12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioners

12000 btu ac

12,000 BTU portable air conditioners are not really 12,000 BTU units. Their cooling capacity in real world environments is actually much less.

Portable AC Inefficiencies and Cooling Capacity

All portable AC units have two major inefficiencies. Both involve adding heat back into the room that they’re actively working to cool

The first inefficiency is their ducting. A portable AC unit's duct (hose) exhausts warm air away from it and out of the room. The problem is that this duct is usually made of a thin plastic. As warm air travels through the duct, heat readily radiates through its thin plastic construction back into the room.

The second major portable AC unit inefficiency again involves its removal of warm air from the room its actively working to cool. The removal of air creates an area of low pressure inside the room. This causes even hotter higher pressure outdoor air – called infiltration air - to get sucked into the room. This adds heat back into the room.

Up until recent years, manufacturer testing for portable AC cooling capacity did not account for these two inefficiencies – heat added by ducting and infiltration air.

Today, manufacturers have to list two different values for cooling capacity. The first value is the old value, – what we call the "traditional" cooling capacity. This is the standard 8,000, 10,000, 12,000 or 14,000 BTU value. The second value is called Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity – shortened to SACC.

SACC = ACC95 × 0.2 + ACC83 × 0.8

In which

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

Thus, SACC not only accounts for heat added via ducting and infiltration air, but it does so at two different temperatures – 83° F and 95° F. Heat added by these inefficiencies is more pronounced at higher temperatures than at lower temperatures. Hence why measurements at two different outdoor temperatures are required.

SACC is weighted at 80% at 83° F and only 20% at 95° F since it’s expected that most users will use a portable AC at outdoor temperatures closer to 83° F the majority (approx. 80%) of the time and closer to 95° F for a minimal amount (approx. 20%) of time.

In any case, the most important takeaway here is that SACC fully accounts for heat added by ducting and infiltration air, giving a much more accurate value for total cooling capacity in an actual real world environment than the values that were used previously – 8,000, 10,000, etc. BTUs.

And this brings us right back to our main point – 12,000 BTU portable AC units are not really 12,000 BTU units.

Take a look at the table below

ModelTraditional BTUsSACC BTUs
Midea Duo (MAP12S1TBL) 12,000 10,000
Black + Decker BPP08WTB 12,000 8,000
Frigidaire FHPW122AC1 12,000 8,000
LG LP0721WSR 12,000 7,000
Whynter ARC-122DS 12,000 7,000
Black + Decker BPACT12WT 12,000 6,500

The most efficient 12,000 BTU unit has an actual cooling capacity – a seasonally adjusted cooling capacity – of only 10,000 BTUs. The least efficient model has a SACC of only 6,500 BTUs.

The same type of drop off occurs in the 8,000, 10,000 and 14,000 BTU categories. The most efficient 8,000 BTU unit has a SACC of only 5,500 BTUs. The most efficient 10,000 BTU unit has a SACC of only 7,000 BTUs. And the most efficient 14,000 BTU unit has a SACC of only 12,000 BTUs.

General Recommendations

Clearly, all portable AC units on the market have much less of an actual cooling capacity than you might think they have, looking at traditional numbers (8,000, 10,000, etc. BTUs). What then, are you supposed to do with this information?

Here's the good news: our own testing showed that if you're shopping for a portable AC unit, you only really have two sizes or capacities to pick from:

  • high SACC units
  • and low SACC units

Our testing revealed a quantum leap in performance when cooling a 150 sq. ft. test environment using a 9,000+ SACC BTU unit (high SACC) vs a sub 9,000 SACC BTU unit (low SACC).

The  9,000+ SACC BTU units cooled the test environment much quicker (in a matter of minutes) and to much lower temperatures (to 72° F and below).

Sub 9,000 SACC BTUunits took very long to cool the room (hours) and also couldn’t get the room to very low temperatures (only to about 75° F at best).

Thus, our general recommendation is that you purchase a portable AC unit with at least 9,000 BTUs of seasonally adjusted cooling capacity (SACC).

Of the 12,000 traditional BTU models listed in the table above, only one model meets this requirement - the Midea Duo.

Because it exceeds the 9,000 SACC BTU threshold, the Duo can be used in

  • larger spaces and for
  • challenging applications

All other 12,000 traditional BTU units - i.e. sub 9,000 SACC BTU units - should only be used for

  • very small spaces (less than 150 sq. ft.)
  • non-challenging applications – i.e. these units should NOT be used in a space that’s on a second story or has a lot of windows or be used in a climate where it gets above 90° F frequently

Model Recommendations

The Midea Duo checks all of the boxes when it comes to the most critical features we look for in a portable AC unit.

It has

  • excellent seasonally adjusted cooling capacity (SACC)
  • good energy efficiency
  • and it's a good value.

It also features above average build quality, high airflow (which allows it to project cold air over longer distances), an extensive window slider kit (which allows it to be installed in a variety of different sized windows), and an extensive weather stripping and insulation kit (which, upon installation, further maximizes the unit's cooling capacity).

These features, on top of its category leading SACC and energy efficiency, make the Midea Duo the best 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner we've tested.

It's also the only 12,000 traditional BTU unit that meets the 9,000+ SACC BTU requirement we talked about earlier (which makes it a viable option for large rooms and challenging applications).

See the Midea Duo's current price on Amazon.

The top three best 12,000 BTU portable air conditioners we recommend are the:

  • 1. Midea Duo (MAP12S1TBL)
  • 2. Black + Decker BPP08WTB
  • 3. Frigidaire FHPW122AC1

The Black + Decker BPP08WTB earns second place because it offers good SACC for a 12,000 traditional BTU unit, reasonably good energy efficiency, and it's an excellent value. It's the best value 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner on the market.

We put the Frigidaire FHPW122AC1 in third place behind the BPP08WTB because it's usually considerably more expensive than the BPP08WTB with the same SACC rating (both models offer 8,000 SACC BTUs) and similar energy efficiency.

Note that both of these models don't meet our 9,000 SACC BTU requirement for large rooms and/or difficult to cool rooms. They should only be used to cool a smaller space that you don’t think will be too difficult to cool,

Energy efficiency and value ratios for all of the most popular 12,000 traditional BTU units on the market are listed below:

12,000 Traditional BTU Models SACCCEERSACC/wattsSACC/$
Midea Duo (MAP12S1TBL) 10000 8.9 8.3 17.5
Black + Decker BPP08WTB 8000 7.3 6.9 20.0
Frigidaire FHPW122AC1 8000 7.2 7.3 17.8
LG LP0721WSR 7000 6.9 7.2 18.4
Whynter ARC-122DS 7000 6.9 5.8 15.6
Black + Decker BPACT12WT 6500 na 5.4 16.3

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Comments (1)


I live in southwest florida. I’m renting a house which has a closed in back porch, with windows along the long side and one short side. The windows are almost floor to ceiling. Will any portable ac unit cool this space, it will get to 90 if I don’t pull ac in from other rooms with box fans. With the fans I can lower temp 3-5 degrees In the area where fans are running . If I could cool whole room to high 70’s or 80 I would be happy. Any thoughts? I’m afraid this won’t happen and I’ll be stuck with something that will anger the wife.