10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioners

10000 btu image

A 10,000 BTU portable air conditioner doesn’t really have 10,000 BTU of cooling capacity.

Total cooling capacity is reduced by

heat added by the unit’s ducting

the unit exhausts warm air that heats up the thin plastic ducting used to remove it from the room. This thin plastic readily radiates heat back into the room reducing cooling BTUs

heat added by infiltration air

the unit exhausts warm air from the room being cooled which creates an area of low pressure inside the room. This causes higher pressure hot outdoor air – infiltration air - to get sucked into the room

The end result is that total BTUs are reduced by as much as 50%. Units that would have a total cooling capacity of 10,000 BTUs have a total capacity as low as 5,000 BTUs when accounting for these inefficiencies.

The end result is so egregious that the Department of Energy now requires portable AC manufacturers to test all new units released to market by a new standard for measuring BTUs. This new standard is called seasonally adjusted cooling capacity – SACC.

The equation to calculate SACC looks like this

SACC = ACC95 × 0.2 + ACC83 × 0.8

In which

ACC95 = CapacitySD − Qduct_SD − Qinfiltration_95
ACC83 = CapacitySD − Qduct_SD − Qinfiltration_83

First, note how SACC takes into account each AC unit’s performance at two different outdoor temperatures – 83° F and 95° F. Its performance at 83° F counts for 80% of the total SACC. The unit’s performance at 95° F accounts for 20% of the total SACC.

Two different temperatures are used because the two inefficiencies we listed above – heat added by ducting and heat added by infiltration air – are heavily influenced by outdoor temperature. The inefficiencies are more pronounced at higher temperatures (95° F) than they are at lower temperatures (83° F). The DOE believes most portable AC units will be used closer to 83° F the majority of the time – hence why the score is weighted in its favor.

Second, note how the building blocks for SACC are ACC95and ACC83. ACC is simply “adjusted cooling capacity”. The “seasonal” component of SACC involves weighting ACC at different temperatures. ACC is the baseline measurement that takes the total cooling capacity from before (10,000 BTUs for 10,000 BTU units) and subtracts out BTUs lost by ducting and infiltration air.

Now that you understand what SACC is and how it impacts total cooling capacity, the BTUs listed under the SACC column in the table below shouldn’t surprise you.

ModelTraditional BTUsSACC BTUs
LG LP1017WSR10,0006,500
LG LP1018WNR10,0006,500
Black + Decker BPACT10WT10,0006,000
Frigidaire FFPA1022U110,0006,000
NewAir AC-10100E10,0006,000
Honeywell HL10CESWK10,0005,500
Honeywell MN10CESBB10,0005,500
Frigidaire FGPC1044U110,0005,200

Units are listed from highest SACC down to lowest SACC.

Note how even the most efficient 10,000 BTU units still lose 3,500 BTUs when accounting for heat added by ducting and infiltration air at 83 and 95° F.

The most inefficient units lose almost half of their total BTUs to these inefficiencies under the conditions outlined in calculating SACC.

We see similar trends in other size classes.

The most efficient 8,000 BTU unit has a SACC of only 5,500 BTUs.

The most efficient 14,000 BTU unit has a SACC of only 10,000 BTUs.

Our Recommendations

Clearly, 10,000 BTU portable AC units don’t really have a total cooling capacity of 10,000 BTUs under real life circumstances – in which heat from ducting and infiltration air is added back into the cooled room.

But what can you do with this information?

You can use it to easily locate the best units on the market in each respective size category.

In the 10,000 BTU size category the LG LP1017WSR and LG LP1018WNR both have a SACC of 6,500 BTUs – the best in the category. These are the two models we recommend as the best 10,000 BTU portable air conditioners.

The next highest SACC in the category is 6,000 BTUs. Three different models have a SACC of 6,000 BTUs.

  • Black + Decker BPACT10WT
  • Frigidaire FFPA1022U1
  • NewAir AC-10100E

These are not bad options by any means. They only offer 500 BTU less cooling capacity than the LGs. We put them in the mid-tier for the 10,000 BTU size category.

If you can find any of these three mid-tier units for a lower price than the LGs, it’s not a bad purchase to go with the cheaper mid-tier option.

Finally, we have units at the bottom tier of the category. These units all have 5,500 BTUs or less of seasonally adjusted cooling capacity (SACC):

  • Honeywell HL10CESWK
  • Honeywell MN10CESBB
  • Frigidaire FGPC1044U1

If you’re looking to purchase a 10,000 BTU unit we do not recommend any one of these three units.

The 8,000 BTU alternative

If you find the lower cooling capacity (5,500 BTUs of SACC) provided by low tier 10,000 BTU units acceptable for the space you’re trying to cool we would recommend a high tier 8,000 BTU unit instead.

Prices in the portable air conditioning world correlate with the old standard for measuring BTUs – 8,000, 10,000, etc. BTUs – much more than they do with the new standard - SACC.

Thus, most 8,000 BTU units are considerably cheaper than 10,000 BTU units – even low tier 10,000 BTU units.

The LG LP0818WNR, for example, a high tier 8,000 BTU unit with the same SACC as low tier 10,000 BTU units – 5,500 BTUs – is at least $50 cheaper than any of the three low tier 10,000 BTU units we mentioned above. Thus we recommend the LP0818WNR over any one of those three units.

The 9,000+ BTU SACC alternative

If you’re shopping in the 10,000 BTU size class, chances are that you’re not looking to cool the smallest space. Chances are you’re not trying to cool the easiest to cool space.

If you were, you would be looking for an 8,000 BTU unit instead.

Here’s the thing:

Our own testing showed a quantum leap in performance going from sub 9,000 to 9,000+ BTU seasonally adjusted cooling capacity even in a relatively small 150 sq. ft. test environment.

9,000+ BTU (SACC) units cooled the room much faster and were able to get the room to much lower temperatures.

Portable AC units are inherently inefficient. And our testing showed that you have to cross the 9,000 BTU (SACC) threshold to get to a cooling capacity that can handle the majority of applications.

Yes, you can certainly get away with a 10,000 BTU or even 8,000 BTU (assuming high SACC for the category) unit in

  • A small space
  • A non-challenging space (e.g. outdoor temperatures aren’t very hot, the room being cooled isn’t on a second story with a lot of windows, etc.)

But, the only way to guarantee that you’re buying the best possible portable air conditioner for any potential space under any conditions is to buy a 9,000+ BTU (SACC) unit.

Unfortunately, such units are few and far between and they are quite expensive. The two options we recommend are:

If you’re looking to be able to cool any reasonably sized space under any circumstances, either one of these two models are your best bet.

Otherwise, for smaller and less challenging spaces, the best 10,000 BTU portable air conditioners are

  • 1. LG LP1017WSR
  • 2. LG LP1018WNR
  • 3. Black + Decker BPACT10WT
  • 4. Frigidaire FFPA1022U1
  • 5. NewAir AC-10100E

For an in-depth discussion on portable air conditioner sizing see our general buyer’s guide.

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