Cooling a studio space is important for the artist and often for the artworks themselves. But if you occupy or share a lofty, sprawling place, or one with factory windows, cooling can be difficult and costly. A portable air-conditioning unit allows you to direct cool air to the area where you’re working, or, depending on the size of your space, the entire room. Most quality picks on the market operate as three-in-ones: One unit gets you A/C, a dehumidifier, and a fan. While shopping for the right portable air conditioner, keep the size of your space in mind: A model that’s too powerful is not just wasteful but can create dramatically dropping temps and extreme humidity. The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 guidelines for rating Btus (a measurement of cooling capacity), which update earlier guidelines and are based on actual rather than theoretical performance, can help with this. Many units list new (designated “DOE” or “SACC”) and old Btu measurements; we provide the new ratings wherever possible for our top choices, below.
1. Shinco Portable Air Conditioner
This wheeled unit can cool up to 400 square feet, making it perfect for a medium-size to large studio. It also has a dehumidifying setting, which removes moisture at a remarkable 43 liters per day (1.8 liters per hour)—an important perk for indoor painting. You won’t have to constantly empty a pesky bucket or drain pan with this unit, either: It’s designed to send the water vapor collected by the machine out of the same exhaust duct as the hot air. The Shinco’s sleep setting hushes the unit to just 52 decibels. Plus, it has a great warranty—12 months, with a free return after 30 days and lifetime tech support—and uses more ecofriendly R-410a refrigerants.
2. SereneLife SLPAC12.5 Portable Air Conditioner
This 7,000-Btu (SACC) three-in-one air conditioner is able to easily cool a 325-square-foot space, but it’s also effective in spaces as large as 450 square feet. It’s also a powerful humidifier, able to remove moisture from the air at the same rate as the Shinco (1.8 liters per hour). An automatic “swing” mode oscillates its vents to enhance the distribution of cool air.
3. BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT Portable Air Conditioner
The vent on this compact air conditioner/fan/dehumidifier curves around the front and top of the unit, providing maximum airflow that quickly cools your space. At 6,000 Btus (DOE), it can handle a studio or art room up to 250 square feet in size. It runs quietly, reaching 75 decibels on its highest setting, and, like the Shinco, boasts a self-evaporating design. You’ll have to clear out the reservoir only now and then.
4. Midea MAP08R1CWT Portable Air Conditioner
Like others on our list, this unit comes in a variety of sizes and strengths, but for our purposes, the smallest and most straightforward 5,300-Btu (SACC) unit costs considerably less than our other picks. It has a cooling capacity of just 150 square feet, but this will work for a small student studio. (The more expensive 200-, 275-, or 330-square foot models are enabled for voice command with Alexa or Google Assistant.) Like all Midea units, MAP08R1CWT comes with a remote control that has a built-in gauge for sensing temperature . Place the remote wherever you like—such as right next to your artwork—and the machine will continue running until the air around the remote is the exact temperature you’ve set. The only drawback: The Midea’s draining tube is a bit awkward.
5. Whynter ARC-14S Portable Air Conditioner
If you’re willing to shell out a bit more cash, this Whynter model is well worth the investment. It has an ultra-powerful dual hose system and two filters—a washable pre-filter and an activated carbon filter—that eliminate odors and improve air quality. Plus, it’s good for the environment and good for you: It uses Green R-32, a CFC-free refrigerant, and is manufactured with lead-free materials. Like other units on our list, it’s a three-in-one A/C unit, fan, and dehumidifier; unlike all the rest, it comes in a gorgeous platinum and black housing and effortlessly cools up 500 square feet.