The Best Portable Air Conditioners That Won’t Fit Your Window

After years of sticky summers in small city apartments, my childhood memories of air-conditioned homes began to seem increasingly distant. Living in buildings with small, oddly shaped windows or even no outside ventilation to hold a traditional box-like window unit had tarnished my dream of ever having my own air conditioner. Then I discovered portable self-contained units. These are air conditioners that you don’t put in your window, so they’re great for apartments, basements, attics, hallways, and any other place that gets too hot.

There are two main types of stand-alone air conditioners. One is a portable unit that usually sits on the floor and has a hose that exhausts hot air through a window or opening, similar to a traditional window air conditioner. Units of this type also often operate as dehumidifiers, extracting heat and moisture from the air, compressing it with the internal motor, and then recirculating cooler, drier air back into the space. They are best suited to humid climates and usually cost between $300 and $500.

The other main type is evaporative. These units are lined with moisture-wicking membranes that add moisture to the surrounding air. They use an internal fan and a reservoir of cold water and ice to blow cold, moist air into a room. According to the US Geological Survey, they work best in drier areas with lower humidity and higher heat, namely the west, southwest, and Pacific Northwest. These tend to be less expensive than portable pipe-vented units, typically ranging from $40 to $120.

To help you find the best home cooling system for you, we’ve rounded up the best portable self-contained vent pipe and evaporative air conditioning units in a variety of styles and sizes. May your home become the fresh air home of your dreams this summer.

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