Silence is key. One of the primary concerns when buying a new portable air conditioner is that it will be too loud. Everybody wants the quietest portable air purifier.
Portable AC units are, in general, not loud at all. However, if you pick the wrong unit, it will generate more than 60 dB and it will be really difficult to sleep with such a loud portable air conditioner in the room.
Here’s the goal:
The whole point when looking for the ultra-quiet portable air conditioner is that the AC is so quiet you’ll be able to fall asleep with it in the room. That means it should generate less than 55 dB even on the highest speed setting.
Here’s how we analyzed which portable AC units are the quietest:
LearnMetrics has conducted a study of 102 most popular portable air conditioners to determine the characteristics quiet portable air conditioners share. We have also compiled a shortlist of 5 quietest air conditioners in 2021 further on.
Here is the quick decibel-to-BTU graph that differentiates portable AC units based on noise generated (dB) and cooling power (BTU):
If you’re in the hurry, you can check the full list of the quietest portable AC units, with noise levels comparison, and reviews here:
But if you’re interested in what to avoid when picking a quiet portable AC, let’s first look under the hood and answer one thing:
“What exactly determines the portable air conditioner’s noise levels?”
Based on that, you can use the 4 simple rules if you want to pick a silent portable air conditioner on your own:
What Parts Of Portable AC Units Generate The Most Noise?
There are two primary generators of noise in portable air conditioners:
Portable air conditioner compressors can send decibel meter skyrocketing to 70+ dB. High airflow will, as you know, create a swirling noise when it propagates through the AC unit.
In order for a portable AC unit to be truly silent, you need to look for both a silent compressor as well as low airflow. Here are the 4 simple rules to follow when picking a quiet room air conditioner:
1. Low Airflow, Colder Air Portable AC Units Generate Less Noise
That swirling sound every portable air conditioner makes is the airflow of air through the device. You know that if you increase the speed of cooling, the portable air conditioner will be louder. That’s the increased airflow.
You also know that bigger 14,000 BTU portable air conditioners tend to be louder than smaller 8,000 BTU portable AC units. That’s simple because 14,000 BTU unit has to create higher airflow. There are, obviously, other factors but reducing airflow will always reduce the total noise levels of any HVAC device.
Here’s the advice:
Low airflow is preferred. Airflow is literally air swirling through the AC unit; the quicker it is, the more decibels it will generate.
Regarding the airflow, there are 2 types of portable air conditioner:
- High airflow, moderately cold air portable ACs. These cool a room by delivering larger volumes of moderately cool air. These can be quite loud (above 60 dB on the highest setting).
- Low airflow, cold air portable ACs. These deliver colder air in lower volumes. Because the airflow is lower, they can be whisper quiet.
Example: We have two different 14,000 BTU portable AC units and set the room temperature to 72 °F. The 1st unit will start blowing 68°F air with 400 CFM airflow. The 2nd unit will start blowing 64°F with 200 CFM airflow.
The cooling effect will be the same (14,000 BTU); how about the noise levels? Which portable air conditioner will be quieter?
In all cases, the 2nd unit will be quieter due to lower airflow.
Outtake: Quiet portable air conditioners are the ones with lower airflow.
The compressor is the second noise generator in portable AC units (it’s used to lower the temperature of output air):
2. Inverter Compressor Makes Less Noise Than Rotary Compressor
There are two kinds of compressors:
- Rotary compressor. The standard version, found in most loud portable air conditioners.
- Inverter compressor. The advanced version, found in low-noise level portable air conditioners.
We won’t go into the inner workings of compressors. Here is the important difference between how they function in portable air conditioners:
A rotary compressor is a turn on-off compressor (most fridges have these compressors as well). For example, if you set your fridge at 35°F, it will likely hold a temperature between 32°F and 38°F. When the temperature hits 38°F, the rotary compressor will turn on (that generates that specific high-noise thump), push the temperature down to 32°F, and then turn off.
The rotary compressor works much the same way in the portable air conditioner; you set the room temperature, and from time to time the rotary compressor will kick in, creating a high-pitched sound. That sound might even wake you up; it’s not ideal.
On the contrary, inverter compressors use a variable-frequency drive (with varying input voltage and frequency) that modulate the compressor speed and thus modulate the cooling capacity much more tightly. Fridge example: If you set it to 35°F, the inverter compressor will continuously deliver cooling power (no loud turning on and off) to keep the temperature at 35°F. Realistically, it will swing between 34°F and 36°F but it will do so very silently.
Outtake: If you want to choose a quieter portable air conditioner, choose an inverter compressor (silent) over a rotary compressor (louder).
3. Check Specification Sheet For Noise Levels (Measured In dB)
Every portable air conditioner comes with a specification sheet but every specification sheet doesn’t include noise levels.
Obviously, if the noise levels are measured, you can just look at how many decibels this or that portable air conditioner generates, and rank the units from the quietest to the loudest (that’s actually exactly what we did to see which portable air conditioners on the market are the quietest).
Here are 4 common examples of how portable AC noise levels are specified on the specification sheet:
- Noise levels: 51/55/59 dB (low/mid/high).
- Noise levels: 51 dB (low), 59 dB (high).
- Noise levels: 59 dB.
- (Nothing on noise levels on specification sheet): /
What you want to see is the 1st example. Most portable air conditioners have 3 speeds – Low, Mid, and High – and a decibel measurement for each speed is the most trustworthy.
The 2nd and 3rd examples give you less insight into how quiet a portable AC unit is but at least you get a general idea.
The 4th example is a red flag. If the portable air conditioner has not specified the noise levels, they were either:
- Not measured at all.
- Were measured but were too high, and they choose not to include them on the specification sheet.
Here the outtake: Beware of portable air conditioner producers that don’t include noise levels (measured in dB) in the specification sheets. That’s usually considered a red flag if you’re picking a quiet portable air conditioner. You have no way of knowing how loud or silent that unit is. Those units are, on average, louder.
In our analysis of whisper-quiet portable air conditioners, we started with 102 units. However, the red flags like no specified noise levels, known malfunctions, subpar warranty, and so on have reduced the selection to 47 units in total.
4. Take Into Account Size (BTU), EER Rating, Reliability
The portable air conditioner should be silent; however, it should also be a very good AC unit altogether in order to truly be called the best quiet portable AC unit. That’s where other cooling metrics come in.
The most obvious one is the cooling effect, measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). If you pick a portable air conditioner that will be too big for your needs, you will unnecessarily have a louder unit (as we know, bigger units tend to be louder due to higher airflow).
EPA recommends 20 BTU per square foot. That means that if you have a 500 sq ft space to cool, 10,000 BTU portable AC unit might just be enough. You can pick a 12,000 BTU unit to be safe but don’t go to 15,000 BTU unit; it will unnecessarily generate additional decibels.
The most important metric when choosing the very best quiet portable AC unit (other than noise levels) is the EER rating. EER stands for ‘Energy-Efficiency Ratio’; if it’s above 8.5, you have an energy-efficient AC unit that will generate a ton of long-term electricity savings.
Example of just how important EER rating is: Honeywell MN14CEDWW is the most energy efficient 14,000 BTU portable AC unit precisely because it has an incredible 11.67 EER rating. Sure, it has a low 53 dB max. noise level, but arguably the higher EER rating is an even more impressive specification than the low noise levels.
Outtake: To ensure a silent as well as efficient operation, properly size the portable AC unit and shoot for an EER rating above 8.5.
With all these in mind, let’s look at the list of ultra-quiet room air conditioners:
List Of Best Ultra Quiet Portable AC Units (2021)
1. Frigidaire FHPH132AB1 (Quietest Portable Air Conditioner In 2021)
|Max. Noise Levels:||49 dB|
|Cooling Capacity:||12,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 550 sq ft|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||1200W (120V, 10 A)|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||16.5 x 19.41 x 31.34|
It’s a no-brainer why Frigidaire FHPH132AB1 is the quietest portable air conditioner. It’s the only portable AC unit currently on the market that generates less than 50 dB while still being capable of delivering quite a lot of cooling effect. Even at the full fan speed (max. airflow, compressor at max. output), it generates only 52 dB. That’s quieter than a standard fridge.
Frigidaire FHPH132AB1 can generate up to 12,000 BTU of cooling power at a High-Speed setting. However, the true reason for the whisper-quiet operation of the Frigidaire portable AC unit is a capable compressor and low airflows. Here are the noise levels and airflows for 3-speed settings:
- Low Speed: 211 CFM airflow, generating 49 dB. Calculated 10,506 BTUs.
- Mid Speed: 230 CFM airflow, generating 51 dB. Calculated 11,452 BTUs.
- High Speed: 241 CFM airflow, generating 52 dB. Generates 12,000 BTU of cooling power.
52 dB is a super quiet noise level for an AC. However, you might be thinking, some other portable AC units also generate 52-53 dB noise levels.
Here’s why Frigidaire FHPH132AB1 is quieter than all other portable AC units:
The difference between Low Speed and High Speed setting is minimal. If we take the linear correlation of BTU to CFM, you can see that Frigidaire FHPH132AB1 can deliver more than 10,500 BTU of cooling effect at 49 dB. That’s not only the quietest Frigidaire portable air conditioner but the most silent one in general.
On top of that, other primary and secondary metrics are fantastic. Frigidaire FHPH132AB1 has a 10.0 EER rating (very energy-efficient), can generate up to 12,000 BTU, and, most importantly, it’s made by Frigidaire. They are a reliable brand in the HVAC world.
All in all, the Frigidaire FHPH132AB1 is the quietest 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner with high cooling capacity, high energy-efficiency, and record-breaking silent operation:
2. hOmeLabs Low Noise Portable AC (Whisper Quiet Portable Air Conditioner)
|Max. Noise Levels:||52 dB|
|Cooling Capacity:||14,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 450 sq ft|
|EER Rating:||8.1 CEER|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||N/A|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||20.3 x 18.2 x 34.7|
No list of the quietest portable air conditioner is complete without the exceptional hOmeLabs Low Noise portable AC. hOmeLabs are the ultimate noise level cutters. The hOmeLabs is their quietest portable AC unit.
In fact, the hOmeLabs Low-Noise has 14,000 BTU of cooling output and an even lower noise level than the #3 Honeywell unit. If you run it at the highest speed setting, the decibel meter won’t go over 52 dB which is quite outstanding.
hOmeLabs unit is singularly focused on reducing noise levels – and they do that exceptionally well – but other things like high energy-efficiency and even reliability are sacrificed in order to lower decibels.
As far as the silent operation is concerned, you won’t find a 14,000 BTU unit as quiet as hOmeLabs portable AC. As far as a portable air conditioner is concerned, however, you will find units that are better than the hOmeLabs unit.
Nonetheless, if you’re looking for an affordable super quiet portable AC, the hOmeLabs Low-Noise is exactly the right choice:
3. Honeywell MN14CEDWW (Best Super Quiet 14,000 BTU Portable AC)
|Max. Noise Levels:||53 dB|
|Cooling Capacity:||14,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 700 sq ft|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||1200W (115V, 11.7 A)|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||15.2 x 18.1 x 29.3|
If you look at that 53 dB, Honeywell MN14CEDWW is not the quietest portable air conditioner. Some super silent ones do have only 52 dB noise levels, but the Honeywell device is as close to whisper-quiet portable AC as it gets. Here’s the important part:
Honeywell MN14CEDWW is arguably the best quiet air conditioner. The 53 dB max. noise levels makes it the quietest 14,000 BTU portable air conditioner (it’s a bigger unit hence more decibels). What is more, as far as portable air conditioners go, the Honeywell MN14CEDWW is at the top of the list.
Here’s why this is the best quiet portable AC unit overall:
It has extremely high energy-efficiency. The EER rating of 11.67 is far above everything other whisper-quiet portable AC units can achieve. Honeywell MN14CEDWW is only capable of having such a high energy-efficiency due to its advanced dual hose design.
Dual hose design is superior to standard single-hose design precisely because of the higher EER ratings. Honeywell MN14CEDWW is the quietest dual-hose portable air conditioner you will find, and it has 14,000 BTU of cooling effect. That’s enough to cover up to 700 sq ft, according to EPA rule-of-thumb for the size of air conditioners.
Due to the EER rating and still being extremely silent while generating 14,000 BTUs makes the Honeywell MN14CEDWW the top-rated portable air conditioner, even better than the #1 Frigidaire unit as far as overall PAC performance is concerned.
4. De’Longhi Pinguino 4-in-1 (Super Quiet Small Portable AC)
|Max. Noise Levels:||52 dB|
|Cooling Capacity:||7,500 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 500 sq ft|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||N/A|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||34.5 x 19 x 17|
De’Longhi Pinguino 4-in-1 is one of the most versatile quiet portable air conditioners. It has a super quiet operation; with max. noise levels of 52 dB. With 7,5000 BTU output, it’s most appropriate for people looking for the quietest portable AC unit for small rooms.
The versatility comes from the Pinguino’s 4-in-1 setup that includes:
- Portable air conditioner (up to 7,500 BTU).
- Super heater (up to 14,000 BTU).
With such a powerful heater, the De’Longhi Pinguino operates more like a heat pump than a standard portable air conditioner. You can use it in the summer as a portable air conditioner and in the winter as a room heater.
The whole De’Longhi Pinguino is not only designed to be quiet; it’s also designed to be very sophisticated. For example, the De’Longhi Pinguino is the quietest smart portable air conditioner with Wifi compatibility. Translation: You can control it via your smartphone. Quite a convenient feature for a quiet portable AC.
The only drawback the De’Longhi Pinguino has is the relatively high price for a quiet small room portable AC. Obviously, the addition of a heater and smart connectivity are useful but they don’t come cheap. The result is that the De’Longhi Pinguino has the same price as some of the quietest 14,000 BTU portable ACs.
All in all, De’Longhi Pinguino is the most convenient and versatile quiet-as-a-mouse portable air conditioner. The inclusion of a powerful heater, capable dehumidifier, and Wifi connectivity is something a lot of other super quiet units lack:
5. Whynter ARC-102CS (Quietest 10,000 BTU Portable AC)
|Max. Noise Levels:||51 dB|
|Cooling Capacity:||10,000 BTU|
|Coverage:||Up to 215 sq ft|
|Power, Voltage, Amps:||1110W (115V, 9.7 A)|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||14 x 14.5 x 28|
Not everybody needs a big yet quiet 14,000 BTU air conditioner. In fact, the smaller AC units do produce less of a noise, and that’s exactly true for Whynter ARC-102CS. While the quietest bigger units create 52-53 dB, Whynter ARC-102CS has the top noise level of only 51 dB. That makes it the quietest 10,000 BTU portable AC.
Whynter ARC-102CS is a simple unit with a lot of decibel reductions in place. The noise levels are very low but other important metrics such as EER rating and coverage are not exceptional, to put it mildly.
While it does produce 10,000 BTU of cooling effect, Whynter ARC-102CS is recommended as a quiet room air conditioner for 215 sq ft rooms. That’s quite a small room for a 10,000 BTU AC unit.
On another note, the 9.0 EER rating is above average. However, you can find a quiet portable AC unit with a 10+ EER rating (check the #1 Frigidaire and, especially, #2 Honeywell units).
Nonetheless, the Whynter ARC-102CS is a decent device with an even better price point. While most silent portable ACs cost more than $500, the Whynter ARC-102CS is the only one that’s quite good that doesn’t cost more than $400. That makes it the quiet price-performance winner on the list of the quietest air conditioners in 2021:
You can share your opinion of the best and worst quiet portable air conditioners in the comments below. Thank you.