What are the best portable air conditioners for garages? Where should you set up the portable AC in your garage? Especially, when you don’t have a window, you’ll need some installation work. And how can you maximize the efficiency of your garage AC? This article will clarify all of these questions!
Quick answer: The best portable air conditioner for garages is the Whynter ARC-14S. Because it’s a dual-hose AC, it’s very efficient when cooling hot garages. However, you will need a window fitting two hoses or you will need to drill two holes in your garage wall for installation. If that’s too much, get the recommended Black+Decker single-hose portable AC.
Best Portable Air Conditioners for Garages
Before we dive into the proper portable AC setup for garages, here are my recommendations:
#1 Whynter ARC-14S (14,000 BTU cooling capacity)
The Whynter ARC-14S (click here to view it on amazon) is a strong dual-hose portable AC. I’ve ranked this model #1 because it has a significantly higher efficiency than other portable ACs.
Good efficiency helps you cut your electricity bill for garages, which are not ideally insulated. Regular portable ACs have just one hose that blows air out. This means somewhere air has to be sucked into the AC. And because there’s no second hose, the air from within your garage is sucked in and blown out. Get my point?
Single-hose portable ACs cool the air, and then blow that same cooled air outside.
The Whynter AC’s dual-hose system mimics the structure of a split AC. One hose is a waste heat hose. The other sucks in air from outside which is used for cooling.
Dual-hose portable ACs are technically superior to single-hose ACs. And that’s why I always rank them #1.
#2 BLACK+DECKER Air Conditioner (14,000 BTU cooling capacity)
The Black+Decker portable AC (click to view it on amazon) is a 14,000 BTU cooling capacity single-hose AC. It is rated with the same cooling capacity as my #1, the Whynter AC.
However, because of the flaws of single-hose systems that I just explained, this portable AC has to consume more power to make up for the lack of efficiency.
I’d suggest getting the Black+Decker AC over the Whynter AC only if you don’t have the opportunity (or don’t want) to connect two hoses to the window.
Especially, if you don’t have a window and you’ll have to drill a hole through your garage’s wall, getting a single-hose AC might be the better choice.
It’s better for the structural integrity of your garage (although two small holes won’t be a big problem). And it saves you installation time.
So: This Black+Decker portable AC will cool your garage just as well as the Whynter AC. Also, it’s easier to set up. However, it will consume more electricity.
#3 SereneLife Portable AC (12,000 BTU)
This SereneLife portable AC (click to view it on amazon) is a 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner. So, just by the cooling capacity rating, this model is around 14% weaker than the other recommendations.
But usually, you won’t notice the difference that much. Especially in 1,2 or even 3 car garages. This AC is still large enough.
Actually, I included this AC not because there is a technical reason that makes it a great AC for garages specifically, but rather because it has such a long track record of being sold. And I, personally, like products that are trusted.
Most portable ACs work the same. This one is just another portable AC.
What makes a portable AC suitable for garages?
A portable AC for garages must be powerful because garages are oftentimes improperly insulated. In the summertime, garages heat up fast. And an AC has to be able to keep up with it.
That’s why I only included 14,000 BTU or 12,000 BTU ACs in the recommendations.
In general, I’d say you should prefer powerful over weak portable ACs.
A powerful portable air conditioner can always reduce its cooling power when the desired temperature is reached (thanks to the built-in thermostat).
A weak portable air conditioner, however, can not increase its cooling capacity if it’s not able to reach the target temperature.
It’s the same with cars: A strong-engine car can always drive slowly and efficiently. But a weak car can never drive fast.
That’s why I recommend getting a strong 14,000 BTU or 12,000 BTU portable AC for your garage. During the hottest weeks of the year, you’ll be happy about your decision.
Which air conditioner is best for large garages (3,4,5 cars)
For large garages, a window air conditioner or a split AC is the best. They output even more cold air for the same amount of electricity. Window and split ACs have a higher cooling efficiency than portable ACs.
Because they don’t have these cheap hoses that portable ACs have and because the hot air-releasing part of the AC unit is always located outside, they don’t have the same efficiency problems as portable ACs.
How to improve portable air conditioner cooling power in a garage
You can improve the cooling efficiency of your portable air conditioner by improving the insulation of your garage.
Here are the steps you can take:
- Seal the gaps below your garage door: A lot of hot air enters the garage through the gaps below the garage door. Ensure they are properly sealed. You could use, for example, this Garage Door weather seal (click here to view it on amazon).
- Insulate the air conditioner hose: A portable AC blows waste heat outside through the attached hose. Since it’s usually made of plastic, it does not hold heat at all. By properly insulating the hose using an aluminum insulation wrap, you can decrease the amount of heat reentering your garage.
I’ve written an article specifically about making portable ACs more efficient, so have a look here: How to make a portable AC more efficient
Can you vent a portable AC through a garage door?
Yes, you can vent a portable AC through a garage door. However, you’ll have to build the venting setup yourself. Portable AC garage door kits don’t exist.
At least I did not find any.
I guess it has to do with the size of garage doors, which the garage door kit would have to cover. That’s not feasible mostly.
You can build your own venting construction by drilling a hole (for the waste heat hose) through a wood board. Then, you can connect the portable AC hose to the wood board vent.
And then, you can insert it into the garage door gap and seal the open rest of the gap.
You can use aluminum wrap, styrofoam, or wood to seal the gaps. Using double layers further improves the insulation!
How and where to install a portable AC in a garage?
In a garage, you can install your portable AC either directly to a drilled hole in the wall, or you can install it below a window (as it is intended).
In general, drilling your own vent has the advantage of not blocking your (potentially only) garage window.
Also, garage windows rarely are big enough to fit a portable AC window kit. Or the space below the garage window is already blocked.
I find drilling a hole generally the best approach. But if your window allows it, installing it there is just as good.
How to install a portable air conditioner in your garage without a window?
Locate any free spot in your garage. The best about drilling your own vent is that you can place it (almost) anywhere you like.
As a tool, you can use a hammer drill with a strong drilling bit.
- Ensure there is no wire or pipe running through the wall where you want to drill. You can use a wire and pipe detector for this. But you can also use your common sense. If there’s no sink or wall outlet around, the likelihood of damaging a wire or pipe is very small.
- Drill around 15 to 20 holes in a circle. The vent does not need to be as large a diameter as the AC hose. A small 3 inches hole is enough. Larger is of course better since this improves airflow.
- Knock the loose brick out.
- Mount a metal pipe through the hole that guides the air outside (so the waste heat is not absorbed by the garage wall)
- Mount the AC window kit which is included with the AC in front of the hole. You can glue the plastic to a wood construction and then mount the wood construction to your drilled venting hole.
How to install a portable AC in a garage window
To install a portable AC in a garage window, you can use the window kit included with the AC. If it doesn’t fit your garage window, you can build your own venting construction.
If you only have a small garage window, consider drilling your own vent instead. It’s easier to set up, does not block the window (and the sunlight), and you can place the vent anywhere you want.
When you use a window as a vent, the placement of your portable AC is locked to the area around the window.
If you have multiple windows, then choose a window that’s closest to where you are spending the most time. This exposes you to the cold air coming out of the AC and reduces the perceived temperature in the garage for you.
Is there an air conditioner that doesn’t need to be vented?
As a garage owner, you probably want to spare yourself the hassle of setting up an AC in your garage. But, a vent is necessary.
All air conditioners have to be vented. Any air conditioner that claims to need no vent is a marketing scam and has no technical foundation.
Air conditioners absorb heat from a room. And the heat has to go somewhere. Now, if you don’t vent it, the heat will stay in your room and the temperature won’t change.
Without a vent, cooling is impossible.
It might be possible to change the perceived temperature of a room without a vent. For example, using a humidifier or a pedestal, or a floor fan. However, this does not reduce the actual temperature.
It only changes your feeling about the temperature.
So: If you want real air conditioning in your garage, you will have to set up a vent.
Will a portable air conditioner work in a garage?
Yes, all portable air conditioners will work in a garage given you set up a vent (through a window or a drilled hole in the wall).
Also, you have to ensure that your portable AC is properly sized for your garage.
I could give you a list of garage sizes and required portable AC cooling capacities so you can pick the properly sized portable AC for your garage.
However, I generally prefer stronger models over weaker models. A strong portable air conditioner will cool any garage size. While with a weak air conditioner you will only be able to cool small garages (meaning you will never be able to use the portable AC if you ever want to use it in a larger space).
Just check the recommended portable air conditioners at the beginning of this article. They suit 99% of garages.
Are there more methods to cool down my garage with no windows?
If you have a garage without windows, you can’t set up proper air conditioning without drilling holes. Instead, you should use a floor fan.
A floor fan can blow large amounts of air in a short time. It will reduce the perceived temperature in a garage.
Also, if your garage accumulates a lot of heat, a floor fan can wipe out the heated air within just a couple of minutes.
I have an 80W floor fan (which is just a fraction of the wattage of a portable AC by the way) and I am able to cool down my entire living space in early summer mornings or late nights using it.
Floor fans are incredibly cost-effective.