.” | Read more

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How we test portable air conditioners

We review portable air conditioners by installing and running them over a period of at least three days. During that period we test their ability to cool the room from a temperature of at least 24 degrees, measuring the temperature when testing starts, after half an hour, and again after a full hour. We also track the temperature for a further hour to see whether the air conditioner can maintain a consistent level. We also test each PAC for noise levels at full power and in fan mode at the lowest setting, and measure power consumption at these settings to provide an idea of long-term running costs. Finally, we’ll test any additional features, including smart features and partner apps, and look at how easy the PAC is to use, and at the design and usability of the remote control.

The best portable air conditioners you can buy in 2024

1. AEG ChillFlex Pro AXP26U339CW: The best PAC overall

Price when reviewed: £580 | Check price at John Lewis

AEG ChillFlex Pro AXP26U339CW: A premium portable air conditioner for larger rooms

  • Great for… effective cooling from a fairly compact unit
  • Not so great for… high windows since the exhaust hose is short

AEG’s compact PAC combines streamlined looks and top build quality with effective, energy-efficient cooling, to create one of the best PACs out there. With an A energy rating and a 9,000BTU cooling capacity, it can handle rooms of up to 18m³. It did a great job of getting the temperature down quickly in my living room in a hot week in mid-July and, while I found it relatively loud on the highest of the three fan settings, lower settings were quieter.

What’s more, it uses R290 as a refrigerant, making it a more eco-friendly option than some low-cost conditioners. It also functions as a fan, heater and dehumidifier, collecting 1.2 litres of water per hour into an internal tank.

I found it very easy to use, either via the top-mounted controls or the bundled remote, and you can quickly set the desired temperature or use a timer for start-up and shutdown. Any issues it has are mostly practical – the hose is short and AEG doesn’t supply a window kit – making this a cool, compact PAC with a smidgeon of style and a luxury feel.

Read the full AEG ChillFlex Pro review

Key specs – BTU rating: 9,000; Functions: AC, dehumidifier, heater, fan; Energy rating: A; Noise: 64dB; Features: Remote control, timer, three-speed fan, heat pump; Hose length: 1.5m; Dimensions (WDH): 470 x 380 x 700mm; Weight: 31kg to 34kg

Check price at John Lewis

2. DeLonghi Pinguino PAC EL112: Best portable air conditioner for features

Price when reviewed: £949 | Check price at Currys

DeLonghi Pinguino PAC EL112: Best portable air conditioner for features

  • Great for… automatic settings and speedy cooling
  • Not so great for… low running costs or silent operation

It’s a big step up in price, but the Pinguino PAC EL112 comes packed with features and can handle cooling larger rooms than smaller, cheaper units. Even though it stands 75cm tall, I found the tapered design helped make it surprisingly unobtrusive, an impression that was only bolstered by the small display and minimalist touch-sensitive controls. At 33Kg I wouldn’t want to heft it around too much, and the supplied window kit uses an extending panel, making it best suited to a semi-permanent fitting during hot summer months.

I found the EL112 very easy to use; you can just set your desired temperature and let it do its stuff. DeLonghi also provides one of its CST remote controls, which has sensors to monitor your temperature and humidity, then sets the air conditioning accordingly for comfort. You can also connect it to your Wi-Fi network and use the brand’s Comfort app, but I had some issues setting this up; it wouldn’t find or connect to my mesh Wi-Fi 6 network, and would only talk directly to my 802.11ac router. Once hooked up, it mirrors the controls on the remote and adds some useful scheduling functions. You can set when you want the PAC to turn on and off, along with the mode and fan speed.

Crucially, the EL112 is an effective PAC. It took my test room from a close and sticky 25°C to 21°C in just half an hour, and down to 20°C in another thirty minutes. It then effortlessly held this temperature for a further hour. In the middle of a summer heatwave, this was sweet relief.

Still, I’d take claims of silent running with a pinch of salt; I measured noise levels of 52dB when running at full tilt, dropping to 46dB once the temperature had stabilised. Power consumption can also reach 620 to 820W when the unit’s hard at work, so this isn’t the cheapest PAC to buy or to run. All the same, when you need serious cooling, it’s exactly what you need.

Key specs – BTU rating: 11,000; Functions: AC, dehumidifier, fan; Energy rating: A+; Max noise: 63dB; Features: Remote control, timer, three-speed fan, myEcoReal mode, Wi-Fi and DeLonghi Comfort app; Hose length: 1.2m; Dimensions (WDH): 450 x 410 x 750mm; Weight: 33kg

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4. DeLonghi Pinguino PAC EX130CST: Best portable air conditioner for mid-sized rooms

Price when reviewed: £969 | Check price at Currys

DeLonghi Pinguino PAC EX130CST: Best portable air conditioner for mid-sized rooms

  • Great for… effortless cooling of medium-large spaces
  • Not so great for… low noise levels or portability

With a higher BTU rating than its stablemate listed above, the PAC EX130CST is equipped to handle larger rooms of up to 120m³ in size, and I suspect it could go even larger. There’s a lot of cooling power on offer here. It effortlessly reduced the temperature of my test room from 25°C to 20.5°C in half an hour, then dropped down to a steady 20°C for the rest of a two-hour test period. I had no problem keeping the temperature at about that level, even in the middle of a summer heatwave. Attempts to push it down to 18°C weren’t so successful, though. It’s within the range of the thermostat, but seems to be outside the EX130 CST’s comfort zone.

While its touch-sensitive controls are different to the smaller Pinguino, I found the EX130CST every bit as easy to use. It comes with the same CST remote control, which support’s DeLonghi’s myEcoReal technology to keep temperature and humidity at a comfortable level, while reducing energy consumption and noise. On the noise front, I found this only partially successful, as the unit still puts out around 52dB while cooling, and over 46dB just while running the fan at its lowest setting. I wouldn’t want it turned on while I was trying to get some sleep at night.

Otherwise, you get the same smart features as the smaller model, and a PAC that will stop you feeling hot and bothered in the middle of a scorching day. Just be aware that it’s a chunky unit and, at 32kg, a bit too heavy to be lugged around the house.

Key specs – BTU rating: 13,000; Functions: AC, dehumidifier, fan; Energy rating: A++; Max noise: 64dB; Features: Remote control, timer, three-speed fan, myEcoReal mode, Wi-Fi and DeLonghi Comfort app; Hose length: 1.2m; Dimensions (WDH): 445 x 390 x 805mm; Weight: 32kg

Check price at Currys

5. MeacoCool MC Series 7000: Best low cost portable air conditioner

Price when reviewed: £485 | Check price at Air Con Centre

MeacoCool MC Series 7000: A highly effective air conditioner for smaller spaces

  • Great for… effective cooling and dehumidifying, lighter weight
  • Not so great for… noise and power consumption

Air-conditioning units don’t get much more reasonably priced than the MeacoCool MC 7000. Suitable for rooms up to 22m² thanks to its 7,000BTU rating, the unit includes two fan speeds, as well as dehumidifier and fan-only functions. It’s reasonably compact, measuring less than a metre tall and 35cm square and, at 21kg, more realistically portable than heavier PACs – you can lug it from room to room without risking a hernia.

As with all true air conditioners, the MC Series 7000 needs to be vented out of a window. Thankfully, it’s supplied with a 1.8m window hose and a sash window/sliding door kit, plus a flexible window kit to get it working straight out of the box. If you’re planning to use the dehumidifier function, as there’s no internal tank, you will also need to connect the outlet hose to a container for drainage.

Once set up, I found the MC Series 7000 very effective, cooling my living room from 24˚C to 20˚C within an hour, with minimum temperatures as low as 16˚C if you like to feel chilled. I also like that the unit uses a more eco-friendly R290 refrigerant.

The only major downsides here are noise and power consumption. In my tests, the MC Series 7000 outputs around 58dBA in typical use, and is only a few decibels quieter with the fan on its lower setting. And while it uses around 104W while cooling, I saw that rise to peaks of 641W during dehumidification. Still, you’ll hear the same complaints of most PACs, and you can easily live with these issues when the price is so low and the performance so impressive.

Read our full MeacoCool MC 7000 review

Key specs – BTU rating: 7,000; Functions: AC, dehumidifier, fan; Energy rating: A; Max noise: 65dB; Extra features: Remote control, timer, two-speed fan; Hose length: 1.8m; Dimensions (WDH): 353 x 470 x 762mm; Weight: 21kg

Check price at Air Con Centre

How to choose the best portable air conditioner for you

How much do I need to spend?

PACs aren’t cheap: most cost somewhere between £300 and £1,000. Below this price, you tend to find evaporative air coolers rather than true air conditioners, which aren’t as effective.

How much you need to spend depends on your cooling requirements. PACs are rated in British thermal units (BTU): one BTU is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree. A higher rating means an air conditioner can cool a larger space, which normally means the unit itself will be larger and more expensive. A 9,000BTU unit will handle a space of approximately 45 cubic metres, while a 12,000BTU unit could go up to 90 cubic metres. Measure your room before you buy to make sure you choose an air conditioner that’s up to the job.

Of course, you don’t want to go much bigger than you have to. Weight, size and convenience matter, and if a unit’s too big, too heavy and too difficult to set up, then you may end up avoiding using it except for a few really hot days in the summer. You need to balance the cooling power you need against how big and obtrusive a PAC can be before you’re not prepared to put up with it.

Where can I put a portable air conditioner?

Positioning is another issue: most PACs need to vent hot air through a window, and if you can’t place it right next to a suitable opening, you’ll either need to put a permanent vent through the wall or find a model with a hose extender. What’s more, where the air goes out, there’s also potential for more warm air to creep in. In fact, the negative air pressure created by the air conditioner actively encourages it to do so.

Most PACs will come with a window fixing kit to block any gap, but this might only be suitable for a sash window, sliding door or hinged top window. While you might be able to improvise with hardboard or towels, it makes sense to check what options you have available for your chosen PAC before you get it home.

Hot air isn’t the only thing your air conditioner needs to expel. As the air cools, moisture condenses out of it, which is collected inside the PAC. Some units can evaporate this internally and exhaust it through the hose or the back of the unit; in other models, it’s kept in an internal reservoir that needs to be emptied manually.

READ NEXT: Best dehumidifiers

Is it going to be noisy and expensive to run?

All PACs incorporate a compressor and one or more fans, so they’re never going to be totally silent. Some are quieter than others, however: you should find the minimum and/or maximum noise pressure levels listed in the manufacturer’s specification. Watch out for sleep modes, too. These power down the compressor and reduce the speed of any fans to make the PAC’s hum a little easier to sleep through. If you really struggle with the noise, though, think about cooling the room before you go to sleep, or try using a desktop or pedestal fan instead.

As for running costs, a higher BTU rating generally means the PAC will be doing more work and consuming more energy, but not all units are created equal. Your air conditioner should have an energy efficiency class, from A++ down to G, just like your fridge or cooker. The higher the class, the more efficient the unit will be.

READ NEXT: Best fans

Are there any other features I should look out for?

Like most big appliances, PACs come with an environmental cost. You can help cut that down by picking an energy-efficient A++ model, but some manufacturers are also boosting their green credentials by using refrigerant gases, such as R290, that have a lower environmental impact and don’t create greenhouse gases during the product lifecycle.

PACs should really be emptied and cleaned at the end of every summer season, and easily accessible fans and filters make that job a whole lot easier. Make sure you clear out any pipes or drains as well; they can get pretty stinky if left alone over a long winter.

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