8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioners
8,000 BTU portable air conditioners are not really 8,000 BTU portable air conditioners.
Two factors reduce the actual BTUs:
- heat added back into the room by the portable AC unit’s ducting
- heat added back into the room by warm outdoor air (called “infiltration air”) that inevitably gets sucked into the room as the AC unit exhausts warm air out of the room.*
*A portable AC unit has to exhaust warm air to operate properly. This exhausting (removal) of air creates a pressure difference between the room the AC is actively cooling and the outdoors. This, in turn, causes warm outdoor air to get sucked into the room.
In the past, testing for portable AC cooling capacity (BTU) did not take into account these two inefficiencies (heat added by ducting and infiltration air) - hence, the consistent 8,000 BTU rating for all models in the 8,000 BTU category.
Today, 8,000 BTU units are still rated as 8,000 BTU units but a new rating has been added that does take into account the two inefficiencies we mentioned above.
This new rating is called seasonally adjusted cooling capacity – SACC.
The formula for SACC is
SACC = ACC95 × 0.2 + ACC83 × 0.8
ACC95 = CapacitySD − Qduct_SD − Qinfiltration_95
ACC83 = CapacitySD − Qduct_SD − Qinfiltration_83
In short, the SACC not only takes into account heat loss from ducting and infiltration air (caused by pressure differences) but it does so at two different outdoor temperatures – 83° F and 95° F. The portable AC unit’s performance at 83° F accounts for 80% of total SACC while its performance at 95° F accounts for 20% of total SACC.
The end result
All of this is to say that by the old standard for measuring BTUs there was no way to tell the actual performance difference between one 8,000 BTU unit vs another.
By the new standard – SACC – it’s much easier to spot the difference between the actual real life cooling capacity of different 8,000 BTU models on the market.
Let’s take a look.
|Model||Traditional BTUs||SACC BTUs|
|Black + Decker BPACT08WT||8,000||5,000|
|Black + Decker BPP05WTB||8,000||5,000|
As you can see, all the models in the list have a specified cooling capacity of 8,000 BTUs by the old standard. By the new standard, seasonally adjusted cooling capacity (SACC) ranges from as high as 5,500 BTU all the way down to as little as 4,000 BTU.
This means that even the most efficient 8,000 BTU units on the market, still lose 2,500 BTUs in rated cooling capacity after accounting for heat loss via ducting and infiltration air.
The least efficient units get their rated capacity cut in half. There are several units on the market with a SACC of 4,000 BTUs that are sold as 8,000 BTU air conditioners.
We see similar drops in other size categories. For example, there are several 14,000 BTU units on the market with a SACC of only 7,700 BTUs. The most efficient 14,000 BTU units have a SACC of 12,000 BTUs – still 2,000 BTUs less than the specified traditional 14,000 BTU capacity.
So, what are you to do with all of this data? Clearly, the actual BTUs (given by the SACC rating) is much less than the commonly specified traditional BTUs for every portable AC unit on the market. There is not one model on the market that has as much SACC BTUs as it does traditional BTUs.
Our recommendation is three-fold
1. Simply buy the best 8,000 BTU unit you can find
All portable AC units on the market have roughly the same
All models come with a window kit that will fit most windows.
In our tests, all units, no matter their BTU, were measured to produce about 60 dB of noise at 2 ft. (with a sound meter placed 2 ft. away from the unit). All units had some form of audible compressor noise that you can minimize by leaving the unit on maximum fan speed. The fan noise overpowers the compressor noise for most models so that you’re left hearing only the white noise produced by the fan.
Size and weight
All portable AC units are heavy. 8,000 BTU units are a little lighter – in the 50 lb. range. But they’re still very heavy appliances. All portable AC units, no matter their size, are also large appliances. 8,000 BTU units do tend to be a few inches shorter than higher BTU units but they’re still over 2 ft. tall, and usually well over a foot wide and deep.
The Department of Energy has determined that the average portable AC unit lasts about 10 years. Our own observations testing different units confirm this to be true. All the units we tested had very similar very good build quality.
Modes, fan speeds, etc.
Every portable AC unit, no matter if it’s a 8,000 or 14,000 BTU unit, has three modes – cooling, drying (dehumidification with no cooling), and fan (air moving with no cooling) only. Most units have three fan speeds, a timer, and can be adjusted over the same desired temperature range (between 60° F and 90° F).
This leaves us with only three critical factors that you can look at to distinguish between the best and worst models in each respective size category:
- cooling capacity – more precisely, seasonally adjusted cooling capacity (SACC)
- energy efficiency and
When shopping for a portable AC unit, look for models with a high SACC for their BTU class (8,000, 10,000, etc.) to find the “best” units for that respective size class.
In the 8,000 BTU size class, the Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 has the highest seasonally adjusted cooling capacity with a SACC of 5,500 BTUs.
Next, look for models with good energy efficiency. Generally, the higher the SACC, the better the energy efficiency. The FHPC082AC1 again checks the box here.
|Black + Decker BPACT08WT||5,000||950||5.3|
|Black + Decker BPP05WTB||5,000||860||5.8|
Next, you want to avoid models that aren't a good value. Again use SACC to calculate value. We recommend SACC divided by the price of the portable AC unit to give a SACC/$ ratio.
|Black + Decker BPACT08WT||5000||14.3|
|Black + Decker BPP05WTB||5000||14.3|
The FHPC082AC1 is one of the cheapest 8,000 BTU units on the market. Its relatively high SACC compared to its relatively low price makes it an excellent value.
Its excellent SACC, combined with its excellent energy efficiency and low price makes the Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 the best 8,000 BTU portable air conditioner on the market.
Our complete rankings of the most popular 8,000 BTU models on the market:
- 1. Frigidaire FHPC082AC1
- 2. Midea MAP08R1CWT
- 3. Black + Decker BPP05WTB
- 4. Black + Decker BPACT08WT
- 5. SereneLife SLPAC8
2. Consider a 10,000 BTU model instead
You can often find high SACC 10,000 BTU units for not much more than 8,000 BTU units.
Check the current pricing on these models, and if they're cheaper than the top rated 8,000 BTU (5,500 SACC BTU) Frigidaire FHPC082AC, consider one of these models instead.
3. Consider buying a 9,000+ BTU (SACC) unit instead
Our testing showed a quantum leap in performance between units with a SACC lower than 9,000 BTUs and units with a SACC higher than 9,000 BTUs.
9,000+ BTU (SACC) units cooled the air in our test environment (an approx. 150 sq. ft. room) much faster and to a much lower temperature (at least 72° F).
Sub 9,000 BTU (SACC) units could not cool the air nearly as quickly or to the same low temperatures (most could only reach 75° F even after 2 hours of testing).
Thus, it is our strong recommendation that you buy a 9,000+ BTU (SACC) unit if at all possible.
The cheapest 9,000+ BTU (SACC) unit we recommend is the Black + Decker BPP10WTB (10,000 SACC BTUs).
If you cannot afford a 9,000+ BTU (SACC) unit like the Black + Decker BPP10WTB, a sub 9,000 BTU (SACC) unit like the Frigidaire FHPC082AC1 could still work given that the space
- Is sufficiently small and
- Isn’t especially challenging to cool (e.g. doesn’t have a lot of windows or is on a second story)
However, the only way to guarantee that you’re putting yourself in the best possible position to properly cool any given room or space under any possible circumstance is to purchase a 9,000+ BTU (SACC) unit. Hence why it’s our overall bottom line recommendation.
For a more in-depth discussion on portable air conditioner sizing see our general buyer’s guide.
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