How Much Does a Portable Air Conditioner Cost?

by Hannah Stephens
Homeowners with dehumidifier repair needs should call a qualified appliance repair technician

Portable air conditioners aren't the most efficient models for cooling entire homes, but they could be a handy solution if money is an issue or you need to supplement a struggling HVAC system.

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There are options to suit all budgets, from cheap models small enough to fit on your nightstand to premium smart ACs. Below, we'll outline how much portable AC units cost and what factors affect the price.

How Much Does a Portable AC Cost by BTU Rating?

A portable AC unit's BTU rating describes how much heat it can remove from the air per hour. The higher the BTU rating, the greater the cooling capacity. You'll often hear manufacturers referring to an air conditioner's BTU rating as its size. However, an AC's size means its cooling power, not the unit's weight or measurements.

Larger portable air cons usually cost more, although that isn't always the case. For example, you may have more high-end (and expensive) options available if you choose a popular size.

Small portable air conditioners with lower BTU ratings can be a good option for compact rooms, but they're not powerful enough to cool larger spaces. The bigger the room, the higher the BTU rating you'll require. However, portable air conditioners rarely pack enough power to cool large areas effectively. Alternatives such as window air cons could be worth considering if you need a higher cooling capacity.

According to This Old House, common portable AC sizes and their average costs include the following:

  • 8,000 BTUs: $239 to $750 (CAD 326 to CAD 1,024)
  • 9,000 BTUs: $309 to $609 (CAD 422 to CAD 832)
  • 10,000 BTUs: $325 to $745 (CAD 444 to CAD 1,017)
  • 11,000 BTUs: $400 to $600 (CAD 546 to CAD 819)
  • 12,000 BTUs: $460 to $899 (CAD 628 to CAD 1,228)
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How Much Does a Portable Air Conditioner Cost by Category?

Aside from the unit size, how much a portable air conditioner costs also depends on its quality, brand and features. Let's explore the most common portable air conditioner categories and what you get for your money.

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Budget

You can purchase cheap portable air conditioners designed to sit on a desk or nightstand. The primary advantage of these mini units is that they're exceptionally affordable, with prices starting from $22 (CAD 30) at Walmart. They're also light and highly portable, although they're not powerful enough to cool an entire room. They could be a suitable option if you're on a tight budget and are happy with a model that only cools the air around your workspace or bed.

Midrange

According to LawnStarter, midrange portable air conditioners start from around $200 (CAD 273) and usually have higher cooling capacities than desk units. However, they're also heavier and take up considerably more space. Some midrange portable ACs offer multiple fan speeds and temperature settings, although they're unlikely to include smart connectivity and other premium features.

High-End

Premium portable air conditioners can cost up to $1,000 (CAD 1,366) or more. These models are often more energy-efficient than budget alternatives, making them cheaper to run. They may also include additional high-tech features, such as timers or multiple modes. Some high-end units have integrated wireless connectivity, allowing you to control them via an app and connect them with other smart home systems.

Portable Air Conditioning Units: What Are the Alternatives?

Portable air conditioners are the most affordable options upfront, but they can cost much more to run than installed systems. Window units could be a suitable alternative if you need an affordable, more energy-efficient home cooling solution. Like portable ACs, window units are designed to cool a single room. However, you install them in a window instead of using an exhaust hose. Costs vary by model, but most homeowners spend between $180 and $700 (CAD 246 and CAD 956) per unit. These figures include the price of a new window air conditioner and installation labor.

You could also consider a swamp cooler, also known as an evaporative cooler. Most swamp coolers are portable, although you can also purchase whole-house systems. They use evaporation to remove heat from the air and are best suited to dry climates. Swamp coolers are more expensive than portable ACs at $1,500 to $3,600 (CAD 2,048 to CAD 4,916) per unit, but they're significantly cheaper to run.

All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.

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