What Size Portable Air Conditioner Should I Get?

One of the best ways to decide on a portable air conditioner is to base it on size. But, you may be asking yourself, what size portable air condition should I get? The answer to that question relies on a number of contributing factors.

You will want to purchase the correct size portable air conditioner because the size is directly related to the price tag. You do not want to spend an extra hundred dollars if you do not need to.

Additionally, the size of your portable air conditioner has a big impact on its energy efficiency. The general rule of thumb is the larger the unit, the most expensive it will be to run.

The efficiency level also have an impact on the environment. Why make a largest footprint than you really need to? Purchasing the correctly sized portable air conditioner will minimize your long term impact.

So, how do you decide which size portable air conditioner to purchase? Simply consider the following factors: the size of your space, the climate you live in, and whether you are cooling the whole house or just a room.

The size of your space

Portable air conditioners come in a whole variety of sizes and capacities. The first thing to consider when choosing the size of your unit is the size of your space. There’s no sense paying for a unit that can cool 1,000 square feet when your space is only 500 square feet.

It is fairly simply to determine what the size capacity is for a given unit by looking at the listed BTUs. The following list shows the relationship between the BTUs and the size capacity of a given unit

  • 8,000 BTU unit = up to 200 square feet
  • 10,000 BTU unit = up to 300 square feet
  • 12,000 BTU unit = up to 400 square feet
  • 13,000 BTU unit = up to 450 square feet

Many units also have the size suggestion listed on the box, so referring to that number is also a good idea. The numbers above are general guidelines rather than strict rules. The efficiency of the unit will change its capabilities slightly as well.

Another thing to keep in mind is that with more BTU and size capacity, the weight and size of the unit will increase. Make sure you have left enough space in the room for the unit if you plan on purchasing a larger one.

The climate you live in

The second consideration which will influence the size portable air conditioner you need is the climate in which you live. If you do not need to bring the temperature down too drastically, you can probably get away with a smaller unit.

If you live in a hotter or more tropical climate, you will need a more powerful, and thus bigger, unit. Because the unit will need to work harder to bring the temperature down, you will want something with a bit more power.

Conversely, if you live in a more temperate climate, a smaller unit will serve you just fine. Since the difference between the starting temperature and the desired temperature is much smaller, the unit does not have to work quite as hard.

Another thing to consider with a humid climate is a dehumidifier. Some portable air conditioners come with one built-in. This is definitely worth it for a tropical climate. Sometimes just taking the humidity out of the room will make it feel cooler on its own.

Prior to purchasing a portable air conditioner, consider the difference between the starting and desired temperatures. If the distance is smaller, get a smaller unit; if the distance is larger, get a larger unit.

The whole house or just a room

The final consideration for what size portable air conditioner to purchase is how much of the house you want to cool. This is related to the size capacity consideration, but slightly more involved.

Portable air conditioners are really made to only cool one room. If you want to cool more of your home, you will need the largest unit available.

Most portable air conditioners have a built-in automatic turn off. This means that when the desired temperature is reached, the system shuts down. It will take a portable air conditioner much longer to get the whole space to the desired temperature and therefore use more energy.

In order to counteract this energy use, purchasing a large capacity unit is a wise choice. Additionally, look for larger units with high energy efficiency ratios (EER) because those units, though larger, will help keep your costs as low as possible.

Ultimately, it is not usually suggested to rely on a portable air conditioner for your whole house or even multiple rooms. If you do plan on going that route, however, make sure you purchase a larger unit to get the most cooling power available.


Purchasing the correctly sized portable air conditioner will save you money in the moment and in the long run. There is no point in paying for a unit to cool a larger space if you do not need to.

The correctly sized portable air conditioner for you relies on three factors: the size of the space, the climate in which you live, and how many rooms you wish to cool. Considering these factors when you ask which size portable air conditioner to buy will help narrow the field.

Just as a larger portable air conditioner unit is not necessary for a small space, make sure you purchase a big enough one for your needs. A unit that is too small will have to work harder to bring the temperature down and therefore waste energy.

Before you buy a portable air conditioner, weigh your own personal needs. Buying the correct size save you money upfront, save you money on electricity, and be more energy efficient.

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