Ben Franklin might fairly be called the father of modern air conditioning! More later on his ground-breaking experiments with cooling through evaporation.
But first, we list and review the best portable air conditioners that don’t need a window – after a few words of explanation we think you’ll find useful.
If you know this information already, please excuse the digress. It might help some readers avoid wasting money on an appliance that isn’t the best choice for their air cooling requirements.
1. These are evaporative coolers. Swamp coolers. Chillers. Evaporative air fans. Evap coolers.
And they can be very effective in the right climate.
2. They are NOT air conditioners in the standard sense of the word.
There is no such thing as a portable air conditioner that doesn’t need a window. Where would the hot air and humidity go?
Sure, you could connect the exhaust hose to the exhaust fan above your range or the exhaust fan in the bathroom. But…
- There are no models with parts supplied for that.
- Any portable air conditioner could be used that way if you want to DIY the connection.
But that’s not what people mean when they search for portable air conditioners that don’t need a window.
This guide shares accurate information that other sites either (1) don’t understand or (2) fail to communicate with their readers.
Is an Evaporative Cooler Right for Your Climate?
These so-called mini portable air conditioners work by cooling air through evaporation. Think about getting out of a pool or shower into dry air. The moisture on your skin begins to evaporate. It takes heat with it, and your skin feels cool, even chilly.
The short explanation is that swamp coolers work by wetting absorbent material in their interior and pulling hot air over it. As the moisture evaporates out of the hot air, the air is cooled. The fan blows that air your way, and you get relief from the heat. Some of the moisture might contact your skin – and as it evaporates, you get cooler. Simple, effective physics.
What if the air is already humid?
Then a portable air cooler has limited value.
It might be useless – or at least no better (and more of a hassle) than having a fan blow your way. In humid air, adding moisture to the air will make the space more uncomfortable. Again, the humidity is already there. Just point a fan in your direction to produce evaporative cooling of your skin.
This Evaporative Cooler Effectiveness Map accurately shows the best region for their use, where they have limited value and where they are a waste of money.
- Zones A & B – An evaporative cooler will work for you!
Keep reading for our Top Picks in evaporative coolers with various features and sizes followed by an Evaporative Cooler Buying Guide.
- Zone C – You need an air conditioner!
An Evaporative Cooler is not the best choice.
We recommend starting with one of these guides:
Whole House Fan Reviews and Guide (Ideal where temperatures cool off significantly at night)
See more portable air conditioner resources at the end of this guide.
Best Portable Air Conditioners That Don’t Need a Window
Here are the best evaporative coolers, aka mini air conditioners, swamp coolers and evaporative air fans.
Full reviews follow.
Silini Mini Cooler
- USB/Car/Standard Plug Connection
- Desktop/Personal Size
- 3 Fan Speeds
- 8 Hour Cooling per Tank
- Highest Rating Evaporative AC
Onewell Evaporative Cooler
- Ultra-Quiet 25 Decibels
- Essential Oils Option
- Cools & Filters Air
- USB Connection
- 7 Color Changing LED
JUOIFIP Personal AC Fan
- Add Ice Cubes for Fast Cooling
- Blade-free Quiet Airflow
- 4-6 Hours of Cooling
- Desktop/Personal Size
- Auto Shut-off When Empty
- 500 S.F. Cooling
- 4.8-gallon Tank
- Water Hose Connection – Constant Cooling
- Large Evap Surface – Fast Cooling
for Medium Room
- Commercial-grade Cooler
- 10.3-gallon Tank
- Water Hose Connection
- 3 Fan Speeds
- Durable Caster Wheels
for Large Room
Frigidaire Evaporative Cooler
- 450 S.F. Coverage
- Huge 13-gallon Tank
- 24+ Hours Cooling
- Fan-only Mode
- 3 Fan Speeds w/ Oscillation
Duolang 1353CFM Cooler
- 650 S.F. Cooling
- 15.9-gallon Tank
- Cool, Humidify, Fan, Purify
- Oscillating 3-speed Fan
- Remote, Timer & Air Purifier
The Best Evaporative Air Coolers / Conditioners – Full Reviews
If you’re in a hurry and ready to buy, our Quick Picks for the best evaporative coolers are listed above.
Here are more details about each one. We’ve chosen models with a range of features, cost and coverage in terms of the square footage they will cool. A personal evaporative air cooler is one that cools the area immediately around you – a desktop or bedside model, for example.
Larger units cool a wider area – an entire bedroom, office, living space or even an outdoor setting like a deck or patio. Some use large swamp coolers in the garage or workshop where temperatures can soar and traditional air conditioning isn’t an option.
Best Selling / Top Rated Personal Air Conditioner
#1 Mini Air Conditioner Portable Mini Cooler Upgrade Desktop USB Model by Silini
This is the highest rated evaporative air conditioner of any type or size. It cools for about 8 hours per tank on high – up to 12 hours on low. It comes with three ways to power it – a USB, Car USB and standard plug adapter. The designers seem to have thought of everything.
This mini air conditioner has 3 fan speeds for impressive reach up to about 12 feet away. The size is very compact. It can be used outdoors with a laptop as the battery or a USB rechargeable battery.
- Coverage Area: Personal – up to 120 square feet.
- Modes: Evaporative cooling with fan
- Features: USB/Car USB and Plug Adapter. LED soft light.
- Pros: High quality, dependable, multiple power options. Use anywhere including in the car or RV and outdoors, though range is limited outdoors.
- Cons: As a personal size evaporative air cooler, coverage isn’t huge. See the medium-room and large-room options below for big spaces.
- Bottom Line: If you want a compact evaporative cooler that works and has the highest ratings among users, this model is a great choice. We recommend it for desktop/tabletop use, small bedrooms and offices and anywhere you’ll be fairly close to it.
Best Personal Air Conditioner with Changing LED Lights
#2 Onewell Portable Air Conditioner Fan 4 in1 -7 Colors LED Backlight
Ratings and reviews are very good for this model, though not quite as high as the unit above. Expect 7-10 hours on each tank depending on the low/high setting you choose.
We chose it for good performance and the cool 7-color LED light. Select the color that fits or creates the mood – Green is calming, red is energizing, blue promotes focus and productivity, etc.
- Coverage Area: Personal space up to about 100 square feet.
- Modes: Cool, Humidify, Air Filtration
- Features: 7-color LED, 6 Fan Speeds, Low/Med/High Cooling, USB Connection, Shuts off when Empty, Essential/Scented Oil Reservoir.
- Pros: Loaded with performance and convenience features. Long cooling cycle – up to 10 hours. Very lightweight when dry.
- Cons: USB plug only, but the USB can be plugged into a USB/110V Adapter like this top-rated Samsung adapter. They’re very affordable.
- Bottom Line: If you need a personal-sized portable chiller and like the idea of 7 light colors, you’ll get good use from this model.
Best Cheap Personal Air Conditioner
#3 Personal Air Conditioner Fan Portable Air Cooler Fan w/ Free Ice Tray
Cheap doesn’t mean junk here. This unit is rated about the same as the one right above. And the cost is very competitive.
Plus, a free ice tray is included. When the water in the tank is colder, the air coming out of the unit is colder too, though only slightly. Essential or scented oil can be added to the tank.
- Coverage Area: This is a personal space mini air conditioner. It will cool you up to about 8 feet away – if you add ice, you will likely feel it up to 12 feet away.
- Modes: Cooling and Humidification.
- Features: 3 Fan speeds. Essential/scented Oil option.
- Pros: Great price, good cooling distance for a personal evaporative air cooler. If you enjoy scenting the air with healthy, natural oils, this unit does it very well.
- Cons: Maximum of 6 hours operation on low cooling setting. Just 4 hours on high.
- Bottom Line: If you want a cheap but good-quality personal air conditioner, for yourself or as a holiday gift, this model is a great option.
Best Medium Room Evaporative Air Cooler
#4 Hessaire Products MC18M Mobile Evaporative Cooler, 1,300 Cfm
OK, we’ve covered the best mini portable air conditioners. Now we move on to evaporative air coolers that easily cover much larger rooms and outdoor spaces.
Hessaire swamp coolers are made in the United States.
This unit has a 4.8-gallon tank. The build is commercial-grade, but it is ideal for residential use too. At this price, it is certainly a good fit for any home.
- Coverage Area: 500 square feet indoors. If there is wind outside, the coverage area might be less.
- Modes: Cooling is the primary purpose of the unit. Yes, it humidifies too, but the value of humidity in warm weather is that it can be evaporated to lower skin temperature. The unit also has Fan-only Mode.
- Features: 3-speed Fan and Output setting. The media used is dense, so it can absorb and transfer a high amount of moisture. This means greater potential cooling.
- Pros: Medium-room cooling up to 500 square feet. The quality of this evaporative air cooler is excellent.
- Cons: The 4.8-gallon tank will run out on high output in about 4 hours. For use outdoors or in a garage or workshop, you can attach a garden hose to it to keep it full and running continuously.
- Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a larger cooler than a personal unit offers, then this model is ideal for up to 500 square feet. If you have a larger space, Hessaire makes two units with more capacity. You can view them by choosing the link and scrolling down to find the models that cover 950 and 1,600 square feet.
Best Large Room Evaporative Air Cooler
#5 Hessaire MC37M portable Evaporative Air Cooler for 950 sq. ft.
This high-quality, commercial-grade evaporative cooler is also made in the United States. It is designed to serve a large room, small apartment, office suite and similar spaces up to almost 1,000 square feet.
The unit has absorbent, high-density media on three sides for greater emission of cooled air.
- Coverage Area: Up to 950 square feet.
- Modes: Air Cooling and Humidification.
- Features: 3-speed Fan, large 10.3G Tank, Fan Oscillation and tough but lightweight Resin Housing.
- Pros: Large coverage area. Larger tank for longer operation – up to 10 hours on Low setting; more like 6 on High. Also, it does have a hose connection, so it can be continuously fed water.
- Cons: It’s a little heavy at 45 pounds when dry. This can make it hard to carry upstairs or get easily outdoors. However, the caster wheels are useful for rolling on even, hard flooring.
- Bottom Line: If you live in a dry or semi-arid climate and you want to cool the space while reducing AC cost (or in place of an air conditioner), this is a powerful evaporative air cooler with large coverage area.
Best Indoor/Outdoor Evaporative Cooler
#6 Frigidaire Portable Evaporative Air Fan and Humidifier, Personal Indoor Outdoor Swamp Cooler
This unit also has the second largest tank of any on the list and one of the biggest available. It is built to handle outdoor conditions and provide cooled air.
- Coverage Area: Up to 450 square feet.
- Modes: Air Cooling, Fan-only Modes.
- Features: This Frigidaire swamp cooler has a 13-gallon tank with 3 Cooling Settings, 3 Fan speeds and wide-angle oscillation for cooling a broad path.
- Pros: Has a very long run time of 24 hours or more depending on the setting you choose. Energy costs are about 25% as much to run as an air conditioner.
- Cons: This unit has a larger footprint than some portable air conditioners, so its not a good fit where space is tight.
- Bottom Line: If you want an outdoor evaporative air cooler (though it’s OK indoors too) for the patio, deck, yard, screened porch, garage, outbuilding or similar setting, this one is highly recommended.
Large Evaporative Cooler with Best Features
#7 Duolang 1353CFM Outdoor Portable Evaporative Air Cooler Timer & Remote Control
This large swamp cooler moves a lot of air and is loaded with performance and convenience features spelled out below.
- Coverage Area: About 650 square feet.
- Modes: Cooling, Humidifying, Air Purifying and Fan-only Modes. The air purifier is anion – safely emitting ions that capture pollutants in the air, making them heavier, so they fall out of the air and can’t be breathed.
- Features: Low/Med/High cooling settings, 3-speed Fan, Oscillation and wide air outlet for broad coverage. Remote Control, smooth Caster wheels. The honeycomb-shaped media is highly absorbent and rapidly cools the air. It has a 12-hour timer.
- Pros: Besides the feature and huge water tank, this unit has a powerful fan that moves 1,350 cubic feet of air per minute. Cost for what you get is very competitive.
- Cons: The unit is large and bulky. It’s quite heavy with water in it, so it should be moved when empty or nearly so.
- Bottom Line: We recommend this unit for large open spaces, garages and workshops and outdoor locations.
How Evaporative Air Coolers Work
The short answer is evaporation.
Two hundred and fifty years ago, Ben Franklin and a colleague Dr. Hadley demonstrated reducing the cooling power of evaporation. They were able to lower the temperature of mercury in a thermometer from 65F to 7F – well below freezing – by dipping the thermometer in ether and blowing on it with bellows (normally used to feed oxygen to a fire).
In an evaporative air cooler:
1. A water tank is filled. Some large units can be continuously fed by a water hose or line.
2. The water, through wicking or a pump, wets an absorbent media. Many materials are used.
3. A fan pulls in hot air. As it passes through the wet media, moisture evaporates out of it, taking heat with it (as your skin gets cool when water evaporates off it).
4. The fan blows the cool air into your living space.
Here is a longer explanation from airconco.com.
Pros and Cons of Evaporative Air Coolers
Here are basic advantages and disadvantages.
Note: Near the top of this page, we include a US Map with zones showing where evaporative coolers are more effective and less effective.
We’ve also completed Reviews and Buying Guides on multiple portable air conditioner topics. Each includes the top-rated portable air conditioners in each category:
Portable AC Brand Reviews: