How to make a Portable Air Conditioner quiet?

How can you make a portable air conditioner quiet? Is there any way to silence a noisy portable AC?

I found lots of useless and ridiculous advice online, such as wrapping your portable AC in blankets. Not only do tips of this kind not work, but they are even dangerous.
This article deals with the few tips that will really get you a silent portable air conditioner. Just follow along.

Quick answer: You can only make a portable air conditioner quieter by placing it on an anti-vibration pad and lowering the power settings. Soundproofing an AC is likely to overheat it and decreases the cooling efficiency. If your portable air conditioner is old (10 years or more), I would suggest you replace it. Modern air conditioners are significantly quieter.

After this quick answer, let’s have a little deeper look. I will also link you all the products you need.

How to make a portable air conditioner quiet

This section deals with the few methods that will result in you having a portable air conditioner that won’t disturb you noise-wise.

Buy a new portable air conditioner

First off, modern air conditioners are reasonably quiet. Of course, there is always some noise since the portable AC has a built-in compressor. But in comparison with old models (10 years or older), the new portable ACs are on a completely different level.

If the portable air conditioner you have at home is already old enough and you don’t want to waste your time worrying about and researching portable AC noise, then I recommend you just buy a new portable AC.

By simply upgrading to a more recent model, you lower the noise and also increase the energy efficiency.

Compressors wear down over time. This causes old portable ACs to be louder. They aren’t as “balanced” anymore.

Personally, I recommend getting this SereneLife portable air conditioner with quiet mode (click here to view it on amazon).

One of the main advantages of simply buying a new portable air conditioner is that your result is instant. As soon as you replace your old AC with the new one, the noise problems are gone.

All you need to do is invest some money in the newer model.

Another advantage is energy efficiency. Old electric appliances are often loud because they are inefficient. Energy is wasted which oftentimes results in increased noise. In the end, the energy needed to produce the noise could be used to air condition your room.

New portable air conditioners are significantly more energy-efficient and can lead to hundreds of dollars in annual savings. By buying a new air conditioner, you make up for the initial cost after just 1-3 years.

Buy a used “new” portable air conditioner

If the upfront cost of a new portable air conditioner is too high for you and does not fit your budget, you can also buy it used.

You can find used portable air conditioners on craigslist, eBay, or maybe even at garage sales.

Oftentimes you get really nice deals from college students moving out of their student dorms. As they move into apartments, they don’t need their portable AC anymore and try to get rid of it.

Lower the cooling settings

Another thing you can do to reduce your portable air conditioner noise is to lower the cooling settings. The lower the temperature you set on the AC’s thermostat, the more power the air conditioner has to use to compress the gaseous refrigerant.

Since the compressor has to do more work in a given time, it tends to be louder. It’s just like stepping on the gas in a car. The engine just gets louder.

As a rule of thumb, noise increases with power usage. This is not only the case for portable air conditioners, but also for many space heaters, refrigerators, or fans.

The advantage of lowering the cooling power is that it works instantly and with any portable air conditioner. The age of your AC does not matter. And you don’t need to buy any extra gear.

However, lowering the cooling power, as you probably already guessed, has a big drawback: Your portable air conditioner does not cool as much anymore.

Therefore, lowering the cooling power is only an option when you don’t rely on your AC. This could be the case when the weather outside is not too hot.

Lowering the cooling power is not an option in the high summer heat.

Even though this tip will produce immediate results, it is not a long-term solution. Purchasing a new up-to-date portable air conditioner is still the best long-term choice.

Place your portable AC on an anti-vibration pad

Lots of noise travels through the floor and through walls. If you ever had an apartment neighbor drilling into a wall, you know how little soundproofing insulation many walls provide.

Portable air conditioners vibrate when they are running. Otherwise, they would not be able to produce any noise. Noise is just vibrations in the air.

When your portable air conditioner stands on the bare ground, the vibrations of your portable air conditioners travel through the floor and walls and you are able to hear them almost anywhere in your home.

To dampen these vibrations, anti-vibration pads will make a major difference! An anti-vibration pad is special padding that absorbs vibrations and thus reduces noise.

Also, they can prevent structural damages caused by the vibrations of your appliance.

This means that an anti-vibration pad not only reduces the noise to a moderate level, it can also increase the lifetime of your portable AC.

With an anti-vibration pad, you can continue using your portable air conditioner. There’s no need to replace, repair or modify your portable AC. Just stand your AC on top of the pad.

Anti-vibration pads come in many different shapes and colors. Personally, I recommend this extra-thick anti-vibration pad (click here to view it on amazon).

The advantage of this product is that it’s generic. It does not fit only one product. In the long run, you can reuse this pad for all kinds of electric appliances including washing machines, audio equipment, or your personal home gym.

Personally, I like buying products that are of good quality and fit many different purposes. Likely, you won’t use your portable air conditioner for a lifetime. Once you stop using it, you can reuse the anti-vibration pad elsewhere.

A product reviewer on Amazon writes:

“It definitely works as a sound dampener. Vibration is cut down by at least 75%.”

Wear noise-canceling headphones

Noise-canceling headphones are something that I want to mention as well. Not only do they enable you to reduce your portable air conditioner noise, but you can also cut any noise anywhere.

Even though noise-canceling headphones do not solve the source of your noisy portable air conditioner problem, they are an invaluable tool to reduce noise whenever you need them.

Personally, I have used noise-canceling headphones in trains, airplanes, and in libraries when studying. They are a game-changer.

They are especially useful when you need to block noises but you can’t do anything to fix the issue directly. For example, if your neighbor has a noisy portable AC.

One advantage of noise-canceling headphones is that they are cost-effective. You pay for them once and they will last you a long time. You don’t need to do any manual DIY work to fix the portable air conditioner noise. And you don’t need to be familiar with electronics. All you need to do is wear them.

Noise-canceling headphones are a multi-purpose product.

The main disadvantage, of course, is that they do not solve the source of the noise problem. And also noise-canceling headphones can only reduce the noise for one person at a time.

Another disadvantage is that you can’t really wear them while sleeping. So, if your portable air conditioner annoys you at night, you should go for a different solution.

The perfect scenario for using noise-canceling headphones is when you are working in an office that has a portable air conditioner. For up to 8 hours a day, you wear the (usually comfy) headphones that block out most of the noise.

You can’t really uninstall or replace the portable air conditioner since your colleagues want the air to be cool. But you can put the headphones on to block out the noise just for yourself.

My personal recommendation is the Bose Quiet Comfort noise cancelling headphones (click here to view them on amazon).

They cancel noise much better than most competitor brands. I have tested them before. Personally, however, I am using a cheaper but still good alternative from a Chinese brand, because I was a poor student when I originally bought them. If the Bose Quiet Comfort are too expensive for you as well, then just look up alternative products with decent customer ratings.

Tie a rope around the portable AC

Another thing you can do is tie a rope around your portable air conditioner. While this sounds ridiculous at first, a rope can hold together the rattling parts of the portable air conditioner.

“It is very likely that the noise is caused by the outside casing of the machine vibrating and the vibration can be severely lessened by literally tying a rope around the unit.”

SpadesHeart on Reddit

This only works if your portable air conditioner has loose parts. A properly built and fairly new portable air conditioner is unlikely to rattle.

So, if your portable AC is either old or cheap, tightly tying a rope around it might help.

How not to make a portable air conditioner quiet

There is lots of dangerous misinformation online about soundproofing (portable) air conditioners. 

Now that we know what works, I will list you a few examples, so you know what doesn’t work and why it doesn’t work.

Let’s have a look at a few of those common but probably impractical tips.

Wrap your portable air conditioner in a blanket

Supposedly you can dampen the noise of a portable air conditioner by wrapping it in a big blanket. The blanket absorbs the noise. Right?

As a matter of fact, yes, the blanket absorbs a part of the noise. However, wrapping a portable air conditioner in a blanket is a bad idea.

Portable air conditioners consume lots of power. The amount of power usage is even similar to that of an electric space heater. A part of that power ends up as residue heat.

By wrapping an AC in a blanket the entire air conditioner is more likely to overheat since the heat can not escape the device.

Additionally, because the internal electronics heat up, the resistances in the circuitry increase. This lowers the overall energy efficiency of your portable air conditioner and you will have to pay more on your electricity bill.

Additionally, when you wrap your portable air conditioner in a blanket, the risk of fire increases. This is especially the case with artificial fibers such as polyester or nylon.

These artificial fibers have a relatively low ignition temperature and catch fire quickly.

A blanket can block the airways of your portable air conditioner. This forces it to suck in air harder than before which, in turn, causes an increase in energy consumption.

So, not only does the overheating of the portable AC decrease energy efficiency. The blocking of airways additionally prevents the efficient operation of the AC.

Will wrapping around your portable air conditioner help to lower the noise? Probably yes, but the risk of fire, the risk of damaging your portable AC through overheating and clogged airways, and the increased electricity bill make this tip not worthwhile.

Place the air conditioner on a carpet

Some air conditioner blogs online write about how placing the portable air conditioner on a carpet reduces the noise.

Here, I have to comment: Yes, it probably helps to reduce the amount of vibration traveling through the floor. But generally, to really soundproof something, a simple carpet is not sufficient.

To dampen vibrations you always need materials that are thick and can swallow a lot of energy. Mostly, that’s heavy materials.

That’s why thin walls never insulate noise well. You need more mass.

Similarly, a carpet is made of too light materials to have a real impact on the noise.

Instead, a much better approach would be to use an anti-vibration pad.

I am not saying that placing an air conditioner on the carpet doesn’t work. However, there are much better ways to soundproof your portable air conditioner.

What makes a portable air conditioner so noisy?

Now you have all the knowledge you need in order to silence your portable air conditioner. However, one question remains open. What actually makes your portable air conditioner so noisy?

And why do the tips mentioned work although I don’t know what the cause of your AC noise is?

One of the main building blocks of a portable air conditioner is a refrigerant compressor.

The compressor constantly compresses a gaseous or fluid refrigerant. The compressed refrigerant medium then sucks the heat out of your room by expanding. 

The heat energy in your room expands the refrigerant and therefore your room temperature reduces. I’ve never fully understood this concept until I took a university course on thermodynamics, so don’t worry if you don’t get it.

The important part is that there are always actively moving parts in a portable air conditioner.

And these moving parts make noise through friction and rattling against each other.

The older your portable AC is, the noisier it tends to get.

There are two types of compressors: Scroll-type compressors are generally quieter than piston-type compressors.

Another source of noise could be loose parts in the portable AC case or internally.

All these noise-sources cause vibrations which you can dampen using an anti-vibration pad. You can fix rattling loose parts by tightly tying a rope around your portable AC. Alternatively, if you are familiar with electronics, you can open the case and try to fix the parts yourself.

Conclusion

The best way to reduce portable air conditioner noise is by replacing your portable air conditioner with a newer one.

Old portable air conditioners tend to be noisy because of compressor wear down or lose parts.

Another thing that always helps is getting an anti-vibration pad. An anti-vibration pad prevents the noise from traveling through the walls.

About the Author

Daniel Hirsch

Daniel is an electrical engineer, blogger, and author. He studied electrical engineering and information technology and decided to blog about heaters after working in the temperature sensing industry.