Air Conditioner Reviews, HVAC info and Buyers Guide

Three Top Rated Portable AC Units Under $500

These brands combine a relatively low cost with the ability to cool up to 500 square feet, making them an ideal choice for circumstances where another type of system wouldn’t work as well. Typically the larger the portable, the better the ratings and reviews get. These three units are all over 1200 BTUs and while some complain about noise at higher fan settings and other minor issues, these generally get good reviews.

Koldfront PAC 1401W Ultracool

Koldfront PAC1401W

This 14,000 BTU portable is manufactured for Living Direct, Inc. with the goal of providing a “thoughtful, well-designed” product.1 As a marquee brand, the Koldfront label comes with a commitment to quality and top flight customer service. The warranty includes labor for 90 days and parts for a year.2 A limited warranty extends this to three years.

Units feature:3

  • Auto Drain System that exhausts all condensate, keeping the need to manually drain water to a minimum and only needed in very high humidity environments.
  • Programmable for Energy Savings will lower running costs because the unit can be set to shut off when not needed. By matching running time to when a room is occupied (or shortly before) and having it shut down as temperatures fall overnight, significant savings in electricity can be realized.
  • Easy-to-Use Window Kit is set up as a three step installation with all materials included. Venting to the outside is necessary for this (and all) portable air conditioners, but not all have a “un-cap and connect” feature.
  • Marketed as Eco-friendly, the Koldfront PAC 1401 uses a type of refrigerant that doesn’t deplete the ozone if accidentally released. Other materials used in the product are free from harmful chemicals – often a concern for allergy sensitive customers.
  • Auto Restart allows the unit to store settings if there is a power outage. The unit restarts with saved settings when power is restored.

Pricing at the manufacturer’s site lists the unit at $679.00 with shipping included, but other online retailers offer the unit at a substantial savings, ranging around $50.00 (shipping included).4 Check price at Amazon here.

Customers had very few complaints with this unit, with most having to do with the way the exhaust hose connects to the window piece. Duct tape may be required to cover gaps if the window kit doesn’t match the window well. Otherwise, this unit received excellent ratings, both for price and performance.

Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose

Whynter's 14000BTU Dual Hose

At just under $500, the Whynter Dual hose also has a built-in heater function, making this a dual use portable as well. As with other two-hose portables, significant savings and increased performance comes from separating the exhaust and intake hoses. The result is faster cooling with lower energy consumption.5 (Check Amazon’s price on the Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose here.)

At 14,000 BTU’s, this unit is rated to handle up to 500 square feet for cooling, but room size for heating will depend on outside temperature. The unit puts out 13,000 BTUs for heating and is best used as a supplemental heater, rather than a sole source.6 Warranty is for one year parts and three years on the compressor.

Features include:

  • ECO-FRIENDLY CFC free GREEN R-410A refrigerant
  • Patented auto drain function fully exhausts all condensate automatically in most environments
  • Three operational modes: Air conditioner, fan or dehumidifier
  • Digital and remote control
  • LCDI (Leakage-Current Detection and Interruption) plug
  • Carbon air filter and washable pre-filter
  • Cooling and heating thermostatic controls
  • 24 hour programmable timer

The unit is quieter than other portables (partly because of the dual hose design) and has an extendable exhaust hose (up to four feet). Window kit is included.

Like other portables, the unit is heavy (80 pounds) but has a castor system that works well on carpeting and hard floors. The features that make it worth the extra money are the thermostat controls for both heating and cooling (temperature ranges heat- 61 to 77 deg, cooling 61 to 89 deg) which allow you to set the target temperature and leave the unit alone. The leak detection feature also helps prevent overflow (in the case of a clog or excessive humidity) and the humidifier can handle almost 13 gallons a day.

Complaints center around the fan running when the AC is off and noise in a confined space. The manufacturer claims it runs at less than 56 dB, but sound can be higher when the unit is on a hard surface because of vibration.

Honeywell MN12CES 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Honeywell's 12000 BTU MN12CES

Sleek and functional, this single hose design is rated at a lower BTU than the others here, but is still quite capable of cooling up to a 500 square foot room.

The Honeywell brand is well known and they back up their product with a one-year parts and labor warranty (5 years for sealed components). This machine also runs more quietly (at less than 55 dB) than other models. It also uses an auto-evaporation system to eliminate condensation build up, which, in turn helps prevent mold or mildew growth.

The MN12CES comes with a remote, three fan speeds and dehumidifier capability (70 pints/24 hours).7

The price for this unit ranges from $470 to $500 (check online price, free shipping) and it is available at some big box retailers (Best Buy for example). Having the option to order online and pick up at your local retailer is an advantage, especially if you have to return the unit for any reason. It also makes any filter or adapter purchases a matter of driving to your local store instead of having to wait for delivery.8

Reviews are overall good for this product, although those inexperienced with portables had complaints about running the exhaust hose (perhaps not understanding how a portable air conditioner works).9

Features include:

  • Glow in the dark touch controls
  • Electrostatic filter for small particle/allergen reduction
  • 3 modes: cooling, dehumidifier and fan
  • 24-hour timer
  • Digital LED display
  • In-store warranty when purchased through retailer
  • Remote control
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