Portable air conditioning systems provide us with cold air to lower the ambient temperature and keep us from sweating. What if you could take your AC with you where ever you go?
With battery-powered air conditioners, you can. It doesn’t matter if you are taking a trip to the beach, a hot summer camping trip, or a long drive across the country. If you need an AC, you have options.
This article will cover the various types of battery-powered ACs and find out how they work, where they are best used, and which one is the best battery-powered AC for you and your specific needs.
How Battery Powered ACs Work
Battery-operated ACs have a few different methods to run and spew cold air. Some units use a 12-volt power source and a bucket full of ice or water. The fan draws in the colder air from the bucket and puts it out into the room.
Other units will not need to be filled or monitored and convert power (either USB or actual wall outlet 110/220v power) and work much like a window unit air conditioner. They will convert the warm air from the room into cool air to disperse throughout. These types will have a ventilation hose as well as a drain hose for the condensate. Proper installation will be warranted.
Benefits of Battery Powered AC Units
There are several benefits to owning and operating a battery-powered air conditioner. Let’s examine the most common beneficial applications.
- Portability. Obviously, the most impressive benefit is the ability to take your air conditioner anywhere.
- Small Space Efficiency. Trying to use a large window unit or a central air conditioner to cool a small space is a waste of energy and money. A battery-operated AC will cool a small space whenever you need it, without a commitment.
- Automotive and Camping Needs. Sometimes we need an air conditioner depending on our location and time of year. Having the ability to run an Ac when the car is acting up, or in a camping trailer that doesn’t have power is a blessing.
Battery Powered AC Units Compared
Choosing a Battery Operated Air Conditioner
Before you pull out your wallet and start typing in your credit card numbers, there are several factors you should consider. Each battery air conditioner is going to work different, have different features, costs, and accessories. You need to know what you will be using the AC for, how often, and why. Let’s examine some of those critical factors now.
Size vs. Space
One thing you must realize is that a battery-operated, or small portable air conditioner won’t be as effective at cooling larger spaces. Given enough time, they can do so, but when you need a lower ambient temperature, you don’t have days to wait.
Depending on the type of air conditioner and the size of the space you want to keep cool, you will need to determine which air conditioner is best. A small space, like a tent while camping or the cabin of your car, won’t need as large or as powerful of an AC as will your garage or RV.
Likewise, if you have a smaller space to keep cool, you don’t need to waste money on a larger unit that is designed for bigger areas. Determining which battery-powered ACs will efficiently and effectively cool your specific space is paramount.
Efficiency & Power Source
The power source is also going to play a factor. Not only will it determine where your AC can be used, but also how much it will cost you. There are several power supply options that these types of air conditioners use. The largest portion of the market will use either batteries, a 12-volt power supply, or a USB connection. Others will plug into your home wall outlet.
What you need to decide on is where the AC will be used. If you decide the primary use will be in a tent while camping in the wilderness, choosing an AC that requires a plug-in type power source won’t be very beneficial.
You will also need to determine the efficiency of the machine. If it is designed for a small space, such as the cab of a truck, then buying an AC to use inside an RV won’t be very cost-effective. The unit will need to run much longer to achieve the temperature.
Some battery-powered air conditioners will still use British Thermal Units (BTU) to convert heat into cold. Working in much the same capacity as your window or split AC system, these BTU measurements will tell you how much space the air conditioner can cool.
This isn’t always the case, though. Since bucket systems don’t convert air temperature, they don’t have a BTU read-out. The temperature of your ice or water will determine how cool the air gets before being expelled into the room.
While it isn’t the end-all-be-all of small appliances, aesthetics do matter. You don’t want to drive down the road with a large window unit hanging out of the cab. You will also want the AC unit to match your decor if it is a more permanent fixture.
Some battery-operated ACs spend a great deal of time on their appearance to help you choose them. If this is important to you, you will find that several of the models in our review section below come in various styles and colors.
In almost every application, sleep will be involved. If not sleep, then communication will be expected. Noise from the AC can keep you from sleeping restfully, or cause your conversation to exceed average speaking volume.
Because these devices have motors, fans, and other electronic moving parts, they are going to make some noise. However, you will most likely want to avoid exceedingly loud units and go for a quiet AC model. Knowing before you make your purchase will help keep your frustration levels down after the purchase.
Another thing you should consider before making your purchase is the features, if any, of your selected machine. Speed control is a great feature that allows you to choose how fast the fan rotates to push more or less cold air out. In smaller spaces, this may not be as important to you, though. If it isn’t needed, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.
Other features to look for include the ability to change the airflow direction and safety mechanisms. Once you place your battery-operated AC down, will you be able to adjust where the air is directed without moving the entire machine? If no, you may want to look for a different model.
You should also ensure that there are safety mechanisms in place. Most portable units will have an automatic shut off sensors for tipping over, overheating, or running dry (for bucket-style models).
Smart air conditioners with remote controls, mobile app controls, and other forms of using the devices without the manual on/off switch might be important to you as well.
When deciding on the model you plan to purchase, you should look closely at the listed features and determine if they are a need, want, or something you can live without. Finding the model with everything you need but nothing you don’t can save you a bit of money.
Installation & Maintenance
We live in an instant gratification world, and the idea of making a purchase and then having to spend most of our time with a maintenance routine or taking extra steps to install the device might be a turn-off.
Before you bring your new battery-powered AC home, you should determine how and where it will be used. If this will be a permanent fixture, the installation procedure should be done with care and to your satisfaction.
All AC units will need routine maintenance. However, some will require more than others to maintain efficiency or to qualify for a warranty. Knowing what you are getting into before you buy is a big step in the satisfaction you will receive after making your purchase.
Should something go wrong with the AC, it arrives broken or doesn’t operate correctly; you will want to have a warranty in place to cover your investment. When making an online purchase, you need to read all of the fine print when it comes to the warranty.
You will need to make sure you follow all of the instructions for warranty claims. This can include registering the product, sending a survey postcard in the mail, or retaining the original sales receipt or packaging. Before you go on your way after purchase, make sure you complete all of the required items for a potential warranty claim.
7 Best Battery Powered ACs Reviewed
We have reviewed a wide range of AC units with battery options. These are all great for camping but may be suited to specific needs. Read each comprehensive round up below or watch our youtube video for further guidance.
1. Zero Breeze Mark 2
Best Battery Powered Air Conditioner
|Dimensions||20 x 10 x 11 inches|
|Power Source(s)||AC adapter, battery (separate purchase)|
|Battery Runtime||Up to 6 hours|
|Warranty||30-day return, 1 year warranty|
Zero Breeze makes a battery-operated air conditioner designed for indoor and outdoor use. With camping and RVing in mind, the Mark 2 comes with multiple features that make the great outdoors even greater. It has been vastly upgraded from the earlier Mark 1 model.
The air conditioning portion of the machine uses a 2300 BTU micro-processor to cool the air. It works best in an area under 50 square feet but is efficient enough to cool up to 200 square feet without a noticeable rise in energy consumption.
On top of the air cooling, you also have the ability to control the fan speed. The unidirectional airflow cannot be adjusted, but this upgraded model does come with an extension pipe which is a neat addition. The Mark 2 unit is 60% smaller than the Mark 1 allowing it to be positioned where you need it most.
The battery is crucial for using indoors & outdoors, so you will need to purchase this separately if you plan on taking it with you in the tent or camper. It works off the following power requirements.
- using a cigarette lighter interface: 12-24v, 210w
- using an AC drive interface: 100-240v, 300w
For added benefits, it also has an LED light function and a USB charging port for your small devices. Sleep mode is a handy solution, especially on hot days or evenings in your RV or tent. On regular mode, it can cool a 40 square feet, enclosed area by 30 degrees F in 10 mins.
This is an excellent AC unit for camping and the upgraded Mark 2 model by Zero Breeze has adapted innovative design with common sense user needs. It is not a cheap unit but we recommend it for camping, RV travelers, and anywhere that a small area needs to be cooled.
Read our full review here.
2. Bucket Breeze Portable Air Conditioner
Best Battery Powered Bucket AC
|Dimensions||12 x 12 x 24 inches|
|Power Source(s)||8- AA batteries or AC adapter|
|Battery Runtime||About 8 hours|
|Warranty||90 day limited warranty|
The Medium Breeze from Bucket Breeze is a cooler fan using a frozen gel as the cooling source. The gel will stay frozen for up to 10 hours. Once frozen, you place the canisters inside the bucket and turn the unit on.
As the 175mm fan pulls the ambient air into the bucket, it is chilled in a heat exchange with the gel canisters. The cooler air is then pushed out the vents into the room.
It does run on double-A batteries (eight of them), or you can plug it in using the included AC adapter. It is recommended you use rechargeable batteries, as each run will drain the batteries in about eight to 10 hours.
The dial controls the fan speed from off to full power, but there are no other functions or features. Included with your purchase are the bucket and fan assembly, the AC adapter and the battery holder. You also get four gel-filled canisters. It is required to purchase the batteries to run the unit, as well as having space in your freezer to freeze the cartridges.
It should be noted that this unit is not effective in large spaces. A single closed-off room of 75 square feet or less is ideal. For added cooling power, you can put a bag of ice in the bucket with or instead of the cooling gel canisters. The unit itself isn’t very big, so don’t expect large rooms or outdoor spaces such as sheds or garages to be cooled by this little guy.
However, in a camper, tent, or small RV, the Medium Breeze works well enough to keep you cool during the hottest parts of the day, or overnight while you sleep. Because it only has the 175mm fan to operate, it doesn’t produce a lot of noise. Overall the noise level is that of a small space heater, with a solid, soothing hum for those that appreciate sleeping with white noise.
3. IcyBreeze Cooler 4038A Blizzard Package
Versatile AC For Camping
|Dimensions||17 x 19 x 25 inches|
|Power Source(s)||Battery, AC adapter, 12v adapter|
|Battery Runtime||6 to 8 hours|
|Warranty||90-day battery, 1-year cooler|
The IcyBreeze Cooler is a cooler fan and ice chest all in one. To operate the unit, you fill the cooler with ice and water and then plug it in or use battery power to operate the cooling fan.
The fan has three speeds resulting in airflow up to 25 MPH. The exhaust hose is made from a durable PVC plastic that accordions to where you want the air to flow. It is thick enough to stay in place once you have it arranged how you want it.
From there, the fan will run as long as the unit is plugged in. You can use the AC adapter to plug it into a standard outlet or the 12v adapter to plug into your car’s 12v outlet. If an outlet isn’t nearby, you can also run the unit on battery power. When running on batteries, the fan will operate for up to 8 hours on the lowest setting.
The cooler is, itself, a cooler. Inside the ice and water, you can add drinks or anything else you need to stay ice cold. The portable device comes with a pull handle and rugged wheels to follow you anywhere.
This unit was designed for outdoor, personal use. Inside a tent, it will keep the ambient temperature lower. You can also direct the exhaust hose directly on you for a more pinpoint area of cooling. To keep the cool air flowing, you just need to keep the cooler full of ice.
4. MightyKool Evaporative Cooler
Best 12v Air Conditioner
|Type||12v Cooler Fan|
|Dimensions||12 x 10 x 9 inches|
|Power Source(s)||12v adapter|
|Warranty||90-day limited warranty|
The MightyKool A is a 12-volt fan cooler designed for single or personal use only. Truck drivers, passengers, and tent campers will enjoy the 25 MPH fans pushing out cold air for as long as it remains plugged in.
There is a fan speed dial that controls the fan speed from off to full power. You must have the unit plugged in to operate as there isn’t a battery-powered option. The unit ships with a 12v car adapter and an AC wall adapter.
The unit runs on water only, so no ice is needed. The tank has a 1 gallon capacity with a level indicator on the front so you can see when it is going dry. The lid screws on with four set screws to ensure the water doesn’t leak out. You can use this to keep the driver cool, or a passenger in a car, though it is not designed to cool an entire car cabin.
This model makes a great portable AC for cars. While on the road, truck drivers will find that the long-lasting airflow is ideal for longer trips and easy to refill when at a stop. Campers will enjoy the small space design that allows them to keep the cool air flowing into the tent.
It is advised to use the air intake hose to get air from outside the tent or automobile to cool. Recycling of ambient air will cause the unit not to cool as well.
5. Ryobi P3370 Cooler
Battery Powered Cooler AC
|Dimensions||18 x 20 x 30 inches|
|Power Source(s)||P102 battery|
|Battery Runtime||4 hours|
|Warranty||90-day exchange, 3-year limited warranty|
Ryobi is known for its ONE+ tools, and this cooler fan is one of them. Relying solely on the ONE+ battery (Green or blue), the cooler will intake ambient air, pull it over, and through ice inside the cooler and out the vent port in the front of the unit.
Because it is a Ryobi device, you are free to upgrade the 1.3mAh battery to a lithium-ion sold separately through Home Depot stores. With the 1.3 green ONE+ battery, the unit will run for about 4 hours. It isn’t designed to be a long-lasting air cooler.
When you fill the 50-quart cooler with ice, you will notice there is a cylinder inside. It does take up some space, but there is plenty of room left around it. This cylinder is what the ambient air travels through from the outside of the cooler to get chilled by the ice inside.
There is only one exhaust vent, and it is quite small. You will need to be directly in front of it to feel the cold air, but in an enclosed space, like a tent or car cabin area, it will lower the temperature.
The unit has a simple on/off switch and no other controls. Instead, you get a rechargeable battery and a top-loaded dry storage compartment. For an afternoon at the ball game, or a night of sleeping in a tent, the Ryobi cooler does its job. Anything more extravagant than that, though, and you might be disappointed.
6. Enklen USB Evaporative Portable AC
Best USB Air Conditioner For Car
|Dimensions||8.2 x 8.1 x 6.1 inches|
|Warranty||Limited lifetime warranty|
If you are looking for a desktop air conditioner, you have found it. This small device uses water and ice (or you can use one or the other) to cool the air passing through the fan. Once full of water, it will run for up to 8 hours.
While this smaller device isn’t meant to cool off entire rooms or large spaces, as a personal fan with cooling properties, it doesn’t get much easier.
It runs entirely off of USB power, so you can plug it into a power bank, your laptop, or a USB port to get colder air where ever you are. The cooler fan will drop the temperature of the ambient are (in a 10 square foot area) up to 10 degrees.
If you sleep hot, this fan is ideal for a nightstand table next to the bed to keep you cooler throughout the night. You can take it with you in the car or camping, as long as you don’t expect much of a temperature drop in these locations.
You can control the fan speed with three settings, and it has a tray for adding ice if you want to mix with the water for even more cooling power. You also get a limited lifetime warranty, which will cover defects and damage for as long as you own the device. The warranty is non-transferable, though.
7. Arctic Cove MBF0181 Cooling Bucket
Best Bucket Fan Cooler For Trucks
|Dimensions||12.9 x 12.2 x 14.9 inches|
|Power Source(s)||Ryobi ONE+ 18v batteries|
|Battery Runtime||2 hours|
|Warranty||90-day exchange, 3-year limited warranty|
Arctic Cove brings you a bucket fan that will sit on any 5-gallon bucket. Fill the bucket with water or ice for a cooling fan like no other. If you don’t have a bucket, you can also connect a garden hose to the fan for an endless supply of cooling water for the fan.
The fan has two speeds for the fan (high and low) as well as a misting option. The misting option will send sprays of water out with the blown air for an added cooling effect. The entire system runs off of the Ryobi ONE+ batteries and is compatible with the P100 through P108 models. You receive a P102 18v ONE+ blue battery with your purchase.
Like most other fan coolers, the Bucket Fan Mister isn’t designed to cool large spaces. Instead, it is made for personal use anywhere you need the extra cold air. Ideal for tailgating trips to the beach, or sitting around the campsite.
It is quite noisy, as you may imagine. Not intended for use in a bedroom or tent while you are sleeping (unless you are a sound sleeper), the noise will keep you awake. However, if you don’t mind the noise or are at an event that drowns out the fan motor, you won’t notice much.
Setting Up Battery Operated ACs
The initial setup of your battery-operated air conditioner shouldn’t be much of a worry. Each model will come with an owner’s manual that will cover the best practices for making the unit as efficient as possible.
However, there are a few things to consider when setting up your AC. First, you will need to have a place for the unit to sit. It should accommodate the dimensions of the machine with enough room for proper ventilation and airflow.
Some machines will have ventilation hoses that need to be routed out a window or into another room. You will also need to determine if there is a drain line for the condensation to run off. If so, you will need to position the unit so that gravity will help the condensation run through the hose and deposit where it won’t make a mess.
It is suggested that the air conditioner be elevated, though it shouldn’t be near the ceiling. Since hot air rises, you will want the bulk of the cool air blowing in and around the space you occupy. The Ac will also need to be in a place where it won’t get in your way while moving around the area, but easy enough to access to change the bucket, add water or ice, or to do your routine maintenance.
Looking for a DIY solution on your next camping trip? Check out this video below.
Recharging Battery-Operated Air Conditioners
Most, though not all, battery-powered ACs will come with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. This battery will need to be recharged from time to time to continue to power the unit. Knowing how to recharge the battery properly will go a long way to making your machine as efficient as possible.
It may be in your best interest to purchase a second battery pack. Sometimes the charging cycle can take a while, and having a second battery will allow you to maintain the temperature of the space without having to wait for the first battery to charge fully.
There are two primary types of recharging options. The first is a cradle that you plug into an outlet and place the battery in. You will be required to remove the battery from the air conditioner and place it in the cradle so it can charge.
The second option is a direct plug-in. The adapter will plug into the wall and then directly into the air conditioner itself. The Ac may or may not run while recharging the battery; you will need to check the owner’s manual to find out.
Some smaller devices will require you to install batteries, such as D-cell or C-cell style batteries. In these instances, it is advised to purchase a battery recharge kit for the specific sized batteries the unit requires. Instead of continually buying new batteries, you can save time and money by recharging the batteries yourself.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Now we will answer some of the more frequently asked questions about battery-powered air conditioners.
How effective are battery-powered AC units?
Battery-powered AC units are highly effective at cooling smaller spaces. Anything less than about 200 square feet can be cooled without much effort. If your space is larger, you may need more than one unit, or allow the single unit more time to get the job done.
How much cooling can be expected from these air conditioners powered by batteries?
You shouldn’t expect a battery AC or a 12v air conditioner to cool as much as a window unit or a central AC system. However, in an automobile, camping tent, or RV, they are quite efficient. They are also ideal for finished basements where the original home AC may not be vented. The BTU rating of these units varies by type, brand, and manufacturer. However, you can expect the cool air to flow for about eight hours.
What can I do to increase the cooling effect of these portable units?
By and large, the battery-powered AC units are effective in their own right, providing you place them in a space they are designed for. However, it is possible to increase their cooling effects to some degree. For water-filled fan units, you can place ice inside the water tank to make the water colder. This will, in turn, help the air flowing through to become colder.
While it may seem self-explanatory, keeping the machines functioning properly will also help. Changing filters, preventing overheating, and keeping them clean will also make them cool more effectively. Finally, proper placement is crucial. You will want to avoid placing the units in direct sunlight or near sources of heat.
Keeping the air conditioner on a lower surface (since heat rises) will help them push cooler air through, effectively making the output colder.
How long do these portable battery-powered AC units last?
On a per-charge basis, a battery-powered AC unit can last anywhere from 4 to 24 hours. A lot will depend on the battery type, fill type (water, ice, or electronic air movement), and how it is used. For the life expectancy of the units, they can last for years. Most portable ACs will have a general life expectancy (with routine maintenance and proper care in handling) for 5 to 10 years.
Where is the best place to buy these battery-powered air conditioners?
The best place to purchase a battery-powered air conditioner is through Amazon or direct from the manufacturer. When shopping through Amazon, you will generally have more options, the opportunity to extend a warranty (in some cases), as well as expedited shipping and easy returns. However, the manufacturer will offer other features, special price discounts, or upgrades that Amazon won’t always have.
Keeping yourself cool while on the go is the whole idea behind battery-powered or portable air conditioners. Mix in some music, a cooler full of drinks, and you have a mini party with fresh, cold air.
While you have many choices to pick from, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 is our top choice. You don’t need to worry about filling it up with water or ice or if it will run out of power. You can use the lithium-ion battery pack (sold separately) or the AC adapter for constant power.
It is true, you won’t be able to use the air conditioner to store cold drinks or play loud music, but if you want a reliable stream of cold air to lower the temperature in any space smaller than 300 square feet, this is the best option.
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