Smallest Portable Air Conditioners: Top 4 Models

When you have limited space in your home or apartment, buying the smallest portable air conditioner can be a great solution that packs a big chill factor punch!

Whether you're looking for a fixed or portable device, you need something that comes in a very small package that costs less but still provides all the coolness you want and need. Well, read on.

small personal air cooler There is a great selection of smaller sized portable AC units on sale these days to cater for the needs of those who simply don't need larger units and don't have the space for them in any case.

This article takes a look at the smaller side of the air cooling arena and the best of the smallest devices to keep you cool on a hot day (or night).

To help you make the right choice for your needs, we check out some really compact units and present what's available to buy online at the best prices. If you decide you want to have one to keep you cool during the hotter months of the year, you're in the right place!

Things to Consider

Before you make a decision on an air cooling unit, remember there is one major difference between the two main types.

  1. The smallest units and handheld devices are all evaporative (swamp) coolers. They are very cheap to run but work best in hot dry conditions. However, when the humidity gets high, they're not as effective and the more expensive to run regular air conditioning unit may be a more effective climate controlling choice.
  2. True air conditioners are larger, bulkier and use a lot more energy to produce cold air. The upside is they work in all climates and actually dehumidify the air, creating a more comfortable coolness in humid climates.

The two main kinds of interior air chilling solutions are explained below. That way you will know what you're getting into before you choose to get out your credit card and make a commitment!

Air Conditioner versus Swamp Cooler

The two main forms of air cooling device popularly on sale today are the conventional air conditioners which use refrigeration technology to chill the air that passes from the unit and the evaporative (swamp) coolers which use cooling by evaporation to chill the air. Each has its merits and drawbacks as we shall see.

Often, the very smallest coolers offered on sale by all the major stores are evaporative/swamp coolers. This includes the handheld coolers like the one pictured above.

The main reason for this is that these types of cooling devices have very little internal mechanics, so are capable of being manufactured in very compact and lightweight housings. It must be remembered that these are NOT air conditioners and should not be expected to produce anything more than a light, cool breeze for cooling you personally and not cooling a room (even a very small one).

True AC contains heavy mechanical components and that's why even the most compact portables are still fairly large and weigh 40 pounds or more.

Compare the Two Main Types of Air Cooling Device

Let's compare the two different small, free standing air cooling solutions that are available for homes and offices, starting with AC:

Air Conditioners

Most people get an image of a refrigerating device that blasts out very cold air when they think of air cooling units. For cooling a room of just about any size quickly and to a comfortable temperature no matter how hot it might be outside, AC is without a doubt the king.

However, the convenience and power of this type of air cooler comes at a price. The units are relatively expensive to buy and they are expensive to run.

Larger units can use a lot of electricity to keep a room cool. Their internal mechanism use atmosphere unfriendly gases such as CFCs (for example Freon gas) and materials that are not particularly kind to the environment if they're not recycled correctly.

One way to keep the power consumption problem under control is to opt for one of the most up-to-date, compact models that are available on sale today. The latest technology and design features on some top models means they use less power than older units yet they still deliver a considerable breath of cold air!

Finding the Top 4 Smallest Air Conditioners

Taking into consideration factors like power output, cost, build quality and overall dimensions, we have searched through all the many latest AC models to narrow down the list to what we consider to be the best four of the smallest or most compact units that can be bought online. It was a task that was not undertaken lightly!

The search covered over 50 models from a variety of manufacturers. It also took into consideration published customer reviews to weed out the bad ones or those that could be considered larger than would be suitable for this review.

The four units listed below can be purchased from Amazon and they were chosen for their smallest footprint and low weight compared to the many models we tested. Those dimensions are as follows (Width x Depth x Height):

Those dimensions are as follows (Width x Depth x Height):

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Simply click or tap on the model that you like most from the four images above to visit the sales page at Amazon to get the unit's full details and see other customer reviews.

Why Choose a Portable AC?

It may interest you to know that even though 75% of the homes in the United States have central air conditioning, there are still millions of homes located in milder or colder climates that are not fitted with central AC. The main reason is that there is simply not enough need for them to be used.

For these homes, compact and portable air conditioning units are a really good way to help the occupants cope with short-term heat waves or get through those few really hot weeks in summer each year.

While not being the most efficient air cooling system available, especially when compared to window units, they do offer the kind of comfort and cooling that is preferable to basic ventilation from a fan.

They are far less expensive to operate than a large central AC system. A major benefit is because they can be easily moved from room to room, you have a greater level of flexibility and convenience when the seasons change.

If an energy efficient window AC is not suitable or desirable in your home, a portable AC is perfectly capable of cooling down a room relatively well. Its efficiency will depend on factors such as climate, the level of direct sunlight entering the room, ambient humidity and room ventilation.

Why Small is Smart

The average portable AC weighs from around 50 - 80 pounds. Despite being marketed as "portable," the weight of them kind of contradicts that descriptive adjective for the appliance.

The units can be moved from room to room, there is no argument there. However the setting up of a portable AC can make it more difficult to do that with any ease. The unit's weight combined with the time and hassle needed to set it up, means that most portables end up staying put in the one place they're needed most.

You may wonder why getting the smallest unit really matters. The short answer is that aside from taking up less floor space, smaller units can actually be more efficient at cooling a room.

To quote the US Department of Energy: "In fact, a room air conditioner that's too big for the area it is supposed to cool will perform less efficiently and less effectively than a smaller, properly sized unit." It goes on: "The reason: an oversized unit will cool the room(s) to the thermostat set-point before proper dehumidification occurs, making the area feel 'clammy' and uncomfortable."

By approaching the situation with a "less is more" philosophy, it turns out that it's often far more of an ideal solution to get the smallest portable AC that will effectively and comfortably cool your room without using up unnecessary excess energy.

The size of the unit you choose should be governed by the size of the room. An obvious example would be where a very small units placed in a large room should not be expected to perform as well as a larger unit, simply because it lacks the brute force cooling power of a larger machine.

The benefits of buying a smaller portable AC:

Once again, if the home you live in has limited free space, or the space you need to cool is not large, a smaller portable AC unit is capable of doing a great job of cooling the room while still keeping energy bills down to manageable levels.

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Now let's take a look at the other alternative; evaporative or swamp coolers:

Swamp Coolers

These evaporative air coolers are excellent in places that have very low humidity, because they can chill a hot room fairly fast. However, they fall down in high humidity being far less effective as the level of humidity rises, becoming no better than a regular fan at close to 100% humidity.

This is because they cool by evaporating moister internally by blasting warm air through a wet membrane. When the air becomes saturated with moisture, the cooling effect is greatly reduced.

The good news is that swamp coolers (also referred to as ventless portable air conditioners, even though they're not really AC) are cheaper to buy and much cheaper to run than conventional air conditioners. Please check out our article on the subject by following that link. They don't need to use power to run heat exchanging motors and so only use what their internal fan needs, which is a fraction of what a regular AC unit uses.

They don't need to use power to run heat exchanging motors and so only use what their internal fan needs, which is a fraction of what a regular AC unit uses. In fact, many of the smaller portable swamp cooler units that come on casters will use a very frugal 100-200 watts of electricity (compared to over 2 kW for AC).

The very smallest desktop and handheld units are all swamp coolers (they cool by evaporating water) and some of the smaller ones are even battery-powered. That just shows how little energy these devices need in order to produce a cold breeze to keep you cool.

It is important to be aware that these are not AC devices and as such cannot be expected to produce the amount of cold air and be capable of actually cooling a whole room down as effectively as a window mounted or free standing AC unit. But if you live in a fairly dry climate and only need some personal cooling, these small, inexpensive devices are perfect!

Which is Best For You?

Both kinds have their place. If you want cheap air cooling and live in a climate with low humidity, a swamp cooler is a good choice.

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If you live with high humidity and heat, you are realistically limited to conventional air conditioning and its higher cost of buying and running but at least you'll be cool when the weather gets hot!