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Portable air conditioners to avoid buying 

Keep your cool and steer clear of these loud and lousy units.

portable air conditioner to avoid thumbs down
Last updated: 19 October 2020

Need to know

  • Our experts test units for cooling performance, noise, energy efficiency, ease of use and more
  • Portable air cons can be convenient, but are usually less efficient and more expensive to run
  • CHOICE members can access our full reviews to see the best performers in our test

With summer on the way, you may decide it's the year to ditch the pedestal fan and get serious about cooling. For many of us who rent, can't afford an expensive built-in option, or who simply like the flexibility of moving your air con between rooms, a portable air conditioner can be an excellent option. 

If portable is your pick, it pays to know that not all models are built to equal standards. In our product lab tests, our CHOICE experts regularly review portable air cons, assessing key factors such as cooling performance, ease of use, running cost and noise level when set to high (learn more about how we test). 

They've found some impressive performers (both cheap and expensive) and seen some disappointing duds too – sometimes from the same manufacturer. To help you stay cool this summer, here are the lowest-rating units in our tests to avoid. 

Polocool-PC-44BPC_1

Polocool PC-44BPC

  • Price: $1095
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Cooling score: 62%
  • Claimed cooling capacity: 4.4 kW

Considering you can get a CHOICE Recommended model for as much as $300 cheaper, there are few reasons to choose this mediocre model. It scored just OK for cooling performance and even worse for energy efficiency. 

It's also considerably noisy on high speed, which will make sleeping on steamy nights even harder. And while the air filters are easily accessible and removable for cleaning, this small plus hardly makes up for its other shortcomings. Read our full review

polocool-pc-58apc_1

Polocool PC-58AP/C

  • Price: $1395
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Cooling score: 66%
  • Claimed cooling capacity:  6 kW

This more powerful model costs $300 more than the previous Polocool, but managed just the same lowly overall rating. On the upside, it's quieter and does a slightly better job at cooling (66% vs 60%, but that's still not great). 

On the downside, it's the most energy inefficient model in our current test, which means bigger bills for pretty ordinary performance. Weighing almost 45kg, it's also very heavy, which can make transporting it between rooms trickier. One to avoid. Read our full review.

rinnai-rpc41wa_1

Rinnai RPC41WA

  • Price: $849
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 61%
  • Cooling score: 66%
  • Claimed cooling capacity:  4.1kW

The Rinnai may look a bit like a penguin, but it's hardly as cool. This bird's also pretty noisy and hungry when it comes to power – it ranked third last for energy efficiency in our current test. 

It scored satisfactorily in our ease of use test and features a sleep timer. But our experts found better performing models at this price or even cheaper, so it's definitely worth considering other options. Read our full review

dimplex dc10rc

Dimplex DC10RC

  • Price: $699
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 61%
  • Cooling score: 55%
  • Claimed cooling capacity:  3kW

If you're counting on this little unit to beat the heat, think again. Out of these four models, it rated the lowest for cooling with a sweaty score of just 55%. It's also not that energy efficient, but our experts did find it easier to use than other models listed here. 

Interestingly, this Dimplex also operates as a heater, which would be impressive if it didn't do such an ordinary job as a cooler. Read our review.