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The best portable air conditioners, according to an allergist

Stay cool this summer.
Side view of woman sitting in front of electric fan at home
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When it comes to summer, staying cool is the name of the game. Welcome: portable air conditioners.

These home appliances become essential for beating the heat in the sweaty summer months, but what's the best way to find the right one for you?

Consider the space you'd like to put the unit in

Purchase one that meets the size requirements of the room it’s going to be in. While the portability makes it seem like you can take it from living room to bedroom to office, one designed for a smaller space won’t function as well in a larger one, and many also have to be hooked up to the window for ventilation.

Eliminate potential allergens

If you don’t have central air in your home or office, a portable air conditioning unit can also be an important tool in managing your allergies. “Having an air conditioner allows windows in the home to be closed, decreasing pollen entry into the home,” said Dr. Jennifer Diaz of ENT & Allergy Associates in Long Island, New York. They also help you breathe easy by filtering air and removing allergens.

And because many seasonal allergy sufferers also deal with indoor allergens year-round, “AC also decreases the humidity in your environment, making it more difficult for indoor allergens like mold and dust mites to proliferate,” she said.

It also helps knowing what you’re allergic to. If you have trouble with dust, then one with a HEPA filter is best, says Diaz. But if your issue is pollen, then standard filter are typically sufficient at trapping these larger particles, she says.

Look for easy-to-clean filters

Another pro tip: Keep filters clean. Dirty filters won’t work to trap nasties as well, and they may even push more dust out into your surroundings, says Diaz. You want to find a unit that has filters that are easy to replace or clean.

Now that that’s out of the way, onto the good stuff: portable AC units that cool down a room quick, filter out allergens, and look great, too (because you don’t want a monstrosity hanging out with you).

Best Desktop Cooling

Dyson Pure Cool Me Air, $310 (originally $350), Amazon

While this leans more towards air purifier, it still sends out nice, cooling air, so it’s great for the worker who is battling some serious allergies this season. It has an HEPA carbon filter to trap allergens like pollen and pet dander and pollutants. It’s also certified asthma & allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Best for Small Bedrooms

Insignia Portable Air Conditioner, $200, Best Buy

Suited to cool down up to 350 square feet, this unit is ideal for small bedrooms. It gets the job done quickly, as one reviewer said: “…it cooled the office down by 10 degrees in a half an hour.” That’s the efficiency you need when you’re stuck in a room sweating.

Best Smart Unit

Frigidaire Smart Portable Air Conditioner, $549 (originally $600), Amazon

A splurge for sure, but this one comes with all the bells and whistles you didn’t know you needed in a portable AC unit. It can tackle 550 square feet, has an antimicrobial mesh filter to keep filter allergens out, a dehumidifier within, and is Wi-Fi enabled and can be controlled from an app. Plus, the design is funky and cool, and different than the traditional rectangular styles.

Best When You Need Something Easy-to-Use

Frigidaire 8000 BTU Portable Room Air Conditioner, $329, Walmart

This AC unit is designed to function well without users having to give it much thought. First, the important info: It has an antibacterial filter to trap airborne particles, which is what you’d rely on if you’re struggling with allergies. Beyond that, you can customize timers so cold air can greet you as you walk in the door (nice!), set sleep settings, and do it all with a remote control.

Best for a Home Office

LG Electronics 8000 BTU Portable AC with Dehumidifier, $319, Home Depot

This unit, which needs to be vented through a window, efficiently chills down smaller rooms up to 200 square feet, making it perfect to sit in a home office. The sound on portable units can be a problem, but many people said that this one was comparatively quiet.

Best For Large Rooms

hOmeLabs 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner, $500, Amazon

With 14K BTUs, this one has some serious power. That’s why it can go the distance and cool down a room that’s 550 to 700 square feet. A washable air filter with a built-in reminder light makes keeping the unit clean a snap. Even though it’s pricy, reviewers say it’s worth it for the ease of set-up, quiet run, and impressively chilly air. The company says you can install it in “8 minutes or less,” so why not make a fun activity of it and time yourself?

Best Budget

MiToo Personal Space Air Conditioner, $34 (usually $50), Amazon

AC units are expensive, but this one is extremely affordable at under $40. It’s not going to cool an entire room, but it will cool you down by a dozen degrees. The combination cooler and air purifier keeps smells out of the room, too. Reviewers rave about how easy the filters are to clean, which is a big plus.

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