The Best Portable Air Conditioners for Dorm Rooms, Apartments and More

If your summer temperatures get exceedingly hot, with or without matching humidity, an air conditioner can be more necessary than nice.  While most newer residential buildings have adequate air conditioning, some older ones don’t.  If you’re a renter in such a building or a student in a dorm without proper AC, there are some portable options that can make life a little more comfortable.

When looking for a portable air conditioner, you need to understand how dehumidification works.  Air conditioners draw in air from your room, remove moisture from that air, cool the air, and then send it back out.  If you live in an area where the humidity numbers can get as high as the temperature, dehumidification is much more crucial than if you live in a drier area.  Since all ACs are designed to dehumidify, you won’t find models designed specifically for drier vs humid climates.  Instead, you’ll just want to understand how well different units do that job.  If you live in a dry climate, you won’t need to spend extra money on an air conditioner just because of its superior dehumidification.  On the other hand, if you live somewhere very humid, not finding a unit that’s excellent at dehumidifying will probably leave you feeling hot under the collar.

When it comes to determining how much cooling power you need, it won’t necessarily be as easy as how many square feet you want to cool.  A room with higher ceilings will require more cooling power, as will a room that gets a lot of direct sunlight through older, non-energy-efficient windows.  If you’re on an upper floor (or the only floor) of a building without great insulation, via insulation in the attic or an energy efficient roof, you’ll have a harder time keeping the room cool.  Most AC units will rate cooling power in tons.  A ton of cooling power actually goes back to the days when blocks of ice were used to cool rooms and refers to how much cooling an actual ton of ice could do in 24 hours.  Most units, thankfully, also give you a good estimate of the square footage a unit can handle, but, as mentioned above, how hard your unit will have to work will depend on other factors than square footage.  A reputable dealer can help you choose a unit that meets your needs well without spending more than you need to.

The most popular portable air conditioners are still window units.  As the name suggests, these models are designed to be mounted in an open window.  If you opt for one of these models, make sure you measure the window opening before you shop.  Bringing home a new AC only to find that it’s too big for its allotted space is not a fun way to spend the day.  If you need to go with a model that’s smaller than your opening, be sure to buy appropriate gap fillers, too.  If you’re a renter or student in a dorm, make sure you know what your “legal” options are for these gap fillers.  There are now some portable units available that sit on the floor rather than mount in a window.  This type of model might be more appropriate for you if you’re concerned about the safety or security of a window unit.  The important thing to remember is that any air conditioner will need to vent to the outside in some way.  The heat being removed from the air has to have someplace to go.  All air conditioners will also have a drain pan or other collection device for the moisture removed from the air.  Some models require an outlet for this condensation, but others can contain different amounts of water in a receptacle inside the unit; this receptacle will need to be emptied when it gets full (how often it fills up will depend on how humid your air is).  Make sure you know how any model you consider handles exhaust and condensation.


Finding a unit with a programmable thermostat can help you get the most for your money without spending money cooling your room while you’re away. View this for the best portable air conditioner online.