Window AC vs Portable AC – 2022 [Efficiency, Cooling, Noise & More]

Choosing to go with a window or portable air conditioner is simple, when you have the data. Window vs portable AC – which is best? Find out below, based on data from comprehensive studies.

Are window air conditioners better than portable units? You’ll find out here.

In this article you’ll find a comparison of results from comprehensive studies into key performance factors, such as energy efficiency, cooling capacity, power consumption, noise levels, running costs, and more.

First, a quick summary…

Window AC vs Portable AC image containing a window air conditioner and two portable air conditioners

Window AC vs Portable AC

Overall, window ACs outperform portable ACs.

Window air conditioners are more energy efficient and more powerful than portable air conditioners, on average. They also offer a wider cooling capacity (BTU) range.

They are generally quieter, cheaper to buy and more cost effective to run.

But portable ACs do have their benefits too, particularly when it comes to convenience.

Let’s take a look at some key differences between window and portable ACs in more detail.

Spoiler: window ACs win out overall due to their higher performance, but for those that need or strongly prefer convenience, portable ACs may be a more suitable option.

Portable vs Window AC Efficiency

Window ACs are more energy efficient than portable ACs.

Window air conditioners offer more cooling capacity per watt compared to portable units.

The average CEER for window ACs is 11.96, which is 38% higher than the average for portable units.

The higher the CEER, the more efficient the unit.

Learn more about CEER and air conditioner energy efficiency in general, check out the Window Air Conditioner Energy Efficiency section, here.

The most common window AC CEER is 12 while the most common portable AC CEER is 7.9.

The lowest recorded CEER in the study of window ACs was 9.1. This is substantially higher than the lowest recorded for portable units, which was just 1.58.

The highest CEER, however, is a closer competition. But window ACs still win out.

The most energy efficient window AC has a CEER of 15.7 (see this unit on geappliances.com, here), while the highest CEER recorded for portable ACs is 14.7 (check it out on Home Depot, here, or Amazon, here).

The table below summarizes window AC vs portable AC energy efficiency results.

CEER categoryWindow AC CEERPortable AC CEER
Average11.967.5
Most common127.9
Highest15.714.7
Lowest9.11.58

Related: see how wall AC energy efficiency compares with these results.

Next, let’s see how window and portable air conditioners compare in terms of wattage.

Window AC vs Portable AC Wattage

Window ACs offer a wider range of wattage options compared to portable ACs.

Window ACs can have both a higher and lower wattage than portable units.

A wider range of options is more beneficial to users. 

This is because there are more choices for different use cases. 

For example, lower wattage units are better suited to RVs and off-grid power systems. And high wattage units are more suited for larger spaces that have a 230V mains supply.

The table below compares window and portable air conditioner wattage.

Wattage CategoryWindow AC WattagePortable AC Wattage
Average884.2W1175.66W
Most common660W1250W
Highest2425W1480W
Lowest400W754W

At 400W, the lowest wattage window air conditioner is the Frigidaire FFRE053WAE (check it out on Home Depot, here, or Amazon, here)

On the other hand, the lowest wattage portable AC unit currently available on Home Depot comes in at 754W (see details on Home Depot, here). That’s nearly twice the power rating of the lowest wattage window unit.

Related: Window AC Wattage [Study Reveals Most Efficient Unit] & Portable AC Wattage Results [Most Efficient Revealed].

So, window ACs win out in terms of wattage.

Next, let’s take a look at cooling capacity / BTU.

Window AC & Portable AC BTU – Room Size Comparison

Window ACs have a higher BTU / cooling capacity compared to portable ACs.

The highest recorded BTU for a window ACs was 35,000 – more than twice the highest recorded for portable units (i.e. 14,000).

This means that window ACs can cool more than their portable counterparts.

The recommended room size for window ACs can reach up to 2,700 sq. ft., while portable ACs can cool rooms up to 775 sq. ft.

Related: check out this Window AC Room Size Chart and Portable Air Conditioner Room Sizes for more details.

So window ACs win out again.

But what about when it comes to convenience?

Convenience: Window ACs vs Portable ACs

Portable ACs offer more convenience.

Portable air conditioners are generally easier to install. They usually come with kits to clip to most window frames.

Window AC users need to have greater consideration for window frame sizes and installation requirements.

Unlike portable ACs, there’s a risk of injury and considerable damage if a window AC is incorrectly installed.

Portable ACs have the added convenience of being portable, as the name suggests.

Being more portable means that these units can be moved throughout a house and even within a room to help make occupants feel more comfortable.

It’s also particularly useful for those renting. Moving a portable AC to a new home is a lot more convenient compared to a window unit.

On the other hand, however, this portability may result in a trip hazard or, at the very least, a slightly more cluttered room.

Despite this, portable ACs win out in this category.

But overall, unless you need or have a strong preference for convenience, the higher performance delivered by windows ACs will likely make them a more desirable option.

Window AC & Portable AC Noise Level Comparison

Window air conditioners have a wider noise level range than portable ACs.

The quietest window AC is 11 dB quieter than the quietest portable unit. However, the loudest window unit is 3 dB louder than its noisiest portable counterpart.

Interestingly, the most common amount of noise produced by both window and portable units is the same, at 56 dB.

Overall, however, the average window AC noise level is 1.8 dB louder than the average for portable ACs.

Related: Quietest Wall AC Revealed [2022 Noise Level Study Results].

The table below lists how many decibels both window and portable ACs produce.

Noise Level CategoryWindow AC noise level (decibels)Portable AC noise level (decibels)
Average56.4 dB54.6 dB
Most common56 dB56 dB
Highest67 dB64 dB
Lowest33 dB44 dB

The results above were sourced from the following ecocostsavings.com studies:

Coming in with just 33 dB, the quietest window air conditioner Danby – DAC080B6IWDB-6 (see details on danby.com, here). 

With a noise level of 44 dB, the quietest portable air conditioner is the LG LP1419IVSM (check it out on Amazon, here).

So, if noise level is your sole concern, window air conditioners provide a wider range of options.

As a result, window air conditioners win this category.

Additional factors, such as the ability to easily increase the distance from the AC, along with other noise reducing opportunities, should also be considered. 

So, check out the links above to get noise reducing tips, see the quietest models, and the noise levels of the most energy efficient window and portable air conditioners.

Next, let’s take a look at amperage.

Window AC Amps vs Portable AC Amps

On average, window AC units draw less amps than portable units (specifically, averaging 2.62A less).

The most common window AC amp draw is 11A – that’s 1A less than the most common portable AC amp draw of 12A.

Typical domestic and standard commercial window ACs (not including large industrial units) can reach 20A, while 12.8A is the highest portable amperage recorded in the study.

The lowest portable air conditioner amperage is 3.1A, while the lowest recorded for window ACs is 3.8A.

The table below compares (across several categories) the amperage of window and portable air conditioners.

Amp CategoryWindow AC Amps (A)Portable AC Amps (A)
Average7.82A10.44A
Most common11A12A
Highest20A12.8A
Lowest3.8A3.1A

The table above does not include startup amps. For this level of detail, check out:

So which units draw the least amount of amps?

At just 3.1A, the portable AC that draws the least amount of amps while running is the Costway EP24041 – check it out on Amazon, here.

The lowest amp window AC is the 3.8A, Frigidaire – FFRE053WAE, check it out on Amazon, here. Off-grid users might be interested to know that this unit offers a “Low Voltage Start-up” option.

Now that we’ve compared window and portable AC power consumption, energy efficiency, cooling capacity and noise levels, let’s see how their running costs compare.

Cost To Run Window ACs vs Portable ACs

Window air conditioners are cheaper to run than portable ACs. On average, assuming continuous max power draw, it costs 5 cents more per hour to run a portable air conditioner compared to a window unit.

Running a window AC with the average wattage costs $0.09 cents less per hour compared to its portable counterpart.

Note: as mentioned above, portable ACs have a higher average wattage compared to window ACs.

Overall, due to the wider power range, window air conditioners can cost more or less to run than portable ACs.

This wider range is a plus for those seeking more control over their electricity bills.

As a result, window ACs win again.

The table below compares the cost to run both window and portable ACs, across various result categories.

Running Cost CategoryWindow AC cost per hour (assuming continuous max power draw)Portable AC cost per hour (assuming continuous max power draw)
Average$0.13$0.18
Most common$0.10$0.19
Highest$0.36$0.22
Lowest$0.06$0.11

These costs are based on the manufacturer’s listed wattage, and assume continuous max power draw, in order to simplify the comparison. However, doing this inflates the hourly running costs.

Air conditioners cycle on and off, go through different cooling stages, and consume different levels of power depending on the settings and surroundings, among many other factors.

For more insights into the running costs, including some key nuances, check out:

These studies reveal that the cheapest window air conditioner to run costs a maximum of $0.06 per hour (i.e., the Frigidaire – FFRE053WAE, check it out on Amazon, here), which is 5 cents less than its cheapest running portable counterpart.

Window or Portable Air Conditioner – Final Thoughts

The “window or portable air conditioner” choice does not have a one-size-fits-all answer.

But, to help inform the decision, it’s clear that in terms of energy efficiency, noise levels, and performance in general, window air conditioners deliver better results.

However, the movability and convenience offered by portable air conditioners make them a good choice for many.

The best option will depend on the user’s circumstances and preferences.

But if you’re trying to keep your electricity bills and carbon footprint low then window air conditioners will be the best option in most cases.

Get details about the most energy efficient window AC, and the most efficient portable ACs.

You might also be interested to see how through-the-wall AC units compare. If so, check out Wall AC vs Window AC for a snapshot of performance results.

I hope that, by compiling and comparing key factors for both window and portable ACs, you’re now better equipped to make a more informed decision.

But before you go, don’t miss this 6 Quick Wins Cheat Sheet that’ll help you reduce your bills and carbon footprint quickly and easily:

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