Top 3 Quiet Portable Air Conditioners Reviewed and Rated

When you’re sweltering in a hot room with no air conditioning you may well start thinking about how a portable air conditioner could help.

The idea of having a portable unit that you can move from room to room as needed to cool them down sounds great.

But the one thing that puts people off is their reputation for being noisy. So how do you find a quiet portable air conditioner, and just how quiet can you expect it to be?

We’re going to answer all those questions now and later on review some of the best models around to help you choose.

What’s in a portable air con unit?

To understand why these units have to make at least some noise we first need to understand what’s in them.

Usually, a portable air conditioner system will consist of the main unit, an outlet hose and a window venting kit of some description.

The units are free standing and fairly heavy, around 60-80 lbs. They usually come on castors so that they can easily be pushed from room to room.

The main unit will always contain the compressor, condenser and two fans at the very least. Higher end models may have features such as heating units, blowers, and dehumidifiers as well.

It’s the basic components – the compressor, condenser and fan – that make most of the noise.

With central air con or window units, these components are usually outside. That means quieter operation inside.

Portable air con units need to sit in the room they are cooling and so the noise of those basic components running is also going to be inside with you.

How loud are they?

Most portable units operate at a level between 45 and 55 decibels (dBA).  A dBA is just a unit of measurement for sound so that we can compare different levels of noise.

How loud is this in real terms?

Well, a refrigerator running is about 50 dBA at 1 yard away. 55dBA is what a noisy vacuum cleaner will sound like at around 10 yards away. Normal levels of conversation will rate around 40- 60dBA.

That should give you some idea of how loud they are but just remember, the further it is away from you, the quieter it will be.

Quiet please…

What about units with a whisper or quiet mode?

When running, a portable air con unit will always make at least some noise.  It’s beyond our current technology to make a completely silent one!

The harder the unit is having to work, the noisier it will be generally.

Some more sophisticated units have a whisper or quiet mode which runs the compressor and fans at a lower speed. This certainly cuts down the noise, but at the same time the unit will not be able to cool as effectively.

Key factors to consider when choosing a portable unit

Make sure the unit has all the features you want. Look for functions such as timers, remote controls and LED displays for instance.

Check that it is not too big or too heavy for the rooms you want to use it in. Remember the unit has to sit near a window so make sure the exhaust hose is going to be long enough.

The main thing you will need to consider is how big the room is that you want to cool. Portable air con units have something called a BTU rating that will help you decide if it’s powerful enough to do the job.

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is approximately the amount of energy needed to heat 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit.

This simple BTU calculator will help you work out what you need. See our article on BTU and what it means here.

If you know how many square feet your room is (just multiply the length by the width) it’s even easier. Most units say what they are capable of in their description.

For more information on portable air conditioners see my comprehensive guide. Now we’ve looked at what you can expect and how to choose a unit suitable for you, let’s take a look at some of the best models around today.

Our Top Choice: The DeLonghi America PACAN120EW 12000BTU Whisper Cool Portable Air Conditioner

The DeLonghi 12000BTU Whisper Cool ( link) is not just a powerful air conditioner, it has 3 different functions in 1 portable unit.

There is also a fan that can be used on its own just to move air around without heating or cooling, as well as a dehumidifier only function.

How big and heavy is the DeLonghi?

The Whisper Cool weighs in at 68.4lbs and measures 29.5 inches tall by 17.8 inches wide and 15.5 inches deep. That makes it about average for a portable air conditioner.

It has a nice modern look and feel with white and gray exterior panels. Across the top you will find the control panel with an easy-to-read LED display.

On each of the sides there are two handles to help steer the unit around when moving it.

What size room will it cool?

The DeLonghi is rated at 12,000 BTU and can cool a room up to 450 square feet in size.

Several reviewers online confirm it can handle this size room without any problem and may even be used in a room slightly larger when needed.

Reviews suggest that it can cool down rooms fairly quickly. For instance, one reviewer commented that it cooled down a bedroom from 81 deg F to 72 deg F in around 3-4 hours on a summer’s day afternoon.

How loud is it and what is the whisper mode?

Although the manufacturer has not published any official ratings we have been able to find out that the unit operates around the 53dBA mark. That’s within the normal range for most portables.

This portable air con though comes with something called ‘whisper mode’. When you turn this on the unit gets about 50% quieter. That makes it no louder than a quiet room fan for instance.

Reviewers confirm this is about right, although some complain it still makes a noise! If you have read through this article from the start you will know this is to be expected.

Whisper mode works by lowering the compressor and fan speeds so the unit will not cool as efficiently in this setting.

The best way to use it would be to let it run in normal mode to get the temperature down and then switch to whisper mode later.

How does the Real Feel feature work?

Another great feature not found on other air conditioners is the DeLonghi ‘Real Feel’ technology. This will regulate the temperature and humidity so that the room feels cool and comfortable rather than chilly!

Many reviews comment on how well this feature works so it’s definitely something worth using.

Just remember though that if you want cold air blasting out all the time then this setting is not going to be for you!

Does it need emptying?

All portable air cons have to deal with the moisture that is removed from the air in the cooling process and the DeLonghi is no exception.

However, it does this using a condensation recirculation system that gets rid of most of the moisture through the exhaust hose. That means there should be nothing to empty. In normal use this works pretty well.

Some reviewers have reported though that in high humidity areas it can drop some water, so it’s advisable to place the unit on a drip tray.

There is also a direct drain outlet that allows you to drain the water off whilst it’s running. This is a must if you live in a very humid area otherwise you would be emptying the water storage tray on a regular basis.

What other functions does it have?

The DeLonghi Whisper Cool also allows you to run just the fan on its own as well as the dehumidifier. The fan has three speeds for greater control.

When dehumidifying on its own the unit can remove up to 86.65 pints of excess moisture over 24 hours. That’s going to be very useful during spring and autumn or during damp periods.

There is also a 24-hour timer function to delay startup or shutdown of the unit.

A remote control is included which gives you access to all the functions you can control from the top panel. There is even a holder on the unit for the remote so you don’t lose it!

What type of filter does the unit use?

A BioSilver filter is fitted in this air conditioner which will prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and mildew. This is great for increasing the quality of your indoor air and also protecting you and your family’s health. This filter will need cleaned regularly to keep it working efficiently. Check the manual for recommended intervals.

What’s in the box?

The unit comes with a remote control, window exhaust hose fitting kit and a 5ft hose that can be extended to around 8ft. This is one of longest we’ve come across and really increases your installation options. Some hoses can be as short as 4ft!

Top Tip: The power cable provided is about 6ft long so bear this in mind when working out where to site the unit.

It’s incredibly easy to set up once you’ve got it out of the box and worked out where to put the exhaust hose. Probably no more than 5 to 10 minutes to have it up and running.

Don’t forget though, that in common with all portable air conditioners, you will need to let it stand for around 6 hours after bringing it home.

This is to let the oil from the compressor settle back down after transportation. If you don’t do this, it could cause the system to break down from a blockage and shorten its life.

There is also a dust cover provided for when the unit is not in use – a really nice touch.

What warranty comes with the DeLonghi America PACAN120EW?

The Whisper Cool comes with a 2-year limited warranty that covers the entire air conditioner for repair with free parts and labor.

Any part of the sealed system is covered for an additional 4 years for parts only.

The unit will need to be shipped to an authorised service centre at your expense, but return shipping is covered by DeLonghi.

Summing Up – Conclusion

The DeLonghi America PACAN120EW ( Link) 12000 BTU Whisper Cool Portable Air Conditioner is a great system that will cool most rooms down pretty quickly.

It has some unique features not found on other portables and comes with everything you will need to get it quickly set up.

The whisper mode really does make it run quieter and if used correctly will be a real bonus.

Overall, the DeLonghi Whisper Cool Portable is a good buy. For rooms up to 450 square feet you will be hard pushed to find a better portable unit.

If you have a room up to 500 square feet in size you might want to take look at the Whynter ARC-142BX. It that has a rating of 14,000BTU and that gives it the extra capacity to cover a larger area.

Smaller rooms where the DeLonghi might be too much, such as those around 300 square feet, might be better serviced by the Whynter ARC-10WB. That model is rated at 10,000BTU so would be a good option.

Recap on the Comparison of the Top 3 Quiet Portable Air Conditioners


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