Why BTUs matter
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. It basically means the amount of energy it takes to heat a pound of water. And while this unit of measurement makes sense when talking about heaters or BBQs, it can still be used for cold appliances such as air conditioners.
In this case, the number of BTUs still refers to how powerful a device is. But more specifically, it refers to the amount of energy needed to remove heat from the air.
The larger the number of BTUs, the more powerful your AC unit is. To make it easier for you compare units if you look at ones that all have the same BTUs. In our case, we have chosen 14,000 BTUs. This is a standard output for portable AC units that work within a room.
Features to consider while choosing a portable AC unit
Portable air conditioner units range greatly, in size, settings, and dimensions. We’ve highlighted key features to be aware of so you can find the right 14,000 BTU portable air conditioner for you.
One of the most important features to consider when purchasing an air conditioner is the coverage area. This number refers to the square footage that the air conditioner can consistently cool. If you place a unit in too large of a room, it won’t be strong enough to heat to all ends, thus making it quite efficient.
Similarly, if you have a very powerful unit in a small space, you could end up wasting a lot of electricity and a lot of money.
14,000 BTU air conditioner units have different coverage areas. While the average is 500 square feet, some, like the Black + Decker BPACT14HWT have a coverage area of 350 square feet. On the other end of the spectrum, the Honeywell MN14CCS and the Honeywell HL14CHESWW both have a coverage area of 700 square feet.
When deciding which unit to purchase, first think about the area you want to place your machine in. Also think about open plans. You may want to just cool your living room but if it opens to your kitchen and dining room, you will have to take this total space into consideration.
Number of fan speeds
Most air conditioners will have the option of working as a fan only. If you want to keep the air cool and circulating, without the extra power that an air conditioner has, a fan is a good way to go. With a fan, the number of speeds is crucial as it allows you to better control the air.
Most units with a fan setting will provide you with three settings to choose from. This is a standard low, medium, and high choice.
The only thing to remember with fan speeds is that the higher the speed, usually the louder the noise is. Most fans use improved technology, so you will only be exposed to a maximum of 60 dB. This noise level means you can still run your fan on max while having the TV on in the same room. Likewise, if you plan on using the fan in your office, you can still have a phone conversation next to the unit.
If you’re investing in an expensive product, it stands to reason that it’s a more affordable machine if it will work all year round. If you can find an air conditioner that also works as a heater, then you will have a device that can be used year-round, thus saving you a lot of money.
The Whynter ARC-14SH, the Whynter ARC-148MHP, the Honeywell HL14CHESWW, and the NewAir AC-14100E all have heating functions. So, while you may pay more of an initial price tag with these units, you won’t have to purchase a separate heater later on, thus saving you money.
The only thing to consider, though, is that air conditioners are usually a lot larger than heaters. So, if you were looking forward to a more compact device to keep you warm in the winter, it might not be beneficial to have a large AC unit taking up precious space.
Heat and humidity often come hand in hand in the summer. It makes sense, then, to have an air conditioner unit that can help with both cooling and dehumidification. Not all AC units will have this feature but if they do, it’s a really nice bonus, especially if you livid in a very humid or tropical climate.
On our list, many air conditioners have dehumidification properties. The Whynter ARC-148MHP, the Honeywell MN14CCS, and the Whynter ARC-14SH are just some of the units that work really well as a dehumidifier.
The one thing you need to remember about a dehumidifier is that the water that is collected from the air needs to go somewhere. The two most common ways to collect this water is through a collection reservoir or a pump that is hooked up to a drain. Dehumidifiers are great but they do often need daily maintenance, so just be aware of this.
Controls and display
To make your life a bit easier always look for a portable air conditioner that is easy to control. Each unit will have a control panel but they vary greatly in both design and ease of use. Some, like the LG LP1417GSR and the Black + Decker BPACT14HWT have nice, easy to read LED screens.
One product to really consider if you want a simple display screen is the Whynter ARC-148MHP. Despite its large amount of options, the display screen is still easy to navigate. In fact, it even uses handy icons to let you know which is the heater and which is the fan mode.
If like to sit down and hate having to get up to change your settings, then look for a model that comes with a remote control. This will allow you to easily adjust your settings while remaining as comfortable as possible.
Finally, in addition to control panels and remote controls, there is a new, third way to change the settings on your air conditioner. This is through your smartphone. The DeLonghi PAC-AN140EKF can be programmed through their in-house app. Simply download it to your smartphone or tablet. As long as you have a Wi-Fi connection in your house, you can access your air conditioner via the app wherever and whenever you are.
For those that love to walk through the door after a long, hot day at the office, and step into a cool home, this is a must-have feature. Simple login to the app before you leave work, program the air conditioner, and it will be completely cool inside your home, as if by magic.
When you want to purchase an air conditioner, you will have to consider its dimensions. While every unit is different, they usually measure around 30 by 20 by 15 inches.
All of the units on our list are portable which means you are likely to move your air conditioner around. Before you purchase one, think about the various places you are most likely to put your unit. If you plan on moving your AC unit from your living to your bedroom each night, then you will want a place in each room that is large enough to accommodate the device.
Some portable air conditioners come with the option to install it in your window. In this case, installation kits are included in your purchase. If this is your ultimate plan, measure your window and check for any limitations within the specific unit.
Portable air conditioners have a lot of technology, so safety features should always be highlighted. The most basic is an auto-off function. Basically, if you leave the machine on for more than 24 hours, it will automatically turn off. This is safe as well as perfect for those who tend to be a bit forgetful.
Another safety feature is important if your model has a heater function. The tip-over feature ensures that if the machine falls, it will automatically turn off. As you can imagine, if a heater falls to the ground, it could become quite disastrous. A tip-over feature is necessary in this case.
One other feature that is important if you have a model that also acts as a dehumidifier is a spillage feature. Because you need to collect the water that is removed from your air, if the reservoir hasn’t been emptied, the dehumidifier function will no longer work. This ensures you won’t have a terrible leak and potential water damage, all because of your dehumidifier.
When setting up your AC unit, you will want to keep a few safety measures in mind. Always plug your unit directly into a wall outlet. The plug needs to be in a grounded outlet. An extension cord or power strip will not provide the same amount of safety as a wall outlet.
Furthermore, when deciding where to place your unit, pay attention to any vents, either on the side or back of your machine. These vents need to be free from obstruction so as to not overheat your AC. Some vents lift outwards which may take up more space than you first realized.
Ease of installation
Thankfully, all of the portable air conditioner units on our list are very easy to install. Simple take the unit out of the box, find a plug, and you are good to go.
Some units also come with a window installation kit. These kits are also easy to install and you could have your air conditioner unit snug in your window in less than 10 minutes.
While you can vent a portable AC unit though a sliding door, having it vented through a window with a proper kit means there won’t be any lost energy or cool air through drafts.
Window installation kits allow you to place a strip across the bottom of a window that has a hole that perfectly vits the vent hose.
Unfortunately, warranties on portable air conditioners are not that great. All of the products that we have reviewed only offer a one-year limited warranty. While this is better than nothing, it is a shame that there is very little diversity when it comes to warranties.
Of all the products we reviewed, only two portable air conditioners have extra warranties. The Whynter ARC-14SH offers a three-year limited warranty on the compressor and the Black + Decker BPACT14HWT offers a five-year warranty on the compressor.
As always, though, if you aren’t technologically savvy, or just want to protect your investment, you can always inquire about a supplementary warranty from the manufacturer. Just know that it will cost you more.
How to install a portable AC unit
Overall, it is very easy to install a portable air conditioning unit. The biggest help is if the product comes with its own window installation kit. If it doesn’t, you can still buy a separate one or fashion your own device. However, if your purchase includes an installation kit, that means the dimensions will work better with your model.
- Decide where you want to place your unit. It should be near a window and near a power outlet.
- If your product has an included window kit, great! If not, you will have to purchase a separate one.
- Install the window kit. This is usually a strip with a hole in it that you can then put the vent hose.
- The window strip is usually placed at the bottom of a window. You may need to trim it so that it fits within the edges
- Attach the vent hose to the AC unit and at the window, place the exhaust connector.
- Connect the vent hose to the window area, ensuring the hose is straight and connected securely.
- Plug the AC unit into the wall. You shouldn’t use an extension cord or a power cord as the unit should always be in a grounded, safe wall outlet.
- If you don’t have a window nearby, or a window kit, you can alternatively vent your unit through a sliding door.