Summer temperatures are sizzling and it’s time to seek cool and comfortable relief from the heat and humidity. One convenient option to consider is a portable air conditioner. Unlike a stationary window unit, portable models are mobile, compact in size, and need no permanent installation. Understanding how air conditioning works and how a portable unit is beneficial to your comfort and your budget will help you make an informed decision in choosing which model will best provide the cooling capacity you need for an area in your home or office.
How a Portable Air Conditioner Works
Unlike a central air conditioning unit or a window air conditioner where the major mechanical parts are outside and any heat generated by the unit is also outside, with a portable unit, everything that makes it perform are in the very room that needs to be cooled. In order to cool an area, the portable unit uses the air in the room, cycles it through the unit’s condenser, and dispenses of the hot air through the vent hose to the outside. For optimum results, consider brands with a high energy efficiency rating.
With the information in hand, consider these 7 facts when shopping for an affordable portable air conditioner.
- Mobility – This one benefit makes the use of a portable air conditioner an attractive option versus a wall unit. Portables come equipped with sturdy casters allowing the unit to be rolled from room to room. The units move relatively easy across vinyl, ceramic tile, hardwood, and laminate flooring. Thick carpets and thresholds can be challenging. The window vent kit that’s included with the air conditioner is also easily removed and relocated. An alternative to moving the vent each time is purchasing additional kits for rooms where the air conditioner will be used.
- Coverage – Portable air conditioners are available in a range of sizes to accommodate small, medium and large-sized rooms. Units are available providing 9,000. 10,000, 12,000 or 14,000 BTUs. The BTU rating determines the amount of heat the unit is capable of removing per hour. In a very hot climate, a portable air conditioner with a high BTU rate is necessary to provide adequate cooling. Room measurements are necessary when shopping for a portable to ensure the right size unit with the appropriate BTU rating to remove the heat and cool the room(s) adequately is selected. If a unit that is too small for a specific area is installed, it won’t have the capability of effectively removing the heat and keeping the area cool. In comparison, a portable air conditioner may cool less space than a window unit.
- Budget-friendly – Prices vary and average anywhere from $200 to $650. In many instances, a portable air conditioner is used as a supplement to a central air conditioning unit. It may also be used to cool only a specific room or area versus cooling an entire house. In these cases, portables are considered cost-effective.
- Energy Efficiency – The EER (Energy Efficiency Rating) is another consideration. From ConsumerReports.org 2008, “While portable A/Cs might be convenient, those we tested delivered only about half of their cooling capacity – that means they operated with an energy-efficiency ratio (EER) of about 5 or 6. Compare that with the minimum EER of just under 10 for the window air conditioners we’ve recently tested.” The higher EER of a portable air conditioner, the higher the cost of the unit, but it will result in better energy efficiency.
- Additional Features – There are many brands of portable air conditioners available and generally, each has the basic manual options on the front of the unit to control all the features. Portables usually include a touchpad or remote control for setting temperatures, selecting cooling, heating or fan mode, opening and closing louver vents, adjusting high or low-temperature settings, and may include a built-in timer to turn the unit on or off.
- Options – Portable units are available as air conditioners with humidifier capabilities. Some may include an air purifier and other brands may be equipped with a heat feature converting the unit for use during cooler months.
- Maintenance – Because portable air conditioners are self-contained in an easy to move case, providing air conditioning services to fix interior parts, replace, repair or seal an exterior heat vent hose, repair the digital display area, clean the interior and exhaust vent, or replace a drainage container bin or drain hose, is much quicker and more efficient as there’s no need for working on an outside compressor or dealing with venting issues in the ceiling.