Should You Buy a Battery Powered Air Conditioner? (June 2020)

Are you planning on going camping this summer? Trying to sleep in hot climate while in a tent, boondocking in your RV, can be a miserable experience. You may also be looking for an option to cool a space that doesn’t have electric power, maybe your car ac unit is no longer working and you need some relief while driving in hot weather or you’re looking to make that hunting blind more comfortable. Whatever the need, a battery-powered ac unit may offer a solution for short-term relief from the heat.  

Battery-powered air conditioners are designed to for use in off-grid situations. Given that these devices run on batteries, don’t have high expectations. They’re not powerful and won’t cool large spaces. They’re meant to provide some level of comfort in small spaces, from personal space (i.e. just blowing cool air on your face to keep you comfortable) to more complex units that can provide some relief for tents, RVs, and other small spaces. 

Today, there are a variety of battery-powered air conditioner units available, some which are portable, relatively powerful, reliable and cost effective, and more hit the market each year as inventors attempt to improve upon the current designs.

There are 2 types of battery-operated air conditions. The first generate cold air by moving the air over ice or cold water. The second type uses an air compressor, similar to the air conditioning units you would find for home use. 

Neither option is anywhere near as effective as a home ac unit so don’t set your expectations too high. The trade-off with these devices is power vs battery life. The more powerful the unit, the bigger the batteries needed to power the unit otherwise the power will run out and your relief from the heat will be brief. 

Before you purchase a battery-powered air conditioner, you’ll want to estimate your cooling needs. What is the estimated pre-cooled temperature where you plan to be? What is your desired temperature? How long do you want the cooling relief? For example, if you plan to be somewhere where the forecasted temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and you want to cool your space to 70 degrees for 8 hours, then you’ll need a cooling unit that offers that level of performance – i.e. very good battery-life. 

If your goal is to cool down your tent, RV, or other space quickly then turn it off, you’ll be looking for a more powerful unit that doesn’t rely on large batteries for longevity. Batteries are costly. The more a unit relies on large storage batteries, the more expensive it will be. 

In this article, we explore options for a variety of battery-powered air conditioners, comparing cooling power and run time (battery life).

Quick Picks: Battery Powered Air Conditioners

Best Portable Swamp Cooler
IcyBreeze v2 Portable Air Conditioner & Cooler with Rechargeable Battery (Molten Red)
Run Time:
up to 4 hours
Voltage:
12V
Weight:
19 lbs
Optional Backup Battery:
yes
Best for Ryobi Owners
Ryobi 50 qt. Wheeled Cordless Air Conditioned Cooling Cooler with On-Board Storage Compartment, P102 Battery and Charger
Run Time:
up to 5 hours
Voltage:
18V
Weight:
36 lbs
Optional Backup Battery:
yes
Best for Personal Use
AIRWIRL Mobile Air Purifier and Cooling System (Greystone)
Run Time:
up to 1 hour
Voltage:
4.5V
Weight:
1.7 lbs
Optional Backup Battery:
no
Best Choice Non-Air Conditioner
Ryobi P3320 18 Volt Hybrid One+ Battery or AC Powered Adjustable Indoor / Outdoor Shop Fan (Battery and Extension Cord Not Included / Fan Only)
Run Time:
up to 16 hours
Voltage:
18V
Weight:
2.5 lbs
Optional Backup Battery:
yes

  • Battery Life: Up to 4 hours
  • AC and 38 Quart Cooler Combo
  • 19 lbs

IIcyBreeze has developed an ingenious battery-powered air conditioning solution that combines a usable cooler (yes, you can store your fresh food and drinks in it!) with an ac unit. And it works well! 

The IcyBreeze Cooler/AC is powered by a built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery which lasts between 1.5 hours and 4 hours depending on the speed setting used (there are 3 speed settings). It works by passing air over the ice in the cooler and then blowing it into your tent, RV, car, or whatever other small space you need cooling. 

 

The IcyBreeze V2 model has a significantly better battery and recharging solution than the original V1. The V1 has an integrated battery that requires you to to charge the whole unit before you can use it. The V2 has a detachable rechargeable battery system that allows you to use the unit with one battery while recharging a second battery for continued use. 

According to the manufacturer, the new 10ah battery can last for over 6+ hours (they say 4 on Amazon to be conservative) on the lowest setting so one battery might be sufficient for your needs. We couldn’t find backup batteries on Amazon but they should be available from other retailers should you need one. You’ll might also want to consider adding a car charger to charge the backup battery while you continue to use the unit.

The IcyBreeze V2 is an excellent solution for your portable air conditioning needs and we highly recommend it for off-grid camping, hunting, boating trips, tailgating or cooling a working space. The combination of blowing cold air on your face and also popping the top and grabbing a frosty beverage makes those hot summer days bearable! 

For longer stays, you’ll need to think about where to purchase more ice and keep the batteries charged. If you’re looking for a solution to cool a vehicle that’s sitting in the baking sun (a solution sought by many pet owners who want to travel with their dogs), this is not going to work well. The heat that builds up inside your vehicle will almost certainly be too intense and this unit won’t be powerful enough to combat it. We do not recommend this unit for that use.   

One last note: The IcyBreeze V2 Portable Air Conditioner comes with a one year warranty and the customer support offered by IcyBreeze is excellent. 

  • Run time: 4 hours
  • AC and 50 Quart Cooler Combo
  • 36 lbs

For fans of Ryobi tools, the company offers another option for a combination air conditioning unit and large capacity drinks cooler. The 18-Volt ONE+ Cooling Cooler is powered by Ryobi’s P102 18 volt battery, the same one used to power Ryobi’s cordless line of tools. The package includes the P119 charger (though you may already have one if you own Ryobi cordless power tools) and one standard P102 battery. You can also buy a longer laster lithium ion battery as a backup. 

The large, robust design can withstand almost any outdoor environment, while the wheels and pull handle make it easy to transport and store in the trunk of your car,  truck or RV. It’s an attractive unit, more pleasing to the eye than the IcyBreeze.  

There is even a small storage compartment that allows you to easily and conveniently store small items including shades, hats, sunscreen, or the charger and a backup batteryThe unit will run for up to 4 hours on one fully-charged battery but only has one speed setting (vs 3 for the IcyBreeze). 

Overall, we prefer the IcyBreeze over the Ryobi 18V One+ for performance as well as the accessories available for the IcyBreeze. The Ryobi unit doesn’t appear to be as well insulated as the ice melts very quickly. So unless you have an unlimited supply of ice on hand (highly doubtful!), then the cooling life of the unit will be less than the stated battery life. It’s also very heavy!

The Ryobi is a good choice for those who already own Ryobi cordless power tools and want the option to use the battery pack for multiple purposes.

  • Run Time: 45 minutes
  • Speed settings: 2
  • 1.7 lbs

The Airwirl personal air purifier and cooler is simpler, low cost option for people who are looking for a device that will keep you cool by blowing cold air directly on your face. It’s not designed for cooling spaces such as tents or RVs, it’s for personal cooling only. 

The Airwirl works in the same way as the IcyBreeze and Ryobi models, it cools air by passing it over ice then propels the air through a nozzle onto your face or whatever other body part needs cooling! 

As with the other solutions reviewed here, the higher the temperature, the fast the ice will melt. 

So while the manufacturer states that it will last up to 50 minutes, it won’t last that long if the temperature is 90 degrees. 

The Airwirl runs on 3 AA batteries and you can also run it using a micro USB connection. It requires 2 cups of ice to function. One nice feature is that it also includes a medical grade polypropylene filter which filters out pollutants and allergens. We don’t know how effective this is but for allergy sufferers, it may have some benefit. 

We wish the Airwirl came with an adjustable nozzle to provide more options for directing air flow as it can be tricky to direct the air on your face but it’s still a great option if you need additional cooling while working, working out at the gym, laying out by the pool, or at a ball game. 

  • Run Time: 5 hours
  • 2300 BTU Air Compressor
  • 16.5 lbs

We love the Zero Breeze Mark II Portable Air Conditioner. This rechargeable, battery-powered unit is the only one that runs off an air compressor, the same technology found in a home air conditioning unit. Compared to the portable swamp cooler methods used by IcyBreeze and Ryobi, this should give the Zero Breeze a huge advantage as you don’t need a continuous supply of ice. 

Designed specifically for off-grid, portable uses such as camping, RVing, hunting, or for

cooling an off-grid cabin, boat, or plane, the Zero Breeze Mark II Portable A/C comes with a couple  features. In addition to its primary purpose, air conditioning, it also functions as a fan without the ac, and an LED light. The original model also had a couple additional features like a USB charging station and a Bluetooth music player, but the company scrapped those for this updated model.

It’s really well thought out and with a battery that lasts up to 5 hours, it’s sure to improve your enjoyment of your off-grid accommodation. 

The unit performs well but, as with the other off-grid portable a/c units, don’t expect too much – it does, after all, run on a rechargeable battery so you can’t possibly expect it to be as powerful as a plug-in home a/c unit. For cooling smaller spaces, the Zero Breeze provides a lot of relief from the heat. It’s an efficient unit with good power to battery life performance and the option to purchase additional lithium ion batteries so you can keep the unit running without interruption. 

The only downside to the Zero Breeze is the hefty price tag. However, if you plan to be off-grid for some time, and don’t have access to a continuous supply of ice, but do have solar power for recharging the ac unit, this product may be the perfect choice for your cooling needs. Sometimes, you can’t put a price on comfort! 

For a more in-depth read on the Zero Breeze Mark II check out our review.

  • Run Time: up to 16 hours
  • 2.5 lbs

If a battery-powered portable air conditioner is out of your budget range, consider a rechargeable, battery-powered fan instead. The Ryobia P3320 fan is an excellent option for use while camping, in an RV, or off-grid cabin. 

This fan really packs a punch with 2 speed settings, the high setting is surprisingly powerful considering it runs on battery power. As with the Ryobi Air Conditioner Cooler reviewed above, this portable fan is part of Ryobi’s ONE+ cordless product line and is also powered by Ryobi’s P102 18 volt battery, the same one used to power Ryobi’s cordless line of tools.  

The fan does not include the battery and if you don’t current own a battery and charger, you can purchase one of the long-lasting Ryobi lithium ion batteries on Amazon: Buy on Amazon. You can also purchase the Ryobi P118 Lithium Ion Dual Chemistry Battery Charger on Amazon:  Buy on Amazon. (Please note that these links contain our affiliate link and we earn a small commission should you purchase these products on Amazon. The price does not change. We greatly appreciate your support for our site!)

We love this fan. It does a great job cooling down small rooms, tents, and RVs. It has 2 speeds. Weighing only 2.5 lbs, it’s easily transportable and can be hung practically anywhere. It’s also a fantastic option if your primary residence is susceptible to power outages. We recommend buying the lithium ion battery rather than the standard One+ battery for longer life. If you’re planning to be off-grid for a long time, get a second battery and a charger you can hook up to a solar power inverter. 

Why Choose a Battery Powered Air Conditioner?

Traditional air conditioning is the go-to choice in normal circumstances since it is designed to take advantage of your property’s abundant power supply and relatively consistent air flow. Unfortunately, in a number of situations this isn’t always possible, in which case a battery-powered alternative is a great option.

Battery-powered air conditioner units are great in a variety of different situations. For instance, if you are planning on traveling to a remote location that has limited access to the electric grid, or if you are going to be camping where you are unlikely to have the means to keep a normal AC running. 

Also, battery-powered air conditioner units come in useful in other unique circumstances too including recreational vehicles, caravans, tents, planes, boats, and days out in the sun.

If you know you are going to be in an enclosed or open space that is likely to get hot and humid, and you won’t be able to run normal air conditioning, a battery powered alternative is a must.

Many people also use battery powered AC to keep their vehicles cool during long drives or commuting. Although many modern vehicles are equipped with their own cooling systems, many older vehicles are not, nor are trailers or the living quarters of many RVs, camper vans or caravans.

How do Battery Powered Air Conditioner Units Work?

Unlike conventional air conditioning units, battery powered units are typically not as sophisticated as their non-battery-powered counterparts. They still utilize the concept of evaporation to create a cooling affect, but are usually not equipped with a compressor, evaporator coil, refrigerant-filled tubing, and condenser coil. Only the Zero Breeze model incorporates an air compressor. 

Instead battery powered units use a battery powered fan and usually ice or cold water. One fan will draw in warm air and is it is passed over the cold surface of the water or ice, it will cause evaporation of cold air, which in turn is transported out into the external space to create a cooling effect. 

This is not as effective as a traditional AC, but it’s certainly better than nothing.  

Final Thoughts

Battery-operated air conditioners are not made for every day domestic use. They are made to provide cooling in situations where normal AC is not available – i.e. off grid or during a power outage. Running on battery power means they won’t ever be as powerful as an air conditioning unit that can plug into the power grid. So set your expectations accordingly. They won’t cool larger spaces, most work best in spaces under 300 square feet. 

When looking for a battery powered AC, consider the running time, power, speed settings, weight, and obviously, cost. These are the things that matter most. A lightweight and truly portable unit that has enough power for your needs is going to greatly improve your summer fun! 

About the Author

Dave Miller is a HVAC technician with over 10 years in the industry. Dave created HeatTalk with the ambition for it to become a resource for individuals looking for answers, whether they be a layman, student or a professional.