Everyone wants a quiet portable air conditioner, but there are trade-offs for lower noise levels. Those are explored in the pros and cons below.
It’s also worth considering window AC noise levels vs. portable air conditioner noise levels. We do that below.
This quiet portable air conditioner buying guide starts with full reviews of the quietest portable ACs available in popular size and feature categories.
Super-duper important note: Sorry for the hyperbole, but there’s something different about our list. The units on it are both Quiet and Quality!
We’ve noticed that some other lists of the quietest portable air conditioners are filled with units that get poor ratings. We wouldn’t do that to you. What good is a quiet AC if it doesn’t perform well, leaks, breaks down, has a weak fan, etc.? It’s a waste of money.
All the units on our list are among the highest rated by people that have actually used them.
Quietest Portable ACs – Top Rated
Quiet quality. And excellent performance. Those are the traits we discovered in the best and quietest portable air conditioners.
Honeywell 9000 HL09CESWK
- 49-52 decibels
- Up to 400 square feet
- 2 washable air cleaning filters
- AC, Dehumidify & Fan Modes
- Loaded with Features
Honeywell 8000 MO08CESWK
- 50-53 decibels
- Up to 250 square feet
- AC, Dehumidify & Fan Modes
- Auto-Evaporation – no bucket!
8,000 BTU Quietest
JHS 10,000 BTU
- 49-54 decibels
- Up to 300 square feet
- Removes 6+ gal. of moisture daily
- AC, Dehumidify, Fan Modes
10,000 BTU Quietest
SereneLife 12,000 BTU
- 52-56 decibels
- Up to 450 square feet
- AC, Dehumidify, Fan Modes
- Remote, 24hr Timer, More
12,000 BTU Quietest
hOmeLabs 14,000 BTU
- 54-57 decibels (Estimated)
- Up to 600 square feet, Highest Rated in List
- Removes 12.5gal Humidity Daily
- AC, Dehumidify, Fan, Auto Modes
14,000 BTU Quietest
RolliCool Alexa-Enabled AC with Heater
- 52-56 decibels
- Up to 550 square feet
- 5 Modes incl. Heat
- WiFi & Alexa
- Available in 10K & 14K BTU too
Quilo 14000 BTU
- 45-52 decibels
- Up to 700 square feet
- Super-quiet Sleep Mode
- Loaded with Features
Best Sleep Mode
The Best Quiet Portable Air Conditioners – Full Reviews
Our quick picks for the best portable air conditioners that are also very quiet are listed above. Here are in-depth reviews that will help you select the right unit.
Did you know? Two sets of BTU ratings are given for most portable air conditioners. The first is the older ASHRAE rating. It’s higher than the newer Department of Energy Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity rating, which is listed second.
The reason for the significant difference in ratings is discussed below. It’s important to understand when comparing portable air conditioners vs window air conditioners.
Our list includes the quietest portable air conditioners by size and by special feature – Heat and quietest Sleep Mode. But it starts with the quietest portable air conditioner.
Overall Quietest Portable Air Conditioner
#1 Honeywell 9000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner HL09CESWK
This quiet portable air conditioner is ideal for a bedroom or nursery. It doesn’t make a loud “clanging” when the compressor kicks on.
It is an evaporative AC. This means the moisture it pulls from the room is evaporated out the exhaust hose in AC mode. There’s no bucket to empty. The unit removes an impressive 10 gallons of moisture from the air per day on AC or Dehumidify mode.
And it is a high-quality unit with great ratings and reviews from consumers.
- Decibels: 49 on Low / 52 on High
- BTUs: 9,000 / 5,500
- Modes: 4 Modes. AC for cooling, Dehumidify or Dry mode for days you want drier air but not cooler air, and Fan-only mode to move the air or to provide gentle “white noise” for sleeping or concentrating on work. Sleep Mode boosts the temperature by a couple degrees immediately and then by another few degrees in 30 minutes.
- Features: An excellent set includes 2 Air Filters for cleaner indoor air and longer AC life (both easily washable), 24-hour Timer, full-function Remote. Digital Display & Thermostat. 3-speed Fan.
- Pros: Very quiet. Loaded with features. Excellent reliability. No bucket to hassle with. It cools quickly and removes a lot of humidity.
- Cons: It is rated for up to 400 square feet. But in very warm and humid weather, it’s capacity is more like 250-300 square feet. This is true of all portable, window and room ACs. You have to consider how hot and humid conditions are.
- Additional Info: Honeywell makes a complete line of portable air conditioners. If this isn’t the right size, choose the link below and scroll down to the other model options.
- Bottom Line: It’s highly rated and very quiet, but you should consider it for a small bedroom or office up to 300 square feet, not the 400 square feet mentioned. As noted, Honeywell does make larger units for bigger rooms.
8,000 BTU Quietest Portable Air Conditioner
#2 Honeywell MO08CESWK Compact Portable Air Conditioner
This unit makes the list because of its quality, and it is the quietest portable air conditioner with 8,000 BTU capacity. It is ideal for a small bedroom, nursery, den or office.
This unit is slightly louder – 1 decibel – louder than the Honeywell listed first, but it is also costs a little less.
It is an Evaporating portable AC, so there is no tank to empty. There is a drain in back. If you use it on Dehumidify Mode, then you might want to run a hose from the threaded drain port to a 5-gallon bucket or a floor drain.
- Decibels: 50-53
- BTUs: 8,000 / 4,500
- Modes: 4 – AC, Dehumidify and Fan-only give you good indoor climate control options for year-round use in warm climates. Sleep Mode saves energy by raising the temperature a coule degrees while you sleep. If you find the room gets too warm, set the thermostat lower before turning on Sleep Mode.
- Features: They’re decent. Like most 8K BTU units, there are only 2 fan speeds. It has a digital Humidistat for accurate reading and dehumidification, a 24-hour programmable Timer that will help reduce energy use and cost and a Remote with all the Display panel functions on it.
- Pros: Quiet operation without a lot of rattling when the compressor turns on or off.
- Cons: The 5.5 gallons of moisture removal is good, but not great. If you live in a very humid climate, consider one of the larger Honeywell units listed on the product link below. Scroll down to find units up to 14,000 BTUs – two of them with heat function also.
- Bottom Line: If you want cooling and dehumidification for 200 square feet or less in a warm climate, this unit should perform well.
10,000 BTU Quietest Portable Air Conditioner
#3 JHS 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Even if you’re not as familiar with the brand as Honeywell, LG or Haier, JHS makes quality appliances that get good reviews from those that use them.
This is a multi-function portable AC that runs more quietly than other 10K BTU units.
- Decibels: 49-54 decibels
- BTUs: 10,000 / 5,500
- Modes: 3 – Air Conditioning, Dehumidification for damp, cool days and a 2-speed Fan mode for airflow and white noise. It has Sleep Mode too. When you choose this mode, the unit automatically boosts the thermostat setting by a few degrees.
- Features: Self-evaporation means there is no bucket to empty when using AC mode. Occasionally the small inner tank might get full. A notification light will alert you to the need for emptying it. If you’re using the unit as a dehumidifier and you have a floor drain available, you can run the hose to the drain for continuous use. Other features include the standard ones – full-function Remote, 24hr programmable Timer
- Pros: Quiet operation, multiple modes for climate control and it has the ability to remove more than 6 gallons of humidity per day in very humid climates. Plus, a common complaint about portable ACs is that their window kits are hard to install. This one is among the easiest.
- Cons: Keep in mind that a 10,000 BTU portable air conditioner will not cool as effectively as a 10K window AC. That’s the reality, and we discuss it below in the Pros and Cons. This unit is rated accurately – about 300 square feet, or more like 250 if the outside conditions are very hot and/or humidity is high.
- Bottom Line: If you have a medium-size bedroom or home office where quiet, reliable cooling is important, then this unit should satisfy your expectations.
12,000 BTU Quietest Portable Air Conditioner
#4 SereneLife 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
This unit does exactly what we require to make our list – it delivers quiet performance and it is of very good quality. In fact, it is the quietest and highest-rated 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner available.
If you like the features and quality but need another size, SereneLife makes models 8K and 10K too. One of the 10K and a 12K model have heat – they are true heat pumps.
- Decibels: 52-56
- BTUs: 12,000 / 7,500
- Modes: 3 – Air Conditioning for warm days, Dehumidify for cool and damp weather and Fan Mode for creating a breeze. It also has Sleep Mode that raises the temperature slightly and lowers fan speed for quieter, economical nighttime cooling.
- Features: The nice set of features include LED Digital touch panel, Remote with all the functionality of the panel, 24-hour Timer, 3-speed Fan and Air Louvers that swing to better distribute the air to all parts of the room.
- Pros: Quiet dependability. Evaporation of condensation. While the SereneLife literature doesn’t mention it, this is an evaporative model, so you won’t have to empty the tank very often, if at all. Setup is quick and easy.
- Cons: The bigger an AC gets, the more noise it makes. This unit is louder than some smaller models.
- Bottom Line: This is a well-built, evaporative unit ideal for warm, humid climates and rooms 275-400 square feet.
14,000 BTU Quietest Portable Air Conditioner
#5 hOmeLabs 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
This is a big unit that can remove more than 12 gallons of humidity per day in very humid weather.
It’s also quiet yet powerful. While rated for up to 600 square feet, we’d recommend it for space up to about 500 square feet or slightly less in very humid conditions.
The flap on this 14K portable air conditioner swings up and down for a unique twist on air distribution.
- Decibels: Estimated 54-57
- BTUs: 14,000 / 8,000
- Modes: 4 – AC, Dehumidify/Dry, Fan-only and Auto. Select Auto mode, and the unit will select the best settings to produce the indoor temperature you desire. For example, if the room is 80 degrees, and you set the thermostat to 74, the unit will turn on the AC on high with a high fan speed. If it’s only 75 in the room, then the Auto function will choose a lower setting for AC and fan. If no cooling is required, but the room is humid, it will choose Dehumidify/Dry mode.
- Features: Full-function Remote, LED Display panel. In moderate humidity, most of the condensation will evaporate and be exhausted out the hose and window. An optional drain hose is included for heavy humidity and continuous use. It can be run to a floor drain, if one is available.
- Pros: The hOmeLabs 14K portable air conditioner gets outstanding ratings and reviews. It is very dependable.
- Cons: The unit is heavy, as you might expect from being a 14,000 BTU model. While it has caster wheels, carrying it isn’t easy.
- Bottom Line: This unit does a fantastic job of removing humidity. It will serve a room about 25x20 in normal summer conditions. It’s a good choice for a large bedroom, enclosed office or living room in a climate with moderate or high humidity.
Quietest Portable AC with WiFi/Voice Command
#6 RolliCool Alexa-Enabled Portable Air Conditioner 12,000 BTU AC Unit with Heater
This unit gives you many ways to control its performance – the control panel, remote, Bluetooth, WiFi and App or voice commands with Amazon Alexa.
We chose it not for those reasons alone. It is also one of the quietest 12,000 BTU portable air conditioners available.
- Decibels: 52-56 – It is as quiet as most 8K to 12K BTU models.
- BTUs: 12,000 / 7,500
- Modes: 5 – AC, Dry, Fan-only, Sleep and Heat. The heat mode is true heat pump heating – not a space heating coil inside the unit. In summer months, it collects heat inside and pumps it outdoors. In heat mode, it gathers heat from outside air and pumps it into your living space. It is designed for supplementing a central heat source (furnace, heat pump, boiler, etc.).
- Features: Smart features including WiFi and Alexa, Remote, 24-hour Timer, 3 fan speeds and optional drainage hose that might be handy for continuous use in Dry/Dehumidify mode. It also has a replaceable carbon filter to remove odors in addition to 2 washable filters.
- Pros: Smart home technology. It’s got a lot to offer besides the 5 performance modes that includes Heat. With 3 filters, it cleans the air better than most portable ACs.
- Cons: Dehumidification – about 6.5 gallons per day of moisture – is so-so.
- Bottom Line: If you want a smart portable air conditioner, this is the quietest available. It’s rated for 550 square feet. In humid climates, it will handle up to 450 square feet.
Quietest Sleep Mode Portable AC
#7 Quilo 14000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
This unit runs at a very quiet 46 decibels in sleep mode. That’s why it makes the list. In fact, it is one of the quietest portable air conditioners of any size.
See the pros and cons below before choosing it.
Select the Price link below to choose All-White design or White with Black accents.
- Decibels: 45-52
- BTUs: 14,000 / 8,500
- Modes: 4 – AC, Dehumidify, Fan and Sleep
- Features: Self-evaporating condensation. Most of the moisture removed is exhausted out the hose connected to the window kit. It covers the other basics well – 3-speed Fan, 24-hour Timer, Remote with all the functionality of the Display panel.
- Pros: Very quiet Sleep Mode and evaporative design.
- Cons: Here’s the thing about a quiet Sleep Mode. To reduce decibels, it also reduces fan speed and cooling output. If you’re a “warm sleeper,” then you might find this unit won’t keep you as cool as you’d like to be. Otherwise, you should be fine.
- Bottom Line: If you’re a light sleeper but don’t get overheated at night, then this unit has the quietest Sleep Mode available.
Quiet Portable Air Conditioners – Pros & Cons
There is a definite upside to having a quiet portable air conditioner – better sleep, less interference when talking to others or listening to media.
But is there a downside too? Potentially yes.
Here’s a look at both sides of the story.
- Peace and Quiet. The quietest portable air conditioners are sought by those that use them in their bedrooms. Light sleepers don’t want to be woken up by loud fan noises or clanky compressor sounds.
- Lower Energy Bills. The best use of a portable AC is for “space cooling,” the AC equivalent of a space heater. A quiet portable air conditioner allows you to turn up the thermostat on the central AC or heat pump and use the portable unit where you’re spending the time – a bedroom at night, home office during the day and living room in the evening. For example, turn up the thermostat from 72 degrees to 80 at night and keep the bedroom cool with the portable unit.
- Benefits vs Window ACs. The window kit on a portable AC doesn’t block the view as much as a window AC does. And it looks better from the outside. Some homeowner associations ban window ACs on the front (or anywhere) of a house.
- Cost. The quietest portable air conditioners are usually not the cheapest portable ACs. You’ll probably have to pay a bit more for extra insulation and design that helps to limit noise.
- Weak Cooling and Fan on Some Models. The “cheap” way to keep an AC quiet is to build it with sub-par components. The unit will be quiet because the compressor and fan are weak, not really cranking out the cool air and airflow. That’s a cheaper path to a quiet AC than building it with more insulation, better vibration control and quality components designed for less noise. That’s not the case with units in our list, but it is a common failing of “quiet” portable ACs. Read reviews to find out what other consumers are saying about the models you’re considering.
- Undersized for the Space. This is similar to the last issue, but it is more a problem with all portable ACs. Many of them don’t cool or dehumidify the amount of space they are rated for.
Does the 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner you’re considering say it will serve 400 square feet? It might, but only in warm conditions that aren’t too humid. If its hot and/or humid, it might take care of 250 to 300 square feet. This is a problem further addressed next.
ASHRAE vs DOE SACC BTU Ratings
This is an important change in how the effectiveness of portable air conditioners is rated. It helps consumers better understand what they’re getting in this type of AC.
For decades, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has tested the cooling power of many types of air conditioner.
ASHRAE does a simple test – how much heat, measured in British thermal units (BTUs), does the AC move per hour.
But there is a problem with portable air conditioners. When they expel air out the exhaust hose, negative air pressure is created in your home. This will suck in outside air from cracks around doors, windows, electrical outlets and other places that aren’t airtight.
Here’s what happens: The air in the room being cooled by the portable AC will become cooler and less humid. But the air in the rest of the house will actually become warmer and more humid. Even in the room with the AC, some outside air will creep in under and around the door. This obviously reduces the cooling power of the air conditioner.
As a result, the US Department of Energy (DOE) developed a different measurement for portable ACs and similar cooling appliances. It’s the Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity (SACC) measurement that factors the type of infiltration we’ve been discussing and other issues. These measurements are shown in literature as DOE 2017 Standards, US DOE SACC, or similar.
DOE/SACC BTU measurements are typically 40% to 50% lower than ASHRAE because the BTUs of heat pulled into the house are factored, not just the BTUs exhausted.
If a portable air conditioner manufacturer doesn’t list the DOE measurement too, it isn’t being totally honest with you.
Window vs Portable AC Noise Levels
Noise is the biggest complaint users have about both types. There’s not a lot you can do except to choose one of the units on our Quietest Portable AC List above or Quietest Window AC List found here.
Window and portable air conditioners run at similar noise levels. The quietest units of both usually have inverter-type compressors that run more continuously, speeding up and slowing down to keep the temperature right at the thermostat set point. Inverter-driven window and portable ACs have noise levels in the mid-40 decibels.
Portable and window air conditioners with standard compressors have decibel ranges of about 48 to 56.
Here are a few differences between the two AC types:
- Some portable ACs have better insulation, and that helps reduce noise.
- Window units, since the back half is outside, can seem quieter from inside the house. Some users line the plastic “wings” that stretch to the window frame with foam insulation, a towel or other material to further reduce noise.
- Size: The larger any AC is, the more noise it will make. The largest portable air conditioners are 14,000 BTU models. The largest window air conditioners are 25,000 BTUs, sometimes more. So, the loudest window ACs are louder than the loudest portable air conditioners.
The bottom line, of course, is to compare units against each other that you are considering. If you are very sensitive to noise, another alternative is to upgrade to a ductless mini split AC. The compressor will be outside. The indoor unit will have a small fan to distribute cooled air, and it will be much quieter than either a window or portable air conditioner.
FAQs – Auto Evaporation and More
This section includes a few random but important topics for this AC type.
How much space will a portable air conditioner cool?
The point has been made that the room size rating for many portable ACs is inaccurate. Most are based on ASHRAE BTU ratings, not the newer, more accurate DOE ratings (see the last topic for details).
With that in mind, this table shows accurate room size ratings for this type of air conditioner.
What is Auto Evaporation?
All types of air conditioners remove both heat and moisture from the air. This is one of the remarkable benefits of this amazing technology.
That moisture has to go somewhere! In central cooling and in mini split AC systems, the water drains through a tube to the outside of your home. Window ACs drain it out the back – you’ve probably seen a window air conditioner dripping while running.
There are three options with portable air conditioners. First, they can drain the moisture into a tank that you have to empty. Secondly, a hose can be used to carry the water directly to a floor drain.
Those options are a bit of a hassle, especially having to empty a tank/bucket.
To avoid the hassle, a third option called evaporative technology has been developed. Here’s an overview of it. When refrigerant carries heat out of your living space, it gets really hot. So do the compressor and condenser coil through which the refrigerant flows.
Evaporative technology: It takes advantage of that hot equipment. The moisture condensed out of the air is splashed or dripped onto the hot surfaces. It quickly evaporates, and the steam/mist is exhausted out of the house with the hot air. This leaves little or no condensation in the internal reservoir. No bucket to empty. No hassle.
Most portable air conditioners are evaporative, at least when in AC mode. Some will fill up with water in Dehumidification Mode, aka Dry Mode.
Dehumidification Mode: If you’re using your portable air conditioner as a dehumidifier, then you should attach the hose (or a garden hose) and run the hose to a floor drain.
How to Choose a Portable AC You Will Like
In short, this section is about how to choose the right portable air conditioner for your purposes. There are several key factors.
Choose the Right Size.
1. Go by DOE SACC ratings and not ASHRAE ratings to determine the BTU rating of the unit.
If the number of BTUs is listed but it doesn’t specify DOE or ASHRAE, consider it is ASHRAE.
2. Cut the ASHRAE BTU rating in half to get the “true” DOE SACC rating.
3. Use the Size Chart above to determine how many DOE-rated BTUs the unit should produce.
4. Buy an AC that produces at least as many BTUs as the chart shows. Going a little larger might be needed (Next).
Buy a Bigger Unit If…
- 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 (ranges and ovens add heat to a room; boiling water adds humidity)
- Your house is old and drafty
- The space is poorly insulated
Add 1,000 BTUs for each that apply.
It’s easy to see that a 300 square feet room might be better served by a 10,000 or 12,000 BTU AC rather than a 9,000 BTU model.
You won’t regret buying a size bigger. That’s not a good idea with a central AC or mini split AC, but with portable air conditioners, it is OK or even recommended.
Know your Modes
Most portable air conditioners have AC, Dehumidify and Fan-only modes. A few have Heat mode. These are performance modes.
Sleep Mode and Auto Mode are ways to use the other modes.
1. AC mode is ideal for hot or hot/humid weather. No surprise there.
2. Dehumidify or Dry mode removes moisture but not heat. Yes, the refrigerant initially takes out the heat, but it is circulated back into the room, so the air temperature doesn’t drop.
This mode is useful in damp weather that isn’t warm enough to require AC. If you live in a warm and humid climate, then you know that some winter days are clammy but not hot. In other climates, spring and fall days can be like this. Air conditioning would make the air chilly. Dry mode without AC makes the air drier, more comfortable, without making you cold.
3. Fan-only mode creates a breeze. In warm weather, it might be enough to keep you cool. When you don’t need AC or heat, it can also serve as white noise that helps you or a child sleep or blocks out distractions for work or study.
4. Heat mode can be very useful in chill weather and very cold weather.
In chilly weather, a portable air conditioner with heat can provide space heating in the room you are occupying, so that you don’t have to turn on the central heat source.
In cold weather, some rooms might not be adequately heated – especially those furthest from the furnace or heat pump air handler. A portable heat pump AC can provide supplemental heat to that room.
There really isn’t much difference in this regard between the quietest portable air conditioners – or any Portable ACs.
Common Features: Almost all have digital displays on the unit, a remote you can use to control all the functions, a 24-hour timer, caster wheels, optional drain hose for continuous use without having to empty a tank and at least one filter.
Additional Filters: If you have pets or if cooking odors are an issue in your home, consider a model with multiple air filters. A carbon filter is especially good for odors.
WiFi: There are a few WiFi portable air conditioners available. The RolliCool model in the list above is a WiFi/Smart portable air conditioner. Many of the major brands make a WiFi model. Browse the Brand Reviews and Buying Guides in the Research section below to find more smart portable air conditioners.
Voice Control: There are a growing number of quiet portable air conditioners that work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and similar devices. These include the Midea MPF08CR81-E we listed as one of the Best Small Portable Air Conditioners.
You can find information about other voice control models in our reviews of Frigidaire, LG, Hisense and DeLonghi portable air conditioners for smart units with voice control and/or WiFi. Links to reviews of these brands are below.
Additional Portable AC Research Sources
We’ve created an up-to-date suite of Buying Guides for major brands and for the types of portable air conditioners consumers want.
You might find these guides useful in your research. Each has comprehensive information to assist you in making a choice plus recommendations for the highest-rated portable air conditioners in each class or category.
Portable AC Brand Reviews:
Best Portable Air Concrete by Category:
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