Best portable air conditioner – upgrade to an evaporative cooling system or portable cooler

Cool down with the best portable air conditioners and air coolers, from Russell Hobbs, Black + Decker, Silent Night and more

Best portable air conditioners: Russell Hobbs RHPAC4002 2 in 1 Portable Air Conditioner
(Image credit: Future)

We've all noticed summers getting warmer, and suddenly, we're waking up to the fact that fans sometimes aren't powerful enough to cool us down during those warmer months. So that staple of holiday hotel rooms, offices, and US households is gaining popularity in the UK, too - air conditioners. The best portable air conditioners and air coolers can make all the difference between sticky, humid days and nights and an airy oasis, with no installation required.

This is especially important when many of us work from home for the first time, suddenly missing the standard air conditioning installed in most offices. Thankfully there's a solution, and both air conditioners and evaporative cooling systems are more affordable than in the past.

Many of these products also boast additional functions such as humidifying, dehumidifying, and even air-purifying (for more like this, check out our guide to the best air purifiers), so you're getting more for your cash and something that you can use all year round.

Scroll down to see which products we rated as best.

The best portable air conditioners and air coolers in 2022

Russell Hobbs RHPAC4002 2 in 1 Portable Air Conditioner

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)
Best portable air conditioner overall

Specifications

Functions: Air Conditioner, Dehumidifier
Noise: 65dB
Capacity: 1.1L
Weight: 33kg

Reasons to buy

+
Nice sleek design
+
Works as a dehumidifier
+
Window kit included

Reasons to avoid

-
Small tank capacity
-
Very heavy
-
Noisy

The Russell Hobbs 2-in-1 portable air conditioner is a compact machine that makes quick work of warm, humid air in the home. A drainage hose and window kit are included for super-easy installation, and integrated wheels mean you can move it around without lifting (which is difficult due to its heft).

We tested the portable air conditioner in a space of about 18.5m2 and can confirm that the machine-made good on the promise to cool and dry the air. We were also pleasantly surprised at how quickly it made a difference to the overall air quality on a warm, late summer day. However, be careful with dry mode, as the internal tank can only hold 1.1L of removed moisture.

The RHPAC4002 is slightly more attractive than many of its rivals, with the LED display positioned on the front a nice detail. This display shows temperature information and fan speed, as well as if the 24-hour timer has been set. You also get a remote control, which comes in handy.

Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Related: the best dehumidifiers for damp problems in your home

Challenge 6 Litre Portable Air Cooler

(Image credit: Challenge)

2. Challenge 6 Litre Portable Air Cooler

Specifications

Functions: Cooler, purifier and humidifier
Capacity: : 6 L
Noise: : 60 dB

Reasons to buy

+
Also a purifier and humidifier
+
Oscillation function

Reasons to avoid

-
Just a cooler
-
Some complained of limited reach for cool air

A cheaper air cooler, this machine from Challenge combines cooling, purifying and humidifying into one device. Though some reviewers complained that the reach of its cooled air was a little limited, this should suit those who want to bring down the temperature in their home office or bedroom as they sleep.

Place cold water or ice cubes into the 6L water tank and switch to one of the three-speed settings. There's also an oscillation function that enhances the reach of its cool air output. The purifier and humidifier functions mean you shouldn't suffer some of those unwanted side effects from sitting in dry air all day.

Silentnight 39989 Portable Air Cooler

(Image credit: Silentnight)

3. Silentnight 39989 Portable Air Cooler

Best budget portable air cooler

Specifications

Functions: Cooler and humidifier
Capacity: 5 L
Weight: 6.5 kg

Reasons to buy

+
450 Minute timer
+
Three speed settings
+
Also a humidifier

Reasons to avoid

-
Just an air cooler

Another budget option, the Silent Night Portable Air Cooler, is - as the name suggests - a good choice for cooling down a bedroom. The timer function makes it easy to set the machine to operate just before bedtime or even as you fall asleep before switching off to spare you both the noise and the electricity bill.

There are three-speed settings to choose from, and the cooler also works as a humidifier to reduce the dryness of the air. You can use the remote to control the cooler from your bed or the sofa, and the carry handle and wheels make it simple to move from the bedroom to another space during the day.

Russell Hobbs RHPAC3001 3 in 1 Portable Air Conditioner

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)

4. Russell Hobbs RHPAC3001 3 in 1 Portable Air Conditioner

Specifications

Functions: Air conditioner, air cooler, dehumidifier
Noise: 64 dB
Capacity: 0.3 L
Cooling capacity: 7000BTU

Reasons to buy

+
Also works as a dehumidifier
+
Two-speed settings
+
Oscillating fan

Reasons to avoid

-
Noisy
-
Small tank capacity

This portable air conditioner from Russell Hobbs is a one-stop shop for effective climate control in the home, also acting as an air cooler and dehumidifier with an oscillating fan function and castors for easy movement around the house. A window kit is also supplied with a flexible 1.5m hose, making it easy to fix the air conditioner if portability isn't your goal.

Able to cover an area of about 14m2, the machine has two-speed settings and promises to keep your home at a comfortable humidity level no matter the weather outside. This helps prevent mould, dust, condensation, or dampness - helping keep everyone healthy and your home clean of unnecessary bacteria.

Read next: the best fans to keep you cool on a budget

Logik LAC07C19 Portable Air Conditioner

(Image credit: Logik)

5. Logik LAC07C19 Portable Air Conditioner

Best portable air conditioner with timer

Specifications

Functions: Air conditioner, dehumidifier
Noise: 62 dB
Weight: 22.5 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Also works as a dehumidifier
+
24-Hour timer
+
Sleep mode

Reasons to avoid

-
Noisy

A portable air conditioner that also works to remove excess humidity from your indoor air, this offering from Logik also offers a 24 hours timer that makes it easy to program your air cooling to suit your lifestyle and needs. Additionally, a sleep mode cools the room down to the desired level before switching itself off - convenient and energy-efficient to boot!

There are 14 temperature settings for greater control, and both wheels and a carry handle make it slightly easier to move the machine around the home. There's also a window kit included if you want a more fixed location.

How to choose the best portable air conditioner for your home

Challenge 6 Litre Portable Air Cooler

(Image credit: Challenge)

What's the difference between an air cooler and an air conditioner?

Both portable air conditioners and air coolers have been included on this list because of the similar functions they fulfil in the home, but there are, of course, a couple of differences.

An air conditioner traditionally works by circulating air around the room repeatedly using a refrigerant, thus significantly cooling down the air in a room. It also reduces the humidity in a space, so air conditioners are listed as dehumidifiers.

On the other hand, air coolers work a little closer to the ways that fans do - but significantly more efficiently. Filling an air cooler with cold water can bring the temperature down and add moisture to the space for a more pleasant living environment. They also tend to use less electricity overall.

Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline is the smart homes editor for Ideal Home, bringing her background in ecommerce and technology journalism to the homes world since the start of 2021. She has been in the industry for more than a decade, working for magazines and websites across industries as including IT Pro, Expert Reviews, Coach and The Week. Her main passion is for how technology can make people’s lives easier and more fun, as well as how smart home devices can save us all money and time.