New to Portable Air Conditioners

Portable Air Conditioner

Most of us are familiar with air conditioning. No matter where you live in the U.S. you likely have used or will use air conditioning to cool your home or apartment during the warmer, more humid summer months. Not only do air conditioners cool the rooms in your home, apartment or office but that also remove moisture from the air. Lowering the temperature and decreasing the relative humidity in your home (by removing excess moisture) are key to not only keeping your living and working spaces comfortably cool but to also reduce the chances of mold growth and keeps dust mites from flourishing in your home. This can be crucial for allergy and asthma sufferers. But regardless of whether you have central air, a window air conditioner or a portable air conditioner, they all operate on the same principles.

All air conditioners operate the same way. Air is pulled into the unit. As it passes over coils filled with coolant, the air cools. As the temperature of the air cools, moisture precipitates out. Warmer air can retain more moisture so as you lower the ability of the air to hold moisture (by cooling it), excess moisture in the air turns from a gas and reforms into a liquid that is collected in a tank or directly drained away via a condensate line (hose). The cool air is pushed back out into your room while the byproducts of this process, warm air and moisture, are exhausted through separate lines. Then this cycle simply repeats itself constantly while your air conditioner is in use. So if the process is the same, what makes a portable air conditioner different?

One of the primary differences between a portable AC and central air is, like a window air conditioner, portables are meant to cool only one room at a time. In doing so they limit themselves, but also they fill a crucial gap where the other two types fail. Here are a few instances where a portable air conditioner is actually advantageous:

  • If you have a home addition and central air / heat ducts were not installed, a portable unit can cool the addition with little relative expense. Plus, installing a portable air conditioner is a fairly straight forward process that involves very little time. The only tool you will need will be your trusted screwdriver.
  • Some home owners associations prohibit the use of window air conditioners, and for climates where cooling is not a high priority or you have an older home that lacks central air, a portable air conditioner can be ideal.
  • In offices or older office buildings you may have a server room where computer servers and other electronic equipment are stored. Electronics are prone to failure in extremely warm conditions, and most are located in spaces where there is no exterior wall or window where you would install a window unit. Portable air conditioners can counteract the heat produced by servers and electronics in any room.
  • In high rise apartments, particularly in the Northeast, central air may not be available and installing a window unit can be difficult and potentially dangerous. A portable air conditioner is an easy cooling solution.
  • In kitchens (in restaurants or just really busy households) air conditioning may be lacking or not sufficient to deal with the heat associated with cooking and baking. In this instance portable air conditioning units can assist or work as a stand alone solution to cooling these warm spaces.
  • Portable air conditioners are also good back-up units in case of power failure or disasters. In the Gulf region, where storms can knock power offline for days or weeks, you can couple a portable air conditioner with a generator to help keep your bedroom cool and reduce summer heat and humidity that is common during storm season.

Sunpentown Portable Air ConditionerAnother distinction between portable air conditioners and other types of air conditioners is implied in the name. Portable air conditioners usually come with casters, so you can move them from room to room, and a window attachment kit, to fit a variety of openings. So it's possible for you to use the unit in your living room during the day and move it to your bedroom to create comfortable sleeping conditions throughout the night. Essentially, you can take your indoor climate anywhere in your home.

Installation of portable air conditioners can be easier than the other two types of air conditioners. Installing an HVAC unit can be extremely expensive and very labor intensive. Window units are both easier to install and les expensive but present unique challenges of their own. With window units you basically have this heavy, bulky compressor hanging outside your window. Most come with a support that attaches to the window sill or side of the house, and moisture (condensate) usually just drains out the bottom onto the ground or whatever may be below it.

To install a portable air conditioner, the process is much easier and less work strain on your back! Generally you attach one or two hoses (depending on whether you have a dual or single hose model) to the unit then the other end of the hose is fitted to a window kit. Most often you simply open the window, place the kit and close the window on top of it. Other than occasionally having to drain the excess moisture that may collect in the unit, there is really little left for you to do other than enjoy a cool, comfortable room.

This brings me to another unique feature. Many of these units act as dehumidifiers as well as air conditioners. And in humid climates, they will extract a lot of moisture from the air. All of the portable air conditioners we sell have some sort of self evaporating technology. So, unlike central air units that drain condensate away through a separate drain line, portable air conditioners push most of this excess moisture out through the exhaust hose, with the warm air. All have some sort of internal tank that will collect the moisture that is not exhausted by this self evaporation process. Under very humid conditioners, this internal condensate tank will eventually fill and you will need to drain it.

Portable Air Conditioners & BTUAll portable air conditioners are measured the same way traditional air conditioners are, by BTU. As a general rule, if the space you want to cool needs 8,000 BTU's to cool it, if you are using a portable air conditioner you will want to buy a slightly higher rated unit. Though convenient, in general the portable air conditioners are not as efficient as other types of cooling units, and it it always better to have more than enough cooling power rather than struggle to keep your indoor temperature consistently cool.

Lastly, when selecting a unit, keep a number of factors in mind. Compare portable air conditioners cooling power (BTUs), value added features, EER, specifications and price with our easy to read portable air conditioner compare chart. For additional information, you can check out our handy portable air conditioners FAQ page or visit our portable air conditioners buying guide.