Please do read the following quote by an HVAC technician very carefully:
The most expensive portable air conditioner you can buy is a $200 unit with low energy-efficiency. It will spike your electricity bills.
$200 seems like one of the cheapest portable air conditioners. Why would it be the most expensive unit? Here’s the reasoning:
That’s because the price of an air conditioner represents about 20% of all expenses, and the electricity costs represent 80% of the overall costs (in 10 years). Here’s how this calculation looks:
Overall Cost Of Portable AC = Unit Cost (20%) + Electricity Cost (80%)
To find the air conditioners with a lower overall cost, we can reduce the unit cost (choosing older models that are reliable, without fancy Wifi features, more on that later on):
However, it’s much more important to reduce the electricity cost by picking a cheap portable air conditioner that saves as much electricity as humanly possible.
To illustrate which portable air conditioners are truly the cheapest, let’s look at two portable air conditioners with different energy efficiency:
Example 1: Dirt cheap $200 10,000 BTU air conditioner with EER rating (energy-efficiency) of 8. That means it draws 10,000/8 = 1250W of electrical power. If you run it 8h/day for 3 months (720h), with $0.13 per kWh, yearly electricity expenditure is $117.
Total 10 Year Cost = $200 (unit) + 10*$117 (electricity) = $1370
Example 2: Affordable $500 10,000 BTU air conditioner with 12 EER rating (high energy-efficiency). That means it draws 10,000/12 = 833W of electrical power. If you run it 8h/day for 3 months (720h), with $0.13 per kWh, yearly electricity expenditure is $78.
Total 10 Year Cost = $500 (unit) + 10*$78 (electricity) = $1280
$200 portable air conditioner is definitely cheaper than a $500 portable AC unit, right?
Not at all.
The difference in unit price might be $300, but the difference in 10-year electricity expenditures (due to different EER rating), is $90. That’s because the dirt-cheap unit swallows up 1250W of power, and the affordable energy-efficient unit draws only 833W of power for the same cooling effect.
This is a minimal difference (minimal usage); realistically, the difference is closer to $500 in favor of the more expensive, high-energy-efficiency unit.
In short, the price of the unit is way less important than the energy-efficiency (measured by EER rating).
“How much it costs” is quite insignificant to the question “How much it costs to run”.
When you’re looking for the cheapest portable AC unit, you should turn the old HVAC saying on its head:
The cheapest portable air conditioner costs $400 but has high energy-efficiency. In 10 years, high EER rating will save you more than $500 on electricity alone.
Based on this simple concept, we can rank portable air conditioners from the cheapest to the most expensive. That doesn’t mean that LearnMetrics didn’t take the price of the unit itself into consideration.
Quite the contrary:
Before we check the list of the absolute cheapest air conditioners in 2021, let’s look at how you can find portable AC units at a reduced price:
3 Ways How To Find Cheaper Portable AC Units
As we have thus established, energy-efficiency (expressed as EER rating) is of the utmost importance when choosing the cheapest overall portable air conditioner.
It’s simple: The higher the EER rating, the lower the electricity cost in the next 10-15 years. That’s the lifespan of portable AC units.
However, that doesn’t mean you should buy that $800 portable AC unit if it has the same EER rating as a $400 unit.
The fact is that, if you know what to look for, you can find cheap room air conditioners that have not only decent but superb EER rating (even 10+ EER rating).
Here’s what to look for to find portable AC units at a reduced price:
- Steer clear of the advanced Wifi, Alexa, iPhone connectivity. The new modern portable ACs have all those fancy features that you really don’t need; all you need is manual control. Portable air conditioners without these fancy connectivity Wifi features are up to $100 cheaper.
- Pick older classic models. Those are tried-and-tested AC units; the new line of models comes with a steep rise in price ($50-$100, on average), and low or even no improvements in operations/specifications. Just be sure to size the portable AC correctly.
- Reliable brand. Absolute cheapest portable AC units are made out of low-quality material and will break apart within years. Established American companies like Whynter, Honeywell, BLACK+DECKER, and Haier all offer very cheap portable air conditioners built out of solid materials and based on reliable engineering.
If you follow these 3 basic steps – Saying no to wifi, classic tried-and-tested models, American affordable brands – you will have no problem picking a reliable and cheap portable air conditioner.
These are the main difference between cheap vs expensive portable AC units.
Based on these 3 steps and, above all, EER rating we can look at the absolute cheapest air conditioners currently on the market:
List Of Cheapest Portable AC Units In 2021 (With Comparison)
- Whynter Elite ARC-122DS: Best Cheapest Dual Hose Portable AC Unit (Highest EER Rating, Quietest).
- Honeywell MO08CESWB: Cheapest Small Portable Air Conditioner.
- BLACK+DECKER BPACT12W: Most Popular Cheap 12,000 BTU Room Air Conditioner.
- Haier QPCA14YZMW: Cheapest Haier Portable Air Conditioner.
- MIDEA MAP08R1CWT: Cheap Portable AC For Smaller Rooms.
- SereneLife SLPAC10: Best Selling Super Cheap Portable Air Conditioner.
1. Whynter Elite ARC-122DS (Best Overall And Cheapest Dual Hose Air Conditioner)
|Cooling Capacity:||12,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 400 sq ft|
|Max. Airflow:||155 CFM|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||1000W (115V, 8.7 A)|
|Noise Levels:||Below 52 dB|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||17″ x 29.5″ x 16″|
Whynter Elite ARC-122DS is the ultimate cheapest portable air conditioner in 2021. Not only that; overall the ARC-122DS model is an exceptionally well-engineered device. With the by far the highest EER rating among cheap AC units and the quietest operation, this is the best cheapest portable AC to buy.
Let’s first look at the most important aspect: the energy-efficiency. The Whynter Elite ARC-122DS is the only portable air conditioner with an extremely high 12 EER rating. That means that it’s by far the cheapest to run. Compared to other units, it is:
- 20% more energy-efficient than 10 EER portable ACs. On average, this saves you $52 in electricity costs every year. $520 savings in 10 years.
- 33% more energy-efficient than 8 EER portable ACs. On average, this saves you $78 in electricity costs every year. $780 savings in 10 years.
This extremely high energy-efficiency is only possible due to the dual hose system. If you compare dual hose vs. single hose system, dual hose units are much more energy-efficient and save you quite a lot over the year. Whynter Elite ARC-122DS is the cheapest dual-hose portable air conditioner.
The 12,000 BTU is enough to cover spaces up to 400 sq ft. For that, the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS uses minimal airflow of 155 CFM. The best thing about a cheap high-efficiency low-airflow portable AC unit?
It’s incredibly quiet compared to other portable AC. Even when the Whynter Elite ARC-122DS is operating at its max speed (1000 watts), it generates only 52 dB.
You can see that it doesn’t have any fancy Wifi connectivity that would unnecessarily increase the cost of the unit, it’s a classic tried-and-tested portable AC and it’s made by the reliable American company – Whynter. This effectively reduces the unit cost below $500.
All in all, Whynter Elite ARC-122DS is the absolute best cheapest portable air conditioner for a few years now:
2. Honeywell MO08CESWB (Cheapest Small Portable Air Conditioner)
|Cooling Capacity:||8,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 350 sq ft|
|Max. Airflow:||192 CFM|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||700W (115V, 6.1 A)|
|Noise Levels:||50-53 dB|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||13.5″ x 14.6″ x 27.7″|
The main goal of Honeywell is to create affordable and reliable HVAC devices. With Honeywell MO08CESWB, they have created one of the cheapest small air conditioners (with 8,000 BTU) that has a remarkably high EER rating for a small room portable AC unit.
8,000 BTU is enough cooling capacity to cool down rooms up to 350 sq ft. The question for everybody looking to save a lot on portable air conditioners should be “How much does it cost to run the Honeywell MO08CESWB?”.
Thanks to Honeywell’s brilliant engineering, Honeywell MO08CESWB is capable of operating at an 11.4 EER rating. That means that it will need only 700W of electrical power to produce 8,000 BTU of cooling effect; quite outstanding given this is a cheap small room portable AC.
Due to lower airflow, the noise levels are also low. The noise interval – between 50 dB and 53 dB – is one of the quietest not only among the budget-friendly portable air conditioners but overall. For reference, you can check the noise levels of the quietest portable ACs here. Anything below 55 dB is considered super silent.
All in all, if you want to cool down a small room as cheaply as possible, the financial investment of about $380 is a small price pay for such an exceptionally energy-efficient air conditioner. It will likely save you more than $500 per 10 years compared to other 8,000 BTU units, and it’s thus the overall cheapest portable air conditioner for small rooms:
3. BLACK+DECKER BPACT12W (Most Popular Cheap 12,000 BTU Room Air Conditioner)
|Cooling Capacity:||12,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 500 sq ft|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||1150W (115V, 10.0 A)|
|Noise Levels:||Below 60 dB|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||17.1″ x 13.8″ x 28.1″|
BLACK+DECKER BPACT12WT is one of the most recognized portable air conditioners in the world. It’s the go-to cheap 12,000 BTU portable AC unit, made by a reputable American company, and its low price point has made it the best-seller in the portable AC category.
If you check the Amazon reviews (more than 3000+ reviews with 4.5/5 average rating), you can see that a lot of people are pointing out:
- Reliability. It’s so durable that it can run for 15 years without any problems.
- Price-performance. It’s a 12,000 BTU unit that costs less than $400, and that’s not even factoring in the high energy-efficiency.
- Bucketless, self-evaporating design is easy to use and maintain.
This is a classic BLACK+DECKER model that doesn’t have any advanced (and pricy) technology, Wifi connectivity, or any other fancy features.
The important part is this: BLACK+DECKER BPACT12WT has an EER rating of 10.4. Every portable AC with an EER rating above 10 is considered very energy-efficient and has low costs of running. In the long-term, that makes the BLACK+DECKER BPACT12WT one of the cheapest AC units.
It is not the quietest unit; it can generate up to 60 dB of noise. This is pretty much the standard specification with portable ACs.
Bottom line: BLACK+DECKER BPACT12WT is the classic model that has been the best-seller for the last 5 years for a very good reason. It’s durable, energy-efficient, and one of the cheapest air conditioners both as far as the unit price is considered as well as in terms of electricity expenditure:
4. Haier QPCA14YZMW (Cheapest Haier Portable Air Conditioner)
|Cooling Capacity:||13,500 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 550 sq ft|
|Max. Airflow:||250 CFM|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||1350W (115V, 11.7 A)|
|Noise Levels:||Below 60 dB|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||15.35″ x 18.5″ x 32″|
Haier is one of the well-known air conditioner manufacturers. They produce a range of portable air conditioners; from the cheapest to the most expensive ones. On the very cheap end is the Haier QPCA14YZMW model that costs only about $300 which is a very low price for a bigger 13,500 BTU portable AC.
With Haier, you can exactly see how, if know what to look for, you can significantly reduce the price of a portable air conditioner. For example, the 13,500 BTU model with Wifi connectivity costs more than $500. Compared to the cheap Haier QPCA14YZMW model without Wifi connectivity, that’s a full $200 difference.
Of course, when looking for the cheapest Haier portable air conditioner, the energy-efficiency is even more important than the price of the unit itself.
With a 10 EER rating, Haier QPCA14YZMW is one of the more energy-efficient and thus cheap portable air conditioners to run. It won’t save you $500 in electricity costs compared to EER 8 unit, but you will definitely save several $100 in the next 10 years due to lower electricity bills.
The 13,500 BTU unit needs exactly 1350W to run. That is enough to cover up to 550 sq ft of space. It required 11V voltage; basically, you can plug it in any outlet and get the cooling effect immediately.
Similar to the BLACK+DECKER unit, the Haier QPCA14YZMW generates up to 60 dB.
All in all, Haier QPCA14YZMW is a very decent unit that it’s quite budget-friendly; it costs less than $400 precisely because it is a classic model without fancy Wifi features:
5. MIDEA MAP08R1CWT (Cheap Portable AC For Smaller Rooms Up To 150 Sq Ft)
|Cooling Capacity:||8,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 150 sq ft|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||850W (115V, 7.4 A)|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||13″ x 17.1″ x 28.3″|
MIDEA MAP08R1CWT is a portable air conditioner with the absolute lowest price tag: below $300. It’s not made by an American company like all other good cheap portable AC units. However, Midea is quickly getting a reputation as a reliable and affordable Asian HVAC producer.
MIDEA MAP08R1CWT model is a smaller 8,000 BTU unit that requires 850W to run. Despite being so cheap, it almost reached an EER rating of 10. Given the BTU capacity and the maximum wattage, it has a 9.4 EER rating which is quite good. It can’t compare, of course, to the 10+ EER rated cheap portable air conditioners.
One thing that is odd is the 150 sq ft coverage area. 8,000 BTU units can usually have up to 400 sq ft coverage; it’s difficult to understand why MIDEA lister the coverage area of this super cheap portable AC so low. To be frank, the specification sheet also doesn’t list airflow or noise levels, which might be a cause for concern.
However, it is almost impossible to find a portable air conditioner for less than $300 that has decent energy-efficiency. MIDEA MAP08R1CWT is a fair choice for everybody who is looking to pay as little as possible out of their pocket now, bit a bit higher electricity bills later on:
6. SereneLife SLPAC10 (Best Selling Super Cheap Portable Air Conditioner)
|Cooling Capacity:||10,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 350 sq ft|
|Max. Airflow:||170 CFM|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||1150W (115V, 10.1 A)|
|Noise Levels:||52-56 dB|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||13.39″ x 32.09″ x 17.45″|
SereneLife SLPAC10 is the essence of the classic tried-and-tested model. It’s one of the cheapest air conditioners because it has been on the market for close to 10 years now. People are still buying it like crazy because it’s so incredibly cheap.
There is nothing wrong with the SereneLife SLPAC10. You don’t have the fancy upgrades that would only serve to increase the cost of the portable AC unit. That’s not the problem.
The real difficulty SereneLife SLPAC10 faces is the all-important energy-efficiency. Modern units have inverter compressors capable of achieving 10+ EER ratings. SereneLife SLPAC10 has an 8.7 EER rating; pretty much average.
The price of SereneLife SLPAC10 might be lower than $400 but the average energy-efficiency won’t produce additional electricity savings every year. That’s a major con.
Another one is the 65 dB max. noise levels. It shows that this is an older model and the high-efficiency and silencing technology advancements are not built into this classic.
A major plus of the SereneLife SLPAC10, however, is the reliability. Because it has been on the market for so long, we can look into it track track-record; it’s remarkable. SereneLife SLPAC10 hardly breaks down, can work at 100% output for 10+ years and it’s still somewhat energy efficient:
This was the overall look of portable air conditioners that require minimal investment. If you have any suggestions, please do use the comments below. If possible, give the model number of the unit, the cost, and the EER rating to see how the combined costs over 10 year period look like. Thank you.