How to Choose a Portable Air Conditioner for Your Home

By: Julie Day

Guide to Portable AC Cooling Size (BTUs) for Rooms

When choosing a portable air conditioner, it’s important to buy one with the right cooling (BTU) rating for the size of your space. While it may seem that bigger is better, that’s not true with AC units, since a unit that’s too large for the space will cycle on and off too quickly to cool and dehumidify the air properly.

Portable AC unit

Portable AC unit

In general, portable AC units need to have more cooling power (BTUs) than window units. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations, but here’s a general guide for portable units:

  • 5,000-7,000 BTUs: Rooms up to 150 square feet
  • 8,000-9,000 BTUs: Rooms 150-250 square feet
  • 10,000 BTUs: Rooms 250-350 square feet
  • 12,000 BTUs: Rooms 350-450 square feet
  • 14,000 BTUs: Rooms 450-550 square feet

You should also:

  • Add 2,000 to 4,000 more BTUs if the portable AC unit will be in a kitchen or a room with heat generating appliances or tools.
  • Choose a higher BTU rated portable AC unit if you live in an exceptionally hot climate, or if more than two people will be living in the room.
  • Increase BTUs 10% for sunny rooms with lots of windows or poorly insulated spaces.
  • Decrease BTUs by 10% for deeply shaded or naturally cool rooms.

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