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How to Choose the Right Sized Portable Air Conditioner

How do I know what size portable AC unit to buy?

Portable air AC units generally have cooling capacities that range from 5,500 BTUs to 16,000 BTUs. A common rating term for air conditioning size is the "ton," which is 12,000 BTUs per hour. For example, a 2-ton unit would produce 24,000 BTUs. This term is not used in portable air conditioner specifications because their output is relatively low. Also, it has nothing to do with a "ton" which refers to weight in pounds. Only the name is the same.

In order to choose the right size unit, you need to know two things:

  1. the size of the room in square feet;
  2. any additional heating factors in the room, such as: a skylight, major appliance or computers, excess number of windows or direct sunlight, poor insulation, or a ceiling higher than 8 feet;
BTU to Room Size Matching Chart

BTU's Supported Room Size
(Manufacturer's ratings)
Supported Max Room Size
(Our Recommendation)*
5,000 150-175 s.f. up to 135 s.f.
6,500 200-225 170
7,000 200-300 210
8,000 300-350 250
8,500 300-375 270
9,000 300-425 285
10,000 300-450 295
12,000 350-500 335
13,000 400-500 350
14,000 400-500 370
16,000 450-550 400

*If you have additional heating factors, increase the BTUs needed 2,000-4,000.

Is there an advantage to buying a much bigger unit than I need?

No. If you buy a unit that is too big, it may not cool the room uniformly. It may also cycle on and off too frequently. A smaller unit designed to cool the correct room size will run for a longer periods of time and be more effective at dehumidifying the room.

How big are portable air conditioners and how much do they weigh?

In general, portable AC units range from 28-36 inches in height, 12-20 inches in width and are 12-20 inches deep. That's a range of around 2.3 to 8.3 cubic feet. The weight of portable AC units generally ranges from 65 to about 100 pounds. So while they're technically "portable" because they are on wheels, they aren't always easy to move.


Important Features and Options to Consider



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