Can you use a portable air conditioner as a heater?
Yes. Not all portable air conditioners can be used as heaters in the winter. However, a special category of portable AC units is capable of heating. They work both as:
- Conventional portable air conditioners (in the summer).
- Portable space heaters (in the winter).
In fact, the best portable air conditioner and heater combos can provide an almost symmetric cooling and heating output. That means they can generate as much cooling output as heating output and cover a very similar square footage.
Example: #2 Whynter ARC-14SH is, specs-wise, the best portable air conditioner and heater dual-hose combo. It can generate:
- 14,000 BTU of cooling output (with 1300W input). This can cool down spaces up to 600 sq ft.
- 13,000 BTU of heating output (with 1000W input). This can heat up spaces up to 500 sq ft.
Ever since portable AC units with heaters were able to achieve this symmetrical cooling/heating, they have become an extremely popular choice. They save space, costs, and maintenance because you don’t have to deal with two devices.
LearnMetrics recommends 5 top-rated portable heater air conditioner combos, based on cooling capacity/coverage, heating capacity/coverage, energy efficiency, price, general reliability of units, and an average review. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip to the 5 best units – complete with the comparison of the best portable AC heater units and individual unit reviews – here:
Before we check out which are the best portable air conditioner and heater combos, let’s learn a thing or two about these 2-in-1 units.
We’ll learn about how can a portable air conditioner also heat up space, and look into 3 key metrics that you have to check out to buy the right portable air AC heater:
How Do Portable AC Heaters Work?
How is it possible that a portable air conditioner can also heat? Does it work like a heat pump?
Basically, portable heater air conditioner combos do have the same effect as heat pumps. However, they are not heat pumps as all.
The way any portable air conditioner works is pretty straightforward:
- Portable AC fan generates airflow.
- Indoor air is passed over condenser coils (cold coils). Air temperature (as well as relative humidity) decreases, and we have nice cool air.
- Heat captured from indoor air is passed via refrigerant lines and expansion valve to the evaporator coils (hot coils).
- Another fan expels the excess heat via the vent you have installed through the window. Exception: Ventless portable air conditioners do not require window venting.
In the winter, we are in need of heating instead of cooling. A portable air conditioner with heater just has to do one thing to switch from air conditioning to cooling:
- Reverse the flow of refrigerant (by switching the position of the expansion valve).
That’s pretty much it; with every portable AC heater combo, you use either the manual or remote control to switch on the heating, and the switch of the expansion valves happens automatically.
The difference the reversal of refrigerant flow causes in this:
Now, the condenser coils are not cold; they are hot. Effectively, the switch turned the condenser coils into hot evaporator coils. In the winter, the indoor air is passed over these hot coils, and its energy is increased. The net effect we all can feel is warm air coming from the portable heating and air conditioning unit.
3 Vital Specs To Check Before Buying A Portable AC Heater
With these portable units that can both cool and heat indoor air, we have to check both the cooling and heating properties.
Specs-wise, we are dealing with two HVAC devices, merged into one:
Portable AC Heater = Portable Air Conditioner + Portable Space Heater
As far as the portable air conditioner is concerned, we have to check both the cooling output (measured in BTU or British Thermal Units) as well as the square footage the unit is capable of cooling.
Similarly, we have to check how powerful heating output the portable AC unit with heater can generate in the winter, and see what the coverage area is.
On top of that, we have to check energy-efficiency. Energy-efficiency, expressed as EER rating for cooling and HSPF rating for heating, is the No. 1 metric we need to be aware of when buying any HVAC unit.
Portable AC Heater Cooling Capacity And Square Footage
The capability of air conditioners to cool is measured in BTU. Portable air conditioners cooling output ranges from 10,000 BTU to 14,000 BTU. Generally, they can cool down up to 600 sq ft of space.
Choosing any AC – including portable units with heater included – starts by adequately sizing them to your cooling needs.
To properly size an air conditioner, we can usually follow the simple EPA’s room, stating that we need “20 BTU per sq ft of living space”.
That might work for most mini-splits and window ac units; however, most portable AC and heater producers use “30 BTU per sq ft of living space” in their recommended coverage area calculation just to be safe.
Based on that, we can roughly estimate the coverage of let’s say 14,000 BTU portable AC heater using this calculation:
14,000 BTU coverage area = 14,000 BTU / 30 BTU per sq ft = 467 sq ft
This is a ballpark number. Basically, a 14,000 BTU portable AC and heater can cool down spaces of up to about 500 sq ft.
Similarly, we can estimate the coverage area of 10,000 BTU and 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner and heater units. Here are the results, neatly presented in a table:
|Cooling Capacity||Coverage Area|
|10,000 BTU||333 sq ft|
|12,000 BTU||400 sq ft|
|14,000 BTU||467 sq ft|
You can also follow the recommended area coverage that producers designate in the specification sheets. These are theoretical calculations; those are more practical.
Portable AC Heater Heating Capacity And Coverage
Similarly goes for the heating part. The problem with portable and conditioner and heater combo up till a few years ago were this:
- Air conditioning was powerful (10,000+ BTU).
- Heating was too weak (5,000 BTU or less).
Today, both the air conditioning output and heating output are pretty similar; we talk about symmetric cooling/heating output.
In the comparison table below, you can see that the heating output of portable AC heaters ranges from 9,000 BTU to 13,000 BTU. If you also look at the 10,000 BTU – 14,000 BTU range for cooling output, you can see that modern portable AC heater units have almost the same capacity for heating as they have for air conditioning.
Sizing the heating part is also very similar to sizing the cooling part. Most producers use the “30 BTU per sq ft of living” space rule.
That means that 9,000 BTU heating output can heat up spaces up to 300 sq ft. The most powerful unit – the #2 Whynter ARC-14SH – has a 13,000 BTU heater which can heat up spaces up to 500 sq ft, according to the specification sheet by Whynter.
All these heating and cooling do require electrical input. Let’s look at how many watts are needed to produce these 10,000 BTU outputs in the summer and winter:
Energy-Efficiency Of Portable AC And Heater Combos
It should go without saying that having a highly energy-efficient portable AC heater is a must. Not only can a 10+ EER rated AC heater unit save more than $100/year compared to standard 8.5 EER units; with less electricity used, it is also environmentally-friendly.
One of the most frequently asked questions about portable AC heater units is this:
Do combos of portable air conditioner and heater use a lot of electricity?
Well, they use as much electricity as portable air conditioners and space heaters; the energy-efficient ones use less electricity.
To produce 10,000 BTU to 14,000 BTU of cooling input, these HVAC units require anywhere from 1100W to 1800W of power input.
For the heating part – 9,000 BTU to 13,000 BTU heating output – you will require anywhere from 1000W to 1700W of electrical input.
For portable air conditioners with heaters, we use an EER rating to measure the energy-efficiency of cooling. This is basically a ratio between the maximum output in BTU to maximum cooling wattage.
Here is a rough illustration of what kind of EER rating you should be looking for:
- EER below 8.5 – Less-than-average energy- efficiency.
- 8.5 EER rating – Average energy-efficiency.
- 8.6 EER rating or above – Above average energy-efficiency.
- 9.5-10.0 EER rating – Very high energy-efficiency.
- 10+ EER rating – Superb energy-efficiency.
Ideally, you should look for portable AC and heater units with a 9.5+ EER rating. Some of the most energy-efficient units in the comparison table of the best portable AC heaters below are capable of achieving superb 10+ EER rating – those are the real energy-savers.
Heating-wise, we use HSPF rating to measure how energy-efficient the heater part of the portable AC and heater unit is. Predominately, however, EER is used as a primary rating for energy-efficiency, and HSPF rating is only seldomly used.
Best Portable Air Conditioner Heater Combos
- BLACK+DECKER BPACT14HWT: Most Popular And Best-Selling Portable AC Heater.
- Whynter ARC-14SH: Most Powerful Portable Air Conditioner And Heater Combo.
- Honeywell MN14CHCSMN: Best Honeywell Portable AC Heater Combo.
- Whynter ARC-12SDH: Most Energy-Efficient Portable Heater Air Conditioner Combo.
- SereneLife SLPAC10: Best Small Portable AC Unit With Heater.
1. BLACK+DECKER BPACT14HWT: Most Popular And Best-Selling Portable AC Heater
|Cooling Capacity:||14,000 BTU (Min. 55°F)|
|Cooling Area:||Up to 350 sq ft|
|Heating Capacity:||11,000 BTU (Max. 81°F)|
|Heating Area:||Up to 375 sq ft|
|Power:||1450 W cooling / 1200 W heating|
|Dimensions (HxWxD):||17.1″ x 13.8″ x 28.1″|
BLACK+DECKER BPACT14HWT is the quintessential tried-and-tested portable air conditioner with heater. This is one of the first modern units capable of symmetrical cooling/heating output; it’s the most popular and the best selling unit, in no small part thanks to great specs and price-performance.
BLACK+DECKER is a well-known name in the portable air conditioner industry. The BPACT14HWT model with a heater is capable of generating 14,000 BTU of cooling output in the summer.
BLACK+DECKER recommends that this unit is used in spaces up to 350 sq ft as far as cooling is concerned; 14,000 BTU can be enough to theoretically cool down spaces up to 500 sq ft. In the recommended up to 350 sq ft spaces, however, you will have no problems decreasing the air temperature to as low as 55°F.
The heater runs at 11,000 BTU heating output when at 100% capacity. It can heat up spaces up to 375 sq ft – more than the recommended 350 sq ft for cooling – and you can achieve the top temperature of 81°F.
BLACK+DECKER BPACT14HWT has a fairly high energy-efficiency. For 14,000 BTU of cooling output, it requires 1,450 watts of electrical power. This yields an EER rating of 9.7, well above 8.5 average. For 11,000 BTU of heating output, it draws 1,200W.
All in all, BLACK+DECKER BPACT14HWT is the most beloved portable air conditioner with heater. It is a tried-and-tested reliable method that’s easy to set up and operate, and can produce quite a lot of cooling/heating output for a very affordable below $500 cost:
2. Whynter ARC-14SH: Most Powerful Portable Air Conditioner And Heater Combo
|Cooling Capacity:||14,000 BTU (Min. 61°F)|
|Cooling Area:||Up to 600 sq ft|
|Heating Capacity:||13,000 BTU (Max. 89°F)|
|Heating Area:||Up to 500 sq ft|
|Power:||1300 W cooling / 1000 W heating|
|Dimensions (HxWxD):||16″ x 19″ x 35.5″|
Whynter ARC-14SH is the true powerhouse of portable air conditioner and heater combos. This is the best Whynter unit altogether; with a dual-hose system, it’s extremely energy-efficient and capable of achieving better specs than comparable one-hose portable AC heaters.
The dual-hose system gives the Whynter ARC-14SH a big advantage; with two hoses, this unit can more easily vent out hot air in the summer, and work more efficiently in the winter. Do keep in mind that Whynter ARC-14SH is not just any dual-hose system; it is, in fact, the most highly rated dual-hose portable air conditioner on the market.
On its own, Whynter ARC-14SH is capable of cooling up to 600 sq ft of space with its 14,000 BTU cooling output. The minimal thermostat value you can set is 61°F.
Whynter ARC-14SH has the most powerful heating element among all portable AC heaters. It can generate up to 13,000 BTU of heating output in the winter, effectively being able to heat up spaces up to 500 sq ft. The maximal heating temperature is 89°F.
Where the dual-hose system especially comes in effect is extremely high energy-efficiency. Whynter ARC-14SH is a true energy-saver; for its massive cooling and heating outputs, it requires only 1300W and 1000W 115V inputs, respectively. It has one of the highest EER ratings even among the portable AC units without a heater: 10.8.
All in all, Whynter ARC-14SH is a remarkable portable AC unit and heater. Extremely energy-efficient, this price-performance unit can generate more heat than any other portable AC heater unit:
3. Honeywell MN14CHCSMN: Best Honeywell Portable AC Heater Combo
|Cooling Capacity:||14,000 BTU|
|Cooling Area:||Up to 550 sq ft|
|Heating Capacity:||11,000 BTU|
|Heating Area:||Up to 400 sq ft|
|Power:||1360 W cooling / N/A|
|Dimensions (HxWxD):||19.9″ x 15.8″ x 34″|
Honeywell is the biggest brand that produces portable air conditioners with built-in heaters. Their best unit – Honeywell MN14CHCSMN – is well-recognized, and offers plenty of cooling as well as heating effect.
With 14,000 BTU cooling output, the Honeywell MN14CHCSMN can theoretically be used to cool down spaces up to 700 sq ft. If you live in a colder climate, that might even be possible. Nonetheless, Honeywell recommends this unit be used in up to 550 sq ft spaces.
As far as the heater is concerned, it can by itself generate a grand total of 11,000 BTU. It’s like a little 1 ton electric furnace. It can generate enough warmth to adequately heat up spaces up to 400 sq ft.
On top of that, the Honeywell MN14CHCSMN has a 10+ EER rating for superb energy efficiency. For 14,000 BTU of cooling output, the best Honeywell portable AC and heater combo require only 1,360W of power. You can easily plug it into a 115V outlet; the amperage is a little above 11 Amps.
In short, the famous Honeywell MN14CHCSMN is one of the best and definitely the most reliable Honeywell portable AC unit with high cooling and heating output:
4. Whynter ARC-12SDH: Most Energy-Efficient Portable Heater Air Conditioner Combo
|Cooling Capacity:||12,000 BTU (Min. 61°F)|
|Cooling Area:||Up to 400 sq ft|
|Heating Capacity:||11,000 BTU (Max. 77°F)|
|Heating Area:||Up to 400 sq ft|
|Power:||1100 W cooling / 1100 W heating|
|Dimensions (HxWxD):||16.5″ x 20″ x 34″|
Whynter ARC-12SDH is another dual-hose portable AC heater unit by Whynter. This one is even more efficient than the Elite version; in fact, with a 10.9 EER rating, the Whynter ARC-12SDH is the most energy-efficient portable air conditioner and heater.
Its air conditioning system can generate up to 12,000 BTU of cooling output. This is enough to cool down rooms to a minimum of 61°F (400 sq ft in the total coverage area).
As with all Whynter units, it’s not only energy-efficient, it has a very symmetric cooling/heating output. 11,000 BTU of heating output can increase indoor air temperature up to 77°F in up to 400 sq ft areas. Having a recommended coverage area of 400 sq ft for cooling and 400 sq ft for heating is the perfect cooling/balance.
The best thing about Whynter ARC-12SDH is its extremely high energy-efficiency. To produce 12,000 BTU of cooling power, this Whynter unit draws only 1,100W of power. It has a calculated EER rating of 10.9; higher than any other portable air conditioner with heat. On top of that, it has one of the most energy-efficient heaters as well, drawing only 1,100W to power up an 11,000 BTU heater.
Nonetheless, Whynter ARC-12SDH cannot produce as much of a cooling effect as the bigger 14,000 BTU units.
In short, Whynter ARC-12SDH is the most energy-efficient portable AC and heater unit and available at an affordable price:
5. SereneLife SLPAC10: Best Small Portable AC Unit With Heater
|Cooling Capacity:||10,000 BTU|
|Cooling Area:||Up to 350 sq ft|
|Heating Capacity:||9,000 BTU|
|Heating Area:||Up to 300 sq ft|
|Power:||1150 W cooling / N/A|
|Dimensions (HxWxD):||17.4″ x 13.4″ x 32.1″|
SereneLife SLPAC10 is the classic tried-and-tested portable air conditioner with heater. It is a smaller 10,000 BTU cooling output model, more appropriate for heating and cooling smaller rooms. Because it’s not the very newest model, it has a considerably lower price point. In fact, this is the cheapest portable AC heater (it costs less than $400).
SereneLife SLPAC10 can generate up to 10,000 BTU of cooling output when running at 100% capacity. That is enough to cool down spaces up to 350 sq ft. Using a 10,000 BTU portable AC heater can effectively avoid an overkill; buying a too powerful unit.
This is also one of the few portable AC heaters that generate less than 10,000 BTU of heating output (9,000 BTU, to be precise). If you apply the “30 BTU per sq ft” rule, this is enough to heat up to 300 sq ft areas in the winter.
The problem SereneLife SLPAC10 has is a barely above-average energy-efficiency. To produce 10,000 BTU cooling output, the SereneLife SLPAC10 needs 1150W of electric input. Its effective EER rating is thus 8.7; only 0.2 above the 8.5 average.
The price of SereneLife’s unit is very low. No other portable AC unit with heater can compete with below $400 pricing.
All in all, the SereneLife SLPAC10 is the smallest and cheapest combination of a portable air conditioner and heater. It is available for less than $400:
If you have any questions about these dual-function portable AC units, you can pose them in the comments below. If you’re more interested in window units, you can check out window AC units capable of heating here.