Portable air conditioners are, not surprisingly, popular right now – but should you buy one?

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The UK is experiencing one of its hottest summers on record, and with temperatures soaring to new highs Britons have been struggling to keep cool – and keep their cool – both indoors and outside. 

Retailers have reported a big jump in products to help us chill out, from fans and parasols to ice cream. However, if you really want to beat the heat, the ultimate solution is a portable air conditioner for the home.

According to appliance retailer Marks Electrical, sales of portable air conditioning units increased by 526% in one week at the height of the recent July heatwave, with a year-on-year increase of 2,110%. The retailer says this category has been its best-performing product area.

If you've not yet jumped on the air conditioning band-wagon, should you? Here are six things to look out for when choosing and using a portable air conditioner.

What to look for when searching, choosing and using a portable air conditioner

1. Budget. It's the elephant in the room which needs to be addressed before you start thinking about which model to buy. While a large and powerful fan might set you back £50-£100, you'll be looking at spending £300-400 on an air conditioner that's worth having.

How much you need to spend depends in part on the size of the room. If you want to cool a small bedroom, for example, you'd probably be better off going down the route of buying a fan – an air conditioning unit would be overkill.

2. Noise. When it's hot, it's likely that you'll want to have an air conditioner running through the night in a bedroom. And if you've got children who you're trying to cool off for a quiet, undisturbed night's sleep then having a device that isn't too noisy is essential.

The good news is that portable air conditioners aren't especially noisy – they commonly put out in the range of 60 decibels, which is similar to to a typical conversation or an electric shaver. Still, it would be a good idea to not position the unit too close to where people are sleeping– the low-hum AC units emit could even act as white noise to help us sleep.

3. Room / house size. A portable air conditioning unit is best suited to rooms 12m³ and above. If you have a typically sized 3-4 bed home then one of these appliances should be a good choice. You'll need to think about any barriers to moving the unit around, such as stairs.

4. Portability. Weight and size are key here. While the majority of air conditioners designed for home use are designed to be portable, just how portable this is for YOU is a personal thing.

Air conditioners tend to be bulky and can be heavy – they typically weigh around 30kg – so if you need to move yours around a lot, think about whether you can manage carrying it up the stairs every evening.

5. Location. Where you're positioning the air conditioner is another consideration. You'll need to be able to move it / position it close to a window so the warm air can be expelled through a vent.

6. Storage space. It's not every day, every week or even every month that we get a heatwave – in fact, it's seldom that we experience temperatures of over 30 degrees in the UK. That means an air conditioning unit won't get much use outside the summer months, which means you'll need somewhere to store it – check that you have storage space under the stairs, or in a utility room or garage.

As we've mentioned, an air conditioning unit is bulky, so if you live in a flat with minimal storage space, for example, then a fan would be the better solution.

If it helps, here's what our Managing Editor, Computing and Entertainment, Matt Hanson, says about his experience with a portable air conditioner...

"Around four years ago I bought a portable air conditioning unit – and it was the best purchase I almost never made...

"I’ve had to use it on numerous occasions, and it does a great job of cooling down any room it’s in, even large ones, and it’s not too noisy. While most of the UK was sweltering due to record temperatures the other day, I actually got a bit too chilly, and had to turn the AC off for a while, something I proudly told all my co-workers, much to their delight, I’m sure."

Where to buy a portable air conditioning unit

If you've been persuaded of the merits of a portable air conditioner and are ready to buy, below we've listed some deals that have proven to be particularly popular of late – one model is on sale, which always helps, although with these things selling like, er, hot cakes, you'll need to be quick to snap that up.

MeacoCool 7000BTU Portable Air Conditioner | £299.99 at Amazon

MeacoCool 7000BTU Portable Air Conditioner | £299.99 at Amazon

The MeacoCool 7000BTU is one of the most affordable air conditioning units we've seen, and Meaco is a dependable brand. This model is suitable for rooms 12² to 22m² in size, like bedrooms and small offices. We like it because it's quiet – with a noise level of 53dB, it's a good option for a sleeping household.

DeLonghi Pinguino PACN82ECO Air Conditioner | £699 £499 at Marks Electrical

DeLonghi Pinguino PACN82ECO Air Conditioner | £699 £499 at Marks Electrical

This air conditioner is perfect for rooms up to 80m³. It cools, dehumidifies, and can also operate as a fan. It's not too heavy at 30kg, and at just 63dB it's a quiet option, too. We especially like that this DeLonghi air conditioner features a timer, so you can schedule when it turns on and off – and right now you can save £200 on this model.

If one of the models above doesn't take your fancy, you can see today's best deals on portable air conditioners below.

Jennifer Oksien
Editor, Top Ten Reviews

Jennifer (Jenny) is currently the editor of Top Ten Reviews, but prior to that, she was TechRadar's Homes Editor. She has over a decade of experience as a digital product writer specialising in appliances, smart tech and mattresses for some of the UK's leading retailers and magazine titles such as Real Homes, Ideal Home and Livingetc. Generally, you’ll find her watching the latest Netflix series, digging around in the garden or attempting to make a cake that is edible.