4 Best Portable Air Conditioners For Apartment (Studio, 1-Bed, 2-Bed)

Apartments can become drenched-in-sweat hot in the summer. Unfortunately, many apartments don’t have central air conditioners. You kind of have to figure out yourself how to best cool down your flat. To help you out, we picked the 4 best portable air conditioners for apartments further on.

Here’s the deal:

You don’t really need big central air conditioners or mini-split AC units for an apartment. For those, you would have to spend $1000 for installation alone, let alone the high price of the units themself.

Which type of air conditioner is best suited for apartments?

For an apartment, you want something easy-to-install, inexpensive, and with a good cooling effect. You can go with a window air conditioner for your 1-bed or 2-bed apartment. But that’ll limit your window space and reduce natural light, and nobody really wants that.

Portable air conditioners are perfect for apartments. You just plug them in 110V (no installation, really), cost less than $600, and can provide you with up to 14,000 BTU of cooling effect.

installing a portable air conditioner in an apartment
If you live in an apartment, just getting a portable AC unit and installing it yourself is the best option for cooling in the summer.

Before we check which portable air conditioners are best for all kinds of apartments, let’s first figure out a few things about apartment size, cooling effect needed (BTUs), and where to place an air conditioner in your apartment.

If you’re in a hurry (usually sweating in your flat), you can skip to the list of best portable air conditioners for apartment here:

Skip To List Of Best Air Conditioners For Apartments Here

We’ll also explain what to do with that window opening that portable AC venting created, and how to use a kit to seal the window completely.

Apartment Size (Studio, 1-Bed, 2-Bed) And Air Conditioner Cooling Effect

The key question to answer before you buy a portable AC unit for your flat is this:

Can a portable air conditioner cool an apartment?

Of course; you just need to know the square footage, and calculate the BTU needs. BTU or British Thermal Units are a standard measure of how ‘powerful’ an air conditioner is.

The smallest portable AC generates 8,000 BTU of cooling output. The biggest portable AC for a flat generates up to 14,000 BTU (for bigger AC capacity, you’ll need 220/240V and that’s usually too much of a hassle).

Here are the average sizes of different types of apartments in the US:

  • Studio apartment: 500 sq ft. Minimum cooling capacity; 10,000 BTU.
  • 1-bedroom apartment: 700 sq ft. Minimum cooling capacity; 14,000 BTU.
  • 2-bedroom apartment: 1,100 sq ft. Minimum cooling capacity; 22,000 BTU. That, unfortunately, means you will need 2 portable AC units to cool down a 2-bedroom apartment

How To Calculate AC Cooling Capacity For Your Flat? (20+ BTU Per Sq Ft)

How big a portable AC you need obviously depends on the size of your apartment. You know the full square footage of your flat, right? You can use that to calculate how many BTUs you need.

The best way to size an air conditioner for an apartment is to follow the EPA’s rule of thumb that states:

“20 BTU per sq ft of living space.”

Theoretically, that means that you would need a 10,000 BTU air conditioner for a 500 sq ft flat. It’s better to buy a bit bigger one just to be sure you will have adequate cooling; something like 12,000 BTU would be perfect for a 500 sq ft apartment.

Here is a short table with AC size estimates for small, normal, and big apartments:

Apartment Size (Sq Ft): Minimum AC Size (BTU/hr) Recommended AC Size (BTU/hr)
300 sq ft 6,000 BTU 8,000 BTU
400 sq ft 8,000 BTU 10,000 BTU
500 sq ft 10,000 BTU 12,000 BTU
600 sq ft 12,000 BTU 14,000 BTU
700 sq ft 14,000 BTU 16,000 BTU (2 x 8,000 BTU units)
800 sq ft 16,000 BTU 18,000 BTU (2 x 10,000 BTU units)
900 sq ft 18,000 BTU 20,000 BTU (2 x 10,000 BTU units)
1,000 sq ft 20,000 BTU 12,000 BTU (2 x 12,000 BTU units)
1,100 sq ft 22,000 BTU 14,000 BTU (2 x 12,000 BTU units)
1,200 sq ft 24,000 BTU 26,000 BTU (2 x 13,000 BTU units)
1,300 sq ft 26,000 BTU 28,000 BTU (2 x 14,000 BTU units)
1,400 sq ft 28,000 BTU 31,000 BTU (3 x 10,000 BTU units)
1,500 sq ft 30,000 BTU 34,000 BTU (3 x 12,000 BTU units)

For larger apartments (800+ sq ft), you will usually need 2 or even 3 portable air conditioners. That’s sadly the only way to cool a big apartment during the summer heatwave.

Where In Apartment To Place An Air Conditioner And How To Seal The Window?

All air conditioners, including the best portable AC units for apartments, need to be vented. Portable AC units are vented out of the window.

That pretty much defines where you should place an air conditioner in a flat:

Near a window.

The exhaust vent is installed through the window. You will, of course, note that channeling a vent through the window will create a gap. That gap needs to be sealed.

To seal a window gap, you get specially designed window seals for portable air conditioners (check them out here). Basically, you get a kit with instructions on how to install a vent through your apartment window, and how to seal the gap with PVC material.

This is how you prevent the inevitable losses that would be created if you were to leave the window partly open. The seal does two things:

  1. Prevents hot air to enter your apartment.
  2. Prevent cold air in your apartment to escape.

Installing a window seal does take about 10-15 minutes but it’s fairly easy to do, especially if you follow the included instructions.

With all that in mind, let’s look at which specific portable air conditioners are best for apartments:

Best Portable Air Conditioners For Flats (List + Comparison + Reviews)

Here are the best picks for apartment air conditioners. Do note the coverage area; for larger 800+ apartments, you may need 2 or 3 portable AC units:

Apartment AC Units: B+D BPACT14WT Whynter ARC-14S hOmelabs HME020235N DELLA 13,000 BTU
Photo:
Cooling Capacity: 14,000 BTU 14,000 BTU 14,000 BTU 13,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up to 350 sq ft Up to 500 sq ft Up to 600 sq ft Up to 700 sq ft
Best For: Studio Apartment 1-Bedroom Flat 2-Bedroom Flat 1-Bedroom Flat
Also Appropriate For: 1-Bed, 2-Bed Apartments Studio, 2-Bed Apartments Studio, 1-Bed Apartments Studio, 2-Bed Apartments
EER Rating:  9.7 10.8 9.5 10.7
Price: $$$$ $$$$ $$$$ $$$$
Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars 4.8 out of 5 stars 4.6 out of 5 stars 4.3 out of 5 stars
Availability: Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price

Best Air Conditioner For Studio Apartment: BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT

Best Air Conditioner For Studio Apartment: BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT
Cooling Capacity: 14,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up to 350 sq ft
Best For: Studio Apartment
Also Appropriate For: 1-Bed, 2-Bed Apartments
EER Rating: 9.7
Power: 1450W
Dimensions (HxWxD): 17.1″ x 13.8″ x 28.1″
Weight: 28 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

For studio apartments, small, lightweight, and compact portable air conditioners are the best. They, however, also need to generate quite a lot of cooling effect to cool down one room and a small bathroom on their own. BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT has all the right specifications for a studio apartment air conditioner.

BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT is compact and lightweight. It weighs less than 50 lbs (easy to move around) and has a 17.1″ x 13.8″ cross-section. It will require a minimal amount of space to install; an important thing in a studio apartment where every square foot counts.

Despite being lightweight, BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT can deliver up to 14,000 BTU of cooling output. It’s actually one of the most powerful AC units you can place in a studio apartment. The rated coverage area is 350 sq ft but 14,000 BTU portable air conditioners can be used to cool down 500 sq ft studio apartments (up to 600 sq ft, actually).

To produce 14,000 BTU of cooling effect, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT requires 1450 watts of energy. That means the energy efficiency EER rating is 9.7; a solid rating.

BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT is one of the most well-known and reliable portable air conditioners. It’s perfect for cooling down studio apartments, and you will need only 1 unit (you can easily install it yourself):

BLACK+DECKER BPACT14WT Review

Pros
  • Lightweight and compact; perfect portable AC unit for small studio apartments
  • Can produce 14,000 BTU of cooling output at 110/120V (fast cooling)
  • Quiet operation with below 60 dB noise levels
  • Reliable unit with affordable price
Cons
  • Energy-efficiency EER rating is above-average but not above 10
  • Cannot adequately cool down bigger 600+ sq ft studio apartments

Best Portable AC Unit For 1-Bedroom Apartment: Whynter ARC-14S

Best Portable AC Unit For 1-Bedroom Apartment: Whynter ARC-14S
Cooling Capacity: 14,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up to 500 sq ft
Best For: 1-Bedroom Flat
Also Appropriate For: Studio, 2-Bed Apartments
EER Rating: 10.8
Power: 1300W
Dimensions (HxWxD): 16″ x 19″ x 35.5″
Weight: 80 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Whynter ARC-14S is one of the best portable air conditioners not just for 1-bedroom apartments but in general. It can deliver a powerful 14,000 BTU cooling effect with only 1300W of rated energy input; making it a highly energy-efficient and cost-saving unit. With up to 500 sq ft coverage area, it’s the best portable air conditioner for smaller apartments.

If you have a 1-bedroom apartment, you actually need quite a powerful portable air conditioner. Portable air conditioners are basically room air conditioners; if they need to cool down more than 1 room, you really need a powerful one, or just buy 2 units.

Whynter ARC-14S with its 14,000 BTU of cooling output is strong enough to adequately cool down standard 1-bedroom apartments with up to 700 sq ft.

It is extremely energy-efficient. It draws only 1300W and has, as a consequence, a 10.8 EER rating. It is the most energy-efficient portable air conditioner for any apartment. This efficiency is the result of dual-hose unit settings; most portable AC units only have one-hose and lower energy efficiency.

The con of dual hose AC units such as Whynter ARC-14S is that you have to install 2 vents through the window. It might take some skill to properly install it, but once you DIY it, you can enjoy a very powerful cooling effect with minimal electricity cost.

Whynter ARC-14S is the overall most energy-efficient portable air conditioner for apartments. It’s the best one for 1-bedroom apartments but you can also put it in a studio apartment or 2-bedroom apartment (you’ll need 2 units for adequate cooling):

Whynter ARC-14S Review

Pros
  • Most energy-efficient portable AC unit for apartments with 10.8 EER rating
  • Can deliver 14,000 BTU of cooling; with a rated coverage area of 500 sq ft (you can stretch that to about 700 sq ft)
  • Is a dual-hose portable AC unit for apartments that don’t produce negative pressure and uses less electricity
  • Rather affordable for such an excellent unit
Cons
  • Due to dual-hose design, it requires 2 vents (installation is a bit more difficult)
  • If you have a 700+ sq ft apartment, you will need 2 units

Best Portable Air Conditioner For 2-Bedroom Apartment: hOmelabs HME020235N

Best Portable Air Conditioner For 2-Bedroom Apartment: hOmelabs HME020235N
Cooling Capacity: 14,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up to 600 sq ft
Best For: 2-Bedroom Flat
Also Appropriate For: Studio, 1-Bed Apartments
EER Rating: 9.5
Power: 1470W
Dimensions (HxWxD): 17.9″ x 15″ x 30.1″
Weight: 72.3 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

For larger apartments (700+ sq ft), you will need 2 or more portable AC units. That’s the only way to cool down large apartments with room air conditioners alone. The best unit to cool down 2-bedroom apartments with is the hOmelabs HME020235N; it’s compact, creates a healthy amount of airflow, and is capable of generating 14,000 BTU of cooling effect.

14,000 BTU is the biggest hOmelabs portable air conditioner for apartments. As such, it’s perfect for large apartments that would go sweating-hot in the summer without air conditioning.

The way you can cool down let’s say 1,000 sq ft 2-bedroom apartment is to position 2 portable hOmelabs AC units near 2 windows. Each of them has a 600 sq ft coverage area; combined they will adequately cool down a 1,000 sq ft flat even during the summer heatwave.

The added advantage hOmelabs unit has is a strong airflow. That airflow is used to distribute the 14,000 BTU of cooled air evenly in your apartment (we talk about homogeneous cooling). Low-airflow units may, on the other hand, create hot pockets with higher temperature and humidity levels.

All in all, hOmelabs HME020235N is an easy-to-use and install portable AC unit, best suited for 2- or more bedroom apartments. To properly cool down the whole apartment, you will need 2 units:

hOmelabs HME020235N Review

Pros
  • Strong airflow evenly distributes the air across larger apartments
  • Best suited for 2-bedroom flats, you can use it in studio apartment or 1-bedroom flat as well
  • 1 unit can generate 14,000 BTU of cooling output, enough to cool down up to 600 sq ft of living area
  • Reliable and easy to install
Cons
  • You will require 2 units which inevitably raises the cost of air conditioning
  • EER rating is 9.5; ‘not great not terrible’ energy efficiency

Top-Rated Air Conditioner For Apartments Of All Kind: DELLA 13,000 BTU

Top-Rated Air Conditioner For Apartments Of All Kind: DELLA 13,000 BTU
Cooling Capacity: 13,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up to 700 sq ft
Best For: 1-Bedroom Flat
Also Appropriate For: Studio, 2-Bed Apartments
EER Rating: N/A
Power: N/A
Dimensions (HxWxD): 15.2″ x 18.7″ x 28″
Weight: 83 lbs
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars

DELLA 13,000 BTU is one of the most popular portable air conditioners to be used in apartments. A lot of its popularity among city dwellers is due to minimalistic design and ease of use. Fortunately enough, the DELLA 13,000 BTU has some great specs as well.

DELLA is, in fact, one of the most cost-saving apartment air conditioners with an EER rating of 10.7. That means that you will spend about 20% less on electricity compared to the standard 8.5 EER rated portable AC units.

It can deliver 13,000 BTU and has a surprisingly high-rated coverage area: it can cool down areas up to 700 sq ft. Practically, it’s better to use it in 500 sq ft apartments. If you have a larger 2-bedroom apartment, you will, of course, need to buy 2 units.

All in all, DELLA 13,000 BTU is one of the most popular apartment air conditioners for all types of flats. You can put it in a studio apartment or put 2 of them in a 2-bedroom apartment:

DELLA 13,000 BTU Review

Pros
  • Very popular apartment air conditioners
  • 13,000 BTU of cooling output with rated coverage area of up to 700 sq ft
  • Surprisingly high 10.7 EER rating; it’s uses about 20% less energy than non-efficient units
  • The cheapest apartment AC unit you can use in any kind of apartment
Cons
  • Isn’t as reliable as Whynter or BLACK+DECKER units
  • Rated coverage area of 700 sq ft is a bit pushing it; 500 sq ft would be a better estimate

If you have an apartment in the city, you’re likely going to get hot in the summer. Hopefully, this article has helped you to adequately inform yourself about apartment air conditioning options.

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