Need to know
- If you're looking to buy a portable air con for the summer (or perhaps planning on picking one up in the Boxing Day sales), give these three the cold shoulder
- Portable air conditioners can be a convenient cooling option if you can't install permanent air con, but are less efficient and can be expensive to run
- CHOICE members can access our full reviews to find out which portable air conditioners performed best in our expert testing
This summer, as temperatures escalate towards the uncomfortable, 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 a built-in option, or who simply like the flexibility of moving your air con from living room to bedroom and back again, a portable air conditioner can be an excellent option.
While portable units work on the same basic principle as built-in options, sucking in hot air, cooling and dehumidifying it and then returning it to the room, they're not quite as effective and can be far noisier. But these trade-offs do come with a comparatively cheaper price tag.
If portable is the best fit for your situation, it pays to know that not all are built to equal standards. But don't worry, you're in the right place to find out which models you should be avoiding to ensure you keep your cool.
Our CHOICE experts reviewed 22 portable air conditioning units, delving thoroughly into factors such as cooling capacity, ease of use, running cost and the level of noise when set to high.
While six models scored 70% or above, there are a few that performed rather poorly. Here are the three worst portable air-conditioners for your money. Interestingly, two of these low-scoring units are from the same manufacturer.
- Price: $1095
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
- Cooling score: 62%
- Noise of fan on high: 64.1 dBa – noisy
Considering you can get a recommended model for as much as $300 cheaper, there are few reasons to choose this portable air conditioner. It was awarded an 'only OK' cooling score and is considerably noisy on high speed, which doesn't bode well for those steamy nights when you're trying to drift off to sleep in quiet coolness. It also isn't especially energy-efficient. And while the air filters are easily accessible and removable for cleaning, this small plus hardly makes up for its other shortcomings.
- Price: $1395
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
- Cooling score: 66%
- Noise of fan on high: 56 dBa – quieter
With an expert rating equal to its low-performing Polocool counterpart, this unit costs $300 more but fails to deliver any greater benefit. It's certainly quieter, but it's also heavy, isn't particularly energy-efficient, and while slightly better at carrying out its prime function, it still received an 'only OK' cooling score. One to avoid.
- Price: $499
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 54%
- Cooling score: 45%
- Noise of fan on high: 60 dBa – noisy
Although one of the more affordable units we reviewed, this portable air conditioner is still out-performed by cheaper models. It's lightweight, but that's where its advantages begin and end. With only borderline performance overall, a poor cooling score and no auto sleep temp adjustment, you'd be better off sticking to the fan than spending hard-earned cash on this inefficient appliance.