The most powerful portable air conditioners are 14,000 BTU. One Honeywell portable AC even has 15,000 BTU of cooling power. However, it’s almost always out of stock.
Too bad, Honeywell.
Quick answer: The most powerful portable air conditioner is a 15,000 BTU AC by Honeywell. However, this model is always out of stock. Instead, the 14,000 BTU dual-hose Whynter ARC-14S provides the most powerful and efficient cooling. If that is not enough for you, you should get a 25,000 BTU window air conditioner instead.
Keep reading to see the recommendations! After listing the 3 most powerful portable air conditioners, I will also recommend a more powerful window air conditioner toward the end of this article.
And you will learn how you can maximize the power efficiency of your portable AC!
Recommendations: 3 Powerful Portable Air Conditioners
Here are my personal recommendations:
#1 Whynter ARC-14S (14,000 BTU)
The Whynter ARC-14S (click here to view it on amazon) provides the most cooling power for the least money. Technically, it is a highly efficient portable air conditioner as it is a dual-hose system, which mimics the inner workings of a real split AC.
Regular ACs have only one hose which blows hot exhaust air outside. This, however, creates a negative pressure in your room which sucks additional hot air into your room.
The second hose of the Whynter portable AC sucks air from outside, instead of from your room, which makes it a LOT more efficient (and accordingly more powerful) than any single-hose portable AC.
That’s why I ranked this 14,000 BTU portable air conditioner as the most powerful and my personal recommendation!
#2 BLACK+DECKER Air Conditioner (14,000 BTU)
Even though there are hundreds of 14,000 BTU portable air conditioners to choose from, this Black+Decker portable AC (click to view it on amazon) is a model you can rely on.
This model has been around for years, and most people love it. It has over 40,000 reviews on amazon. That’s a number!
To be honest, the cooling capacity of this portable AC is 14,000 BTUs which is not any more or less powerful than other 14,000 BTU ACs. Nevertheless, since 14,000 BTU is (with one exception) the maximum cooling capacity of portable ACs, I had to choose one among a huge range of portable ACs. So, I went for the most trusted model. And this is definitely the number 1 portable AC online.
Still, it’s a single-hose system. So, for the 14,000 BTU you get out of this AC, you will have to invest more electric power. In comparison to the Whynter ARC-14S (the number #1 in this list), this air conditioner will either consume more power (meaning a higher electricity bill), or output less cold air (depending on how the manufacturer measured the 14,000 BTU rating).
It’s a proven AC, but it’s technically inferior when compared to a dual-hose model.
#3 Honeywell HJ5CESWK0 (15,000 BTU)
Ranked third place, but actually the most powerful of all portable air conditioners is the Honeywell HJ5CESWK0.
This portable air conditioner only makes it to #3, because it’s just always out of stock. I don’t care about an AC with the supposedly biggest cooling power if I can’t even buy that product.
And the difference to the readily available 14,000 BTU ACs is only marginal. In cooling capacity, 15,000 BTU is just 7.14% more than 14,000 BTU.
That’s not a lot. Especially considering other factors such as the portable ACs insulation, which has a much more significant impact on cooling power than the measly 7.14% BTU increase.
What are the most powerful portable air conditioners?
Now that we’ve checked the 3 most powerful portable air conditioners, this section deals with the WHY. Why did I choose these portable air conditioners and not any other models?
Experiment: Finding 5 powerful portable air conditioners ranked by BTU
Before I knew what the most powerful portable air conditioners are, I had to check products online. Here’s an excerpt of the most powerful portable ACs that I found (3 of them made it to the recommendations).
|Honeywell HJ5CESWK0||15,000 BTU|
|Whynter ARC-14S||14,000 BTU|
|BLACK+DECKER Air Conditioner||14,000 BTU|
|De’Longhi Pinguino||14,000 BTU|
|SereneLife SLPAC12.5||12,000 BTU|
As you see, most portable air conditioners have a maximum cooling capacity of 14,000 BTU.
Looking up different portable AC models, I found that the range is usually between 6,000 BTU and 14,000 BTU. Some models are even weaker than 6,000 BTU.
But all models have this 14,000 BTU limit in common.
I am curious…
What is the biggest portable air conditioner size?
The biggest portable air conditioner is the Honeywell HJ5CESWK0. It has a cooling capacity of 15,000 BTU. The Honeywell portable air conditioner is however always out of stock.
The biggest readily available portable air conditioners provide 14,000 BTU of cooling power.
Apparently, there is a limit to how strong portable air conditioners can be.
I guess that it has something to do with efficiency. As an engineer, you can’t increase the cooling capacity of a portable AC indefinitely. At some point, the flaws of portable air conditioners annihilate the additional electric power you invest.
For example, portable air conditioners blow the waste air out the window using a plastic hose. That plastic hose is, however, so thin, that it hardly provides any insulation.
The more a portable air conditioner cools, the hotter the hot waste air gets. The problem is now the following:
Hotter air penetrates insulation much faster than colder air. That’s why at a certain cooling capacity, the heat re-entering the room will cancel out the cold air produced by the AC.
So, building portable air conditioners more powerful than 14,000 BTU is not worth it. Maybe they don’t even get certified because they get more and more inefficient… Who knows?
How much power does a 14,000 BTU portable AC consume?
A 14,000 BTU AC consumes around 1,500W on high settings. That’s an hourly running cost of $0.21 assuming an average electricity rate of $0.14 per kWh.
If your electricity rate is higher, you can just increase the running cost proportionally.
Also, the 1,500W is just an average.
The exact wattage depends on your climate zone and the size of your room.
You can assume the following corrections depending on the climate:
|Climate zone||AC Wattage|
|1 (tropic)||2250 Watts|
|2 (hot)||2000 Watts|
|3 (warm – moderate)||1750 Watts|
|4 (mild – moderate)||1500 Watts|
|5 (mild)||1250 Watts|
|6 (cool)||1000 Watts|
|7 (cold)||750 Watts|
You can look up your exact climate zone in the IECC climate zone map below:
What’s the most powerful window air conditioner?
Do you really need a portable air conditioner? Does it really have to be a portable one? Because for (almost) anyone who has access to a window, a window AC could also be worth considering.
Why? Because window ACs are a lot more powerful than portable air conditioners.
Recommendation: This 25,000 BTU Frigidaire Window Air Conditioner (click to view it on amazon)
The best thing about window ACs is that they don’t use much (if any) more electric power than a portable air conditioner. However, window ACs provide up to 2-3x the cooling power.
The reason is that window ACs don’t have the design flaws present in portable ACs we talked about earlier. Window ACs are actual, real, and solid air conditioners.
Portable air conditioners have significant efficiency issues.
So, if you have a window in the room you want to cool and you have the funds to buy a window AC, then please think about it.
With a window AC, you get much more cooling power for your money’s worth. And in the long run, a window AC will even save you money because of the increased efficiency.
Personally, I’d always prefer window ACs.
Unfortunately, the window type I have in my home does not allow window ACs (I have tilting instead of shifting windows).
How to build a powerful portable air conditioner based on a window AC
14,000 or even 15,000 BTU is not enough cooling capacity for you? Well, since this is the absolute ceiling of portable air conditioner power, we have to think of something else for you.
In the previous section, we have already checked window air conditioners. These are air conditioners that are supposed to be placed in a window.
But what if you don’t have a window? Or you don’t want a non-portable window air conditioner?
If you are technically a bit capable (able to stick some pipes together, etc.), then you can transform a window air conditioner into a portable air conditioner.
You can buy a 25,000 BTU window AC and transform it into a 25,000 BTU portable AC.
Check this guide: Can you use a window air conditioner without a window? (I tell you exactly how to use a window AC as if it was portable there)
However, there’s one drawback: By making a window air conditioner portable, you essentially introduce all the design flaws and efficiency problems of portable air conditioners to your window AC.
This results in a significant cooling power cut. You won’t be able to build a 25,000 BTU portable air conditioner easily. After installing a hose, the cooling capacity might cut down to 20,000 BTU or even 15,000 BTU.
However, you can raise the cooling capacity again by spending extra attention to proper insulation and tightly sealing everything.
It’s a bit of a mess and a fight against physics.
This section is just to give you ideas. It is possible, but it will be a several-day-lasting project. You will have to enjoy it.
I’d stick to regular portable or window ACs.
How to increase the cooling power of a portable AC
To get the most power out of a regular portable air conditioner, you have to add additional insulation. The most important upgrade is wrapping the exhaust hose in an aluminum wrap (or any other insulation material). Additionally, you can install your own second hose to convert your single-hose AC to a dual-hose system.
But that requires a bit of fiddling around and maybe handyman knowledge.
Read this guide for more: How to make a portable AC more efficient?
Using the terms “portable AC” and “powerful” in one sentence is not common.
The most powerful portable air conditioners have 15,000 BTU or 14,000 BTU of cooling power. There appears to be a technical limit of the achievable cooling power of portable ACs.
If you need more power than that, I highly recommend getting a window air conditioner.
Window air conditioners do not have the efficiency problems that portable air conditioners have. They work just like regular ACs and provide a lot more cooling power for the same money.