If you have a small room, you don’t need a big portable air conditioner. To avoid unnecessarily getting bloated, expensive, overkill units that could short cycle in a small room, we have looked at which are the smallest possible AC units. You can find a list of the 4 smallest portable AC units on the market further on, complete with a spec-by-spec comparison chart and individual reviews.
Now, a small portable air conditioner can mean several things, and we have considered all of them. Here are 4 main ways of what we can mean by a portable AC unit being small:
- Smallest dimensions (total volume). Small portable units should have the shortest width, shortest depth, and shortest height dimensions. We have calculated the total volume of small units (multiplying width × depth × height dimensions) to figure out which portable AC unit is actually the smallest. Example: #3 SereneLife SLPAC8 in the list below has 13.8 x 14.6 x 27.2 inch dimensions, and a total volume of 5,480 cubic inches. For comparison, the #1 Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 has a below 5,000 cubic inches total volume.
- Smallest footprint (width × depth). If you have a 10×10, 12×12, or 14×14 room, for example, every square foot is quite precious, right? We have figured out which portable AC units are actually the smallest by calculating their footprint. In the chart below, you can see that all 4 smallest portable AC units have a below 1.60 sq ft footprint. That 1.60 sq ft represents only about 1% of the total square footage in small rooms.
- Smallest cooling output (BTUs). Portable AC units can produce a cooling output ranging from 8,000 BTU to about 15,000 BTU. 8,000 BTU units are considered the smallest portable AC units in terms of cooling output; they can adequately cool rooms with up to 350 sq ft. This is based on the old ASHRAE BTUs; we are going to discuss the new 2019 DOE BTUs as well further on.
- Most compact (size effectiveness). In many cases, we want the smallest portable AC that produces the biggest cooling output (BTUs). We have created a compactness metric by dividing BTUs by total volume. It turns out that the most compact small portable units can produce over 1.50 BTUs per cubic inch of volume; #1 Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 and #2 BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT can achieve that size effectiveness.
The small size is not everything. Even with the smallest portable AC units, you would like them to be highly energy efficient (CEER rating), lightweight (below 60 lbs), have low noise levels (below 60 dB), can produce adequate airflow (measured in CFMs) that can distribute the cooling output evenly throughout your room/s (no hot spots), and don’t cost more than $400.
Basically, when manufacturers are cutting on size and weight, we have to be particularly careful that they don’t cut on cooling output (BTUs), energy efficiency, or make a clumsy and noisy unit.
Based on all these metrics and considerations, we have created a list of the 4 smallest portable AC units. If you already know a thing or two about portable air conditioners, you can jump ahead to the list and the spec-by-spec comparison chart here:
For 1st time buyers and people who need a bit of insight on factors you need to consider before buying any air conditioners, let’s quickly go through these specifications (like sizing and BTUs, dimensions, total volume, and footprint, compactness, energy efficiency, benchmark noise levels, and prices of small portable AC units).
We are going to take a structured approach here (referencing the actual units in the chart below); tackling specs one-by-one, starting with the cooling output (BTUs):
1. Small Portable AC Units Cooling Output (BTUs; ASHRAE vs DOE)
BTU-wise, you don’t want a portable AC unit that produces:
- Too small cooling output to cool one or several rooms. Nobody really likes running an AC unit and still sweat.
- Too big cooling output. This is just overkill, and may even lead to air conditioner short cycling (leaving your room cool but humid, and decreasing the lifespan of the unit itself).
In HVAC, we usually use 20 BTU per sq ft rule of thumb, but this is more relevant for bigger unit. For smaller units, we can look at this portable AC sizing chart, recommended by the Energy Star organization in their buying guidance for all room air conditioners:
|Portable AC Capacity (BTU):||Room Size:||Room Dimensions (Examples):|
|8,000 BTU||300 To 350 Sq Ft||18×18, Two 12×12 Rooms|
|9,000 BTU||350 To 400 Sq Ft||18×20, 20×20, Two 14×14 Rooms|
|10,000 BTU||400 To 450 Sq Ft||Three 10×10 Or 12×12 Rooms, 22×22 Rooms|
|12,000 BTU||450 To 550 Sq Ft||Multiple Small Rooms or 1 Big Room|
|14,000 BTU||550 To 700 Sq Ft||Multiple Small Rooms or 1/2 Big Rooms|
Now, the smallest portable air conditioners all have 8,000 BTU cooling output. They can cover rooms with a combined area of up to 350 sq ft. They all have 8,000 BTU cooling output, so they are all the same, right?
Well, not exactly. These BTUs (cooling output in British Thermal Units) that we still use were introduced by ASHRAE (American Society Of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers). In 2019, however, the DOE introduced the new DOE BTU standards that give a more realistic cooling output.
In the chart below, you will see that we list both ASHRAE BTUs and DOE BTUs. While all 4 units are considered to be 8,000 BTU (ASHRAE units), you can see that they differ in the row with specified DOE BTUs (ranging from 4,000 BTU to 6,000 BTU).
It is important to note that, in practice, the small portable air conditioners with higher DOE BTUs (like #1 Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 with 5,500 BTU DOE and especially #4 LG LP0621WSR with 6,000 BTU DOE) cool better and quicker.
While all smallest units have 8,000 BTU ASHRAE, you should focus on (if you want better and quick cooling) units with as high BTU DOE as possible.
Alright, let’s have a look at the dimensions, volume, and footprint of these units:
2. Dimensions, Volume = Size, Footprint Of Extra Small Portable AC Units
Needless to say, the smallest portable AC units should have the tinniest dimensions. Here are the dimension ranges for portable units:
- Width ranges from about 15 inches to over 30 inches. The smallest units have below 15 inch width (#1 Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 has a 13.78-inch width).
- Depth ranges from about 12 inches to over 25 inches. #2 BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT has the smallest width (thinnest) of 11.7 inches.
- Height ranges from a bit over 25 inches to over 40 inches. All 4 of the smallest portable AC units in the chart below have below 30-inch height.
Now, some portable AC units can have incredibly low width, others can have incredibly low depth, and some portable AC units are shorter than the rest. The only way how to adequately define which one is the smallest is to calculate the total volume of the unit. We did that by multiplying width × depth × height dimensions. Here are the rough benchmark volumes:
- The smallest units will have below 7,000 cubic inches of volume. All 4 units in the chart have below 7,000 cubic inch volume (#1 Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 is the only one with below 5,000; 4,494 cubic inches, to be exact).
- Small units will have from 7,000 to 10,000 cubic inches of volume.
- Average units will have from 10,000 to about 12,000 cubic inches of volume.
- Above-average units will have from 12,000 to 15,000 cubic inches of volume.
- The biggest portable AC units have over 15,000 cubic inches of volume (that’s 3-times as much volume as the smallest Frigidaire unit).
Arguably even more important metric is the portable AC unit footprint (that’s just width and depth, without height). Most portable AC units (even smaller ones) will occupy more than 2 square feet of space.
If you check the chart below, you can see that all the smallest portable AC units have a below 2 sq ft footprint. The smallest one – the Frigidaire unit – only occupies 1.16 sq ft of space. If you put it in a 12×12 room (144 sq ft), that’s less than 1% of the total room’s square footage.
3. Compactness Factor
Another way how you can look at a small portable AC unit is to figure out how compact it is. Compact simply means that it provides a lot of cooling output (BTU) despite being extra small. We can calculate this compactness factor like this:
Portable AC Compactness = Cooling Output (BTUs) / Total Volume
For most portable AC units, you will see that they can produce less than 1 BTU of cooling output per 1 cubic inch of volume. All the smallest units, however, have a very high compactness factor.
Example: #2 BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT is an 8,000 BTU unit with a total volume of 5,019 cubic inches. Here is how we can calculate how compact it is:
Compactness = 8,000 BTU / 5,019 Cubic Inches = 1,59 BTU Per Cubic Inch
We can see that the BLACK + DECKER unit has a way above 1,00 BTU per cubic inch compactness (1,59 BTU per cubic inch, to be exact).
Another thing we have to consider is energy efficiency:
4. Energy Efficiency Of Small Portable AC Units
A small energy-efficient portable AC unit will consume a minimum amount of electricity. In short, it will save running costs in the long run. We usually measure energy efficiency with CEER rating (it stands for Combined Energy Efficiency Ratio rating). Sometimes you will also see the use of an older and the most basic EER rating.
Now, most portable AC units have a CEER rating ranging from 5 to 7 CEER. The most energy-efficient small portable AC unit is the #4 LG LP0621WSR, with a 6.51 CEER rating. This unit runs about 10% more efficiently than a 6.0 CEER rated unit.
It is important to note that portable AC units are, on average, less energy efficient than same-size window units and way less efficient than mini splits. However, mini splits, for example, are way more expensive and need (almost always) professional installation which additionally bloats the costs.
With small portable AC units, just make sure that the CEER rating is above 5.5 CEER. Units below that are needlessly more expensive to run.
5. Noise Levels (Below 60 dB)
In most cases, you will position a small portable AC unit quite near you; usually in the same room as you. That’s why it is very important that you get one that produces at least a below-average noise level.
Portable AC units can produce over 70 dB noise on high fan speed setting. When selecting a quiet small portable AC unit, make sure that the whole range (at low, mid, and high fan speed setting) is below 60 dB.
You can see that all 4 units in the chart below have below 60 dB noise levels. The quietest small portable AC units are #1 Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 and #4 LG LP0621WSR with 50 dB noise levels at low speed and only 53 dB noise levels at high speed.
6. How Much Should You Pay For A Small Portable AC Unit?
Portable AC units can cost anywhere from $300 to over $800. When looking at prices, do have in mind that a small unit should be in the bottom half of that range (be careful not to be swindled on the price here)
$300 or $400 is a reasonable price for a small portable AC unit; $500 or more is definitely not. You will notice that all the listed portable AC units don’t exceed the $500 price tag.
With all these metrics considered and taken into account, let’s have a look at the list of the smallest portable AC units on the market:
List Of The Smallest Portable Air Conditioners
1. Smallest Portable AC Unit Overall (Below 5,000 Cubic Inches): Frigidaire FHPC082AC1
|Cooling Capacity (ASHRAE/DOE):||8,000 BTU / 5,500 BTU|
|Energy Rating:||6.3 CEER|
|Dimensions (DxWxH):||12.17 x 13.78 x 26.8 Inches|
|Volume:||4,494 Cubic Inches|
|BTUs Per Volume:||1.78 BTU Per Cubic Inch|
|Footprint:||1.16 Sq Ft|
|Noise Levels:||50 – 53 dB|
|Max. Airflow:||194 CFM|
Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 is THE smallest portable air conditioner. It has held this title for more than a decade now; this is the quintessential tried-and-tested go-to portable unit if you are looking for a simple plug-in and forget-it unit.
As we have seen in the analysis of the specs in the guide above, the Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 has record-small metrics in almost all categories.
First of all, this is an 8,000 BTU ASHRAE unit that can cover up to 350 sq ft. According to the new DOE BTU rating, it can produce 5,500 BTU of cooling effect, much higher than the 4,000 BTU other 8,000 BTU ASHRAE units can generate.
Size-wise, it is 13.78 inches wide, has a 12.17-inch depth, and a 26.8-inch height. When calculating the total volume, you can see that the Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 is the only portable AC unit with below 5,000 cubic inches of volume (4,494 cubic inches, to be exact, and it’s more than 500 cubic inches smaller than the #2 BLACK + DECKER BPACT08WT).
It also has a minimum footprint of merely 1.16 sq ft. That’s way below the 2+ sq ft footprints most portable units have. On top of that, it is also the most compact portable AC unit with a compactness factor of outstanding 1,78 BTU per cubic inch.
Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 has a solid 6.3 CEER rating; it’s pretty energy efficient for a portable unit. With 50 to 53 dB noise levels, it is matched as the quietest small portable AC unit with the #4 LG LP0621WSR; it’s way more quiet than most portable units (with 60+ dB noise levels at high setting).
It’s really hard to find cons with this unit. It is an older model, true, but by now, that means it’s a tried-and-tested reliable model with a lower cost (only about $300), as most Frigidaire AC units are. It does have a 194 CFM airflow which is nothing outstanding; it’s about average airflow for an 8,000 BTU unit.
All in all, Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 is the very definition of a go-to reliable small portable AC unit. It has minimal dimensions, is the only one with below 5,000 cubic inch volume, is the most compact, quietest and one of the cheaper units engineered by reliable Frigidaire engineers. You can get it here:
2. Most Reliable Compact Portable AC Unit For 1 Room: BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT
|Cooling Capacity (ASHRAE/DOE):||8,000 BTU / 4,000 BTU|
|Energy Rating:||8.73 EER|
|Dimensions (DxWxH):||11.7 x 16.5 x 26 Inches|
|Volume:||5,019 Cubic Inches|
|BTUs Per Volume:||1.59 BTU Per Cubic Inch|
|Footprint:||Up To 54 dB|
|Noise Levels:||50 – 53 dB|
|Max. Airflow:||222 CFM|
Similar to the smallest Frigidaire unit, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT has been on the market for some time now. It has a great track record for reliability (little to no problems), and it is the slimmest portable AC unit with only an 11.7-inch depth dimension.
As you can see from the dimensions (and the look of the unit), the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT is very slim (only one with below 12-inch depth). It has a 16.5 inch with and a 1.34 sq ft footprint. On top of that, it is also the shortest portable air conditioner, with only 26 inch height. That gives it an extra small 5,019 cubic inches total volume.
Cooling-wise, this is an 8,000 BTU (ASHRAE) but, according to the new DOE measurement conditions and calculations, it has a 4,000 BTU DOE cooling output which is below what #1 Frigidaire and especially the #4 LG unit can produce.
It does have a very good airflow (222 CFM at high setting) and produces very little noise for a portable unit (up to 54 dB).
Unfortunately, we don’t have an energy efficiency rating expressed in CEER. The BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT still uses the older and more basic EER rating; it has an 8.73 EER rating which is about average for a portable AC unit.
Above everything else, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT is a reliable unit. It has been in production for a long time, and even after all these years of tear and wear, you can see very few complaints about imminent failures (such as failed compressor, unit blowing but not cooling, etc.).
With a $400 price tag, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT is a good choice as a small portable AC you can put in pretty much any room. It is the shortest and the slimmest unit with an extravagantly high compactness factor (1,59 BTU per cubic inch):
3. Most Lightweight Portable Air Conditioner (Below 50 lbs): SereneLife SLPAC8
|Cooling Capacity (ASHRAE/DOE):||8,000 BTU / 4,000 BTU|
|Energy Rating:||6.0 CEER|
|Dimensions (DxWxH):||13.8 x 14.6 x 27.2 Inches|
|Volume:||5,480 Cubic Inches|
|BTUs Per Volume:||1.46 BTU Per Cubic Inch|
|Footprint:||1.40 Sq Ft|
|Noise Levels:||55 – 57 dB|
|Max. Airflow:||171 CFM|
SereneLife SLPAC8 is the most lightweight portable AC unit. It is the only one with a below 50 lbs weight (46.3 lbs) and is by more than 5 lbs lighter than other small portable AC units.
Now, dimension-wise, this is obviously a very small unit. It has a 14.6-inch width, 13.8-inch depth, and 27.2-inch height for a total volume of 5,480 cubic inches. It has an 8,000 BTU (ASHRAE) cooling output and, thus a very high 1.46 BTU per cubic inch compactness factor.
What we do need to be aware of with lightweight units is that the material used is usually hard plastic (not as resilient as aluminum or steel). There are a few shortcomings SereneLife SLPAC8 has as a result of using these lighter (and cheaper) materials, such as:
- 4,000 BTU DOE rating. That’s below what Frigidaire or LG unit can generate, according to the new cooling output measurement and calculation.
- 171 CFM airflow; this is below 200 CFM airflow. If you put in a 350 sq ft room, it does have the cooling capacity to provide adequately high cooling output. However, the fan that distributes this cold air might not be strong enough for the cool air to reach every part of that room.
- A little lower 6.0 CEER rating compared to other portable AC units.
- A bit higher noise levels than other small units (55-57 dB)
Nonetheless, the SereneLife SLPAC8 is also a tried-and-tested unit that does have high review rating from customers who use it. The price is not insignificant factor in its popularity; you can find deals for below $300 which makes the SereneLife SLPAC8 the cheapest small portable AC unit:
4. Smallest LG Portable Air Conditioner (Most Energy Efficient): LG LP0621WSR
|Cooling Capacity (ASHRAE/DOE):||8,000 BTU / 6,000 BTU|
|Energy Rating:||6.51 CEER|
|Dimensions (DxWxH):||13.27 x 17.32 x 27.36 Inches|
|Volume:||6,288 Cubic Inches|
|BTUs Per Volume:||1.27 BTU Per Cubic Inch|
|Footprint:||1.60 Sq Ft|
|Noise Levels:||50 – 53 dB|
|Max. Airflow:||250 CFM|
LG LP0621WSR is in the 4th place only because the primary ranking factor here is the total volume (compared to around 5,000 cubic inches, the LG’s 6,288 cubic inches makes it a bit fat). If you check the other specs, it usually scores as the No. 1 small portable AC units. Let’s break them down:
As said, the 13.27 x 17.32 x 27.36 inch dimensions net us a 6,288 cubic inch total volume and 1.60 sq ft footprint.
Now, here are the specs 6,288 cubic inches excels at:
- It is the most energy-efficient small portable air conditioner with a 6.51 CEER rating.
- It’s DOE BTUs are not 4,000 or 5,000; this little LG unit is capable of producing 6,000 BTU DOE cooling output, quite a lot more than comparable units.
- It is the quietest portable AC (50-53 dB), matching the super low noise levels the #1 Frigidaire unit has.
- Record-breaking 250 CFM airflow among the small 8,000 BTU unit.
With this 250 CFM airflow, it is no wonder that it can produce more cooling output, according to the DOE BTU measurement. What is positively surprising, however, is how quiet it is, despite the fan spinning rather fast to generate 250 CFMs. Energy efficiency is just an added bonus to these tremendous specs.
LG is also a reliable HVAC producer and they didn’t go crazy with the price at all; the LG LP0621WSR costs less than $350. Given how great the specs look, this unit could sell really well even if the price would be north of $450.
All in all, the LG LP0621WSR is not the absolutely smallest portable AC unit, but it has the most amazing specs for a small 8,000 BTU (6,000 BTU DOE) unit. On top of that, it is also a much newer model than the other 3 smaller units (one reason why it has better specs):
This has been an overview of what it “small” means in terms of portable AC unit specs. We hope that you now have all the knowledge you need to pick the right unit; our suggestions of the 4 smallest portable AC units will help you out as well.