Air conditioners can be bulky energy hogs, with even the smallest versions weighing upward of 50 pounds. Taking them on the road is inconvenient to impossible. While there’s no replacement for a good air-conditioning unit, there is a chance for some relief from the heat with a personal air conditioner.
These small devices, which weigh around a pound, lack the powerful refrigerant other air conditioners use to cool air. However, they can create a cool mist by using ice water instead to offer some relief on a scorching summer day.
In addition to using far less power than a standard air conditioner—many can run for hours on a rechargeable battery alone—they’re much smaller and portable. These personal cooling machines can make ideal companions for camping trips, a day at the beach, and other outdoor excursions.
This guide will delve into the world of personal air conditioners to cover how they work and the features that are important to look for in the best personal air conditioner.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Personal Air Conditioner
How long a personal air conditioner lasts before it needs a recharge or a reservoir refill is important to consider when shopping. Ahead, learn more about these and other features of these small cooling devices.
Most personal air conditioners are not intended to cool an entire room but rather to provide relief to someone sitting near the fan. Personal air conditioner tank sizes range from 500 milliliters to 700 milliliters, which gives them an operating time of about 4 to 8 hours, depending on the fan speed. So, take a look at average runtime as you shop.
Personal air conditioners work by evaporating ice water and distributing the cool air with a fan, so, unlike standard air conditioners that have a compressor, they use very little electricity. In fact, many models can run entirely off of a rechargeable battery for hours.
The main function of any air conditioner is to produce cool air. The best personal air conditioners do this by pulling in air from the surrounding area, passing it through a wick moistened with ice water, evaporating the water, and distributing it back through the air with a small fan.
Since personal air conditioners evaporate air, they also offer the side benefit of adding humidity to a space. This allows personal air conditioners to serve a double function as cool mist humidifiers. Most models also have a mode that allows the air conditioner to work exactly like a standard fan.
Since personal air conditioners do not use a compressor, they are much quieter than other types of air conditioners. They produce a noise similar to that of a small fan, which is about 30 to 40 decibels.
Personal air conditioners are simple to use. They require the user to load the reservoir with ice water, then turn the air conditioner to its cool setting and set the fan speed. Most personal air conditioners will run for at least 4 hours before requiring a refill of the reservoir; some run for as many as 12 hours on one fill.
The personal air conditioner’s controls typically appear on the unit’s housing. Some models include a convenient remote control that allows the user to change the unit’s settings without having to leave the desk or get out of bed. Since personal air conditioners are designed to be portable, most include handles that make them easy to carry.
Personal air conditioners come with a variety of additional features that add functionality while making them easier to use. This includes colored LED lights that users can adjust to one of seven colors—to set mood lighting or a night-light, for instance.
Other features include programmable timers that can shut the air conditioner off after a selected preset of 2 or 4 hours. Some models also include oscillating functions that cause the fan to oscillate 60 to 120 degrees to distribute cool air to more than one spot. And some models offer small reservoirs that hold essential oils the fan can distribute with chilled air.
Since personal humidifiers and air conditioners usually sit on nightstands, desktops, and other conspicuous places, they typically look attractive. Many feature streamlined boxy looks with touch controls that give them an appearance that’s similar to popular virtual assistant devices. Most come in neutral colors that blend easily with a room’s decor, including black and white.
Our Top Picks
The list below narrows the field to some of the top personal air conditioners on the market. These machines are small enough to take on the road, have ample reservoirs that can hold enough water to cool for hours, and include useful additional features.1Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
With its compact design and simple-to-use operation, HeaBoom’s portable air conditioner offers hours of cooling air in a small package. Adding ice water to its reservoir can cool the air in a room by releasing a chilled mist. In addition to producing cool air, this unit integrates other features designed to take the edge off in the summertime, including colored LED mood lights.
This personal fan has three speeds and is a versatile choice for comfort. It also purifies the air by filtering out contaminants and functions as a spray humidifier for up to 12 hours. With a convenient carrying handle and a size of just 6 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and 7 inches tall, this air cooler is easy to transport from room to room.2Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
With controls that are easy to use and features that add versatility, this SHAALEK portable air conditioner is a good way to find relief on hot summer days when there’s no access to conventional air conditioning. This unit works by creating cool mist from ice water and blowing the mist out through one of three fan speeds. It also includes an auto shut-off timer that automatically turns the fan off after 2 or 4 hours of use.
A 420-milliliter reservoir provides up to 7 hours of use before needing a refill, while a warning light on the control panel lets the user know when the reservoir is nearly empty. In addition to cooling, this personal air conditioner includes an LED light with seven color options for setting the mood or gently lighting a room. It measures about 11 inches high and 6.5 inches around.3Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
With its modern box shape, neutral white color, and push-button LED display, the Melophy portable air conditioner is an attractive personal air conditioner to add to an office or bedroom. This personal air conditioner also offers fine function. It features a hidden reservoir that holds ice water for cooling and an extra-large inlet and outlet to maximize cool-air output. A 600-milliliter tank provides enough capacity for up to 6 hours of cooling.
At night, this quiet fan doubles as a night-light with seven color options. Other features include an auto shut-off timer and multiple fan speeds. A convenient handle makes it easy to carry.4Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
With a low price and numerous features, this mini air conditioner from NOREWER is a great option for those looking for heat relief from a unit that can travel with them. It features a wireless design with a USB charger that works with multiple power sources, including USB charging blocks, a power bank, or even a laptop.
At just 5 inches deep, 5 inches wide, and less than 7 inches tall, this is one of the smaller personal air conditioners. An ample reservoir provides up to 8 hours of cooling air, depending on fan speed, using ice water. With its leakproof design and large handle, it is easy to carry from room to room without worrying about spilling.5Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
With a remote control that allows the user to operate this air conditioner from anywhere in the room, the OYRGCIK 2021 upgraded personal model is ideal for those who want to stay put on hot summer days. The remote control allows the user to manage all of the air conditioner functions, which include multiple modes, timers, and fan speeds. Fan settings include three speeds and a “crazy” mode that is designed to cool air in a room as quickly as possible.
In addition to functioning as an air conditioner by vaporizing ice water, this model has a dehumidifier setting and fan setting. An auto-timer automatically turns off the air conditioner after 2 or 4 hours, which it can handle easily with its 600-milliliter tank. The air conditioner measures about 10 inches high and 6.5 inches wide and also functions as a night-light with seven LED-lighting color options.6Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
With a remote control, louvers that allow the user to adjust the airflow to virtually any direction, and multiple modes, this evaporative air cooler from Wildyak offers plenty of user control. With the remote, you can conveniently select one of this air conditioner’s three speeds and set its auto shut-off timer to turn the unit off automatically after 2 or 4 hours. It runs off a 4,000-mAh battery that provides up to 4 hours of runtime.
The unit measures about 10.5 by 8 by 6 inches for easy tabletop use and portability. Louvers on the front that tilt up or down and side to side help users manage the direction of airflow. A translucent 500-millimeter reservoir holds enough water for up to 8 hours of runtime and displays exactly how much water remains in the tank.
FAQs About Personal Air Conditioners
If you still have questions about how well personal air conditioners work, then read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these devices.
Personal air conditioners use a minimal amount of electricity. In fact, many can run off of rechargeable batteries for hours.
Personal air conditioners provide cooler air than a standard fan; however, they are no replacement for a traditional or split air conditioner that uses refrigerant and a compressor. To be most effective, they need to blow directly onto the user from no more than a few feet away.
A personal air conditioner typically is not powerful enough to cool a room.
Personal air conditioners are not intended to cool an entire room but rather to provide relief to someone sitting near the fan. These small devices, which weigh around a pound, lack the powerful refrigerant other air conditioners use to cool air. However, they can create a cool mist by using ice water instead to offer some relief on a scorching summer day. Unlike standard air conditioners that have a compressor, they use very little electricity. These personal cooling machines can make ideal companions for camping trips, a day at the beach, and other outdoor excursions.