If you’re starting college, it might be your first time living away from home in a dorm room. So, how do you make it feel like home and more comfortable when you move in? Well, dorm rooms are small, so proper ventilation and cooling are essential.
A few personal touches and a portable AC unit will make it feel better. While you gather your favorite things from home, let us help you find the perfect portable AC unit with our comprehensive guide.
Why Portable ACs Are Best For Dorm Rooms
Let’s face it; college dorms are small. That’s not to say that they need to be uncomfortable. Believe it or not, many college dorm rooms do not have central AC. If you go to college in a warmer climate, like Florida, then they might have AC, but students will have no control over it.
If you go to college in New England, then you will not likely have central AC. Portable AC units are best for dorms because they are small, inexpensive, and you can control the temperature on your own. The average dorm room size is 180 square feet for two students.
Quick Guide – Our Top Picks
Determining The Right Size AC For Your Dorm Room
Now that you’ve seen all of your options, you need to understand what size portable AC unit you’ll need for your new dorm room digs. If you haven’t moved in yet, you can check your university’s website to find information on the size of the residence halls.
Some of the smallest dorm rooms are around 96 square feet. The medium-sized rooms are around 180 to 200 square feet. Anything above 200 square feet is considered large. You should check the size of your room to determine the right size AC unit. The room size is directly related to the AC size that you need.
If you have a room under 150 square feet, then most of the models on our list will do the trick. If you have a large dorm room, then you may need to opt for a model that covers more square feet.
ACs for Dorm Rooms Compared
Choosing Portable Air Conditioners For Dorms
Dorm rooms can range in size from 120 to 250 square feet for two students. You’re lucky if you end up in a bigger one. Portable AC units range in coverage area from 100 to 400 square feet. You won’t have a problem finding a unit that is suitable for your room size. It might be a good idea to get a unit that is slightly larger than your room to ensure it cools effectively on hot days.
Energy Efficiency Rating (EER)
The portable AC units on our list come with an EER rating that lets you know how much energy they use. Less power consumption means less running up the bill in your dorm room. It also allows you to use the AC less often since it’s energy-efficient enough to cool the room down quickly.
Noise Levels (dBA)
Besides trying to get enough sleep for the day of classes ahead, you’ll also be studying in your dorm room. You’ll need it to be quiet at all times. You should choose a portable AC unit that operates at lower decibels. Most units have a noise level of 49 to 57 decibels.
Dorm rooms can become stuffy due to the enclosed space. They can also smell, and the air quality could be less than ideal. It might be a good idea to get a portable AC unit that comes with an air filter. Some machines have a HEPA, carbon, or pre-filter that can be washed or changed.
All of the dorm room AC units on our list are portable due to their size and weight. The most portable units include rolling casters on the base so that you can roll it around the room. Some units also include carrying handles. Another good option is to invest in a tabletop AC unit that you can sit on your computer desk.
- Heat Mode
If you go to school in a cold climate, it might be best to get an AC unit with a heating mode. They can be more expensive, but without central heat, you might get cold.
- Sleep Mode
This mode is ideal for running the unit at night. It will dim the lights on the machine and turn the fan speed down. It will help you get adequate sleep.
- Fan Speeds
You want to be able to change the fan speed on your AC unit. It will help you regulate temperature and control the noise level.
- Auto Setting
This setting is great for setting and forgetting your AC unit. You set the desired temperature, and it regulates the environment according to that temperature. It automatically adjusts fan speed and cooling.
- Remote Control
If you’re in the middle of working on a term paper, then a remote control is useful, so you don’t have to get up.
- Heat Mode
Installation Requirements/Ease of Setup
Since you have limited space and resources, you should buy a unit that is easy to set up. You should check if your system will need a drainage area. If so, then the pipe will need to be out the window. You should also check if it requires any tools to assemble before you buy it.
All of the units that we reviewed come with a manufacturer’s warranty. They range in duration from 90 days to 1 year. Most of these warranties cover manufacturer’s defects and other malfunctions for a certain length of time. They don’t cover misuse and normal wear and tear. Make sure that you activate your warranty upon receiving your device.
We have included a range of portable AC units to fit every budget. Some of the more expensive models come with extra features and cover more area. Some of the budget-friendly options will suit the needs of most college students without all the extra options. We recommend sticking to your budget and finding the right model for you.
6 Best Dorm Room Air Conditioners Reviewed
1. SereneLife SPLAC8
Our Top Pick
|Noise Output||55 – 57 dBA|
|Dimensions||14.6 x 13.8 x 27.2 inches|
|Coverage Area||225 sq ft|
Sometimes you just want the best of the best, especially when moving into a new space and starting your academic career. We chose the SereneLife SPLAC8 as our top pick for portable dorm room AC units. It packs a ton of features into a reasonably priced model.
This model is a 3 in 1 unit that acts as an air conditioner, dehumidifier, and fan. It can keep you cool and also pull out some of the moisture from your damp dorm room. It covers up to 225 square feet, which is enough for most small dorms.
This unit must be near a window to allow for the window exhaust kit. It keeps the water and exhaust heat out of your dorm. It includes a remote control and digital touch control panel. It has an LED display with time, fan speed, and temperature adjustment. It comes with a removable and washable filter, so college students don’t have to worry about buying new ones on their limited budgets.
One thing that we like about this model is that it is a dehumidifier, fan, and AC unit all in one. It can really help eliminate some of that mustiness and dampness that is often in dorm rooms.
As Lee noted, “Works great & cools our apartment down incredibly. The air conditioner is very quiet & I hardly even notice it being on.”
- 3 in 1 machine
- Remote control included
- Washable air filter
- Dorm room must have a window
Best Air Cooler/AC for Dorm Room
|Noise Output||56 dBA|
|Dimensions||18 x 14 x 21 inches|
|Coverage Area||200 sq ft|
Sometimes you need more than just an AC unit. If you’re looking for an air cooler and an AC unit combo, then this might be the best option. We chose the COSTWAY 10,000 BTU model as the best air cooler/AC for dorm rooms. This model performs air cooling functions, dehumidification, and air conditioning.
This model covers up to 400 square feet, which is plenty to cover small dorm rooms. It comes with 4 fan speeds; low, middle, high, and auto. This unit requires a window so that you can feed the exhaust hose through it. It has a 24-hour programmable timer and a sleep mode for nighttime operation. It has 2-way direct air circulation for both the dehumidifier and air conditioner function.
This AC unit has a touch screen LCD display that shows temperature and other settings. This model has a flexible exhaust hose that does not require permanent installation. We like that this unit comes with casters so that you can move it around your dorm room. The remote control is also useful when you are working at your desk and don’t want to break your focus. The dehumidifier works well for clearing out odor and moisture from the air.
- Touch LCD screen
- 4 fan speeds
- 24-hour programmable timer
- May not get cold enough
Best Quiet Dorm Room Air Conditioner
|Noise Output||49 dBA|
|Dimensions||11.8 x 15.4 x 30.4 inches|
|Coverage Area||300 sq ft|
Dorm rooms can be loud due to their size and the number of people living in them. When you’re studying, the last thing you need is a lot of noise. We chose theTOSOT 8,000 BTU as the best quiet dorm room air conditioner. It runs at about 49 decibels, which is a little less than a household refrigerator.
This model comes with an air conditioning system and a dehumidifier. You can remove the filter and wash it. It can cover up to 300 square feet, enough for even medium-sized dorm rooms. It comes with an innovative X-Fan technology that keeps the fan spinning at slow and silent speeds to dry out the machine’s interior. This helps prevent mold and keep the machine from malfunctioning.
It has a sleep mode that will keep the fan setting at low and shut off all the lights on the control panel. It has convenient vertical and horizontal sliding vents. We like the tower design. It has a small footprint that is great for dorm rooms. It can remove up to 2.3 pints of moisture per hour.
According to one customer, “Met all my expectations. Knocked the edge off 110 degree summer days!”
- X-Fan technology to prevent mold
- Quiet operation
- Vertical and horizontal vents
- More difficult to install
4. Black + Decker BPACT10WT
Top of the Range
|Noise Output||51 – 53 dBA|
|Dimensions||16.5 x 11.5 x 26 inches|
|Coverage Area||250 sq ft|
If you’re looking for all of the new fancy features, then this might be the best option for you. It is made of the best materials and has the top-notch bonus features that many people want. We chose the Black + Decker BPPACT10WT as the top of the range.
This model has a coverage area of up to 250 square feet. It is relatively quiet at 51 to 53 decibels. It works as a fan, air conditioner, and dehumidifier, like the other models we’ve reviewed. It comes with rolling casters and side handles so that you can easily move it around. It has all of the tubing and grills included, so you can put the hose out the window for drainage.
We like that it has a thermostat included, so you can easily adjust the temperature to keep your room as comfortable as possible. It also uses environmentally-friendly refrigerants, which is sure to please all of the science majors out there.
The filter is easy to remove and wash. We also think this unit beat out the competition in terms of cooling power.
As Stephanie stated in her review, “Works great. Seems to cool a much bigger space than what it says. Use it for my entire downstairs.”
- Uses environmentally friendly refrigerant
- Window grills included
- Includes a thermostat
- Expensive for a college budget
5. Global Air
Best Smart Dorm Room Air Conditioner
|Noise Output||55 dBA|
|Dimensions||17 x 13 x 31.3 inches|
|Coverage Area||300 sq ft|
For all the technology and engineering majors out there, this might be the model for you. We chose Global Air as the best smart dorm room air conditioner due to its auto-adjusting temperature system. Basically, it reads the room temperature and adjusts to make you more comfortable.
This model comes with a self-evaporating system that does not require a water tank. The water condensation is recycled back through a cooling condenser, which is another reason we think it is the smartest unit on the market. This dramatically improves the efficiency of the machine. It comes with over-cold protection that will shut off the machine before the condenser freezes over.
This unit must be vented outside like the other units that we reviewed. We like the smart features of this unit. If you’ve lived in a hot climate, then you know how annoying it is when the air conditioner freezes over, and you have to wait a while. The bright LCD screen was clearly visible so that you could see the temperature.
According to one Home Depot customer, “Works great! A little loud (in the middle of the night) but during the day you don’t even notice it! … and I’ll take the hum over the heat any day! Worth every penny.”
- Auto adjust work very well
- Self-evaporating system
- No water tank required
- No sleep mode
6. Briza Cool – Air Cooler
Best Air Cooler
|Noise Output||55 dBA|
|Dimensions||27.01 x 15.04 x 15 inches|
|Coverage Area||100 sq ft|
If you’re looking to save a little money and don’t need a full AC unit, then check out this option. We chose the Briza Cool model as the best air cooler on the market. It won’t necessarily make your dorm room ice cold, but it will provide clean air and fan settings to keep you comfortable.
This Briza Cool model comes with Aspen wood filters that last up to 3 years, depending on the dust and allergens in your dorm room. The air purifying system is perfect for musty dorm rooms where people come in and out. It is one of the most portable models that we reviewed since it can fit on a desk. This model also comes with a useful remote control.
It uses up to 10x less energy than an air conditioner. This machine uses evaporated water to cool down the ambient temperature. It also adds 3 to 5% humidity to the air to keep you comfortable during dry months. It does not require any venting or exhaust. If your dorm room doesn’t have a window, then this might be a good choice for you. It only weighs 11.5 lbs, so you can move it almost anywhere.
- Very energy efficient
- Aspen wood filters
- Removes dust and allergens
- This is not an air conditioner
Setting Up Portable AC Units In A Dorm Room
Now that you’ve picked the right size and ideal portable AC unit for your new room, you need to know how to install it without damaging anything in the dorm room. Follow our simple steps below to install and vent your new unit.
- Measure the width of your window with a tape measure.
- Apply foam weatherstrip to the window frame to ensure you have a good seal.
- Adjust the window bracket included with your portable AC unit kit.
- Place the window bracket into the opening and close the window.
- Secure the bracket if necessary. Your kit might include some screws and L-shaped brackets to hold it into place.
- Connect the vent hose to the AC unit and to the hole in the window bracket that you just installed.
- Plug in the portable AC unit near the window and turn it on.
Maintaining Optimal Air Quality In Dorm Rooms
Dorm rooms can get stuffy since there are usually 2 people enclosed in a tiny space with a very small window. Since you’re often on campus all day and in class, you pick up a lot of germs. Many students walk in and out of their dorm rooms multiple times a day.
The best way to help improve air quality is to invest in one of the portable AC units above. Many of them are also dehumidifiers, which can reduce odor and moisture in the air. Most units also include a washable filter that traps allergens and dust. Another great way to improve air quality is to invest in some house plants or an air purifier.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Can I use a portable AC in a dorm room without windows?
It depends on the model. If you are interested in a portable AC unit that must be vented and drained out the window, then the window is necessary. You can also buy models that don’t need to be vented, like some air coolers.
How much will it cost to run air conditioners for a small dorm room?
To run a mid-sized portable AC unit for 8 hours every day, the cost would be around $2 per day. The average cost, depending on where you live, would be about $60 per month.
How much does a new dorm room air conditioner cost?
Depending on the size, features, and functions, a new portable AC unit will cost anywhere between $175 and $450.
Is it okay to leave portable ACs on all day?
It is okay to leave them on all day, but we recommend that you turn them off when you’re not home. If there are some days when you are home all day and need to use it, then it is okay to run it.
How does one cool down dorm rooms without air conditioners?
You can buy an air cooler, which is not technically an air conditioner. They are cheaper and use evaporative moisture to cool the ambient temperature. You can also invest in a fan.
What type of maintenance is needed with portable AC units?
You should change the filter on your portable AC unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You usually have to change it every 6 months or so. Most of the units that we reviewed have washable filters that should be cleaned every 2 weeks. Learn more about cleaning these appliances here.
At ACLAB, our goal is to give the most honest and up to date information so that you can make informed decisions about your home air quality. Although going off to college can be a bit scary, we have tried to give you as much information as possible on how to cool down your dorm room.
While all of the models in this roundup were impressive, we think one stuck out. We chose the SereneLife SPLAC8 for its 3 in 1 capability and washable air filter.
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