Top 6 Cheap Portable Air Conditioners Reviews 2020

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There’s nothing wrong with buying cheap portable air conditioner models as long as the unit has decent quality ratings and you don’t expect it to last forever.

Rather than give you a list of the absolute cheap portable air conditioners, we’ve compiled a useful list of models that:

  • Boast very affordable prices of any portable air conditioners
  • Get decent quality ratings
  • Represent various categories consumers are looking for – features, quality and the size they want from 8,000 to 14,000 BTUs.

In short, there is no “junk” in this list, but you won’t find lower prices either.

Here are overviews of good-quality cheap portable air conditioners. Full reviews follow with pros & cons, room size the unit covers, features, modes and more.

      Image                    Product

LG LP0818WNR

  • Auto-evaporation – No bucket to empty
  • LED Panel/LCD Remote
  • Oscillating louvers
  • Outstanding consumer ratings

Editor's Pick

Shinco SPF2 8,000 BTU

  • Excellent Features
  • AC/Dehumidify-only/Fan-only
  • Cools up to 200 square feet
  • Auto-evaporation

Best Features

Black + Decker BPACT08WT

  • Rated for 300 square feet
  • AC/Dehumidify/Fan Modes
  • Filter is easy to clean

Best Quality 

Ivation 10,000 BTU

  • AC, Dehumidify, Fan, Sleep, Auto Modes
  • 3-speed Fan
  • Drain Alert (non-evaporating)
  • Extra-long 7.5 foot cord

Best 10,000 BTU

Ivation 12,000 BTU

  • AC, Dehumidify, Fan, Sleep, Auto Modes
  • Evaporative Exhaust plus Drain Hose
  • Remote Control

Best 12,000 BTU

AmazonBasics 14,000 BTU

  • No-bucket Design
  • Filter Clean Alert
  • Move with Wheels & Handle
  • Sizes from 8K to 14K

Best 14,000 BTU

Top Rated Cheap Portable Air Conditioner Reviews

Here are our full reviews of the best cheap portable air conditioners. Many get some of the best ratings in their size range.

Did you know? The BTU rating represents the amount of heat (British thermal units) the AC removes per hour. There are two rating systems, ASHRAE and US DOE/SACC. We list both, with the ASHRAE first. The difference is explained later in the Cheap Portable AC Pros and Cons section below.

Highest Rated Cheap Portable Air Conditioner

#1 LG LP0818WNR Portable Air Conditioner

This isn’t the cheapest portable air conditioner in our list, but it is the best. And it is still quite affordable.

It has a good range of convenience and performance features including auto-evaporation, so you won’t have to empty a condensate reservoir very often, if at all.

  • BTUs: 8,000 / 5,000
  • Room Size: About 200 square feet.
  • Modes: 3 AC, Dehumidify and Fan-only give you options for cooling, drying the air without cooling it or just using the fan to move the air.
  • Features: Automatic evaporation, 24-hour Timer, 2-speed fan, Auto-swing vent louvers to balance airflow within the room, full-function Remote control.
  • Pros: Large coverage for an 8K BTU model. Good features. High quality and excellent user reviews.
  • Cons: Slightly higher cost. Just a 2-speed fan. Some 8,000 BTU portable ACs have 3-speed fans.
  • Bottom Line: If you’re willing to spend a little more for LG quality, a brand with a proven track record, you’ll probably be happy with this unit.

Best Features Cheap Portable Air Conditioner

#2 Shinco SPF2 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Shinco is a brand that gets consistently high ratings and reviews while keeping prices low.

It’s one of the cheap portable ACs, but offers high quality. That’s a combination that delivers value.

  • BTUs: 8,000 / 5,000
  • Room Size: 200-300 square feet.
  • Modes: 3 modes – Air conditioning for warm days, Dehumidification for cool and clammy days and Fan-only for air movement or “white noise.”
  • Features: The best set of convenience and performance features available. Self-evaporation, so you’ll rarely have to empty it, a Full notification light in the rare occasions it needs to be emptied, LED Display, full-feature Remote, 24-hour Timer, Caster wheels and good dehumidification of 60 pints of moisture per day (7.5 gallons).
  • Pros: Great features, excellent price, good quality.
  • Cons: For the remote to control the unit, it must be pointed right at it. Any obstruction will prevent the signal from reaching the AC. This is a common problem with remotes, but it seems to be a bit worse with this model.
  • Bottom Line: This unit could easily be the “best overall” in our list. It’s a good fit for small bedrooms, an office, den or any enclosed space up to about 300 square feet.

Best Quality Cheap Portable Air Conditioner

#3 Black + Decker BPACT08WT Portable AC

Here’s another great value – a quality, highly rated model.

This Black & Decker portable air conditioner has good features including auto-evaporation, so there isn’t a bucket to empty.

  • BTUs: 8,000 / 5,000
  • Room Size: Up to 300 square feet in warm weather, probably more like 200-250 square feet in very hot weather or when the space is poorly insulated.

Did you know? The outside temperature and amount of insulation, way the room is facing and other factors must be considered when determining how much space any portable air conditioner will effectively keep cool.

  • Modes: 3 modes. Like most in this list, this model has AC mode for cooling, Dehumidify mode to dry the air without cooling and Fan-only mode to create a breeze. In Dehumidify mode, the heat that is removed is released back into the room rather than being exhausted out the hose.
  • Features: Excellent set of features includes Bucket-free Evaporation, Slide-out filter, 24-hour Timer, Sleep mode, Remote with full functionality and programmable, electronic controls with an LED digital display.
  • Pros: Cheap but very good quality, performance and features.
  • Cons: Like most portable air conditioners, it can be a little tricky to get the window kit properly placed and the hose attached. Most users find it gets easier after a time or two.
  • Bottom Line: We’re impressed with this portable air conditioner, and it should deliver many years of reliable cooling and dehumidification of your space.

Best 10,000 BTU Cheap Portable Air Conditioner

#4 Ivation 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner – Compact Single-Hose AC Unit & Dehumidifier

You’ll waste your money buying one of the cheapest portable air conditioners if it isn’t big enough to cool your room, right?

That’s why we include a range of sizes, so the next few are 10K, 12K and 14K portable air conditioners with the best combination of low price and good quality.

Did you know? Ivation is an American company that makes ACs, coolers and other large and small appliances. Most of its products are manufactured overseas.

  • BTUs: 10,000 / 6,500 (estimated)
  • Room Size: Up to 350 square feet, but more like 250-300 on very hot days.
  • Modes: 5 modes – AC, Dehumidify (called Dry Mode), Fan-only, Sleep and Auto. In Sleep Mode, also called Economy Mode, the AC raises the thermostat setting by 2 degrees. It boosts it another 2 degrees after 30 minutes and maintains that temp for 7 hours before returning to the original setting Sleep Mode is quieter. Some users might find that the room gets warmer than they like in Sleep Mode. When you choose Auto Mode, the portable air conditioner adjusts fan speed and other settings to keep the indoor climate right where you want it.
  • Features: 3-speed Fan, digital LED Display, Remote that can be used to control all functions, Drain Alert light and a 7.5-foot cord, one of the longer available.
  • Pros: The 5 modes give you performance options for year-round use. For example, the AC mode is for hot weather. The Dry mode is for those cool, damp days when you’d like drier air without air conditioning.
  • Cons: There’s no Auto-Evaporation with this unit, so you’ll have to empty it periodically. The unit will beep and show a P1 notification. A hose is included, so you can run it into a 5-gallon bucket or, better yet, to a floor drain.
  • Bottom Line: For larger spaces than an 8K model can handle, this unit gives you lots of feature and mode options.

Best 12,000 BTU Cheap Portable Air Conditioner

#5 Ivation 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner – Powerful AC Unit & Dehumidifier

This is the highest rating portable air conditioner not only in this size class but among all the cheap portable air conditioners.

Affordability, quality and outstanding performance are combined in this Ivation 12K BTU unit.

  • BTUs: 12,000 / 8,000
  • Room Size: Up to 400 square feet in warm weather, about 300-350 in hot/humid weather.
  • Modes: 5 Modes give you good options for year-round indoor climate control. AC cools and dehumidifies in hot weather; Dry mode dries the air without chilling it, ideal for damp and cool weather; Fan-only mode moves the air and creates “background” noise when you want it; Sleep Mode bumps up the temperature a few degrees for economical operation; Auto Mode selects the right mode for the conditions and the temperature you want the air to be.
  • Features: All that you’d expect – Digital Display, full-feature Remote, 24-hour programable Timer, Caster wheels plus a Child Lock and a thermostat sensor in the remote.

Called My Temp, switching to the thermostat remote is ideal for large rooms. The air immediately around the unit will cool. The thermostat on the unit will sense it, and the AC will stop. But when the unit relies on the thermostat sensor in the remote, the remote can be set at the far side of the room. The AC won’t shut off until the thermostat on the remote is satisfied.

  • Pros: This unit is loaded, and the cost is very competitive. The rating is right at the top of the charts.
  • Cons: It doesn’t have auto-evaporation. This means you’ll have to occasionally empty the tank. Or you can run a garden hose to a large bucket or to a floor drain.

Did you know? Ivation makes the same unit in a 14,000 BTU size. The reason it isn’t our choice for the cheap 14K portable AC is price. However, it is high quality with impressive features and 5 modes.

Best 14,000 BTU Cheap Portable Air Conditioner

#6 AmazonBasics Portable Air Conditioner with Remote

This is the cheap portable air conditioner that is 14,000 BTUs. It’s not the best, but it should give you good performance.

Plus, it is an AmazonBasics unit, and Amazon is very good about taking back the occasional “lemon” that gets shipped.

  • BTUs: 14,000 / 9,000
  • Room Size: Up to 550 in moderately warm weather. In very warm and/or humid weather, expect this unit to serve about 450-500 square feet.
  • Modes: AC
  • Features: This is an evaporative portable air conditioner. That means the condensation produced in AC mode is evaporated out the exhaust hose. Full-function Remote, LED Display, 3-speed Fan, 3-Level AC (Low/Medium/High), Caster wheels and a Dirty Flooring notification for when to clean the filter.
  • Pros: Good price and features. Evaporation rather than having to empty a collection tank.
  • Cons: Not as many modes as most other models.
  • Bottom Line: AmazonBasics lives up to its name with this model. It offers basic air conditioning and dehumidification at a competitive price.

Did you know? If you like AmazonBasics products, this AC is available in other sizes – 8K, 10K and 12K BTUs. They are similarly rated with the same functions and features.

To browse them, select the link below, and choose the right size for your room.

Cheap Portable Air Conditioner Guide

Here are some issues, sort of a cheap portable AC FAQ guide.

Cheap Portable ACs vs Expensive Portable ACs

Is there a big quality or performance difference between cheap, mid-range and expensive portable air conditioners?

No. At least not in the models we’ve selected for our list of the best portable air conditioners that are cheap in price.

In the list above, the AmazonBasics model has the least features and modes. The rest stack up against models at any cost in terms of quality, features, performance and the ratings and reviews that verified users give to them.

Heat is the Exception: One thing that some expensive portable ACs offer that those on our list do not offer is a Heat Mode – true heat pump technology. Heat pumps run much more efficiently than space heaters. This is because it takes about 2/3s less electricity to circulate refrigerant (heat pump) than to create electric resistance heat (space heater).

Want Heat? There are two really good portable air conditioners with heat pumps. They’re affordable, though you might not consider them cheap. Our picks are these:

SereneLife 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner + 9,000 BTU Heater

Insert Content Template or Symbol

Black + Decker BPACT14HWT Portable Air Conditioner, 14,000 BTU + Heat

Choose the one that is the right size for your needs. Just keep in mind that heat pump (and space heater heat) is designed to be supplemental to another heat source such as a furnace or whole-house heat pump – in most cases. If you live in a climate so warm you don’t have a central heat source, then a portable heat pump might supply enough heat to keep you warm on those occasional chilly days.

Cheap Portable AC Pros and Cons

From the last section, perhaps you can guess what we’ll say here – The pros and cons of cheap units are the same as those with any portable air conditioner.

Here is a short list with brief explanations of each. There are more detailed answers in our comprehensive Best Portable Air Conditioner Reviews and Guide.

Things We Like

  • Portability. It is much easier to move than a window AC.
  • Space cooling. Turn down the central AC, and cool just the room you’re using – bedroom while sleeping, home office while working, etc.
  • Less obstruction. Window ACs take up a lot more of the view out the window and obscure natural light.
  • Better aesthetics. A window AC hanging out of your window isn’t very attractive from the street. A small window kit for a portable AC is a much cleaner “look.”
  • Safer. Occasionally, windows units fall out and are destroyed or cause damage or injury.

Things We Don't Like

  • Cost. On average, a portable AC costs 25% to 40% more than a window unit with the same capacity.
  • Efficiency. This will take a little longer to discuss. Portable air conditioners are much less efficient than window ACs. That is why the US DOE has instituted new ratings for portable ACs called Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity that differs from the way it has been done previously.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has tested the effectiveness/efficiency of air conditioners of all types for many years.

ASHRAE measures how much heat the unit can remove in an hour. The rating is in BTUs – or British thermal units per hour.

However, there’s another side of the story with portable ACs. When they exhaust heat and humidity, the process creates negative pressure that sucks in air wherever your home isn’t airtight – around doors or windows, for example.

For every 100 cubic feet of hot/humid air that leaves your home, 35 to 50 cubic feet of hot/humid air is pulled into your home. That is why DOE BTU ratings are much lower than ASHRAE BTU ratings. They factor in the pull-back air. And it is also why there are NO Energy Star portable air conditioners.

What to Look for in a Cheap Portable Air Conditioner

There are capacity, mode and feature considerations.

Capacity/Size: Make sure the portable AC is large enough for your room. This chart gives pro recommendations for size.

Square Feet

ASHRAE BTUs

100-200

6,000

150-250

8,000

200-300

9,000

250-350

10,000

300-400

12,000

350-450

14,000

OK, so an 8,000 BTU unit should be able to adequately serve about 200 square feet.

We recommend adding 1,000 BTUs for each of these circumstances:

  • The ceilings are higher than 8 feet
  • The room faces west/south
  • The room is often occupied by 3+ people (dining area of a kitchen, living room)
  • The room is a kitchen, and the AC runs while cooking is done (ranges and ovens add heat to a room; boiling food adds humidity)

It’s easy to see that a 200 square foot room might really need a 10,000 or 12,000 BTU unit for adequate cooling and dehumidification given these kinds of considerations.

Mode: Most cheap portable air conditioners do more than just cool. Here are modes that might be useful to you.

  1. Dehumidification/Dry mode: This mode function like AC with one difference. Heat and moisture are removed. However, the heat is routed back into the room. It is not exhausted, as in AC mode. The result is drier air that isn’t cooler too. This mode is ideal for humid days that aren’t warm (fall/spring in cool climates; some winter days in warm, humid climates).
  2. Fan-only mode: This mode keeps air moving for a breeze or to create a little “white noise” when you’re concentrating on work or trying to sleep.
  3. Sleep mode: This mode bumps up the temperature a few degrees – it varies by brand and model – when you hit Sleep Mode. Some boost it another few degrees after 30-60 minutes. This saves energy costs. However, you might find that the room gets too warm in Sleep Mode. If so, just turn down the thermostat a few degrees to a cooler starting point before turning on the mode.

Features: Most quality models, even the cheapest, have similar features. These include a multispeed fan, 2 or 3 cooling levels, 24-hour timer, remote with all the unit’s functions on it, nice digital LED display, caster wheels for easy moving, a tight-fitting window kit, and an air filter to remove large particles so they don’t clog the AC.

Some have advanced features like a carbon filter to remove odors, dirty filter notification light and WiFi and/or voice control with Alexa or Google Assistant. None of the cheapest portable air conditioners have WiFi or smart features.

How to Cut Cooling Costs

In addition to buying a cheap portable AC, you can lower energy costs too.

Here are energy efficiency tips for portable air conditioners.

1. Turn up the thermostat on the whole-house AC by 3-6 degrees, and use the portable unit to cool the room you are using.

2. Use energy-saving features like Sleep Mode and the Timer, so that the AC doesn’t run when you’re not there.

3. If your windows and doors are drafty, fill the gaps with weather stripping. This will minimize the loss of cooled air and warm, humid air from outside leaking back into your home.

4. Make sure your attic has adequate insulation. It’s the cheapest place to add insulation, and the return on investment in the first five years is more than 100%. The attic is where the most heat can be lost in winter and the most heat gained in summer. Insulation reduces those problems.

How much attic insulation should you have? Here’s a handy image from the US DOE Energy Star program.

Additional Resources

This Buying Guide is just one of many we’ve created for portable air conditioners. These might be of use too.

Portable AC Brand Reviews:

LG

Whynter

DeLonghi

Hisense

Honeywell

Della

Portable AC Buying Guides with Top Picks in each:

Best Small Portable Air Conditioner

Quietest Portable Air Conditioner

Best Portable AC that Doesn’t Need a Window

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